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All the news that doesn't fit in print
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    A deceptively light-looking school board agenda produced a two-hour meeting Tuesday night as board members grappled with decisions about standardized test scores, bus contracts, accounting software and whether to start teaching French (or something else) again.

    Here's the short version:

    1) Bill Parker said he would like to see more done to raise the scores, Rick Rabinowitz said more data was being used, as he and Matt Alexander had campaign on, and now that it was implemented, time is required to see the results.

    2) Last year, CMD Services requested a 10 percent price hike after years of holding steady. The district agreed to a 5 percent hike and to implement the rest in subsequent years, with 2.5 percent this year. In the meantime, the board asked Nester to undertake a study to see if services could not be provided by another provider more cheaply.

    3) A company called Jitasa, which purchased the company from which Pottsgrove bought its financial accounting software almost 10 years ago for $175,000, is leaving the software field and the program the district uses will not be available after June 30, 2019.

    It's a good program which works well for the district, according to Business Manager Dave Nester, who convinced the board to spend $3,000 on a consultant who may find a way to shift the license to another Microsoft provider. If it doesn't work, the district could be facing a cost of $200,000 to $250,000 for a replacement program.

    4) As for French, after cutting the program in 2014 due to lack of interest, a language program survey taken by 348 people which just about everyone agreed was skewed in favor of French found an overwhelming interest in -- wait for it -- French! Even more popular than German, apparently, one of the German teachers promptly instructed the board on the benefits of the high school's German program.

    Everyone promised to proceed with open minds toward re-implementing a third language program. My money (and if I lived in the Pottsgrove School District it would be my money) is on French.

    And here are all the fabulous Tweets:



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    Author and investigative reporter Suki Kim spoke at The Hill School Thursday about her time inside North Korea.


    Three times a day, Suki Kim's students, the sons of North Korea's elite, marched in lockstep to the dining hall singing songs about the great leader.

    They were enrolled in a university from which they were not allowed to leave, and where the curriculum consisted largely of studying the country's "great leaders" who had led the nation since the 1948 division of the peninsula along the 38th parallel.

    Kim, a native South Korean journalist and author who slipped into the county several times under different guises, feels sympathy for them/

    "They were lovely young men," she says, arguing they cannot be held responsible for the behavior of their nation when, as the third generation to be raised in the country under the current system, they know so little of the outside world.

    Since 1945, North Korea has had only three "great leaders:" 
    From left, 
    Kim Il sung, Kim Jong il and Kim Jong un
    "People forget human beings live there," she said of a nation so cut off from the outside world, there is no Internet, little heat and so little electricity that the nation literally looks dark from space.

    Her remarks came at The Hill School's Center for the Arts, where she was the inaugural speaker in the school's new Thomas G. Ruth Speaker Series, named for a longtime history teacher at the school who died last year.

    Kim pulled no punches about the conditions under which North Koreans live -- famine, education based around the cult of the "great leader," scarce heat or electricity and being under surveillance 24 hours a day -- which is perhaps why she has no patience for jokes about North Korean leaders.

    "I don't see what's funny about a gulag nation of 25 million people," she said, having just shown a slide of a nation with nearly 20 known political prisons.

    Kim grew up with her grandmother waiting for her uncle to some day make it across from North Korea. Her grandmother died disappointed and a curiosity grew in Kim to learn more about the world's most secretive state.

    Kim teaching English inside a North Korean
    university 

    for the elite

    She first arrived in North Korea in 2002, after a great famine, and  "I was shocked at the complete lack of everything. Food, electricity, freedom," said Kim.

    It was also the 60th birthday of Kim Jong-il and she quickly discovered that everything about North Korean culture is now centered around the cult of the "great leader," to the point that even their calendar begins on the birthday of the first one, former guerilla leader Kim Il sung.

    "All the books are either by a great leader, or about him. All the people wear pins with his face on them. They have one TV station that works regularly and it is about the great leader. There is one newspaper, six pages long, that only writes about the great leader," she said.

    Even the flowers have been renamed after the great leaders.

    The reverence comes from an inculcated hatred of the United States, and the fact that the "great leader" protects the people from the U.S. Absence of knowledge about the outside world, or even how to think critically, "infantilizes the people," said Kim. "They believe very strange things, like  playing basketball makes you taller."

    In 2008, she again returned this time covering the New York Philharmonic's performance there but "everything was so staged, you couldn't find out anything."

    All males, except children of the elite, must 
    serve
    10 years in the armed forces in North Korea.
    Finally, she was able to get in as a teacher for a fundamentalist Christian organization that was funding a university.

    "They were allowed because they pretended they would not proselytize and I was allowed because I pretended I was a fundamentalist Christian, so there were two layers of deception going on," she said.

    There, she found all young men of the elite class, who were required to go everywhere in twos so they could report on each other. Once a week, there was a meeting where transgressions were reported and Kim had a minder who followed her 24 hours a day.

    All lesson plans had to be pre-approved and all lessons were recorded. "It's a system of total surveillance. You cannot talk about the outside world. You had computer science students who had never heard of the Internet," she said.

    Kim wrote at night and at down on a lap top, moving the files which she buried inside other files, onto a thumb drive which she wore around her neck, then deleting everything she had written in the lap top. If any of this had been discovered, she would have been imprisoned as a spy.

    The year was 2011 and not only was it "year 100," the birthday of the first great leader, it was also the year Kim Jong-il died "and I saw real sorrow among their students, which is what you would expect in a cult. He was their god."

    Living under conditions like this, means the current tensions between North Korea and the United States mean little to the population of North Korea.

    First, with no knowledge of the outside world, they don't know its going on. Second, "for them, after three generations have grown up in this environment where everything is about a constant threat of war, this would be nothing new for them, they've always lived this way" said Kim. "Their word for the workplace means 'battlefield.'"

    But even as the threat of a nuclear confrontation looms here, "As real as the nuclear threat is, there is a human rights aspect to this as well," said Kim.

    Here are the Tweets from her talk.


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    Photo Courtesy of Pottstown Schools.
    Navy veteran Billy Worrell, right, gives Lincoln Elementary students Nicholas Woodley and Matthew Berry instruction on the proper way to fold the American flag.


    Blogger's Note:The following was provided by the Pottstown School District.

