“Free” Land Comes at a “Price” to ASD

School Board Solicitor Lee Price said Armstrong School District board directors are required to sign a 'Declaration of Gift' from Sherry Family Trust to receive the 68-acre land in Manor Township off Route 442 to build their new 7-12 school. Such stipulations in the declaration, include a finder's fee payment to Allegheny Real Estate, agreeing to pay all legal fees during closing and allowing Trust representatives to tap in to sewer or water lines on the property at no cost if the other 1oo-acre parcel is developed.

by Jonathan Weaver

The Sherry Family Trust has about a dozen stipulations for what must be done if the Armstrong School District indeed wants their donated land.

Before the family gives the school district the deed for the 68-acre parcel in Manor Township near Buffington Road off Route 422, school board members must agree to several items under the family’s ‘Declaration of Gift,’ including that the parcel will indeed primarily be used for a school, something Solicitor Lee Price said Trust advisors were very “animate” about.

“There are several conditions to this gift, and if we accept this document, we’re going to live with those conditions,” Price said.

Other conditions Board directors must agree to include paying Allegheny Real Estate of Kittanning a $70,000 finder’s fee, designating $35,000 into an escrow account, reimburse the family for any legal fees and allow the Trust to tap into any sewage and water lines without fee from the school district if established.

Armstrong School District must also agree to build the grades 7-12 school within two years – a year ahead of L.R. Kimball Architect’s schedule. The school is currently planned to open for the 2015-16 school year.

Price and Board members hope to tweak the language of such clause that the building only need to be built or under construction at such time, which L.R. Kimball Representatives John Hummel and Brian Hayes said would be no problem.

“It would be past the point of no return by then,” Hayes said.

The real estate company is said to be ‘actively’ promoting the other 100-acre parcel, which is part of a Keystone Opportunity Zone. Both parcels are said to be valued at approximately $700,000 (which if Board directors sign Monday are not to dispute).

Agreeing to the above stipulations and more might ensure the District receives an additional $35,000 cash donation.

While Price is discussing the legal stipulations, architects will be on the new site performing environmental and wetland studies next week. A preliminary coal seam exploration produced positive results for the construction crews.

“We drilled four holes in areas where we thought anything that would reveal a mine void and we did not hit anything, so we’re satisfied that a mining issue is no longer an issue,” Hayes said.

However, the land must also be explored for coal mines after geotechnical statistics are further known, which won’t be until after more details about the building are determined.

L.R Kimball Segment Leader John Hummel (left) and Project Manager Brian Hayes told school board directors at their open caucus session last night that surveying work will commence this week. They also asked for board directors to sign off on the first two PlanCon documents provided to the Pennsylvania Department of Education and presented more details regarding the new grades 7-12 school in Manor Township.

Hayes and school administrators ‘made some tweaks’ and devised a three-story, 166,750 square-foot school built on the donated site’s plateau.

“We had to be pretty compact and efficient with the land – it’s not as if we had that much room to spread out up there because it does kinda go off the edge,” Hayes said.

On the ‘quiet side’ of the school will be a 4,000 square-foot library and department-grouped classrooms. Portions of all three floors will accomodate senior high schools due to an increased enrollment. More than 30 junior high classrooms will be on the first and second floors. The third floor science rooms would be used entirely by senior high students.

Junior high students would also have a different cafeteria than the senior high, with the kitchen being in-between.

On the other side of the school would be a nearly 1,000-seat auditorium, 1,200-seat gymnasium, an auxiliary gym and chorus, band and technical classrooms.

“Although there are many different types of building layouts, this is the one most efficient for the program we have to keep below the (PlanCon) efficiency levels,” Hayes said.

The current school map does not include athletic stadiums, which Hayes said are not reimbursable by the State and construction bids are received at a later time.

“Because of the budget situation, we want to make sure you get the building and site developed first,” Hayes said.

The projected school layout also allows for possible classroom expansion, particularly if West Shamokin Jr. – Sr. High would be closed in the future due to a decline in enrollment.

“If the population shrunk to the point where this (District) may have to become one high school, that would be the goal to try and accommodate those students,” Hayes said. “That would be way down the road, but we wanted to provide that open end corridor so you could add those extra classrooms, however many you may need.”

Information regarding the projected school is to be given to public taxpayers via the June school newsletter and on the District website.

School board members authorized L.R. Kimball to continue their work and are expected to agree on PlanCon A&B work completed at Monday’s regular meeting.

Before the meeting was adjourned, Board President Joseph Close and Vice-President Christopher Choncek said they met with Apollo-Ridge School District board representatives last week, who agreed to take students from South Bend Township should they secede from Armstrong. However, they stipulated that secession agreements be ‘substantial’ before an agreement is further considered.

The projected school layout as shown to school board directors and public taxpayers last night

  • By Kittanning Lady, June 5, 2012 @ 5:25 AM

    @billbell easy to answer your question.I have lived in Kittanning all my life,I have many friends ,relatives and family as do many of the people who blog on here. I always say”people talk.”

  • By scott_starr, June 5, 2012 @ 6:58 AM

    @noname:
    I support you in your quest for equality of curricula, as everyone blogging here should.

    I will offer such assistance if it is wanted and needed to keep this issue at the forefront.

    My issue has always been curricula, first and foremost.

  • By asdgrad, June 5, 2012 @ 9:49 AM

    Education should always come first, but sadly we know that will not happen until this mess that we have been in for years over building is taken care of.

    As to who ever said that West Shamokin will close some day soon yes I agree with you, as I said before in articles way back that West Shamokin should be come a Jr. high, and that this new build should only be a senior high school.

  • By sickofpayingforit, June 5, 2012 @ 11:00 AM

    @ Scott Star-

    Curricula first? At what price? Is it better to have the best of the best curricula when half of the kids will be living in tents out at Crooked Creek when they tax their families out of their houses? I have found on my short time on this rock that typically the ones who say things like “money isn’t everything”, or make statements along those lines, typically have a lot of money. Everyone else, they worry about money BECAUSE THEY HAVE TO!

    I do not support top of the line curricula. I support state mandated curricula and massive tax savings. There are plenty of options for families desiring more curricula that don’t involve tapping the taxpayer to pay for it.

    C’mon folks. We cannot afford all the options around here. We need the basic model and then add on to that when the money is there. We are spending money that ISN’T THERE YET!

    Again:

    How much in tax mils will this new school save the tax payer?

    What are the projected tax mils in five year increments over the next twenty years?

    What can the school board do NOW to offer immediate and substantial tax savings to the struggling home owners in ASD.

  • By worthingtonman, June 5, 2012 @ 12:30 PM

    @Scott
    I agree on the curricula at all cost. At some point folks are going to have to realize that state minimum curricula will only hurt your children in the long run. Our children are struggling when they reach college because of this. I cringe every time someone says state minimum. There is not always a larger cost attributed to a stronger curricula. Sometimes it is just setting loftier goals. Our schools to need to at least try to keep up with the students from the global classrooms. We can not churn out ditch diggers and allow the rest of the world churn out the ditch designers.

  • By Chris_Choncek, June 5, 2012 @ 1:16 PM

    @Kittanning Lady re: your comments about my mother on May 26th……

    I am an elected official and as part of that, I have to deal with criticism (in the media or otherwise). I have no problem with that whatsoever. However, I do have a major problem with your reference to my mother. She is not an elected official, therefore you have no right to say anything about her in a publication, such as the KP.

    Admin, I am extremely disappointed that you allowed this to be posted. I request that this be removed immediately to avoid any further action.

    …and for the record, I’ve never met Mike O’Hare in my life. As always, feel free to call me to discuss further or better yet, provide your real name and I’ll call you back.

  • By JornJensen, June 5, 2012 @ 2:32 PM

    sickofpayingforit – Again, well-stated. I agree with you.

  • By admin, June 5, 2012 @ 2:46 PM

    I have to agree with you, Mr. Choncik, and apologize that we did not catch the reference. A word to all posters… keep on subject, and not get into family situations. That is not fair to family members who are not part of the article or subject matter. This has been our policy that we try to enforce, but unfortunately, did not catch this one.

