Washington Township Education Coalition
“Working through this process, trying to get my children to Northern… is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It’s impossible.” - (WTEC resident, 2014).
Updated 2/25/15 - The York
Dispatch editorial of 2/19/15 stated that the (public) movement of
Washington Township's transfer to Northern began the year after the sudden
closure of Kralltown Elementary. That
fact is partly accurate. The truth is, we discussed it for years before 2011. The remainder of the editorial is inaccurate
and completely oversimplifies our case.
While from the outside looking in, we can imagine why a York-based editorial board may assume that the Dover Area School District was simply applying "fiscal discipline, or cost saving" measures. Of course, while easier to assume back in 2011, it is now 2015, and four years of detail, exhaustive Department of Education and York County Court reviews have revealed much detail in support of our case. Yet the Dispatch stated the result was that "rebel" Washington Township's "revolt" against what should be seen as a simple, logical "cost-savings...or Dover's wise fiscal discipline." (Translation: "...oh those stupid, juvenile people of Washington Township are too sentimental over these silly school issues to recognize that hey, it's just a cost saving measure.") Sure, Dispatch.
For the media and the State Board of Education members: below are a number of detailed clarifications of misconceptions of our case.
What is almost as frustrating as the legal process itself is the degree of misunderstanding and character assassination endured by the people of Washington Township. However our case is portrayed, we disagree that the closure of Kralltown Elementary is the primary issue. It is one of many issues.
A Trip Down Memory Lane: Revisiting Kralltown and Dover’s Post-Intelligent Designed/Creationism.
To understand the perspective of the people of Washington
Township in 2015, it is important to know where we have come from. No discussion of our disenfranchised
population should be made in the vacuum of any era of the past twenty years, so
let’s revisit the Intelligent Design/Creationism debacle and Dover’s insistence
on pushing it into a Federal Case.
Broadly, this era ranges from 2004 to the modern era (of 2011-15): By now, the Dispatch and other local news outlets should be well aware that the
decision by DASD to close Kralltown Elementary was conducted with a complete
disregard to transparency and integrity, and that DASD demonstrated little
fiscal discipline nor credibility. Aside
from the open disdain its past administrations have displayed towards
Washington Township, the DASD provided zero cost/benefit analysis, zero
discussion, outreach, or fiscal alternatives analysis with the people, the
parents of Washington Township, Dover flatly claimed they had no choice ...yet
provided no basis in its choice to a stealthy, unprofessional manner, and closed
the school. Although nobody outside of
Washington Township may know that by closing that school, DASD essentially
terminated the original 60+ year old legal agreement with Washington Township
as well as the basis by which we agreed to join them.
That being said, please allow us the courtesy to shatter your DASD-sympathizing "fiscal discipline, cost savings" myth. First and foremost, what is it about the well-documented facts made available to the public (and now before the state Board of Education) that have either not been given the time to read or are not acceptable? There are clear, undeniable facts aplenty. For the decade prior to Kralltown’s closure, tens of millions of taxpayer dollars were allocated into one place -- Dover' facilities. The unashamed neglect of Kralltown and 100% allocation of taxpayer dollars into Dover (proper) only proves just how much money DASD had and was more than able to spend in the 5-6 years leading up to Kralltown's closure. DASD knew for years beforehand exactly where its funds would be spent, as well as the exact timing of its long-term facilities management plans, but kept its plans well-hidden. While it obviously is not expressed or understood by the media, these facts are crystal clear to the people who live in Washington Township and are forced to endure the Dover administration.
for 25 years, the Dover Area School District intentionally neglected
basic maintenance investments into Kralltown Elementary before its closure. Regarding maintenance or investment of any
sort into Washington Township, the DASD decision was made clear by its actions
and responses to community requests for improvements; there was constant,
reckless indifference and no responsibility demonstrated by DASD for this
facility. Dover willingly neglected
maintenance of the roof, basic ADA compliance measures, and long-term problems
with the well/water system. For decades,
Dover put nothing into our community. Thus,
in no way can the Dispatch
intelligently defend DASD’s management as "fiscal discipline" when by
its actions and realistic review of the facts are demonstrated that DASD was
completely negligent. The state Board
and media must be reminded that at the very same time, DASD saw fit to pour tens
of millions of dollars into its own shamelessly self-serving administration
offices, into Dover Elementary, twice into the High School, into Weigelstown
Elementary, into the stadium, outbuildings, all-weather track,
professional-grade artificial turf, etc., all during the nation's worst
economic downfall in modern history - only then to close our school, the
best-performing school in the district! So where are the priorities? Sports facilities, posh, new administrative
offices, or a SCHOOL?! Fiscal discipline
or willful negligence?
