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It’s Friday, April 28: Survey shows West Chester teachers are frustrated with the district with many saying it’s not clear where things are headed. Plus, going to the film festival this weekend? We have the scoop on where to go and who you might see. And a group that’s trying to brave the political divide – and succeeding? You may have to see it to believe it. Who’s ready? Let’s catch up.
Teachers Give the District an “F” on Direction, “C” on Communication
Last month West Chester Area School District presented the results of its 2022-23 District Survey. The survey, administered twice annually, measures family, student, and teacher satisfaction over a variety of criteria such as communication levels and district support.
“Our goal is always to be at the 90th percentile or higher,” Substitute Superintendent Kalia Reynolds told School Board members at the start of the presentation. While family and student experiences hovered near the target for many questions, teacher responses told a very different story. Ninety percent may be the goal, but in many areas, the District was barely passing.
Where is the District falling short?
(Note on the above charts, 2022 Mid-Year refers to February 2022, the first time the survery was administered during the 2021-2022 school year. Fall 2022 is September 2022 and the first survey of the 2022-2023 school year.)
The biggest disconnects appear to be happening between teachers and district leadership. Only 43 percent of high school teachers agreed with the statement: “I feel there is clear direction from the central office with regards to goals, initiatives, and procedures.” The scores were slightly higher among middle (68%), elementary (61%) and non-school building teachers (65%), but nearly all reflected a drop from last year’s survey.
District-teacher communications are another area of concern. Fewer than 75 percent of teachers find the communication process effective and just 62 percent feel that their perspectives are “heard and valued” when shared with leadership. In both cases, the numbers are substantially lower among high school teachers (61 percent and 48 percent, respectively), a group that appears particularly frustrated with leadership.
While broad markers remain pretty strong – nearly 88 percent of teachers say they are proud to work in the district – even these numbers took a hit, dipping at every level except middle school. One teacher, citing pay and micromanagement as areas of concern, posted to Glassdoor last month describing the district as a, “Good starting point, but not forever.”
Also, of note:
- West Chester implemented a new high school schedule in the fall which may have affected responses. “On the spring survey, we want to look at, ‘Has this changed or is this a thru-line?’” said Dr. Reynolds in regards to high school teacher responses.
- Student and family responses were generally more positive with the district improving or maintaining in all areas but two – access to counseling services and creating a positive classroom community for students. You can see the full survey here.
- Prior to last summer, WCASD had the second-lowest starting salary in the county at $46,000, however, during contract negotiations the district approved increasing teachers’ starting salary to $51,670. The new figure puts the district in the middle compared to area schools.
- Pennsylvania is facing a teacher shortage.
Lights, Cameras, Action
This weekend marks the 17th year of the West Chester Film Festival, a cool little international film festival woven through Borough streets. Over the course of three days the festival will show 49 films from 17 countries. All films are 30 minutes or less with a couple of comedies coming in at a breezy 2 minutes.
While four-dozen titles may seem intimidating to the casual filmgoer, the West Chester Film Festival makes it easy to tailor viewing to your cinematic comfort level. Avid movie fans can plan for a weekend-long immersion starting Friday night with a collection of horror shorts showing at Mayday Coffee shop and ending when the last block of top prize contenders shows at Uptown! Theater on Sunday.
Not ready to commit your entire weekend? Dip your toe into the film festival experience with an hour-long Pop-up block paired with a fun borough location. This year, in addition to the Horror block, there will be a Pride Film Collection at Side Bar on Saturday afternoon, and Coffee and Cartoons on Sunday morning at Split Rail Tavern. The goal for these blocks, which vary from year-to-year, is not only to stay on theme but to do it in a way that is varied in tone and approach. Creating what West Chester Film Festival Sponsorship Coordinator Victoria Rose describes as a “mini celebration” of the topic.
In addition to the Pop-ups, two-hour film blocks will be shown at Uptown! Theater throughout the day on Saturday and Sunday. Film blocks consist of eight films on a variety of topics. Tickets for a pop-up block are $7/each, for film blocks they are $13/each. Note, all blocks include adult-content submissions – yes, even Coffee and Cartoons – that may not be appropriate for younger viewers. You can find a complete listing of show times, movie titles, and all weekend events on the West Chester Film Festival website.
