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Wissahickon School District Faces PR Disaster; Further Ethical Violations Come to Light

Wissahickon School Board - Ethical Violations?

In the days following the announcement by the Wissahickon School Board to close Mattison Elementary School in June, Ambler Borough leadership announced plans for a referendum that would change the way the district conducts business. 

That's the good news for this district.

Mounting evidence was brought to light that the board, already under scrutiny for wrongful actions during the state-mandated process for closure, may have acted illegally when members of the board held meetings where board matters were discussed, including the closure of a school and the construction of a new high school.  These meetings included 'select' members of the public, were by invitation only and did not meet the legal requirements of notifying the public, a mandate from the State of Pennsylvania and U.S. Department of Education.

The legality of these meetings is currently under investigation. 

The question for members of the district is:  do you consider it ethical to hold 'secret' meetings where board business is discussed?

Parents and the community of Ambler have been shedding a light on the actions of the board, which conducts business in secrecy and meets publicly only to satisfy certain legal mandates.

The announcement of the closure of Mattison Elementary has been very divisive.  

As one parent stated "we have been accused of being selfish for our work on behalf of Mattison but when people in the district learn that this issue is much more than about the closing of a school, that ethical and legal violations have and are occurring, perhaps they will pay attention and demand answers from the people they elected to represent them."

Until then, the PR nightmare this district faces has a long way to go.  

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.

