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West Chester Weekly News Roundup: Mar. 25, 2022

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It’s Friday, March 25. While we were lamenting the closing of Jane Chalfant and the passing of Sal Inzone, Sr., downtown took another hit. Losing yet another establishment that made West Chester, West Chester. Plus, the West Chester Area School district lays out its plan to remain one of the state’s top districts. What they suggest the next three years look like. And Faunbrook B&B is for sale. Perhaps, this will be the transformative year the pandemic never was? Who’s ready? Let’s catch up.

Where do you see yourself in the next 3 years? 

The West Chester Area School District presents its 3 year plan to the school board next week.

West Chester has long prided itself on its school district. Consistently ranked among the best in the state (currently 26th according to Niche.com), it is often listed among the reasons people move here. Well, you don’t stay at the top by resting on your laurels, people. Next week the West Chester Area School District votes on its next Comprehensive Plan. Think of it as their 3-year roadmap for staying on top. 

So what do the next three years look like as it stands now? 

The West Chester Area School District Comprehensive Plan is made up of five parts. Some of which are a continuation of what the district has been working on for the last 3 years and a couple of areas are new.

Continue to work on:

  1. Access to district programming for all students. This is an equity goal and the focus here is on representation (more diversified staff), access (improved communication with non-English speaking families) and measurement (address the limitations of standardized tests.)
  2. Development of innovative teaching and learning strategies. This is a future of education goal and ensures the district is continuing to evolve to meet the needs of an evolving workforce. Sub goals here include:  more professional development opportunities for teachers, better integration of technology into the learning environment (adherence to ISTE standards), and (new for 2022) development of a curriculum review cycle.
  3. Being proactive on fiscal and capital planning. This is their evergreen fiscal responsibility goal. Much like for the previous three years, the goals here are to provide balanced budgets, keep the capital plan up to date and seek opportunities to increase sustainable revenue sources such as more facility rentals and naming or other sponsorship opportunities. 

New for 2022 (to 2025): 

  1. Create more opportunities for students to engage in school academically, socially and emotionally. This is another equity goal but this one is less specifically tied to minority groups and more generally to bringing students on the sidelines into the fold. To achieve this they have defined goals to increase participation in co-curricular* activities and provide more opportunities for positive interactions with administrators, teachers and other students. They also want to develop a student leadership class and give students more independence in the classroom. According to the Comprehensive Plan, “Research shows that when schools foster autonomy in education, students develop self-motivation and responsibility.”
  2. Special Education planning. Also new this time around is a specific focus on special education. There are currently  1852 special education students representing over 15% of the student population. With this new directive the district has set a goal to “Meet the needs of all students in the least restrictive environment.” As this is truly a new initiative, the goal here seems to be the development of the plan itself. You can find the full Special Education plan here.  

“Create a strategic plan and execute on that plan, so that we can continue to provide the best education possible for our students,” said School Board member Dr. Kate Shaw said of their goal at last month’s board meeting but in order to do this, they need your input. “We invite comments,” she added.

If there is something you think the district should be focusing on, this is where it should be. Comments are still being accepted, but I would get them in soon. The School District will vote on the proposed plan on Monday. You can find the complete document here.

*If you, like me, are not familiar with this term, I looked it up. Co-curricular activities take place outside the classroom but reinforce or supplement classroom curriculum in some way. They include everything from chess club to student council, sports teams to drama club – as long as those teams are associated with the school. If they are not, such as the Boy Scouts or an Uptown play – that would be extracurricular. Glad I could clear that up.  

Faunbrook For Sale

Faunbrook B&B. Image: Compass.com

Built in 1860 and designed by renown Philadelphia architect Samuel Sloan (he also designed the Kirkbride’s Insane Asylum in Philadelphia), Faunbrook was once the home of West Chester notable Smedley Darlington. (Fun fact #1: Mr. Darlington and his family used to host the town’s Fourth of July fireworks displays from this property overlooking the Brandywine Valley.) That was 1867, today it is a charming bed and breakfast that has hosted more than a few gorgeous weddings (exhibit’s A, B, and C). Pre-COVID it was also backdrop to a Harvest Dinner series that invited local artisans and community members together for what was described as a “magical dining experience.” 

Now the historic property is on the market after a 14- year stint under the leadership of Innkeeper and owner Lori Zytkowicz. If you’ve always dreamed of cooking breakfast for strangers, this charming 7200 square foot Victorian with 10 bedrooms, 10+ baths, two fountains, a pond, a waterfall and a baby grand could be yours for just $1.75 million. (Fun fact #2: If they get their asking price, the value of the property will have appreciated 1.1 million dollars – or more than 1.5 times its initial value in 20 years. Not a bad investment.)