Movies to Consider:
Also of Note This Weekend:
The Mushroom Man and Film Q&A: In an amazing story of local ingenuity that has gone largely untold until now, the Mushroom Man profiles American hero and West Chester resident Raymond Rettew as he becomes the first person in the world to mass-produce penicillin. My sources tell me much of his research, which borrowed from his knowledge of mushrooms, happened right here on the streets of West Chester including at the Church Street Market House, fittingly the host of this year’s WCFF opening reception.
After the film airs, it is part of a 2 p.m. Film Block at Uptown! Theater, there will be a Q&A across the street at the Chester County History Center with the film’s producers Douglas Gahm and Deborah Divine – both relatives of the late Mr. Rettew.
Fun fact: Deborah Divine, the grand-niece of G. Raymond Rettew, is also the normally behind-the-scenes-wife of Eugene Levy, leading some to speculate there may be a few more celebrity sightings this weekend. Mr. Levy serves as the film’s narrator.
Sound Bites: Filmmakers (or Wannabes) Breakfast Workshop: Director and filmmaker Kris Theorin, and composers Don Rufulo and Adam Kromelow will talk about how music and sound design are critical to enhancing short films. This event is free and open to all though registration is required.
Opening Night Party: Festivities begin tonight at 5:30 at the Opening Night Party. This year hosted by the Church Street Market House. Tickets are required for this event. Visit the West Chester Film Festival website for details.
Locally-Owned Seafood Shop Opens in West Chester
Have you tried Hannum Seafood & Produce yet? You should! Conveniently located at 443 Hannum Avenue, just blocks from downtown, is a sunny little shop with ample parking and the freshest section of fish.
Choose from wild-caught salmon, whole Chilean Sea Bass, Bronzino, red snapper, fresh oysters, shrimp, scallops, and more. Have a special request or a question about a fish? Just ask. The friendly staff is always happy to help. You’ll also find a rotating selection of produce – making it a perfect one-stop-shop for a fresh and healthy midweek meal.
Locally owned and operated, Hannum Seafood & Produce is open Tuesday through Sunday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Check them out today!
Proceed with caution. West Chester firefighters participated in a harrowing rescue this week lifting a juvenile from a quarry ledge in East Whiteland township. Rescue crews started at the bottom of the quarry as they tried to pinpoint the exact location of the boy who had reportedly been stranded for hours. Once found, it was determined he was inaccessible from below. “It was necessary to conduct a high angle rope rescue,” the WCFD report states. Lionville Station 47 Technician Sergio Michael Ora was then lowered into the quarry. Suspended, he made contact with the victim, provided him with a blanket and a helmet, and then strapped him into a harness. Once the victim was secured, both were safely hauled back to the top of the quarry. The rescue took approximately 40 minutes.
It’s better to say nothing all. Barry Robert Baker Jr., better known for sucker punching a disabled man outside the 7-Eleven, died last week from injuries sustained from a motorcycle accident. Mr. Baker, who was out on parole not from that incident but another, was wanted for failing to report for probation and was fleeing state police at the time of the accident.
Bam’s back. “Jackass” member Brandon “Bam” Margera turned himself into state police on Thursday morning after spending much of the week on the run. Mr. Margera was wanted in connection with a Sunday morning altercation that reportedly left his brother Jesse with minor injuries. The incident occurred at Castle Bam, his 4200 sq. ft home on Hickory Hill Road in West Chester. However, when cops arrived at the residence, Bam fled into the woods. He maintains the incident didn’t occur. Read all the drama here – if you’re interested.
This week West Chester Area School District recognized the recipients of its annual Spellman Humanitarian Awards. Named after former superintendent Dr. Elwood Spellman, the prize recognizes students who exhibit outstanding achievement in volunteering and community service – what great things to applaud!
This year’s winners include:
- East High School students – Patricia Agustin, Saanvi Bhatia, Daniel Cheng, Anna Harootunian, Erica Martin, Malavika Menon, Norah Plummer, Grace Rudderow, Patrick Tran, and Jada Yard.