  • By JornJensen, June 5, 2012 @ 2:52 PM

    The Pennsylvania House Finance Committee has scheduled a vote on HB1776 The Property Tax Independence Act for Monday, June 11, 2012. If approved, the piece of legislation will then be eligible for consideration by the full House.

    The latest groups to join the pressure for property tax elimination are the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and the Pennsylvania State Grange. These two groups represent Pennsylvania’s #1 economic sector – agriculture. The farmers of the state are the land barons that should sell off their land to reduce their property taxes, right Worthingtonman?

    Here is the liberal argument against the legislation. This testimony was presented by Michael Wood, Research Director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, a liberal think tank based in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Now, read this carefully – “that, because the school district property tax only forces approximately 10,000 Pennsylvanians out of their homes each year, replacing the property tax is unjustifiable.” Read it again and try to understand the liberal mindset. ONLY 10,000 per year lose their homes to unpaid property taxes – ONLY 10,000! How many losing their homes will then justify property tax elimination to liberals like Michael Wood? 15,000? 30,000? These people walk among us.

    Time for us all to support elimination of school property taxes and distibute the burden of support of public education to more than just property owners.

  • By worthingtonman, June 5, 2012 @ 3:56 PM

    @kittanninglady

    I find it really hard to believe that the West Shamokin building is in the shambles you describe. Have you physically seen all these issues? do we not have maintenance in the district. Is the principal,doing such a poor job at keeping his building serviceable. It would be nice to hear these complaints from him. I am in agreement with bilbell that something is rotten in Denmark. I think that I have connected the dots and we are not all who we would like to think people are. and once again your people in the know were once again wrong on Who knows and who does not know editors of certain papers. I think you owe some apologies from under the bow dryer.

  • By Jan, June 5, 2012 @ 4:14 PM

    @worthingtonman: thank you for your last post- indeed, everything you have stated is true. State-mandated curricula is basic at best; we can not sit back and watch the educational system in this county be watered down so that those who don’t care that their children be challenged in school get their way. I’m appalled that there are people out there who are satisfied if their children get the basics and nothing beyond. If you don’t care about the type of education that students get now- then what we will have is a perpetuation of those who are lined up in the unemployment office looking for menial jobs rather than jobs that will sustain them through life. No one likes the idea of paying higher taxes- the rich or the poor. If I am going to spend my hard earned money on something, I want it to be a sound investment in the future of education and not watered down to save a few bucks.
    @sickofpayingforitall: your comments are reminiscent of Lee Ruffner when he sat on the board- he wanted our curriculum cut to the bare bones with no “mickeymouse” courses offered. Reading/riting/rithmetic are not enough to sustain students today in the workforce.

  • By rfullerton, June 5, 2012 @ 5:25 PM

    Quite frankly better curricula does not necessarily mmean ore cost. It requires appropriately trained teachers and administrators that are actually capable of finding, studying, training and implementing the changes. Unfortunately ASD has very few “professionals” capable or even willing to go the extra mile for that. Status quo is good enough. There are teachers and administrators in other parts of PA (and the US) doing this and for far less compensation and benefits. Our board should be hiring the best qualfied candidates whether they are relatives or not, not as is often seen, hiring a/an almost completely non qualfied individual(s) over a/an extremely competent, well prepared and educated (someone that has done their own graduate work) one because the former is a “good buddy” as can blatantly be seen in some fairly recent hiring (not necessarily in ASD but other Armstrong districts). This type of behavior is partly responsible for the apathy of those that should care about the quality of education. If these types of people are hired wht should anyone else go the extra mile?? Wrong…completely, prevalent…absolutely.

    BTW Dalton was an amazing student, not just academically but personally. He is the type of student we should be striving to produce here in ASD, ones who are not afraid to stand up for what they believe. These are the kids that will make a difference in the world. Congrats Dalton and Kittanning Class of 2012….you were truly a wonderful group to teach!

  • By nonamerequired, June 5, 2012 @ 5:31 PM

    Jorn- Explain to me your thinking. If you agree that curricula should be state min, and taxes as low as possible (which, let me be clear, is not something I am opposed to. My point is if this new school is shoved down my throat, I want my tax dollars to go for all children equally, not just half), then how can you support a new school? What is the point of building a new school to only have the same classes, or now less with the Corbett budget crunch? A campus style school would be a semi palatable (maybe) option IF our tax base and population was on the upswing. We all know it’s not. So, how the support for a new school, but state min curricula? There is no attack or ill will in this question, I would just like to understand.

  • By scott_starr, June 5, 2012 @ 7:12 PM

    @sickofit:
    Wow, talk about embellishing.

    Noname said equal opportunity at the “new school” and west Shamokin. I agree with that statement.

    I also agree that our curricula needs improved, but I never said spend without a thought.

    I agree with other posters that a top flight curricula does not mean higher costs.

  • By worthingtonman, June 5, 2012 @ 8:41 PM

    @Jorn
    since you have seen fit to call me out, I will respond. I find your support of property tax reform interesting. If I thought it was driven by anything besides your wallet, I might agree with you. I would support property tax reform if it truly helped those elderly, who could pass a means test, to keep their property. A sales tax does not help the elderly. Everybody living in anything besides government housing, are already paying their fair share of the property tax. Those living in government housing obviously are having troubles scratching a living. A sales tax, in my opinion will make it possible for people to cross state line to avoid it, or use Internet purchases to avoid it. Push for true reform that helps the seniors save their homes and I am all for it. Worrying about your own wallet means little to me. This bill gives conservatives a bad rap.

  • By lowfatlowcarbnosugarcheesecake, June 6, 2012 @ 2:06 AM

    @KittanningLady

    I have also witnessed what you are calling out regarding the West Shamokin architectural issues. There was a pillar that had a huge hole in it inside the building. I’m not sure that it’s still there as I haven’t been there since a fundraiser a few years ago.Hopefully they fixed it by now. West Shamokin maybe the newest school in this district, however that doesn’t make it the best. My friends children say that the art room at Elderton is much better. The sinks actually work and there is more storage and work space. The cafeteria at Elderton doesn’t have capacity issues and no one is shoved up against pillar while eating lunch like my friends daughter was. It’s not that I have anything against West Shamokin, I am a wolves fan, however I don’t think it’s beneficial to anyone, including West Shamokin students, to attend school in a building that is too crowded. I also wish administration would look into fixing the problems at West Shamokin to make it better. But like previous posters have said, West Shamokin will become the new Elderton after all is said and done. The new scape goat of the district, which will be blamed for all problems this district faces. It’s a sad and vicous cycle. But, according to what my friend and her daughter say, it’s karma.

    Once again, wishing everyone a lovely day…

  • By JornJensen, June 6, 2012 @ 3:12 AM

    Chris_Choncek and Admin – I read the Kittanning Lady Hee Haw hatpin thing about running to Mike O’Hare and whatever and just ignored it. Note that no one responded to Kittanning Lady’s post in regard to that comment on this site, so, to intelligent participants, it is a non-issue. Just ignore it.

    But, Chris, you obviously read these posts on the KP, so, tell us, when are we going to hear something from this board regarding savings plans that will pay down the $80 million? What are the consolidation plans? Where will the cuts be? We hear of a wonderful new school that won’t serve the entire district, free land with strings attached and no infrastructure, and so forth. What is the plan to get there? How about some answers to sickofpayingforit’s 3 questions? Do I need to repeat them?

    nonamerequired – Where to start? A definition of State Minimum Curricula is certainly in order – it is not just redin’, ‘riting and ‘rithmatic as Jan states – the state min is much more than that. I support advanced classes such as the advanced sciences, advanced math such as calculus, differential equations, and so forth – if they are not included in the definition of State Minimum Curricula then I am wrong to just support State Minimum Curricula, but, I support the bulk of sickofpayingforit’s post on the topic – 11 AM, June 5th, 2012 post.

