Tuesday, December 6, 2016

School Board Reorganization meeting

Last night, the school board directors reorganized and selected Mary Birks as the new president of the Mt. Lebanon School Board.

Mary had a heated first meeting. Parents were up in arms about the recent racist incidents at our schools, and wanted specifics. One parent used the N-word when describing what was taking place and Mary freaked out. I wonder if MTLSD will edit that out when airing the meeting.

Here is the unedited audio. December 5, 2016 Reorganization Meeting

Monday, December 5, 2016

The 100-Yard Deception

For years, Fieldturf made millions of dollars selling faulty fields to taxpayers across the US knowing they might fall apart.

To find out which schools in Pittsburgh (and there are quite a few) got burned, find potentially faulty artificial turf fields in your neighborhood here


Read The 100-Yard Deception: A 6-month investigation into FieldTurf

Must read UPDATED

This was in the "Must Read" section of the PG over the weekend.

Mt. Lebanon police probing racist, anti-Semitic graffiti at schools and football field

Someone sent me a link to this local blog, covering this topic. Mt. Lebanon resident Dr. Anthony Moretti is the Director of the Center for Innovative Teaching and Directed Engaged Learning at Robert Morris University, where he also is an Associate Professor in the School of Communications and Information Systems.

An ugly three weeks for the Mt. Lebanon School District

Update December 5, 2016 7:15 PM From the Middle School Principals today:

From:
 Mellon Middle School <noreply@mtlsd.net>
Sent: Monday, December 5, 2016
To: Middle School Parents
Subject: Message to Parents


Middle School Families,

We are writing to follow up on the recent email you received from our Superintendent. Please know that a safe school is our number one priority. Establishing an inclusive and welcoming environment is essential to that priority. We feel very strongly that the recent incidents at our middle schools are not reflective of our students, faculty, or staff.

We have taken several steps to address the recent incidents that are contrary to our inclusive and welcoming culture. As principals, we met with our respective faculties to review these issues and reinforce our expectations for reporting and responding. We also reported details of the incidents to the Mt. Lebanon Police Department, PTA leaders, and local religious leaders. Our local Rabbis have been reliable partners as we formulated plans to take appropriate further steps.

Our programs, designed to foster an inclusive and welcoming environment, begin early in a child’s educational career and occur on a regular basis. This includes our middle school anti-bullying program known more commonly as “Tuesday Talk” that is grounded in the research-based tenets of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program. Themes that are discussed annually in our “Tuesday Talk” program include: respect, acceptance, empathy, and appreciation of diversity.  

Our most recent “Tuesday Talk” focused on two essential questions - 1) How do we make other people feel welcome in our classrooms and school? and 2) How do we improve upon the inclusive community so all students feel valued? It was a productive conversation that affirmed our positive beliefs about our students. Our work on this topic will continue.   

As parents, you can support our efforts by continuing to have conversations with your child(ren) around the theme of helping others to feel welcome and valued.  If you learn of inappropriate, discriminatory, or intimidating behavior occurring in our schools, please contact a teacher, counselor, or ourselves.  We will immediately investigate and appropriately address any concerns.  

We continue to believe we have caring students and exemplary schools.

As always, our doors are open to you. If you have further questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Sincerely,

Kelly Szesterniak                    Christopher Wolfson
Principal - JMS                        Principal - MMS

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Game Commission: Semi-automatic weapons next year for PA woodlands and Lebo

Pennsylvania will be the 49th state to permit semi-automatic weapons during deer hunting season next year. Governor Wolf signed the legislation last month.       http://triblive.com/local/westmoreland/11538937-74/automatic-semi-board

The board will decide which types of game can be hunted with a semi-automatic rifle, any limits on ammunition and when the rules will go into effect. 
Commission spokesman Travis Lau said the board has its first quarterly meeting in January and could formally approve new rules as early as April. The board will meet Monday in a workshop-style session. 
“We do expect them to begin the discussion on semi-automatic rifles for any hunting or all hunting,” Lau said.
This change could be helpful to older or disabled hunters.
State Rep. Eli Evankovich, R-Murrysville, said the change can be beneficial to hunters who are older, disabled or have difficulty manually reloading. 
“I think we should be adult enough to allow people to do that,” he said. 
Additionally, air- and gas-powered rifles are permitted for hunting as part of the amendment. Semi-automatic shotguns for hunting certain species are permitted in designated areas of five counties in the state, including a portion of Allegheny County.
Don't you all feel better that our governor signed this legislation?  People who have trouble with vision or mobility will benefit and be able to participate in killing deer in Mt. Lebanon next year. Thanks Mt. Lebanon Commissioners.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

More hate in Lebo UPDATED

Jefferson Middle School track
Photo from Facebook

Now I know why Timmy checked the blog SEVEN times today. Time for another letter for parents, Tim?

