Monday, January 23, 2017

Opinion: Trump's Ed secretary has no IDEA about education

Dear Friends,
As many of you know, during my term as your state representative I have done my best to prioritize disability and mental health issues. Working in this arena has been tremendously challenging and rewarding, and I have greatly benefited in this endeavor from the help of many across the political spectrum.

That being said, I wanted to share with you a letter I recently sent to the press detailing my strong concerns regarding the nomination of Betsy DeVos to be our next U.S. Secretary of Education. To be clear, while she is not someone I would have nominated, I do tend to believe that the incoming Administration should receive a degree of deference in appointing people who are consistent with the incoming president’s positions. That, though, presupposes that the nominee has an understanding of the intricacies of the office, as well as the related federal law and its impact on the states.

In Mrs. DeVos’ testimony I found her understanding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to be shockingly limited, and since the IDEA is widely considered to be the most important and successful federal law on education in the last half-century, I felt compelled to pen the following:

DeVos doesn't understand Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
Betsy DeVos should not be Secretary of Education. I say that not because of her lack of personal experience as a student, parent, educator, or administrator in the public school system -- although those are short-comings to me. I say that not because of her blanketed condemnation of our public education system -- although such rhetoric discounts the hard work and success of many. And I say that acknowledging a degree of deference to the incoming Administration and admitting that I disagree with much of her previous work. That being said, Mrs. DeVos should not be Secretary of Education because she doesn't understand the importance and impact of the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
The IDEA is the result of a decades-long, bipartisan effort to improve the education, experience, and future for children with disabilities. Before its passage, the education and outlook for many such kids was abysmal. Often sent far from home to be “educated” in asylums more than schools, entire generations of typical students grew up with little to no contact with students with disabilities, especially those with developmental disabilities. While many caring professionals did the best they could in such circumstances, they were often underfunded, under-supported, and kids were warehoused more than encouraged to be all that they could be. Even for those with less severe disabilities, the lack of support in the traditional classroom setting often contributed to risk-taking behaviors, increased dropout rates, and a future more of limitations than opportunities. 

The IDEA – and its predecessor, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act – started changing all that in 1975. Through federal requirements, more and more kids with special needs are now being educated sitting next to their typical peers in a mutually beneficial experience. Parents now have a larger role in advocating for their kids, and classroom teachers are given more supports, often including skilled paraprofessionals. Although the federal government has struggled to meet its financial promises, local school boards and states have largely stepped up to the plate to comply with the IDEA, knowing that graduating as many kids ready for employment as possible helps us all. While disagreements between schools and parents still exist, and there is more work to be done in every state, the IDEA has created a framework countless kids have relied upon. It has helped move our country toward a more perfect union. 
Unfortunately, all this seems lost to Mrs. DeVos. For many families with a loved one with a disability, her confirmation testimony was either shocking in its degree of ignorance or frightening in its vision to unwind the federal requirements that have lifted up so many.

In today’s times it is incomprehensible to have someone nominated to be the highest ranking education official in our country who is “confused” by the IDEA. In answering a question regarding the enforceability of the IDEA on schools that receive “taxpayer funding,” her answer that it is a “matter best left to states” is only minimally correct at best. This would apply to only a small fraction of students who are educated in schools that receive only state “taxpayer funding.” The vast majority of students of course are educated in schools that receive federal and state “taxpayer funding,” which obviously triggers IDEA compliance. However, she further complicated the situation by saying that the applicability of the IDEA even where federal dollars are used is something “certainly worth discussion.” Her later admission that she could have been “confused” on the matter does little to assuage concern, especially given how she refused to address the practice in some states of requiring students to waive their IDEA rights as the price of admission to voucher programs.  

Whether through design or error, Mrs. DeVos positions and comments regarding the IDEA are deeply troubling. A first year education student would have provided better answers. The IDEA is arguably the most important and successful piece of education legislation Congress has passed in the last half century. A step backward is unacceptable. 
State Representative Dan Miller
2016-17 Session Member of the House Education Committee,
Minority Chair of the Subcommittee on Special Education,
Co-Chair of the Autism and Intellectual Disabilities Caucus
Parent advocate
Former public school teacher

Opinion: Trump's Ed secretary has no IDEA about education


Wanting to read more on the nomination of Betsy DeVos, I found the following opposing view:

Pay discrepancy?