CuriousMe January 18, 2013 at 04:37 AM
I think you must have misread Karen's post. There were no personal attacks. She said that there were secret meetings held and that holding secret meetings is illegal. If the board members involved didn't want someone to point out they were doing illegal things, perhaps they shouldn't have done them. It is evident that someone here has an ax to grind though....it's just not Karen.
Stop the madness January 18, 2013 at 12:58 PM
How ironic is it that Mattison just started a 'anti bullying campaign' for the students. I think we need a similar campaign for the Mattison parents.
CuriousMe January 18, 2013 at 01:02 PM
You may want to re-read your own statements before accusing others of bullying. The Mattison parents have spoken about the issues and their children. You have made personal attacks on the parents, their sanity, and their politics.
Stop the madness January 18, 2013 at 01:22 PM
Maybe you need to read the various articles on the Patch about the Mattison situation. The parents are making threats and they are acting like children. I am defending the process and the Board members. I don't agree with the Board on all issues but this Mattison situation is an embarrassment to the community. Charges of racism and back door deals are sickening. Get over it. The Board has made their decision. The school is being closed and the kids will be fine. Prepare your kids for what's coming and stop acting like babies.
CuriousMe January 18, 2013 at 01:35 PM
We agree on one thing, the Mattison situation is an embarrassment. However, from my perspective, it's embarrassing to have a board that is so disconnected from the will of the people they represent (did you know that board members actually stated that they didn't represent the people of the school district in spite of being elected by the people of the WSD?). It's embarrassing that the school board have made such an important decision in a vacuum of evidence. It's embarrassing that each and every meeting about this closing, the school board proposed a different reason for it because the parents collected evidence disproving the reason that was used in the meeting before. It's embarrassing that we now find evidence that board members have been holding secret and illegal meetings. There is plenty to be embarrassed about here.
Stop the madness January 18, 2013 at 01:43 PM
So let's keep the school open. Let's waste money on fixing it up while we have empty classes across the other 4 schools ... let's just throw the money down the drain for 177 kids that is needed for the ENTIRE district and for these 177 after 3rd grade. You should get what you want just cause we all FEEL BAD. Isn't that what's this is about.. you guys all cry and scream bloody racism and you get the rest of us to run under our desks . Who cares about the elected Board or the other thousands of kids in the district. Let's keep the money flowing. Bailout City.. why not? The rest of the country seems to be fine with it.. Let's pay now and worry about the bill later. Who cares if the school isn't needed.. KEEP IT OPEN. What a great future we're leaving for our kids.
CuriousMe January 18, 2013 at 01:51 PM
Mattison Elementary comprises less than 3% of the WSD budget. There is no fiscal reason to close it. If fiances were the reason for closing it, why was the first reason given to be "enrollment projections" and then after that the reason given was incorrect evidence of poor performance? I know, I know, those facts are getting in the way of a good story again. If there was a valid reason for closing the school, that would have been what the board gave. Instead it was like speaking with a child when they're caught lying, they continue to change their excuses as the discrepancies in their story are exposed.
Stop the madness January 18, 2013 at 02:25 PM
The FACTS are clear and most of us having been saying this for years. Mattison is not needed, it needs to be upgraded, and it can be rolled into the other schools. MAYBE the Board wasn't perfect in their process but the result was correct. I have a good idea. I know of a District near by.. really close by. (Starts in U and ends in UBLIN) It has some great elementary schools (with no air conditioning) , a crappy Middle School.. and a MECCA of High Schools . Taxes are higher than Wiss but hey, you can FEEL good when you write the check. Hell it goes to a good cause.. ($125 M High School) and crappy other schools. Don't worry about all the problems they are having paying their bills or all the teachers that will be laid off or the kids that will ultimately suffer. You can move there and feel better. I know of many people who would love to buy your house and send their kids to a good elementary school . Yes, WSD is not prefect but at least they have a plan, and for now it seems pretty fiscally responsible.
CuriousMe January 18, 2013 at 02:49 PM
I hate to break it to you, but the current WSD School Board is planning on going down the path of Upper Dublin. They have plans for their own Mecca of a High School. closing Mattison is their first step on that path. (this isn't an opinion, this is part of the plans that the board announced) You keep insisting you have the facts, yet your posts show otherwise.
Duh! January 18, 2013 at 03:01 PM
@ Stop the madness -- Oh, really? I'm glad you seem to be confident in their "plan"? Please, enlighten us!! What is thier plan, Mrs. Know-It-All?
Karen Palmer January 18, 2013 at 03:05 PM
1. I am happy 2. I 'attacked' no one 3. I know there are 365 days in a year You 'get it' because the parents at Mattison exposed the board and shed the light of truth on the actions of a rogue board. Why are you so angry? Would you like to join me in a tree hugging ceremony later? You'll feel good.
Karen Palmer January 18, 2013 at 03:07 PM
What is truly sickening is evidence of 'back door dealings', not just charges.
andthatsthetruth January 18, 2013 at 03:11 PM
You seem to be utilizing this 177 children like there aren't enough children to fill Mattison Avenue? You fail to realize that the school board redistricted where children go to school. Do you realize that 1/2 of Ambler attends Lower Gwynedd Elementary so not to close that school down for low population? They have shifted the children around to suit their needs. If everyone went to school in the actual area that they live, then the new buildings wouldn't be feasible and it wouldn't be warranted. There has been discussions in the past that Shady Grove was to close for too old a building and that got nipped in the butt early. But that doesn't mean that it won't come back around - once Mattison Avenue has been virtually sold and there are no possibilities of returning. You don't know what you are talking about. Start with reading school board processes and manipulation that I can actually see as far back as the 60's here. Others can see how the schools in Ambler were shut down and relocated. And yes UD is in over their head.The school board continued the process to get their names on a plaque at the front door.
