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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 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 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 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 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 , , , , and .

Bruce Bailey October 19, 2011 at 08:08 PM
Would it be possible to get some clarification from Marc Davis or someone else on the School Board: Back in March, when S-F and GSK remained "far apart" in their settlement discussions, the Board was assessing GSK's property at $95 million, while GSK claimed its current value was $45 million. And now they settle at $47 million? In six months of talking, we could only get them to nudge up by $2 million? Or, looked at another way, Spring-Ford gave up 96% of the difference? I hope that the Board is asking some hard questions about how these negotiations were conducted and why the taxpayers were so poorly represented.
Concerned citizen October 20, 2011 at 11:58 AM
Well said, Bruce! Especially since us taxpayers now bear the burden of Smith-Kline's tax break.
Barby October 20, 2011 at 01:03 PM
Jani-King is NOT doing a good job and whomever determined that has had the wool pulled over their eyes! Almost $40,000 being spent on the athletic facilities meanwhile the assistants were removed from all the libraries which now are closed to individual students when the librarians are teaching or on duty elsewhere. I thought our main responsibility was to educate and instill a love of learning not improve athletic prowess. It long overdue to get the district's priorities straight.
John Marinatto October 20, 2011 at 02:26 PM
As of now Jani-King does not have ID badges . They do not wear any clothing that identifies them. Maybe they should tell them to stop smoking cigarettes on school property before they are allowed in the building. Cigarettes butts can be found all over some of the parking lots near student entrances. There are kids still around after practices when they are in the building. Our buildings are a dump, and OUR janitors are now trying to clean up their (JANI-KING'S) screw-ups, which are too many to keep track of... If they are so great, why do we have to send our people (custodians) to check up on them and FIX their screwups? How much $$ are we going to save...I mean lose by the end of the year? More importantly time is being wasted at board meetings talking about this, rather than improving the quality of the distirct for our students. It's time to think outside of the box to improve our district and become innovative! In other words...... this scenario involving Jani-King is just another example of trying to dig out of a hole that is deepening, rather than being pro-active and filling the hole! This district has so much potential, even with the reasssessments, it is about time the board is proactive with all stakeholders. A community survey is a good start, but what about face to face conversation with a consortuim of stakeholders that would PRODUCE RESULTS AND A WELL THOUGHT OUT PLAN...Rather than just having only a townhall complaint session.......
jackaroe October 20, 2011 at 02:31 PM
GSK has more than enough money. always the middle class toting the financial weight so the CEOs can get their raise next year. I agree with Bruce, I sincerely hope the district did everything they could to make GSK pay what was fair.
Cooper October 20, 2011 at 04:01 PM
This is awful, shame on GSK. A couple of comments, no one should ever be allowed on school property except for treachers, students and approved personnel during school hours. With regard to Jani-King, they are awful on so many levels. I am familiar with them and they do not check employees as they should, they hire criminals. They do not have any regard or respect for the property they are suppose to handle and I am so upset that they are on school grounds. In the end this is never a better alternative financially. Teachers make sure you keep an inventory of the items you have unlocked.
Bruce Wienckowski October 20, 2011 at 05:26 PM
Before you start attacking GSK, all circumstances around this should be questioned. Who did the assessment for GSK? Who did the assessment for the township/school district? Why were these assessments "so far apart"? I know I do not know the particulars around this but the township was only returning 6.5 million dollars and now it sounds like they will be returning less. Instead of attacking "big business" just because they are big business, both sides of the story needs to be heard. All I see are a bunch of people who want to throw blame on an easy target. It seems that there is a lot of fault to go around, especially if someone budgeted the income from the GSK property improperly. As far as I am concerned, the jury is out and I'd like to know if any of our township/school district leaders are at fault. At least these we can vote out of office and have some control over the outcome. So please, until we all know the entire story, we should not judge either side. More information is needed in order to determine what really happened. There is definitely not enough information in this article to make any of these determinations.
Bruce Bailey October 20, 2011 at 06:14 PM
My original comment in no way questioned GSK. GSK did what any for-profit, publicly held corporation must do - try to maximize return for its shareholders. My point - similar, I think, to what Bruce W. says above - is that S-F taxpayers are owed an explanation about this outcome. How many hours of Fox Rothschild time did we pay for over the past six months of negotiating and what did we get for it? I would be happy to be wrong, but it seems like we didn't get much at all.
Concerned citizen October 21, 2011 at 09:59 PM
Someone benefitted from hiring Jani-King. Jani-King has local ownership/management based out of Eagleville, PA. Some person bought that franchise and is benefiting from the school district contract. There has to be a connection between them and someone on the board. No info. was ever provided on the local ownership/manager. WHO IS IT ANYWAY? That is the question. As for GSK, they aren't even US owned....they're British owned. And they screwed their own people taxwise too (link attached) : http://truthman30.wordpress.com/2011/07/20/ And how many jobs did they cut when they assimilated Wyeth? Another example of corporate greed at the expense of Joe taxpayer.
Bruce Wienckowski October 21, 2011 at 11:43 PM
Hi Concerned Citizen - Once again, get your story straight. Pfizer purchased Wyeth, not GSK. All companies are being affected by this economy. My wife has worked for GSK for 22 years and is losing her job at the end of this year. Even with this disappointment, I am not going to accuse GSK of any wrongdoing. Making uninformed and emotional charged accusations is not the way to handle any situation. And, by the way, any savings that they do incur, actually helps to keep jobs in the area. They honestly have cut back so much, that GSK employees are doing the work of 2 or even 3 people. Honestly, instead of attacking businesses that actually do provide job opportunities, maybe you should actually figure out a way to keep them in the area so that unemployment doesn't get worse. Instead of making things up in a public forum, how about trying to get informed?

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