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Donches: Lack of Notice on Willow Lane Meeting ‘Disturbing’

East Penn School Board Director Lynn Donches addresses fellow board members, administration at tail end of Monday night’s school board meeting about the district’s failure to publicize a Nov. 27 meeting about a Willow Lane walking study.

East Penn School Board Director Lynn Donches voiced concerns at the end of Monday night’s school board meeting regarding the failure to publicize a Nov. 27 meeting at which the East Penn School District presented the Willow Lane walking study that led 17 Willow Lane parents take the podium Monday night.

As the result of a possible oversight, few people were aware of the Nov. 27 meeting that included parents of Willow Lane Elementary School students, an engineer and Willow Lane administrators. School board directors were neither invited nor notified.

The Dec. 10 school board meeting included several rows of extra chairs that were added to accommodate the parents who came to the meeting try to convince board members it would be a bad idea to make Willow Lane Elementary School a “walking school” beginning with the 2013-2014 school year.

The parents were mobilized, in part, due to the Nov. 27 meeting and what they believe to be significant flaws in the study.

“I find it disturbing,” Donches said, “that no board members were notified about the district's Nov. 27 meeting. As the parents said here tonight, it was not widely publicized. Usually special presentations are reported at board meetings. It’s too bad it wasn’t publicized. In response, it was lightly attended.”

Donches went on to say that she would have attended the meeting, had she known about it, and she was bothered by the fact that Willow Lane parents had been left with the impression that the school board didn’t want to be a part of the meeting or resolving the concerns of the Willow Lane parents.

“The citizens realize that official action can’t be taken, except in board meetings, but if there is a forum in which I have the opportunity to listen to people’s concerns first-hand, I find that useful,” Donches said.

“It is just unfortunate that no one from the school board was present at the meeting,” she said.

Following Donches’ comments, School Director Julian Stolz thanked the Willow Lane parents for coming to the meeting and making the board aware of the lingering issues related to the elimination of busing at Willow Lane.

“We weren’t even informed of that meeting,” Stolz said. “Your input is critical. I am a budget-cutter, but I did not approve cutting the $60,000 [that will be saved when busing is eliminated.] You are not satisfied. You don’t feel safe yet and we need to rectify that.”