Lebo Citizens reader David Huston emailed the commissioners this afternoon and questioned the Earnings By Department report published in my January 17, 2017 post Out of whack.

President Dave Brumfield responded at 8:57 PM??? to David with this:

From: David Brumfield <>
Sent: Monday, January 23, 2017 8:57 PM
To: David Huston
Subject: Re: commissioner pay
All commissioners receive $3,500.

On Jan 23, 2017 12:54 PM, "David Huston" wrote:
Why does Steve McLean make $3,500, while all the other commissioners get $3,400?


Is the Earnings By Department report incorrect? Should we be checking all the salaries? 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Haters Gonna Hate

I just canceled my 20+ year PAID subscription to People Magazine. I want to be entertained by actors, not lectured.

Some may feel the same way about me, but my blog is free and admittedly biased, mixed with documentation and opinion. It is a private blog. Readers have the option of not reading Lebo Citizens.

When People Magazine ran a multi page story about Hillary Clinton prior to the election, I suddenly realized that I was being manipulated. It went downhill from then on. I canceled my 30+ year subscription to the Post-Gazette when I realized John Hayes was the PIO's puppet. I wish I could cancel my mtl Magazine subscription, because I do pay for that crap through my taxes, but I have no way to opt out.

The Almanac may be printing their article about my legal case on Wednesday. I am dreading that day because the anonymous, hateful people will be in full force, like they are with every other story that appears in the media. I do admit that my life has become more peaceful since I stopped the trolls here. The poster who used the name "Sylvia Plath" did so with my permission.

I knew I made the right decision to change my policy to comment here, when I received this anonymous comment, "You're just incredibly fun to mess with.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Redoubling and the fake, fake budget

Mt. Lebanon schools seek guidance, engage students after discovery of swastika
“We have redoubled our efforts with students,” Mr. Steinhauer told school board members during their meeting Monday night.
What does Timmy mean? Are the schools doubling or quadrupling efforts? I haven't heard that term used outside of the game, Bridge. I did a quick search and found some explanations. 
Redouble is used by politicians to make it sound like they care and are working really hard on solving a problem. Thank to them, current meaning is hollow and means nothing.
Redouble is an example of malapropism. The word "malapropism" (and its earlier variant "malaprop") comes from a character named "Mrs.Malaprop" in Richard Brinsley Sheridan's 1775 play The Rivals. Mrs. Malaprop frequently misspeaks (to comic effect) by using words which don't have the meaning that she intends but which sound similar to words that do. 
Oh, tough call. It could go either way. Irregardless (get it?), it is nice to know that the school district has taken steps to educate our children and reinforce its policies of non-discrimination.

Also, at Monday's school board meeting, school board directors discussed the fake, fake budget.
The state’s Act 1 index limits the district to a tax increase of no more than 2.5 percent, or a new tax rate of 24.5282 mills.
Because the proposed budget is 0.2318 mills over that cap, the district will seek exemptions from the state Department of Education for pension and special education costs.
Board president Mary Birks reminded taxpayers that the final budget -- to be passed in June -- may not necessarily include a tax increase of that size.
“This is a preliminary, preliminary budget,” she said.
Is the final budget really going to be passed in June? Historically, the budget has been passed in mid-May, well before final numbers are available to the District.  If this is the case, another step (baby step) in the right direction.

mtl Magazine Cost Reductions!

Baby steps, but moving in the right direction. From the weekly Administrative Report:

Update January 21, 2017 8:58 PM Another suggestion from Lebo Citizens readers!

We are looking for Mt. Lebanon high school volunteers to help in the Public Information Office for 1-2 hours a week after school assisting with various mtl Magazine distribution tasks. Please contact Amy Martin for more information at 412-343-3407 or
Volunteering counts toward community service hours for the National Honor Society.
Students can also sign up in the Student Activities office or contact Mrs. Kolko for more information at or 412-344-2105.

