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BLOG: Why Does the Wissahickon School Board Want to Close Mattison Elementary?

Why does the Wissahickon School Board want to close the only community school in the district? Why don't they visit the schools they are in charge of?

The board of the Wissahickon School District is scheduled to vote on January 14th on the permanent closing of Mattison Avenue Elementary School.  

The administration and board announced the process for closure at the end of the 2011-2012 school year and hoped the news would go by unnoticed.  It didn't. Why close Mattison?

Their reason for closing the school was declining enrollment.Enrollment, in fact, was increasing.

Oops.  

Then, 'financial reasons'.

They were relying on a report that included a cost of $442,500 for kitchen equipment because the dishwasher was broken and $202,410 to renovate the boys and girls bathrooms to be handicap accessible - they already are.

Oops.

Finally, an “achievement gap for 4th graders caused by their move to Shady Grove”.

In fact, an achievement gap exists-for 5th grade students.  And nothing is being done about it.

Oops.

A report surfaced showing what this board really wants to do.

They want to close Mattison, followed by Blue Bell Elementary, to save about $5 million.   They are planning on building a new high school, replacing the middle school's swimming pool and building a new middle school auditorium.  $41 million price tag.  They claim taxes will not have to be raised.

Oops.

Did you know the Wissahickon School board has never been to the schools they are in charge of?  Isn’t this a textbook example of a school board being out of touch with the community? Maybe that’s why they are okay with spending $442,500 on a dishwasher.  

This board has presented misleading and wrong data, and are completely disconnected from the schools they govern.  They have hired a union-busting lawyer to negotiate with district support staff who have been working without a contract for months while they look into replacing them with per diem folks.  What else are they hiding?  And at what cost?

