Wallingford-Swarthmore School Board
By Katie Crawford
The Greek philosopher Heraclitus’ words, “Nothing endures but change,” seem particular appropriate when describing the June 12 meeting of the Wallingford-Swarthmore School Board.
The Wallingford-Swarthmore School District bade farewell to 12 retirees, six of whom were present at the board meeting for recognition. As a combined unit, they gave 289 years of service.
During his remarks, Ferg Abbott, director of Human Resources, shared personal stories for each individual present.
Friedrich Brunsberg retires after 15 years as a bus aide. Mr. Abbott quoted one of his references who described Brunsberg as having, “all the qualities of a Boy Scout.” Shoshanna Gottlieb retires after 16 years in the district, most recently as a science teacher at the middle school. After receiving her Ph.D. in genetics from the University of Chicago and completing postdoctoral studies and research work at Mass General and CHOP, Dr. Gottlieb realized her passion was teaching and received her teaching certificate from St. Joseph’s University. Under her guidance, countless middle school Science Olympiad teams made it to states.
Nether Providence Elementary School says goodbye to Scott Kiehner, who leaves the district after 30 years. Mr. Abbott noted that under Mr. Kiehner, the music program not only blossomed, but grew exponentially. SRS reading specialist Jeanette Lynch is retiring also after 30 years in the district, having served in a variety of capacities across district schools. Ms. Lynch may now find more time to pursue her other passion, professional singing. Mary Reindorp is retiring after 31 years in the district, most recently as a middle school Language Arts teacher. She first worked in the district in a half-position as an ESL teacher and a half-position as the teacher in charge of what was then called the Word Processing Lab, cutting edge district technology at the time.
Ellen Green is the retiree of longest tenure, with 41 years spread among work as a special education teacher at the high school and middle school, and as a guidance counselor. Mr. Abbott referenced a supervisor’s comment about how Ms. Green “worked well with the new 6th Grade Dean of Students and has helped to mentor him as to the ways of the 6th grade.” The 6th grade Dean of Students at the time was Ferg Abbott himself.
Board Member Ballas Will Resign
School board member Jerry Ballas informed the board of his decision to resign pending the sale of his home and his relocation outside of Region Two. Solicitor Kyle Berman briefed the board on their obligations for filling this vacancy. The board has 30 days from the effective day of resignation to appoint an individual to this position. The resulting term will only span several months, since Mr. Ballas’ seat was already up for grabs in the upcoming election. Qualified candidates must be at least 18 years of age and have to have lived in the district for at least a year.
Mr. Berman also informed the board that they have complete control over creating the procedures for selection. After a brief discussion, mindful of both the need to act quickly as well as the potential for partisan influence given the pending election, the board unanimously decided to solicit applications from the general public. The applicants will then be narrowed down to two individuals who will be called for interviews before the board. In addition, the board also unanimously decided that no current candidates for school board will be considered.
Interested applicants should submit a brief resumé and an explanation of why they would like to serve, to the board secretary by June 22 at 12 noon. There is a strong preference for electronic submissions.
Final Budget Approved
The board also approved the Final General Fund Budget for 2017-2018. Martha Kew, business administrator, again highlighted the devastating effect of the district’s state mandated payments to the Pennsylvania State Employees Retirement System (PSERS). According to Kew, the Pension Reform Bill recently signed by Governor Tom Wolf in Harrisburg will offer no relief to the district until the 2030s. In the short term, the district’s burden will increase. State Representative Leanne Krueger Braneky voted against the bill. The rate that the district pays into this fund has increased 581.4% in the past nine years. Kew emphasized to the board and to the public that, “Pension is the single largest driver of our budget and the school district has no control over it.” Board member Paul Schregel summed up the prevailing sentiment in the room stating, “It’s a sad situation.”
Principal Dr. Angela Tuck, Roberta Shapiro, media specialist, and Linda Gillespie, gifted teacher, all of SRS, spoke to the board about the presence of STEAM education throughout the school. Science, engineering, art (a new focus), and math are explored through a design process which encourages students to Ask, Imagine, Improve, Plan, and Create. This approach to learning is encouraged across disciplines. Shapiro praised the hands on, cooperative learning that results, stating, “Failure is expected, and a necessary part of the process.”
The design process was also implemented when 5th grade students and teachers created their 5th grade play this year, as well as by students in the gifted program. In addition, Mrs. Shapiro has created makers spaces in the library where students can come after school to get their “creative juices flowing.” The team is also always looking for more opportunities to incorporate STEAM education and the design process into the regular education program as well.