"You will never be ignored again." UPDATED

"Hear these words. You will never be ignored again."
                                       -President Donald J. Trump
                                        January 20, 2017

If only those words would ring true in Mt. Lebanon. Our elected officials ignore many of their constituents. I am not alone.

Update January 23, 2017 10:18 PM From my commissioner. I thanked him and said how much I would appreciate that.


I noted your comments about replies to your emails.  Often times I do not have all the information to respond to your email inquires.  At which point I either confer with the proper person that can assist with the answers or that individual replies directly back to you.  And this is usually Keith.  Going forward I'll reply even if I don't have all the answers, but  at least let you know I'm working on the answers.  

Steve McLean

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Frequently Unanswered Questions (FUQ) UPDATED

I hope I won't be FUQ'ed again by the commissioners. I sent many questions to the commissioners this morning concerning the upcoming "sharpshooting" phase, which will begin on February 1, 2017.

Here is my email:
The archery season is to end on January 28, 2017. We're told that the "sharpshooting" phase with White Buffalo will run from Feb. 1, 2017 - March 31, 2017. Looking at the commission meeting calendar, the next meeting is January 23, 2017. When will the results of White Buffalo's archery program be released? Your next meeting won't be until the middle of February, two weeks into the 2017 "sharpshooting" program. 
What type of bait will be used for the 2017 "sharpshooting" phase? What type of feeder will be used to bait the deer? 
The 2017 contract has never been made public, but here is a link to the contract obtained through a Right To Know. When will you be putting that contract on the municipal website? The contract states that an aerial survey will be conducted. When will that take place?
Specifically, what will the hours be for the 2017 "sharpshooting?" All we were told is that it will take place late afternoon and after dark seven days a week. 
I look forward to hearing from you soon. 
Elaine Gillen 

Update January 19, 2017 11:29 PM Yep, I got Frequently Unanswered Questions from the commissioners. I never heard from any of them. Steve Silverman forwarded my email to Keith McGill without a word. Keith replied earlier this evening, but I just got a chance to post it.

From: Keith Mcgill <>
To: egillen476 <>
Cc: Commission <>
Sent: Thu, Jan 19, 2017 7:10 pm
Subject: Re: "sharpshooting"

Good evening Elaine,

I wanted to provide you with a response to your questions regarding the upcoming sharpshooting program. The report for the controlled archery hunt should be available by the February 14th Commission meeting. 

As was the case with last years program White Buffalo will determine the type of bait and baiting system that they believe will be most effective.

The approved contract and the notification letter that will be sent to the school district will be posted to the municipal website early next week. Regarding the aerial survey, I assume that you are referring to item 1 under sharpshooting protocols in the approved contract that reads: 

1. Prior to initiating any field activities the target area/s and surrounding properties are thoroughly surveyed using digital aerial images followed by field confirmation. By knowing the location of every occupied structure and areas of human use we are better able to work safely, discretely, and efficiently;

The digital aerial images would be google earth or something similar. This has already been done for all of the properties that will be used in this year's program. This information combined with field confirmation is done to ensure that the culling operation can take place safely.

The hours will be the same as last year. Sharpshooters will work seven days a week on private properties beginning at 4:00 PM and concluding by 11:00 PM. They will work in the identified public properties Monday - Friday beginning at 6:00 PM and concluding by 11:00 PM.

Please let me know if you have any additional questions.


On Thu, Jan 19, 2017 at 5:55 PM, Steve Silverman <> wrote:

Steve Silverman
Commissioner Ward 2

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: '' via Commission <>
Date: Thu, Jan 19, 2017 at 10:27 AM
Subject: "sharpshooting"


The archery season is to end on January 28, 2017. We're told that the "sharpshooting" phase with White Buffalo will run from Feb. 1, 2017 - March 31, 2017. Looking at the commission meeting calendar, the next meeting is January 23, 2017. When will the results of White Buffalo's archery program be released? Your next meeting won't be until the middle of February, two weeks into the 2017 "sharpshooting" program.

What type of bait will be used for the 2017 "sharpshooting" phase? What type of feeder will be used to bait the deer?

