Public input wanted on District’s Task Force on Facilities

Note: Sorry to be kind of quiet lately. I’ve been “snowed under” with school work. Should be coming up for air again in a couple of days! SR

Last spring School Board President Rick Huss announced the formation of the Board President’s Task Force on Facilities and appointed James Bush to lead the effort. The mission of the Task Force is to visit, collect data and analyze all of the Pottstown School District’s facilities, including the Annex and Administration Building, without preconceptions, in order to make informed, educationally-sound and fiscally-responsible recommendations to the School Board about the future of the elementary schools.

So far, the Task Force has visited all the elementary schools. Last Monday night (Jan. 24th) I had the opportunity to tour the high school and learn more about the Task Force and how they’re approaching their mission.

First, the Task Force itself is a large and diverse group. Second, they’ve got very big binders filled with details and reports about the capacity, weaknesses and costs of each building in the district. I regret not having made it to any of the elementary schools, but all of the agendas, meeting summaries and some reports are available here on the District’s website. Third, I learned that Pottstown has a really amazing high school. The building is light, clean and modern, having been updated and expanded in 2001. Its diverse programming prepares students along the whole educational continuum with life skills, technical and academic training that will get them to the next level that’s appropriate for them.

One really interesting aspect of the high school’s physical plant is that Pottstown Community TV uses 4,800 square feet of space there and pays $1,000/month to the School District to do so. PCTV is owned and operated by the Borough through a contract with Mark Pollock. The lease arrangement is a pretty sweet deal compared to the going rates for commercial/ retail space on High Street or in the region. While this local programming is certainly a benefit to Pottstown and the larger region that it reaches, PCTV’s activities are completely separate from the high school’s operations. From what we were told on the tour, PCTV does not benefit any students, involve any students, or have anything to do with the educational mission of the District. On the one hand, regardless of where PCTV is located, at this time it is a taxpayer-subsidized operation, whose current contract was a sticking point in Borough Council’s recent budget talks. One might ask, “Does it really matter if it’s coming from Borough taxes or School taxes?” On the other hand, now is the time to re-think its location in a school, where the educational mandate is clear and every option for cost savings must be considered.

It was stated at the meeting that the District currently uses a total of 12,534 square feet for administration. I would expect that the possible availability of 4,800 square feet for administration or the re-configuring of students/classrooms would be on the table in discussions this spring.

The President’s Task Force on Facilities meetings are open to anyone and allow for public comment and questions. The next one is on February 7th at the Middle School. I urge everyone to get out to the meetings that will continue through the spring and to get up to speed on what has already been reviewed, so that there will be a critical mass of informed citizens ready to take part in the discussions that are on the horizon. No less than the quality education of Pottstown’s youth and the financial future of the town are at stake.~

Feb. 2, 2011. Please note this comment and clarification received from Superintendent Dr. Reed Lindley:

“Seems that the statment “involves no students, not connected to the educational mission,” is somewhat of an overstatement. PCTV recently received a grant from the Health and Wellness Foundation to work collaboratively with the High School in the development of a live AM “cooking show.” While the details are still being finalized, this project is directly connected to the educational mission, and would involve students from more than one academic/career program at the High School.”

9 thoughts on “Public input wanted on District’s Task Force on Facilities

  1. Thanks for the info Sue! PCTV is certainly on Pottstown Borough Council’s radar and is mentioned at their meetings regularly. The amount of money PCTV is paying to lease that much space is a sweet deal to be sure. Considering the financial drain PCTV has become, (unfortunately) something needs to be done. The borough and school district can no longer afford to “carry” PCTV. PCTV needs to become self sufficient (community benefit, or not). I hope that can happen!

    1. Seems that the statment “involves no students, not connected to the educational mission,” is somewhat of an overstatement. PCTV recently received a grant from the Health and Wellness Foundation to work collaboratively with the High School in the development of a live AM “cooking show.” While the details are still being finalized, this project is directly connected to the educational mission, and would involve students from more than one academic/career program at the High School.

  2. Dr. Lindley, thanks for the upbeat news!! That is a step in the right direction – I wish there was more course material and technology available to the students in a Mass Media program of sorts.

    That is a great deal of space that should be considered viable learning space – not rental space. There are plenty of open store fronts on High St. AND with the Boro now acquiring properties AND a CLT getting to its feet maybe there is a way for PCTV to entrench themselves in the ‘heart’ of the community with a mutually beneficial deal rather than this sweetheart one?!?!? At the VERY least, the use of this space/lease should be fair play to alter as the TF & community discuss the potential changes to the face of the PSD!