Demonizing Washington Township: Another continued falsehood in the media, and by K.I.D.S. is that the relationship between Washington Township and DASD was fine and peachy. The state Board may hear that all was wonderful and everybody loved Dover, had no troubles with the long travel distance, the educational performance or administration -- until the school was closed. We assure you, this is not close to true, not even in the vicinity or close to the outskirts of the ballpark of being true. There’s a long, loooooooong running list of serious reasons behind the willingness of 1,406 people who readily signed the legal petition to join Northern, and it’s not simply because of a school closure. The Kralltown decision is but one of a long series of 20+ years of terrible administrative decisions. Any assumption that Washington Township was perfectly happy with Dover the 10-20 years prior to Kralltown's closure is mistaken. Everyone knows this fact too, because we sought this option in prior years: if Washington Township could legally vote by referendum to secede to Northern, we would already be there.
The momentum that spurred the ultra-conservative, cautious people of Washington Township to seek this transfer did not happen overnight as some would lead others to believe. It did not happen by the mere closure of our elementary school, and it did not happen by chance. There have been decades of a disenfranchised population, our disaffected Dover alumni who live here, whether some care to recognize it or not does not change that fact.
Uphill Battle: So here we are, our fourth year of the legal process, again in 2015, we see the steady demonization of people seeking a better educational future. Yet, where are the reporters? Where is fair journalism? Where are the strongly worded editorial accounts of all of the documented educational facts, the real, hard-core factors upon which real parents that are involved and care, and are serious about education must live with? Exactly. Why the lazy journalism, the amateur, one-sided editorials? York Dispatch, YRD, where are your reporters, where is any investigative journalism on your behalf, regarding the educational performance or responsibilities of the (Dover) public school district to every community it serves?! Throughout the years of our case, the York newspapers refuse to touch the facts of our case. Washington Township is “the bad people.”
obvious bias? Of course, the Dispatch
and YDR sell a lot more newspapers
and advertisements around York than here, so it's clear who butters your bread.
We also have not forgotten the YDR’s
coverage of the Intelligent Design/Creationism case, restraining the losing its
honest reporter (Ms. Lebo). At least the
YDR had the integrity to make a
serious editorial on Dover's Puterbaugh child crime case and its striking
similarities to the Penn State/Jerry Sandusky case. Although for some reason, the York newspapers
have yet to follow-up as to why DASD never
reported it to the Northern Regional police until a decade after its second
internal investigation... interview those involved and who in the DASD allowed
this admitted child offender continue to work in the DASD and why were these
2-3 investigations, beginning in 2002, kept from police?!) Who did what, who knew what and when, and why
were our children allowed free access to this guy since 2001? How can local media have so many reportable,
compelling stories in their own backyard and not delve into them? We refer you to the Patriot News (Sarah Ganim's) Pulitzer Prize winning coverage of the
Sandusky case as an example of good reporting. Of course, this suggestion is predicated on
your willingness to consider a break from doing the bidding of Dover/York
interests and unleash your reporters to do what they are trained to do -- real,
neutral investigative reporting. The
point being, please look into the details, meet with our residents before
claiming as Gospel truth what you presume in defense of the Dover Area School
District is clear, honorable "fiscal discipline" or wise cost
savings - stated with the same cock-sure, cavalier attitude as DASD itself. The vast majority of Washington Township calls
it placating and chronic negligence.
