Bethlehem’s H.D.: the Lehigh Valley’s most important literary figure (1)

(1st in a series of posts on H.D.)

“FINDING H.D. is a community exploration of our greatest literary native daughter.”

“H.D. is the most profound interpreter of the meaning of Bethlehem that we have yet had.”

Seth Moglen

One of the warmest places in our town for fifty or so lovers of literature on a brutal bitter Wednesday night was the 2nd floor meeting room in the library, where Prof. Seth Moglen of Lehigh’s English Department led a “community exploration” to find H.D.

Hilda Doolittle (1886-1961), known as H.D., was a Bethlehem native whose “innovative and experimental poetry and prose established her as a leading Modernist artist and pioneering voice in feminism in the 1910s and 1920s.” City Hall was built on the site of her family home, she’s buried in Nisky Hill, and Lehigh gave her an honorary degree in 2015. She was added to the Literary Landmarks register in 2017, and there’s a plaque at the library.


FINDING H.D. A Community Exploration of the Life and Work of Hilda Doolittle” — a partnership between the Lehigh University English Department, the Bethlehem Area Public Library, Mock Turtle Marionette Theater, and Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center — is a 12-month-long community exploration of the life and work of H.D., culminating in the premiere of a new play by Mock Turtle Marionette Theatre in October of 2019 at Touchstone Theatre.

Jodi Duckett, “’Finding H.D.,’ a year-long exploration of the life of feminist poet Hilda Doolittle, kicks off in Bethlehem.” Morning Call, November 9, 2018.

Linda Doell, “Hilda ‘H.D.’ Doolittle: Exploring a Bethlehem-born poet and a community.” Morning Call, January 25, 2019.

Moglen’s warmly intimate remarks entitled “How I Fell in Love with H.D. (And Why You Should Too)” was the second in a series of about a dozen events centered on “the Lehigh Valley’s most important literary figure” starting last November and extending into next October.

The full calendar of this “Year of H.D” can be found in the FINDING H.D. brochure linked here.

The next event is “H.D.’s Moravian Roots in Bethlehem” by Moravian’s Craig Atwood, February 26, 6:30-8 at the library.

Logistics done for now. Let’s begin to think why we should “find” H.D.

Gadfly is ashamed. Not only has he not covered “the Arts,” but he must candidly admit to knowing virtually nothing about H.D. Gadfly bets most of his followers would say the same. “Who is this remarkable woman whom most of us have never heard of?” says Moglen.

Well, Gadfly learned a lot about H.D. last night, things he will share over the next several posts about her. For starter was Gadfly’s surprise that the work of this woman who left town while quite young, who traveled the world, who spent virtually all of her adult life outside the United States, who moved in the highest literary circles of her day always had Bethlehem on her mind. She wasn’t just born here; she was shaped here.

FINDING H.D. is a community exploration of our greatest literary native daughter, and FINDING H.D. is posing the kind of question that I wish people all over the United States were posing, which is to say, not just how can we learn about an important writer but how by engaging with art do we learn who we are, how do we learn about ourselves by encountering writers and artists who have shaped and transformed us. Every time we encounter a work of art you encounter partly some aspect of yourself which resonates with that work. And to be part of a community engaged in a systematic endeavor saying what does it mean that this writer who transformed literature in English grew up, was a child, and was raised in this place, and thought about Bethlehem all her life. What does that mean to talk about the poet she became, and what does that mean about the city she bequeathed to us.

And she wasn’t just born here and shaped here, but she can tell us about ourselves: “H.D. is the most profound interpreter of the meaning of Bethlehem that we have yet had.”

Now that’s intriguing!

In my view, H.D. matters to the city of Bethlehem not only because she was born here. But the body of poetry and fiction and memoirs that she created would have been unthinkable had she not grown up in this place and had her family not had such deep roots here. But in my view, H.D. is the most profound interpreter of the meaning of Bethlehem that we have yet had. The body of work that H.D. produced about the city of Bethlehem, about the meaning and evolution of the city over the 150 years before her childhood is an extraordinary body of work

So mark your calendars for the February 26 “Moravian Roots” lecture.

Gadfly will remind you.

And Gadfly will present more of Moglen’s remarks in upcoming posts.

A tip o’ the hat and a wave o’ the wings to event organizers Doug Roysdon, Jennie Gilrain, Seth Moglen, Mary Foltz, Josh Berk, Liz Bradbury, and others I don’t know – and to BAPL’s Matt for coordinating the local arrangements.

Keeping an eye on the politics of climate change

(The latest in a series of posts relating to Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan
and Environmental Advisory Council)

Gadfly is keeping one eye out for hopeful indications that climate change will get more political attention.

See Kamala Harris — newly announced presidential candidate — foregrounding it.

Colby Itkowitz, “Kamala Harris just set the litmus test for Democrats in 2020 on health care, climate change and guns.” Washington Post, January 29, 2019.

Harris also came out in support of a Green New Deal, a plan to address climate change and income inequality promoted by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). In tweeting about it in December, Ocasio-Cortez wrote, “Our goal is to treat Climate Change like the serious, existential threat it is by drafting an ambitious solution on the scale necessary – aka a Green New Deal – to get it done.” At the town hall, Harris adopted similar language: “I support a Green New Deal. And I will tell you why. Climate change is an existential threat to us, and we have got to deal with the reality of it.”