- Henderson High School students: Emily Brockson, Jenaea Davenport, Caleb Fernandes, Nishita Jakkam, Maximilian Moak, Anjana Pramod, Meet Shah, Simeon Shappell-Smith, Aryan Sharma, and Christopher Simms.
- Rustin High School students: Corinne Atwell, Nora Jiang, Sehaj Kaur, Conner Orkin, Nicholas Piccone, Bobby Ristine, Gavin Snyder, Hudson Sunderlin, Spencer Upton, and Gayatri Venkatesan.
Also honored this week were the district’s E-Poetry winners. More than 70 students submitted poems to this year’s contest below are your winners:
- From 1st – 2nd grades – Kennedy McCardell and Isaac Corridoni, both of Hillsdale; from 3rd – 5th – Isabel Butler (Fern Hill), Annaleah Gerrard (Hillsdale) and Aven Rundus Chancellor (Mary C. Howse); from 6th – 8th grade – Nolan Crane, Diya Krishna, Alyssa Trynisnewski, all of Pierce; and from 9th to 12th grade – Olivia Benedict (Henderson), Taylor Quinn (East) and Corrine Atwell (Rustin).
If you see any of these young people out and about this week – congratulate them on being such awesome people.
Speaking of giving back to the community, high-fives to the West Chester Green Team and the Business Improvement District. They were each presented a Community Pride Award from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania last weekend for their joint efforts to beautify downtown. The groups worked together to install a pollinator garden along the edge of the Chestnut Street Garage.
“Creating pollinator gardens not only adds character to our historic downtowns, but it also helps support the many pollinators that fertilize our plants and crops,” said State Senator Carolyn Comitta, who nominated the groups and presented the award at Saturday’s Earth Day Rally.
The groups will expand their work – and their garden – to the other side of the garage later this spring.
Finally, congratulations to West Goshen Township on being named a Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation. It joins neighbor West Chester, which has been a Tree City for the last 33 years (although we may be taking our membership for granted.) One of the group’s qualifying standards is to hold an annual Arbor Day celebration, which West Goshen will do this year at Hamlet Crest Park. The township will plant 120 trees, have live tree and reusable grocery bag giveaways, and hear from special guest State Representative Chris Pielli. West Chester will host their event at Marshall Square Park. The West Goshen event is on the 29th, West Chester’s on the 30th. Visit the Calendar for complete details.
Starting this afternoon at 2 p.m. West Chester University will host its annual Ramboree event. Born in 2019 as a way to consolidate several smaller department-level parties, the event is quickly growing into the University’s signature activity of the spring semester. After multiple years of COVID shutdowns, Ramboree tentatively returned last year for the first time since its inception. This year was supposed to be the statement year, but that was before the weather got in the way.
“This will the first year there will be carnival rides on campus,” Princess Ogujiofor, VP of Entertainment for the Student Activities Council, the group behind Ramboree, told me earlier this week. Then yesterday via email: “We made the call to move Ramboree inside Sykes Student Union due to the weather. This means that we will no longer have the rides or carnival game trailers on campus anymore – maybe next year.”
There will still be eight food trucks, carnival games, face painting, a photo booth and plenty of good music.
“It’s a ‘have a good time’ event,” said Princess. “A chance to hang out with your friends. Bring your family and have one last hurrah before the next semester.”
Ramboree is open to the public. Just note: some things – like the 3000 free t-shirts – are student-only.
Finally, helllooo, summer. This week the West Chester Area School District made it official. The last day of school with be June 13. Graduations will be held as follows – East on June 6, Henderson on June 7, and Rustin on June 8.
So, who saw – or apparently dined, chatted, or shared cupcakes with – Jay Leno when he was in town last weekend? The former Tonight Show Host was in town to film some QVC segments. He sells a line of car care products with the home shopping network. Once finished with his official duties he reportedly enjoyed his time in town at Carlinos, Teca and Iron Hill. HWC got our own paparazzi-style photos as he chatted with attendees outside the Earth Day rally.
