About Timothy Alexander

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Gerrymandering and Octorara Area School District Election Regions


PARKESBURG, PA — When many think of gerrymandering, it is in connection with state and federal level elections. Additionally, it is often characterized as a form of partisan politics and a way for one political party to have an unfair advantage. Yet, gerrymandering is the manipulation of election boundaries for the advantage of any group, not just political parties.  In the Octorara Area School District, some would allege that School Board officials intentionally make use of gerrymandering “cracking” to dilute the voting power of Borough of Parkesburg residents.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Parkesburg has 3,593 residents and is the largest municipality within the School District. However, Parkesburg’s voters are split between Octorara’s Region 1 and Region 3. “Until recently I assumed gerrymandering was a fact of life- I have lived Parkesburg all my adult life and knew nothing else,” states Mel Keen, a former Parkesburg Borough Councilperson.  “I think Parkesburg was split to reduce Parkesburg voter power. Now we have little say since the majority of both regions is from townships.”

The claimed impact of “cracking” Parkesburg is for the “packing” of voters from less populated communities into election regions. Regardless, gerrymandering has significant impacts on the representation received by voters in any gerrymandered district or region. Ultimately, gerrymandering’s goal is to design election regions that increase the number of wasted votes among a certain segment and drastically alter that group’s actual share of the voting population. So, by diluting Parkesburg’s voting power, some would contend that the Octorara Area School District can ignore or dismiss the Borough’s needs.

Continue reading on MyChesCo… →


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. Continue reading

Octorara: Will This Be a Transformation Year?

Octorara: Will This Be a Transformation Year?

The Octorara Area School Board’s October meetings represent the calm before the storm. As ominous as that sounds, storms most often bring with them a renewed environment and growth. Yet, there is always the possibility that heavy rains, strong winds, and pounding hail will create havoc and cause real damage. Octorara is at the beginning of a transformational year, in more ways than one. It is very important that the public stay informed and actively participate as the Board addresses each concern. Below are just a few of those issues.

The Octorara Superintendent Search

As most are aware, Dr. Newcome is not seeking a new contract and the 2017-2018 school year will be his last at Octorara. While not much information is out to the public yet, the Octorara Board is in the early stages of the Superintendent search process. Becuase of the very nature of hiring a new executive, much of it is confidential. That said, there does seem to be a commitment to keeping the public as involved and informed as possible. In order to stay up to date, please watch for information releases that will be posted to the District website and attend future Board meetings.

Diminishing Captial Funds

At October’s Facilities Committee Meeting, Jeff Curtis provided members with an update to the 10-Year Capital Plan. At this time, we are looking at funds from capital sources being exhausted within the 2019-2020 school year, and a real shortfall of almost $1 Million. This deficit may require that facility repairs and improvements be put off. Regardless, once these sources are depleted, all capital expenses will either have to be paid out of the regular budget or the District will have to add to our debt. Everyone should have known this day was coming. Mr. Curtis did take action which has extended the life of our capital sources, but he came to our District a little too late.  Continue reading

Octorara’s Financial Challenges for This and Next Year

Octorara's Financial Challenges for This and Next Year

Those who have been paying attention know that in June, the Octorara Area School Board passed a budget with full knowledge that spending was far outpacing revenue. This means the DIstrict must either take active measures this year, like not replacing retiring teachers, or make cuts in the upcoming 2018-2019 budget. The Finance Committee Meeting, held on September 18, has revealed some “new” (notice the quotes) issues that will compound the problem. So, let’s talk about some of that.

Pennsylvania’s Budgetary Woes

This is not news. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is having some serious budget and revenue issues. Octorora’s budget relies on receiving roughly $14 million from the state. However, as a consequence of the problems, around $10 million of that funding is at risk. The District has around $8 million in Reserve. So, there is a potential for the DIstrict to literally run out of money before the end of 2017-18, forcing the need for a short-term loan to keep things rolling.

How did this happen? When people hear the term Progressive, they think about left-wing types. Yet, many Republicans love to self-identify as Conservative, when they are really right-wing Progressives. What is the difference between left and right-wing Progressives? Not much. They both love large, bloated, and intrusive government. They both love to spend your money. The only difference is their priorities and the issues important to them. And, that is what we have in Harrisburg, despite the Republican legislature… a fat, bloated state government that loves to write checks they can’t pay for. Continue reading

Dr. Newcome Announces His Resignation and Retirement 

Dr. Newcome Announces His Resignation and Retirement

The Octorara Board of Directors held their Facilities, Policy, and Finance Committee Meetings, and the Regular Meeting on Monday, July 17, 2017. Eight Board members were in attendance. Anthony Falgiatore was absent.

Yes, Virginia, There is a Property Tax Increase

Last month, for the first time, I missed a Board Meeting. It was caused by an unavoidable situation. Unfortunately, it also occurred on the night of the budget and tax votes. We all know that my one “no” vote was not going to change the outcome, but it is the principle of it all.

Nevertheless, on June 19th, the Board did vote to approve the 2017-2018 General Fund Budget in the amount of $54 million. Additionally, they approved to increase property taxes in Chester County to 39.49 mills and in Lancaster County to 29.45 mills.

Newcome’s Resignation and Retirement

At last night’s meeting, the Board accepted Dr. Thomas Newcome’s resignation, for the reason of retirement, as Superintendent of the Octorara Area School District. The resignation is effective June 2018, and the District will be announcing its plans for a Superintendent search.

Now, I know there are those who will be tempted to make negative comments about Dr. Newcome’s impact and legacy. Franky, my opinion about Dr. Newcome’s time as Superintendent is well documented. Yet, no good will come from beating that drum. Collectively, we need to see this as a new chapter for Octorara that provides opportunities for growth and improvement. So, going forward, I would ask that any comments on this blog be kind when speaking about Dr. Newcome. Continue reading