    I don’t really say taxes as low as possible – I say tax ‘pulled’ and spent prudently and ‘pulled’ in a more fair manner. Distribute the tax load to a wider group of people, able to pay, via sales and income taxes rather than property taxes. Further, the state system of ‘pulling’ sales and income taxes is already established, so no additional infrastructure is needed to make that work, but elimination of property taxes gets rid of local tax collectors and assessments/reassessments – ‘make work’ that provides no product or value. Further, without property taxes, the real estate market will recover and people will spend to improve their properties without the penalty of a reassessment – and, they’ll pay more taxes, once per upgrade, in materials and labor (sales taxes). Also, the state more involved will hold school boards to higher standards, including mandatory referendums on major expenditures.

    I don’t really support a new school that doesn’t apply to the entire district. Nor do I support every community school. I support wisely downsizing and realizing our present and future enrollments and sizing to those numbers. I originally pushed hard for keeping and fixing a few of the existing buildings. I could be wrong (imagine that?), but I believe, that of the existing older buildings, only Elderton has a campus-type school without logistics problems. Sure, the new one, West Shamokin, is a campus-type – that’s been the trend since the 60’s or 70’s. So, the choice between keeping Kittanning or keeping Ford City – that choice should be obvious to any sensible person – they’re both land-locked, but Kittanning is newer and structurally more modern – so, if we don’t need all of these buildings, then close the 1909 building. To ‘outsiders’, Kittanning and Ford City are the same town stretched out along a river for 3 miles – one school should serve that area in a downsized world.

    I don’t really support a new school, but this school board has made it clear with their silence – they’re not going to listen to the taxpayers nor are they going to do what anyone but the nine thinks is the correct thing to do. That’s why I want more state involvement in our school district. I’m as dissatisfied with this school board as I was with the last one.

  • By bob, June 6, 2012 @ 7:15 AM

    @ rfullerton:
    Agree that better ciricula doesn’t necessarily mean higher cost. It does require someone willing and able to make those changes. As you know, this is difficult. Ineffective teachers collect their paychecks & create a sense of apathy among their colleagues. It’s very difficult to change this aspect of our educational system. If you followed the story about the Washington D.C. school system, you are aware they brought someone in to make some major changes. The first order of business was ridding the school system of the warm bodies just there to collect a paycheck. She was gone before the reforms were completed. My point is, it’s very difficult to implement changes to this educational system & anyone who tries gets run out…even in D.C… Yes, there could be some changes in our little corner of the world, but who would be willing to lay out some creative ideas to help enhance the education? I’m sure there are many good ideas out there, but not many willing to come forward with them… once again, the apathy thing.

  • By lucky1, June 6, 2012 @ 7:51 AM

    Jorn, let me save you any more future time and typing by summarizing what you continuously say: I am right about everything and if you do not agree with me, then you are wrong. Post after post after post (do you do anything else besides post on this site?) you send the message that you know it all. Guess what? Posting comments on any Internet website is largely a waste of time. Jorn, how many times can you post that you are against property taxes and for expanded sales taxes? We all get the message. Move on to different issues instead of beating the same dead horse over and over and over again. This goes for everyone else as well who continues to post the same thing over and over and over again. Get a life and get off this site unless you have something new to contribute, not the same, tired arguments worded in a different manner. Hey, Jorn, can you tell us just once (or maybe 25 times) more about how you are against property taxes?

  • By JornJensen, June 6, 2012 @ 8:17 AM

    Worthingtonman – Yes, I called you out as one of your solutions to peoples’ inability to pay school property taxes is to sell off property so one does not have those taxes to pay. So, if farmers sell off their properties, then who is going to raise the grain, milk the cows and put food on your table?

    Your other position on property taxes is that property owners only care about their own wallets. Don’t worry about my wallet – I can afford to pay the property taxes. But what is your solution to the 10,000 people per year that lose their homes in Pennsylvania because they can not pay their property taxes while others get the ‘free ride’ for their kids in the public school systems?

  • By samkirk, June 6, 2012 @ 9:51 AM

    @chrischoncek. Out of everything posted on these boards, you only respond to the one that points out your mommy is friends with Mike O’Hare? Thanks for showing where you’re true priorities are! Yourself !

    How about giving us total costs if this new high school?

    How about telling us why you lied for the last two years saying we couldn’t spend any money when you knew it was just to get your new high school?

    Tell us if the PSERs issue you ranted about is suddenly not an issue?

    Tell us if the school district did a feasibility study on the Manor Twp and neighboring sewage systems to see if they can support this high school?

    Tell us how many millions that will cost to correct these sewage issues when you find out it can’t!

    Tell us why out of all the locations the school district could build a school, you choose to build it next door to the Outlaws chapter house? Drugs kill dreams, right?

  • By Chris_Choncek, June 6, 2012 @ 10:17 AM

    @Jorn:

    First, I don’t read these blogs anymore and it’s against my better judgment to respond, but the post about my mother was brought to my attention by some friends. And…. easy for you to say to ignore it. It wasn’t about your mother.

    Re: the current ASD direction….We’ll save approximately $2.2M in staffing alone by closing Elderton and KT. This doesn’t include other savings expected as a result of having fewer buildings to maintain. Although the Elderton complex will still exist after the high school closes, savings will still be realized by shutting down parts of the building. We saw this the last time we closed EHS.

    It’s more difficult to provide estimates for the closures of KHS/KJHS/FC only because it’s a longer range projection. However, it’s expected that these closures will result in another $1.5-$2M in staff savings.

    In addition, with the significant reduction in building inventory over the next few years from 14 buildings to eight, the district will undoubtedly realize savings due to simple economies of scale (i.e., energy savings, less duplication of services, lower costs associated with building maintenance, etc.)

    Also, remember, the current board did not want to borrow the bond money in the first place. My voting record (along with Mr. Rearic’s and Mr. Close’s) reflects this. Defeasing the bond didn’t make financial sense as per the opinions of our bond counsel. I was (and still am) opposed to spending money to maintain buildings that are severely operating under capacity. Thus, it is my opinion that to make the best use of the bond money that we’re “stuck” with is to reduce building inventory and its associated costs and realize the savings listed above to help pay for the bond.

    Lastly, if you have (or anyone else has) any further questions or comments, feel free to call me. I’m in the book.

  • By Andrew B, June 6, 2012 @ 11:13 AM

    Call You??…..HA that will never happen Chris because most people that comment on this board like to hide behind their real name

    keep up the good work

  • By Elderton Parent, June 6, 2012 @ 11:26 AM

    No more double bus runs for Elderton K-12. What is that going to cost the district????

  • By Elderton Parent, June 6, 2012 @ 11:38 AM

    Quoting Mr. Choncek:
    “We’ll save approximately $2.2M in staffing alone by closing Elderton and KT”
    KHS/KJHS/FC “it’s expected that these closures will result in another $1.5-$2M in staff savings.”

    Close 1 elementary and 1 high school save $2.2M?
    Close 3 high schools save $1.5-2M?
    So, how many teachers have been/will be furloughed? It will be interesting to see how many actually lose their jobs and how many will be absorbed into the district somewhere.
    And BTW Mr. Choncek, you weren’t “stuck” with the money. That’s just what you lead the public to believe and they fell for it hook, line, and sinker!

  • By worthingtonman, June 6, 2012 @ 12:08 PM

    @Jorn
    I only worry about your wallet because you do. Are we to believe you champion this cause for the folks losing their homes. Give me a break. All your suggestions on this board are about protecting your wallet.
    As for my opinion on farms?I think the farmers do just fine. If they want to sell and quit planting, There are plenty more just looking for land to plant corn. I know many farmers, we live in Worthington you know. A farm is run just like any other business. If you can not run it well, then sell it and get into something you can do well. I could not tell you how many people I see with their property up for Sherrif sale for taxes. A large amount of them have good jobs, drive fancy vehicles and just don’t like to pay property taxes. Let them ride to until they have to pay. The folks I feel bad for are the seniors on fixed incomes without the means to pay them. I favor reform for them. At some point in time, most everybody in the state took advantage of a taxpayer funded education. And in my opinion a taxpayer funded education is priceless, so no matter what you end up paying back you will probably never repay your debt to society. So just because let’s say Bill does not have any kids, why is it fair for him to pay taxes? Because at some point Bill was probably educated by the system he is now funding. Again your last comment about people paying their fair share, shows nothing but arrogance and greed. I am sure if I can read you like a book, others can. If you don’t like Pennsylvania’s system, move to OHIO you work outta there so it should be convenient.