Update November 29, 2016 7:22 PM I understand that another email was sent out to parents today at 4:30 PM.

From: Dr. Timothy Steinhauer [mailto:noreply@mtlsd.net]
Sent: Tuesday, November 29, 2016 4:30 PM
To: Parents
Subject: Message to Parents

To All Members of the Mt. Lebanon School Community,

The Mt. Lebanon School District prides itself on being an inclusive and accepting school community. We value that our schools include students and families from many different backgrounds. Our faculty, staff and administration are dedicated to fostering learning for all students in a respectful and safe environment.  We are aware and have responded to several incidents, in and around our schools, that are in conflict with these ideals.

Rest assured that the administration, fully supported by the Board of School Directors, has zero tolerance for this type of behavior.  As is the standard of practice, the administration will immediately investigate any incident that is inappropriate, discriminatory, or intimidating in nature that occurs on school grounds. Any response will be educational, and as appropriate, disciplinary. 
   
We appreciate your support in our efforts to advance inclusive schools where each and every child thrives. Please continue to notify your child’s teacher or principal if you are made aware of any issue that may create a non-inclusionary atmosphere. If you wish to discuss these issues further, please contact your school counselor, principal, or superintendent.

Everyone is welcomed and valued in the Mt. Lebanon School District.
 
Timothy J. Steinhauer, Ed.D.                                          Lawrence M. Lebowitz
Superintendent of Schools                                              President, Board of School Directors

"I will never vote for sharpshooting."

Dave Brumfield said this for years. Dave Brumfield is a goddam liar. The vote was 4:1 in favor of "sharpshooting" with Kelly Fraasch being the only one who voted against it.

Babs Logan and other gardeners spoke during citizen comments, thanking the commissioners for their efforts. The garden loving, deer haters urged commissioners that this program must be continued for at least three years, since the Cornell prophet, who never stepped foot into Mt. Lebanon or knew how large it was, had advised commissioners.

Another $83,477 will be spent to wipe out the deer population or kill up to 100 deer, whichever comes first.

As I wrote previously:

  • Tony DeNicola finished earlier than expected this past March. He couldn't find any more deer.  
  • Mt. Lebanon went to the Court of Common Pleas over the privilege of killing deer in Twin Hills Park, a 25 acre property owned by Mt. Lebanon which is situated in Scott Township. Mt. Lebanon won, but there were restrictions including the use of sharpshooting in Twin Hills. Either Mt. Lebanon honors that agreement, or Mt. Lebanon goes back to court for the use of high powered rifles in Twin Hills.
  • Archers have killed half as many deer this year, even with the additional 25 acres in Twin Hills.
  • The archery program concludes on January 28, 2017.
  • The commissioners will not have an official count of kills until February.
  • Either there are bogus accident reports being filed with MLPD, or we have sloppy bookkeeping. The numbers don't add up. Increased reported collisions vs. lower accidents vs. fewer dead deer pick ups. 
  • We do not know what type of bait or system that White Buffalo will use to distribute the bait. I was told that Tony's bait is proprietary. Evidently, Tony owns the patent on corn and apples. I thought God held that patent. Allegheny County Health Department is ready to fine Mt. Lebanon since ground feeding is not permitted.
This is what to expect:

Tony DeNicola and Mt. Lebanon are entering a contract to bait-and-shoot deer with high powered rifles on Mt. Lebanon's public property under a special permit from the Pa Game Commission (PGC) that supersedes all state game hunting regulations and safety zones. All safety zone requirements will be suspended under this permit. Residents can request that DeNicola bait-and-shoot deer on their property w/o meeting any PGC safety zone requirements. The rifles and ammunition typically used in suburban deer shooting programs is the .223 caliber rifle with 55 grain ammunition, which has a maximum range of 2.3 miles.

When Mt. Lebanon was shooting right next to my home in Rockwood Park, putting my family, children, and pets at lethal risk, there was nothing I could do to stop them. Little did I know that they were violating a Federal law by shooting on public property so close to Foster Elementary School. 