    As the nation and president debate which actions indicate respect for the American flag and/or
    veterans, at least on Pottstown area veteran was focusing purely on making sure Pottstown students are taught the proper and respectful way to handle the flag when putting it up and taking it down the flagpole at Lincoln Elementary School.

    Fourth graders Nicholas Woodley and Matthew Berry, recently received some inpromtu  instruction on the proper way to fold our country's flag. 

    U.S. Navy veteran Billy Worrell was picking his granddaughter up from school when he noticed the boys, who are members of the school Safety Patrol, trying to fold the flag. 

    As a veteran of the Navy, member of the American Legion Honor Guard at veteran funerals and a Scout Master for 13 years, he knows a little bit about the subject.

    Luckily, he was willing and able to pass on knowledge of how to properly fold our country's flag to the next generation of our country's leaders. 

    "The citizenship shown by both young and old is just one more reason to say Proud to be from Pottstown," said Community Relations Director John Armato.

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    Photo by Evan Brandt
    Pottsgrove School officials, joined representatives of the architects and construction contractor for the three-year renovation and expansion of Pottsgrove High School, in cutting the ribbon for the grand opening of the $30 million project.

    OK, so it was a little late.

    Well, a lot late really. but what's 12 months between friends.

    A year after students returned to the renovated and expanded Pottsgrove High School -- a project which took three years and more than $30 million -- the school district got around to cutting the ribbon.
    Visitors tour the newly renovated library.

    "When we first started talking about this project, it an was $11 million building envelope project," said former Pottsgrove School Board President Justin Valentine. "I'm glad the administration had the wisdom to get us to look at a broader project. Every time I drive past this building now, I think 'it looks just like the architect's pictures.'"

    "I love this project, the energy, how involved the staff and even the students were in making the decisions," said Mike Kelly, project's chief architect from KCBA Architects.

    "We spent a lot of very long nights here," said School Board President Matt Alexander. "But we really are now in the 21st Century for education and this project takes a big step toward our goal of making Pottsgrove a school district of choice."

    "This is a state of the art facility, modeled on what the world, work place and universities look like," said Principal William Ziegler.
    The full Pottsgrove High School Homecoming Court.

    After the ribbon was cut, visitors were offered a tour of the building, which includes new spaces for art, music, science and athletics.

    The district will also buy a time capsule that is not to be opened until 2041.

    Afterward, the annual Homecoming Crowning Ceremony was held in the auditorium and new queens named for each class.

    An hour later, Pottsgrove celebrated its Homecoming Game with a resounding victory of crosstown rival, Pottstown.

    As Ziegler, an alum of the school he now leads, said: "it's a good day to bleed maroon and white."

    Look to coming editions of The Mercury for more coverage. Here are some Tweets from the day:


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    Photos Courtesy of the Pottstown Area Health and Wellness Foundation
    The Pottstown Area Health and Wellness Foundation board of directors with retiring and newly appointed members.
    Blogger's Note: The following was provided by the Pottstown Area Health and Wellness Foundation.

    Health and Wellness President Dave Kraybill, right, thanks outgoing
    board member Art Green for his 9 years of service.
    The Pottstown Area Health and Wellness Foundation has had changes in board leadership.

    As of June 30, 2017, three of the Foundation’s Board members, Art Green, Jim Corum and Kerri Pidcock-Lester, have concluded their terms and retired from the Board.

    “We are very fortunate to have had Art, Jim and Kerri serve on the Foundation’s Board of Directors with their combined knowledge, expertise and love of the communities we serve,” Foundation President Dave Kraybill said.

    Green held the title of Foundation’s Board Chair from July 2014- June 2017. In his nine years on the Board, he has served on the Executive, Strategic Planning, Marketing/Communications, Grants and Impact Committees.

    “Art is a tireless advocate for Pottstown and its economic future,” Kraybill said. “His multi-faceted professional background and insight was an asset to the board.”

    Kraybill, left, thanks Kerri Pidcock-Lester for her 

    6 years of service on the board.
    Kerri Pidcock-Lester served as a Foundation board member for six years, sitting on both the Grants and Nominating Committees.

    “Kerri is a heart for the people of Pottstown,” Kraybill said. “Her passion and unique perspective as a leader in the religious community was invaluable.”

    Jim Corum served on the board for three years, offering his expertise on both the Nominating and Marketing/Communications Committees.

    “A leader in community connectivity, Jim’s enthusiasm and love of Pottstown is unwavering” Kraybill said. “His zest for life is infectious and he truly walks the walk when it comes to our mission of leading a healthy lifestyle.”

    Kraybill expressed gratitude to the three retirees for their time, efforts and contributions to the organization over the years.

    “Oh behalf of the Foundation’s Board and staff, we thank Art, Kerri and Jim for their years of service and wish them all the best in their future endeavors,” Kraybill said.
    Kraybill, right, thanks Jim Corum for his 3 years of service.

    In June, the Foundation’s Board of Directors welcomed Dana Corp. Plant Manager Danny Aaron who will serve on the Grants Committee and retired Pottstown School District Superintendent
    Jeff Sparagana who will serve on the Strategic Planning and Marketing/Communications Committees.

    “We welcome Danny and Jeff to our Board and look forward to the valuable insights and professional experience they will each bring to the table,” Kraybill said.

    As of July 1, 2017, retired Owen J. Roberts School District Superintendent Myra Forrest serves as Chair of the Board with Todd Alderfer as Vice Chair and Matt Cappelletti continuing in the role of Treasurer. Dr. Keith Harrison will also continue in the role of Secretary and Doug Trainer will serve as “member-at- large” of the Executive Committee.

    About PAHWF: The Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation’s (PAHWF) mission is to enhance the health and wellness of area residents, providing education, funding and programs that motivate people to adopt healthy lifestyles. Visit www.pottstownfoundation.org for more information about the Foundation. 

    Discover Pottstown area’s online community, Mission Healthy Living, an initiative of PAHWF, to learn and share great information on how to lead a healthier life. You can also follow the Foundation on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest and YouTube.

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    Blogger's Note:The following was provided by the Friends of Hopewell Furnace.

    A program on "Early Pennsylvania Treaties and Trade with Native Americans will be presented by historic preservationist Larry Ward at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 8, in the Hopewell Furnace Conference Room.