andthatsthetruth January 18, 2013 at 03:20 PM
You know absolutely know nothing about this it is not just 177 children. This involves Blue Bell Elementary as well. Don't you read? They are next. Now you are going to pull them full time over to Shady Grove and have the board scream new building they are over crowded. And let's not leave out Stony Creek. You know nothing of what you speak. Your explanation reaks of sarcasm.
Christine DeLaurentis January 18, 2013 at 03:27 PM
The irony is in the fact that the district rolled out an anti-bullying campaign and the school board president is the biggest bully in this entire process. Bullying is all about intimidation, not sharing facts so others understand the situation.
Stop the madness January 18, 2013 at 07:17 PM
Oh.. so this is a big conspiracy that dates back to the 1960's.. now I get it. Let's take all the schools away from Ambler and make life miserable for the kids and parents. Everyone is out to get you. You finally figured it all out.
CuriousMe January 18, 2013 at 09:00 PM
@Stop the madness: Why do you attack people instead of discussing the issue?
Stop the madness January 18, 2013 at 09:10 PM
I have discussed the issue. What attack?
andthatsthetruth January 18, 2013 at 09:41 PM
You probably weren't even born yet. Probably live in an apartment and have no financial responsibilities. Let alone children in the school district. Most likely this is the actual case. And because of the way you stir the waters here, I wouldn't be surprised if you knew all or part of the immediate school board. Personally. That should answer Curious me's question perfectly.
Stop the madness January 18, 2013 at 09:49 PM
Nutty Don't quit your day job (if you have one.. doubt it) Your detective skills are pretty bad.
CuriousMe January 18, 2013 at 10:36 PM
Here are quotes of attacks of yours from just this Blog Post: "Karen, it looks like you've gone off the deep end. Get some help." "How ironic is it that Mattison just started a 'anti bullying campaign' for the students. I think we need a similar campaign for the Mattison parents." "stop acting like babies." "Everyone is out to get you. You finally figured it all out." "Nutty Don't quit your day job (if you have one.. doubt it) Your detective skills are pretty bad."
andthatsthetruth January 18, 2013 at 11:06 PM
My accusations stay. You don't know anything.
Stop the madness January 19, 2013 at 01:46 PM
It's incredible how this has turned into a mud slinging witch hunt. Some of the Mattison families seem to only care about a 4 year period of their child's lives instead of looking at the bigger picture.. ALL 13 years of school.. Most of us who have kids in the district won't see any of these changes . Our kids will be finished school. Improved schools help the entire community and the Board is finally looking ahead and they seem to have a good plan. Do I know all the details??. do they have it all figured out.??. NO. The bottom line here people is that SOME of the Mattison parents have taken this way too far. It's not only about THEM and THEIR kids. This is about the future of WSD and ALL the kids in the district. Let's give the Board a chance to do their job.
Liz Kunzier January 19, 2013 at 01:46 PM
OK, really? Why do we have to sling labels and call people names? We, in this country to are allowed to speak freely. It is up to the individual to chose how they speak. I would hope that despite the obvious passion and differing opinions that we could please refrain from name calling. Unless you have a horse in this race, you can't know what we - and I can say we - have been through.So, please excuse us if we are upset. Understand that there are more underlying issues than the ones that seem obvious. Agree to disagree, but please, please stop being so vicious.
Karen Donofrio January 19, 2013 at 01:50 PM
Stop the madness, take the time to read through the WSD Facilities Report, the transcripts from the public hearings and all of the other information that has been posted on the WSD website for some time now and you might change your tune. In the end it may turn out closing Mattison was the best decision for the District and the students but for now, there is no valid reason to close the school other than to save a few bucks and get rid of "nuisance" school. The cost savings by closing Mattison might pay for half the Architectural Fees it is going to cost when they build the new High School. The Facilities report contains options for everything from maintaining existing schools only (all of which require extensive maintenance, not just Mattison) to closing Blue Bell as well and building new High School and Middle School facilities to the tune of $156 million at the high end. They will spend money on either maintenance, new facilities or a combination of both. There is no getting around it. You might view the District's "fiscal responsibility" a little differently by the time this is over. There is a District employee who used to work for Upper Dublin who oversaw the entire construction of their new Facilities. This may just be a coincidence but his experience will certainly come in handy when they put the first shovel into the ground. Good Luck. See you at the Board Meetings when you wake up.
Stop the madness January 19, 2013 at 02:11 PM
here we go again Liz.. exactly what I am referring to . ME ME ME .. read your comments . It's all POOR ME. Pretty much sums up why the country is in the state it's in. You can say whatever you want and I do not need a kid at Mattison in order to comment. We are all tax payers and most of us have kids in the district. Vicious? the nasty comments are coming from the selfish Mattison parents. I am just defending the rest of the community and the Board.
andthatsthetruth January 19, 2013 at 02:22 PM
And that makes you the hero of the day ! Yee ~ Hah!
CuriousMe January 19, 2013 at 06:44 PM
Except you're the one in this thread who is slinging viscous and sarcastic comments. The parents are speaking about the issues.
Stop the madness January 19, 2013 at 06:49 PM
just keeping it real and telling it like it really is
CuriousMe January 19, 2013 at 06:50 PM
I wish you were, I really do.

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