Spring-Ford/GSK Settle, Title IX/Security Issues Raised
The ongoing litigation between GlaxoSmithKline and Spring-Ford Area School District is finally coming to a close.
The Spring-Ford Area School District board of education met for a workshop meeting on Monday night and discussed some important issues surrounding the district, including Title IX, the GlaxoSmithKline case, property and finances, as well as the new janitorial service, Jani-King.
Solicitor Marc Davis gave his report toward the end of the meeting, highlighting both Title IX and the GSK case.
Davis reported that Spring-Ford and GSK settled recently. The settlement's terms reveal a reduction of assessed value of the property in question to $47,750,000, forcing the district to refund $6.5 million in back taxes.
"It’s at best devastating," he said. "The district is getting no hometown discount or breaks from SmithKline."
He also went over an agenda item concerning the school's compliance with Title IX. Davis revealed that an "anonymous source" outside of the district made a complaint over a year ago about the school's facilities in relation to Title IX. The agreement that the school has come to, in a nutshell, states that the schools would make certain timelines in providing information to the governing body (Office of Civil Rights) to prove compliance with Title IX.
Davis said both the GSK settlement and Title IX would be discussed further and be asked for motions at the Oct. 24 meeting.
Board vice president Tom DiBello also gave extensive reports on finances and property, including the 9th Grade Center's tennis court renovations and the request for a new sound system at Coach McNelly Stadium.
DiBello and director or planning, operations and facilities Bruce Cooper confirmed the sound system has been in use for about 20 years and that the work to fix it would be done in-house. Approximate costs ranged from $15-20 thousand.
Another concern brought to the table was the lighting at the tennis court. According to DiBello, while the property committee recommends the fencing be replaced at a cost of $19,000, they have deferred to the board on the lights. According to Cooper's estimations, replacing the lighting at the 9th Grade Center's tennis courts would cost between $60 and 70 thousand.
The board was pretty unanimous on not fixing the lights, as the courts would not be used at night for student use, but did all agree that the rotting fencing needs to be fixed.
"That's more money than the curriculum committee got for the school district's books," said board member Julie Mullin. "We got $50,000 for books."
Board member Mark Dehnert asked if the Pottstown Health and Wellness Association would be a good idea to solicit a grant for the replacement. The rest of the board seemed happy with the idea of researching that. Cooper and athletic director Mickey McDaniel are currently looking into those avenues. The board decided to wait to hear back from them before making a decision.
Cooper also gave a presentation on Jani-King and the work they do in the schools. He reported that the service does general cleaning throughout the building, and while there were originally kinks to be worked out, the service is working out to expectations.
Public commenter Kathy Bryant of Upper Providence raised concerns over the clearances for second shift workers to be in the building, but Cooper guaranteed those men and women were being monitored and had the proper clearances. The discussion added fuel to the fire of an ongoing security concern with parents in the district.
"Isn't there irony in the fact that you need to be cleared to enter the White House to clean the floors when no kids are in the building at night?" Mullin said. "But, complete strangers can be running on the track not two feet away from our second graders without any clearance at all."
Mullin raised the same concerns earlier when a short discussion rose about the proposed changes to the use of facilities policy. The policy committee is recommending that school facilities, including the gym, track, and tennis courts can be used by the general public during school hours with proper clearances.
She and board member Bernard Pettit resonated the fact that the policy should remain the way it has always been - no use of school facilities during school hours.
"Has anyone considered the thought of the added burden put on the teachers and school aides on elementary palygrounds?" said Mullin. "Not only do they have to watch over 100s of kids, but they also have to walk up to these poeple and send them inside for clearances. And when we say facilities, we're not only including the track. We also include the library, the gym and everything else that's considered taxpayer property, too."
Finally, DiBello reported that the school has seen $76,000 in energy savings since the beginning of the year and that the school is looking into complying with a new state law coming into effect that would mandate all school cafeterias having accessible drinking fountains.
DiBello said Cooper is looking into the exact meaning of that, but the potential schools affected would be the high school, Brooke Elementary, Royersford Elementary, Evans Elementary, Limerick Elementary and Upper Providence Elementary.