See the CNN Town Hall (mins. 28:45 – 30:45), where Harris talks of going with science fact rather than science fiction.

On a different note, the DNI Director Dan Coats report (p. 23) that was the basis for the newsworthy “Worldwide Threat Assessment” meeting yesterday didn’t mention threat on our southwestern border but did mention climate change.

Global environmental and ecological degradation, as well as climate change, are likely to fuel competition for resources, economic distress, and social discontent through 2019 and beyond.

Climate hazards such as extreme weather, higher temperatures, droughts, floods, wildfires, storms, sea level rise, soil degradation, and acidifying oceans are intensifying, threatening infrastructure, health, and water and food security. Irreversible damage to ecosystems and habitats will undermine the economic benefits they provide, worsened by air, soil, water, and marine pollution.

Good signs that good things might get done?

It’s Wednesday, January 30, do you know where your local Climate Action Plan is?

Banana Factory: Round 3 (8)

(8th in a series of posts on Banana Factory Expansion)

Nicole Radzievich, “Historic panel backs $16 million cultural center concept at Banana Factory.” Morning Call, January 28, 2019.

In this third appearance (January 28) before the Historical Conservation Commission, ArtsQuest asks for “buy in” that they are heading in the right direction for their Cultural Center proposal for the Banana Factory site. There are still some things that Zoning needs to approve, but ArtsQuest asks for approval that they are heading in the right direction and can move forward with their design. The only point of contention was the ArtsQuest continued plan to demolish the house on the property. Three commission members opposed that.

In this detailed ArtsQuest document prepared for the meeting, Gadfly particularly noted the information on the two plazas in the last section of the document.

artsquest january 28

Approval was given with a 5-3 vote. Sounds like the ArtsQuest plan for the Banana Factory site is over the hump. Smooth sailing from here on. Ultimate approval, of course, comes from City Council.

Historical officer Jeff Long (20 mins.)

— begins with detailed description of the property
— 6:25: evaluation of the proposal
— 7:45: summary of HCC commentary points from the previous HCC meeting
— 9:35: how the current plans respond to that commentary
— 13:26: goes building by building indicating what is appropriate and what not

Discussion (40 mins.)

— lots of conversation over specific details
— 3:48-8:30: CMs Traupman and Cornish argue to save the house from demolition
— 23:43-29:25: CM Silvoy makes a proposal to save the house, and CMs Starbuck, Roeder, and Traupman engage
— 19:15-21:50: discussion of a new indoor/outdoor area with canopy off the lobby (similar) to what is now at ArtsQuest


Dr. Roy responds on charter schools (7)

(7th in a series on Education)

High-five to Dr. Roy for immediately responding to Gadfly’s charter school questions  with this mini-tutorial. Let’s take some time to absorb and then discuss.

1) What is the cost per student – regular and special education – you used for charter school payments this year? (here and below, or for the last year you have figures)

Regular Ed per student = $12,099.34 — Special Education per student = $25,760.00.  Please note that the issue here is that the special education charter tuition is calculated on an AVERAGE of BASD’s special education costs — which include very involved, high-need students. Charter schools do not accept students with multiple physical handicaps or significant disabilities. Special Education students at charters tend to need limited supports for learning or speech therapy, for example. As a result, charter reap a windfall because the tuition they receive from BASD far exceeds their actual cost of educating the special education student. Note that on one of the slides attached titled Charter School Subsidy [see link below] we make the point that when the charter law was originally passed in 1997, it included a reimbursement from the state to district recognizing that district overhead costs remain when a student goes to a charter. In 2011, Gov. Corbett cut that subsidy, and it has never been reinstated. If the reimbursement were in place at the old rate of 25%-30%, BASD would receive $7 million per year in reimbursement. It is not an exaggeration to say that without charter, BASD would have had no reason to raise property taxes over the past number of years.

charter slides 19-20 for budget

2) How many students from BASD are attending charter schools this year?

2099, although this number fluctuates weekly by a few.

3) What percentage of BASD students are attending charter schools?

13%. Important to note that as one of the largest districts with a concentrated population, we have one of the largest charter populations in the state. In fact, roughly 75% of all charter students statewide come from only 20 school districts (out of 500). So the cost of charters is borne disproportionately by a handful of mostly urban districts.

4) How much of the BASD budget – dollar amount and percentage – is going to charter schools this year?

We expect to spend $29 million in charter tuition this year, which is roughly 10% of our budget. Please note that 14% – 15% of each homeowner’s property tax bill goes solely to paying for charter schools!!

5) What charter schools are BASD students attending this year? Both name and number.

headcount on oct 1 2018 – charter by grade

6) Is there a limit to the number of students that can attend charter schools? For instance, is the only limit the number of charter schools and their capacity? Theoretically, could charter schools drain the district of students?