    The free program is sponsored by the Friends of Hopewell Furnace.

    Ward will bring to life his research on Mouns Jones who was a licensed Indian Trader along with others who traded with 18th century Native Americans. 

    Native to the Schuylkill Highlands are the Lenni Lenape or Delaware Indians. 

    They were a loose confederation of Algonkian bands, which at the opening of the 17th century occupied a continuous territory from the Delaware Bay to the Blue Mountain Ridge, including today’s Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site. 

    A prominent feature of the park is the Lenape Trail, a 5.5 mile trail that runs through Hopewell Furnace and neighboring French Creek State Park. See Area Features Map.

    A published author along with Stephen Kindig of the Atlas of Drawings of Structures Preserved by the Historic Preservation Trust of Berks County [2008], Ward has served as director and vice president of the trust. 

    He continues to serve actively on the Board of Directors. He is a known bookseller, heading up Museum Books, LLC. He practiced law in Berks County from 1968-1997 and holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Providence College and a Juris Doctorate from Georgetown University.

    Established in 1994, the Friends of Hopewell Furnace is the official non-profit fundraising arm of Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site. A 501(c)3 citizen organization, its mission is to support the preservation, maintenance and programs of Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site. Donations to the Friends may be tax deductible according to the rules set by the Internal Revenue Service.

    While at Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site visitors are encouraged to go into the village, tour the buildings, see Hopewell's water wheel and learn about iron making and why Hopewell Furnace is important to our nation’s history. Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., the park is located five miles south of Birdsboro, PA, off Route 345. For more information visit www.friendsofhopewellfurn.org.


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    Photos by Evan Brandt
    Upper Pottsgrove residents line up to speak on the proposed new township highway garage and its $2 million cost. 


    No doubt, there is strength in numbers.

    And by the numbers, the dozen or so speakers from among the crowd of more than 75 Upper Pottsgrove Township residents who packed the middle school cafeteria Monday night outlined their opposition to a proposal to spend $2 million on a new solar-powered seven-bay highway garage that would take 25 years to pay off.
    The crowd gathers for Monday night's meeting.

    And, as the Tweets below show, it seemed to work.

    Commissioner John Bealer, who is not running for reelection,  told the crowd that what they had said at last night's meeting had convinced him the township is not ready to move forward with the project.

    Commissioner France Krazalkovich, who is not running for reelection, said he had been dubious about the project from the start and his concern about "scope creep" had come to pass.

    Commissioner Martin Schreiber, who is running for reelection, wanted to vote on rejecting the bids that night, but it was decided the legal advertisement had not indicated that might happen, so it would be best not to.
    Taylor and the rest of the board listen to a resident who says
    Upper Pottsgrove does not need "a Taj Mahal" for its highway garage.

    And Commissioner's President Elwood Taylor said that given that the people had spoken against the project, that he is looking for a number of them to meet as a committee and give the commissioner's a different option before the bids are rejected.

    The township has already invested $80,000 in getting the project to this point and has already instituted a tax to pay for the project.

    Here are the Tweets from the meeting:


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    Blogger's Note:The following was provided by the Althouse Arboretum.

    GreenAllies and local students will hold a Family Night Hike Program at the Althouse Arboretum, located at 1794 Gilbertsville Road from 6 pm to 9 pm on Friday, Oct. 13 and Saturday, Oct. 14.

    Parking will be available only at the Hillside Aquatic Center located at 134 W. Moyer Road in Pottstown. A shuttle will be available to take guest the short 2 minute drive to and from the Arboretum.

    The Family Night Hike - Daring Dinos program is a fun alternative to scary Halloween activities and 
    is specially designed for kids 10 and under. 

    Take a guided night time walk through illuminated trails to storyteller. Enjoy roasting marshmallows around our campfires. Win prizes playing games and try out our dino-mite craft set up in the pavilion. 

    Come dressed in your Halloween costume and don’t forget a flashlight. 

    This program will cost $5 per child and their will be additional food available for purchase. If you have any questions, call 267-371- 2288 for more information.

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    You might never know that council is wrestling with a potential 23 percent tax hike if you had attended last night's council meeting, or are lucky enough to see it on PCTV.

    That's because it was hardly mentioned.

    "I want to know what they are doing about the budget, not about murals," one resident told this reporter.

    He had a point.

    At this point, the budget is being handled in the finance committee, whose meetings are public, but whose schedule is difficult to find on the borough web site.

    And all we learned about that Wednesday night is that Council President Dan Weand asked Vice President Sheryl Miller to resign from it. He said he had heard from constituents that because she is not running for reelection, she will not have to live with the consequences of the recommendations it makes to council.

    Miller, not one to take such affronts lying down, refused and said her constituents had urged her to stay on and noted that if Weand loses the election in November, he should also immediately step down from the committee given he also will not have to live with the consequences as a council member, just as a taxpayer like Miller.

    "Sounds right," said Weand, who later told a reporter that as council president, he has the right to appoint or remove committee members at will, and he was trying to be polite. He declined to say .

    All of which makes for lovely gossip and an eye into the power politics and priorities of some of our council members, but does little to close a $2 million budget gap.

    To be fair, there were some ideas floated. Miller is still pushing for a professional review of borough operations and salaries and said a new borough manager should not be chosen until that review -- on which no one else has agreed -- is finished.

    She said the finance department needs to keep a better eye on trends, like health care costs and dropping property assessments, and plan accordingly, and then added that first responders should not be cut. It is perhaps relevant here to mention that the police department consumes more than half the borough's general fund.

    Kind of hard to have a serious discussion about the budget when the first thing you do is take half of it off the table for discussion.

    And Mayor Sharon Thomas suggested that rather than hire a new borough manager, that Assistant Borough Manager Justin Keller be promoted and do both his and Flanders' job for the same salary.

    If Pottstown holds to its usual course, having predicted doom, a final budget which contains a tax hike, but a smaller one, will be presented to council in November as a fait accompli -- most likely AFTER the election -- with little time for discussion or innovation.

    But with three of four council seats un-opposed, why would anything change?

    And, because this is Pottstown, we talked more about murals.

    Sigh.