Keep Mattison Avenue Elementary open and elect new board members in May.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Jay Gelman January 09, 2013 at 12:08 PM
Would like to hear more about this. Many people in the com unity agree that the district needs a new High School ASAP and the Middle School is in dire need of an upgrade. Why not consolidate the elementary schools and save as much money as possible to make the 6th through 12th grade years the best they can be? This is the perfect time to build a new school as interest rates are at historic lows and the district can negotiate great deals with hungry contractors. Let's keep an open mind and do what is best for the kids.
Karen Palmer January 09, 2013 at 05:52 PM
I completely agree with you! I do not agree with the way the administration and board are managing the business of the district and suggest that the closing of Mattison be delayed until the issues presented have cogent solutions and accompanying plans. The false flags raised during this closure process are indicative of hidden agendas. That the board has NEVER visited the schools they govern is appalling. I spent 20 years in a nearby district whose board visited each school annually and held community meetings several times during the school year. Seeing the results of their decisions enabled a connection that is imperative for success. If this board votes to close Mattison despite the mountains of data that indicate the errors of this decision, our district will be better served by folks who truly care about our kids, our tax dollars and our vote in May.
Jay Gelman January 09, 2013 at 07:41 PM
Trying to figure out the 'errors' you are referring to. Consolidating the elementary school seems logical and Mattison and Blue Bell are the schools that fit the bill. Why would the Board provide faulty data to come to a seemingly easy and reasonable decision?
Karen Palmer January 09, 2013 at 08:05 PM
I have asked the Board about their faulty data and was given the label "vocal parent" by a member of the Board for asking your question. Nothing about the past 7 months' of dealing with this Board has been easy or reasonable.
andthatsthetruth January 09, 2013 at 11:08 PM
Years ago the school board decided to condemn Ambler Junior High they discontinued maintenance on the building & then proposed WMS. Which was slapped up there real quick that eventually the whole bldg. would need to be replaced again. The points that Karen brings up are very recognizable & apparent how this is all coming to a head. Nothing is ever put there directly for all to see. " There has to be another excuse for doing something else". Your children as well as mine never will reap the benefits of a new High School. You may agree Jay that the high school is in need of different things but fail to realize that it is NOT PAID OFF. That being said, adds to the bill that is still outstanding or so I am lead to believe. In order to look to improve the bldgs, you need to pay off the bonds. They are still outstanding or so I believe. You never hear that part just the "good ideas' of some. & based on the fact that other school districts took the "PLUNGE" & created mansions that we hear the school board visited - it's all well and good but you have to live within YOUR MEANS. It is a known fact that Upper Dublin is having financial problems, taxes are not being collected to keep out of debt - homeowners are bailing out one way or the other. So even though it is alright for you, you have to keep in mind the make up of our district & realize that people on SSI, unemployed, people that are taking other employment necessary to keep their heads afloat cannot afford TAX INCREASE.
Jay Gelman January 10, 2013 at 12:02 PM
Nothing leads me to believe we are heading down the same path as Upper Dublin. Agree that it's been a disaster over their. They built the Taj Mahal of schools when it wasn't needed and now the taxpayers are up in arms. That will not happen here for many reasons. All I am saying is that everyone needs to give the Board a chance . It's become commonplace every time school closings are proposed that communities fight back. When was the last time a Board closed a school where there wasn't some big protest? We all can see the obvious. WSD needs consolidation at the elementary levels and better facilities at WMS and WHS. The taxpayers will have their say and we are all hoping that the process is transparent and fair.
Christine DeLaurentis January 10, 2013 at 02:15 PM
If you read the actual facilities report as opposed to the different scenarios put forward you will notice that Mattison is rated as one of the best buildings in the entire district. It needs the least amount of work and out of the things that are listed they are either outdated (they discuss a basketball court that was removed years ago) or an extremely low priority (as per the priorities listing in the report). Conversely, the facility report noted multiple issues with Blue Bell’s building that are significantly higher priorities than many of the other schools. If the district needs to fill empty seats at Shady Grove and Stony Creek, the logical plan would be to look at Blue Bell which is only 1.2 miles away from Shady Grove and needs considerably more funds to bring it up to “21st Century” standards.
Christine DeLaurentis January 10, 2013 at 02:17 PM
...the rest of my comments: The district administration has stated multiple times throughout the hearing process that their ONLY goal in closing Mattison is to close an achievement gap that is statistically shown when comparing Mattion’s PSSA results to the other schools. The district, and even the school board president, has repeatedly stated that they would “never close a school for money.” Instead of looking at the reasons for the achievement gap and addressing them in the community school that the children already attend, the administration believes that by moving the students from point A to point B…with the same curriculum, teachers, services, and socio-economic demographics… will somehow magically change their test scores. We may very well need a new high school and all the renovations that are recommended at the middle school… but unfortunately the administration has not shown that they have a comprehensive plan to do ANYTHING moving forward other than build a new high school and close Mattison.
andthatsthetruth January 10, 2013 at 03:18 PM
The school board has always made excuses that are not valid so that they can address their agenda. Whether it be right or wrong choices. The taxpayers will have their say? It's been a known fact since the 60's that the school board will invite you to a meeting to discuss YOUR views but it's already been decided on ahead of time. So while you sit there and express your view in mass numbers they are just going through the proper procedures before making it official. What ever happened to the committee that was suppose to look into this school closing situation and advise accordingly. You don't hear much about them? or even who they picked to be on the committee? Nothing is ever planned. We should have these questions placed on the ballot at voting time - as taxpayers we should have a valid stake in what should & should not be done. That would resolve the decision making disasters that the board as a whole represents. The final word should be placed in the taxpayers hands & then the board goes forward from there. There are plenty more of us than of them. And now in light of the high school test scores, a facility doesn't make our children smarter. Reasons are being swept under the rug. " Focus on other issues and draw the public away from the factual results" With everyones efforts, I think it is falling on deaf ears to realize how the board is turning everyones lives upside down with stupid decisions. JMO
Karen Palmer January 10, 2013 at 03:35 PM
Please go to www.wsdweb.org, and click on 'Board of Directors' to find contact information for this Board. Please tell them to vote "no" on the closure of Mattison Elementary School. They already have a lot of work to do and managing this closure well and with our kids best interest in mind and heart is beyond their scope. They have proven how ineffective they are as a governing body. They can't even come to terms with their support staff so they decided to look into outsourcing their jobs. Their lunacy never ends. Achievement gap issue? Close the school! Increased cost for support staff contract terms? Hire contract labor! What will happen this year when the teacher's contract expires? Break the union and outsource their jobs? This board is putting this district on point to having beautiful buildings full of outsourced personnel with declining enrollment. 21st century schools, you see, are not about the buildings, but about the embracing an approach to education that keeps pace with our technological advances (thus needing less of a real estate footprint). Please contact the Board with your opinion.

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