  • By JornJensen, June 6, 2012 @ 12:12 PM

    Chris_Choncek – Thank you for your public response. I’m personally not interested in one-on-one telephone discussions – I prefer information made public through the media. I like the bottom end of your response – “reduce building inventory and its associated costs and realize the savings listed above to pay for the bond.” I intentionally left the word ‘help’ out of the quote.

  • By JornJensen, June 6, 2012 @ 12:18 PM

    lucky1 – I must really annoy you, but it is good to hear from you. Are you timing my response time? What business is it of yours what I do with my time? I actually mow a lot – have a lot of grass to cut.

    If posting messages on an internet site is a waste of time, then why do you do so? From your message, it appears that you’re willing to become this internet site police-person. You’ll decide who can post what, how much and when?

    So, what are your thoughts on the Dalton Bowser article?

  • By Jerri, June 6, 2012 @ 12:40 PM

    Chris_Choncek-You come onto this board and then tell people to call you? That to me is typical of your “stealth” persona that you have been playing for way too long. It’s easy to talk to people individually. Most people don’t understand the issues enough to challenge you. You can tell them anything you want. Why don’t you just be honest? You will lie and create problems in order to get the answer that you have always wanted. A new high school. Funny, if this is so great for everyone involved, then why the secrecy? And why not close any Kittanning schools this year? They could easily fit into the other three high schools. And the savings would be more significant. After all, the projected savings for the closing of Elderton is higher due to it is to be closed first. It’s not hard to understand that the most cuts will be done at what school is closed first.

    I do want to thank you for verifying what I have said a number of times on this board. If it is true that the district is doing 40 cuts in the Elderton area (which you didn’t give cuts but you gave a $2.2 million estimate in savings), there will be very little to cut to support building a new school. Look at your figure posted above. You are estimating $1.5 to $2 million for THREE schools closing. The payments on a new school will be much more than that!

    I remember seeing you rant at board meetings rejecting figures given on closing the KJHS. But yet, you jump at the chance to close Elderton and Kittanning Township with no questions. I will have more faith in you when I see your own child on a bus for an hour or when your children go to a school where they are separated from their friends. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

    And those of us that have been following this closely know you wanted that $80 million for a new school. Your backers in the courthouse gladly helped that happen for you. I have said before and I will say it again. There needs to be a federal investigation into our county planning department, Valasek, McClister, and the current school board as well as the dynamic duo White and Pyle. If you have nothing to hide, you should welcome this investigation.

    Your voting record shows you voted on an outrageous teacher contract and against cutting 60 unnecessary positions last year because you wanted those savings only to show up to justify a new school. You even supported suing this school district that you represented. I call that selfish and a waste of taxpayer money.

    You should come on here and give us REAL answers. What are the total costs for this new high school? Quit insulting our intelligence and give us REAL NUMBERS. How much is the total cost for this new school? That includes all athletic fields (if you are temporarily using other fields then include the costs for what you are doing to those fields to accomodate more parking, etc. for the interim). That includes all infrastructure. That includes additional bus costs. That includes all costs paid to the Sherry Family Trust and Allegheny Real Estate. That includes the millions that LR Kimball and Reynolds construction received for projects that you had a part in stopping. That includes the millions the same people are making now.

    And please include a list of all new courses this school will be offering and how many additional rooms and teachers will be hired for these courses. Please include the costs of either demolishing the existing schools (including unfinished asbestos abatement costs that will need done) or the costs of maintaining those empty buildings.

    Please also include your elementary school plan. Sending the Kittanning Township Elementary kids to Lenape will cause teachers on carts again and overcrowding. Anyone can look at the building plan and use the math to calculate that. It also puts the nail in the coffin for Elderton Elementary. But then, you don’t really care about that do you?

    And what about Shannock and Dayton Elementaries?

    I have many more questions, it would be nice to at least have total costs on this new school. And then go to the public with referendum.

  • By dalereese67, June 6, 2012 @ 12:41 PM

    Jorn,

    You have some numbers, so please outline what you plan to do with them.

    While you’re at it, explain to me how you would reduce the drug problem in the area. I’m still waiting on that one.

    Apparently if you don’t have a website with numbers to regurgitate to us or someone elses writing to cite, then you don’t answer.

    Also to add to something you wrote above… You are 100% sure that people lose their homes in PA because they can’t pay property taxes? Maybe they bought a house they couldn’t afford. How many of these 10,000 had their houses paid off already? Of these 10,000 how many are in AC?

    Just another example of a statistic being used to convey what you want people to think. As they say, figures lie and liars figure.

  • By worthingtonman, June 6, 2012 @ 2:12 PM

    @Chris
    I would stay away from this board. Everyone would like to say you get a fair representation of your community and the wants, desires and opinions on this board. I can tell you that out of around 295 comments on the last two comments concerning ASD you had right around 50 commenters. It is pretty much the same 50 of us blowhards spewing on and on. The main stream of the constituents are not on here demanding answers from the board. It is well accepted that the numbers they want are not yet available in a credible form. So although at times it may seem like there are hundreds of commenters on here, there really are not. I would say out of the 50 or so commenters, about 50 % of those do the majority of the postings on here. I am one of those people and enjoy reading other comments, but it is not the grand forum folks make it out to be. It is not the place where you must answer or feel the wrath of the voters. The Majority of the voters are by far not posting here. And surely are not looking here for answers.

  • By sickofpayingforit, June 6, 2012 @ 5:11 PM

    @ Scott Star-

    Fair enough. I reread the post and agree that I did take your statement of “curricula first, and foremost” to the very extreme end of what could be read into that. I tend to agree with a good bit of what you have to say, so I wanted to challenge that statement to make sure my “radar” was still calibrated.

    Carry on!

  • By VerySpecialPerson, June 6, 2012 @ 5:21 PM

    Well, people like Jerri are the reason more of our leaders don’t respond on blogs. Let’s get out the kitchen sink and throw it at Mr. Choncek while we are at it, Jerri! Geez! Pick a topic and discuss it, don’t slam him with it. I wouldn’t blame him if he never comes back to discuss anything. You went from talking about savings and costs to a call for a federal investigation and elementary school plans.
    For one, I appreciate him at least making an attempt to clarify some issues. I would like to see the Board much more transparent. I noticed today that the new district newsletter has a artist rendering of the new campus, but I have never seen that in the Kittanning Paper or Leader Times. Why keep it hidden?
    But Mr. Choncek at least blogged a few paragraphs on some topics that would take the pages of a novel to fully explore. Let him breathe a little. Please come back, Mr. Choncek, and continue your dialogue.

  • By nonamerequired, June 6, 2012 @ 5:24 PM

    Worthingtonman, you have got to be kidding me! Blowhards? Because we worry about our taxes, education of our children and welfare of our communities? I am being one hundred percent honest when I say that when I speak to anyone, and this subject comes up it is NOT well accepted that this board can’t give us numbers. Maybe in your circle it’s fine to wait until it’s too late, but I am not ok with that route. You don’t need to make any of us taxpayer’s less important to Mr. Choncek, even if you don’t like the forum.

    And dale, Jorn isn’t a one man tax reforming, drug fighting ninja. He has ideas. Here we express ideas. What is your problem with that? Also, every year in the paper is a list of folks who struggle to pay taxes. What else do you need?