Speaking of leaving, West Chester University sophomore Zach Starr is hoping to encourage college students to leave addictive vape pens behind by reducing their dependence on addictive nicotine with his new Quix, an all-in-one disposable aerosol system. Quix comes in four nicotine-reduced strengths, delivering a similar but hopefully less addictive experience.
“Globally, the number of electronic cigarette users has risen to more than 82 million people. While my partners and I recognize that some individuals have accepted smoking as a habit they may never quit, our focus is on providing an alternative for those who still wish to quit. My generation needs an alternative,” Zach said in a statement.
And finally, for those of you on the edge of your seat waiting to see exactly what this new mixed-use Burger King property is going to look like. You’re going to have to wait. Lawyers for the developers wrote to Borough Council last week informing them it would be another month before renderings would be ready to present to the Planning Commission.
Plans were originally expected to be shown during this week’s meeting. Approvals for the preliminary plans are now expected sometime before July 31.
Pay it forward.
Last week, I got an email to promote an event from an organization I had not heard of but that I think I secretly hoped existed. The event is the Red/Blue Workshop and it’s being hosted by Braver Angels.
Braver Angels is a nationwide grassroots organization working to bridge the political divide through interactive workshops, debates, and other events. As Mimi Gleason, a volunteer with the organization, put it, “The goal isn’t to change political perspectives, but instead to help all of us stop demonizing people with different political perspectives so we can talk – and disagree – more civilly and productively as citizens.”
The national group was formed after the 2016 election when the country felt hopelessly divided but they found that if people took time to learn about each other, really learn, they could listen to each other’s points of view – even differing points of view – and not see stereotypes, but neighbors in a country they shared.
I had so many questions. Like, where have you been the last eight years?
“It is just getting started around here,” said Mimi. “We had our first event earlier in April in Malvern. Our second event is the Red/Blue Workshop at the East Bradford Township Building on May 13th. In fact, I’m trying to get this new local Braver Angels alliance going because of the incredibly reassuring experience I had in a Braver Angels Red/Blue workshop. By the end of it, all of us, Reds and Blues, wanted to spend more time diving deeper into issues because we had moved way past arguing who had the correct facts.”
Now, that sounds refreshing.
Since the organization is new to the area, they are still learning how it all works but Mimi said, she’s already found the lessons helpful.
“Because of Braver Angels, I’m learning not to go into a conversation with a goal of changing someone’s mind because that is rarely a realistic goal. I’m still a work in progress, but I’m trying to ask more questions about why various issues matter to other people and how they came to the conclusions they did. In other words, I’m controlling what I can (what I learn) instead of wasting energy on what I can’t (what someone else believes),” said Mimi.
Ok, tell me the truth – is there hope for us?
“There is probably a lot of things that need to happen to get our country to a better place, but I don’t know how we accomplish any of them when we’re so divided that family and friends can’t even talk to each other when they disagree about politics. But anyone who participates in a Braver Angels workshop is going to see that it doesn’t have to be that way. They have renewed my faith that, with a little help, we can come together. It’s a start!”
Not convinced? Mimi also shared this video of the group in action.
If you would like to attend the event, you can do that here. And report back, I would love to hear your thoughts.
The freakin’ weekend.
What are you up to this weekend? We have a babysitter and are heading out for dinner and a film festival Saturday night. I am excited. Last year I took the kids to a Pop-up block of family friendly selections, but I’m looking forward to seeing some adult entries. Otherwise my plans had included spring mulching, garden prep and a pre-Mother’s Day trip to Longwood – all of which currently appear to be in jeopardy.
If you are around this weekend, the Walk4Paws Color Run is Saturday at West Goshen Park (at least I think it still is), All the Dogs Love is celebrating five years in the Borough. Stop in, offer your congratulations and get a special treat for your pup. Sterling Pig as a new Piggy Smalls (love it) Extra Pale Ale. And, I do not know what a butterfly pea latte is, but is this not the prettiest drink from Gryphon?
A special thank you to this week’s Community Sponsor Andrea Napoli Real Estate. A board member of the West Chester Senior Center and active in numerous local organizations, Andrea understands the role communities play in making a home feel special. Vist her website to learn more!