Interesting question. If a charter school and the district agree to a limit on students, then, yes, there can be a limit. Unfortunately, a charter can reject a limit and go to the state’s charter appeals board and receive a generic charter to continue to operate. This happened recently with the LV Regional Academy Charter School refused to agree to a generous cap on students and appealed to the state board. Conversely, the LV Dual Language Charter agreed to a limit. Another angle on this is when Allentown approves a charter and puts limits on only the number of Allentown students. The charter school then recruits heavily in Bethlehem. So we pay the price and have absolutely no oversight authority for a school approved by Allentown.  Could charters drain the district? It won’t happen here. But in places like York and Chester Upland School District and to a degree Philadelphia that is what has happened — putting the district into a death spiral financially.

7) Is there anything else about this issue that you think we should know?

Interestingly, the vast majority of elementary school charter students return to the district for middle school and high school because charters cannot compete with us for the range of courses, music, arts and athletic programs we offer. Also interesting to note that the vast majority of students in charters started in charters in kindergarten. Most kids who start with us, stay with us — with very satisfied parents. PA has enabled two publicly funded education systems at great additional cost — our traditional public schools and the privately run but publicly financed charter schools. It’s an enormous waste of money. BASD estimates that if all 2,000 charter students returned to us, we would spend about $6 million in additional teacher salaries but SAVE $24 million per YEAR overall. We can easily absorb those students into our existing 22 schools. This is the cost of school choice the proponents of choice simply deny.

We need a glorious implosion and a party following it

(2nd in a series on Martin Tower)

John Marquette is a retired librarian/archivist, author, historian, and a resident of Bethlehem. His current project is focused on the restoration of the interior of the Archibald Johnston Mansion in Housenick Park. 


Martin Tower is coming down. The developers have decided.

For some, the demolition of the tower is painful. For others, it’s overdue. I confess to expecting the building with its gaping windows to be taken down sooner rather than later, but hearing it today was still a shock.

My first thought was to post the news link on the “You know you’re from Bethlehem…” Facebook group, and found that I was beaten by one minute. My later reflections were about something more important: the life and spirit of our city and how we’ll explain Bethlehem’s history without being able to point to Martin Tower.

And then I thought about how I’d like to be remembered. My uncle’s ashes were loaded on board a small boat and the family attempted to set it ablaze in the middle of a pond. They were not successful, but their hearts were certainly in the right place. A friend wants a New Orleans jazz-style funeral, with trumpets and celebration and music. I prefer joy to sadness.

The end of Martin Tower deserves an event the likes of which this city has never seen. With the cooperation of Messrs. Ronca and Herrick, we need a glorious implosion and a party following it to collect, share, and celebrate our collective memories of the building and of the Steel. I can think of only one party organizer big enough to handle this: Jeff Parks.

Maybe Jeff has been planning something in the background all along and his (and ArtsQuest’s) plans will be announced tomorrow. Or maybe in the turbulent months since the end of Musikfest, the flapping plastic from Martin Tower’s windows haven’t been front-and-center. Now we know. Let’s plan for a party to laugh, cry, and celebrate our love for the city and for the women and men — Nikolaus and Benigna Zinzendorf, Lenape Chief Lapowinsa, John Fritz, Archibald Johnston, H.D., Eugene Grace, Gertie Fox, Edmund Martin, Charlene Donchez Mowers, and many more – on whose shoulders we stand.

Jeff Parks, let’s have a party!


Movement on Martin Tower (1)

(1st in a series on Martin Tower)

Nicole Radzievich, “Martin Tower, landmark of the Bethlehem Steel era, to be demolished. Morning Call, January 28, 2019.

The headline in the print edition is:


“Martin Tower, once Bethlehem Steel’s world headquarters, will vanish from Bethlehem’s skyline this year after a 47-year reign as the Lehigh Valley’s tallest building, a representative of its owners confirmed Monday.”

“The developers have not yet determined whether the 332-foot building will be imploded or dismantled, Duane Wagner, director of development for HRP Management, said Monday on behalf of the owners. Wagner’s comments mark the first time the owners, a partnership of investors Lewis Ronca and Norton Herrick, have revealed their intentions for the skyscraper since the 53-acre property, at 1170 Eighth Ave., was rezoned a little more than three years ago.”

“In a 2017 interview, Ronca said he wasn’t sure of the tower’s fate even as he began a more than $4 million project to remove the asbestos from it and demolish surrounding ancillary buildings. ‘Over the past several years, even prior to the abatement process, we 009explored reuse internally and with several third-party groups, and were not able to create an economically viable plan for [its] reuse,’ Wagner said. Removing the tower opens for development the valuable property just off a Route 378 interchange. Wagner said the developers will submit a master plan for the site during the first quarter of this year.”

“Mayor Robert Donchez said the building proved over the years to be too inefficient to market. It’s better for the city as a whole, he said, to start fresh with tax-generating projects, rather than let the property continue to languish. While some may mourn the tower’s loss, Donchez said, the city can take solace in saving older symbols of Bethlehem Steel: the Steel General Offices, where famed executives Eugene Grace and Charles Schwab ruled, and the blast furnaces. ‘A certain number of people feel strongly about Martin Tower, but I think there is a stronger attachment to the blast furnaces, which really has become the skyline of Bethlehem,’ Donchez said.”

