Release of 2015-16 State Building Level Academic Scores (BLAS)

Release of 2015-16 State Building Level Academic Scores (BLAS) Permalink2016-12-17Update


The state released the 2015-16 Building Level Academic Scores (BLAS) for all Cheltenham District schools. Last year only the high school received a BLAS score.

On the good news side, the high school has staged an impressive recovery from 66.5 in 2014-15 to 77.2 in 2015-16.

On the not-so-good-news side, apparently the continuing construction at Cedarbrook is taking a toll on performance: The BLAS for 2013-14 was an impressive 91.3 which has dropped to 65.8 in 2015-16.

While it can be understood that conditions at Cedarbrook can explain the drop in performance, the drop at Glenside Elementary (a new building) seems to throw doubt on the implication that new buildings equal higher test scores. Glenside Elementary scored an impressive 90.9 in 2013-14 while dropping down to 77.5 in 2015-16.

2016-12-17Building Level Academic Score 2012-2016


2016-12-13 Regular Legislative Meeting

 Podmaster Notebook  Permalink2016-12-13Live Recording

  • Employment Termination of Teacher Stacie Stoops
    • Last month's meeting was dominated by allegations that Teacher Stacie Stoops made racially disparaging comments in the classroom.
    • Many parents were in the audience last month.
    • On November 20Th, the district suspended Stoops.
    • The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that, "The teacher was discussing the election and the impact of a Trump presidency on the Black Lives Matter movement when she allegedly told students 'to stop bitching about being black'"
    • The solicitor's report mentioned that the Stoops dismissal will be contested by the teachers association. The case now goes to an independent arbitrator who has the final call.
    • At this meeting the board approved,"…. a detailed written statement of charges to Stacie Stoops….".
    • According to the the database, Stacie Stoops is a secondary teacher in mathematics at the High School. She has a Master's degree and her salary was $81697.
    • During the public comment period Senator Art Haywood (husband of board member Julie Haywood) appeared before the board. The senator questioned the school district solicitor Mr. Roos as follows:

Sen. Haywood: "The main thing that brings me here is a comment I think I heard on TV regarding an employee who was dismissed and then is seeking arbitration." (To Mr. Roos). "Did you say anything about the incident that gave rise to the dismissal and arbitration ?"
Mr. Roos: "No."
Sen. Haywood: "Is this the same teacher who was allegedly making racial disparaging statements in the classroom ?"
Mr. Roos: "Yes. You are correct"
Sen. Haywood: "Now is the president of the teachers association– Is that Jack Kelly ?"
Mr. Roos: "Yes."
Sen. Haywood: "Has Jack Kelly been the president of the organization as far as you know…was he the president in the 2004 time-frame ?"
Mr. Roos: "I don't recall. I know there was a period of time when Mr. Kelly took a leave of absence."
Sen. Haywood:" A long time ago I was the leader of one of the black parent groups here. We asked to meet with the teachers union— I think it was a Jack Kelly— who said he didn't want to talk to us about the achievement gap. You wouldn't have any recollection of that ?"
Mr. Roos: "I'm afraid I do not.
Sen. Haywood:"Well….Are you aware of any legislation of another state, another locality, that would increase the capacity of the school district to discourage these kinds of arbitration ?"
Mr. Roos: "Not anything specific. Pennsylvania has historically had pretty strong protections in place— especially for teachers with tenure. But I know Pennsylvania laws are more robust than other states as far as protecting teachers rights."
Sen. Haywood: "If we could change the law, we could significantly change the dynamic."
Mr. Roos: "Yes there are changes that we could make…to the school code that could give the school board a little more authority in terms of termination of professional employees."
Sen. Haywood:"OK. So I would like to receive that information so that we can put together a legislative solution."
Mr. Roos: "Sure."
Sen. Haywood: "Thank You."

  • Questions regarding the Cedarbrook Environmental Issues
    • A member of the public, Christina Jorge Schwarz, questioned the board regarding the environmental contamination at the Cedarbrook construction site.
    • She identified herself as an environmental consultant from Glenside, and also mentioned that she is a former employee of Lagan— the company that is performing the study at Cedarbrook.
    • The board was voting on the second option for dealing with the problem: Capping the Site and Deed Notice with Environmental Covenant.
    • She mentioned that the contaminant, PAH, is a probable human carcinogen.
    • While there are savings with the capping option, there are other possible hidden costs such as insurance increases.
    • No report regarding the site has been issued yet by Lagan.
    • She requested that the vote be tabled until the report is received.
    • The Superintendent replied that the district has all the data supporting the decision.
    • Lagan Engineer Shaun David mentioned that PAH is not an indoor air concern, and that there would be long-term monitoring.
    • Facilities Director Dr. Bavi stated that insurance would not cover any of the cleanup cost.

2016-12-13Regular Legislative Meeting MP3s

DateTrackWeb Link
2016-12-131Regular Legislative Meeting

2016-12-13Regular Legislative Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2016-12-13Nov 2016 Exp Summary.pdf (42 KB)
2016-12-13Nov 2016 Revenue.pdf (32 KB)
2016-12-13P112 Guidance and Counseling Second Read 12 13 2016.pdf (49 KB)
2016-12-13P121 Field Trips second first read 12 13 16 .pdf (59 KB)
2016-12-13P122 Extracurricular and Cocurricular Activities 2nd First Read 12 13 16 .pdf (90 KB)
2016-12-13P127 Assessment of Ed. Program Second Read 12 13 2016.pdf (51 KB)
2016-12-13P225 Students and the Police First Read 12 13 2016.pdf (49 KB)
2016-12-13EDEP Agenda 12 13 16 Final.pdf (19 KB)
2016-12-132016-2017 Stipend List December 2016 (1).pdf (17 KB)
2016-12-13Volunteers December 2016.pdf (28 KB)
2016-12-13Budget Transfers (7).pdf (182 KB)

2016-12-06 Finance and Facilities Committee Meeting in 4 Separate Recordings

 Podmaster Notebook  Permalink2016-12-06Live Recording

  • Special Board Meeting Notes
    • It was announced that a settlement has been reached with the Cheltenham Educator's Association.
    • A fact finder from the state was involved in the negotiations. The district and union accepted the fact finder's report as a basis of a settlement.
    • There was no fact-finder's report posted on the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board website as of 12/10. The school district did not disclose terms in its joint statement with the union.
    • So, it is not known what type of increases township taxpayers will be on the hook for.
  • Finance Committee Meeting Notes
    • Review of FY 2015-16
      • 2015-16 ended with a surplus of $1,244,001 over budget.
      • The surplus was due to excess revenues coming in, not in any great success in cost control.
      • One of the cost drivers mentioned were "High cost special education students."
      • At the beginning of 2015-16, the fund balance was $16.4 Million.
    • Snapshot of 2017-18 Budget
      • The discussion of the recent CTA contract indicated that it would not exceed the 2017-18 budgeted amount.
      • So far for 2016-17, expenses have run to $44,766,590 which is 41.67% of budget while 74.89% of revenues are in at $80,468,003.
      • The county certified assessment value of all Cheltenham property was reported as $1,860,790,880.
      • The recently approved opt-out tax increase will yield a maximum of $2,013,865 at the limit of 2.5%.
    • Tax Collector Compensation
      • At the beginning of the meeting I recognized the Cheltenham Township tax collector in the audience. Between the two committee meetings he was having a heated discussion with the district finance chief Cara Michaels.
      • Board President Bill England stated that the elected Cheltenham Township tax collector "came here to complain about what he is getting paid…" by the district for school tax collection.
      • He mentioned that the board would look into what competitor tax collectors get paid in surrounding communities.
  • Facilities Committee Meeting Notes
    • Cedarbrook Elevator Shaft Contamination Issues.
      • The main point of interest for this meeting was the presentation by Langan Environmental Regarding Elevator Shaft Contamination discovered at the Cedarbrook Construction Site.
      • The main contaminant is "PAH" which does not seem to migrate.
      • Groundwater impacts of the contamination are still being assessed.
      • Langan outlined two options to handle the problem:
        1. Excavation and Offsite Disposal of the Site
        2. Capping the Site and Deed Notice/Environmental Covenant
      • Option 1: Excavation and Offsite Disposal of the Site
        • This solution would require that utilities in the area to be stabilized and the contaminated soil would be removed and transported to a disposal site.
        • It would take several month's time to complete with resulting delays to the Cedarbrook project.
        • The estimated cost would be over $540K.
      • Option 2: Capping the Site and Deed Notice/Environmental Covenant
        • This option would "cap" the contaminated material under the new school building and by additional clean topsoil.
        • It would require that the property deed be modified to include notice that contamination is present on the property.
        • There would be only a 1 week delay in the Cedarbrook construction.
        • There would be long-term monitoring and maintenance required of the "capped" area.
        • In areas where the new Cedarbrook building does not serve as a cap, a "soil cap" will be created with additional top soil and trees.
        • Annual reports would have to be filed with the state.
        • The immediate cost is a fraction of the previous option $10K to $45K.
      • The board took a straw vote to select which option they prefer: Option 2 won the vote unanimously.
    • Cedarbrook Construction Update
      • The geothermal project has completed drilling 205 of 210 wells. The next phase of this task is piping.
    • Cheltenham High School Modular Classroom and Lavatory Renovations
      • This meeting item was to approve an architect to begin work on the project.
      • This project took at least one board member by surprise, since there was no discussion of it at the last Facilities Committee meeting.
      • The project itself is to modify three classrooms and an office area, renovation of 3 lavatories and renovation of the modular building.
      • There was only one bid on this project: KCBA at $137,950.
      • The project itself is estimated to cost between $3-$3.5 Million.
    • Cheltenham High School Gymnasium Renovation
      • This meeting item was to allow the Facilities Department to solicit architect bids for Cheltenham High School gymnasium renovation.
      • This project involves the renovation the entire gymnasium area: New bleachers, New flooring system, New sound system, New roof system, New HVAC/electrical.
      • The superintendent mentioned several times that there are "over 200 leaks" over the gym floor. One wonders: how do you count each individual leak ? Do they get barcoded and entered into School Dude ?