West Chester, we need your help. 

Oliver Mayer needs your help.

This is Oliver Mayer. He is a 21-year old who has lived in West Chester since he was 9-months old when came from his birth country of Guatemala to live with his adoptive family, the Mayers. He’s a graduate of Henderson – class of 2019 (Woo woo). He had his first job at the McDonalds on Gay Street. He used to walk there after school. Now he works at Energy Transfer Solutions and in his spare time he likes to play Disc Golf.  According to his mom, Tammy Mayer, “He’s a quiet, witty, happy, optimistic, easy-going young man. He takes everything in stride!” Probably the kind of kid that wouldn’t ask for help, if he didn’t absolutely have to. 

Oliver was born with a rare condition where his kidneys didn’t develop. No one knows why. “His kidneys just never developed properly, so his kidney function is about 16% now,” his mom said. Normal function is 100%, so 16% is not good. Not good at all. 

Ollie needs a kidney and he needs help to find one. 

There are two ways to get a kidney. One is through a living donor. The other is through a deceased donor. The process for a deceased donor is a little clearer because it’s just a list and you get your name on the list and you wait your turn. Only, the wait is currently 8 years and Ollie doesn’t have 8 years to wait. Ollie is also young. According to the National Institute of Health only 6 percent of kidney disease patients are under 45. “A deceased donor kidney won’t last long enough for Ollie. So, we’re looking for a living donor,” said Tammy.

The living donor process is a bit more complicated. So the best way to find a living donor, especially when the birth family is not an option, is to spread the word and try to reach as many potential donors as possible. His adoptive parents have both applied to become donors but the transplant team does not feel they have found the match yet so the search continues. 

Ollie and family at the beach.

“The Penn Transplant experts tell us that the best way to find his Kidney Donor is to share his story with as many people as possible,” says Tammy. 

Ok, so how can I help? 

I am so glad you asked. Here’s what Tammy recommends. “People who want to help can do two things:

  1. They can help spread the word by sharing the link to his microsite with their friends and family via social media, email, text… or even bullhorn!
  2. They can get Register to be evaluated as a potential Donor by clicking on the “Register” button on his microsite.”

Please help spread the word. And if you would like to keep up with Ollie’s story you can follow Tammy Mayer on Facebook who just recently braved social media to share updates and answer questions about the process. (You can also share the post directly from there, if that’s easier). 

“We know that Ollie’s donor is out there and just needs to see his story,” said Tammy.

“They are certainly better than having no protection.”

West Chester Police Chief James Morehead

The warnings

It’s better than nothing. Last week West Chester Police Chief Jim Morehead led a countywide, 47-police department collection effort. The mission? To collect bulletproof vests to support humanitarian efforts in Ukraine. Under National Institute of Justice standards the vests must be replaced every five years. “Many of these vests, although out of date range, are still useful,” said the Chief. In total 268 vests were collected and they are now enroute to emergency workers on the front lines.   

Keep the groceries where we can see them. I don’t know if this is a food cost thing or if there is a new club out there where the price of initiation is to steal from Giant, but in the past four weeks four individuals between the ages of 18 and 22 have been picked up for stealing from Giant on Bradford Avenue. Last month West Chester PD was looking for help identifying two guys that looked like they could be frat brothers (they were identified by the way) and this month it’s their female counterparts. That said.. 

The inflation is real. America’s Pie sent out a warning to customers last week. The price of pizza is going up. “Due to market increases in food costs, we regrettably were forced to raise our prices,” they shared on social media. A 16” plain hand-tossed pizza now costs $15.59 (previously $14.24), a 16” buffalo chicken pie is now $20.99, up from $19.99, but good news for those trying to be healthier, the veggie pizza is still $19.99.    

Was it worth the money? This week West Chester resident Paul Berry was arrested in connection with an assault and robbery that took place on the 100 block of E. Market Street in February. Mr. Berry will be in court next week to see what the damage is. 

Was it worth the time? West Chester Area School District is paying big for their impatience this week. Judge Edward Griffith ordered the school district to pay $2.8 million in damages to Reading-based E.R. Stuebner after the district fired the contractor from the Exton Elementary addition project for what it claimed were ongoing delays. The judge disagreed and now the district and the taxpayers are on the hook for damages and legal fees.

Take it slow. They are watching your speed. Yep, it’s that time of year again.

The Accolades.