“The Martin Tower site, in the Lehigh County portion of Bethlehem, has been eyed for redevelopment since the final tenants moved out in 2007. The property was included in 003the 5-year-old City Revitalization and Improvement Zone, a tax incentive that allows developers to pay off construction loans with certain state and local taxes. Demolition will prevent the use of federal tax credits developers once eyed when they successfully petitioned to get Martin Tower on the National Register of Historic Places. It was a noteworthy application because the building was younger than 50, yet preservationists agreed its ties to mighty Bethlehem Steel made it noteworthy.”

“In 2006, Martin Tower landed in the hands of the company that now includes Ronca and Herrick. There was little demand for the tower’s 600,000 square feet of office space. Its size and shape were unattractive to investors and its mechanical system was outdated. It was difficult to find a single occupant to fill the building, and its layout was inefficient. Developers had first envisioned a $200 million residential community, but that faded when the residential market took a downturn. Those plans were shelved after the housing crash. The property lingered until 2015, when city zoning was changed to make it easier for Martin Tower to be demolished and allowed a mix of office, commercial and residential development.”

Objections to the Zrinski resolution

Tara Zrinski’s resolution (see Sunday’s post) regarding plastic bags and straws passed the Northampton County Council, but it got hammered in this morning’s issue of “Lehigh Valley Ramblings.”

In this criticism, we probably see a foreboding taste of what a proposal from our Environmental Advisory Council will encounter.

Here are key sections from the “Ramblings.”

Problems with the resolution:

There are several problems with Zrinski’s resolution. First, it was never vetted by a Council Committee, which is the norm. Second, it is essentially identical to one tabled in December. Zrinski dishonestly or mistakenly suggested her previous proposal was an ordinance. Third, it is nonbinding, meaning it means nothing. Fourth, no municipality I know of looks to Northampton County Council for guidance on anything. Fifth, the research cited in the resolution is flawed. Some of it, I kid you not, comes from a 10 year old’s school project.

The alternate solution the Rambler offers:

I agree that plastic pollution is a serious problem, but an unenforceable plastic straw ban is a joke mostly designed to make Zrinski and her followers feel like they’ve accomplished something while the world still goes to hell. They can pat themselves on the back while whales still die. What is a solution, here in the Lehigh Valley, is periodic sweeps along the waterways to pick up plastic. Open space money could be used for this and pay people with limited incomes, but we’d rather spend that money to preserve undevelopable swamps and cliffs.

It might be wise to answer the Rambler. Good practice. His fifth problem, the charge that a ban is unenforceable, and his alternate solution look to Gadfly as the three specific points on which to focus (Gadfly expertly avoids ending the sentence with a preposition.)

Gadfly asks followers to eschew (good SAT word) caustic and ad hominem comments and language. Best, in fact, to avoid the Rambler’s name. In fact, let’s stick to the facts. Let’s assume these objections will come up again and again and need to be reasonably answered.

In fact (so awkward repeating this phrase three times) some sort of look at the objections that were overcome in places that have a ban and the objections that prevailed in places where the ban was defeated might be good strategy in preparation for a Bethlehem proposal. Gadfly can see in mind’s eye a list of objections with a paragraph answer for each that goes along with a proposal.

Reynolds runs again

(2nd in a series of posts on candidates for election)

Bethlehem 2017

press release Jan. 22, 2019

Bethlehem City Councilman J. William Reynolds Announces Re-Election  BETHLEHEM, PA –Bethlehem City Council President has announced that he will be seeking re-election reynolds 2to City Council in 2019. “Bethlehem continues to be a model of what a city can and should be in the 21st century – progressive, diverse, and economically strong.  I am proud of everything we have accomplished during my time on City Council but more work remains. That is why I am running for re-election.”  Reynolds stated that he is proud of everything that has been accomplished during the previous four years on City Council including the successful implementation of several initiatives proposed in his “Bethlehem 2017” legislative agenda.

  • Proposing and leading the creation of Bethlehem’s first climate action plan

  • Northside 2027 – a unique partnership and revitalization strategy for neighborhoods involving citizens, the Bethlehem Area School District, and Moravian College

  • Bethlehem’s first open data effort to improve access to public data in an effort to spur innovation and entrepreneurship

  • Financial Accountability Incentive Reporting (F.A.I.R.) – an initiative designed to increase transparency and efficiency of economic development incentives

  • Working with the Administration and City Council to improve the City of Bethlehem’s financial standing currently reflected in Bethlehem’s recent upgrade to a A plus bond rating from S&P

  • Being a vocal advocate for state legislation related to environmental protection, equality, marijuana decriminalization, and increased funding for the Bethlehem Area School District

  • Attending block watch meetings and remaining accessible to citizens related to neighborhood issues

If re-elected, Reynolds stated that his priorities would include continuing to implement and execute Bethlehem’s climate action plan, further develop Northside 2027, extend Bethlehem’s open data initiative as well as

  • Continuing to support economic redevelopment and revitalization efforts throughout the City

  • Working to keep Bethlehem the safest mid sized city in Pennsylvania

  • Focusing on improving governmental communication including modernizing Bethlehem’s social media channels in an effort to increase the efficient delivery of basic city services

  • Continue to build cooperative strategies with the Bethlehem Area School District in an effort to combat issues currently affecting Bethlehem’s most vulnerable children

CM Reynolds has served on Council for approximately 10 years; he is running for his 4th term in office. See the three items bolded above. The full text of JWR’s “Bethlehem 2017” is linked from the Gadfly sidebar. And both the Climate Action Plan and Northside 2027 are threads here on Gadfly. See under “Serious Issues” on the top menu or under “Topics” on the sidebar.