2016-12-06Finance and Facilities Committee Meeting MP3s

DateTrackWeb Link
2016-12-061Facilities Committee Meeting Part 1 of 3
2016-12-062Facilities Committee Meeting Part 2 of 3
2016-12-063Facilities Committee Meeting Part 3 of 3
2016-12-064Finance Committee Meeting

2016-12-06Finance and Facilities Committee Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2016-12-06 J. Kelly Teacher Contract Statement
2016-12-06Financial Affairs Dec 2016
2016-12-06Facilities Committee Report Dec 2016
2016-12-06Cedarbrook Rebuild Update Dec 2016

2016-11-15 Regular Legislative Meeting in 3 Separate Recordings

 Podmaster Notebook  Permalink2016-11-15Live Recording


This was a very crowded meeting, with many parents in the audience. The reason for the crowd was not formally on the agenda. The superintendent's report explained the reason why: an incident where a district teacher may have used "hurtfull words" with a student was described. Since this matter was not on the agenda, parents in the audience had to wait through the entire meeting before they could comment on the situation.

Because the matter is under investigation, there was not much the board could say or do besides listen to parents describe their experiences with district staff where "inflammatory and racially charged" language was used.

In the middle of all this, the Montgomery County Planning Commission presented the same lengthy and unabridged demographic study presentation that was heard in the Finance Committee Meeting. Unfortunately, the many families that came to make comments regarding the alleged racial incident started to get impatient when the presentation droned on and on. A comment that "they always do this when we have something to say" was overheard in the audience.

In other news, the board approved the opt out resolution which guarantees that the district will limit any tax increase to an amount below the Act 1 index of 2.5%. This vote was unanimous.

2016-11-15Regular Legislative Meeting MP3s

DateTrackWeb Link
2016-11-151Regular Legislative Meeting Part 1 of 3
2016-11-152Regular Legislative Meeting Part 2 of 3
2016-11-153Regular Legislative Meeting Part 3 of 3

2016-11-15Regular Legislative Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2016-11-15 Agenda
2016-11-15Oct 2016 Revenue.pdf (61 KB)
2016-11-15Oct 2016 Exp Summary .pdf (75 KB)
2016-11-15P127 Assessment of Ed. Program 11 3 16 First Read(01334723xAED82).pdf (53 KB)
2016-11-15P112 Guidance and Counseling 11 3 16 First Read(01334705xAED82) (1).pdf (52 KB)
2016-11-15P122 Extracurricular and Cocurricular Activities 11 3 16 First Read (01334761xAED82).pdf (90 KB)
2016-11-15P109 School Library 11 3 16 First Read(01334683xAED82).pdf (86 KB)
2016-11-15P121 Field Trips 11 3 16 First Read(01334741xAED82).pdf (58 KB)
2016-11-152016-2017 Stipend List November 2016 (3).pdf (16 KB)
2016-11-15Agenda 11 15 2016 EDEP Final (1).pdf (25 KB)
2016-11-15Volunteers November 2016 (1).pdf (30 KB)
2016-11-15Budget Transfers (6).pdf (725 KB)

2016-11-01 Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting in 4 Separate Recordings

 Podmaster Notebook  Permalink2016-11-01Live Recording

  • Finance Committee Notes
    • Act 1 Opt Out Resolution for November Regular Meeting
      • The best news of this meeting came at the end: a resolution to Opt Out of any tax increases above the Act 1 index (2.5%) is proposed to be approved at the next regular meeting.
      • An Act 1 increase of 2.5% would raise the millage rate to 46.2217.
      • There was mention by the finance director that the recent relatively modest tax increases by Cheltenham, coupled by above average increases by other districts in Montgomery County, mean that they are "catching up" to Cheltenham.
      • I used the tax rate tables obtained by retrieving the Montgomery County website using the Internet Archive Wayback Machine to create the chart of Montgomery County School Tax rates for all listed municipalities: Clearly no other community is suicidal enough to challenge Cheltenham's position of having the highest school tax. Indeed, the only way for the county to "catch up" to Cheltenham would be for several years of tax cuts in Cheltenham.
      • There was some question of how it is possible to "opt out" at this time before a teacher contract has been signed. Another school board member questioned how the "opt out" resolution can be considered before we know how much it will cost to perform all the educational services required of the community.
      • Thankfully, the majority of the board members recognize the economic burden that is already placed on Cheltenham and support the Opt Out resolution.
    • Montgomery Planning Commission Enrollment Projection
      • The board received the Montgomery Planning Commission Enrollment Projection study. The enrollment was projected out to the year of 2016-26.
      • There were three scenarios presented:
        1. Base Future Estimate
        2. Higher Future Estimate
        3. Higher Future Estimate with Housing Adjustment
      • Like most studies of its kind, the MCPC estimates are straight line projections based on recent experience. Given the high likelihood of another economic crisis in the order of 2008-9, it would be expected that some mention of future economic factors would be discussed. They weren't.
      • Only under the most aggressive Option 3 projection, the total number of students would match the number enrolled in the late 90's.
      • Back in January of 2015, this website carried the chart of the "Cheltenham Cross" School enrollment versus school taxes. The chart covered 1998 to 2014.
      • There was some discussion of the impact of private schools on enrollment levels. Basically, there is not a way to ensure good data on private students other than those that the district provides transportation for.
    • Bond Financing Presentation
      • Mr. Brad Remig provided the board with an update on the forthcoming bond issuance activity.
      • In 2016 the district borrowed $32 million for the Cedarbrook project.
      • The principle activity for 2017 was refinancing existing bonds to a lower rate.
      • In the year 2040, ten percent of the budget will be devoted to debt service.
      • Since refinancing will be occurring in 2017, no new money can be borrowed until 2018.
      • Cheltenham's rating is AA-. With this rating, there is no need to purchase bond insurance.
      • There will be a "parameters resolution" on next weeks legislative agenda to authorize the 2017 refinancing activity.
      • The documents provided to the board were not shared with the public because of the proprietary nature of a public bond issuance; however, no summary of bond activity was provided to the public.
  • Facilities Committee Notes
    • Cedarbrook Construction Update
      • The main issue of concern is the continuing study of the environmental problems caused by soil contamination around the unshielded Cedarbrook elevator shaft.
      • It was mentioned that 55 gallons of oil was removed from the elevator shaft.
      • Over the years oil from the elevator system had leaked into the surrounding soil.
      • Testing has occurred in "phases" which equates to the distance from the contamination site that effects have been measured.
      • The 3rd phase testing has been completed, and the director of facilities is waiting on the report.
      • The 3rd phase test report will include recommendations on how to move forward.
      • In subsequent discussion it was mentioned that this problem may require substantial excavation to remove the contaminated soil.
      • This issue is increasing the uncertainty that the school will reopen on 9/17. Plans are being made for this scenario.
    • "School Dude" Software
      • This software is used to manage building maintenance.
      • A question was raised about one of the tracking features ("Dirty Sock Syndrome" in Wyncote Elementary), but it was felt it was a typo of some kind.
    • High School Track
      • Parents and coach brought up the topic of the high school track which was not on the agenda.
      • The issue is that any work on the track may have to be undone when other projects are undertaken.

2016-11-01Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting MP3s

DateTrackWeb Link
2016-11-011Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting Part 1 of 4
2016-11-012Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting Part 2 of 4
2016-11-013Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting Part 3 of 4
2016-11-014Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting Part 4 of 4

2016-11-01Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2016-20052016-2005 Montco Millage Rates School Tax Spreadsheet
2016-20052016-2005 Montco Millage Rates School Tax Chart
2005 Montco Website Wayback Machine Capture: 20051215
2006 Montco Website Wayback Machine Capture: 20061105
2007 Montco Website Wayback Machine Capture: 20070728
2008 Montco Website Wayback Machine Capture: 20081019
2009 Montco Website Wayback Machine Capture: 20090217
2010 Montco Website Wayback Machine Capture: 20100823
2011 Montco Website Wayback Machine Capture: 20110727
2012 Montco Website Wayback Machine Capture: 20120620
2013 Montco Website Wayback Machine Capture: 20130806
2014 Montco Website Wayback Machine Capture: 20140909
2015 Montco Website Wayback Machine Capture: 20150910
2016 Montco Website Wayback Machine Capture: 20160721
2016-11-01Facilities Committee November 2016 Presentation
2016-11-01Facilitites Committee OCT 2016

2016-10-18 Regular Legislative Meeting in 2 Separate Recordings

 Podmaster Notebook  Permalink2016-10-18Live Recording


The regular meeting business opened with a statement by the superintendent regarding the status of the contract negotiations with the teachers union. The key news item from that statement was that both parties will be contacted by the state mediator soon.

