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Now that we've been elected to the Wissahickon School Board, we're making a difference. Here is the follow-up article about the resolution I proposed against PA Senate Bill 1085 that was passed unanamously.

From The Times Herald (http://www.timesherald.com)

Wissahickon School Board approves resolution opposing charter school reform bill

By ERIC DEVLIN, edevlin@21st-centurymedia.com

Thursday, February 13, 2014

LOWER GWYNEDD ­— One proposed bill in Harrisburg aiming to reform charter schools has officials in the Wissahickon School District up in arms.

The Wissahickon School Board approved a resolution opposing Senate Bill 1085 regarding charter school reform during its Feb. 10 meeting.

“Just to remind everyone what this bill would do,” board member Ron Stoloff said, “it would take a situation that is already not really good, and make it worse.”

Stoloff laid out his major complaints with the bill, which range from a decrease of control of a charter by a local school district, to how charters are financed. Under the current regulations, a charter school must go before local school boards every five years to ask for renewal. The process allows districts to research the progress of the school and, if needed, revoke its rights to exist should it not live up to the standard of education it needs to meet. Under the proposed bill, that review process would occur every 10 years.

“Ten years is an eternity in education,” Stoloff said. “Just think of where your student is now and where they will be in 10 years, and that’s what a tremendous amount of damage can be done in that period of time. Five years is not terrific, but 10 years is a horror story waiting to happen.”

Stoloff also said he disagreed with the idea that a college or university can decide “willy nilly” to start a charter school, while not allowing local school districts to have a say in “what the charter would be, what its theme would be and how it gets students.”

Meanwhile, the local school district “would still have to pay for all the students there,” he said.

Cyber charters are another area of contention and Stoloff said it’s unfair that those schools should be paid the same amount of money as a brick-and-mortar charter school “even though their costs are really a fraction of that.”

Lastly, Stoloff said the bill would take away the board’s ability to control the size of a charter.

“It can start off with 100 students,” he said, “and then completely at the charter’s control, it could then say we’re going to have 30,000 students. Not quite, but right now if a school wants to enlarge, it has to ask us, if it’s in our area. But this would take that power away from us.”

Stoloff reiterated that it was just another example of ways in which districts were losing control.

“It is just a bad bill,” he said. “It can be fixed, but as it stands now, it is not (to) our benefit or our students’ benefit.”

Stoloff also addressed a criticism that the district currently only has somewhere between 20 to 25 students enrolled in charter schools and paying for the schools was a minor inconvenience.

“Well, that’s today,” he said. “There’s no telling what will happen in a few years if this bill becomes law. That’s why I want us to go along with several other districts in the Montgomery County area, to make known our displeasure about the bill.”

President Charles McIntyre said he’s “wrestled back and forth” with the idea of whether to support or reject the bill, but ultimately he said the costs outweighed the benefits.

“I’ve been a proponent for a long time to address the things which Mr. Stoloff had mentioned,” McIntyre said, “that is, there’s a couple of issues here … One is the way charter schools and cyber charter schools are formed. The school districts and the state [both] pay into the pension plans. It’s called a double dip. So that needs to be addressed. The other, regarding funding for cyber charter schools, there just needs to be a different way to fund cybers and the brick and mortars. So this has cost the school districts a considerable amount of money, a lot of money as a matter of fact.”

McIntyre said that the bill was attempting to address some of the problems with charters, and while it wasn’t ideal, it was the first piece of legislation in Harrisburg to address the issue at all.

“But then it went too far,” he said, reiterating the fact that universities and colleges could create charter schools. “That means if we create charters schools without public officials, you [shut out] the school board, which are elected by you, the public. And that’s just plain wrong.”

Follow Eric Devlin on Twitter @Eric_Devlin.

Article in the Times Herald.

© 2014 The Times Herald


Montgomery News
Ambler Gazette. Friday, January 31, 2014

Wissahickon School Board to draft proposal in opposition to state Senate charter school bill

By Eric Devlin edevlin@montgomerynews.com

A proposed bill in the state Senate about changes to charter school regulations concerned some officials in the Wissahickon School District.