Tara Zrinski’s resolution recommending restriction of single-use plastic bags and straws is approved

(The latest in a series of posts relating to Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan
and Environmental Advisory Council)

Kathy Fox is a member of the Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council, a co-chair of the Northampton County Council of Democratic Women’s Environmental Committee, and a member of the Board of Directors of the Bethlehem Food Co-op.  Kathy involves herself in positive organizations and activities that foster community, environmental awareness, education, and good health. 


Thursday night January 24, Northampton County Council passed Tara Zrinski’s resolution tara zrinskirecommending to all municipalities the concept of banning single-use plastic bags and straws.

Zrinski has described the purpose of her resolution this way:  “The resolution is not a ban on the use of bags or straws themselves but the recommendation that they be made of biodegradable materials. Single use plastic is one of the most wasteful forms of pollution to our earth and oceans. By using compostable straws and reusable or compostable shopping bags, we save tons of waste in landfills and oceans that would otherwise accumulate for 1000’s of years. Plastic waste is one of many types of wastes that take too long to decompose. Normally, plastic items can take up to 1000 years to decompose in landfills. But plastic bags we use in our everyday life take 10-1000 years to decompose, while plastic bottles can take 450 years or more. This resolution will then serve as a template for distribution to the municipalities that will have the authority to enforce it. I think this is an important step to show leadership in the direction towards environmental responsibility and a commitment from the County to support the reduction of plastic that is accumulating in our landfills and eventually makes its way to our oceans.”

northampton county council resolution banning plastic bags

Linked above you’ll find a preliminary version of the resolution that passed 6-2-1 (2 no’s and one “present”). A vote of “present” is used when the person does not want to vote yes or no and does not have a reason for abstention. The final version of the resolution will be in slightly revised form.

Chris Bartleson from the city of Bethlehem spoke in support of the resolution during the public comment period at the Open Space Committee meeting in the afternoon, stating 349 cities, towns, counties, and/or states in the United States have bans in place.  (In Pennsylvania, the only town is Narberth.)  Additionally, there were about a dozen citizens there to support the resolution that was passed later that evening in full Council, including Breena Holland from Lehigh University and a few of her students.  The shame is they arrived a few minutes late and missed the public comment time.

Dale Sourback (Bethlehem Township), Peg Church, and Rik Sherry (both from the city of Bethlehem) all spoke in favor of the ban during the public comment period in the evening session.  Dale supported the resolution and referenced volunteering for Meals and Wheels and hoping to see changes within that system to reduce plastic waste.  Peg referenced the whales dying after ingesting plastic, the infamous picture of the turtle with a straw stuck in his nostril, and the fact that there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by the end of the century.  Rik spoke of his paddling/teaching experiences on the Delaware River with students.  He indicated the trips incorporated clean-ups of the river and stressed the large number of plastic bags that were pulled out of the river.

On Page 3 of the version of the resolution linked above, Section 2 will be struck out of the final version.  Zrinski stated that if a municipality chooses to create an ordinance banning single-use plastic bags and straws, it should determine how to implement the ban, including charging fees or not.

There was a bit of push back from Council Members Cusick, Ferraro, and Dietz.  Dietz talked about the senior citizens who use plastic bags to pick up dog poo. What will they do?  He also mentioned that it takes more energy to produce paper bags than plastic. I haven’t looked this up, but he missed the point completely.  It is not the monies collected that is important; in fact, some places don’t have fees at all.  It is not the goal to argue over whether plastic or paper creates more devastating greenhouse gases. The goal is the paradigm shift created for the public to always bring reusable bags no matter where you shop. Then you do not contribute to greenhouse gas emissions of bag production at all, and you will not pay any fees.

I bring my bags into department stores, farmer’s markets, farm stands, grocery stores.

Make thinking sustainably when being a consumer the norm, not the exception!


(Gadfly’s understanding is that a proposal from our EAC for a resolution or ordinance pertaining to plastic bags is in the pipeline.)

Northside 2027 moving along (6)

(the latest in a series of posts on Northside 2027 and Neighborhoods)

“There is no reason why good cannot triumph as often as evil. The triumph of anything is a matter of organization.” (Kurt Vonnegut)

Gadfly had to miss the Northside 2027 meeting at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School last Thursday January 24.

But a tip o’ the hat and wave of the wing to follower Kate McVey for attending, participating, and picking up handouts for us.

Kate reports that attendees split into three groups: housing, mobility, and commerce.

Kate went first to the mobility group in which the discussion mostly centered on safety: crossings clearly indicated, how traffic signs were placed, making streets one way and two way, sidewalk work, and grants.

