Wednesday, August 24, 2016

More citizen comments from the August 18 school board meeting

Residents voiced their concerns over Columbia's shared service agreement with the ELANCO School District, at last week's Columbia Borough School Board meeting.

(Part One of the coverage is HERE.)


Quinn Hartman

Resident (and former board member) Quinn Hartman
: "First of all I'd like to say I've been on the board nine and a half years and never seen this many people in the audience. I wish it was like this every meeting. When I heard about this idea of the shared superintendent, I thought man what a great concept, it solves our problems. I'm thinking this should save us fifty, sixty thousand dollars a year, so when I heard it only saves $8,000, I was disappointed. This contract that the board agreed to, can we define Garden Spot as a third party vendor?"

Attorney Michael Grab: "Well, they're a separate entity with whom we have a contract. Under certain circumstances a separate entity could be considered a third party vendor, I don't know if that would qualify under these circumstances, but there's certainly a separate and distinct legal entity from the Columbia Borough School District."

Hartman: "According to Title 65, Chapter 11, Section 1102, definition. And it states, define a "Conflict or conflict of interest as use by a public official or public employee of the authority of his or her office or any confidential information received through his or her holding public office or employment for the private pecuniary benefit of him or herself, a member of his or her immediate family, or a business in which he or she is a member of, or his/her immediate family is associated.

"Does anyone dispute that definition? I mean I'm reading right out of the (inaudible). So, if I understand the events correctly, the current director of operations was a sitting board member when we made this decision to go into this contract, is that your take?"

Grab: "Yeah, that's correct."

Hartman: "Was the position itself approved while he was sitting on the board?"

Grab: "When the statement of work was approved by this board it included provisions both for the simultaneous superintendent for Dr. Hollister and for a position called Director of Operations, so that was definitely included in the statement of work."

Hartman: "Ok, so we agree that he was sitting on the board at that time, is that what you're saying?"

Grab: "Mr. Strickler was sitting on the board at the time that the statement of work was approved by the board, now he did recuse himself from any participation in the approval of that."

Hartman: "Whether he recused himself or not, he was still there then, he was still in the know about what happened.

"When both parties were supposed to vote on it, I think there was a discussion earlier about that, delaying the vote, changing the date, why was that done?"

Dr. Robert Hollister

Superintendent Dr. Robert Hollister: "I was still checking references and I didn't get references checked in time. There were ten candidates, I interviewed five, I checked references for three and that took longer than I hoped it would, while folks got back to me from vacations, so I had to delay the hiring of the person I eventually chose."

Hartman: "So, we really didn't fulfill the contract terms. We were supposed to vote on that date, according to the contract."

Hollister: "July 18."

Hartman: "Columbia School Board didn't have any say in the delay?"

Hollister: "No."

Hartman: "Just trying to make that clear. We don't consider any of this a conflict of interest based on the definition I just read?"

Grab: "I do not."

Hartman: "You don't think its a conflict of interest?"

Grab: "A conflict of interest for whom? Are you talking about for Mr. Strickler?"

Hartman: "What I'm talking about is a sitting board member, it's pretty clear to me confidential information received through his authority of job counts as a conflict of interest. Still sitting on the board while you're making decisions count as a conflict of interest?"

Grab: "Quinn I understand what you're saying, but my understanding is that Mr. Strickler recused himself from any votes to approve a statement of work or anything to do with the director of operations, so under those circumstances he's not actively participating in that process for approval of documents, so there's certainly is no - facially any conflict of interest with regard to the approval of the statement of work, is what I would say."

Hartman: "No public employee or his or her spouse or any business, which in this case would be Garden Spot, in which the person or his or her spouse is associated shall benefit in any contract valued at $500 or more with the school district or any subcontract valued at $500 or more with any person who has been awarded a contract with a school district unless the contract has been awarded through an open and public process including prior public notice and subsequent public disclosure of all proposals considered and contracts awarded. Now, this actually comes from this board's policy manual. Now the question I have then is, was this an open and public process? Last week's meeting the board didn't have a whole lot of answers to some of the questions that were asked.