The Wissahickon School Board directed Solicitor Scott Wolpert to draft a proposed resolution in opposition to Pennsylvania Senate Bill 1085 during its Jan. 27 meeting. The board will consider the draft resolution during its Feb. 10 meeting.

The letter, according to board member Ron Stoloff, would confront a number of potential problems with the proposed bill in terms of new regulations for charter schools.

“The bill is set up to, it’s called a reform of the charter regulation,” he said. “But there are at least four sections in there that would reform us right into the poor house. It would do some major damage.”

Stoloff explained that under current regulations, if a group wanted to open a charter school, it would have to work with the local community and gather input from the school district.

“But under this bill,” he said, “if a college wants to start a charter, they just say, ‘We have a charter’; they don’t ask anyone. There’s no input from local people, the school districts or whatever. But then we are basically forced to pay for our students to go to that school, which we have no control over.”

Secondly, Stoloff said he also takes issue with the lack of control of the expansion of charters in the proposed bill.

“[They] could basically grow, whether we recognize what is going on as something helpful to our students and the community.”

He also said he has concerns about cyber charter schools and the way they receive funding.

“Right now we pay as much for a student to be enrolled in a cyber charter as we would to any brick and mortar school, which is preposterous, since their costs are much, much less; that is not even approached in this bill.”

His final issue with the bill, he said, deals with the number of years a charter school can wait before it faces community input.

“Right now a charter, every five years, must go before the local boards to ask for renewal,” he said. “And that gives us a chance to study it and ask questions. And if the charter is not doing the job for its students and the community, we withdraw its rights to exist. This bill changes it to 10 years. Ten years is a long time in the education field. It’s [an] eternity, and most importantly it’s [an] eternity for the students who are in that charter.”

Stoloff said for those four reasons, he believes the board should follow the footsteps of other school districts, draft a resolution and send it to “pretty much everyone who has an address in Harrisburg to basically say, ‘We are very much against this bill as it stands.’”

Board President Charles McIntyre said while the bill does have its flaws, it’s not all bad.

When the idea for cyber charter schools was first established and the reasoning for how they would pay for pensions was put in place, he said, “they made a mistake, frankly. They did what’s called a double dip.”

“Both the school district and the commonwealth [of Pennsylvania] both pay into those teachers, into the pension funds,” he said. “It’s called a double dip. And it’s costing the school districts a lot of money and it’s costing the states a lot of money as well.”

He said the good thing about this bill is that it addresses that “mistake” and it reduces the state’s contribution to the employees of the charter school retirement system by 50 percent.

McIntyre acknowledged the concern though that when a student transfers to a charter school or cyber charter school, “the dollars follow the student.”

“Right now the same amount of funds go with a student, whether they go to a brick and mortar, as you say, or the cyber,” he said. “And it’s been a long time standing, and the state is saying, ‘Well, wait a minute, the cyber shouldn’t get as much.’ And this bill, by the way, addresses that as well. I don’t know if it addresses it as well as it should; it’s only a 5 percent reduction. So do cyber charter schools really only have 5 percent less expenses than a regular charter school?”

McIntyre said the district currently has about 22 students enrolled in charter schools.

“Our school district, frankly we have a very good school district, and people like sending their children to our schools, so they don’t feel the necessity of sending them to charter schools,” he said. “In Philadelphia this is a bigger concern. A lot of parents are sending their children to charter schools. And North Penn [too]. A lot of parents are sending their children to charter schools in North Penn and it’s costing the district millions of dollars because the funds move from the school district to the charter school.”

Wolpert said there is currently no resolution recommended by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.

Follow Eric Devlin on Twitter @Eric_Devlin.

See the article as printed.

© 2014 Montgomery News, a 21st Century Media Property


We Won!

They said it couldn't be done but it was. We won all three seats on the Wissahickon School District Board that we were contesting by sizable margins.