  • By sickofpayingforit, June 6, 2012 @ 6:09 PM

    @Jan and the top of the line education at any cost club-

    My kids want to go to Disneyland for vacation but I cannot afford to take them. I am thinking of knocking on every home owner’s door in this district and asking them for money so I can take them to Disneyland. Why not? Other kid’s from other areas get to go to Disneyland. Why shouldn’t my kids get to go? Well, I found out that the home owners all are already paying too much for free Kennywood trips so I will have to take my kids to the free Kennywood trip instead. Maybe the onus is on ME to manage my personal situation better to take my kids to Disneyland, if that is what I desire? Maybe I was wrong to expect every single home owner in this district to pay for my kids to go to Disneyland, when they are already paying dearly for the free Kennywood trips?

  • By nonamerequired, June 6, 2012 @ 6:15 PM

    VSP- You may not like the tone of Jerri’s posts, but you can’t deny they are questions that should be answered. Taxpayers shouldn’t be looked at as a hindrance to an agenda. Many of us have tried to pick a topic and discuss it. We are met with silence.

  • By sickofpayingforit, June 6, 2012 @ 6:16 PM

    @ Worthingtonman-

    I agree it is a smaller percentage of the total constituency that blog on here. However, this dynamic is typical in all groups, tribes, collectives, teams, etc. The smallest percentage is the leaders. The biggest percentage is the apathetic members, or silent partners, and the rest are the ones who challenge the leaders and keep them honest. A group, team, etc. could not function well, or at least very long, without all of these individual mini-groups within the larger group.

    With all of this said, I support this site and it’s ability to have the watch dogs publicly state their questions and oppositions for all to hear. Furthermore, having a politician put something in writing in this day and age of the political shell game style politics is about the most desirable thing I can possibly think of! One would hope that people who garnered official votes would have some sort of public record, jeesh. This board is about as transparent as a hood from a Ford pick up truck, and we are talking about lots and lots of money being spent.

    “Who is watching the Watchmen?”

  • By Jan, June 6, 2012 @ 6:41 PM

    Seriously Jerri- you honestly think that anyone can give you ALL of the information you are looking for now? Let me ask you this- do you know what your projected salary is going to be in 5 years? Perhaps that is not a good example to use but it shows exactly what I’m getting at. You want answers that just are not possible at this point in time. You will get answers to what the board knows at this point in time- and that is the savings to closing EHS and Kittg. Twp.
    And for the record- your beloved past board had plans for closing Kittg. Twp- so please, don’t point the finger regarding this at the new board. You people have short, short memories. It was the last board who started this mess with borrowing money to renovate dilapidated schools with low enrollment- it was the last board that spent unnecessary money for asbestos removal and it was the last board who lowered the taxes so that we could all enjoy our $50 windfall- all the while, they knew exactly what chaos they were creating and they knew it was their last grand gesture to screw up this district.
    I seriously think that if Mr. Choncek gave you every answer asked you would still not believe it or find a way to twist it into something illegal or manifested. Mr. Choncek owes you nothing- and if you want answers, as he said, get on the phone and call him or any other board member for that matter. I’m very sure that when all facts are known- the board will present it at their monthly meetings.

  • By GetSmart, June 6, 2012 @ 7:32 PM

    @ Jerri
    WOW!!! And then you wonder why board members don’t ususally post here.
    @ Chris Conchek
    I agree with Veryspecialperson. Very well stated and thanks for doing it. But, your statements will mostly be a lighting rod for more criticism from the naysayers.

  • By out&about, June 6, 2012 @ 8:13 PM

    Really Chris — people only want you to comment so they have evidence to use against you. Thanks for your comments BTW. Who really looks to a discussion board for real information. Jorn et al. need to participate in the system the way it is designed (at meetings) not in some pseudo-public chat if they really want to invoke change.

    It is curious that Elderton Parent and Jerri both mention the closing of 3 High schools. Both neglect the fact that 1 new HS is opening which modifies their critique. Are you two reading from the same script?

    Another perspective on property tax — if it cost nothing to own property then what incentive is there to make your property productive. From an agricultural perspective if I have an certain cost per acre to own property and I am not interested in farming it anymore then it makes more sense for me to sell it to someone who is going to make the land productive.

    Disagree if you must, but mowing acres of grass is the “chore” of the affluent.

  • By worthingtonman, June 6, 2012 @ 8:14 PM

    @Veryspecialperson

    You hit the nail on the head. Although Jerri’s rant sure brought the turtles head out of the shell. Sour Grapes huh Jerri…. You were voted off the island for a reason.

  • By worthingtonman, June 6, 2012 @ 8:38 PM

    @noname
    I am sorry I offended you. I guess blowhard is a bit tough, even though I included myself. I enjoy the board. I enjoy the comments. sometimes they make me laugh. sometimes they make me think. and sometimes they make me mad. My comment was only to Mr. Choncek, because I knew he would draw the rile of Jerri. It is just in my opinion that any board member opening themselves up to a anonymous chat board will lead to the full frontal attack he took. I realize he is a bright man and probably did not need my advice. But if I was in his shoes and some random person saw fit to attack my mother I would have reacted the same way. a person can come on here and throw as many dears around they want, but the truth of the matter is attacking a persons mother because of a political agenda is just nasty.

  • By billbell, June 6, 2012 @ 9:32 PM

    Ask the district energy czar to see the energy cost breakdown per building. If I recall, the Elderton complex was the second most expensive building to run in terms of pure dollars. (I think West Hills, at 2-3x the students was the most expensive.) If you factor in cost per student, it was/is far and away the most expensive to run and operate. Perhaps that’s why the district saved so much money when they closed it? It is the most expensive building on the inventory!

  • By wakeup, June 6, 2012 @ 11:12 PM

    You asked for numbers and a board member answered it the best he could but you still condemn him. You do not want renovated schools, you do not want a new school, you have no real solutions other than wanting lower taxes. You want to “right size” the district with no clue what that looks like. You do not believe the cost for the new school. You blamed the Snyders with their hand in the land deal that was proved wrong.
    Maybe it’s time you stopped to think you are why this district has the highest taxes with a “bare bones education” or state average as it has been put?

    Chris.. I commend you for the courage to put yourself out there while other board memBers communicate tthrough “friends” or hide behind screen names.

  • By JornJensen, June 6, 2012 @ 11:19 PM

    Worthingtonman – Again, we disagree. Your post of 2:12 PM, June 6 in which you give advice to Chris Choncek. You are in your own world there as you use a pseudonym on this site. Try using your real name as Mr. Choncek and I do and check the results when you’re out and about in the local communities – you’ll learn how well this site is read. I challenge you to use your real name and, while you’re at it, trim down your hatred for me a little bit, please. sickofpayingforit’s explanation to you (post 6:16 PM, June 6) explains reality quite well.

    nonamerequired – Thanks for the support – I liked the ninja thing – from my off-site commenting friends (yes, I actually do have friends), I’ll get ninja for a while. I got spaccone for a while as well as uneducated moron and know-it-all.

    I have no intent to ‘beat up’ on Chris Choncek on this site. I appreciate the information that he fronted – he’s the first and, hopefully, not the last. I also recall that he participated about a year ago. I’ve tried the school board meeting route – it goes nowhere – commenters comment before the meeting, then the meeting moves on – to other topics.

    out&about – thank you for considering me ‘affluent’ – makes me feel good. I’ll pass that one on to the president of our company, then he can feel good that he overpays me so that I can be affluent.

    Dale – You’re not going to suck me into a drug discussion on an article titled “Free” Land comes with a “Price” to ASD. Sorry.
    The numbers that Chris gave do not give me a ‘warm and fuzzy’ on savings paying down the loan – the word ‘help’ in his discussion causes me concern. $2, 3, 4 million in savings is not going to pay things down anytime soon. We’re already 5 million short for the operating budget alone, so where does the loan repayment begin?Still would like to hear who is going to swing the axe.

    To all – any questions on the 10,000 people losing their homes per year to unpaid property taxes – that’s not my number – that is a number quoted by Mr. Michael Wood, Research Director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center in testimony to the House Finance Committee regarding House Bill 1776, The Property Tax Indepndence Act. You’ll have to do an internet search for that outfit and question him. I have no interest in doing so. He’s the one that stated that 10,000 people losing homes does not justify changing the taxing method, so let him defend his position.