A shout out to West Chester’s own West Chester Music Academy. Started during the pandemic and only three years old, WCMA is already capturing national attention. Last week they learned they were a finalist for “National Music School of the Year” from the Music Academy Success System.

So how does a relative newbie garner national attention? Owner and music director Nick Doak, thinks it has a lot to do with approach. “We operate from the mentality that we want lessons to be the best half hour of a kids week,” he said. “There is a lot of competition for their time but this should be the half hour they look forward to most.”   

And what does Nick think about his chances of winning? “That would be great but we are going against many bigger dogs.” WCMA currently supports over 300 students in the main five instruments – guitar, piano, drum, ukulele, violin – and of course, voice. 

Your 2022 A Class Champions. Image: @flyerscup

Also, high fives to the East Boys Ice Hockey team who took home their second Flyers Cup Championship in a row this week. They are back on the ice on Saturday when they’ll compete for the state championship.

Also at East, congratulations to Distributive Education Club of America (DECA) advisor, Carol Lill who was just named best in the state at what she does. That’s got to be a nice feeling. Ms. Lill was a little more modest in her response. 

“It’s a nice honor, but the most important thing is when your co-workers and students think you are doing a good job,” she told the Daily Local

DECA, is a national co-curricular organization (I love when things fit together) that has 177 members at East. According to the organization’s website, the business-focused club teaches emerging leaders in the fields of marketing, finance, hospitality and management. 

And sticking with East for one more minute, but heading west. Shout out to East grad Chris Gerlufsen who was just named head coach of the University of San Francisco men’s basketball team. Chris will take the top spot after more than 20 years as the team’s assistant coach – and after helping lead them to their first NCAA tournament birth in nearly a quarter century.  “I am ready to get to work immediately with our players to build on the foundation that has been laid,” he said. He’ll get that chance soon. The Don’s lost in the first round of the tournament.  

Now switching back to people who won in their tournaments. Kudos to the Henderson bocce team who is “beaming with pride” after taking first in the East regional of the Interscholastic Unified Sports PIAA Indoor Bocce Championships this week. Also, standing o’ to Rustin alumni and current Stevens Institute of Technology grad student Brett Kaliner. Brett added NCAA Division III champion to his resume after taking the national title at 149-pounds in a 4-2 decision over Michael Petrella of Baldwin Wallace University.  

Hello. 

A new artists collective has opened in the Tudor building on High Street.

Next Friday marks the fourth first Friday of the year and while you are out celebrating stop in and say hi to a couple of new businesses that have opened downtown. 

Ginko Arts at 21 S. High Street is West Chester’s cool new art collective. “We’re artists’ studios, open to each other and a community of folks who support each other,” said Charlot Baker, Grinko Arts managing partner. “My business partner and I wanted to add a different vibe to the arts in town. We created spaces that are smaller and suitable for emerging as well as established artists, as well as a way to connect with buyers.”

Some artists have exhibit space here and others use it to teach, but for many it’s their office so it’s not alway open to the public, but it will be next Friday. “We’re excited to have our ribbon cutting with the Greater West Chester Chamber of Commerce attending, on April 1, at 3pm, with open studio time afterwards,” said Charlot. So stop by and check out the borough’s up and coming artists with a special light projection by N. E. Thing Productions.

Odelia, Marie & Patrice (OMP) opened this month on 117 W. Gay Street. The store which is located upstairs at the Gay Street Commons features natural, vegan, and handmade soap, body butter, facial oil, lip balm, bath salts, sugar scrub, candles, and more – in a relaxing atmosphere. “We have cultivated a calming and tropical experience via interior design in the studio so folks are usually very impressed with the feng shui,” said owner Dr. Candace Parrish of the space’s transformation. For now the store is maintaining limited hours, just noon to 3 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays, but they will be open until 6 p.m. for First Friday. So check them out.

This week West Chester University is looking pretty flush after grabbing hold of its largest cash donation in school history. The $3.5 million dollar gift from Student Services, Incorporated will go toward student scholarship/financial aid, academic and co-curricular programs, and technology initiatives. With this donation WCU is now 77% percent of the way to its $65 million fundraising goal part of its 150 Forward: The Campaign for West Chester University.

Not that we aren’t all happy for you and everything, but how about setting a little of that aside for the town that supports those students once they walk off campus? 