Check out GreatSchoolTeam for all the fun we had. 


The blind leading the blind?

In one of the more amusing turns in the wheel of life, Reed Gustow is no longer leading the Web Design Sig since he's moving on to Word Press. He literally forced me to lead a Web Design Sig for Beginners. We'll see if I know more than a novice.


Running again

In what might seem like an ever ending circle, I'm running for the Wissahickon School District Board again. This time feels different because we have a nearly full team and someone who knows what they're doing is running the show.

We'll see.


Running again

I'm running for the Wissahickon School District again and there was a Candidates Forum hosted by the Tea Party of Blue Bell on May 11th, 2011. Here is a news report and video of the opening statements.

The Primary is Tuesday, May 17th, 2011.


I ran for Wissahickon School Board Director, November 3, 2009. Here are some articles and letters about the campaign.

Unfortunately, I didn't win but the experience was very rewarding.

Here is the letter I had published in the Ambler Gazette after the election:

Thoughts after the Election

With the election over, I’d like to congratulate the winners. Even though the election did not come out as we hoped, I know I share with my other Great School Teammates the wish that the winners succeed in everyone’s goal: that our students gain the skills necessary for them to prosper in our nation’s future.

Most especially, I want to thank everyone who worked with us in the months running up to November 3rd and for them to know they will have our heartfelt gratitude for their efforts.

For those who voted for us, a special thanks and a reminder that your votes and efforts were not wasted: the greatest effort a citizen can make in the United States is to participate in our government through the election of our representatives.

Ron Stoloff


Meet your Wissahickon School Board candidates
Tuesday, October 20, 2009 [Excerpts]

By Thomas Celona, Staff Writer

....
A retired high school-level social studies teacher who worked in the Philadelphia school system for 35 years, Ron Stoloff said he believes his experience will be an asset to the board.

"When I realized that no one on the board has any education experience, no one has ever been in the classroom, I thought I could offer a unique perspective," the Whitpain resident said.

Stoloff said he also has experience managing the needs of a school community.

"I was the head of the committee that was set up for the community, administration, students and parents to look for ways to improve the ways we delivered education to our students," he said. "The experience I gained I want to share with Wissahickon."

If elected, some of Stoloff's top priorities would be addressing the achievement gap and school safety, he said.

"I want to make sure there are no groups that are falling behind," Stoloff said. "One of my other priorities is security. I think the staff and the students have to be trained and made aware of the dangers of bullying and how to recognize it."

Continued funding for the North Montco Technical Career Center would be another goal, Stoloff said.
....


Stoloff will bring education experience
Tuesday, October 20, 2009

To the Editor:

On Nov. 3, 2009 the people of Ambler, Lower Gwynedd and Whitpain who make up the Wissahickon School District will have the opportunity to elect our school board. In the last nine months Teresa Williams, Val Burton and I have gone throughout the school district. We have heard many questions, but one of the most common is, “Why should we be concerned since we have no children in the district?” In answer, we usually point out that they will always pay taxes to our district and the property values are dependant on the quality of education our schools provide. If the schools are seen as defective or deteriorating then few potential home buyers will be interested in looking here and our property values will plummet. Yet we don’t want to have to raise taxes to such a degree that we drive people out of Wissahickon. That is the delicate balancing act every school board faces and one that we, candidates for the school director position will consider most carefully.

Many of you know Teresa Williams from her two terms on the board and her strong sense of responsibility to her family, students, teachers, taxpayers and administrators in the district.

Val Burton has been an active volunteer as a parent almost from the moment her children started school. Many of you probably saw her at the Back to School Night at Wissahickon High School as she sold raffle tickets for the highly coveted student parking spaces.

I was a teacher for 35 years and while attending Wissahickon School Board meetings was flabbergasted to see that not one person on the board was a career educator and that became the driving force in my campaign. Being in a class with young minds is at the same instant one of the most rewarding and challenging experiences one can have. Throughout my career I was involved in many projects that sought to find and implement strategies so that our students could learn skills and methods of approaching problems that will not only help them in any particular class but in their entire lives.