Andrea Napoli Real Estate
Representing West Chester buyers and sellers, Andrea has built a loyal client base by paying attention to the details and putting their needs first. She brings exceptional knowledge of the industry, the market and the West Chester community and is committed to putting quality service back in the process. Learn more at Andrea Napoli Real Estate.
View a list of all our amazing Community Sponsors here. Want to get your business out in front of this wonderful community? I don’t blame you. Community Sponsorships are full but limited ad space remains in May and June. Send me an email if you are interested and I’ll get you details.
Enjoy getting these updates each week? Enjoy not having to click through a dozen annoying pop-up ads? Me too. I figure if regular readers contribute just $10 a year we can keep the updates coming and the ads limited. Can’t make a donation at this time? I understand. You can still help by liking, commenting or sharing the posts when you see them on social media!
Thanks to all of you who have already contributed, shared or told a neighbor. I truly couldn’t do it without you!
Mark your calendars:
- Apr. 28 – 30 – 17th Annual West Chester Annual Film Festival, various locations Downtown. West Chester’s very own international film festival returns. Visit their website for complete details.
- Apr. 28 – Dine and Donate, Mae’s West Chester, all day. 15% of all orders will be donated to help the Dugan rebuild after a devasting fire earlier this month. No directions were given but it wouldn’t hurt to mention it when ordering.
- Apr. 28 – Ramboree 2023, Ram Park, 2 – 7 p.m. Join the fun and celebrate this all-time favorite spring tradition. Enjoy food, games, rides, and live music followed by a football game.
- Apr. 28 – Food Truck and Vendor Expo, Fame Fire Company, 4-8 p.m. Enjoy several great food trucks, 30+ quality craft vendors, plus, bull riding (that should be interesting.)
- Apr. 29 – Hoopes Park Community Clean-up, Hoopes Park, 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. BYO – Tools and wheelbarrows if you have them.
- Apr. 29 – Walk 4 Paws – 5k Color Run, West Goshen Park, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. Race begins at 9 a.m. Yoga with pups also available. Adult registration: $35; $15/kids; under 8 free
- Apr. 29 – Charlotte Grace 5K, East Goshen Park, 9 a.m. The Charlotte Grace Fund provides financial assistance to families that are battling cancer. 5k registration: $30
- Apr. 29 – Henderson High School Spring Concert with Senior Strings, Henderson, 7 p.m.
- Apr. 30 – Arbor Day Celebration, Marshall Square Park, 1 – 4 p.m. Celebrate Father of Forestry Joseph “JTR” Trimble Rothrock with a tree dedication and ribbon-cutting event. There will also be refreshments, walking tour of the homes of West Chester’s early botanists and a scavenger hunt of park trees.
- May 1 – Community Volunteers in Medicine Volunteer Open House, 4 – 6 p.m. CVIM is looking for licensed clinical volunteers, and support volunteers with Spanish-language and/or computer skills. Open House includes informational tour of the facility, volunteer meet and great and light refreshments.
- May 4 – Bournelyf Hand-to-Hand 5k, Wrong Crowd Beer Company, 6:30 p.m. 5K registration $30; All 21+ runners/walkers will get a free beer or drink!
- May 6 – Kennett Run, Anson Nixon Park (Kennett Square), 9 a.m. 10K race starts; 9:20 a.m. 5K race starts. Yes, this event takes place outside of West Chester but proceeds are going to support booster programs in the Chest-Mont league – just designate your school as part of registration. As event coordinators put it, “sports equipment is expensive and every little bit helps.” Cost: $35 through Apr. 8; $45 after
- May 6 – H.O.P. (Helping Other People), Levante Brewing, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Enjoy live music and a free pour with 5 canned goods or a $10 donation to the West Chester Food Cupboard.
- May 7 – “A Musical Menagerie” – Chester County Concert Band Spring Performance, Fugett Middle School, 2:30 p.m.
Psst. Like to plan ahead? Visit the new Calendar page. I have events through August!
That’s it. Stay safe, stay healthy and I’ll see you next week.
P.S. If you came here through a social media post and are bummed you missed many of the featured events – sign up for email updates. Emails go out Friday morning. Social sharing is unpredictable.