Letter: Response to Knauss

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To The Editor:

I am writing in response to the posting Mr. Knauss wrote in his response to Victor Dupuis’ letter.  I have included direct quotes from the Citizens for Efficient Education home page – the organization launched by Mr. Knauss and Mr. Hellrung originally to defeat the referendum regarding funding of the high school renovation project a few years ago.  My replies are beneath the quoted portion of text.

“A proposal asking for 5.6% increases is not economically sustainable, not fair and not in the best interests of the community stakeholders.”

Is this a majority opinion, Mr. Knauss?   Who are you to determine what is in the best interests of community stakeholders?  And what about the best interests of the students?

“Our current compensation package is already sufficient to ATTRACT and RETAIN excellent teachers. The evidence is overwhelming. The number of resumes submitted in response to an open position posting confirms the District’s ability to ATTRACT excellent educators with the current compensation package. The response to our postings yields a significant number of applicants usually within 3 days of the initial posting. Some postings attract pools of candidates large enough to require teams of administrators to process and review the materials in a timely manner. The low turnover rate among existing teachers confirms the District’s ability to RETAIN our excellent educators with the current compensation package. We may lose teachers because of personal reasons, but few, if any, of our dedicated teachers leave for financial reasons.”

“Overwhelming evidence?”  Where are the statistics to  support this assumption/assertion?  These are tough times, Mr. Knauss, as you have correctly stated.  Sure you are going to see rapid responses to posts, but that is not proof of your assertion.  People need jobs and teaching jobs are hard to find.  As far as few teachers leaving for financial reasons, well, if your thinking and decision making prevails you may be able to claim responsibility finally for the first meaningful change in this district that could be attributed to you – the exodus of top notch teachers for those very financial reasons you espouse.

“Jeff and Keith are optimistic and determined to reach an agreement that is equitable to all parties. The School Board is very proud of the educational achievement of our students.”

Interesting  juxtaposition here, Mr. Knauss:

“Jeff & Keith are the two man leadership team who will push both sides to an equitable agreement, but the entire school board is proud.”

You either speak for Jeff & Keith, or you are designated the mouthpiece for the entire board.  Which is it?

It is revealing on many levels  that you found it necessary to write what amounts to a political attack on Vic Dupuis after learning that he is running for the open board position in East Marlborough Township.  Why?  Why should it bother you that a man who has shown a tremendous level of dedication to this community is, for some reason, still interested in trying to help our district remain strong?  One would think it would be easy with solely a rising junior to begin the process of detachment and start disengaging from his level of caring till it becomes background noise.

I would think that as one of the elected board members, you would welcome someone with perhaps a different view of things, as those differences bring balance as well as intellectual honesty to  the processes governing a school board.  And your critical tone in your response to his article, with your questioning format, is striking in its parallels to Mr. Dupuis’ letter, as he asked questions as well while addressing the positives and negatives of budget cutting.  At least he seems to be someone who is willing to look at issues from different angles as opposed to the hard line conservative stance you seem to embrace.  Maybe it’s time for you to vacate your position in favor of someone with clearer vision.

Daniel Block
E. Marlborough Township

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10 Comments

  1. UCFSD community member says:

    I would agree with Block and John for the unbiased news reported here about the problems with this board. The Daily Local does not always publish BOTH sides of the story like you do MIke. Wish you much success with this online news service for our community! AT least you give us facts and not your opinion like Chester County press does. Well done.

  2. Daniel Block says:

    I would like to voice my agreement with John regarding the excellent job Mike McGann does in offering an unbiased source of news.

  3. John says:

    I am certainly not anonymous, as Mr. Knauss implies. I used my first name. Others choose to use a variety of names to post comments as can been seen when one reviews the comment sections of the Unionville Times. While I understand Mr. Knauss chooses not to respond to the questions posed, I believe the greater good of my comments is that the community begin to ask this board difficult questions regarding their decisions. This community needs to be aware of the decisions being made and the impact of those decisions in our community’s future.
    I also extend my gratitude to Mike McGann for offering a news source that is the most fair and unbiased seen in this community in quite a long time.
    Respectfully,
    John

  4. Keith Knauss says:

    As mentioned before, I’m happy to explain and debate my position in the appropriate forum. I respond to emails, phone calls and questions at public meetings. If the Editor wants to host a forum dedicated to school district issues, I will respond. In fact, I have encouraged him to do so. If Mr. Block wants to write another letter to the editor focusing on one of the myriad topics mentioned in his posts, I will respond. However, the topic at hand is not the views of Knauss and Hellrung (we’re not up for election), but Mr. Dupuis’ candidacy and his political positions. He is asking for our vote. As a candidate for the school board I’d like to know where he stands on the issues.

    Note: John, I do not respond to anonymous posts. Please identify yourself and take responsibility for your views.

    • Mike McGann says:

      I have to say, it’s good to see the lively debate and exchange of ideas. So far, with the commenting system, we’ve managed to keep the trolling (posting of comments primarily to anger others, rather than exchange ideas or express opinions) to a minimum.

      Trolling, though, is one of my two primary concerns about adding a forum here to The Unionville Times. To run it well and to my standards — it needs to be tightly moderated, which is time consuming. That’s an issue for small operation like ours, with merely a handful of people making what you see here happen.