If elected, I hope to be able to share my experiences and insight as we, as a board, together, seek to make our schools even stronger and ensure that our children — who are at the root of everything we will do — are successful.

I suggest you check out our Website: www.GreatSchoolTeam.org for more information.

Ron Stoloff
Candidate for Wissahickon School
Board Director

Original Letter.

© 2009 MontgomeryNews.com, a Journal Register Property


This appeared in the Ambler Gazette, September 16, 2009

Ron Stoloff commented on the School District's decision first not to broadcast President Obama's speech to students, then to show it.

The relevant sections are in bold.

WSD addresses H1N1 virus precautions
By Thomas Celona
, Staff Writer

The Wissahickon School District outlined the precautions it has to prevent the spread of the H1N1 virus, commonly referred to as swine flu, at its school board meeting Sept. 14.

According to the CDC, people younger than 25 have been more affected by the 2009 H1N1 virus. As a result, schools across the country have undertaken efforts to prevent the spread of the virus among school populations.

At the meeting, district nursing coordinator Merri Walkenstein updated the board on what precautions the district has taken.

"We have done a lot in communicating to our school community the options that are out there," she said. "We have posted many different sources from the Montgomery County Department of Health and the CDC [on the district's Web site]."

Part of this communication involves telling parents that children who have a fever over 100 degrees need to stay home from school.

"We have drafted a letter that goes home to the parent or guardian of the student who is dismissed from the nurse's office," Walkenstein said.

The letter, which the parent or guardian must sign, provides information about the virus from the CDC and instructs the parent or guardian to keep the student out of school until they no longer have a fever, according to Walkenstein. She also said school nurses have been conducting follow-up calls to ensure students dismissed with a fever remain out of school the following day.

Letters about the symptoms of the virus have also been sent to district faculty, Walkenstein said.

The district has also increased its offering of seasonal flu vaccinations in light of the presence of the H1N1 virus.

The district will continue offering seasonal flu vaccinations to employees for a seventh year, while the all elementary and middle school students will be offered the seasonal flu mist in November, according to Walkenstein. In previous years, the flu mist had been offered only to middle school students.

Additionally, the district has registered to be a site for the H1N1 vaccination once it becomes available, Walkenstein said.

"The Wissahickon School District has been working on an ongoing basis with the Department of Health on this issue," Superintendent Judith Clark said, noting the district's communication with local health organizations to be best prepared for possible spread of the virus.

Another topic that came up at various points during the meeting was how the district handled showing President Barack Obama's Sept. 8 speech to district students.

The district's initial decision was not to air the speech live.

"Due to instructional constraints associated with scheduling and the delivery of curriculum, the Wissahickon School District will not show the president’s address live," Clark wrote in a post on the district's Web site Sept. 3. "However, the speech will be recorded and made available to teachers through the district’s internal network and may be utilized as a supplemental resource for courses and programs that align with the content of the address."

However, the following day, a new post on the Web site from Clark indicated a revised decision to air the speech live for students who wished to view it.

"Wissahickon School District did air the speech live for students who were available," Clark said at the meeting, noting the speech was shown in large group-viewing areas during lunch time. "At all times, I was looking to provide an option for all."

During the public comment portion of the meeting, Ron Stoloff of Blue Bell said he was concerned with how the final decision was reached.

"I am concerned that [Clark] appears not to have consulted the school board," he said. "I think she overstepped her bounds."

In another public comment, Shirley White of Blue Bell said this presidential speech was unique because districts had a limited time to make a decision, leading most districts not to consult school boards due to time constraints.

Clark and members of the board said the decision regarding airing the speech was made by Clark and not by the board.

The speech was the focus of the report from Andrew Ford, senior student representative to the board.