  • By jfullerton, June 7, 2012 @ 12:10 AM

    Jan,

    Although Jerri’s rant was a bit over the top, he/she certainly deserves answers from the board, as does everyone on here. I would agree this is not the forum, but they should be talking/sharing a bit more than they are. Why should it be the taxpayer to make the calls? A well planned press release or email blast or as in a newsletter could pass the message and make things a little clearer. After all, they are elected officials and you and I along with some other folks were very critical of the last board and some of the members who did not say anything. (John Monroe ring a bell) Cannot have it both ways.

  • By ASDpayer, June 7, 2012 @ 8:37 AM

    @Jorn
    Actually I did look up the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center testimony by Michael Wood. He says, “proponents of bill 1776 will put 10,000 people out of their homes.” He then goes on to dispute that. His whole testimony is against 1776 because it impacts seniors and the poor. He does point out that in PA we tax property at about 3percent of income. We rank about 23rd nationwide. The big gainers in eliminating property taxes are corporations. This is going nowhere so it is not germane.

  • By amazed, June 7, 2012 @ 8:46 AM

    I haven’t been on here for a long time, so it took me awhile to read all these posts. What I do not understand is why so many of you keep asking the same questions that were answered in an ASD document (Staffing/Cost Reductions Related to Secondary Education Building Options) that was linked from a neighboring county’s newspaper a few weeks ago. For example, on page 4 of the document, it states that with a “…building size of 1725 [students], there will be a combined savings for staffing of $16,420,195 over 5 years.” The document itemizes the “…reduction of staff, coaching/assistants and bussing…” needed. This does NOT include the additional savings that will be generated by the reduction of building inventory and the operational savings in utility costs.

    Instead of going back and forth with the questions, at least check this out for yourselves. Some of the answers you want are in print. Obviously these are projections, but they are based on the facts presently known, which is all that can reasonably be expected of a projection. This document also discusses other items that will impact the budget: the amount of state subsidy, the expenditures for health care, contracts, and PSERS.

  • By dalereese67, June 7, 2012 @ 9:12 AM

    Noname,

    What a stupid post. You’re right. He isn’t a one man tax reforming/drug fighting ninja. He just acts like one on here. The only problem is that none of the ideas he presents are his. He spews numbers from websites and when he gets challenged on them, he deflects to the author of the site or article.
    As for people not being able to pay their taxes… who’s to know how else they’re wasting their money. They probably have financial issues that run deeper than tax payment.

    Why is Jorn the only one allowed to challenge someone or ask questions on here?????????

  • By dalereese67, June 7, 2012 @ 9:25 AM

    Jorn,

    I’m not permitted to discuss drugs (which are far more of an issue in AC than these schools) on this thread, but you can discuss using an A-blade in Worthington and helicopters with Worthingtonman on an LED sign post article? I asked a valid question and you got your you know what’s in a twist.

    You always require people on here to look up this and that, or provide you with answers when you question them, why should you be excluded from responding to questions?

    Apparently Jorn has rules for posting on here, or what questions are allowed to be asked. Please let us all know what they are so we don’t violate them.

  • By Kittanning Lady, June 7, 2012 @ 9:31 AM

    @Jorn, I have been talking to some construction workers in our area .The question I asked was about the 52 million dollar price on the new school. IT was laughted at they said look at the contract for unforeseen costs. I asked what this meant they said it means a loophole for the construction company and the school district meaning this school will cost more “a lot more”. But, the school district(knowing full ahead what will be happening) will just reply to the taxpayers OH we had to pay more money for the school because of “unforeseen costs” . Costs they were fully aware of and are just playing us as fools .Just for instance the sewage problem that FordCity or Kittanning will not be able to accommodate the school and it will be an added 1to2or more million dollars.But, we will be told it was unforeseen,not true when they already know.Things like this will never be released to the public. The reason I addressed this to you …You seem like a highly intelligent person maybe you know of this and can give us the taxpayers some more information on this statement “UNFORESEEN COSTS.”

  • By worthingtonman, June 7, 2012 @ 10:44 AM

    @Jorn

    I like the anonymity. Gonna stay with it. I especially like people trying to guess my name. It is kinda like a game. And to be truthful with you, I don’t hate you! I don’t even know you. You just make me tired sometimes. Especially when you take to beating a dead horse, and blindly follow some of the other posters. Remember, just because someone said it on here, does not make it gospel. And no board members are gonna answer your questions on here. It just is not gonna happen. Do not judge them on blind faith. Call them up. Talk to them.

  • By Elderton Parent, June 7, 2012 @ 11:41 AM

    jfullerton, I couldn’t agree more. Short of personnel and other issues that are not legally permitted to be discussed in public, this school board should be transparent in every aspect of this school district. We, the taxpayers, are who they report to.

  • By JornJensen, June 7, 2012 @ 12:26 PM

    So, it appears that we have two distinct camps, among other distinct camps, the ‘information requesters (aka naysayers) and the ‘defenders’.
    The requesters thinking that there’s information available now but not being released, or, worse yet, no information developed and we’re just tooling along, and the defenders saying that it takes time to develop that stuff as we move along. In five years, one camp will be able to tell the other, “I told you so.”

    Wonder which way it will go?

    I’d sure like to have a level of comfort in thinking that this board knows what it is doing. The quiet is deafening. The infrastructure questions regarding drainage, roads, sewage that go along with the free land. The questions of how we’ll pay down the loan with downsizing and consolidation. On and on.

    Wonder what 5 years will show?

    wakeup – To whom are you referring in your use of the word ‘you’ in your post of 11:12 PM, June 6th? Anyone in particular or the group of information requesters (naysayers) in general?

    What does right-sizing look like? Looks like placing 5551 students in less buildings and offering a wider curriculum to those students, even with a reduced teacher count. Looks like 250 less students by 2015. We have administration that should be capable of placing those 5551 or 5301 in a well-distributed fewer groups of buildings with least-distance bussing. I don’t think that is that difficult to visualize.

  • By Jan, June 7, 2012 @ 4:04 PM

    jfullerton: I am not expecting it both ways. If I want specific answers, I contact my school board representative. While I understand your point of view- the point I am trying to make is that people are asking for things that can’t be answered yet- at least, not in a definitive manner- and this is what some people are asking for. That way, they can nail the board members if something different occurs. This board is being cautious in providing answers- not because they are attempting to blind-side people but because until voting occurs on the closure of EHS and Kittg. Twp, and the architects have all the tests/studies done for the new school, most information would be speculative rather than definitive. The board has a handle on things but are waiting until they give all of us the information we need to have. I feel confident with this…just sayin.

  • By scott_starr, June 7, 2012 @ 8:01 PM

    The board should be giving us a Best Case / Worst Case scenario…. just so we know what to expect.

  • By JornJensen, June 7, 2012 @ 8:14 PM

    Jan – Okay, not in a definitive manner – how about in generalities? Estimates? A plan? You are saying people want to ‘nail’ board members – we want to develop a level of comfort with these board members. Silence doesn’t do that. I haven’t read anyone on here that wants to ‘nail’ board members – people just want information – this involves millions of dollars. We’d like to arrive at a level of comfort that they know what the heck they’re doing.

    What is your great level of comfort (confidence) coming from? Do you know something that should comfort the rest of us?

  • By worthingtonman, June 7, 2012 @ 8:58 PM

    @jorn
    I see it differently I see those be realistic and knowing that a lot of work needs done by the administrators to give the numbers as needed. and I see those also being unrealistic and demanding figures and costs and estimates that are just not there yet. Now we had Mr. Choncek start throwing around preliminary estimates and we are talking millions of dollars. The answers will,come soon. Look at it from a business stand point. say I have a crucible failure and melt through a crucible and damage a coil. If I call Brian up is he going to quote me costs and estimates for repair, or,is he going to either pick up the coil or,have it shipped back to the company and go over it with a fine toothed comb and provide me with a Cost estimate that will provide me with Quote that is realistic? Of course he will pick it up because he is a great guy. and he will provide me the cost estimate I can feel comfortable with giving them the repair job. Give them a few months. I am sure the answers people are looking for will be there. and they will be close. 5 years from now I can not see us any worse off than we are now. Saddled with tens of millions dollars worth of debt. Buildings with very low enrollment. and buildings in disrepair.

