October 22, 2009

Abington School Board, the Debate

I would have posted this last night, but the Phillies were a much-needed distraction. More voters and less political operatives, from both sides, might have made this event worthwhile, but again the Phillies were a distraction.

Barry Stupine wore a Phillies uniform and while we disagree on a few major issues, even I wasn't offended by what some may have thought was distasteful dress for someone in such a position, on such a stage.

Joe Dennelsbeck was obviously the focus of the debate. Not just by his incumbent opposition, but seemingly according to plan on his part. After all, one must find a way to stir things up and rattle your opponent, if you are the underdog.

Jeff Bates unfortunately took the bait and appeared less than calm, cool, or collected. His opening statement got cut short by the clock and he was noticeably shocked, spending much of the evening complaining about the rules of the debate, or the lack of enforcement thereof. It really didn't matter what else he said last night, the constant whining was an unprofessional distraction and quite frankly, surprising. Bates' reaction made Denneslbeck's "rule violations" look effective, even if it was over the top.

But it just wasn't during the debate that Bates seemed agitated. After the audience was long gone, Jeff approached me to let me know he saw the camera I was holding - like it was some kind of secret he discovered. He failed of course to realize the Abington News and Views television camera nearby which recorded much of the proceedings. Clearly, this campaign is getting to Mr. Bates.

Steve Kalinoski, for the most part, let the others squabble while trying to stay above it all. He praised the district for a few of the programs they currently run, but also pointed out his desire to see Abington do more in addressing students with special needs. But after mentioning he never wrote letters to the editor about the school board, comments which were the focus of attacks from all three incumbent members, Ray McGarry was sure to remind Kalinoski that his name was indeed on one. Typically, the lawyer pounced on the opportunity. Dennelsbeck and Kalinoski submitted a joint article in the Times Chronicle/Glenside News earlier in the campaign.

Given the flack I have leveled toward Ray McGarry over the last couple years, at least he was approachable when the debate was finished. I met his lovely wife and we had a good discussion about a few issues on my mind. One I will cover in my next post.

Adam Share is the newcomer to the township, and to the Abington political scene. He represented himself much like Kalinoski did, seeming uninterested in entering the heated debate between the others. But Share also didn't seem to have a firm grip on what the issues are in Abington; simply riding the 'we are great' train.

Brad Werden was unable to attend for personal reasons.

The incumbents want us all to feel everything is fine and dandy in the Abington School District. They have received awards from organizations they feel are official experts on school competency, they are cutting taxes this year, and they care about making sure the students are firmly aware global warming is an issue of significance.

The challengers think the school's administration is leading the agenda while the current school board follows; they say it should be the other way around. While they agree there has been tax cuts this year, they point out it came on the heels of increases totaling 38% over the last 8 years. Sadly, they also buy into the global warming hoax.

Not one of the participants knew the value of the services Dr. Amy Sichel, Abington's Superintendent, provided. When asked by an audience member what Sichel made when you combine salary, bonus, and benefits, and what the annual costs to the district will be after she retires, no one had an answer. McGarry could only estimate the salary at $240,000 plus.

While I don't think anyone would expect the challengers to know the number off the top of their head, the gentlemen who hold the office currently better know - they sign the budget every year.

It kinda proves what Dennelsbeck and Kalinoski were trying hard to point out - the current Abington School Board is not leading; they are being led.

Speaking of leaders...according to the clock in the right column of this blog, it has been 588 days and counting since the President of the United States paid his $21,000 overdue bill to the Abington Township Police Department for security provided during his two campaign stops to our town last year. A bill that McGarry, Bates and Stupine assured us would be paid.

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