The 2017 contract has never been made public, but here is a link to the contract obtained through a Right To Know. When will you be putting that contract on the municipal website? The contract states that an aerial survey will be conducted. When will that take place? 

Specifically, what will the hours be for the 2017 "sharpshooting?" All we were told is that it will take place late afternoon and after dark seven days a week.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Elaine Gillen 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Out of whack

There has been quite a bit written here about some Municipal employees and their salaries. Through a Right To Know, the 2016 earnings/compensation for all individuals in the following departments:

Animal Control
Community Development
Crossing Guards
Elected Officials
Golf Course
Ice Rink
Information Services
Office Services
Public Information Office
Public Works
Rec Management
Seasonal Programs
Tax Office

Are listed here. I find it interesting that the assistant to the manager (Bonnie Cross) is making almost double what the assistant manager/planner (Ian McMeans) makes.

I'm a little confused about animal control. I know that we no longer have anyone certified to kill rats, and I was under the impression that we have an arrangement with Upper St. Clair, perhaps through SHACOG, to share those services.

Moving down to Finance, the finance director (J. A. McCreery) and the assistant to the manager (Cross) were hired to replace Marcia Taylor, the former assistant manager. Add McCreery's, Cross', and McMeans' salaries together plus full time benefits for the three, and was not the most economical decision our commissioners made.

The Library had paid out almost $1.2 million dollars in earnings last year. That surprised me.

I have skipped Fire and Police. They put their lives on the line.

I have also skipped the Pool, Ice Rink, Tennis, Seasonal Programs, and Golf Course. I cannot comment on these departments since they generate revenue.

Which leaves me to my big gripe, the Public Information Office. I remember Susan Morgans saying that only she and her administrative assistant are full time. All the others are part time. $435,357.92 for public information, which includes the magazine (no printing or photographers or freelance writers or mailing costs) and social media such as Facebook and Twitter. $435,357.92. Plus expenses.

I think things at 710 Washington Road are a little out of whack.

Where are you, Tommy Dunn?

I am so frustrated with the Republican Committee of Mt. Lebanon. Do you even exist anymore? What happened to your website? 

I did a search and found this link. Republican Committee of Mt. Lebanon 

Regular Meetings on the third Tuesday of every month, 7:30pm.
Mt. Lebanon Municipal Building, 710 Washington Road, Mt. Lebanon, 15228.
For more information contact Tommy Dunn at 412-913-0094 or Networking begins at 7pm and meeting at 7:30pm

You strive to keep me off your "Republican" bulletin boards at the three polling locations in Ward 3. You did it in the 2011 Primary and the 2015 General Election. You wouldn't allow Jim Cannon to use the "Republican" bulletin boards in the 2011 Primary. Is that your only purpose as head of the Republican Committee of Mt. Lebanon? Did you support Dan Remely or Matt Kluck in the 2015 General Election?

Do you have Republican candidates lined up for the FIVE open school board seats? You couldn't come up with an opponent to run against Dave Brumfield four years ago. He ran unopposed. Are you prepared for the Ward 2 and Ward 4 Primaries? Steve Silverman is up for re-election. Who is your pick? Or will Steve run unopposed like Dave did in the last election? If you do have candidates lined up, do you think the candidates can have contact information on their websites? Ward 1's candidate, running against John Bendel, forgot to include his contact information on his website. You know it's true. You and Temp Smith verified that when I pointed it out to you at the polls at Foster School.

How about putting a little more effort into the Party, Tommy?

Monday, January 16, 2017

Presenting the 2017-2018 Fake Budget

At one time, Janice Klein referred to the preliminary budget as "the fake budget." Jan Klein, whose title changed from Finance Director to Director of Business explained that the purpose of the preliminary budget is to be able to apply for exceptions to the Index limitation on real estate tax rates. I would like to present Jan Klein's 2017-2018 Fake Budget.

The Post-Gazette reports that according to the "preliminary" budget, our taxes should increase by 0.83 mills to 24.76 mills. Mt. Lebanon begins work on school budget

Lebo Citizen readers might want to do a search for "fake budget" on this blog. Read about how Mt. Lebanon resident Bill Matthews demonstrates to the Department of Education how the District annually submits a fake preliminary budget. Bill and I have attended District budget meetings, where we were both treated rudely. The audios of those meetings are still available on For obvious reasons, those meetings have been discontinued.