    But there was a good idea floated by a resident, Lisa Mueller. She was responding to the notion that a third party can be assigned the maintenance responsibility for a mural which has been the sticking point from the beginning for a particular property owner.

    And she suggested that perhaps the borough could form a public arts council that would vet mural proposals as well as take responsibility for maintenance.

    That actually sounds like a pretty great idea, so long as we can avoid the usual Pottstown tendency to let WHO gets chosen devolve into a pissing contest.

    And with that, I present to you, The Tweets:


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    From 1961 to 1968, Richard Wells, an Owen J. Roberts alumnus, was the band director for his alma mater.

    Then he was named Associate Professor of the music department at Kutztown University and, in 1997, after 29 years of teaching, he retired and was named professor emeritus.

    This Saturday, both of Wells' alma maters will join together into on giant band to close the 47th Annual Owen J. Roberts Cavalcade of Bands with a performance of "America the Beuatiful." 

    And Wells will be there to lead them.

    The cavalcade begins at 5:55 p.m. in Wildcat Stadium on the campus of Owen J. Roberts High School. 

    Kutztown, like OJR, is a large ensemble with a great band tradition. The audience can look forward to a spectacular performance composed of winds, brass, percussion, and color guard members who bring with them a wide variety of talents and experiences, according to Todd Mengel, the current OJR band director.

    "The idea is to make this a very special night for Mr. Wells and honor him for his service to both schools," Mengel wrote in an email. "We will also be presenting Mr. Wells with a plaque and doing a dedication to him that night." 

    Wells is credited with establishing the jazz studies program at KU and he continues to direct the alumni jazz ensembles.

    The large ensemble rehearsal space at Kutztown University was named for Wells in 2013 as part of a $20 million renovation and expansion of Schaeffer Auditorium. KU alumni, students, faculty and staff raised more than $500,000 to honor Wells with the naming rights.

    At the cavalcade show, Owen J. Roberts and Kutztown University will honor Wells’ 36 years as a music educator. 

    "He has influenced scores of students to aspire to excellence in music performance," wrote Mengel. "A resident of the Owen J. Roberts School District, Mr. Wells remains loyal to the ideals and benefits of music and education and may be seen at both high school and college events."

    The 2017 Cavalcade of Music event will operate as a “showcase” event rather than a competition. Owen J. Roberts Marching Band has recently become a member of the Lancaster County Marching Band Coalition which gives high school bands adjudicated (judged) opportunities to receive professional feedback rather than rankings or numerical scores. 

    Part of the energy of the event comes from the fact that all spectators, including students from other performing bands, are seated on the home sideline, so that everyone can listen, observe, and enjoy the performances as they were intended...from the front. This method of engagement allows performers the ability to relax and have fun while providing a peer learning opportunity for student spectators.

    In lieu of an awards ceremony, the audience can be prepared for a super, grand finale of music and visual energy.

    Founded in 1934, the Kutztown University Marching Unit is comprised of 150 students under the direction of Professor Dan Neuenschwander. 

    The marching unit is open to any KU student, regardless of their field of study.

    The event is open to the public and tickets are available at the gate. Ticket prices are $10/adult, $8/senior and $5/students (grades K- College). 

    Concession stands will offer food and drinks for purchase. Gates open at 5 p.m. and the first band will perform at 6 p.m. A list of performing bands is available at ojrbandmpo.com.



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    Members of Pottstown Middle School's Environmental Club visit Longwood Gardens.













    Blogger's Note: The following was provided by the Pottstown School District. 

    In today's fast paced world it is important to take time to stop and smell the flowers.

    That is exactly what the members of the Pottstown Middle School Environmental Science Club did recently. 

    Along with their adviser Mrs.Ginger DeRenzo, 48 students traveled to Longwood Gardens. 

    There, they toured the garden and participated in the Operation Pollination Program and learned about the parts of a flower and the role of various types of pollinators. 

    DeRenzo said the field trip experience brings classroom learning alive for students and is an outstanding way to grow our understanding and appreciation for the environment.

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    Blogger's Note:The following was provided by Pottsgrove Manor.

    Crisp breezes, falling leaves, and Living History at Pottsgrove Manor are sure signs of autumn.

    Join in the history at “Fall into Fun” on Saturday Oct. 14 from 11 a.m. to 3 pm. to experience the seasonal routines of 18th century life.

    Learn about the process of making apple butter with the help of a historic interpreter. Check out spinning and try out hands-on activities such as stuffing a new mattress and make-and-take crafts with our friendly staff and volunteers.

    Dip your own candle and play a wide range of colonial games. Feel the heat of the hearth as cooks prepare a meal in an 18th century reproduction kitchen.

    Visitors can also learn about the economic, social, and historical differences between the 13 colonies as 7th-8th grade students from Pottsgrove Middle School display their project, “Selling Colonial America.”

    Vote on which colony you would like to live in during the event and tour colonial ironmaster John Potts’ 1752 manor house.

    The current exhibit, "Rise and Shine at the Manor," delves into the daily morning routines of both the Potts family and their household staff.

    Additionally, visitors can browse the Museum Shop for unique gifts, books, and 18th century reproduction items.

    This program welcomes all ages, and there is a suggested $2.00 donation per person for this event.

    Pottsgrove Manor is located at 100 West King St. near the intersection of King Street and Route 100, just off Route 422 near the Carousel at Pottsgrove and Manatawny Green Miniature Golf Course.

    Pottsgrove Manor is operated by the Montgomery County Division of Parks, Trails, and Historic Sites.

    For more information, call 610-326-4014, or visit the website at www.montcopa.org/pottsgrovemanor. Like Pottsgrove Manor on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pottsgrovemanor.

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    Kids enjoy tasty sweets at Beverly's Bakery during last year's Haunts on High








    Blogger's Note:The following was provided by event organizers.

    Calling all ghosts, goblins, creatures and superheros. 

    On Saturday, Oct. 14, visit participating businesses for the 4th annual Haunts On High downtown trick-or-treat. This year, Haunts On High will be held in conjunction with the Fall Art Walk 2017, so kids of all ages can experience a fun, free, creative evening as downtown Pottstown is transformed into its very own arts district with many activities to be enjoyed.