She then went to the housing group and caught the end of discussion about the shelter at United Church of Christ and affordable housing.

Here are handouts from two of the groups.

Each group has a “vision statement” to gradually fill in. The two columns filling up so far are “major concerns” and “potential strategies” to address those concerns. See summaries of concerns below. Take a look at the handouts for proposed strategies.

The Neighborhood Plan Map: shows schools, parks, churches, historical sites, commercial corridors, open spaces, and so forth in the Northside 2027 territory.

northside 2027 neighborhood plan map

Mobility: concerns include unsafe intersections, safety for children walking to school, fast vehicular traffic, minimal access points to the Monocacy Way Trail, traffic signage on alleys, bicycle infrastructure, lack of awareness of “rules of the road.”

northside 2027 mobility 1 jan 24
northside 2027 mobility 2 jan 24

Housing: concerns include conversion of homes into multi-family rental units, code enforcement on quality of life issues, aesthetic upkeep of homes, sidewalks, available resources for both renters and homeowners, lack of neighborliness and community cohesion, ways to keep up with maintenance and improving the look of the neighborhood.

northside 2027 housing jan 24

Continued kudos to CM Reynolds for leadership and other reps from the city (Congressman Samuelson’s office was represented) who may have been there (Kate suggests introductions and name-tags next time so that we can know the royalty).

Dear Dr. Roy (6)

(6th in a series on Education)

As far as Gadfly can determine so far, the issue is not about the quality of education at local charter schools (as it is at some other places) but the funding process. But the Gadfly invites information, insights, anecdotes, stories, and so forth from followers who have had actual experience with charter schools — children attending, teaching at, etc.

Doctor Joseph Roy, BASD Superintendent

Dr. Roy:

I attended the “Education Summit” Wednesday, and I wonder if you could give me a few more specific facts about the important charter school funding issue for the thread I’ve started for my 200 followers under Education on the Bethlehem Gadfly blog (see link below). You can find the thread by clicking “Education” on the right-hand sidebar on the blog.

1) What is the cost per student – regular and special education – you used for charter school payments this year? (here and below, or for the last year you have figures)

2) How many students from BASD are attending charter schools this year?

3) What percentage of BASD students are attending charter schools?

4) How much of the BASD budget – dollar amount and percentage – is going to charter schools this year?

5) What charter schools are BASD students attending this year? Both name and number.

6) Is there a limit to the number of students that can attend charter schools? For instance, is the only limit the number of charter schools and their capacity? Theoretically, could charter schools drain the district of students?

7) Is there anything else about this issue that you think we should know?

8) Superintendent Sniscak cited the PASA report. Is there anything else that you think would be good for us to read as we learn about this issue, including your own writings?

Several members of the School Board and district staff are Gadfly followers, and I’d like to invite you to follow as well (click the button at the top of the blog sidebar). We try to follow various issues of local interest and concern.

Thank you—

Ed Gallagher

Bethlehem Food Co-Op on track

Colleen Marsh is a member of the Bethlehem Food Co-Op’s Board of Directors.

Had a great conversation with John [John Marquette, see his January 22 post] and wanted to summarize a few things here so that other readers can have the same info. What John posed is a great idea and a logical option to explore — In fact, it HAS been explored! A few years ago, Weavers Way found itself in a position to expand and worked with a national cooperative consulting firm to research options, including merging or partnering with existing start-ups. They organized a meeting to explore feasibility with the numerous start-up cooperatives in the Philadelphia region. Bethlehem Food Co-Op representatives, including myself, attended that meeting, where it was mutually agreed upon that we were geographically too far away to pursue partnership at the time. Ambler Food Co-Op, which was founded around the same time as Bethlehem Food Co-Op, ultimately was approached, and their membership voted to become Weavers Way members and open a Weavers Way-Ambler location instead of their own separate business. You can read more about the merger here:

The store is fantastic and an easy drive down route 309, so I highly recommend taking a trip to see what sort of operation we have in the works for Bethlehem!

While the Bethlehem Food Co-Op remains an autonomous cooperative, we are extremely fortunate to have the level of support and industry resources that we do, so we can avoid reinventing the wheel. As one of the cooperative principles is “Cooperation Among Cooperatives,” we’ve been able to obtain advice, data, and assistance from individual cooperatives, alliances, and organizations across the nation to help guide our development. Various Weavers Way employees and board members have mentored us since our earliest days of organizing, as well as representatives from other co-ops. We are also incredibly grateful to have the support of the Food Co-Op Initiative, Keystone Development Center, and the Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance, all of which have provided enormous resources for our co-op already. Our board members and volunteers have also had annual opportunities to attend conferences where they’ve gained information from a network of national cooperatives and experts. Bethlehem Food Co-Op has also secured expert consulting services in key areas so that we ensure our business is feasible and viable for the long haul in the competitive grocery industry.

The process of opening a food co-op typically takes between 5-8 years from incorporation. Bethlehem Food Co-Op incorporated in 2013, and all evidence shows that we are following the typical development timeline. We are incredibly grateful for the dedication and patience of our volunteers, and appreciate ideas, patience, and involvement from all of our members, like John! #strongertogether


Information about membership in the Bethlehem Food Co-Op is available here.