For those of you who are new to this process, this is usually when the school board directors like to speak in terms of lattes or pizzas. Just cut back on buying lattes, we were instructed. From 2012, we were told about a $30 million fundraising campaign. Spin Class 101 We are still in the quiet phase of the now $6 million Century of Excellence Campaign. I would love to know how much is in that account. Maybe it will show up in the fake Final Budget.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

I can't take it anymore.

I just published the last of the anonymous comments. From now on, you must use your real first and last name. No more initials. Real first and last name.

The trolls are out of control. It is so easy to attack me and anyone else while remaining anonymous. You know how I feel about every issue I write here. I have had enough of the abusive comments.

At one time, Kelly Fraasch said that my blog was toxic. What she didn't admit was that the toxicity comes from trolls. It was so civilized when my blog was private.

I am sure that I will be receiving more abusive comments as the State Supreme Court situation unfolds. I am funding that fight entirely myself. I believe it is the right thing to do. NO TAX DOLLARS ARE BEING USED!

Pete the Cluster

A Pittsburgh Cultural Trust Saturday 11:00 AM performance of Pete the Cat at Mt. Lebanon High School began with chaos, confusion, and anger after the parking lot could only accommodate about half the audience.

“This is the worst parking situation for a venue hosting a show that I have ever seen,” said one of the event organizers from the Trust. She was also overheard commenting that Mt. Lebanon had been very difficult to work with.

By 10:40 AM, all the designated open spots were already taken. Families then began arguing with themselves, and each other, about who could use the spots with signs posted for “Superintendent Only” and “District Officials Only.” One parent said to an organizer from the Trust, “If they charged you anything for this venue, you should demand a refund.”

It was then explained to parents that the venue had been selected because it had far more seats that Upper St. Clair High School’s auditorium, which has only 800.

Meanwhile, panicked families negotiating mounds of dirt in the high school backyard, with some making spots of their own until all available land was full.

By 11:00 AM, many had dropped off half their families and gone far afield to look for a spot. Angry mothers approached leadership to beg them to delay the start time of the show so families could be reunited. One received the response, “It doesn’t matter when we would start the show – the parking here is horrible.”

Several guests arrived at close to 11:30 AM after running over a mile from distant parking spots. They ended up missing over half the show, which ended at 11:50 AM.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Warning: This might get some folks p.o. at the PIO

Warning: This might p.o. some advertisers and/or taxpayers. The mtl Magazine Ad Revenue for 2016 spreadsheet is here.

It appears that many advertisers are getting reduced pricing. Lebo Citizens reader and watchdog Nick M. ran a quick check and found the following discrepancies.

Howard Hanna should be paying $2180 per issue, they get billed $1962…loss of $2180 per year
Coldwell Banker should be paying $2615 per issue, they get billed $2353…loss of $2620 per year  
Berkshire Hathaway pays full price but Howard Hanna and Coldwell Banker get a huge discount.  
Sewickley Spa should have paid $1855 for their ad, they got billed $1000…loss of $855  
Knepper Press should have paid $695 for 7 ads, they got billed $0…loss of $4865   
Jade Grill should be paying $1755 each for 2 ads but only paid $1000 each…loss of $1510  
Quite a few more too. 
I was happy to report that the PIO had a 2017 budget cut of $4,070,  but as Nick pointed out, "There was a one-time $10,500 expenditure added as a service level in 2016 to redesign the lebomag website. That expenditure won't be needed in 2017." The PIO 2017 Budget essentially had a net increase of $6,430!

So why are some advertisers getting a special deal?  Why did the PIO get a net increase of $6,430? Why does Howard Hanna get a special break? Is it because a commissioner is employed by Howard Hanna? Why does the Library get billed for advertising? Public Works? Why do Outreach and Medical Rescue Team South have to pay for advertising when they receive funding from MTL? Why does Mt. Lebanon Recreation Center pay for advertising? They are one of the larger advertisers in the magazine.  How can the PIO get away with all of this?