Which leads me to – say hello to your new West Chester Community Campus Committee which met for the first time this month. The 18-person committee with members from both the borough and the university has been tasked with improving town-gown relations. This is not the first attempt at such a committee. Similar committees were formed in the 1980s and again in the late aughts with the specific task of curbing negative alcohol-fueled behaviors. This time around the mission will be broader and will include things such as improved communication, Homecoming safety, and community service opportunities. That said, one of their first tasks – identify priority areas. Can’t wait to see where they landed. 

And finally, welcome Marcella family. We’ve seen you on TikTok. Now we can’t wait to meet you in person

Goodbye.

Fenn’s Coffee shop circa 2016. Image via Fenn’s (former) Facebook page.

While we were saying goodbye to Jane Chalfant and the Antique Shop on Church Street, we somehow missed the closing of a signature West Chester hangout. Fenn’s Coffee shop is now closed. Known not only for its locally sourced coffee and anti-Starbucks vibe, Fenn’s, and Fennario before it, was for a long time also a thriving concert venue and art house. Around in some form since 1996, the original Fennario’s was sold by owner Brendan Greene to longtime Fennario barista Justin Wilson and artist James Burk who changed the names to Fenn’s and kept the place running for at least the next several years. I am not sure what happened after that but it is possible it changed hands again. 

“This USED to be one of the best places in West Chester,” one local reviewer posted a year ago. “It really felt like a super friendly place.  Then ownership AND coffee changed and everything went downhill.” 

Although, less than six months ago the Daily Voice still had it listed among the most popular coffee shops in suburban Philadelphia. Then again, what do they know? Still whether we are mourning more for it was, than what it became, this is still a tough one. This was written four years ago so it may not be accurate of recent conditions, but I think it sums up what was lost. Something truly, unreplicable-ably West Chester. 

“I enjoy the fresh brewed coffee and the friendly atmosphere. Stop on by and play me in some chess. I’m here like everyday, and I’m pretty good. They accept all kinds: hippies, thrashers, punk rockers, pop punkers, alpaca and your standard wacky inflatable arm tube man. If you’re new to the area, this is the place to stop by, and hey, bring your dog, cause they have dog treats and give great belly rubs.”

Or they did. Goodbye, Fenn’s.

Also this week we joined the region in sharing our sympathy after two PA State troopers and an unnamed pedestrian were struck and killed by a drunk driver on I-95. One of the officers, State Trooper Branden Sisca, a West Chester University grad, not only had several ties to the West Chester community, he was an active member during his short-time here serving both the WCU EMS and Fame Fire Company. Trooper Sisca was just 29 and expecting his first child. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and all who knew him. 

And while we’re here, say goodbye to having a James Beard winner in the neighborhood – at least for now. 

Pay it forward.

This month Split Rail Tavern announced it will be partnering with local nonprofits on a series of volunteer projects starting this Saturday with a clean up at the Chester County Art Association. The clean up is scheduled to take place from 10 a.m. to noon after which volunteers are invited back to Split Rail for a free pour and a hang. 

You had me at, “Do you like free beer?”

If you are interested in participating, give them a call at (484) 999-8805 or stop in to sign up in person. Last I saw they were still looking for a couple more volunteers for Saturday.

Also filed under bars behaving nicely, in honor of owner John Brandt Lee’s 50th birthday, Bar Avalon will be hosting a pay-what-you-want three course dinner on March 29 with all proceeds going to Unicef in support of Ukrainian relief efforts. 

“We are going to help these refugees and kids – these people that have nothing,” John said in a video posted to Instagram. “This is how I want to celebrate my birthday.” 

Reservations are open for the event so make yours now and don’t forget – bring your checkbook. Payment can be any amount you wish but should be in the form of a check made out to Unicef.

The freakin’ weekend. 

What are you up to this weekend? We have a pretty fun one planned. We are helping out with the Goose Creek Clean Up. Then we finally get to see if the Harry Potter exhibition at the Franklin Institute lives up to the hype. And my brother is visiting with his kids, so we get to show them around town. I am expecting plenty of time at the park, a trip to Longwood Gardens and dinner out. Really think Split Rail can handle all the kids?

If you are around and looking for a unique volunteer opportunity, Thoroughbred Retirement, Rehabilitation and Careers is hosting a volunteer day this Saturday from 8 am – 4 pm. The work is physical – think grounds clean up, painting, mending fences and general sprucing but it is an excuse to be outside and a chance to see to the horses. 

Also, beer and pickle pairings at Levante, a tribute in pins to Madeline Albright and if you haven’t celebrated National Cheesesteak Day yet, I hear these are pretty good.

Mark your calendars:

That’s it. Stay safe, stay healthy and I’m taking next week off so I’ll see you in two! 

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