Octorara Area SD: The Foxes Are Running the Hen House

Octorara Area SD: The Foxes Are Running the Hen House

You know, after five years of fighting with tax-and-spenders who are more interested in image than substance, I needed a break. Wouldn’t you? There is a lot of stress dealing with people who would place the wants of the few over the needs of the many. Yet, it did not take long for the Octorara Area School Board to fully embrace their spending ways.

At the very first voting session after the 2017 Election, the Board voted to absolve the Octorara Community Stadium Task Force of the remaining balance owed, which is roughly $2,260. Why? The fact is what I warned would happen did happen. Once the new track was in place, all enthusiasm for fundraising fell flat.

Download the December Meeting Minutes: Dec 11-17 Reg Meeting Minutes

It was, for this reason, that back during the September 2015 vote, there were Board Members (not just myself) who argued to limit the District’s liability and not move forward until the Octorara Community Stadium Task Force had cash-in-hand. Nevertheless, the Board leadership and Administration almost immediately began to work at working around that Board action.

We were told that the Octorara Community Stadium Task Force had cash-in-hand for Phase 1 when they didn’t. We were told no construction would start until the funds where available, but the Task Force did not make their very first installment until both Phase 1 and 2 were complete.

Add to all that, in September 2016, we were told that the Octorara Community Stadium Task Force was only short $10,000 to complete their obligation. Moreover, that $10,000 was caused by unforeseen costs. So, the Board (minus myself) voted to move forward on Phase 2 and complete the total project.

Now, you may think the forgiven $2,260 is not a lot of money. Yet, there are things we need to keep in mind. If, in September 2016, the Octorara Community Stadium Task Force only needed $10,000 to fulfill their obligation, why is it that the Board needed to forgive 23% of that obligation a year and a half later? Are we to believe that the Octorara Community Stadium Task Force could not raise $10,000 in 18 months after supposedly raising well over $200,000 in the roughly 24 months prior?

When we step back and look at everything in total, it is obvious that the Octorara Community Stadium Task Force was never held to the Board action. There was a hope that they eventually would raise the money, but there was a strong effort to usurp the original Board action with intentionally deceptive information. Moreover, as soon as the Board thought no one was looking, they released the Task Force of their obligation and placed the burden on taxpayers.

And, all that ranting is before we even start to talk about the 2018-19 Budget Presentation- Dec 11 2017. Who would like to talk about deficits and tax increases?

So, my question to you is… Who is watching the hen house? How much more taxes are you willing to pay to accommodate the whims of a School Board who thinks your money is their money?


8 thoughts on “Octorara Area SD: The Foxes Are Running the Hen House

  1. How many task forces do we have ? Brian and his new board members are taxing people out of there homes and for what purpose ? Our children’s test scores are getting now better . We lost one of the best principles at the beginning of last school year. We still have the highest taxes in the area . Our school are in needs of new leadership . The problem is Brian can sell hope and change but the only change we see is higher taxes .

    • To be fair, I don’t think the new ones were sworn in until January. But that isn’t to say they may have agreed with the vote.

    • At this point I think people have become complacent with the taxes and lack luster school performance (although to be fair, test scores actually came up this past year). They circled the wagons in this last election and voted in people with the same mindset towards the school as the existing school board members. You’re not going to see change when you elect people who cannot or refuse to see our districts problems.

  2. Unbelievable. The board should not even consider a tax increase this year. Octorara has the highest millage rate in Chester county. Homeowners should be really concerned because property values are declining due to the high taxes. I wouldn’t even consider buying in that school district again because of the taxes. The board should support property tax elimination through HB/SB 76 to even the playing field or just control their spending.

  3. For his entire term Tim Alexander fought, or at least tried to fight, the good fight:

    – For starters, largely through his blog, he communicated more frequently, fully, and openly than any board member had ever done, or is likely to do in the future. On each issue he stated his position clearly, and where data was available he cited it. He invited opposing views and dissenting opinion, published all, almost always replied, and treated all with respect. In contrast, against that we have the pre- and post-Tim Alexander board, from whom nary was and is heard a discouraging word, or words of any kind, unless one is stupid enough to attend board meetings. And even there, in board meetings, encouragement of open and honest communication, particularly from attendees, is essentially never the order of the day. Nay, rather the form is to discourage citizen/taxpayer input, and for Bowman and Norris to snap their fingers and have the compliant majority members of the board say ‘aye,’ or raise their hands and salute sharply, and vote the way Big Sister and Big Brother want them to vote.