Ford presented the board with the results of a survey of 700 of his peers at the high school. Ford said the survey showed the majority of those surveyed believed the district's initial decision was wrong, while the majority felt the revised decision was correct. Ford reported the majority said how the situation had been handled sent a mixed message.

In other business, the board approved five contracts for special education services and one contract for physical therapy services for a combined amount not to exceed $154,385.28.


Fears about PIT rumors confirmed

To the Editor,

I read the letter from Wes Shirk, “No WSB candidates are in favor of PIT,” in the June 6 Ambler Gazette with dismay [see below]. As a candidate for the Wissahickon School Board I had heard rumors the Republican candidates were spreading statements that we were going to raise the taxes on the retired yet seeing the rumor supported by someone who was actually there confirms my worst fears: the Republican candidates are not interested in an election that discusses issues vital to the entire Wissahickon community but are only in striking fear in the hearts of our most vulnerable citizens.

The question quickly rises, “Why are they so afraid of the opposition?” Is it that they have nothing to say to attract voters without bringing up an issue that has been dead for at least 2 years?

On election day I spoke to many folks from Normandy Farms as they came off the bus and were about to enter the polling place and most had heard that the Democrats were for the Personal Income Tax (PIT). I told the voters that, “A steak had been driven into the ‘heart’ of that idea and no one is foolish enough to pull it out to give the question new life.”

Many were surprised, though others said that they thought it was already dead and were additionally surprised that only Republicans had been invited to speak to the residents and Democrats had not been offered the opportunity.

I hope that in the months leading up to November we all have a chance to speak to our neighbors in Normandy Farms – and other communities as well – so everyone can make an informed decision that impacts so much of our life in Wissahickon.

Ron Stoloff,
Candidate for Wissahickon
School Board

Ambler Gazette, June 10, 2009, p. 6


To the Editor:

On May 19th voters in the Wissahickon School District will be able to vote for four positions on the Board. I am running for one of them and would like you to know who I am and what I offer you and the students in the District. voters in the Wissahickon School District will be able to vote for four positions on the Board. I am running for one of them and would like you to know who I am and what I offer you and the students in the District.

First, I was a teacher in public school for 35 years and throughout those years was heavily involved in developing several successful reform movements – attempts to make the educational experience better for students. I think it is an excellent idea that someone on the Board know what life is like after the classroom door is closed where theory gives way to reality as only students and teachers are left to interact. No Board member, without this experience, can meet and make judgments about the future of our schools and I plan to share my experiences as we wrestle with all the problems that face modern education.

While attending a recent Board meeting I was startled to discover that the Wissahickon School District is investigating the use of Small Learning Communities (SLCs). I found this fascinating: This is what I was involved in for the last 15 years of my carrier. I was one of the founding members of an SLC – then called a Charter. Following that I was a member and then chair of the Restructuring Council in my school as we heard and decided which SLC proposals would be accepted as we moved into Career Centered SLC’s – the very same path Wissahickon is pursuing now.

Because of this I feel that I would be an excellent resource for the Board if I am elected.

I attended Temple University and received a Masters from Beaver/Arcadia University and was involved in writing and testing curricula for high school. I made many presentations at numerous conferences on the implementation of technology in the classroom and was the technology coordinator at my school.

Since my retirement I’ve been involved in a program that recycles computers and offers them at low cost or gives them away for free and have arranged for over 150 students at my former school to get these life changing tools.

I loved getting up each morning and heading out to teach and hope that part of my responsibility on the new Board will be to help support that passion in our teachers and lift burdens that come between the teacher and the student so that we can look forward to our students making us all proud of their achievements in the Wissahickon School District.

Finally, check out our web site, The Great School Team at www.GreatSchoolTeam.org for more information about me and the others running with me: Theresa Williams, incumbent, Val Burton and Chris Cormier. All three have, had, or soon will have, children in the District.

Ron Stoloff,
Blue Bell

Unpublished but submitted to Ambler Gazette, May 10, 2009

Anyone can fake teaching for a day. A lifetime takes a special skill.



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