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Stolz, Ballard Clash Over Willow Lane Busing

A motion by East Penn School Director Julian Stolz to retain busing in the 2013-14 school year for those Willow Lane students being bused this year was defeated by a 6-3 vote at Monday’s School Board meeting.

The greater part of Monday night’s East Penn Board of School Directors meeting was all about Willow Lane Elementary School and the busing of its students.

It began with a public comment period during which several parents of Willow Lane children addressed the board with reasons that Willow Lane should not become a walking school with the start of the 2013-2014 school year.

After that, Superintendent Thomas L. Seidenberger shared the findings of an excrutiatingly detailed transportation study, designed to shed light on many transportation concerns in the district, including next steps at Willow Lane.

All of that led up to debate on a motion by School Director Julian Stolz to retain busing in the 2013-2014 school year for those Willow Lane students being bused this year.

Dissention followed when board president Charles Ballard didn’t pull any punches in explaining why he would be voting against Stolz’s motion:

“First of all, I find the concept of attempting, before we have enough information to direct the administration to do something of this nature, premature and unwise.

“I find it highly offensive personally that the person declaring to be conservatively principled is willing to throw those principles under the bus and support a motion to spend money for a very small group without having all of the facts in place to determine those expenditures to be warranted or wise.

“The information provided in the transportation study provides different options that should be considered. This is nothing more than a pandering attempt to obtain votes that should not have been countenanced by a sitting school board member,” he said.

Stolz immediately shot back sharp words of his own, declaring it his right to do so because of the “personal nature of the comments” made by Ballard.

“I find it interesting that the very people who use children for political gain are willing to throw them quite literally under the bus,” he said. “I am a conservative, but I am willing to stop and look at what we are doing and make sure that when we do it, we do it right and not simply rubber-stamping the administration’s agenda.”

School directors Francee Fuller and Kenneth Bacher both said that they would like to see Stolz’s motion tabled until they had time to review the administration’s transportation study and its recommendations.

Bacher said: “I don’t like the idea of singling out parts of our population for special treatment. If I were to vote for such a proposal, I’d like to see that it be phrased in a way that applies to all of our students, not just Willow Lane.”

The motion was ultimately defeated by a 6-3 vote with directors Stolz, Lynn Donches and Michael Policano voting in favor of Stolz’s motion.