    The day will kick-off at 11a.m. at either end of the downtown with free sugar cookie decorating at Beverly’s Pastry, 322 E High St (11a.m. – 1 p.m), Manatawny Green, 71 W High St, for scarecrow stuffing and snacks (11 a.m. through business hours while supplies last), and Pottsgrove Manor, 100 W King St, for tours and colonial crafts (11 a.m. – 3 p.m.)
    One of two Mosaic Community Gardens, this one at 423 Chestnut St.

    Participating candy/craft stops on High Street between Evans Street and York Street will be marked between 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. (or until store close in a few cases) from Rite Aid, 340 E. High St to Potts & Penn Diner, 80 E High St. 

    There will face painting, a professional photo booth by Memory Madness, and a selfie station by PDIDA to commemorate your visit. Bring your own treat bags.

    Additionally, Mosaic Community Garden, 423 Chestnut St. will be open 12 to 4 p.m. for their end-of season Harvest Party and perennial exchange; Connections On High Café will be screening a fun Halloween movie where kids and parents can take a rest; and the Carousel at Pottstown will be spinning from 2 to 4 p.m., you can make a day of it with the family.

    And that’s only part of the festivities! Play on and admire art inspired hopscotch designs throughout
    town by ArtFusion 19464. ArtFusion coordinates the 3rd Art Walk, with art for exhibit and sale from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m in their brand new facility at the Beech St Factory.

    Steel River Playhouse, 245 E. High St. will be open for tours and exhibit from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and you can buy your tickets for a live showing of “The Nerd” at 1 p.m. The Hill School/Boyer Gallery off Beech St. will also be open.

    To register for your free Art Walk ticket and info which includes food discounts at Grumpy’s Handcarved Sandwiches and Lily’s Grill, visit artfusion19464.org

    After you grab your dinner, @107 will be hosting a Film Festival preview from local writer and filmmaker Chad Repko from 7 to 9 p.m. Or for the thrillseekers, visit Pottstown’s own 3-floor haunted attraction at an authentic Masonic temple, Temple of Terror, 20 N Franklin St. 7 p.m. until line ends. Part of your $15 ticket will support local people facing cancer treatment through “Stretch the Ride.”

    Parking details: Visitors may make use of street parking or the public parking lots (35 cents per hour) 1. Reading Lot (Hanover Street behind the RR tracks) 2. High & Charlotte Lot 3. King and Evans St. Lot (enter from King St.)

    Peak Art Drive

    Also, Pottstown Community Arts will host a fall craft table and Art Supply Drive on the 200 block of High St. to benefit PEAK (Pottstown Early Action for Kindergarten). 

    Please bring donations of glue sticks, 6-color waterpaint sets, Play-Doh, Fiskar scissors, construction paper, manila drawing paper, crayons, markers, tempera paint, brushes, paper plates, paper towels, toilet paper tubes, and plastic table cloths to Haunts On High, or to ArtFusion. The teachers truly appreciate all your help!

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    For all of you who were hoping for a dramatic last minute change of heart on the ongoing sage of borough council's vital mural law debate, only Councilman Joe Kirkland provided some drama when he changed his vote to oppose it.

    After all, this is borough council, not a Disney movie.

    Having dealt with this interesting but ultimately secondary concern, council moved forward with the single most important thing it does each year the budget.

    No, I'm just kidding.

    Council President and Finance Committee member Dan Weand said there had been some discussion about ways to cut costs and increase revenues, but he couldn't discuss them because .... well, to be honest that was not entirely clear.

    I suppose we should just rest assured its in capable hands.

    But Council member Dennis Arms isn't so sure. He noted that he has provided several suggestions to cut costs but they are all still in the draft budget. He did not specify other than to say "we're still spending $100 a month for "plant-scaping here in borough hall. I don't need to see plants when I come in to pay my $300 water bill.

    And Council Vice President Sheryl Miller, who has refused Weand's request that she resign from the finance committee, said engineering costs from the borough authority's engineering form, BCM, "put us over-budget in 2016. It is every council member's responsibility to be looking at this budget, not just the finance committee."

    Arms also agitated for more discussion about replacing retiring Borough Manager Mark Flanders, who steps down at the end of December.

    Mayor Sharon Thomas suggested a transition team that puts Assistant Borough Manager Justin Keller in the job now to save time and money. "I've been through this a few times and we always spend a lot of money to decide we need to hire from within," she said.
    A rendering of the homes proposed for the 500 block of Lincoln Ave.

    There was a surprise visit from the Governor's Office of Local Government, who responded to Miller's call for a review of salaries and operations saying that is what was done in 2007 and the office remained available to undertake another.

    In other news, council undertook a conditional use hearing for a proposal to build six attached single family homes in the 500 block of Lincoln Avenue.

    And a review of the proposed land bank law, which council voted to advertise, with only Arms voting against.

    With that, here are the Tweets.


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    Submitted Photos
    Members of The Hill School hockey team load a bus full of donations to be shipped to Puerto Rico hurricane victims.








    Blogger's Note:The Following was provided by The Hill School.

    Members of The Hill School boys’ hockey team loaded Hill’s “Big Blue” school bus with supplies meant for Puerto Rico's hurricane victims Friday.

    Loaded were: 60 cases of water; 24 large cases of diapers; 50 flashlights with batteries and extra batteries; 15 large boxes of canned food; 24 boxes full of dry goods ranging from cereal to Ramen noodles; and 12 large boxes of toiletries and personal sanitary items. 

    Hill Instructor of Computer Science Damian Baraty, along with Heather Gelting, human resources director, and Lisa Demetrio, Sodexo dining manager, then drove the bus to Allentown to deliver the supplies to be shipped to Puerto Rico.

    This effort was part of a larger endeavor led by Mrs. Demetrio’s neighbor, Ty Solis, a Pottstown resident and native of Puerto Rico. Solis’ family resides in Patillas, Puerto Rico, one of the many areas of the island that has suffered great devastation in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

    In just 10 days, students, faculty, and staff, and the greater Pottstown community came together to support the people of Puerto Rico to collect the greatly needed items. After an initial call for assistance in an email sent to our community by Gelting, and publicity from local press, The Hill School’s Business Office and Gatehouse soon became temporary collection centers as Hill employees, parents, and community members generously dropped off basic need and emergency items, as well as monetary donations.