If you want to protect your family, you will have to stay in your homes and move in to your basement. This is when I was told by Kristen Linfante to pay a visit to John in Rollier's paint department to pick out a soothing color for my basement. 

Mt. Lebanon will not notify you that shooting will be taking place right next to your home because your neighbors are "donating" their properties. Allegedly, Mt. Lebanon will not even know where these properties are located because of the covenant between DeNicola and your neighbors. Our commissioners will be putting Mt. Lebanon residents at lethal risk of harm in our own homes. 

Dave, you could have kept your word since there was a majority without your vote. But no. 2017 is going to be the worst year ever with you as president of the commission. God help us all.

Somewhere in Virginia Manor

Monday, November 28, 2016

Today at 3:50 PM - Look Out Lebo! UPDATED

Most of the sidewalks are closed at this most dangerous intersection of Cedar and Cochran Roads. Pedestrians are forced to walk in the street. Where is the crossing guard?

video

Look Out Lebo!

Update November 28, 2016 8:10 PM We have crazy drivers here. From MLPD's Twitter feed:

Beverly @ Overlook = Looks worse than it is. Despite the roll over, no one was injured. Roadway should be open by 1930. Please avoid area.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Who is going to enforce this?

Pennsylvania’s 12-day firearms deer hunting season begins tomorrow, November 28th. Since the Mt. Lebanon commissioners have turned Mt. Lebanon into municipal approved game lands, I wrote to the commissioners with my concerns. I wanted to know if there would be any firearms hunting in Mt. Lebanon or Twin Hills Park.


From: Keith Mcgill <kmcgill@mtlebanon.org>
To: egillen476 <egillen476@aol.com>
Cc: Commission <commission@mtlebanon.org>; Aaron Lauth <alauth@mtlebanon.org>
Sent: Sun, Nov 27, 2016 5:15 pm
Subject: Re: Deer hunting season

Good evening Elaine,

Mt. Lebanon has not given anyone permission to hunt deer using firearms on any municipally owned property.

Keith
--
Keith McGill, AICP
Municipal Manager
412-343-3684
kmcgill@mtlebanon.org

****** 

On Nov 27, 2016 5:41 PM, "egillen476@aol.com" <egillen476@aol.com> wrote:

Thanks for your response, Keith. Is it conceivable that firearms could be used on private Mt. Lebanon property? What restrictions are in place to protect residents during PA's 12-day firearms deer hunting season?

Elaine

******

From: Keith Mcgill <kmcgill@mtlebanon.org>
To: egillen476 <egillen476@aol.com>
Cc: Aaron Lauth <alauth@mtlebanon.org>; commission <commission@mtlebanon.org>
Sent: Sun, Nov 27, 2016 8:07 pm
Subject: Re: Deer hunting season

Elaine,

Anyone hunting on private property in Mt Lebanon would need the permission of the property owner and would need to follow the rules and regulations of the PA Game Commission.

Keith

******

From: egillen476 <egillen476@aol.com>
To: kmcgill <kmcgill@mtlebanon.org>
Cc: alauth <alauth@mtlebanon.org>; commission <commission@mtlebanon.org>
Sent: Sun, Nov 27, 2016 9:15 pm
Subject: Re: Deer hunting season

Thanks, Keith. It is a shame that our spineless commissioners hide and make you do the dirty work. What exactly are we getting for their monthly stipends? They enact resolutions that cannot be enforced. They don't answer emails. They avoid answering questions at meetings by asking the citizen to email their questions to the commission. Then you are tasked with answering. What a great gig.

2017 will be even worse with Dave Brumfield badgering residents during their five minutes of comments. Thanks to the commissioners, I had the opportunity to witness how Commonwealth Court judges operate. The Commonwealth Court President had a kitchen timer and ignored the beeper if they had questions and/or would permit both sides to continue their arguments if they were in the middle of a thought. It was very civilized. No interruptions like our power hungry, ego-inflated commissioners handle citizen comments. Unless you are pro-kill. Then there is more leniency.

The commissioners will be approving more deer killing tomorrow night. That means that out of 24 months, there will be approximately 14 months of lethal weapons in Mt. Lebanon by March 2017. The white tail deer is our state animal. We will ALWAYS have deer. 

Thanks, Commissioners, for turning Mt. Lebanon into municipal approved game lands.

Elaine Gillen

One year later...

Facebook reminded me of this "memory" from one year ago.

