Last week when I attended my first meeting of the Chestnut Hill Community Association Board of Directors, I was taken back when I saw the tables arranged in a perfect, closed square so all the board members were facing each other. This arrangement meant any community members were seated outside this seemingly insular group – with the backs of a quarter of the board members turned rudely to the community. This closed seating arrangement – causing disembodied voices; making eye contact impossible – made me uncomfortable.
I was at the meeting, with signatures of 72 neighbors who had concerns about an issue that was on the evening’s agenda.
My discomfort heightened – even before the meeting was called to order – when the president of the board announced that he was going to strictly limit discussion of neighbors’ concerns to no more than three speakers; two minutes each (his executive order was later overturned by one courageous board member who made a motion to overrule Mr. President’s decree and let neighbors be heard).
But Mr. President had certainly set the mood of the meeting. I felt Mr. President and some board members didn’t want to entertain my neighbors’ concerns. When I finally had a chance to address the board I was interrupted, challenged and even scolded for raising concerns that Mr. President and some board members had apparently decided didn’t matter. It became clear the rudeness I perceived was not felt by me alone when one board member formally apologized to me and to my neighbors for the behavior of the board.
That evening, I found myself embarrassed by squabbling among board members, by the symbolic alienation of the board from members of the community and by the rudeness of some individual board members. I feel it might be appropriate for the board to seriously consider removing the word “Community” from the Chestnut Hill Association’s name.
The most important fact concerning the Board’s consideration last Thursday of the application for a variance for a dialysis center is this: At the meeting and very much a part of the minutes, I personally secured from the executive from Fresenius the absolute commitment that if ever they were to wish to add on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays a third shift beginning at 3:30 p.m., they would first come back to the CHCA, which would convene a public meeting duly noticed in order to ascertain the neighbors’ then wishes.
That is of course extremely unlikely in light of the fact that for more than 30 years Fresenius has never had such a shift.
I trust this will essentially satisfy the neighbors’ concerns. It is our desire always to give weight to the neighbors’ legitimate interests.
Walter J. Sullivan
Bravo for Cadwalader
I heartily applaud the recommendations made by Gardner Cadwalader in his Commentary [“First things first — a call for common sense,” May 27]. City Council and the Mayor should be required to examine each of his recommendations and also be required to explain why each one should or should not be implemented – in detail.
The matter of financing the public school system also needs to be addressed. How, indeed, can one justify spending $3.2 billion to run a school system that reaches 200,000 children while the city spends $3.8 billion to service a city of 1.45 million citizens?
If the residents of Chestnut Hill are as influential as many think, this is the time for them to take up the challenge and influence the needed solutions. If they don’t, who will? You can be sure that the city won’t. Productivity, efficiency and modernizing the government are anathema to the political world.
Karl H. Spaeth
Re: Gardner Cadwalader’s piece last week: Awesome commentary! Thanks for posting this tour de force of common sense.
There is definitely not enough common sense applied in this bizarro city. More please.
Cadwalader wrong to blame teachers
In two recent commentaries, Gardner A. Cadwalader lays too much blame on the teachers of the Philadelphia school district for the district’s problems.
He took issue with the amount teachers are paid and the incorrect notion that they are paid for months when they are not working.
Some teachers are not as competent as others, just as with any profession. Some teachers miss too much work, just like any other profession. But most are dedicated, caring and hardworking. Most teachers spend their own money (average $623 per year) to equip their classrooms with what the children need and the district cannot provide.
Mr. Cadwalader, how often have you been inside a Philadelphia public school? Have you volunteered your time: tutoring a student, cleaning up a playground? You write about “cutting the massive budget,” yet give no solutions.
There are many problems with the Philadelphia School District. Many people in this community are working to make this system better. The answer is more people working harder, not verbal attacks on the people doing the valuable job of educating our children.
The Schoolhouse in Flourtown history [“Popular owner of the Schoolhouse in Flourtown retires,” May 20] omits the early beginnings of the nursery school, which I know well. Ms. Dewees and Ms. Morgan built their lovely apartment spaces in the old school building while continuing to teach at the district’s alternative school.
Based on mutual trust, the women gave me carte blanche to begin the Nursery School. I held a master’s degree in early childhood education from Beaver College and was eager to create the ideal environment for educating young children with a full day/school year and summer program.
I began teaching a handful of children until, with increasing enrollment, my duties became those of executive director (paying myself a minimal salary). I interviewed parents, enrolled children, hired qualified teachers and managed the financial aspects of a growing endeavor. Classrooms opened for 3-year-olds, 4-year-olds and pre-kindergarten children. We fulfilled the necessary requirements and became a licensed kindergarten.
“The Schoolhouse in Flourtown” is the name I created, still visible as a signboard. Friends published an informational brochure and I submitted frequent news articles to keep our programs visible. Parents and teachers trusted this untried new venture and after seven years, when Ms. Dewees chose to retire from the public school system, the enrollment had reached 82 children with a waiting list, and no encumbering debts.
Beverly S. Gast
Not my letter
I did not write the letter in the May 27, 2010 edition of the Chestnut Hill Local entitled “ Moving on is not so easy” and allegedly signed by me.
I do not know who wrote the letter, and honestly know very little about the issues surrounding the opening or closing of the Good Food Market.
I do not know the people named in the letter or their opinions about this issue, and therefore could not make the statements printed in that letter.