    In addition to the collection, Quin Mastrangelo 2018, president of the campus Young Republicans Club, organized a bake sale to raise money for this effort.

    Quin Mastrangelo, center, is joined by Heather Gelting and
    Lisa Demetrio purchasing supplies in Costco.
    His sale amassed $300, which was added to the contributions, for a total of $2,058. 

    Quin accompanied Gelting and Demetrio to the local Costco to purchase additional items, which were included in the delivery to Allentown and then transported via a shipping container that Mr. Solis had arranged to have safely delivered to Patillas.

    “We estimate that more than $3,500 of goods were donated on Friday, although it’s very hard to put a value on all the donated items dropped off,” remarked Heather. “It really was an amazing effort.”

    Water for Puerto Rico | Grassroots Efforts Led by Hill Alumni

    While The Hill drive has concluded, the need for assistance by residents of Puerto Rico is ongoing. For those still wishing to help, Hill alumnus and resident of San Juan, Alejandro Calaf Reichard and his Hill classmate, Ian Stewart, both class of 1996, have created a Facebook effort, Water for Puerto Rico

    They are collecting various basic need and emergency supplies, in particular water filters and filtering systems. All items are being sent directly to Alejandro who will travel to the affected neighborhoods to distribute to those who need it most in Puerto Rico.

    The efforts of Reichard and Stewart have reached across the world, thanks in part to their strong Hill ties and connections with classmates and other Hill alumni. What started as a small grassroots effort on Facebook to collect resources for clean water has now grown into a group nearly 400 strong with a growing list of initiatives, including connecting charitable organizations with donors and cancer patients with stateside hospitals.

    “What started as one package being sent, has evolved into a group conversation on Facebook,” said Stewart. “From there it has grown into a group with more than 350 members. As of the first 30 hours, we estimate about $10,000 worth of supplies were in motion directly because of this group.”

    While Reichard and Stewart are focused on the immediate needs of residents of the island, they also recognize that this is just the beginning, and they are committed to assisting with the reconstruction of Puerto Rico.

    “After things get settled with water and the aid gets to the last person in need, the reconstruction begins,” noted Reichard. “Ian and I know the need here for helping people reconstruct their homes and lives is long, and it's a complicated issue altogether.”
    Donations are dropped off in Allentown.

    “We figure we can keep our initiative going by evolving it into getting building supplies to those who need it the most, in particular the basics which we can't make in Puerto Rico, including wood, nails, nuts, bolts, and washers,” he said.

    If you are interested in learning more about how you can help, "Like" the Water for Puerto Rico Facebook page or request to join the group planning page. Reichard is very active on the page, posting updates, news, and videos of his travels. A “Wish List” of items also is available on Amazon.com, which can be ordered and shipped directly to Alejandro in San Juan.

    Reichard plans to be at Patillas when the donations from The Hill School and Pottstown arrive on the island. The success of these endeavors truly is a testament to The Hill School’s concern for the greater good and the back of each, the strength of all.

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    The Mosaic Community Garden at 423 Chestnut St. has won the "Garden of Distinction Award" from the Pennsylvania Hosrticultural Society.









    The Mosaic Community Land Trust's garden at 423 Chestnut St. will be awarded the Garden of Distinction Award from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society's "Gardening and Greening" contest, according to an email sent out by garden manager Daniel Price.

    "This is due to the amazing community and plot holders that have put years of work into these gardens. You continue to showcase how beautiful of a community Pottstown truly is," Price wrote.

    To celebrate that achievement and to thank all for an amazing year, the community is invited to the gardens' end of the season Harvest Party tomorrow, Saturday, Oct. 14th between 12 and 4 p.m. at the garden at 423 Chestnut Street

    Similar to last year, the event is in conjunction with Haunts on High and Pottstown Arts Walk and is an open house for the entire community. Food and drink will be on hand, but pot luck dishes are welcome too. (Perhaps it’s something made from vegetables in your plot or home garden.) 

    Feel free to invite friends and family and spread the word to your neighbors. All are welcome. 
    A "Harvest Party" will be held from 12 to 4 p.m. Saturday

    In addition to the food, there will be activities for children as well plant swapping for recreational gardeners that participated or would like to participate in next year’s garden contest.

    "I want to thank each of you for being involved in our community gardens this past year. With the departure of Laura (Washington) and with me hitting the ground running in spring, the last six months have flown by," Price said in his email. "The entire community has been extremely welcoming and I’m eternally grateful for your energy, love and patience this year."

    As the season winds down, registrations will available for new members as well as a sign up list for returning members from this or previous years. 

    Mosaic is also inviting suggestions for names for their two gardens, one at 423 Chrstnut St. and the other at 615 Chestnut St..  

    "As we move forward and grow, the goal is to get each garden to have it’s own identity and committee. I know myself and the Mosaic board would love to hear your ideas of what that would look like," Price wrote. 

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    Hopewell Quilters from left, Becky Hughes, Elverson; Eve Biamonte, Coatesville; David Blackburn, Hopewell Furnace NHS Site Manager; Lee Norman, Oley; Beth Shugar, Reading. Quilt recipient, bottom right Ellen Boyer of Pottstown.








    Blogger's Note:The following was provided by Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site

    A handmade quilt was presented to Pottstown resident Ellen Boyer at the Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site Visitor Center.  On Wednesday, Oct. 4.

    The quilt was made by The Hopewell Quilters, a group of volunteers at Hopewell Furnace that demonstrate the art and craft of quilting to park visitors. Mrs. Boyer, a long time volunteer at Hopewell Furnace, has created historic costumes for events and activities at Hopewell Furnace for many years. 

    Fabric used in the quilt was provided by Boyer and represented many years of her costume work at Hopewell. 

    The quilt’s design, “Spools and Thimbles,” was purchased by Boyer and represents 305 hours of work to create it. 

    “The quilt is a wonderful representation of how heritage, tradition, life ways, and volunteerism connect to the work we do at Hopewell Furnace NHS” said Site Manager David Blackburn.

    Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site preserves and interprets an early American industrial landscape and community. Showcasing an iron plantation and its surrounding countryside, Hopewell Furnace was active from 1771 to 1883. 

    The park’s facilities are currently open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week. It will return to a five day a week operation, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, the week of Oct. 29. 