Rob Hamill February 12, 2013 at 09:10 PM
Optimist is a paid teacher union goon, paid to post too.
Bob Guzzardi February 12, 2013 at 10:43 PM
an infinistemal amount compared to what ypur teachers' union will give to their guys to vote their agenda.
Michael D Siegel February 12, 2013 at 11:26 PM
The state law requires all school districts to bus children- no matter how far and to any private schools- did you know that? Your tax monies are being spent to bus children to Bethlehem to catholic high schools or to Berks county. Now that is BS. We are sitting here arguing about 1/4 mile for busing kids for safety reasons when the state law should be changed now. Please EP residents talk to your state rep about changing the law. It is costing a hell of a lot of taxpayers money to bus children around a a three county area to private schools on my dime
Private School Mom February 13, 2013 at 01:23 AM
Mr. Siegel, You do realize that Private School parents in the East Penn School District pay SCHOOL TAXES just as you do. In addition to paying school taxes for a school district that we do not us we then pay tuition to provide our children with a better education. We do this without complaint. If I am reading your comments clearly you feel that even though we pay school taxes we are not entitled to ANY benefits. That is where I personally draw the line. Give me a rebate for the years I have paid school taxes and not utilized the bus service that I can by law use and do pay for in my tax bill. That option seems fair to me. The money we as private school parents pay in school taxes entitles us to bus service by law and by the fact that we pay SCHOOL TAXES for schools that we do not use. It is not on "your dime" as educating the East Penn District children falls on my dime along with all the rest of the private school parents. So, I am going to write to our state representatives and our senators and ask for a private school reimbursement program. It is only fair, don't you agree? Or better yet, all the private school parents in East Penn can register their children for Fall of 2013 in the school district. Talk about a budget problem! Classes are already over crowded now add in all the extra children whose parents pay taxes and are in private school! That is an even better idea!
Matt L. February 13, 2013 at 01:42 AM
@Private school mom, as a supporter of school choice and competition I respect your choice to send your kids to a private school if you feel it's a better option for YOUR kids then the public school system. Every parent should be supported in making the choice thats best for their kids. This however is not a private school vs. public school issue. It's busing is not a right issue PERIOD. NO ONE not public, not private are ENTITLED to bus transportation. It's a privilege. It's ok with me that school taxes go to education programs at private schools. It should be a fair even amount. Let both have equal access to public funding, let them compete. But busing mandate would bankrupt some districts. It's never been a right it's always been a entitlement. The 1.5 number isn't arbitrary it's the distance at which schools get reimbursed from the state. Other states charge a per student fee to parents. PA should consider this. THAT would be fair. Use the bus pay for it. Everyone.
Private School Mom February 13, 2013 at 01:56 AM
@ Matt Private Schools get zero money from the state for anything. We have to write for grants. The issue is the 1.5 mile rule. If students are allowed to ride the bus over 1.5 miles in East Penn then private schools are included. End of story. Willow is an exception. I have driven by several times at drop off and pick up and I would NOT want my child walking to or from that school. Also this notion in previous comments about why do Charter School students get bus service? There parents pay taxes as well and if they are outside that 1.5 mile rule they get the service. The notion of charging those residents whose children attend Willow more money to bus them is ridiculous and illegal. There is entirely too much traffic in that area. All it will take is one accident with one child and then all who are so adamant against busing can compare the price tags between a child's life and a bus ride.
Matt L. February 13, 2013 at 02:00 AM
No one has to walk, they can drive and most likely will. Thats fine. I live on Main St. in Macungie. I used to live in Shepard Hills. VERY familiar with the area. Also used to live in Allentown near a walking school. Yes it gets crowded during drop off and pickup. So do 1000's of schools across the country every single day. People deal with it.
Patrice Sidoione All That Salon February 13, 2013 at 02:15 AM
What is for too long out of control is the number of school boards...I came back to PA from a much larger populated state CA & they have nominal # of school districts & regions to handle NOT 500 or 300 Superintendants that earn what is it now with the increase??? $166,700.00 plus benefits??? Do you know the median salary in PA is $50K??? Where is the justification for these ad min salaries? What do they actually do in the way of education anyway???
Patrice Sidoione All That Salon February 13, 2013 at 02:21 AM
I wonder if we all need to be reminded that whether you child goes to public or private school EDUCATION for these children who will be making policy when we are old & helpless like they are young & helpless now is imperative that we act with the greater good in mind...The children hear not enough money but salaries are high by any standard for PA...what amount of money will they vote to spend for the care of the elderly when it is their turn to make a budget??? Could we keep in mind that a budget is more than a measure of how we spend money...IT IS A MORAL DOCUMENT...what are we saying are our morals, ethics & human descency??? Do you know how disheartening this is to read???
ted.dobracki February 13, 2013 at 12:13 PM
I was confused by the super's remarks about charter students. At the beginning, he made it a point that there were only two groups of kids that were guaranteed bussing - special ed and charter schools. Later on during the presentation or questions, there were many times when they mentionedthe numnber of walkers to Seven Generations within 0.75 miles or 1.5 miles. Clearly if those kids can (and do) walk, then all charter students don't need to be bussed.
Janet Persing February 15, 2013 at 12:59 AM
And the fifth graders would pay school taxes just like the crusty old men, right?
Janet Persing February 15, 2013 at 01:21 AM
"There is entirely too much traffic in that area" because the population has exploded since 2000. Willow Lane is in the midst of suburban developments, which means walking to school makes sense. Teach your child to cross the street safely. If you can't do that, yell at all of your fellow SUV Moms who are running over everyone else and speeding to taxi their kids to school. I'm sure you can do that!
Patrice Sidoione All That Salon February 15, 2013 at 09:46 PM