The WTEC is pleased to shatter other myths and “suburban” legends. First, WTEC is often referred to as "a group" when we are pretty much the entire township population. Get it right: WTEC -- for all intents and purposes -- is Washington Township (minus 300+ neutral Mennonites and about 25 Dover apologists). In the YDR and Dispatch, WTEC continues to be labeled as "a group" from Washington Township, as if we’re just a handful of people with a radical agenda going against the majority. WTEC is the vast, legal, legitimate majority, 1,406 of 1,900 taxable (adult) inhabitants of Washington Township. KIDS? Now that's the small group of about 25. In no way, shape or form is our case a 50/50 thing, 60/40, a 90/10 or close to it. K.I.D.S. is not even 1/30th population of taxable inhabitants.
Regarding the Dispatch’s smug use of the word "Sentiment" - that too is a false assumption and an insult. This term implies that “the simple people of Washington Township are sentimental and nostalgic.” We can't repeat it often enough - our efforts are for educational improvements, performance and our transfer will provide the best education for the most people. Since when is that a bad thing, to want the best education for your children?
Sentiment? We have long ago let go of any Kralltown sentimentality. It's not the school; it's the ability to provide the best education for our children. Yes, it really is. Come meet with us at WTEC, attend our meetings, you may be surprised. But regarding Kralltown itself? Nope. It's over. Been over. As discussed before 2011 and put into writing before the state Secretary in 2012, and put into writing to Northern's administration in 2013, we have no expectations of ever reopening Kralltown Elementary. Kralltown is history, a corpse, and has no bearing on the people of Washington Township. We wish DASD would sell it, level it, turn it back into farmland, and have no idea why they don't sell it. Somebody should ask DASD why they won't sell it, because we've never been given an explanation.
School Facilities, District Management: Dover vs. Northern
DASD's ridiculous fiscal management legacy continues through
the years to today, as DASD actually continues to pay to heat the abandoned
Kralltown building, continues to cut the grass, monitor the alarm system, check
the pipes, and regularly send their staff to the building which is now an
albatross and vacant decaying building.
What is the annual bill for these costs, where are the savings? The brand new playground equipment bought by
hard-earned work of our parents/PTO has been left to rot, adding insult to
injury. There’s not a person in
Washington Township that drives by the abandoned building the heartcenter of
Washington Township without feeling sick to
their gut. Inexplicably, since 2011, we
still find that negligent DASD continues to allow… negligence to that idle
building and its 8 highly desirable acres. This act is itself counter to what savings
benefits were to come from Dover’s alleged cost-savings measures. Fiscal discipline, you say … or willful
rebuilds Wellsville Elementary, Dover Abandons Kralltown
Northern's education and district management is the real prize here. As noted to the Secretary in 2012 and will be reiterated to the state Board, we will be thrilled for our children to attend Northern in any capacity. The perfect example of Northern’s philosophy of education and commitment to every community it serves has never been illustrated better than it is now.
Elementary, also a great school, is a much closer school for ALL of our
elementary Washington Township students than ANY Dover school! Therefore, media assumption of our sentimental
allegiance to Kralltown is baseless and unfounded. Our sentiment and allegiance shifted to
Northern years ago. The crux of our case
is the long-term educational advantages of Northern, weighed against decades of
DASD incompetence and the reality of Dover's willful negligence, dishonesty and
at a minimum, our longing for taxation with representation. Dover is loyal to Dover, and is ok with
mediocre performance. We are not. Accept that we're serious about education and
district management. It's not a sentimental
journey; it's exasperation of being an expendable community, long-forgotten and
Speaking of Wellsville: While North Salem elementary is solid, having great teachers, the Dover Intermediate and High School are another story. Plus, regarding the distance, does the editorial Board of the York Dispatch or YDR actually expect that parents of young children should be happy or prefer, and want their children travel much further to Dover than we would to Wellsville Elementary? Hell no! This is a big deal, and a deal breaker for parents. Look at a map, talk to our 180+ parents. Kralltown is the geographic center of our township. Today, maybe 4, 5 families actually want to stay send their K-3rd child to Dover. Otherwise, were looking at nearby Wellsville -- only 3.3 flat, scenic, gorgeous, gentle country miles from Kralltown. Location-wise, Wellsville is extremely desirable and already a natural part of our community. Dover… is not, Dover is much further, a chore to drive, its setting is an entirely different valley, it’s an artificial and mandatory, forced situation created by historic accident over 60 years ago. Dover is located much further for most of our