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

January 2017 Behind The Bubble

Behind The Bubble

January 2017: The Sounds of Silence

By Jason Margolis

As when I moved to Mt. Lebanon in July 2011, I began my quest to get “behind the bubble” with high hopes. But things, as they often do, did not go as planned.

I wanted to begin by writing a profile of a Mt. Lebanon individual, because it is people that make up communities. The intention was to look deeper into the essence of a person in our community of some stature, and to have them reflect on life in Mt. Lebanon past, present, and future.

I first approached Dave Brumfield. I thought this would be a good person to start with, as he was incoming Commission President and beginning what would likely be his last year as Commissioner. Additionally, he and I always have had a relatively affable relationship. I emailed Dave both before and after the holidays regarding a potential interview. I never heard back. Silence.

Then, I emailed Mt. Lebanon Public Information Officer Susan Morgans. I thought that this high-profile, in-the-know local public figure would be an excellent individual to launch this monthly series, in an attempt to raise new understandings and build new bridges in Mt. Lebanon. To her credit, she did respond with a short email that declined the interview, while copying Municipal Manager Keith McGill. I then followed up with a ‘reply to all’ asking for any suggestions regarding who they might suggest I talk to, in the spirit of this new column, and never heard back. Silence.

Finally, I decided to approach an individual who a couple of years back was very active in Mt. Lebanon politics. In fact, this individual (who I will not name as they are not a public figure) had previously emailed me for an endorsement of their planned candidacy for Commissioner. I quickly responded to that email two years ago. They did not, however, do likewise in January 2017.

So, why all the silence?

There are three main reasons people bring silence into the world:

1) As a means of power and control, as men often use silence over women in abusive relationships.

2) Out of fear, as a child who somehow did not get caught with his hand in the cookie jar chooses not to tell his parents that his hand was indeed the cookie jar to avoid the consequences of the truth.

3) Because of a disability, as someone who was born, or has become, mute.

It is not clear which of the above apply in this case. Perhaps these individuals feared I would twist their words, although they certainly could have sued me for libel if I did. In fact, as a private citizen I have been threatened with being sued in the past for things I have written about controversial issues in Mt. Lebanon.

Perhaps, looking around the bubble’s edge, it is because one of the most divisive issues in Mt. Lebanon is its silence. As someone who has had to request basic public information and documents from the municipality through “Right To Knows” – and having watched numerous escalating legal battles over releasing the locations of where government-funded deer “management” is taking place – silence does seem to be the common default in Mt. Lebanon. And if this is not a policy borne of fear or disability, it must be one of power and control.

But silence by the powerful comes with costs. In a 60 Minutes interview in 1966, Martin Luther King Jr. warned America, “A riot is the language of the unheard.” Silence infers disengagement and dismissal. It is carried out by those wishing to hold on to something, and not share it, with those who have less. And when people with less feel they are not being listened to, and that this silence is hurting their well-being, sooner or later there will be consequences.

Thus far, the bubble’s walls have been thicker than I thought. But every wall of silence has a trap door – a door that lets people in and lets the truth out.

In February, I hope to find one of the bubble’s hidden trap doors.

Brief Evacuation at High School Today

From: Mr. Brian R. McFeeley, Principal - Mt. Lebanon HS []
Tuesday, January 10, 2017 1:47 PM
Mt. Lebanon Parent/Guardian
Brief Evacuation at High School Due to Burst Sprinkler Head

Dear Parent/Guardian:

Today, at around 11:45am a fire alarm occurred resulting in the brief evacuation of the high school building. The Mt.Lebanon Fire Department immediately responded and we were permitted to re-occupy the building within a few minutes of the evacuation.

The alarm was due to a sprinkler head that had burst, due to the weather, in a closet near the auditorium. Due to the water leak related to the broken pipe, two hallway areas were temporarily closed. I commend our students and staff for their cooperation with ensuring a safe and orderly evacuation of the building. I would also like to thank the Mt. Lebanon Fire Department for their assistance and support with this matter.

Mr. Brian R. McFeeley