To review, in 2014 the union agreed to a 2 year extension of the 2011 contract. It is that extension that expired this year.

On October 19, 2011, Nearly 5 years ago to the day of today's meeting, State Mediator John M. Skonier issued a fact-finding report that helped settle the last negotiated contract (

Mr. Skonier's words from 2011– written when the PSERS Employer Contribution Rate was 5.64%– are still timely: particularly since the PSERS rate has more than quadrupled to 25.84% for 2015/16:

The record reveals that, among the 21 comparable school districts, the taxing effort of the District is high.

The current economic climate and the fiscal constraints facing school districts today are unprecedented. The country is in the grips of a major recession and revenue sources are dwindling. Compounding this situation is the effect of Act 1 on the ability of a district to raise revenues and the decreased market values of real property, the primary source of tax revenues for a school district. In addition, districts are facing a looming crisis presented by the expanding costs of PSERS. While this is certainly not the fault of the Association or the District, it is the current situation in which we find ourselves.

These challenges require innovative approaches to bargaining. There must be a balancing between ever increasing health care costs and the limited economic resources available in the foreseeable future. In view of this, the salary schedules recommended must be seen in tandem with the health care recommendations as a part of a "package" that, hopefully, will lead to a contract.

In other news, The Cedarbrook project required the approval of two change orders, for foundation wall improvements (approx $168K) and continuing study of the soil around an elevator shaft that was discovered to be contaminated. The study purpose is to determine the extent of environmental contamination ($56.4K).

The Liaison Committee reported a few items of interest:

  • The township library system is requesting a financial contribution from the district which was stopped because of budget shortfalls.
  • The township pools are over 50 years old and are in need of upgrades. The township will be applying to the state for funding.
  • The township is in contract negotiation with police and public works employee unions.
  • Due to increasing incidents with the deer population, a company called "Abington Deer Management" was hired to cull the deer herd. The company will use archery, not firearms on public land. The will not enter any private land. The company uses licensed and certified archers and the deer meat goes to public shelters.

The district continues to send presumably trained staff to conferences in the hopes that it improves academic performance. Here is this month's conference roundup (total known cost is $10864.74):

  • Apple Education Trainer Certification in Norristown (3 people @ $435.00)
  • Eastern Pennsylvania Ed Administrators Conference in Hershey PA (No Estimate Given)
  • Wilson Foundation Training Level K in Norristown PA (3 people @ $389.75)
  • Strategic Agility in Practice in New York, NY (1 person @ $1655.00)
  • National Council of Teachers of Mathematics in Philadelphia, PA (1 person @ $325.00)
  • The Attendance / Child Accounting Professional Association Fall Conference in Hershey, PA (2 people @ $1103)
  • Open Resources Conference in Norristown, PA (1 person @ $495.00)
  • PA Positive Behavioral Support Universal Training in Norristown PA (1 person @ $459)
  • Innovator's Mindset Workshop in Downingtown, PA (1 person @ $475.00 )
  • PA Association for Gifted Education in Harrisburg PA (1 person @ $756.16)
  • Mindfulness for Educators Conference in Cambridge, MA (1 person @ $2,798.81 )

In comments at the end of the meeting, a mother of a Glenside Elementary student complained that equipment that was independently donated to the school by parents was thrown onto the roof of the school by a Glenside Elementary playground monitor. She also stated that that the parents had put in several work orders and asked staff to bring the equipment down. The equipment is reportedly still on the roof.

2016-10-18Regular Legislative Meeting MP3s

DateTrackWeb Link
2016-10-181Regular Legislative Meeting Part 1 of 2
2016-10-182Regular Legislative Meeting Part 2 of 2

2016-10-18Regular Legislative Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2016-10-18Sept 2016 Exp Summary 2.pdf (64 KB)
2016-10-18Sept 2016 Rev.pdf (31 KB)
2016-10-18Tenure List 2016-2017.pdf (11 KB)
2016-10-18Agenda 10 18 16 EDEP Final.pdf (62 KB)
2016-10-182016-2017 Leadership Stipend List (1).pdf (32 KB)
2016-10-182016-2017 Mentor Stipend List (1).pdf (25 KB)

2016-09-13 Regular Legislative Meeting

 Podmaster Notebook  Permalink2016-09-13Live Recording


At the beginning of the meeting, a statement was made by the board to the effect that there is no settlement in contract negotiations with the Cheltenham Teachers Association.

Another notable point from this meeting was the quiet jettison of the plan to put the district's legal services out to bid. At the Finance committee meeting Back in June 7th, there were detailed plans to issue a Request For Proposal (RFP) for school district legal services from a variety of bidders. The plan was to extend the present legal services contract with Wisler Pearlstine, LLP into summer and issue the RFP in September.

Suddenly, the district announced at this meeting that: "The administration recommends the approval of Wisler Pearlstine, LLP to provide general and special education legal services for the fiscal year 2016-2017, with an option to renew up to four (4) years at the annual base compensation of $27,600 and the hourly rates as attached."

There was no mention of any bidding process or that Wisler Pearlstine, LLP was the lowest qualified bidder. So much for competitive bidding at Cheltenham.

By the way, Here are the posted legal services hourly rates:

  • Partners: $180/hour
  • Senior Education Law Attorneys: $180.00/hour
  • Associate Attorneys: $160.00/hour
  • Education Specialist: $110.00/hour
  • Assessment Specialist: $100.00/hour
  • Paralegal: $90.00/hour

On a separate topic, another trend in school board reporting is to include an item on the meeting agenda with the phrase, "as attached" with no attachment included with the BoardDocs public agenda. For this meeting, I list the following such missing attachments:

Missing Attachments for 20160913 Regular Meeting
Missing: The "attached" agreement with Avalon Foundation.
Missing: The Edmentum Assessment services Quotation for $39,416.66 2 yr extension.
Missing: The Quinn Developments Services Contract: No amount or duration listed.
Missing: The Renaissance Learning for technology services $54,621.28 Quote

2016-09-13Regular Legislative Meeting MP3s

DateTrackWeb Link
2016-09-131Regular Legislative Meeting Part 1 of 1

2016-09-13Regular Legislative Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2016-09-13Aug 2016 Rev
2016-09-13Aug 2016 Exp Summary
2016-09-13Volunteers - September 2016
2016-09-13Solicitor Hourly Rates

Thank You Myron



In what has been called, unprecedented win for Pennsylvania taxpayers, a judge has forced the Lower Merion School District to cancel its last tax increase because of deceptive and misleading budget reporting. Lower Merion SD projected large budget deficits while in reality the district was sitting on millions of surplus dollars. The district had planned to increase taxes by 4.4%.

In Cheltenham Township, former school board member Myron Goldman was on our district's case regarding the hidden build-up of reserve funds for many years. Myron is a former math teacher at Masterman. He is the math teacher you wish you had.

When former district Business Manager Matt Malinowski left, the district changed direction and opened the books. New finance chief Cara Michaels has kept the books open and as a result, the projected tax increase of 2.4% for this year has been reduced, with money from the fund balance used to make up the difference.

Thank you Myron for those many late night questions that you kept asking about numbers that didn't add up….This year they finally did.

2016-09-06 Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting in 2 Separate Recordings

 Podmaster Notebook  Permalink2016-09-06Live Recording

  • Facilities Committee Meeting
    • Cedarbook Construction Update:
      • The Geothermal part of the project is active. The following activities are taking place—
        • The project will require 220 wells to be drilled.
        • The wells are approximately 300 feet deep.
        • Contractors are drilling at a rate of 2 wells per day.
        • Presently there are 30 completed.
        • A student observation area has been provided near this activity.
      • The existing elevator pit has been found to be improperly constructed and will require an environmental study to be conducted and potentially extensive cleanup operations to take place.
        • The elevator had no lining.
        • The elevator used oil and lubricants in its normal operation which may have leaked into the surrounding area.
        • Debris collected in the shaft.
        • The shaft is an open hold 28 feet into bedrock.
        • A licensed environmental firm is drilling to take soil samples around the shaft.
        • Further investigations to determine groundwater quality will take place.
        • Actions to remove contaminated soil may be required.
        • All construction activities in the area of the elevator shaft have been suspended.
        • This incident has caused construction scheduling problems since environmental work must be completed.
        • A rough estimate of the cost of the environmental investigation work is from $56K to $93K.
      • A credit of $77022 was obtained from the contractors because of design changes including the elimination of a fence surrounding a storm basin and the elimination of 3 shut off valves.
      • A change order for Cedarbrook was proposed for a total cost of $232033 for new sliding partitions and the addition of marker boards. The costs broke down as:
        • $205750 for Mechanical changes.
        • $26784 for Electrical changes.
        • The contractor will require a 30 day extension to complete the changes.
  • Finance Committee Meeting
    • 2017-18 Budget Issues:
      • The projected 2017-18 Act 1 index is 2.47%.
      • The Act 1 Index factors in school district costs, regardless of the median wage earner's ability to pay these costs.
      • The district decision to apply for a 2017 increase greater than 2.47% must occur by January of 2017.