    Thanks Sue – as always a careful, positive piece to consider as an integral part of the overall health of the town!

    Roy, I think you are correct – PCTV should stand on their own or open their doors and foster more than a landlord/tennant relationship. It’s not working and should work smarter to benefit more people. There is always the problem of ONLY being on Comcast – I see many people moving away from them. Then there is no benefit to subscribers of other services – wonder what those percentages are???

    1. Thanks for commenting, Steph. It would be great to see PCTV in a store front on High Street, with a studio set visible to passersby like you see in many major cities. When we toured the school, they were doing a sports show and it looked pretty cool. But we do have to consider that if they’ve lost a lot in ad revenue already due to the economy AND they would have to pay more rent in a conventional space than they’ve been paying to the District AND they will lose their potential for ad revenue with the arrival of Verizon, could they ever be sustainable? This is what Borough Council seemed to be leading to in its budget discussions (without the issue of the rental space) and I believe they are going to re-open those contract discussions, so we’ll probably be hearing more details on this at some point.

      1. Ah, yes!

        The elephant in the room – money. I wish there was a way to force other tv service providers to make provisions to allow CATV to maintain viable. I see them getting stepped on left and right. Maybe SDs (in general) should move toward all internet programming. You’d get the thrill of filming, editing and computer techology in one program…back to the elephant – money!

        Maybe we need to redefine sustainable as far as PCTV goes?

        Speaking of media, does WPAZ have any internships, programs or synergy w/ SD? I just thought of that – don’t want to miss an opportunity with its rebirth!

  3. Sue:

    1) Per Dr. Lindley’s follow-up, it’s been my understanding that now and in years past PCTV provided internships to Pottstown High students to work in its studios and become familiar with broadcasting in general. The cooking show, as it’s been called, is only the latest manifestation of that.

    2) A substantial portion of PCTV programming focuses on school activities. I’ll bet it made sense at the time to locate its studios at the school. I’m hard-pressed to understand how the district loses by making $1,000 a month in leasing space, unless it’s been determined the square footage could be put to better use. I fail to understand that as “subsidization.”

    3) PCTV, as you noted, currently is operated under a contract between Maplewood Productions (headed by Mark Pollock) and the borough. Let’s say, for whatever reason, that partnership was dissolved. Do you believe either the borough or district could do as adequate a job presenting the current PCTV variety and depth of programming on its own? Would you trust it to do so, given the political climate of the past? And do you believe the borough or district could find a less expensive contractor to do the same work? I haven’t got any of these answers, but I think they’re questions worth raising.

    By way of public disclosure, Maplewood Productions and I have done business in the distant past (at least 10 years ago). I have not had a business or professional relationship with it since. I simply hesitate to draw conclusions on its relative value or lack thereof to area residents, or make claims about “taxpayer subsidization,” without evaluating components other costs per square foot.

    1. Joe,

      Thanks for the additional info. and for the questions you raise, which many of us have.

      The reason for my initial comment was that it was stated explicitly at least two times on the tour that no students enter the PCTV studios or have anything to do with its operations. They were unequivocal statements. There was no mention of the cooking show. There was also a statement made to the larger group after the tours to the effect that PCTV has a very good deal, which was what prompted me to specifically ask what that deal is. If there were/are internship experiences available to students in the past or currently, they were not mentioned, but if someone wants to describe them, I’ll be glad to post them at the top of the blog post as a correction. It seems like the addition of the cooking show is an attempt to remedy the situation and get students into the studio, which is good and admirable. But maybe I misunderstood – any further clarifications welcome.

      My point about subsidization is that in any discussion about the spending of taxpayer dollars, it’s best to be clear about what the real costs are to run something and where the government is helping to make it happen. The fact that the Borough and PCTV may be/are re-opening their contract speaks volumes.

      I made this point about the lease arrangement to note that it’s a part of the whole picture. What does it really cost to run the PCTV operation? Where is the Borough or District helping to make it happen? What is the value of what is provided to the Pottstown community? Where does this fit in with the District’s facilities needs? Whatever made sense in the past, in terms of the location and role of PCTV in the school, does it make sense now? These questions seem to go hand-in-hand with your questions, and I expect they will come up somehow or other as the fiscal situation pushes these issues to the fore.

      I agree completely that it would be a shame to lose local programming, but the community should have a full discussion of the costs and benefits and make a conscious, public decision about the value/what’s it’s worth to keep the operation going.


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