  • By wakeup, June 7, 2012 @ 9:33 PM

    Jorn- great you make right sizing sound easy …. Lets do it! Which buildings do we keep and which do we close?

    Not so easy is it? This debate runs deep but if you think you can provide a solution instead of painting with a broad brush to “right size” with what we have you should present it.

    Please also keep in mind you will be spending substaitial dollars over the next ten years to renovate buildings that have been neglected for decades.

    We need people to help find solutions not post after post with a list of demands from aynomous bloggers. I mean really do you think an elected official that gives up their time for this district owes it to you to search you out and answer your questions. How many times have people been asked to just call a board member and they will take their time to answer your questions. I think that is going above and beyond and wonder How many of you would take that call let alone give up your time to sit on the board.

  • By wakeup, June 7, 2012 @ 9:39 PM

    BTW – jorn the second half of my post was not directed towards you. I believe you did give up your time to serve your community as a school board member and i do respect you for that. However, i do wonder if you did all the things you expect of this board during your tenure?

  • By JornJensen, June 7, 2012 @ 9:57 PM

    Dale – I’ll guess that Admin will allow you to post all you want about drugs on any topic thread on this site that you want – it is their site, their choice. Post to your heart’s content, I guess. Likewise, other people probably have a right to respond or not – that is their choice, I guess.

    Kittanning Lady – I’d be careful with my sources – construction workers? I think that you have a very valid concern with sewage – that is, any existing plants being able to handle it, not the problem of getting it there. Today’s technology in sewage piping/pumping is quite high tech. The problem is capacity once it gets where it is going. Unforseen costs equates to incomplete preparation work, but people aren’t perfect, so the question becomes, “What percent over or what amount of dollars over?” Low percent over/under is a reasonable expectation. Way off is poor preparation or intentional deceit.

    ASDpayer – What you report that Michael Wood stated is 180 degrees out of phase from what I’ve heard from Representative Jim Cox, so, who to believe? If I look at what you wrote, it is to be read that elimination of property tax and changing that over to increased sales and income tax will put 10,000 people out of their homes. How can that be? Are you saying that paying more sales tax (a choice tax) and more income tax (CAN be a choice tax) makes it so that people can’t afford to live in their property-tax-free home? I don’t understand. Sounds like a lib twist to me. I guess I’ll also have to go to Michael Wood’s site and see if I get the same out of it that you did. I CAN see that the inability to pay property taxes can force people out of their homes, but, the other way around? Sounds like a spin to me. Dale wants me to do the research anyhow.

  • By Tankster, June 7, 2012 @ 10:35 PM

    Thanks, jfullerton for your input. I am glad somebody else is getting it.

    Directing those questions to Jan is a waste of time. All you need to do is read a history of her posts. She is basically telling everybody reading this that there are no projections (which undoubtedly is a fabrication or a blatant very bad business venture by the ASD school board). She is trying to say it many times thinking that if she keeps repeating herself that it somehow becomes the truth.

    I have come to the conclusion that we are not going to get any cost savings, even estimates to projections, until the building has started.

    And Joe, you are absolutely correct, it should not be that taxpayers should be informed by making the effort to contact the school board for each and every question. I am sure the individual members would not want that.

    This board has officially become the Silent Seven.

    Jan, you can keep using your PR campaign horn to repeat the same things over and over, but you are being viewed as nothing more than a carnie crony for this board. She is trying to sell a sham a bad bag of goods to the taxpayers, but she underestimated that the taxpayers are a little smarter than she thought.

    Her posts are becoming meaningless as more and more people begin to question the details of this plan. Let me restate that this was a good plan and a good theory for this new school, but when the tough questions began being ignored and information is being withheld from the taxpayers, the issue is getting ugly, real ugly.

    In the minds of people like Jan, silence is compliance.

    Taxpayers do not let this happen; demand the answers and information you deserve. This is YOUR money!

  • By Kittanning Lady, June 8, 2012 @ 5:24 AM

    @Jorn,Thank You for your reply.I state construction workers because of the animosity of some people who blog on here .I am protecting these people who may just own their own company.There are people who read these blogs and go out of their way to find out who we are to do what ever they can to make our lives miserable. To anyone,I would rather my school board Rep call a special meeting and address the public with updates on the projects than calling them on their phone. These are elected officials so have updates on the progress so far.@Worthingtonman ,who is this Brian you are talking about?Do you know him so well as to call him by his first name?

  • By JornJensen, June 8, 2012 @ 7:20 AM

    wakeup – I realized that the 2nd half of your post did not apply to me as I do use my real name on here and because I have been a school board director. We went through a lot of ‘torture’ when we closed the West Leechburg elementary schools, and the Gilpin school. Our kids walked to the West Leechburg schools – disrupted that and put them on busses. We explained the finances to the people – we communicated – we received and put the public’s input into the plans. As with all decisions with a group called the public, you couldn’t please everyone. The Gilpin folks fought the hardest against their building closure. When we were done, all that was left was the building(s) downtown. We looked at the same thing back then – enrollment decline and the cost to keep the buildings and teachers. After a while, it all calmed down – there may still be some hate from the Gilpin folks – I don’t know. The West Leechburg schools were razed. The Gilpin school was sold to a private outfit and I see that some or most of it has been razed. Even with all of that, the Leechburg school district, hunkered down into one set of buildings, one location area, has financial troubles today, just like every other school district. The closure of the Leechburg mill, the lack of work, the growth of the illegal drug culture and so forth – that area, even with the consolidation back in those days (which let us survive a while longer) suffers just like like the ASD does today.

    You ask how to consolidate. Someone has access to the numbers. 14,000 students in 1974 – what was the population per school at that time? What is the population per those same schools today (with Worthington, East Brady and any others gone)? Which, today, are the more utilized and which are the less utilized? If either of the two closest ones (FC and Kittanning) has enough capacity for all students from both, then close one of those two schools and combine the students – that would be step number one – the bus ride for some will only be 3 miles. If I had more access to details, I could give a better recommendation. For example, of the 4 high schools to close, which one first? Elderton? What about bussing distance to another high school? West Shamokin? What about bussing distance to another building? Then you look at the two closest schools to one/another in the 3 mile town along the river – which one to close? If the Kittanning building has the capacity to take in the Ford City students, then close Ford City since it is the oldest and has structural deficiencies. Of course Ford City people will fight and argue that.

    I was willing to join the ASD board when Sara Yassam ‘walked’, but I was not willing to be interviewed by the present board. I was willing to be interviewed by a judge. Why? Because I’d be willing to swing the axe and do a downsizing/consolidation without building a new high school. I doubt that a single member of the present school board would select me to sit on this board (maybe Royce Smeltzer would) – I would not have stood a chance, not even with credentials and a resume. I’d have stood a chance with a judge. Plus, I don’t have any relatives or family members working in this school district, so there’d be no personal gain except having a voice in what I pay for public education and helping our area climb out of the rut we’re in.

    One of the things that grinds my gears the most was the clean white board brainstorming – I thought, “Wow, these people are really going to let us be involved.” One session, then it was erased and a 4 new high school plan came out. Wow! What did I miss here? I must have been napping.

  • By worthingtonman, June 8, 2012 @ 7:44 AM

    @Jorn
    If we consolidate and downsize into the best building of the lot, What to do with the 72 million dollars?

  • By JornJensen, June 8, 2012 @ 8:16 AM

    Tankster – Keep up the good fight.

    Worthington Lady – I agree with you. There are a few on here that say, “Call your individual school board member with your individual question.” Chris Choncek is included in that group that says that. So, let’s see how that works. I have a on-on-one discussion with Linda Walker about the upcoming contract. What next? How does anyone else know anything about that discussion? So, I post on here and I’m a liar – I’m attacked – I’m a know-it-all and an uneducated moron. Oh yes, I’m also arrogant. Sorry, I don’t see that system working very well. Public communication by the school board that goes out through the media is the way things should be done – even with that, there’s misinterpretation by the public. And there’s retractions by the public officials and so forth, but it is much better than one-on-one communication. Although these directors are unpaid, they still work for us, and report to us, the taxpayers. Don’t like that view school director? Then quit.