2016-09-06Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting MP3s

DateTrackWeb Link
2016-09-061Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting Part 1 of 2
2016-09-062Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting Part 2 of 2

2016-09-06Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2016-09-06Financial Affairs Committee Meeting 09.02.16

2016-08-09 Regular Legislative Meeting

 Podmaster Notebook  Permalink2016-08-09Live Recording


2016-08-09Regular Legislative Meeting MP3s

Our original 2016-17 Cheltenham School Tax infographic was set for a 2.4% increase and was never updated for the final reduced 1.3% tax increase. The revised version is available below:

DateTrackWeb Link
2016-08-091Regular Legislative Meeting Part 1 of 1

2016-08-09Regular Legislative Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2016-08-09July 2016 Revenue
2016-08-09July 2016 Exp Summary
2016-08-09EDEP Agenda 8 09 16 Final
2016-08-09Volunteers for August 2016
2016-08-09Budget Transfers (5)

2016-08-02 Finance and Facilities Committee Meeting in 2 Separate Recordings

 Podmaster Notebook  Permalink2016-08-02Live Recording

  • Facilities Committee Meeting Notes
    • Cedarbrook Construction Project
      • 99% of demolition has been completed.
      • The steel framing of the building has been saved.
      • The concrete decking is in good shape, but there are some minor cracks that will have to be filled.
      • Presently there are 25 workers on the site.
      • The project is in a slow phase of grading and working on storm water management.
      • The geothermal subproject is estimated to be completed by 12.30/2016.
      • Payments to all the contractors so far has totaled $1,916,867.
      • The board will vote next week on some change orders with a total cost of $76,667.
  • Finance Committee Meeting Notes
    • Demographic Enrollment Projections The district is working on a demographic enrollment study with the Montgomery County planning commission.
    • Unaudited 2015-16 Budget highlites
      • Total revenues turned out to be $107,153,740.
      • Total expenditures turned out to be $105,491,284.
      • The year ended with a $1.66 Million surplus.
      • The majority of the surplus was caused by revenue coming in $3,265,876 above the budget value.
      • Expenditures were also over budget– by $2.55 million– so basically the the over budget revenues cancelled out the over budget expenditures.
      • Much was made of the fact that the district has a 98% tax collection rate. The implication was that this 98% collection rate signals approval by the residents for having the highest school tax rate in the county. As if 98% of the residents of Cheltenham don't know what will happen to them if they fail to pay their taxes.

2016-08-02Finance and Facilities Committee Meeting MP3s

DateTrackWeb Link
2016-08-021Finance and Facilities Committee Meeting Part 1 of 2
2016-08-022Finance and Facilities Committee Meeting Part 2 of 2

2016-08-02Finance and Facilities Committee Meeting Selected Documents

The Finance Presentations webpage does not contain anything newer than April.

The Support Services Presentations webpage does not contain anything newer than June.

20160723 Cheltenham School District Court Activity



Surprisingly, Case Number 2015-15473 that lists a defendant with the same name as a current school board member is still open. It is not clear whether the total amount owed is $9892 or if a payment has been made reducing the total to $3663.

This quarter had a large increase in the number of Cheltenham school tax liens filed over the last reporting period; however, there is no indication that 2016 will be much different from recent years:

It is sad to report that the following individuals and businesses have been hauled into court to pay their Cheltenham school tax bill (Click on the "Continue without logging in" link to view the case.):

2016-07-23Tax Liens 3/24/2016 thru 7/23/2016

Case:2016-05695 Case:2016-05847 Case:2016-06573 Case:2016-06574
Case:2016-06587 Case:2016-07294 Case:2016-08523 Case:2016-08525
Case:2016-08570 Case:2016-08571 Case:2016-08572 Case:2016-08573
Case:2016-08574 Case:2016-08575 Case:2016-08576 Case:2016-08593
Case:2016-08595 Case:2016-08597 Case:2016-08599 Case:2016-08614
Case:2016-08616 Case:2016-08618 Case:2016-08621 Case:2016-08623
Case:2016-08628 Case:2016-08631 Case:2016-08880 Case:2016-08881
Case:2016-08883 Case:2016-08886 Case:2016-08888 Case:2016-08995
Case:2016-09122 Case:2016-09128 Case:2016-09134 Case:2016-09138
Case:2016-09145 Case:2016-09317 Case:2016-09319 Case:2016-09322
Case:2016-09324 Case:2016-09331 Case:2016-09333 Case:2016-09336
Case:2016-09337 Case:2016-09376 Case:2016-09377 Case:2016-09670
Case:2016-09675 Case:2016-09677 Case:2016-09695 Case:2016-09699
Case:2016-09982 Case:2016-09985 Case:2016-09986 Case:2016-09987
Case:2016-10270 Case:2016-10396 Case:2016-10585 Case:2016-11236
Case:2016-11244 Case:2016-11258 Case:2016-11259 Case:2016-11261
Case:2016-11266 Case:2016-11269 Case:2016-11272 Case:2016-11274
Case:2016-11275 Case:2016-11278 Case:2016-11279 Case:2016-11339
Case:2016-11363 Case:2016-11711 Case:2016-11712 Case:2016-11738
Case:2016-11739 Case:2016-11741 Case:2016-11814 Case:2016-11940
Case:2016-11942 Case:2016-11943 Case:2016-11944 Case:2016-12841
Case:2016-13117 Case:2016-13119 Case:2016-13178 Case:2016-13342
Case:2016-14131 Case:2016-14133 Case:2016-14811

2016-06-14 Regular Legislative Meeting in 2 Separate Recordings

 Podmaster Notebook  Permalink2016-06-14Live Recording

  • The reduced school tax increase of 1.3% was approved at this meeting.
  • Also at this meeting, one lucky business address has escaped from the Cheltenham School District's clutches, along with the highest school tax in Montgomery County. It is now in the Abington School district. The property is located at 2278 Mount Carmel Ave. The board approved that, "Parcel Number 30-00-45348-00-9, to be considered 100% located in Abington School District and Abington Township for taxation purposes as chosen by the property owner, Glenside Realty Partners, LLC, pursuant to 53 Pa.C.S 8818."
    • According to Montgomery County Property Records, this location has an assessed value of $318,250.
    • The School taxes— Abington vs Cheltenham— for this property are as follows:
      Abington $9512.49
      Cheltenham $14167.09
    • One wonders if the other businesses along this corridor will try to get the same deal.
  • The attendance of school district personnel to following conferences was approved:
International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Denver, CO $850.00
American Speech Language Hearing Association Philadelphia, PA $415.00
American Society for Microbiology (ASM) Bethesda, MD $286.00
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) New Orleans, LA $1633.00
American School Counselors Association (ASCA) New Orleans, LA $3268.00
International Positive Education Network (IPEN) Dallas,TX $3534.00
Shot Bot Training Durham, NC $1133.00
TOTAL   $11,119.00

2016-06-14Regular Legislative Meeting MP3s

DateTrackWeb Link
2016-06-141Regular Legislative Meeting Part 1 of 2
2016-06-142Regular Legislative Meeting Part 2 of 2

2016-06-14Regular Legislative Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2016-06-14Rev.pdf (52 KB)
2016-06-14Summary (2).pdf (66 KB)
2016-06-14Approved Adacemic Calendar 2016-2017 (2).pdf (196 KB)
2016-06-14P143 District Issued Chromebooks 2nd read (01232496xAED82).pdf (82 KB)
2016-06-14P210 - Use of Medications 2nd Read (01234250xAED82).pdf (78 KB)
2016-06-14P360 460 560 860 Student Adult Boundaries 2nd Read (01201739xAED82).pdf (48 KB)
2016-06-14P623 Travel Reimbursement First Read and Adoption 06 14 2016.pdf (59 KB)
2016-06-14P624 Federal Fiscal Compliance 1st Read and Adoption 06 14 2016.pdf (71 KB)
2016-06-14P808 Food Services First Read and Adoption 06 14 2016.pdf (74 KB)
2016-06-14P826 Social Media 2nd Read (01225360-2xAED82).pdf (75 KB)
2016-06-14P827 Conflict of Interest 1st Read-Adoption 06 14 2016.pdf (80 KB)
2016-06-14Policy-AR Status Chart 6.2.16 (01257588xAED82).pdf (45 KB)
2016-06-14EDEP Agenda 6 14 16 Final.pdf (17 KB)
2016-06-14Volunteers for June.pdf (16 KB)
2016-06-14Budget Transfers.pdf (209 KB)

20160611 Former Cheltenham Administrator "Sleeping On The Roof" at his new Charter School

Permalink2016-06-11Staff Update


Periodically, your podmaster hears near-hysteria at Cheltenham School Board meetings regarding the cost of charter school reimbursements to the district.

Dr. Michael Lowe, formerly an administrator with Cheltenham School district, has gone over to the charter school dark side by becoming the Supervisor of Instructional Development at the York Academy Charter School.

Sitting through school board meetings is boring for everyone. But at the end of his tenure at Cheltenham, I remember Dr Lowe as almost being in a persistent vegetative state at school board meetings.

Well it appears that he is now wide-awake at his new charter school.

According to a story last month on WPMT Fox 43 in York, Dr. Lowe, "made a deal with students. If they could read 2.5 million minutes, by the end of the year, he would sleep on the roof."