students. People in Washington Township generally do not want to travel to Dover, for school, activities, to eat, worship, recreate, shop, etc. East Berlin, Dillsburg? Yes. Moreover, the Dispatch, YDR and a few others are also missing the big picture regarding Wellsville, which is the fact that unlike short-sighted DASD, Northern is -- right now -- spending over $10 Million on school upgrades at Wellsville Elementary (whether we transfer to Northern or not). There ain’t no editorials published against Northern’s honorable improvements to this old school. So, where are the editorials on the outstanding school district management of Northern, Northern’s commitment? Northern, who unlike Dover, sees fit to allocate at least $10-12 MILLION (or more) into Wellsville Elementary, an older, very similar sized/aged building as Kralltown?! Uh oh, now the cost savings/fiscal discipline argument doesn't work... unless your belief is that Northern is foolish in its fiscal management? Saving a school, investing in an optimally located community school! Not closing it down and turning a deaf ear to residents. Certainly, a reputable editorial board would highlight that ten years ago while Northern's former great superintendent Dr. Lemmon, and/or in 2015 with today's even more widely-respected Dr. Eshbach - Northern could have followed the brilliant DASD "fiscal discipline cost savings measure" and easily closed Wellsville Elementary, but they refused to do so. Notice the Northern difference. Northern did not close the similar aged/sized older school. Why is that? Is Northern inept? Surely Northern could have used the very similar, weak DASD alibi to close Wellsville at any time in the past decade... but they didn't. Meanwhile… silence from the newspapers… crickets…
Regional Respect, Trust vs. a Notorious Reputation
In fact, in 2014, Northern conducted a thorough fiscal analysis, a buildings capacity study, a cost/benefit analysis, then contacted all parents and residents and discussed the findings with them with complete transparency before making any decisions. Whereby hopelessly self-focused, myopic DASD purposely neglected, then closed an older yet highly successful Kralltown Elementary, Northern did not close Wellsville. During this time, the people of Warrington Township and the Borough of Wellsville always had something for its district that we don't have - trust. They knew that Northern would not close a fully-functioning community school. THIS is the difference between DASD and Northern -- leadership! This is vision, a commitment to every community and reinvestment into its community schools, closer schools particularly for the elementary ages. This is what we want, not a sentimental thing, it's an educational quality thing. Northern truly listens to its communities, and breathes new life into its schools for the long-term future. (Notice that nobody is trying to secede from Northern to Dover.)
Unlike Dover, Northern did not, and will not disenfranchise or turn their backs on their own people. We raise these points for all to see the real issues at hand. Some people will claim that it's just because of the school. It isn’t. “It’s sentiment…” It's not sentiment. It's not just Northern’s consistently better-performing school district across the board, it's not just the lower taxes, it's not just the closeness, the stronger, natural community ties and better community fit, it’s not Dover’s high crime issues and safety realities for our kids, it’s not just Northern’s better, higher number of extracurricular activities, clubs or its highly esteemed music program, band, strings, chorus, jazz band, musicals, or its ten more honors courses, it isn’t the incredible record of 15 years in a row of Northern’s higher SAT scores in every category, every single year, it's not just the poor DASD district management or our sentimental community preference, not just the longer travel distances and never having a voice in any decision, it’s not the transience of Dover Board members or being on our 3rd Superintendent in the past 3 years, and another split school board - it's ALL of these things. As we see it, our "revolt" as stated by the Dispatch is based in the ability of our community to have at least have a voice, some level of control and self-determinism regarding the education of our children's education and local governance. Not a difficult a concept to accept.
Dover, everybody recognizes that Northern is one of the best schools in York
County and maybe the best in the Mid-Penn Region, second in academics to Camp
Hill School District but far ahead of most.
Northern gets it. In fact,
Northern “gets” us, and has accepted and agreed in writing with our right to
self-determinism (we refer you to the NYCSD Resolution passed January 2015). Any reputable newspaper in the land would
report the facts as they reveal themselves, but not the Dispatch, not
the YDR. Is there too much work
involved, or is it something else? There's
so much more to our case, we ask the state Board of Education members to please
see the facts as they are, read the local newspapers with a grain of salt and a
critical eye. For those reporting on our case – in the future, please don’t
oversimplify our case and don’t dumb it down in future editorials. There are 1,406 individual, legitimate reasons
behind our case, not one or two.
