Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Mess Grows Larger, Deeper

So the school board unanimously rejected all the bids. They are to be congratulated for seeing the light.

Unfortunately, some still do not see the light as they should.

We must pick up where we left off in yesterday's entry by discussing the now infamous and apparently quite mysterious front page "quasi-editorial" in the Gettysburg Times.

When you write a letter to the editor the newspaper staff calls to confirm that you wrote it. Since this was something of a similar item, though way over editor BJ Small's 400-word limit, and unsigned, some now claim it was a press release.

But that is where the competence or the honesty, or both, ends.

No one seems to know who wrote the piece. Everyone is denying they wrote it. Tom Ford claims he did not write it, nor did any of his staff from the newspaper. Well, then, that means it wasn't an editorial. Dr. Hall, the Superintendant and one of his staff, the Communications Director [from whom such things should emanate] did not write it according to the good Doctor.

We are absolutely shocked that the Gettysburg Times would print an unattributed article, with no authorship or sources, at all, let alone as a front page news article.

At best, this was disasterously poor decision-making on the part of the edtors and operators of the Times. At worst, it was blatant pandering by the Times to push the agenda of Mr. Ford. Sadly, while the piece claims to deal with misconceptions about the stadium project, it put a few out itself, as we detailed in yesterday's entry. So it is obvious that no one at the Times vetted the piece for accuracy, and Small [perhaps at the orders of Mr. Ford] likley approved not only running the piece, but placing it on the front page as a news story. This is not the first time he has done this.

These are very dark and shameful days for the Gettysburg Times.

We raise this issue also: there appears to be much blurring of lines between the GASD Administration and the Gettysburg Education Foundation. Click around on either's website and you can see that they are all on the same server. Why are the taxpayers funding webspace on the school district's computer system for the Gettysburg Area Educational Foundation, which is a non-profit Corporation formed to raise money ostensibly to further the education of the children of the school district?

Is this not a conflict of interest and an unnecessary expense to taxpayers?

Further, we see a blurring of the lines in terms of who is calling the shots on the stadium project: is it Superintendant Hall, Foundation President Tom Ford, or the President of the School Board, Patricia Symmes [who has been mostly missing from all this]?

Frankly it seems Tom Ford has been doing most of the front work on this project. As president of the Foundation, he has absolutely no say over District activities. The Foundation may raise money for the school district but it certain may NOT tell the school district how to spend it, nor should the Foundation have any role in determining what their money is raised for! For example, they apparently have separate funds for different projects, one for the Stadium that raised $269,000 and one for the Academic Programs that anyone may donate to, which spreads several hundred dollars a year to worthy students and teachers, presented by check at, of course, a Warrior Football game! Get the picture here?

How many school boards do we need? Obviously, Mr. Ford, and the two docors and the lawyer on the board of the Foundation have overstepped their bounds and authority.

Now, about that stadium...there is an area no one is addressing: wetlands. The design as promulgated by the School District runs right up to and in some cases over wetlands on the school property. Obviously, this is unacceptable.

Wetlands are protected by Federal and State laws and should be protected by Straban Township Ordinances. The site of the proposed stadium would damage the wetlands. For example, the construction of the facilities would have two adverse effects on the water table of the wetland: the construction would lower the existing water table and would introduce chemicals [via herbicides or chemicals used to treat the fields, and run off from parking and driveways that encroach into and over the wetlands] into the water table that are toxic, and could destroy the ecosystem in the wetlands. These are both Federal and state no-nos.

Straban is not the only township to completely ignore state and federal environmental regulations. Cumberland does it as well. No surprise there, like Straban, Cumberland is hell bent on paving itself over. Environmental impact studies are not in their agenda, yet every single decision they make in those townships, and other townships, directly affects the environment in a negative way. Increased burdens are put on the local water supply every time they approve a new dwelling or building for construction, and it extends farther than that. Everything done in Adams Count affects the Chespeake Bay watershed, so all the toxins we inject into our water supply here eventually go downstream, via Antietam Creek for the most part, and into the Potomac River, an enormous contributor of water to the Chesapeake Bay. And those toxins kill shellfish --- clams, oysters, and crabs for the most part. That is another Federal no-no.

Here is a section of school property that the Biology teachers should be using as a natural laboratory, using it for study of the flora and fauna that exist there, and how they are affected by the environment, and the role each denizen of the wetlands plays in the natural cycle of life. Where were the Biology teachers when this plan was drawn up? Where have they been since?

Once again we call for the resignation of the Superintendant, the President of the School Board [for not controlling things that are very much within her purview], and the resignation of the board of directors of the Foundation completely from that Foundation. The "Gang of Five" who brought this all on should also resign from the School Board immediately. They have done a grave disservice to the taxpayers, the citizens, the teachers and students they represent. They have, along with the Foundation, possibly committed criminal acts in exerting undue influence in the misuse of funds from the Foundation. We hope the Distirct Attorney will take a long hard look at the actions of these people. What they have done, as a group, is to conspire in the misues of funds, allowed a private non-profit corporation to usurp the power and authority of the School Board, and they need to pay the price.

There are a lot of guilty parties to this shameful episode in the misuse of power by a local governmental plutocracy.

If charges do not arise from this, then we have no justice in Adams County.


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Anonymous said...

The front page news article in the Gettysburg Times was clearly propaganda for the Gettysburg School District and belonged on the Opinion page.

I cannot believe that the management at the Gettysburg Times tried to disguise that as a news article.