According to the video the students completed the challenge, and Dr. Lowe was raised to the roof by a fire truck and spent the night there.

DateWeb Link
2016-06-11Fox 43 Video of the Dr. Lowe Roof Challenge

2016-06-07 Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting in 2 Separate Recordings

 Podmaster Notebook  Permalink2016-06-07Live Recording

  • Facilities Committee Meeting Notes
    • Cedarbrook Construction Update
      • Demolition of interior spaces is moving forward.
      • This Monday, the work site switches over to contractor-provided security.
      • Trees in the construction areas have been removed.
      • The tennis courts are now a construction parking lot.
      • While many trees have been removed, over 100 trees are being protected.
      • The old teacher parking area will be the area for geothermal drilling which includes:
        • Installation of hundreds of pipes.
        • Piping depth is over 200 feet.
        • Pipes travel from this area to the boiler room back in the school.
        • There was some discussion about allowing summer school students study the geothermal work site. Some issues against this proposal centered on security and liability issues. It was mentioned that summer school theme is "Life on Mars" and that geothermal would be how such a life is sustained. Your podmaster thinks that the long history of nuclear power in space is more likely and wonders if Cedarbrook will need a radioisotope thermoelectric generator for the summer school program.
    • Cedarbrook Additional Architect Services Change Order
      • A change order to reduce the number of teaching stations down to 1 was proposed.
      • The actual construction cost changes over what was to be placed there is unknown.
      • The summary of the changes are:
        • Remove 3 classroom walls and install folding partitions.
        • Design new sliding marker board for all classrooms.
        • Changes to utilities that were part of the removed walls (HVAC, electrical, etc…).
      • The cost for the Architect Services related to this change order will be $18,000.
    • Elkins Park Project
      • The new boiler is installed.
      • They had to cut through walls to bring in the boiler sections.
      • The boiler passed its pressure test.
      • The new fire alarm system work is happening at night and is scheduled for completion by the end of August.
      • The work included new electrical service from the power pole.
  • Finance Committee Meeting Notes
    • 2016-17 Budget Notes
      • The reduced tax increase of 1.3% (from the maximum legal amount of 2.4%) has been approved. The reduction was accomplished by a transfer of $874,743 from the fund balance.
      • Cheltenham still has by far the highest school tax in Montgomery County.
      • Cheltenham has a history of making up for small tax increases at a later date with a vengeance.
      • There was some discussion of whether refusing the approximately 1/2 million dollars from the Federal Government would save more in not having to comply with unfunded mandates.
    • Fund Balance
      • The Fund balance total is $16,443,225.
      • The Pennsylvania limits the fund balance to 8% of the total budget.
      • Cheltenham keeps it's balance at 6% of the budget.
      • The fund balance is broken into categories: Unassigned, Assigned, Committed, Non-spendable and Restricted.
      • The Fund Balance breakdown for June 30, 2016 was as follows:
        • Unassigned: $7,440,885
        • Assigned: $2,700,000
        • Committed
          • Capital: $4,500,000
          • PSERS: $1,800,000
        • Non-Spendable
          • Inventory: $67,605
          • Prepaid: $859,992
    • RFP for Legal Services
      • Board President Bill England has requested that both legal and audit services be put out to bid.
      • The present plan is to extend the current contract through the summer.
      • An RFP for legal services will be issued in September.
    • PSERS "Spike"

2016-06-07Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting MP3s

DateTrackWeb Link
2016-06-071Facilities Committee Meeting
2016-06-072Finance Committee Meeting

2016-06-07Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2016-06-07June 2016 Facilities Presentation
2016-06-07Link to Finance Committee Presentations that has not been updated since April.

2016-05-10 Regular Legislative Meeting

 Podmaster Notebook  Permalink2016-05-10Live Recording


This meeting is the annual retirement meeting, which took up the first hour and a half. In regular business, the board approved the proposed budget which transfers $874,473 from the fund balance to reduce the 2016-17 tax increase to 1.3% (0.5787 mills).

The solicitors report noted that the board held executive sessions on 5/5/16 and 5/10/16 concerning the Cheltenham Education Association contract bargaining. While the reduced tax increase is welcome news, a bad contract agreement would put the township deep into the red. It is hard to know what a "good" agreement would look like from the taxpayer perspective. Even in the extremely unlikely event that salary increases were held to 0%, the increases in PSERS costs will still push payroll costs much higher.

Last month your podmaster showed from data that over half of Cheltenham teachers make more than $90,000. Using that $90,000 salary as a benchmark, the true cost of that teacher from the Year 2000 to the year 2020 (PSERs projections) are shown below:

True Cost of a $90,000 Teacher
Year PSERS RATE PSERS Cost Final Salary
2000-01 1.94% $1746 $91746
2001-02 1.09% $981 $90981
2002-03 1.15% $1035 $91035
2003-04 3.77% $3393 $93393
2004-05 4.23% $3807 $93807
2005-06 4.69% $4221 $94221
2006-07 6.46% $5814 $95814
2007-08 7.13% $6417 $96417
2008-09 4.76% $4284 $94284
2009-10 4.78% $4302 $94302
2010-11 5.64% $5076 $95076
2011-12 8.65% $7785 $97785
2012-13 12.36% $11124 $101124
2013-14 16.93% $15237 $105237
2014-15 21.40% $19260 $109260
2015-16 25.84% $23256 $113256
2015-16 25.84% $23256 $113256
2016-17 29.69% $26721 $116721
2017-18 30.62% $27558 $117558
2018-19 31.56% $28404 $118404
2019-20 32.23% $29007 $119007
2020-21 32.02% $28818 $118818
2021-22 31.90% $28710 $118710
2022-23 31.96% $28764 $118764
2023-24 31.90% $28710 $118710
2024-25 31.83% $28647 $118647

2016-05-10Regular Legislative Meeting MP3s

DateTrackWeb Link
2016-05-101Regular Legislative Meeting Part 1 of 1

2016-05-10Regular Legislative Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2016-05-10P143 District Issued Chromebooks 1st read 01232496xAED82
2016-05-10P210 - Use of Medications 1st Read 01234250xAED82
2016-05-10P219 Student Complaint Process 10 4 15 01090601xAED82 2ND READ
2016-05-10P304 404 504 Employee Resignations 3 12 16 01209325xAED82 2ND READ
2016-05-10P360 460 560 860 Student Adult Boundaries 1st Read 01201739xAED82
2016-05-10P510 Overtime 3 17 16 01201823xAED82 2ND READ
2016-05-10P826 Social Media 1st read 01225360-2xAED82
2016-05-10April 2016 Revenue
2016-05-10April 2016 Exp Summary
2016-05-10Draft Academic Calendar 2016-2017 - B 1
2016-05-10Volunteers May 2016
2016-05-10Budget Transfers

2016-05-03 Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting in 2 Separate Recordings

 20160503  Permalink 2016-05-03 Podmaster Notebook for Finance and Facilities Committee MeetingsLive Recording

  • Facilities Committee Meeting Notes:
    • Elkins Park Boiler project will ensure that there is a backup in the event of a boiler failure and that school will not have to close.
    • The district uses "School Dude" asset management software to track maintenance issues as well as handling communications alarms transmitted by the new equipment.
    • Regarding the Cedarbrook Project:
      • Construction Documents and Permits have been signed.
      • Demolition work started on 4/18.
      • Cedarbrook is a difficult demolition project because the structural steel is being reused.
      • The Cedarbrook sign was saved for display in the new building.
      • The tennis court will become a parking lot for construction vehicles.
      • Contractors do not want any student access to the site, including access to any athletic fields.
    • Cedarbrook Contingency plan is in place which allows the extension of 2 of the off-site leases.
  • Finance Committee Meeting Notes:
    • The 2016-17 proposed budget will plan for a 1.3% tax increase (0.5787 mills) which is a reduction of the original 2.4% ACT 1 Max increase. The reduction in the increase was made possible by a transfer of $874,743 from the fund balance.
    • There was no mention in the meeting of the status of teacher's union contract negotiations.
    • The budget will be adopted at the 5/10/16 legislative meeting.
    • There is a push among Bucks County municipalities to amend the Sterling Act which covers how much local resident tax money comes back from Philadelphia City Wage Tax payments.
    • A local resident commented that while the reduction in the tax increase was welcome news, he received no social security increase. He said that he could not refinance his home because of declining local property values. He commented on how the district cost structure should be examined. For example according to this resident there are 8 safety officers at the high school now while only 10 years ago there was only 1 officer.
    • A lengthy presentation was made regarding the food service contractor that resembled an infomercial. During this presentation it was mentioned that Frecon Farms in Boyertown PA will provide fresh produce as part of the new contract.
    • Interestingly, your podcaster found that Berks County assessors office lists Frecon Farms as having an assessed value of $242,400 for a total land area of 118 acres (See Berks County Property ID: 38538717000825). The farm is located in the Boyertown Area School District whose school tax rate is 23.96 Mills. With such a low assessment, this means that Frecon's 118 acres pay a yearly school tax of approximately $5808. This is what a typical house with postage stamp lawn pays in Cheltenham.