John Reynard December 12, 2012 at 10:58 AM
Are we really at the point where the best $60k cuts for our schools is to make all the 5-10 year old kids at one of our schools walk? At a minimum this should be something that should be debated openly not shoved through without much discussion from all the stakeholders involved.
for real December 12, 2012 at 11:00 AM
These 2 Slozer puppets continue to grad headlines. Rumor has it a lot of votes are now 7-2 since all of the others are more interested in the district as opposed to politics.
Robert Sentner December 12, 2012 at 01:25 PM
Has nothing to do with puppets and everything to do with transparency..... something lacking in a lot of local areas.
MS December 12, 2012 at 01:45 PM
Funny how the only two board members that everyone complains about are also the only two that raise serious concerns on how meetings are announced.....Don't mind them one bit, they have my childs future in mind...unlike others
careless fills December 12, 2012 at 04:08 PM
The study seems to have been available directly from the EPSD website as a news items since Oct 19 at 8:03am, both on the front page and in the news archive: http://www.eastpennsd.org/_fullstory.html?id=archive. However, I can't find any announcement or calendar item for the Nov 27 meeting: http://www.eastpennsd.org/willow/Calendar.html
Ron Beitler December 12, 2012 at 05:34 PM
The study has been public for awhile. I thought it was an OK study. (paid for by a grant I think? Correct me if I'm wrong) Now the issue is implementing it's recommendations. Whose responsible and who is paying for what. There are some critical improvements that MUST happen. The flashing 15 mph school district zone signage and light. The hiring of crossing guards. Signage. Beefier high visibility Crosswalks. ect. ect. I would like to see an implementation plan and timeline by the township. I will be attending the next public safety meeting. Next Tuesday the 18th at 7pm is the next meeting.
Ron Beitler December 12, 2012 at 05:36 PM
Lincoln, Jefferson and Alburtis all have walkers. Willow Ln elementary was built as a walking school. These discussions happened quite a few years ago. The discussion at this point shouldn't be about walk to willow or not. That ship has sailed. It WAS built as a walking school. Kids in the Boroughs walk now and always have. Whats good for the boroughs should be good for LMT. I don't think a double standard is fair. And the 60k number is JUST willow. The total savings is ALL the walking schools. I'm guessing but lets say its about the same for all walking schools thats nearly 1/4 of a million dollars in savings to the taxpayers. I agree with Lynn that this meeting wasn't advertised well. I knew about it...but only because I attended an LMT public safety commission meeting where it was announced. I didnt write down the time and had to ask a teacher friend to confirm the time and date. I could not find any mention of this meeting online anywhere. I think thats an issue. All this being said, I'm very disappointed in the planning to make this safely walkable. Like I said. Built as a walking school... It's been how many years now? When I attended the last LMT public safety meeting seemed to alot of confusion over who is paying/responsible for what improvement wise. I asked the question pointedly who is responsible for paying for improvements "off campus" to make this safe for walkers. The answer from the district official was the township.
Ron Beitler December 12, 2012 at 05:39 PM
We did post about the meeting on the "Friends LMT" facebook page. But like I said above... we only knew because of attending a township public safety commission meeting for another matter. We try to keep residents informed on matters like this. "like" our page at www.facebook.com/friendslmt to stay informed. We will post whenever walkability/safey issues are on the agenda at the township level.
Ron Beitler December 12, 2012 at 05:47 PM
Flashing LED lighted crosswalks like are installed at the Park crossing (by Sals) on Main St. in Macungie should be considered in ADDITION to crossing guards. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=my63CfUVOps
Michael D Siegel December 12, 2012 at 09:27 PM
We need stalker boards, not just flashing lights http://www.lowerprovidence.org/documents/News-2008AnnualReport.pdf http://www.lightcastnetwork.org/alpha/images/LCPSI_radarproducts/LC112-D12R-sm.jpg
Ron Beitler December 12, 2012 at 09:31 PM
Agreed.
Garrett Rhoads December 14, 2012 at 02:24 AM
Has it possibly occurred to you that the reason Ms. Donches "grabs headlines" is because she is actually taking an interest in the parents, students, and issues that effect our school district? She is repeatedly chastised and bullied by Directors Ballard and Earnshaw for asking relevant questions to topics of discussion. She has been the subject of derision and undue criticism by the media because she does not "play ball" with the administration. To Ms. Donches I say, "Good job"! Keep it up. It never ceases to amaze me how some people get so upset when you shed light on the issues.
Garrett Rhoads December 14, 2012 at 02:32 AM
By the way, I don't know who "for real" is, but if he/she actually attended school board meetings from time to time, he/she would realize that many recent votes are coming out 6-3 or 5-4. I believe that Mr. Beitler has the right idea. Attend the meetings and get involved. It is far too easy to blog from a distance with talking points and limited information.
Get Real December 19, 2012 at 02:31 PM
And when a child is killed the township can pay for that as well.
Get Real December 19, 2012 at 02:37 PM
Everyone I know sends their children to private schools including my family. Where does all that tax money go? Surely between all the students from East Penn that attend Swain, St Thomas, St Ann's etc.. that is enough to pay for the students at Willow to have busing to keep them safe. This is a ridiculous argument. In all of the areas of the country we have lived I have never seen a more poorly run school district than East Penn hence the reason for all the children in the private schools.
Ron Beitler December 19, 2012 at 02:38 PM
@ Get real, remember the school district decided the walk/not walk issue. The township (muni gov't) can only work with that decision and make every effort to ensure safety. Two different independent parts of local gov't. I advocate primarily on township issues, which is why I have been encouraging certain enhanced safety features like the radar speed signs and lighted crosswalks. Since that is something the township can control.
Get Real December 19, 2012 at 09:41 PM
When a child gets hit by a car at Willow go ahead and blame it on the school district. It is preposterous to think that children of that age might be capable of walking to school in that particular area.
ron December 19, 2012 at 10:42 PM
Get Real are you serious, you dont know one person that sends their kids to public school. And why dont you actually find out what the votes are on issues instead of relying on rumors. It should not be hard since you seem to have already found out how much tax money the district has to pay for everything. And lol im sure the two board members you mentioned are just there to grab headlines, its probally the hollywood life style they are after. And im sure at that age kids are capable of a lot more than just walking to school at least i hope so or America is in big trouble. And i think the east penn school district is pretty good overall. I dont know anything about the school districts in the other areas of the country you lived in but i bet there sure glad your gone.
Get Real December 19, 2012 at 10:49 PM
Ron, Let me guess- either you do not have children or your children are no longer of school age so you want to pay the least amount of taxes possible. Take a drive by Willow school during the day and justify how a five year old is supposed to WALK to and from school each day. Also, it is "their" not "there." Did you go to school?
Mark January 03, 2013 at 03:14 PM
Many comments and observations, but most involve process and politics. Simply stated, Willow lane and Saurkraut can be a very busy and dangerous intersection. Especially when Mack Truck traffic increases about 3pm daily. As the industrial footprint of the neighborhood increases, so too will traffic. The speed limits are not enforced, the stop sign at the intersection is always being run through. Basicly, that intersection is unsafe for walkers over the long run. Implement safety measures and walking to Willow would be fine. Personally, i would drive my kid to school regardless..........
linen23 January 10, 2013 at 02:37 PM
Lost me in the heading "Donches: Disturbing". Yes she is.
linen23 January 10, 2013 at 03:01 PM
I am always in favor of child safety but from what I gather Willow was built on the premise because the walking feasibility study had been completed and verified as "walkable". Was this study completed or is this simply a result of a few well manicured stay out home moms who's children have asthma, nut allergies, seasonal allergies, sensitivity to light, sound, exhaust fumes, etc...if you know what I mean? PS: I do not believe Donches has any children herself.

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