    The Historic Site is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Hopewell Furnace is located five miles south of Birdsboro, PA, off of Route 345. Admission to the park is free. 

    For more information, download our app, stop by the park's visitor center, call 610-582-8773, or visit the park’s web site at www.nps.gov/hofu.

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    Watching the epic Ken Burns/Lynn Novick documentary "The Vietnam War" over the past two weeks has been both a revelation and a confirmation.

    The confirmation? Politicians lie.

    Duh.

    What came as a revelation is something I think I also already knew but didn't want to face so baldly -- the depth of the lies politicians will tell and the lengths they will go to to preserve them, no matter the cost in lives, trust or treasure.

    Watching, hour after hour, I confess to being constantly staggered by what they told the public, versus what they knew and said in private -- now known thanks to the passage of time.

    There is no partisanship in this observation.

    The first and formative lies were told by Democrats -- first by JFK, perhaps our most revered president, then by LBJ, who watched as his Great Society anti-poverty agenda was slowly crushed bneath the weight of a war he could not win and did not think he could not afford to lose.
    THE ARCHITECTS OF WAR: JFK, Robert McNamara and LBJ.

    Needless to say, Republican Richard Nixon was no slouch in the lying department, but by the time he began to tell his whoppers, no one could claim to have clean hands when it came to Vietnam.

    There was nothing clean about it.

    It was a dirty war, in reasoning, rhetoric and reality.

    The soldiers in the field were fighting a dirty jungle war, with no front lines, no clear mission and, no end in sight.

    How could a soldier, or anyone for that matter, be expected to maintain their composure, their
    motivation, hell, their sanity, after crawling up hill through hellfire and watching friends die to take ultimately meaningless high grounds like "Hamburger Hill," only to have them abandoned by command days later,and quickly re-occupied by the enemy?

    The government our soldiers were fighting to preserve in South Vietnam was filthy with corruption and the government that had sent the soldiers there to fight was making a mess of things back home.

    Soldiers were shooting students, African-Americans were rioting in the streets and protesters at political conventions, thousands were marching both for and against the conflict and soldiers in Vietnam were asking themselves exactly what they were doing in Southeast Asia.

    I was, I admit, admiring of the role the press played in revealing the lies and contradictions at the time.

    Reporters like Morley Safer, Joseph Galloway and Neil Sheehan, risked their lives, their reputations and repeatedly spoke truth to power, over and over again, in their pursuit of the truth.

    In all honesty, as proud as it made me to be a part of that profession, I don't think I would have had the balls to be a battlefield reporter during that war.

    Without their steadfast reporting, most of the country would not have realized what was really going on in Vietnam, as opposed to the lies their government was telling them.

    Civilian women and children were among those murdered at My Lai.
    Sadly, pieces of that truth -- the comparatively isolated incidents of crimes and atrocities like the My Lai Massacre -- were too broadly applied to the returning veterans who had fought with honor as best circumstances allowed and were shunned by a nation which owed them a sincere apology.

    The war, opposition to it, and Nixon's brilliantly perceptive "southern strategy" in winning the election -- recognizing and cultivating the deep desire of white suburbanites to just make it all go away so their lives could continue on as before -- combined to gouge deep divides in this country which are still visible today in red/blue states on election night maps.

    And I fear the lessons of the Vietnam era are lessons we may forget because so much high school history only manages to get as far as World War II, or perhaps the Korean War. And so few people are curious to learn more about a war we "lost."

    Worse yet, I fear this forgotten history is on the verge of being repeated as our leadership -- whose only consistent theme seems to be to undo everything accomplished by the previous administration -- shambles incoherently toward a mixed menu of disasters which may soon find us plunged into war, or environmental destruction or an unsustainable disregard for our less fortunate citizens, or all of the above and more.

    I have seen some of the criticisms of the film, that it over-simplifies things or has left things out. That may be true. In fact, given the complexities of the time and the length of time it covers, how could that not be the case?

    But born in 1964, I am too young to be the judge of that by personal experience.

    My earliest memories of an awareness of the war are asking my parents, who were in the kitchen washing the dishes, how many wars America had won and how many had it lost and being puzzled by the meaningful look they exchanged.

    Regardless, whether it is complete or not, it strikes me that the 20 hours of education masterfully assembled by Novick and Burns is as good a place as any to start learning those history lessons in the dwindling hope that we don't re-live it.

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    Blogger's Note:The following was provided by YWCA Tri-County Area.

    How does violence against women and children impact our community? What resources exist for women and children in our community? What can we do to make positive change?

    YWCA Tri-County Area will participate in Week Without Violence, Oct. 16-20, a national YWCA movement raising awareness of the devastating effects of violence in our society. 

    As a part of its mission to promote peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all, YWCA Tri-County Area works to bring communities together to combat violence and injustice.

    According to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, since 2006 Montgomery County ranks fourth among Pennsylvania counties in fatalities linked to domestic violence.

    YWCA Tri-County Area will host a number of activities during Week Without Violence to raise awareness of violence in our community, and of the inequities, biases and “isms” that lead to violence:
    • "Persimmon Purse Bingo" from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, Oct. 20, at Norco Fire Company, 144 W. Schuylkill Road, North Coventry will raise awareness and support YWCA's Teen Dating Violence Awareness program, which helps teens learn about healthy relationships, and how to recognize danger signals from their dating partners. The color persimmon reflects the strength and confidence of YWCA. Register here: yw3caBINGO.eventbrite.com
    • YW’s Tri-County Area’s Early Education Center will host an open house and informational event from 3 to 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 19, at 315 King St., Pottstown. Representatives of the Women’s Center of Montgomery County will be on hand to offer information about gender-based violence prevention, support, and resources.
    • Young artists are invited to take part in a Youth Art Contest marking Week Without Violence. All youth grades 6-12 in the Tri-County Area are invited to submit original art celebrating YWCA’s mission of promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.
    • Children from YW’s Early Education Center will take part in a Clothesline Project, a national project founded to raise awareness of violence against women. The children will create T-shirt- shaped posters promoting YWCA’s mission of peace, justice, freedom and dignity.