Seeking Journalistic Integrity
We don't apologize that our preference, that our logical
(and legal) choice for Northern does not fit in with the worldview of some
others. What is interesting though is
the fact that to anyone not living in the Dover area, our case is clear and a
no-brainer. Yet Washington Township is
often demonized. The fact that the Dispatch
and YDR is of the free and
independent press, yet cannot report any positive factors on our unprecedented
grassroots effort as we do, is unfortunate. The fact that the local free press is
incapable or adverse to the basic journalistic concept of neutrality in this
situation, let alone producing a ongoing series of open, vocal editorial
positions that automatically take sides in defense of the DAD over real people,
in light of Dover's reputation versus the altruistic effort of real blue collar
people, an entire township nonetheless, working for better education… is bewildering.
The fact that the Dispatch would
even consider publishing an editorial in support of the Dover Area School District,
using DASD and "fiscal discipline" in the same sentence just defies
logic. We're talking about the same
public school district that cost its taxpayers well over a million dollars in
legal fees by forcing an international embarrassment, an unnecessary legal
fight into that infamous federal case, with its “breathtaking inanity” in
pushing its agenda of creationism (Intelligent Design)... as well as 19 other
debacles that have followed in the past decade. We disagree that our entire community - in
your view, is overreacting against what you view as a simple "fiscal
me the Facts
The Dispatch otherwise constantly produces useful and valuable comparisons and results of York County school districts, tax rates, or the recent feature regarding school district debt load/reserve fund comparisons of all York County school districts, so why not prepare a comprehensive educational analysis and comparison of publicly-available educational performance data (comparing DASD and Northern for the past ten years)? We have a 3-ring binder of data we will gladly share with you that we provided to the Department of Education. Things like the PSSA, the SAT, college placement stats, graduation rates, safeschools annual reports of in-school crime, truancy, volumes of curriculum, results of the ACT, etc. – we wish to show the differences and consistent performance advantages as the evidence leads. It's quite convincing. Also, where is your reporting on the detail, and the fact that the Department of Education has already ruled in our favor on the educational merit (pro-Northern) of our case? Any idea how exhaustive a body of evidence and educational data was necessary for that determination? Extensive. Why not report on the details of our past two York County Court hearings, discussion, (or that nobody from DASD bothered to show up in court on either occasion?) Yet we’re the bad guys?
Good reporting and logic would at least
mention the educational facts, which are overwhelming, such as the fact that
Northern is closer, consistently better performing, has far less crime,
hundreds of fewer in-school arrests and incidents involving law enforcement,
much lower truancy, Northern is much safer, better managed, has higher
graduation rates, higher college placement and post-secondary performance, has
stability, regional respect and allows for district voting. Northern has already passed a resolution granting
Washington Township a spot on its district voting for school board, a huge deal
in itself for representation (whereas DASD only allows for at-large voting,
favoring Dover's 10:1 population ratio). We refer you to the Patriot News reporting, quality, professional, neutral -- on its
comparable community of Susquehanna Township (Susquehanna Township School
District) to see how it's done via the past 2 years of real, investigative
reporting, without bias or fear of the facts. Our issues with DASD are strikingly similar to
the contested debacles of Susquehanna Township, yet over time the reporting and
coverage of these two cases could not be more different.
In ConclusionLet us give thanks to God that the Dispatch, Seth Grove, YDR or any such outsiders don't decide what's best for us. We thank Senator Pat Vance and our district’s Representative Mike Regan for their continuous support of our cause to the state Board of Education. We are thankful for the legal process itself as allowed by the PA School Code and state Board, and for local support such as that by former 14-year DASD school board member, past DASD president and WTEC vice-president (Ralph McGregor) and former DASD member (Jeffery Brown) and his past letter to the editor. Among several honest observations, Mr. Brown noted that the people of Washington Township were strongly considering this transfer around Dover's Intelligent Design era, over ten years ago and essentially respects us for taking this high road for better education.