2016-05-03Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting MP3s

DateTrackWeb Link
2016-05-031Facilities Committee Meeting
2016-05-032Finance Committee Meeting

2016-05-03Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2016-05-03Facilities Committee May 2016
2016-05-03Budget Update 040516

Cheltenham Teacher Salaries: 2013-14 WWW.OPENPAGOV.ORG Database



2016-04-15Cheltenham Teacher Salaries: 2013-14 Database

The salary database is an indispensable tool to understand "where the money goes" in a school district. At one of the meetings, it was mentioned that over 40% of Cheltenham Teachers have a salary greater than $100,000.

This did not seem reasonable to your podmaster, so he downloaded the complete spreadsheet of the Cheltenham School District payroll on 3/28/2016 from

Like any database, the data has to be processed. In the case of the database, there are multiple entries for each name and there are some minor discrepancies (e.g. sometimes a person is listed with a middle initial, and sometimes not…).

The year 2013-14 was particularly notable because there are 3 supervisors listed in the database.

However, because the percentage of teachers who make more than $100K is the target information, the database is useful. Included below is a modified spreadsheet of the data. While teacher names and salaries are public information, your podmaster has only included the first two letters of the teacher's last name.

For the chart below, the data was filtered as follows:

  • The salary associated with the highest number in the "Years in District" column was used.
  • The only individuals included had the word "Teacher" in the "Job Category","Position" or "Assignment" columns. This excludes guidance councilors or ESL instructors.

The bottom line: to my surprise it is true that over 40% of the 437 individuals listed as "Teacher" in the 2013-14 database made greater than $100,000 per year, and 50% make over $90,000 per year.

Cheltenham Teacher Salaries: 2013-14
Salary Range Number of Teachers Percent of Total
$10000 to $20000 1 0.2%
$20000 to $30000 2 0.5%
$30000 to $40000 5 0.5%
$40000 to $50000 48 11.0%
$50000 to $60000 30 7.1%
$60000 to $70000 31 7.1%
$70000 to $80000 54 12.4%
$80000 to $90000 47 10.8%
$90000 to $100000 33 7.6%
$100000 to $110000 185 42.3%
$110000 to $120000 1 0.2%
TOTAL 437 100%
DateWeb Link
2016-04-15Cheltenham Teacher Salaries 2013-14 Chart
2016-04-15Cheltenham Teacher Salaries 2013-14 Spreadsheet with Truncated Names

2016-04-12 Regular Legislative Meeting in 3 Separate Recordings

 Podmaster Notebook  Permalink2016-04-12Live Recording


The main issues discussed at this meeting were:

  • Approval of the upcoming school calendar was delayed to help resolve the issue of the upcoming holidays.
  • An abbreviated version of the KCBA district facilities study was presented.
  • House Bill 1296 will allow the district to invest in repurchase agreements, commercial paper and negotiable CDs. Remember this in 2019….
  • The Superintendents remedial training program continues:
    • A trip to San Diego for the Superintendent and four others to visit the "High Tech High" has been paid for by $10,000 grant from the Avalon Foundation.
    • Another trip on June 7-9 to the PLC Solution Tree Summit in Las Vegas will cost $15,022 and be paid for by the taxpayers.
    • There were 3 other conferences or trips listed on the agenda at a total cost of $7274.

2016-04-12Regular Legislative Meeting MP3s

DateTrackWeb Link
2016-04-121Regular Legislative Meeting Part 1 of 3
2016-04-122Regular Legislative Meeting Part 2 of 3
2016-04-123Regular Legislative Meeting Part 3 of 3

2016-04-12Regular Legislative Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2016-04-12March 2016 Revenue
2016-04-12March 2016 Exp Summary
2016-04-12P258 Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students (01164749xAED82) (1)
2016-04-122016-17 Calendar
2016-04-12P001Name and Classification 2nd Read
2016-04-12P510 Overtime 3 17 16 (01201823xAED82)
2016-04-12Agenda 4 12 16 EDEP Final
2016-04-12Draft Academic Calendar 2016-2017 - C (2)
2016-04-12April 2016 - Volunteers v2
2016-04-12Budget Transfers (4)

2016-04-05 Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting

Permalink2016-04-05Live Recording

Facilities Committee: Master Plan for Cheltenham School District

KCBA Architects presented the commissioned master plan for the school district. The plan mainly concerns the future options for district buildings that will have to be renovated or replaced. These buildings include:

  • Elkins Park School
  • Cheltenham High School
  • District Administration Building

The first part of the presentation was of laundry list of the problems of each building:

  • Elkins Park Problems
    • Building was constructed in 1954 with a 1991 addition.
    • The boiler, electrical system and piping are all at the end of life.
    • Masonry is in poor condition with evidence of water infiltration.
    • The roofing is substandard with evidence that the latest repair is failing.
    • There is no insulation in the crawl space which is open to outside air. This area has to be heated to keep the pipes from bursting.
  • Cheltenham High Problems
    • CHS was built in 1958 and renovated in 2000.
    • CHS is in better condition then Elkins Park.
    • There are some problems with masonry.
    • Paving is in poor condition.
    • The roof needs to be replaced. Water is ponding on the the roof.
    • The Gym Floor is from the '50s.
    • The pool has many problems: it leaks. Locker rooms are not accessible.
  • Administration Building Problems
    • The admin building was constructed in 1951.
    • All windows are single pane glass.
    • There are problems with the masonry/water infiltration.

One of the interesting facts to keep in mind during discussions of the dire conditions of district property is the age of the houses where the people who will pay for the new school buildings live. Quoting from Page 44 of the 2005 Cheltenham Township Plan, "The majority of housing in Cheltenham, approximately 39 percent, was built between 1940 and 1959. The second largest percentage, 31 percent, was built in 1939 or earlier. Of the current total housing stock, 7 percent has been built within the last twenty years…."

Age of Housing for Cheltenham Township Taxpayers

The School District Master Plan laid out the following options for repair or replacement of the three buildings:

  • Elkins Park and the District Administration Building
Option Cost Description
EP-A $46,003,000 Renovation of Entire School. Described as "Take what you have. Fix it the best we can."
EP-B $47,333,000 Replace EP with a new building. Renovate a portion of the old EP for use a District Offices.
EP-C1 $48,861,000 Build a new EP school on the track area. Build a new administration building as part of the process.
EP-C2 $38,538,000 Same as option C1 without constructing a new admin building.
  • Cheltenham High School
Option Cost Description
CHS-A $67,576,000 Renovate the High School. Includes rebuilding the locker rooms. Relocate a new pool in front. Rebuilt auditorium.
CHS-B $65,820,000 Renovate the High School but the pool would be moved to the rear and would have a smaller addition.
CHS-C $111,644,000 Build a new High School

Your podmaster double-checked the figures presented, because it seems strange that building a new Elkins Park School (option EP-C2) is $7,465,000 cheaper than renovating the existing one (option EP-A) while building a new high school (option CHS-C) is $45,824,000 more expensive than renovating the existing one (option CHS-B).

In addition, it was estimated that $8,658,770 will have to be spent to renovate the athletic complex. This will include rebuilding the stadium with a turf field, new tennis courts and baseball fields.

The other part of the study was a workforce analysis of how district buildings are being maintained. The main finding was that Cheltenham does not use contracted services for maintenance, while other districts do. During the discussion it was revealed that there are no new service contracts for the new hi-tech boilers in the new elementary schools. Presently, they are being serviced under the manufacturer warranty. It was stated that current district employees are not trained to maintain the new boilers.

Finance Committee: Tax Increase Reduced.

The board has decided to transfer $874,473 from the fund balance to reduce the 2016-17 tax increase to 1.3% (0.5787 mills) from the original 2.4% Act 1 increase. This transfer from the fund balance is not expected to impact the district's AA- bond rating.

There was some discussion regarding why a transfer from the fund balance is warranted at this time. Whether or not those discussion points are true– or if the decrease is just a one-time election year gift– if it stops one tax lien it is worth it.

2016-04-05Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting MP3s

DateTrackWeb Link
2016-04-051Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting Part 1 of 3
2016-04-052Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting Part 2 of 3
2016-04-053Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting Part 3 of 3

2016-04-05Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting Selected Documents

None of the meeting presentations have been posted at press time.

20160312 Cheltenham School District Court Activity

We search the Montgomery County Court records periodically for current cases involving the school district. Most of these cases are tax liens; however, case number 2016-03576, lists the district as a defendant in a wrongful termination lawsuit.

Last Summer we reported on tax lien case number 2015-15473 that lists a defendant with the same name as a current school board member. This case is still listed in the Montgomery County Court system as "Open."