Hollister: "I didn't have an answer to every question that was asked. I don't think anyone ever did."

Hartman: "The public didn't really have a chance to discuss the information, if it's not a public process this doesn't meet the definition of this policy. Were proposals sought out? Did you check with any other school districts?"

Grab: "This is a concept that is really outside the intended structure of those kinds of statutes it's all about a standard kind of contract for contracted services this is obviously an [inaudible] of two districts trying to combine their executive, supervisory duties, so I would say that all of those strictures under these circumstances wouldn't necessarily apply. For example, you talked about ELANCO being a third party vendor under these circumstances, while you may be able to generally describe it as that, it certainly is not exclusive because it's a separate school district and so it wouldn't fall clearly into that category, so I'm saying that this is certainly a bit of a different animal, and I'm not saying that you're not raising legitimate issues for the board to consider, but it doesn't fit squarely and neatly within all of those those established parameters. I think everybody acknowledges that, even PDE, Pennsylvania Department of Education."

Hartman: "In that definition, I consider this position is rendering service to Columbia Borough School District through the third party vendor of Garden Spot. In my mind that violates the conflict of interest. You have to have the ethics, if ethics aren't there we don't belong in business. This is the last thing I want to say pretty much to the whole board is you basically gave up control of your school district for $8,000. I just disagree with how we went about this, great idea, but I disagree with $8,000, It should have been a lot more. Somehow it should have been negotiated a little more, in my opinion."

50 comments:

  1. I certainly hope Elanco school board members are reading this one. I'd be scared shitless right now as to what they've gotten themselves into. There is absolutely conflict of interest, I don't give a crap what Grab says.

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  2. Give the man a cigar!!!! Quinn nailed this!

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  3. I don't think that ELANCO thought the Columbia residents would challenge this debacle.

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  4. I encourage everyone to email the Elanco school board president with your displeasure of the current situation. Ask them to end the contract. glenn_yoder@elanco.org

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    1. Good luck! I did five days ago with no reply.

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    2. Try Jonathan Dahl, I received a reply within an hour.

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    3. Thanks, I will.

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  5. Our Columbia School Board brief is in today's paper, however it is in the local West Edition, so I'm not sure if the information contained there will be seen by the ELANCO school board.

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  6. THE ANSWER ABOUT WHY THE HIRING WAS DELAYED WAS ANSWERED IN A MANNER THAT APPEARS NOT TO BE ACCURATE OR CORRECT. LET'S ASK THE QUESTION AGAIN AT THE NEXT MEETING.

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    1. Agreed and thanks for pointing that out.

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  7. A CERTAIN PERSON TRIED TO BECOME SUPERINTENDENT 4 YEARS AGO AND WAS STOPPED ... SO IT WAS TRIED AGAIN IN A DIFFERENT MANNER. ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE LAND OF NO ETHICS A PLAN CAME TOGETHER.

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    1. A land of no ethics, LOL, good one.

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  8. This site is a piece of crap. The only truth here it that some people have a personal problem and all this crap is once again giving Columbia another black eye. How would a business want to locate here with this. This site is the worst thing for Columbia. Give it a chance.

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    1. It appears that you are belittling the thoughts and concerns of those that have served on the school board, borough council and even teachers. It appears as if YOU are the one with a personal problem.

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    2. This comment sounds as though it was written by a member of one of our local government entities. Our recent articles must have hit a nerve for your feathers to be so ruffled. We've presented the facts. If businesses don't want to locate here, it's more likely due to the political shenanigans and back door dealings than this site. You assign us far too much power, but thank you for the vote of confidence.

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    3. Once again, be fitted with Rose colored glasses and see no evil.

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    4. Um.....okay Tom (or Tom supporter). Do you realize the comments at last weeks school board meeting, by educated and credible people, are the same comments being made here? This is not personal, other than the fact that Tom pulled a slimy backdoor circumvention to get this job.