    Brian is a fellow that works for the company that I work for – Worthingtonman and I mutually know him. Worthingtonman is trying to convince me, through an industrial example, that one-on-one communications is much better than public disclosure of information through the media. Sorry, not taking the bait.

    Jan – Not doing the one-on-one calls. See my logic above. C’mon, you’re educated.

  • By wakeup, June 8, 2012 @ 10:29 AM

    Jorn- So if I read it correctly your answer to right size is to take Ford City and Kittanning 7 – 12 and put them into either Kittanning high school or Ford City? So which ever cost less to renovate is the new high school? This is the plan you support? From experience I bet you get more people that support the current new school plan to back you than those that oppose it!

    In regards to the board members, are you saying that it is now expected of board members to read and respond to blogs or that they should just hold press conferences? I may be missing something but how many past board members have done this? What about the ones that borrowed 80 million dollars?

    The way I have always seen this process work is the media reports on meetings or topics and try’s to get feedback from the elected officials through interviews. I have not seen articles in which a candidate gave a “no comment” answer to a question so I am not seeing the lack of transparency you speak of?

    It would be nice if a elected official would “blog” but come on that is not the norm and we both know that most would use it as a way to attack the board member as “Jerri” did instead of a forum to work toward solutions which may be your intent.

  • By nonamerequired, June 8, 2012 @ 11:48 AM

    Worthingtonman, that’s where the renovations come in. Noone can deny that these buildings need work. Noone. The plan of the old board was to close some, realize those savings (this new board isn’t the only board to say there are savings to be had from closing schools) and renovate others. I guess it just comes down to community schools, vs one bigger one. Why is one school, that only Ford City and Kittanning children attend, better than three smaller community schools that help our towns and children? Teachers salaries? Building maintenance? Pensions? Upkeep? Well, I guess if they were forthcoming in projected estimated savings, we could see the difference between the two choices. Have you ever started something, could be anything? A new roof, a porch, a blown engine rebuild and you realize after starting, “holy cow! This isn’t quite what I was bargaining for”. I fear that is the case now. And yes, I did hear and absorb the arguement that that happens a lot more with old buildings, and I validate that arguement.. However, at least for me and the “community people” that taken chance is better than a ghost town and a “great” new school that doesn’t help all of our children. And I use great with quotes because I am not a person who believes bigger and newer means better. I think the power of the internet alone will start to change the landscape of education in the near future.

  • By JornJensen, June 8, 2012 @ 12:35 PM

    Worthingtonman – We were down that road on this site back when we had the brief whiteboard exercise – I’ll repeat (and this is from the guy who never presents any ideas that he, himself has come up with) – use the leftover dollars from the 80 million to make needed improvements to whatever buildings were to be kept for the coming years – that means to move students around for a few years, from building to building, (like PennDOT says, Temporary Inconvenience for a Permanent Improvement) until those upgrades are accomplished, then abandon/sell/demolish those buildings that do not make the cut. Cut the workforce to fit the student population. Pay down the loan with the savings of less buildings, less staff.

    Sure, the new high school will be a wonderful thing, but don’t buy, for a second, the theory of ‘build it and they will come’ because ‘they’ won’t want to pay the property taxes of the ASD.
    But, hey, I have another idea – get rid of school property taxes and replace them with increased sales and income taxes – that way, with level taxation to pay for education across the state, maybe ‘they’ will come to the new building. Did I mention that idea before? I don’t recall. Oh, those senior moments!

  • By dalereese67, June 8, 2012 @ 1:10 PM

    Jorn is probably unsure of a phone conversation because he won’t have time to get on the internet and read some articles that will tell him how to think.

    Honestly Jorn, you only get attacked because you attack others on here. You know what they say about the squeaky wheel getting the oil (in your case the attention).

    Please do research the 10,000 home losses. I’d really like to see how many can exactly be pinpointed to property taxes. Common sense would dictate that these people were over budget in other areas of their life as well.

  • By Tankster, June 9, 2012 @ 11:48 AM

    It seems pretty clear that this ASD is divided. The different factions are pretty clear on their beliefs and agendas. Attempting to categorize these factions loosely, it seems that three distinct groups are out there:

    The Community School Group – They are willing to go through any steps or processes to keep THEIR community schools open. It does not matter the number of children who are enrolled in their community school. It does not matter the cost of money to the taxpayers to renovate the older buildings. They believe that keeping a high school open in their community is the only way to maintain a vibrant community. They do not realize that times are different now. The jobs which produced families and children are gone. The job situation in Armstrong County is beyond dismal. There is no end in sight in regards negative environment within this county. There is not even a hint of something positive occurring within this district to increase the tax base. Just as time has moved on, so did the time for community schools. It is no longer feasible.

    The Egghead Elitists – This group is comprised of people who like to take advantage of people, situations and circumstances. Since the Solakian tribe was removed from office, their main theme has been to blame everything on the old board. They like to keep the focus of the present. They are not strictly advocates of consolidation, because the majority of people who favor consolidation also oppose the views and visions. The Eggheads think that the ASD borrowing $80 million now allows them to spend without limits to build a new school or campus. The Eggheads also seem to have some type of private ties with other organizations such as the teachers union and other professionals. They try to sell the public taxpayers that they are conservatives and this is why they disagreed with the school renovations but within two or three sentences, they will say that children deserve the best education so keeping as many teaching positions as possible is a good thing despite the cost. Constructing swimming pools and new athletic stadiums and fields is somehow part of the logic of bringing business to Armstrong County. This has been unproven time and time, again, but they really want YOU to believe it. They cling onto their education and diploma as somehow knowing better than the average taxpayer, even simplest of mathematics and a little bit of business knowledge can show that they are trying to working with a hidden agenda. They are shrewd and conniving and they love to do their work behind closed doors. Transparency is not only resented by them; it is abhorred. They think that keeping silent will somehow justify their defense when districts keep increasing. They can always say, “We never said that……..” Saying it is Solak’s fault no longer works. The shovel has been passed and the Silent Seven keep digging the hole deeper. They live by the motto, “If I have to pay higher taxes then so should you, only I can afford to do that.”

    The People with Common Sense – These people are the majority of the workers, laborers and taxpayers of the ASD. They have grown tired by both of the other two sides. Most people in this group support consolidation. Most of these people are also supportive of the new location of the new school site. They realize it is time to move on from boundary lines and clinging on to school colors. With the closure of three high schools with low enrollments and housing the combined students are one roof, common sense says that expenses should be cut drastically. These cuts should include ASD staffing and teaching positions. Yes, we believe teaching positions should be cut drastically. There is no common sense and not cutting teaching positions. This is not time for the ASD to become creative in their classes offered or their scheduling just to maintain teaching positions. Staffing should be cut by at least 1/3 once this project is developed into a reality. Janitorial staffing should be cut. Cafeteria workers should be cut. Support services in the schools should be cut. If we are consolidating to cut costs and save money, then this is what should occur. The People with Common Sense are the ones who are worried by the two other factions who are out-of-control in their thinking and their managing. This group should have all the information to look over, review and dissect, if they choose, before one ounce of concrete is poured for the new building.

  • By dalereese67, June 10, 2012 @ 12:50 AM

    Tankster,

    I agree with your “people with common sense” portion of your post.

    The only thing I believe these people should consider is that they should be well aware they need to be patient so that they get the best information possible.

    Jorn,

    Nobody wants to pay the property taxes of the ASD now as it is. The taxes are high and good jobs in the area may as well be a myth. Young professionals are what AC needs, but you won’t see that anytime soon.

    Oh, and since you want to run the ASD like a business… what company takes away a steady revenue stream and replaces it with something “customers” or whoever else, can possibly avoid?

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