State orders Mt. Lebanon to provide locations of deer hunt

On Tuesday, the state Office of Open Records granted Ms. Gillen’s request for all communications to and from the municipal government concerning the controlled archery hunt. The information is to be released within 30 days. 
A Mt. Lebanon spokeswoman said the municipality had received the request but would not issue a statement until commissioners and staff could meet next week. The next commissioners meeting is scheduled for Dec. 8, but Susan Morgans said the Right-to-Know request will probably be discussed sooner.

Susan Morgans leaked the commissioners' decision to the PG, that they decided to take it to the Court of Common Pleas. I read about it in the newspaper.

The commissioners, of course, voted to take this to the Court of Common Pleas. From there, it went to Commonwealth Court. Knowing our commissioners, it will probably go all the way to the Sate Supreme Court, if they will hear it.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The hate is spreading to our children UPDATED

I have no details yet. Our super Super is preparing a statement which will be sent home to parents.




"Friends, the hate is spreading to our children. We must stop this. This swastika was found in the mulch at an elementary school playground in Mt. Lebanon, the community we live in and my children attend school in. At a middle school, also in Mt Lebanon, some students started a "Kill All Jews" club. This happens to be a community where many Jewish families reside. I am sickened that this is happening in 2016. Please share. The schools have told us nothing. We need to come together as a community and challenge this type of behavior."

Update November 23, 2016 4:29 PM Letter sent to Parents:

From: Timothy J. Steinhauer, Ed.D. <noreply@mtlsd.net>
Sent: Wednesday, November 23, 2016 2:25 PM
To: Parents
Subject: Recent Incident
 
Dear Parents,

This morning we were made aware that an image of a swastika had been created on the playground of Washington Elementary School on October 12, 2016. It was drawn into the mulch and was not permanent. On that day the image was photographed and has since been circulated on social media.

After an immediate and thorough investigation, the sixth grade student responsible for creating this image admitted responsibility to the Mellon Middle School administration. The Mt. Lebanon Police Department was notified and other appropriate actions will ensue.

Have no doubt that we are committed to providing a safe and welcoming environment for all of our students. We have and will continue to act swiftly to address any issues that are offensive in accordance with our long-standing history, policies, and practices of nondiscrimination. There is zero-tolerance of discriminatory behavior in our schools.

Please continue to notify your child’s teacher or principal if you are made aware of any issue that may create a non-inclusionary atmosphere. Likewise, if you have concerns about your child’s reaction to this incident or wish to discuss further, please contact your school counselor, principal, or me.

Respectfully,

Timothy J. Steinhauer, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools

Tony, please return the commissioners' brains

The agenda for Monday's Commission meeting has been posted on the municipal website. The commissioners will be approving more "sharpshooting" for 2017.

John Bendel is introducing the following action item:

Consideration of a contract for a white-tailed deer management program utilizing sharpshooting. 
The Municipality has been developing a multi-faceted deer management program. Mt. Lebanon has an archery program that utilizes trained and licensed volunteer hunters to remove deer on private and public property. The archery program will continue through January 28, 2017. The Municipality desires to follow-up on the archery program with sharpshooting under a PA Game Commission political subdivision permit. This activity would occur from February 1, 2017 to March 31, 2017. 
The Municipality received a proposal from White Buffalo, Inc., to provide deer management sharpshooting services. The municipality has also received a Deer Control - Political Subdivision Permit from the Pennsylvania Game Commission permitting this activity. White Buffalo’s proposal contains two options: one to remove up to 100 deer at a cost of $83,477 or an option to remove up to 150 deer at a cost of $132,038. 
Recommended Action: Move to authorize the execution of this agreement with White Buffalo, Inc., for the removal of up to 100 deer at a cost not to exceed $83, 477, subject to the approval of the Manager and the Solicitor.