    – Before he won his seat, when he was campaigning for it, Tim Alexander’s message was pretty simple: the taxes we’re paying are out of whack with the performance of our students; in terms of physical plant and amenities like i-Pads we should not necessarily be trying to keep up with the richer, ‘Jones’ school districts to our east in Chester County, but should instead marshal what resources we have and focus on basics; anything, any expenditure that cannot be directly related to improved student performance should be questioned, challenged, and if found wanting, then rejected; and that the era of spending money we don’t have on feel-good pet projects should be over.

    – Throughout his term Tim Alexander was as good as his campaign pledges. He questioned, challenged, raised the hard issues, practically begged his colleagues for their answers on how to square the circle of increasing and increasingly unaffordable taxes against measures of student performance which increasingly showed OASD was falling behind not just other school districts in Chester County, but as well behind benchmarks on the state and national levels.

    – For daring to be so realistic and forthright, some on the board then as well as some who ran and won seats in the last election, branded Tim Alexander with all kinds of epitheths: He was ‘disruptive,’ they said; he was ‘confrontational’ and even ‘combative.’ Oh my goodness! To think that a sitting board member might deign to disrupt the non-thinking cheers of the feel-good, spendthrift chorus led by Bowman and Norris, and might actually try to interject some rational thought into how the OASD was being led and where it was heading, was just too much, something not to be tolerated. Such insolence!

    – And it, Alexander’s insolence, wasn’t tolerated. From the beginning of his service on the board some long knives were out for him: among other board members; among some previous board members whose mistake-chickens were coming home to roost; among some old-guard citizens who just seemed to resent this upstart; and among plenty of parents who simply did not want to hear that all was not necessarily well here in Happy Valley. A response, some counterbalance to Alexander’s hard questions and cold facts, was needed. And it came, about a year before Tim Alexander stood for reelection.

    – Brian Norris, VP of the board, started a Facebook page. He called it ‘Friends of the OASD,’ or some such. (I don’t do Facebook or Twitter or other major social media stuff so I really can’t say for sure.) In any event, as I understand it from multiple sources, including Brian’s own mouth, the purpose of his Facebook page was to talk up the positives about the OASD. Maybe so. Or maybe that was just a screen. Maybe his real purpose was self-justifying propaganda, to offer up a forum wherein like-minded souls could sign-on to the amen, hallelujah chorus. Or just maybe (call me cynical and suspicious) Brian’s real purpose was to drum up opposition to Tim Alexander’s reelection. And if indeed that was Brian’s hidden, underlying purpose, well then I’ll give the devil his due and offer congratulations to Norris for a battle won, even if by nefarious means, insofar as Brian’s Facebook page was from its inception ‘closed,’ meaning that one could not join until after passing Brian’s own test of right thinking, and acquiescence.

    And so here we are. Tim Alexander — the lone wolf, the voice in the wilderness — is gone, probably for good. And who can blame him if he never tries again. For five years he tried with all his might to make the OASD start acting as adults rather than as children (wanting what they want here and now without regard to the future or fiscal repurcussions) and for five years there was a concerted effort to try to ignore him, marginalize him, vilify him in every way possible. From beginning to end it was all so shameful, some of dirtiest politics I’ve ever seen. Tim was attacked for once working in a tattoo parlor. He was attacked because his theological beliefs were not mainstream Christian. He was attacked in every way imaginable. And yet through it all, during his campaign and his service on the board, Tim Alexander exhibited an almost saint-like sense of equanimity, suffering the slings and blows of outrageous fortune, as well as the cheap shots from dirty dealers like Brian Norris and his know-nothing followers on the board.

    I suspect fewer than a hundred persons, maybe not even a dozen, will ever read this post. And that’s fine. I do not write for a large audience, or to try to gain an audience. I write, principally, to indict board president Lisa Bowman, her henchman board vice president Brian Norris, and their sycophants on the board, for lackadaisically overseeing the ruin of Octorara School District. And included in my indictment are all those persons who just wanted to keep their rose-colored glasses neatly perched on their noses, opting to ignore the reality just in front of their faces.

    Congratulations Parkesburg and surrounding communities. In November’s election not only was the best man ever defeated, but true toadies were elected. And if I am in any way wrong, let them, or you, prove it.

    C. Vail

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