It is sad to report that the following individuals and businesses have been hauled into court to pay their Cheltenham school tax bill (Click on the "Continue without logging in" link to view the case.):

Web Link Case Number Commenced Case Type Caption Plaintiff Judgement Lis Pendens Status
Web Link 2015-32181 12/15/2015 Municipal Lien Govt CHELTENHAM TOWNSHIP SCHOOL DISTRICT Yes No 1 - OPEN
Web Link 2015-32563 12/21/2015 Municipal Lien Govt CHELTENHAM TOWNSHIP SCHOOL DISTRICT Yes No 1 - OPEN
Web Link 2015-32575 12/21/2015 Municipal Lien Govt CHELTENHAM TOWNSHIP SCHOOL DISTRICT Yes No 1 - OPEN
Web Link 2015-32608 12/21/2015 Municipal Lien Govt CHELTENHAM TOWNSHIP SCHOOL DISTRICT Yes No 1 - OPEN
Web Link 2015-32646 12/22/2015 Municipal Lien Govt CHELTENHAM TOWNSHIP SCHOOL DISTRICT Yes No 1 - OPEN
Web Link 2015-32647 12/22/2015 Municipal Lien Govt CHELTENHAM TOWNSHIP SCHOOL DISTRICT Yes No 1 - OPEN
Web Link 2015-33173 12/31/2015 Municipal Lien Govt CHELTENHAM TOWNSHIP SCHOOL DISTRICT Yes No 1 - OPEN
Web Link 2015-33177 12/31/2015 Municipal Lien Govt CHELTENHAM TOWNSHIP SCHOOL DISTRICT Yes No 1 - OPEN
Web Link 2016-01235 1/20/2016 Municipal Lien Govt CHELTENHAM TOWNSHIP SCHOOL DISTRICT Yes No 1 - OPEN
Web Link 2016-02457 2/4/2016 Municipal Lien Govt CHELTENHAM TOWNSHIP SCHOOL DISTRICT Yes No 1 - OPEN
Web Link 2016-02464 2/4/2016 Municipal Lien Govt CHELTENHAM TOWNSHIP SCHOOL DISTRICT Yes No 1 - OPEN
Web Link 2016-02469 2/4/2016 Municipal Lien Govt CHELTENHAM TOWNSHIP SCHOOL DISTRICT Yes No 1 - OPEN
Web Link 2016-03102 2/18/2016 Municipal Lien Govt CHELTENHAM TOWNSHIP SCHOOL DISTRICT Yes No 1 - OPEN
Web Link 2016-03104 2/18/2016 Municipal Lien Govt CHELTENHAM TOWNSHIP SCHOOL DISTRICT Yes No 1 - OPEN
Web Link 2016-03567 2/24/2016 Municipal Lien Govt CHELTENHAM TOWNSHIP SCHOOL DISTRICT Yes No 1 - OPEN
Web Link 2016-03666 2/25/2016 Municipal Lien Govt CHELTENHAM TOWNSHIP SCHOOL DISTRICT Yes No 1 - OPEN
Web Link 2016-03898 2/29/2016 Municipal Lien Govt CHELTENHAM TOWNSHIP SCHOOL DISTRICT Yes No 1 - OPEN
Web Link 2016-04719 3/11/2016 Municipal Lien Govt CHELTENHAM TOWNSHIP SCHOOL DISTRICT Yes No 1 - OPEN

2016-03-08 Regular Legislative Meeting in 2 Separate Recordings

Permalink2016-03-08Live Recording

20160308 Meeting Notes
  • Bids for Cedarbrook were approved for a total construction cost of $43,603,800.
  • Appointment of top-level administrators
    • Assistant Superintendent Tamara Thomas Smith at a salary of $175,000.
    • Supervisor of Counseling-Holistic Support Raymond Realdine at a $100,000 salary
    • Supervisor of Instructional Technology Brandon Lutz at a $105,000 salary.
  • Out of State Conferences: The board approved sending 6 individuals to a Mathematics Conference in San Francisco for a total cost of $13,777.

2016-03-08Regular Legislative Meeting MP3s

DateTrackWeb Link
2016-03-081Regular Legislative Meeting Part 1 of 2
2016-03-082Regular Legislative Meeting Part 2 of 2

2016-03-08Regular Legislative Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2016-03-08Summary (1)
2016-03-08P001 Name and Classification First Read
2016-03-08P348.1 448.1 548.1 Harassment Second Read 03 08 2016
2016-03-08P359 459 559 Nondiscrimination in Employment 02 09 2016 Second Read (1)
2016-03-08P510 Overtime First Read 03 08 2016
2016-03-08Policy 248.1 Harassment Second Read 03 08 2016
2016-03-08P303 403 503 Employment of Admin etc.FIRST READ 03 08 2016
2016-03-08P303 403 503 Employment of Admin etc.FIRST READ 03 08 2016.2
2016-03-08Agenda 3 08 16 EDEP Final (1)
2016-03-08Volunteer Clearances -February -March 2016
2016-03-08Budget Transfers (3)

2016-03-01 Facilities and Finance Committee Meetings

Permalink2016-03-01Live Recording


2016-03-01Podmaster Notebook for Facilities and Finance Committee Meetings

  • Facilities Committee Meeting Notes
    • Construction bids for Cedarbrook are in— The total is $47,783,708 for all contractors.
    • This includes the athletic fields and building.
    • This is 2.3% less than the original estimate of $48.9 million.
    • One of the largest decreases was in the area of "soft costs" which went from approximate $5.7 million to $3.125 million.
  • Finance Committee Meeting Notes:
    • We were presented with two different sets of revenue projections in: 1)Projected Borrowing Base and Capacity and 2) Fiscal Forecast for Revenues and Expenditures.
    • The Projected Borrowing Base and Capacity projections for 2015 through 2021 assumed assumed a 2% year over year revenue growth (which implies the same growth for tax rates.)
    • Flat percentage revenue does not comport with with the wild swings in tax increases of the recent past.
    • The Fiscal Forecast for Revenues and Expenditures covering up to 2020-21 is as follows:
YEAR Revenues YOY Revenue Change Expenditures YOY Expenditure Change Surplus/Deficit
2012-13 $96,887,848   $94,911,783   $1,976,065
2013-14 $99,680,989 2.88% $98,787,235 4.08% $893,754
2014-15 $105,171,192 5.51% $101,571,333 2.82% $3,599,859
2015-16 $103,887,864 -1.22% $103,887,864 2.28% $0
2016-17 $107,443,307 3.42% $107,443,307 3.42% $0
2017-18 $111,765,948 4.02% $113,741,201 5.86% -$1,975,253
2018-19 $115,389,569 3.24% $117,486,243 3.29% -$2,096,674
2019-20 $118,863,900 3.01% $120,773,527 2.80% -$1,909,627
2020-21 $122,043,214 2.67% $123,002,561 1.85% -$959,347
  • The projections are driven by some of the following factors:
    • Expenditures are outgrowing revenues.
    • Health care cost increases are projected at over 8% per year.
    • The Obamacare "Cadillac Tax" has not been factored into the projections. According to the Tax Foundation the "Cadillac Tax" is a "40 percent levy on the value of a health insurance plan that exceeds a statutory limit."
    • It is hoped that the completion of the Cheltenham Mall and Wawa projects will bring in additional revenue.
    • The Employer contribution rate for the state retirement plan,PSERS, has increased from 4.78% of a covered employee's salary in 2009-10 to 30.03% in 2016-17.
    • This PSERS rate is expected to "level off" at 30.94%.
    • Unfortunately, the PSERS rate is based on a fiscal year market rate of return. There is no guarantee that with the recent market crashes the PSERS rate cannot go even higher.
    • The county assessment is the value of all property in the township It has slowly declined from $1.88 Billion in 2013-14 to $1.86 Billion in 2016-17.

2016-03-01Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting MP3s

DateTrackWeb Link
2016-03-011Facilities Committee Meeting
2016-03-012Finance Committee Meeting

2016-02-09 Regular Legislative Meeting in 2 Separate Recordings

Permalink2016-02-09Live Recording


20160209 Podmaster Notebook for Regular Legislative Meeting

Most items that were approved at this meeting were covered in previous posts; however, one small disclosure by Solicitor Roos does merit discussion. Mr. Roos mentioned that there was a "dust up" at the Manheim School District in Lancaster county regarding district compliance with the Sunshine Act. He mentioned that the Lancaster County district attorney had issued a warning letter to the Manheim School Board.

Since your podmaster depends on the Sunshine Act to enable him to provide you these recordings, I thought it would be wise to look into the matter.

It turns out that Manheim Township "dust up" should be familiar to Cheltenham taxpayers– Manheim is having its own Natalie Thomas Moment. In other words:

  • A new superintendent is subject to a costly secret investigation.
  • An even more costly buyout is implemented to get rid of the superintendent.
  • Local residents were upset that the entire superintendent investigation and buyout was conducted behind closed doors by the Manheim School Board. According to Lancaster Online, "The board held nine executive sessions between May and December 2015 without explanation beyond “personnel.” Two other executive sessions were held without any explanation."
  • A "Leaked Audio" tape acquired by Lancaster Online detailed how Manheim School Board President Bill Murry, "arranged a series of one-on-one telephone conversations with members late last week in a deliberate attempt to avoid public scrutiny and circumvent the open-meetings law." The school board president is quoted as saying, "If we don’t deliberate, the meeting isn’t subject to Sunshine. OK? That’s the point."
  • The Lancaster County District Attorney's Office opens an investigation into Sunshine Act violations by the Manheim Township School Board. It later decides not to prosecute "because it found 'no indication of an intent' to violate the law."
  • Formal petitions signed by 638 residents, as well as an online petition with 1,029 signatures, were delivered to Manheim School District calling for the resignation of the school board president.