      The second issue, to be frank, is revenue. Many of the national advertisers that are happy to sponsor our news, sports and feature stories are no longer willing to sponsor Web forums, as most are poorly or lightly moderated, so we would need a fairly patient, local advertiser to want to sponsor such forums.

      From a technical standpoint, we could quite literally add forums tomorrow (the technical development work is done) — but without local ad support and a couple of level-headed forum moderators (in addition to myself), I think it is a feature that will have to wait until it can be properly implemented.

      • Keith Knauss says:

        Mike,

        Thanks for the update. A forum dedicated to local issues would be valuable since there is a wealth of information that could be communicated.

        For instance, Mr. Block quotes a passage from the efficienteducation website pertaining to the district’s ability to attract and retain teachers. He asks for evidence. Mr. Block is probably unaware that the passage he quoted comes directly from the UCFSD website and carries the approval of the full board. The underlying information contained therein was obtained, reviewed and approved by the district’s personnel director. http://www.ucfsd.org/nn/041411nn.pdf
        Also, Mr. Block conjectures that the district’s mailing list was used for political purposes. Not so. He is, most likely, unaware that the PA Dept of State makes the voter registration list (with addresses, phone numbers and voting history) publicly available so candidates can communicate with the electorate.
        There are many other misconception to clear up. I await correspondence from Mr. Block in the form of an email or letter to the editor.

  5. Daniel Block says:

    John, I think that the Knauss-Hellrung Coalition, as you termed it, is concerned solely with their own bank accounts. They ran an impressive and well organized campaign against the referendum to fund the renovations. Their brilliance lies within that same manipulation to which you refer. They propagated fear among taxpayers who have no children in the district in order to make it seem urgent that their goal was met; otherwise, disaster would ensue. Now we have a project that is costing more than it would have had they not so “efficiently” helped to defeat the referendum both times it was presented. Myopia knows no bounds. Thank you, John, for pointing out how the 1.4% increase in taxes would mean roughly $20/household. I wonder if Knauss will answer your questions or if he will give you his standard “willingness to meet and debate in a public forum, such as a board meeting, where the board would have the right to limit your turn to talk. I also think it is inappropriate for ANY board members to be lobbying for another member to join them. How did Rob MacPherson get all of our home addresses? I thought district mailing lists were not available for solicitation.

  6. John says:

    The Knauss/Hellrung coalition should be a concern for the Unionville District. Mr. Knauss and Mr. Hellrung lobbied to find a candidate for the opening seat on the board. This information below was taken from their own literature:
    Keith and I are endorsing Rob MacPherson. He has been our friend and supporter over the past several years and we would love to work with him on the school board. Vic Dupuis opposed us in the 2009 election. Although he is a sharp and personable individual, we don’t think he brings the qualities needed to make the tough decisions that will be required over the next few years. Vic is well networked in our district, however, so please show up on May 17 and make your vote count
    for Rob.

    Clearly, evidence that they do not want someone who would bring a different approach and talents.

    School board members who lash out at concerned citizens are inappropriate. At no point has Mr Dupuis stooped to this type of behavior. A letter to the editor does not require him to state his platform, he has been doing that in a upright, professional manner such as the Meet the Candidates forum.

    Citing national statistics regarding the economic conditions of the country while ignoring the economic statistics of this area is clearly manipulative. While it is clear that some members of this community have struggled, the current 2010 census data does not support the claims of Mr. Knauss, Mr Hellrung, and Dr. Price. Going to a 1.4% increase in taxes amounts to $20.00 per household. Maintaining a premier school district, maintaining a strong housing market and values, maintaining a supportive community is what the district needs.

    The community needs to be asking the board members questions like,

    ‘How will these budget cuts, staffing cuts, and other decisions affect the district’s ability to maintain an excellent school system?

    How will taking only a 1% increase in taxes affect the value of homes? People move here because of the district.

    Why did this board not consider applying for exceptions?

    Does only taking a 1% increase prevent the board’s ability to appropriately tax in the future?

  7. Daniel Block says:

    No, Mr. Knauss, not your political stance re: teacher pay, recruitment & retention. Your website home page is not stating a political stance. Your text implies some knowledge of statistics you did not make available while asserting your opinion about retention and recruitment. As for pay and fairness of pay raises, while it may come from your political leanings, my issue is with your taking the position of determining and focusing on what is fair to stakeholders while I was asking about what is fair to students. How long has it been since you had a student in the district? As for your asking Mr. Dupuis the “tough questions,” it seems like you took the easy way out by choosing not to answer the pressing ones I asked about your attitude toward having someone with a different perspective than yours sitting on the board with you. But I expected that.

  8. Keith Knauss says:

    Mr. Block seems to have two major topics in his letter the editor. In one topic he takes issue with my political stance in regards to teacher pay, recruitment and retention. In the other topic he takes issue with my questions in regards to Mr. Dupuis’ political positions. I’m very willing to debate the former topic, but let’s leave that for a future discussion.

    As for the latter topic, Mr. Dupuis did a good job of identifying several of the difficult issues facing the school board and community. But, it is highly relevant, in fact essential, to ask a political candidate where he or she stands on those issues. l make no apologies for asking tough questions in a direct manner.

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