School Board Again Throws School Super Under School Bus

The Free Press    February 7, 2008

QCSD Superintendent Dr. Lisa Andrejko is again being thrown under a school bus by her own board of directors. And by The Fox. This is the continuation of a pattern that began before she ever sat down in her office, and will probably linger as long as the board's majority refuses to accept responsibility for their own improper, even illegal, actions.

Andrejko was hired last year, but her qualifications were unfairly sullied because the other candidates bailed out after learning the state of disarray in this district. It wasn't her fault that no one else wanted to work for our dysfunctional board. But rather than focusing the public's attention on her abilities, the directors spent way too much time defending their decision not to re-open the process. When she later took a bullet for our free-spending majority by erroneously calling the 50 percent tax increases "mythical", not a single one came to her defense. Each time, they just threw her under the school bus.

The most recent episode of board cowardice involves a letter from attorney Michael I. Levin. The Fox. As you may remember, Levin was to address the directors last month on the Sunshine Act. But after this column, and the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association, objected that the meeting had not been publicly advertised, Levin acted like the board's solicitor, and lead them into an improper private session - to discuss how they can justify private sessions! And this was after Board President Kelly Van Valkenburgh had promised to air the issue in public. So much for the community openness that Andrejko has been preaching. Under the bus!

It was then revealed that the board had never actually hired The Fox to do anything. Levin, who deals extensively with school law, sent a contract to Andrejko, asking that she - and only she - sign it. But the PA Public School Act states clearly that only a school board can sign school contracts, and that it must be done in a public meeting, with the vote recorded. Levin knew it. He represents many districts, like Radnor, where, in December, 2006, the board passed a resolution contracting with him for legal services. Van Valkenburgh, Linda Martin, Nancy Tirjan, Zane Stauffer, and Kathy Mosley have dealt with school contracts for years. They just didn't bother following the law. But when caught, they totally clammed up, again leaving Andrejko under the bus - alone.

And, when confronted, who did they ask for advice? The Fox! The conversation may have gone something like this: "Excuse us, Mr. Levin, sir. Did you commit malpractice by improperly making your contract with the Superintendent rather than the board as required by state law? And did you improperly advise the board to meet in private after they promised a public discussion? And did you attempt to hide what is likely illegal advice by improperly invoking an attorney-client privilege when there is no attorney-client relationship? And oh, by the way, have we ever done anything improper? No? Thank you very much, case closed."

If Levin ever decides to give up his law practice, there is a foxy job awaiting him guarding henhouses. QCSD residents deserve an impartial outside evaluation. Levin represents the board, not the community. When Richland was accused of improper spot zoning, they sought an opinion from an unbiased expert municipal law attorney from Harrisburg. He found that they had acted properly, and the matter was put to rest. When Quakertown Borough finally decided to investigate the shenanigans of former manager Dave Woglom, including over a million dollars in improper no-bid contracts, they brought in the professionals, Keystone Municipal Services. In the end, Woglom resigned, and QT instituted a whole panoply of financial and ethical reforms.

But our school board turned to The Fox, the guy who gave them the how-to-keep-you-in-the-dark advice to begin with, and who now has as much to lose as they do. How likely is he to be critical, or even objective??? In fact, QCSD has now rejected outside evaluation three times in the past year, having previously pooh-poohed impartial looks at grade manipulation, and the improperly high fund balance. Van Valkenburgh, Martin, Tirjan, Stauffer, and Mosley don't want unbiased expert advice. They don't want to know - and, worse, don't want you to know - about those years of violations. They just want to be seen as "right". Nothing terrifies them more than having to admit mistakes. It just isn't in their vocabulary. As a result, Andrejko is under the bus alone.

Even worse, The Fox advised the majority that if they don't want dissent from the minority at an executive session, they should just not tell them about the meeting! Simply exclude the directors who disagree with them from the process, like they have excluded the community! Now that's what QCSD needs - more secret meetings. More divisiveness. How many seconds do you think it would take a judge to outlaw this absurdity?

Board members are fighting amongst themselves about releasing The Fox's latest letter on Sunshine Act compliance. You paid for it. Andrejko, and the four reformers who have fought the majority's secrecy and over-the-top spending, want the public to see it. But Van Valkenburgh, Martin, Tirjan, Stauffer, and Mosley are opposed, saying that it is protected by attorney-client privilege - even though they never signed a contract! In fact, you also paid for a six-page legal brief in which the board denies the public's right to see any of their documents on Sunshine compliance. Now why would they want to keep them hidden? Do they address the years of violations? Or the improper "Conference" held last November, where directors secretly, and improperly, discussed how to influence the press to write more favorably? Or the illegal, secret Executive Session held last month?

Our board majority - those wonderful folks who love to talk about community openness - won't tell. But they continue to give your tax dollars to The Fox to justify keeping you in the dark. The mantra of the Quite Commonly Secret District.