Janet Persing I am confused by your remark. I do not understand your meaning??? Really not being contrary...You remark leaves not room for the random accident which is ineviditable in this situation with young children ice, snow, rain, overcast, cold, etc. People in a rush not paying attention etc. DANGEROUS potential being created that simply does not have to be the case. I trust the impacted people can work something out. I wonder if the overpaid already in many cases AD MIN people will reject their raises & apply that money to the busing...they did increase the budget by more than the cut of busing for the raises...????
Mazz February 18, 2013 at 03:26 PM
@Jeff, we already do in our school taxes. Rest assured i pay above the average for school taxes and without bussing, am receiving less services. Those of us with "walkers" should be fighting for a tax credit. You are asking us to pay twice.
Black Sheep February 18, 2013 at 06:05 PM
We don't want bullies in our schools and yet we have Charles Ballard (one of the BIGGEST bullies going) on the school board.
Garrett Rhoads February 18, 2013 at 08:48 PM
Actually, yes. The administration claimed to have saved $60K on busing at Willow, but had the board vote the administrators a $75K raise just 8 weeks later. One must ask what their priorities really are. Judge for yourself.
taxed-enough February 18, 2013 at 09:46 PM
Garrett, great comment, and very appropriate. Follow the money, and it will show you the priorities of the school board. The priorities are with the union members and administrators having raises, large salaries and generous benefits which are very costly, not with the students or the parents.
Bob Guzzardi February 18, 2013 at 11:13 PM
Good point, Garrett Rhoads It is hard to think of 5,6 and 7 year olds walking to school in this cold. The wam and comfortable administrators took the kids' bus money. Disgraceful.
Bob Guzzardi February 18, 2013 at 11:13 PM
Good point, Garrett Rhoads It is hard to think of 5,6 and 7 year olds walking to school in this cold. The wam and comfortable administrators took the kids' bus money!. Disgraceful
taxed-enough February 23, 2013 at 03:40 PM
The bus study is pretty clear. Nobody is asking for special treatment. However, currently, there are very, very few students in East Penn that live over .75 miles from an elementary school that actually are designated as walkers. It comes to only 41 students in the whole district if you add up every single elementary school walking students that are "walkers" that live between .75 and 1.5 miles from a school. It would cost nothing to bus these 41 students, since there is room on current buses. However, at Willow Lane, there are 341 students that live between .75 and 1.5 miles from the school. "Option #2" which is what it is called in the transportation study is clearly reasonable which would make .75 the new walking distance for the whole school district. The walking radius would be set at .75 miles for the whole district. Other school districts in our state have used .75 miles as a reasonable walking distance, and it is SOLELY at the discretion of the school board. Bacher is a fool with his comment about special treatment, or perhaps he did not bother to read the study, and what it said about "OPTION #2" which would be reasonable for the whole district, and was suggested by a parent. While 1.5 miles is absolutely too far, .75 walking radius is clearly reasonable, and other school districts have used this for a walking radius, this is a decision made by the school board, NOT THE STATE. http://www.eastpennsd.org/_pdfs/Transportation-Study-Presented-2-11-13.pdf
Matt L. February 23, 2013 at 03:56 PM
.75 for whole district? Including those not walking? A commitment to make the Macungie schools walking? Wescosville? Ect. ect?
taxed-enough February 23, 2013 at 04:31 PM
Sorry, but I don't understand your comment. I think "OPTION #2" means that .75 would be the maximum walking distance for the entire district, which is what some other school districts have decided upon. However, for roads labeled as dangerous roads, it is a case-by-case basis as I understand it. At least that is how I understand "OPTION #2". What is your understanding?
Janet Persing February 24, 2013 at 12:00 AM
That is a ridiculous comment! What's disgraceful is for the rest of us to pay for empty busses running around picking up wussie kids. Boo, hoo...it's cold. It's winter, and you live here. Get used to it. If you wanted Florida, you should have moved there. And, in case you haven't noticed, we have had nothing like winter for at least 6 years.
JackL February 24, 2013 at 02:32 AM
taxed and tired
JackL February 24, 2013 at 02:39 AM
Janet Persing – Great comment, also if one of them could comprehend the order at a 4 way stop I might get out of my non SUV and applaud Charter Schools aren’t public; they are pilfering money from the public system instead of stepping in and helping the public system. They are biased toward the founders, friends and relatives, THEN lottery…what ever happened to diversity? Have your Charter school, but do it with your own money, not by taking it from kids who can’t get in. Kids today are wimps compared to when I was a kid. I rode my bike like a maniac, ripped through traffic and did wheelies through the stop signs, and that was the norm (well… I exaggerated, not all kids could do a wheelie) oh and I didn’t die one time. When I was a kid, I actually liked walking to school when it snowed; somehow we even had snowball fights and didn’t slip into hypothermia on the way. It might be possible and I say MIGHT, for the kids today with their gortex boots, north face jacket and iTunes earmuffs to make it too. It speaks volumes to the priorities of people today that this bus topic generates sooo much dialogue. One may think you would care more about trying to get teachers on a full time schedule to match their full time salary. ESPD can’t even muster a full week let alone a full year. In the meantime be glad your school wasn’t in Waiting For Superman.
JackL February 24, 2013 at 02:42 AM
Oh one more thing, after your kids come home with some dog doo on their shoes and it ends up all over the house…maybe you’ll start picking up the crap…or better yet...maybe one of the kids that realize they can walk...possibly even run will leave you a present burning on your porch.
Janet Persing February 24, 2013 at 09:10 PM
JackL, Well Said!
Janet Persing February 24, 2013 at 09:14 PM
Perhaps we can revisit the 4-way stop sign intersections--at both ends of Willow Elementary--that no one (from NY/NJ) knows how to navigate...and their kids are the ones in "danger" from their fellow NY/NJ. And I won't even address litter! Thanks for bringing your lifestyle to us. Now you have to live in it.
Janet Persing February 24, 2013 at 09:15 PM
Unfortunately, so do we, the natives. So, please clean up your mouth, act, and behavior. Quit whining and be responsible for your progeny. Teach them properly and the rest of civil society won't have a problem.
Janet Persing February 24, 2013 at 09:30 PM
Correct and factual point. Thank you!

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