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    5. Apparently, some of the comments are true since it must have touch a sensitive nerve.Rememember, if you are an elected official, you serve 10,000 people, not a few . You must take the good comments with the bad. It is part of the job.

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    6. The mayor said that after the last meeting, that it's a personal problem one person has and they are trying to make it a community issue. The school district and resulting taxes ARE a community issue.

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    7. Leo, worry about borough business, not school board affairs. You have enough on your plate as mayor and getting involved in this fiasco is something you do not need. I think you are doing a good job as mayor.o

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    8. Huh? In the (elusive) minutes of the June 16 school board meeting, the mayor "urged (the board members) to vote for the ELANCO Administrative Services Contract. He reminded the board that change must come within, and the responsibility falls on the board."

      The mintues are here (misidentified as August 16 Regular Board Meeting Minutes: http://www.columbia.k12.pa.us/page/2757

      Could that be "a personal problem one person has and they are trying to make it a community issue?"

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    9. To the comment about the mayor doing a good job: The powers that be think this is THEIR town and tax revenue is THEIR personal money to do with what THEY please. They want no questions asked. "Good" residents don't ask questions. Anyone that does is a Columbia hater and is told to move. When is the last time anyone saw elected officials walking the streets in the southern end of town. I have lived here for decades and have yet to see this happening. They don't have a first hand clue.

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    10. Who in the heck does he think he is? Really?????

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    11. Change must come within? Good, maybe people will remember that "change is needed," in the next election.

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    12. The good people who stood to question, such as Mr. Resch, Mr. Detz, Mr. Hartman, Mr. Groome, and others including Mrs. Khronenwitter, are highly respected members of our prideful town. Why waste time attacking these good people? Your energy would be better used to inform yourself of the facts.

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  9. Where's the transparency? We are now in a contract with ELANCO, yet we cannot have a voice at their school board meetings and they cannot see our school board briefs in the newspaper. What kind of relationship is this anyway?

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    1. Mr. Hollister has inferred that he is the most transparent superintendent in the county. How can he make a statement like this? One wonders what the other superintendents think about this, coming from someone who is embroiled in what appears to be an unethical mess.

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  10. End the agreement and the problem is solved. If we concentrate effort on ending this agreement , do it professionally, maybe with outside legal advice, we reach our goal and the 2 main characters are sent packing . A group like the Concerned Citizens needs to be formed , plans need to be made , and the results will benefit all but 2 people.

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  11. Great job Quinn, It showed you did your homework, more so than Hollister and Hartman. I also agree with another commentor.if I would be on Garden Spots school board, I would be scared. The people of Columbia are speaking of being taken advantage of.The fight is just beginning. Go Tide.

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  12. I thought the school board have 90 dayes to cancel this contract

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  13. Columbia Spy post Tuesday, December 22, 2015

    School board accepts superintendent's resignation

    The Columbia School Board voted unanimously to accept the resignation of Superintendent Dr. Carol Powell at a special board meeting Tuesday night. Dr. Powell's resignation is effective at the close of the business day on Wednesday, December 23, 2015. Powell, who was present at the abbreviated meeting, wished the district well and offered a quote from Aristotle: "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit."

    Powell has accepted a position with the School District of Lancaster as Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction at a salary of $135,000 (to be pro-rated). There was no public discussion of the particulars of Dr. Powell's contract which was to run until 2017.

    The board also approved the appointment of Dr. Kenneth Klawitter as acting superintendent, effective Tuesday December 22, 2015 at 6:30 p.m., at a salary of $115,000 for the 2015-2016 school year. His salary will be prorated beginning on December 23rd. Dr. Klawitter will receive the full complement of sick, personal, and vacation days given to administrators.

    Was Carol Powell pressured to resign? Did she feel that Tom Strickler was pushing for his agenda? Ms. Powell was respected by the faculty, and showed compassion and drive for this failing school district. Contact Carol Powell at clpowell@lancaster.k12.pa.us for comment on this travesty.

