Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Odenthal position threatened?

I sincerely hope the school administration resolves this situation to mutual benefit.


Odenthal position threatened?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009 7:07 AM EDT

By G.E. Lawrence glawrence@PhoenixvilleNews.com

PHOENIXVILLE — A seven-month-long exercise in drawing institutional distinctions between the Phoenixville Area School District and the Phoenixville Community Education Foundation may now threaten the position of PASD's long-time Director of Development and PCEF's CEO.

The issue now appears to hang on a job description, a budget — and a tax attorney.

"It seems as though our mission is being challenged by some members of our School Board," wrote PCEF's President, Joe Little, in an e-mail circulated Monday to some three-dozen Foundation supporters.

"They are attempting to eliminate the position of Director of Development in this year's budget. This position is currently held by Nan Odenthal, and she is the absolute backbone of our foundation," Little wrote.

PCEF was established five years ago to attract increases in program support from private and public sources. Some $1 million has been raised through the non-profit Foundation for District educational purposes.

Odenthal has directed the Foundation's work as its CEO and has served as PCEF's principal fundraiser throughout that five years. She also carries the title of Director of Development for the District.

Therein apparently lay the rub for some members of the Board. The question has centered on Odenthal's job responsibilities to each organization, as the work of each has been seen with increasing distinction and separation. PCEF records were moved out of District offices earlier in the academic year; the District and the Foundation now contract with separate auditors, separate bookkeepers.

A discussion of job responsibilities occupied the Board of School Directors' Personnel Committee of Mary Croke-Parris, Deb Dawson and Paul Slaninka on March 3 even though the matter had not originally been on the agenda, according to sources at the session. A variety of issues surrounding the terms of the position were considered — its possible elimination, transforming it into a half-time, grant-writing position, transferring fundraising responsibilities to each of the school's staffs — but the issues were not settled there, those same sources said.

Acting Superintendent of Schools Dr. Terry Mancini said, in comments Monday, that he was clear about one fundamental assumption: that while the District made the full-time appointment, the position should be structured as half-time with the District and half with PCEF.

Then came the problem of funding the position itself — an issue made apparently easier over this past weekend with a guarantee to the District by the Foundation of $30,000 in direct support of the position.

"We understand and are sympathetic to the current economic times that the district and all of us are faced with," Little said. "We have offered to help. The Foundation has pledged 30,000 additional dollars on top of money we already raise to fund programs, to help offset the cost of this position. We have made this offer to both the acting superintendent as well as the president of the school board."

That was a key encouragement to Mancini, who asked Monday to meet with Little, Board president Mark Casaday and the Board's tax attorneys "sometime over the next two weeks. We really need to sit down and make sure this is right," he said.

The presence of tax attorneys there was essential to "getting it right," Mancini said: to be certain that the distinctions drawn between organizations, especially as they related to Odenthal's position, would be regarded as proper by Internal Revenue Service guidelines.

"This is a District in complete transition," Little said in an interview Sunday. "That's just where we are. We have an acting superintendent and business manager, an interim personnel director, and an assistant superintendent who's been in the job less than a year. It would make sense to retain and not lose the person who has generated substantial income for the District, not lose her skills or her contacts. She's the one who's been out there, raising the funds.

"Our foundation's success is directly dependent on this position and someone of Nan's caliber," Little said. He concluded

with a reminder: "In July 2008, Nan and the Foundation were the guests of the PA House of Representative's Youth Services Committee. We were singled out there as a model of excellence, as one of the best performing education foundations in the state."

Fundraising for program support

Over the five years since its establishment, the Phoenixville Community Education Foundation has raised some $1 million in private and public support for school and School District-wide programs.

Sources of funding include foundation grants, state grants, gifts from individuals and businesses, and grants made through the Educational Improvement and Pre-K Scholarship Organization Status Tax Credit Program.

Among the District's educational programs supported are these, according to PCEF records:

Destinations With Direction, a program designed motivate high potential, economically disadvantaged students to pursue opportunities in higher education.

Scholarships to Graduating Seniors: selected college-bound seniors receive a $2,000 scholarship award annually upon graduation.

Phantom TV After-School Club: PCEF supports Phantom TV staffing for student instruction during evenings, weekends, and throughout the summer months.

Youth Philanthropy engages students in a youth-run learning/giving situation within the framework of community health.

Phoenixville Area Middle School Project LINK: Leaders Involved Networking Kids aims to breakdown barriers between cliques, increase communication, and build trust between peer groups and between students and adults in the Middle School.

Camp Jump Start is a two week summer camp held at the Kindergarten Center for students from literacy classes who are entering first grade.

SAFE Summer Academics: PCEF-funded certified instructors teach reading and math in a 1:5 teacher to student ratio, to at-risk students attending Barkley Elementary School.

KARE (Kids and Retired Educators) After School Club: Retired school teachers can return to the classroom and volunteer their time to work with students.

Pack-A-Backpack provided school supplies to over 400 students in September 2008, and has provided nearly 1,000 fully stocked backpacks since its inception in 2003.

Performing Artist Assemblies and Community Performances: performing artists are invited to perform in schools, supported through grant awards.

Mental Health Specialist support: 30 additional hours per week of mental health services are to available to the District.

In addition, various pre-school programs and the educational programs of community organizations are supported through PCEF, including Activate Phoenixville Area, Operation FOCUS, Phoenixville Area Positive Alternatives, Domestic Violence Center of Chester County, Grimes A.M.E. Church After-School Program, Phoenixville Early Learning Center, Stepping Stone Education Center, Mom's House, American Cancer Society, Phoenixville Public Library, and the Kiwanis Club of Phoenixville.


1 comment:

Karen said...

Anonymous 12:57 p.m., if you click on my profile, there is a link to send me an email.

Thank you for your remarks on another situation, but unfortunately I have no current thread on this subject.

I invite you to continue reading my blog and please post again under an applicable subject.


"Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Odenthal position threatened?":

Karen, maybe you can post this in a proper forum. I didn't know how to contact you.

Posted by Anonymous to Karen Johns - Life in Phoenixville at March 11, 2009 12:57:00 PM EDT"