Andrejko's Latest Community Insult: Refusing Clymer Meeting

The Free Press    March 27, 2008

I used to respect and support QCSD Superintendent Dr Lisa Andrejko, even though she arrived here last year with significant baggage. As Superintendent in Norristown, she clashed with the school board, which called her "heavy-handed". Their slim 5-4 vote barely allowed her to keep her job. She ended up as the only candidate for superintendent here, after others withdrew without explanation. Our board sent the search committee a memo, warning that they should not say anything to her that might rock the boat.

She asked for time to prove herself. Now, nine months later, we have a pretty good picture of the woman. And that picture isn't pretty. New district, same "heavy-handed" controversies - the desire for total control. We've been through this before. Think Jim McFadden, Dave Woglom.

Dr A has never seemed to understand that the second word of QCSD is Community, and that she is accountable to the 38,000 residents who pay her salary. She inherited the lowest-performing district in Upper Bucks, with school spending, and taxes, way out of proportion to the area's income level. But rather than attacking these problems, she has instead attacked board members, and the press, restricted public comment at meetings, and intruded herself into political squabbles that should never involve the superintendent.

She called the 50+ percent tax increase "mythical", and stonewalled allegations of poor budgeting and an improper slush fund. She used a private board conference to discuss manipulating the press. She did nothing about pal Linda Martin's political campaigning on school property. She spent your tax dollars on an attorney to advise how to avoid the Sunshine Act. She blocked presentations to the board that contradict her agenda. She denied the district's lead role in planning Ronald Reagan Drive despite contrary articles in all three local newspapers. Most recently, she talked the board into ignoring the PA Public School Code, so she could personally, privately, make all contracts up to $25,000, even though section 5-508 sets a limit of $100. Total control.

Most districts don't have any such issues. We have them all. Of course, the board's majority just loves it, since, to them, the third word of QCSD is Secret. But some directors were critical of her attempted power-grab, as was State Senator Rob Wonderling, State Rep Paul Clymer, and this column. In fact, Clymer called Andejko on March 10, and asked her to bring the entire board to meet with him, and me, and explain the legal authority which, she claimed, justified her actions. He wrote to me on March 13 "My primary objective is to broker a meeting with the Quakertown Community School Board, the Superintendent, you and myself on a very sensitive issue".

But Andrejko never told the board, despite the fact that they met on March 13. Instead, she emailed Clymer on March 17, refusing his request. Her excuse? Me! She told Clymer "While I appreciate your attempt to bring clarification and closure to this, the propaganda that was printed last week signifies that only the two of us (Dr A and Clymer) were willing to bring an end to the point of conflict. I feel there would be no purpose to the meeting you suggested as there was no good faith attempt by the third party (me) to come to an agreement of the interpretation of PS 5-508." Apparently she did not want to meet with someone (me) who hadn't "come to an agreement" before the meeting was even held !! Total control.

But what about that legal authority Andrejko claimed to have, which Clymer wanted to see? She wrote "In my conversations with two different school attorneys, the PA Department of Education attorney, the PDE Mandate Waiver department, my fellow superintendents in Bucks and Montgomery counties, review of multiple school district policies, and consultation with PSBA, I believe we will still have disagreement over interpretation of the School Code. That is why attorneys exist! However, we rely on the advice of our own attorney, a specialist in school law."

What an amazing admission. Remember, Andrejko had already told the QCSD board that there was WRITTEN LEGAL AUTHORITY for her to make most district contracts herself, in private, with no public comment, or knowledge. That is why they voted to give her the power. But weeks later, despite seeking support from THE PEOPLE MOST LIKELY TO AGREE WITH HER, she had only the QCSD attorney's verbal say-so to justify her actions - and she is the one who hired him, without the board's knowledge!!!

I sent Andrejko an Open Records request for the documents related to her search for support. She replied that there are none. No wonder she refused to meet, and didn't inform the directors. This attitude almost got her fired in Norristown. How can she teach when she can't learn?

This community should also be very upset about her deception involving replacing retiring teachers. Andrejko announced that QCSD was offering early retirement to 41 teachers, with up-front costs to us of almost $1 million. The idea was to reduce our bloated payroll. But we now learn that there will be 39 new teachers - in a year when enrollment is down by 100 students. And those 39 teachers will get hefty guaranteed pay raises, and bonuses, every year - unlike QCSD taxpayers, who are facing layoffs, mortgage problems, tax and utility increases, and skyrocketing prices.

According to Dr A, the community's financial woes are not considered at budget time, prompting director Zane Stauffer, who has been a staunch Andrejko supporter, to observe that public schools should not be automatically exempt from hard economic times. When more directors agreed, Andrejko said she'd go back and try to cut spending. But she couldn't resist taunting her critics that the quality of education will be affected. Heavy-handed, indeed.

Former Super Jim Scanlon used exactly the same scare tactics to bully the community into accepting the huge spending that has lead to our crushing taxes. We have learned the very hard, and very expensive, lesson that throwing our money at school problems does not solve them.

Stevens Drops Suit, Admits This Column Was Right

Vic Stevens, who sued this column, and The Free Press, claiming that he was defamed by my October 13, 2005, story "When The Going Gets Tough, Vic Stevens Quits", has withdrawn his complaint, and acknowledged that the sources in the story were correctly quoted.

Stevens, a retired teacher in the Quakertown and Centennial districts, was running for Richland Township supervisor when this column quoted his QCSD personnel file, obtained from Centennial through the state's Right To Know law. Michael Hresko, Stevens' principal, reported "Low rating. Lacks industry." Esther Chilcote, the elementary supervisor, warned "Average or below. Poor planning/organization. Serious reservations. Will snow you with personality. Would not ask him back." Hresko and Chilcotte are both now deceased.

In October, 2007, almost two years after losing that election to Craig Staats, Stevens filed suit. TFP and I responded that truth was an absolute defense, and that the file had been obtained properly. Stevens' attorney, Larry Otter, agreed that Stevens would drop his claim if the statements in the column were shown to match those in the personnel file.

My attorney, Chip Thome, provided a copy of the records to Otter, who then authenticated them with Centennial, and informed Thome that the suit was being withdrawn "with prejudice", meaning that it can not be reinstated.

Stevens also was defeated in both the Democratic and Republican primary elections for school board in 2007, and last November had his suit against the now-defunct Main Street Theater dismissed for the third time, this one by the PA State Supreme Court. He still has a defamation action pending against Staats, and Staats' campaign chairman and treasurer.