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    1. I appreciate someone saying this, I've been thinking about that situation for a while now and wondered exactly that. I went to the board meeting where Powell resigned. I was not aware of anything fishy until I was sitting in the room, the tension was so apparent that I felt uncomfortable! Something was wrong with that resignation. My personal feeling is that she was pressured to leave. They had to make room for the new position, she was in the way.

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    2. When the agreement was first announced. I thought it was a good deal.But as details cameout it started to smell rotten. I say get out of the deal.Also, if Ms. Powell was forced out due to this deal and give Strickler a job,is it a reason for further investigation. Maybe it is time for the district attorney and state to get involved. Remember what is going on Manheim Township.We need the media to get involved. The LNP Sunday edition seems to eat these situations up.

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  14. Columbia Pride. Columbia people have always worked together when faced with problems such as snow storms , floods , and Confederate soldiers. This agreement and the doo are our collective problems. It is my hope that we, as proud people of Columbia, rally to fight this injustice. This is OUR TOWN. IT does not belong to 6 board members. We have a just cause and will not forced to accept this injustice. Go Tide!

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  15. What did she do that was so great for the school. Go there and see for yourself!!!!

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    1. I saw her sitting with a truck in Musser's parking lot on an extremely hot evening, collecting school supplies. Another day she was doing the same with help from a teenager. No, I was not in the office with her.

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    2. What? Now you have lowered yourself to attack someone who is not able to defend themselves. Sounds like you may either have inside knowledge, or you are misinformed, or you are one of the infamous 6 board members who helped to engineer this whole plot . Trust that you may not want Dr. Powell to speak her mind.

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  16. At least she was a certified administrator at $115,000, not a fake corporate officer!

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  17. It appears that we are being spoken down to by narcissistic Elanco spokespersons and by a strangely silent benefactor of this contract. Narcissistic people tend to believe that they are liked by 99% of the people who do not like them. If you dare to question them, they circle the wagons and take on the role of victims.

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    1. Yes, and that is evident in the answers that came toward the end of the meeting. I hope those are posted on this site.

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  18. The comments made by Kathy Hohenadel and Quinn Hartman were very well given. Much time went into the research .More so than the decision the school board did in their vote. But again, they could only vote on information they had,which seemed very little. Rescind the vote and let Hartman and Hollister wear egg on their face.

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    1. I heard that the mayor advised the board to vote in favor of the contract with ELANCO, could that be true?

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  19. I don't live in town anymore. Just follow the news. Been following the dialogue about the school board situation. I must of missed the part about Garden Spot. Wwhat was that part about with the "conflict of interest"?

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    1. It would seem that Strickler was on the board when the director of operations position was being created, which gave him an unfair advantage. Possibly helping to create the job that he ultimately got. Details are in Mr. Hartman's statements.

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  20. How many people on here have emailed any of the Elanco SB directors? PLEASE email at least one, better yet all of them. But it would also be wise to copy someone here in Columbia. Might even make sense that you copy the Columbia Spy so that he would have a copy of all of the email records. What do you think Cole?

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  21. Mr. Hollister has not earned the right to say.. GO TIDE! My guess would be that he doesn't get what GO TIDE really means to us who have pride in our town. It is not just a sports slogan. It's our belief in what is fair ,in what can be accomplished with hard work, in how we view unethical and corrupt activities and back door deals. Those of us that are sickened by this fraudulent contract have earned the right to say, GO TIDE GO!

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  22. The only one I respect in that group is Mr. Resch.

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    1. Shocking to hear that, you don't respect Mrs. Kronenwetter, a teacher?

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    2. I'm ashamed to say that I wasn't following this until Fran Resch started speaking out about it. He did a great service to all by starting to ask questions. Glad the reader respects him.

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    3. Mr. Resch asked many of the same questions and brought up similar points as the others. If it sounds better to you coming from him that's great, at least you are listening.

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