Here is what we know. Or don't know.
  • Tony DeNicola finished earlier than expected this past March. He couldn't find any more deer.  
  • Mt. Lebanon went to the Court of Common Pleas over the privilege of killing deer in Twin Hills Park, a 25 acre property owned by Mt. Lebanon which is situated in Scott Township. Mt. Lebanon won, but there were restrictions including the use of sharpshooting in Twin Hills. Either Mt. Lebanon honors that agreement, or Mt. Lebanon goes back to court for the use of high powered rifles in Twin Hills.
  • Archers have killed half as many deer this year, even with the additional 25 acres in Twin Hills.
  • The archery program concludes on January 28, 2017.
  • The commissioners will not have an official count of kills until February.
  • Either there are bogus accident reports being filed with MLPD, or we have sloppy bookkeeping. The numbers don't add up. Increased reported collisions vs. lower accidents vs. fewer dead deer pick ups. 
  • We do not know what type of bait or system that White Buffalo will use to distribute the bait. I was told that Tony's bait is proprietary. Evidently, Tony owns the patent on corn and apples. I thought God held that patent. Allegheny County Health Department is ready to fine Mt. Lebanon since ground feeding is not permitted.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Look Up Lebo, Deer, Parking, and 09 2016 Expenditures

The September Expenditure list has finally been released to the public.

I had filed a Right To Know asking for receipts from the Look Up Lebo campaign. All receipts, which were available, were given to me, and I shared in my September post, Look Up Lebo Update.

The costs of the Look Up Lebo stickers and flags are included in the September Expenditure list.

3,000 Look Up Lebo stickers cost $927, while the flags cost $879.66. The audio and video cost $449. According to Susan Morgans' report, the stickers and flags expenditures should be covered by the $5,000 grant from Allstate.

Compare Mt. Lebanon's investment for pedestrian safety to the $9,000 handed over to Tony DeNicola for the 700-900 deer his Cornell buddy estimated we had. Tony says that the hunters killed about half as many deer as last year. He isn't comparing apples to apples because this year's numbers should include kills from the 25 additional acres in Twin Hills Park, located in Scott Township.

So while the pedestrian safety budget is nominal, the commissioners are gearing up to spend another $80,000 to kill our stealthy deer. It is to "reduce deer/vehicle collisions." Of course. But as Commissioner Dave Brumfield realized, there is no way to measure the success of the killing program through tracking accidents. Accidents have declined. Dead deer pick ups have declined. Yet reported collisions have increased more than 80%. Either the deer are being raptured, or false collision reports are on the rise.

I have also noticed that Mt. Lebanon charges itself $1,040 per month for staff parking. I don't quite understand that concept. Would someone please explain to me how an entity can charge itself and then claim it as income?

Cell phone expenses are outrageous as usual.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Commonwealth Court

I think I have finally decompressed. The Municipality of Mt. Lebanon v Elaine Gillen and the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records oral argument was heard in Commonwealth Court on Monday, November 14.

I had never been in Commonwealth Court before. On a side note, I had never been in Common Pleas Court either. The courtroom which was used for the argument was the Supreme Court Room. It is spectacular.



We were number six or seven on the Court Calendar to go before a panel of three Commonwealth Court judges who came from Harrisburg and Philadelphia. No judge from Mt. Lebanon this time around! Before anyone asks, I do not know who the people were from Mt. Lebanon or recognized Mt. Lebanon School District's attorney for the School District case. They were last on the schedule and I left after we were finished.

I had to chuckle when I compared how Mt. Lebanon's commissioners run citizen comments vs. how the Commonwealth Court president handled the cases. Each side was permitted eight minutes for oral argument. Appellants were heard first and had to state if they wanted to reserve two minutes of their time for a rebuttal after the appellees' eight minutes. The Commonwealth Court President had a kitchen timer and would ignore the beeper if they had asked questions and/or would permit both sides to continue their arguments if they were in a middle of a thought. It was very civilized. No interruptions like our power hungry, ego-inflated commissioners handle citizen comments, unless you are Michalina, who is allowed to continue when the clock runs out.

I wish Cori Vipperman attended the argument. She would have crawled under the chair when the one senior judge interrupted MTL's counsel and said in so many words, "Please don't tell me that you think people felt threatened by someone who is against killing deer." The solicitor said that Judge O'Brien had already thrown that out in the lower court. Cori Vipperman email

I thought I would have seen Dave Franklin there, since he was willing to reach out to the Solicitor with the case. He encouraged the commissioners to appeal the Office of Open Records' decisions. Dave Franklin email See Dave? It isn't about intimidation or cyber bullying. Judge O'Brien ruled that the commissioners who were against it, were not in any danger. Their addresses were public information. Nobody "drove by their homes ...and perhaps worse." Whatever that means.

I don't know when a decision will be made. It could take several months. The next level would be to go before the State Supreme Court, IF the State Supreme Court would hear the case. Since Mt. Lebanon has endless amounts of money, the little person doesn't stand a chance.