“The diversion of public dollars to a private end is a major challenge for us” (5)

(5th in a series on Education)

Now let’s look at the other speakers at Lehigh Valley 4 All’s Education Summit.

(By the way, this is the second meeting of Lehigh Valley 4 All that Gadfly has attended, and that organization has made a very good impression.)


Here are audio recordings and summaries of the five speakers relating to charter schools. If Gadfly were to boil the presentations down, he would say that there is no gripe about the quality of the local charter schools, but the diversion of public dollars to a private end is a major challenge. The gripe from the traditional public school perspective is that the funding formula is flawed, weighing heavily in favor of the charter schools. And the practice in regard to special ed students is resulting in a higher concentration of lower needs students in charters. The Pa. Association of School Administrators has identified 11 reforms that are easy and inexpensive to implement, but recent legislative attempts have actually been in the wrong direction. Outlook not good.

As we continue to think about the charter school issue, among things that Gadfly would like to know are the exact amount of the BASD payment to charter schools, which schools they are, and how many students are attending charter schools.

Joseph Roy, BASD Superintendent (7 mins.)

“Do we believe in public schools for the public good that serve all children, or do we want to move toward privatization?” Since the 80s there’s been a move from public good and service to privatizing everything. Under the guise of choice, there’s been a movement away from the good of the community to the good of the individual, a notion that everything can be solved through the market. The crux: what’s the agenda behind the privatization movement? We have become consumers, a market. A market solution has been imposed on an inherently public good. And it doesn’t work. We see corruption in charter schools (though not in Bethlehem). Charter schools are publicly funded but privately run. They don’t have elected boards, so we remove them from the notion of a public good under the direction of an elected school board. The diverting of public dollars to privately run schools is a major issue. $1.5billion/yr in Pa. goes to charter schools. vouchers/opportunity dollars go to private and parochial schools. “The diversion of public dollars to a private end is a major challenge for us.” If that money stayed in the public system, we’d have a lot less issues with money for the public schools.

Richard Sniscak, Parkland SD Superintendent (9 mins.)

Many costs rising, but charter schools continue to tax budgets. For instance: Allentown $50m, Bethlehem $30m, Parkland $4m. And Parkland doesn’t even have charter schools within the district but are transporting students outside our district. There are good and bad public schools as well as good and bad charter schools. So that’s not his focus. His focus is on the funding of charter schools. Pa. charter school law is obsolete and increasingly out-of-date – especially for cyber charter schools. Pa. Association of School Administrators published a white paper in 2018 to address systemic flaws within the current law, and he went over the 11 recommendations. For instance, change funding formula, change cost of funding special ed students, address over-identification (?), teachers must meet same certification requirements as in public schools (applause!), evaluate by same measures as traditional public schools (applause!), scrutinize lower performance that traditional public schools, school districts have power to oversee charter schools, appeal boards must be composed of neutral members, fill-in discrepancies must be reconciled, transparency of finances, enrollment practices free of discrimination. These things are “low hanging fruit,” easily dealt with without cost, but have eluded legislative change. “Money for charter schools in Pa. is deeply flawed. It is based upon a formula that’s not reflective of actual cost, especially for cyber charter schools.” The funding is based on the cost per student in the sending school. That cost includes lots of things not included in a charter school’s costs, such as extra-curricular cost and busing/transportation. Thus, public schools send more money than is needed to operate charter schools. “Windfall for charter schools and a deficit for public schools.” Gives examples of “excessively high” tuition rates.

Susan Spick, President, Education Voters (10 mins.)

Charters can be managed by a for-profit company, with a different objective than educating students, and a different way of reporting their finances. Cost in Bethlehem 2016-2017 was $10,600 for a regular student and almost $23,000 for a special ed student. There are 2 things that should happen in Harrisburg. Our state funds about 37% of what it takes to educate a student, national average is closer to 50%. We are 46th in the nation for state finding of public schools. Money is not spread in equitable ways and also grossly inadequate. Public schools everywhere are struggling, and effort is needed to bring charter schools funds back into the system. Quality of education in cyber charter schools is abysmal. Not educating students yet taking in 1/2billion dollars a year. Legislature caved to charter school lobby on funding formula for special ed students. No relationship whatsoever between what the charter school gets to educate a special ed student and what it actually costs. Gives egregious example. Funding formula creates a big disincentive for charter schools to admit students with significant disabilities. “Perverse disincentive.” Students with less expensive disabilities go to charter schools. Charter schools all over the state are reaping a surplus from this funding formula. Children are being segregated by disabilities, and educational segregations turns out, in effect to be racial segregation. Issue is morally wrong as well as financial.

Steve Samuelson, State Representative, 135th District (14 mins.)

Funding: 70% local, 25% state, 5% federal. Gov. Wolf had made education a priority. Still feeling effects of big cuts in 2008. Just now coming back to that level. There have been some bills for charter school reform, but they tend to get stuck in committee. One bill that get to the floor went in the wrong direction, taking authorizing of charters away from the local school board.  Another bill would stack the appeal board in favor of charters. There was a bill to requite “paid for by tax dollars.” Another regarding teacher evaluation adding charter schools also failed. 3 specific proposals coming up to equalize public and charter schools.