    Artwork from the Youth Art Contest and the Clothesline Project will be displayed at YWCA Tri-County Area during an open house from 3 to 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 19, at YW’s Early Education Center, 315 King St., Pottstown, and at the Persimmon Purse Bingo event from 6 to 10 p. m. Friday, Oct. 20, at the Norco Fire Company, North Coventry.

    YWCA Tri-County Area is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all. YW3CA is a leader in advocacy for women and girls, works to eliminate racism, and empowers women through quality affordable childcare, adult literacy, and a host of programs to support the health and vitality of women, girls, and families.

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    Township commissioners made it official Monday night, rejecting all bids for the new $2 million public works facility at Heather Place.

    Commissioners Chairman Elwood Taylor cast the only no vote.

    He said characterizations of him being disappointed by the outcry from the Oct. 2 meeting at which many residents spoke out against the project were inaccurate. He said the township had been exploring the issue for many years and this was the outcome and he supports the process.

    Nevertheless, Taylor said he looks forward to the alternatives produced by a committee of residents who volunteered to look into the matter.

    Discussion of the township budget also indicated that in its current draft form, no tax hike is anticipated, although there was some spirited discussion about the annual cost of sewer service, voiced mostly by the audience.

    And our friends in the insect family are really bugging folks in Upper Pottsgrove.

    Township Manager Carol Lewis said the township is receiving lots of complaints about the invasive species spotted lantern fly, which comes here by way of Korea and is a danger to trees.

    Commissioner France Kazalkovich, who lives in a townhouse development said "I have exactly one tree on my property, and it was covered from top to bottom with these things."

    State Sen. Judy Schwank, D-11th Dist., will hold a hearing on this threat on Wednesday, at 9 a.m. and the hearing will be livestreamed on her web site (click here).

    In the meantime, Lewis is pursuing a PECO grant to replace the ash trees on public property the township is expected to lose (those that were not harvested for lumber) to another invasive insect, the emerald ash borer.

    Before I release you to revel in the live Tweets from the meeting, I would be remiss if I did not share a new term Township Solicitor Charles D. Garner Jr. invented, which talking about the intersection of the zoning ordinance as it relates to farm animals, and the animal control ordinance adopted this year -- "horse densities."

    Evidently it relates to a "horses-per-acre" ratio, and not a measure of how dense your horse may be.

    And without further ado, here are the Tweets:



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    Let's face it folks. You read the above headline, you breathed a sigh of relief and moved on.

    Well, for those curious souls who want a little more detail, I have a little more detail.

    First, don't forget that the average Pottstown water bill went up 14 percent in July. (There is a link to that story below).

    Second, both budgets are preliminary, according to Finance Director Janice Lee.

    She said borough council must ultimately approve both and the sewer budget vote is nothing more than a recommendation.

    "We don't even have the health insurance numbers yet," she said.

    Nevertheless, here's where things stand.

    The total 2018 water fund budget totals $6,884,272 as of Tuesday night.

    The 2018 sewer fund budget totals $11,606,843 as of  Tuesday night.

    Keep in mind, that includes several funds, such as street pipes, capital projects and more.

    But unless there is a major change due to numbers not yet finalized, or council makes a big change (yeah, right!) what you're paying now for water and sewer is what you'll pay in 2018.

    There was little else of interest except that utilities administrator Bob Plenderleith, a nice man who helped straighten out the numbers in the finance office, announced he is retiring in January.

    He is very popular with the townships, which have grown fond of his accuracy, and I always found him extremely knowledgeable and helpful. Best of luck to you Bob.

    Here are the Tweets.


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    Blogger's Note: The following was provided by the Pottstown School District.

    Pottstown High School Jr. Air Force ROTC Unit PA 951 believes in service to others above self. 

    The 80-cadet unit under the command of Col. James Porter lives up to the words everyday. 

    Veteran's Day ceremonies in Memorial Park.
    During the first four weeks of school cadets volunteered for more than 10 projects all of which take place after school hours and on weekends. 

    Everywhere there is a community event that needs assistance ROTC can be found giving a helping hand before, during and after the activity. 

    From providing support to set up and clean up at events like the Library Book Sale, Carousel of Flavor,Airport Community Day, Pet Fair, Harrier Cross Country Invitational, serving as guides at both Pottstown and Pottsgrove High School Open Houses to providing an Honor Guard at athletic events and Veterans Community Day cadets can be found serving the community.
    Helping out at Airport Day.

    During the first month of school the Unit provided more than 750 hours of community service. 

    Pottstown High School ROTC Unit has been recognized nineteen years in a row by the U.S. Air Force with the International Distinguished Unit Award , an award that goes to the top 10 percent of the more than 900 units world wide. 

    Col. Porter said "I am proud of the young men and women of our unit, they are preparing themselves to become the future leaders of our country."

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    If you blinked Thursday night, you might have missed the school board meeting.

    The board was done with its work session in just over 30 minutes. Not sure if that's a new record but its darn close.

    But even at that speed, there was some news to glean, the most significant of which is a pending savings of $573,591 as the result of a bond re-financing.

    Board member Kim Stilwell said the finance committee has endorsed the plan and a vote Monday will move things forward.

    Board Vice President Emanuel Wilkerson said that with the possibility of the loss of Pottstown Hospital from the tax rolls, the board should once again be asking the community for suggestions about how to economize.

    (Last time the call when out, there were few responses.)

    And, in the gloom and doom department, Superintendent Stephen Rodriguez said a potential cut to Federal Communications Commission funding at the federal level has the potential to cost the district because of federal funding it uses to buy electronic equipment.

    But not to end on a dark note, another Pottstown teacher has used the district's housing initiative to buy a home here in the borough.

    And with that, here are the Tweets.


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    Photo by Evan Brandt
    Magesterial District Justice Scott Palladino, center, swears in Johnay Cranford, the newest student member of the Pottstown School Board Monday night while her father John holds the Bible for her.


    If you thought Thursday's School Board meeting was short, it was War & Peace compared to Monday night.

    It was only 17 minutes long and would have been shorter if Ron Williams had been absent.

    The one piece of good news to report was that Pottstown High School Junior Johnay Cranford was sworn in as the newest student member of the school board.

    Aside from that, the board agreed with one vote on 17 of the 28 items on the agenda with a single vote.

    The rest didn't take much longer.

    Here are the Tweets.