Here at the Cheltenham Township Podcast we take pride in our selection of "Leaked Audio." You can find our latest offering below:

2016-02-09Regular Legislative Meeting MP3s

DateTrackWeb Link
2016-02-091Regular Legislative Meeting Part 1 of 2
2016-02-092Regular Legislative Meeting Part 2 of 2

2016-02-09Regular Legislative Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2016-02-09Budget Revenue
2016-02-09Budget Summary
2016-02-09Policy 248.1 Harassment 1 29 16 First Read
2016-02-09P348.1 448.1 548.1 Harassment 1 29 16 First Read
2016-02-09P359 459 559 Nondiscrimination in Employment 02 09 2016 First Read
2016-02-09P103 EQUAL OPPORTUNITY PROGRAMS 02 09 2016 Second Read
2016-02-09P357 457 557 Complaints 1 29 16 Second Reading
2016-02-09Budget Transfers.pdf 2-2016

School Tax Infographic for 2016-17



2016-02-06School Tax Infographic for 2016-17

As usual whenever there is a tax increase, the district will mention the monthly or yearly increase without putting the tax burden in context– particularly with the most vulnerable members of the community.

To correct this oversight we present our 2016-17 tax Infographic below:

DateWeb Link
2016-02-06School Tax Infographic for 2016-17

2016-02-02 Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting in 3 Separate Recordings

Permalink2016-02-02Live Recording


2016-02-02Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting MP3s

Podmaster Notebook for Finance/Facilities Meetings
  • Finance Meeting
    • Budget Update: The district is caught in a squeeze of increasing costs and decreasing revenue.
      • The county assessment (the value of properties in Cheltenham) is declining.
      • Costs are increasing: the PSERS rate per employee in 2016-17 will be over 30%. Medical costs are also increasing (7.8%) as well as the costs associated with the remedial training program for staff.
      • The Superintendent stated that he would be willing to spend out of the fund balance to hire additional staff and to fund his remedial training program. Some discussion points and issues with this proposal are:
        1. The bond rating is affected by the fund balance. A bad rating increases the costs of future projects such as an Elkins Park rebuild.
        2. There are hidden costs to the Cedarbrook project (i.e. payments required to the landlords of the leased space for damages incurred to the buildings) that will have to be covered.
        3. There is no guarantee that the Superintendant's programs will reverse the declining test scores. The potential legacy of spending on operations out of the fund balance are increased debt payments, schools that cannot be brought up to current standards and higher taxes with nothing of value gained.
      • There was a discussion regarding a township meeting that concerning a pilot program for non-profits to pay user fees to the township in lieu of taxes.
        1. A member of the audience gave an example of The John Jay Institute which is purchasing a property in Elkins Park.
        2. The question was: How can the school district get a piece of the user fee ?
        3. Board Member Gray pointed out: "The issue has always been that we do not provide any services. And we have not had much of a leg to stand on."
        4. Your podmaster zoned out of the meeting at this point: he was remembering a conversation he had with a member of a local volunteer fire company member regarding an earlier proposal to make all non-profits (including volunteer fire companies) pay some school tax. There was an urgent inquiry as to what component of the solar system the member who made the proposal was living on.
    • Banking and Audit Services to be put out to bid: The district will be seeking competitive bids (RFP) for banking and auditing functions.
      • Presently PSDLAF provides banking services for the district. PSDLAF is a trust that uses PNC Bank to do the actual transactions. The last time bids were solicited for banking services was 2009.
      • The banking services contract will be for a long term (2016-2021) because of the costs and administrative issues with changing banks.
      • Presently Maillie, LLP is the district auditor. The last time bids were sought for auditing services was in 2011 for a 3 year term.
      • The RFP for auditing services will be for audits of 2015 through 2019.
    • Expansion of Competitive Bidding: Bill England asked if competitive bids could be sought for the districts legal services. Some of the issues around this discussion were:
      • Bids should only be sought after the union contract negotiations have been completed (although your podmaster is under the impression that a separate law firm is conducting the contract negotiations).
      • Research might need to be conducted to find out what other districts do.
  • Facilities Meeting
    • Elkins Park Mechanical and Electrical Project: The project concerns a new boiler, an electrical disconnect system and a fire alarm system.
      • The total cost of the boiler project is $1.042 Million.
      • The boiler being replaced is 63 years old.
      • Because of the condition of the boiler, staff has to monitor its operation around the clock.
      • Since it is anticipated that Elkins Park will be either rebuilt or even torn down, there was a question whether replacing the boiler was wise. Dr. Bavi stated that the new boiler system will be used in either a rebuilt school or a brand new one.
      • The fire alarm system issue is: spare parts for the present system are no longer available. If the fire alarm is not repaired, staff will have to implement a round-the-clock fire watch.
DateTrackWeb Link
2016-02-021Finance Committee Meeting Part 1 of 2
2016-02-022Finance Committee Meeting Part 2 of 2
2016-02-023Facilities Committee Meeting

2016-02-02Facilities and Finance Committee Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2016-02-02Agenda Financial Affairs 08 04 15
2016-02-02Facilities Committee Agenda 08 04 15

2016-01-12 Regular Legislative Meeting Agenda Notes

Permalink2016-01-12Agenda Notes


2016-01-12Regular Legislative Meeting Agenda Notes

Unfortunately due to a scheduling conflict the 1/12/2016 meeting was not recorded. The most notable items on the agenda:

  • Leadership Stipend Positions: Section 11A, Item 10 on the agenda, "recommends the approval of professional personnel per the attachment for leadership positions for the 2015-2016 school year, at the rates listed"; however, there is no attachment on the agenda. We have emailed the district to obtain a copy.
  • Conference-based Remedial Training: The school district is pursuing remedial training of staff through conferences. Presumably this is an effort to boost the latest test results. In Section 11B,Item 1, the following out-of-state conferences were listed:
Conference City URL People Total Cost
PLC Solution Tree Summit Phoenix, AZ link 4 $8340.5
Leading for Excellence Conference Phoenix, AZ link 3 $5028.12
Powerschool University Orlando, FL link 3 $11583.8
TOTAL for OUT-OF-STATE Conferences     10 $24952.42
  • In-house Remedial Training: In addition to sending staff to conferences, the district has signed a contract with A Fishman Consulting, LLC for a maximum amount of $19,000 to "continue the professional development workshops with staff."
  • Assessment Appeal Activity:Section 11B, Item 7 approved funds to hire a law firm to fight the real estate tax appeal of 2727 Cheltenham Avenue. A quick Google shows this to be a Walgreens. Item 8 of the same section approved funds to hire an appraiser in connection to the real estate tax appeal of Yorktown Plaza.

2016-01-12Regular Legislative Meeting Selected Documents

DateWeb Link
2016-01-12Dec 2015 Revenue
2016-01-12Dec 2015 Exp Summary
2016-01-12Agenda 1 12 16 EDEP Final
2016-01-12Volunteer Clearances -January 2016(2)
2016-01-12Budget Transfers

2016-01-05 Finance and Facilities Committee Meetings in 3 Separate Recordings

Permalink2016-01-05Live Recording

20160105 Facilities and Finance Committee Highlights
  • Finance Meeting Notes:
    • Governor Wolf finally released tax money (which was still collected during the budget standoff) to the school districts. Cheltenham received $5.9 Million on the day of the meeting.
    • The state contributes 20% of Cheltenham's budget.
    • For the 2016-17 projected budget, there is a deficit of $1.8 Million.
    • Expenses for 2016-17 are projected at $107.4 Million.
    • The PSERS rate has increased from 25.84% to 30.03% and is a major piece of the budget hole.
    • Other expense increases are in the area of professional development and special education.
    • The Cheltenham Township Finance Officer Mr. Burns stated that business privilege tax revenue is most likely to go down since the Pathmark has closed and Lincoln Financial is leaving the township.
    • The deadline for the budget is May 31, 2016.
    • The CEA contract expires June 30, 2016.
  • Facilities Meeting Notes:
    • Highlights from Dr. Bavi's Presentation:
      • It has been over a year since Cedarbrook has been closed.
      • Cedarbrook exterior walls were found to have been improperly insulated from the beginning: The insulation shielded only the bottom portion of the walls. This cost an incalculable amount in wasted energy.
      • There has been issues of illegal dumping at Cedarbrook.
      • There have also been issues of vandalism and theft, in particular copper flashing has been stolen twice.
      • In addition to the private security company patrolling the site, and beefed up patrols by Township Police, Dr. Bavi himself makes periodic random inspections.
      • The total cost of the Cedarbrook asbestos removal project was $507K.
    • Turner Construction Briefing on Cedarbrook "90%" Estimate:
      • There was no PowerPoint of this presentation and presumably none will be available to the public.
      • The cost estimate breakdown (+/- 5%) presented at the meeting is as follows:
Item Estimated Cost
Construction Bids $46.9 Million
Soft Costs $5.7 Million
Renovation of Fields w/ Irrigation work $1.4 Million
Financing Cost $0.8 Million
TOTAL $54.8 Million

2016-01-05Finance and Facilities Committee Meeting MP3s

DateTrackWeb Link
2016-01-051Facilities Committee Meeting Part 1 of 2
2016-01-052Facilities Committee Meeting Part 2 of 2
2016-01-053Finance Committee Meeting

2016-01-05Finance and Facilities Committee Meeting Selected Documents

Note that the last time minutes were posted for the Facilities Committee and Finance Committee was October of 2014.

DateWeb Link
2016-01-05Jan 2016 Finance Committee Presentation
2016-01-05Jan 2016 Facilities Committee Presentation
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