Mike Schlossberg, State Representative, 132nd District (7 mins.)

We are lucky in the Lehigh Valley. Most of our charter schools are good. Most of the charter problems are in Phila., and they drive the conversation. Cyber charters are a major problem. Pa has high property taxes, 6th in nation, but concentrated in impoverished or rapidly growing school districts, go west and property taxes are fine. Can’t eliminate property taxes but can control, rebates, for instance. Property taxes are the only things major corporations pay. Poverty going up in suburban as well as urban areas. Lack of education funding is the key. Important as funding is it isn’t enough. If kids don’t go home to a safe environment, it’s a waste. Need wrap-around programs.

Charter Schools: Accentuating the positive, again (4)

(4th in a series on Education)

Gadfly was mistaken, was looking at an older list of participants. There was a representative from charter schools on the panel at last night’s Lehigh Valley 4 All Education Summit – Lisa Pluchinsky of the Dual Language Charter School, 675 E. Broad St. The principal of Charter Arts was also in the audience.

The focus of Charter Arts that we profiled last time is the performing arts. Here the focus is “dual language,” diversity: “The goal is bilingualism/biculturalism for all students.”

Gadfly started this thread to get to know more about charter schools and especially because of the negativity seemingly surrounding them in the public mind because of the tax burden and poor quality administration and education (cf. the Catasauqua charter mentioned in the last post).

So, Gadfly thought noteworthy this comment in the lead-off talk last night by Dr. Roy, BASD Superintendent (who, as I said earlier, one rarely sees his name without “a vocal critic of charter schools” pinned to it): “We now have become consumers, imposing a market solution on an inherently public good. And it doesn’t work. And we’ve seen it in the world of charter schools, where there’s many times where the charters become profit-making – and I will say, not here in our district – not the charters in our district – but many places we see all types of challenges around corruption, basically becoming profit-makers, or at least profit-makers for the landlords.”

So, with that positive nod from Dr. Roy, let’s look at another Bethlehem charter school before, in subsequent posts, we try to understand the problems and criticism.

Lehigh Valley Dual Language Charter School

Principal Pluchinsky provides a nice statistical overview and statement of educational goals:

And answers a question about how the school is evaluated:

From the web site:

MISSION: The mission of LVDLCS is to create a community of bilingual, multicultural, life-long learners committed to academic excellence and leadership while celebrating diversity and identity.

VISION: Our vision is a community of bilingual and bi-cultural, life-long learners committed to excellence and dedicated to learning and leadership.

CORE VALUES: We believe that we are a community that is made stronger through its diversity.

WHY A CHARTER SCHOOL IN BETHLEHEM? Across the Lehigh Valley, school districts have struggled to meet the needs of linguistically diverse students for a variety of reasons. We envision filling this need through the establishment of a K-8 free public charter school that is smaller, more personable, and founded on instructional strategies and techniques that meet the unique needs of our linguistically diverse students.

INSTRUCTION: The teachers will be extensively trained in dual language instruction. The students will benefit from their teachers’ use of cutting-edge instructional strategies such as Cognitive Academic Language Learning Approach (CALLA) and Sheltered Instruction Operational Protocol (SIOP). Effective, meaningful Spanish language instruction in the content areas will be provided for native English speakers. The goal is bilingualism/biculturalism for all students.

CEO/COO Ms. Elsie Perez.; Principal, Ms. Lisa Pluchinsky; among Founding Coalition Directors is Councilwoman Olga Negron; Board president, Ms. Raiza Roman

Principal’s Corner:

“We are dedicated to providing all students with the educational foundation necessary to succeed in school and in life.  Not only does our educational commitment focus on Language Arts and Math, we also provide a rich educational experience in the Spanish language.  Spanish class, science, and social studies are all delivered by quality, bilingual staff to ensure the LVDLCS students succeed in two languages.  We continue to strive to meet each student’s educational needs in both languages.”

“Please remember that parents are responsible to complete 25 hours of volunteer service for the school.  There are many different ways to complete these hours from volunteering in the cafeteria, working in the classroom, completing projects for the classroom teacher, donating necessary items, attending workshops and events at the school, and also participating in an approved educational program.  Please call the school office if you have questions about completing volunteer hours.”

Our School: Fully immersive dual language classes, Small Class Sizes, Multidisciplinary Project, Individualized Attention

So we’ve now had a chance to look at two of our local charter schools in an educational positive light and are ready to learn about the financial ramifications that create a lot of the negative noise.

Charter Schools: Accentuating the positive (3)

(3rd in a series on Education)

Yesterday Gadfly posted a notice about the Education Summit tonight. Charter schools are among the topics for discussion. But I see there are about a dozen people on the panel, and no one identified seems to be from a charter school. Therefore I’m neither sure how much time can be given to charter schools nor what balance there will be.

Gadfly likes balance in the discovery stage.

So let’s accentuate the positive.

Some charter schools are or have been a complete mess, right? Out of the corner of my mind, I have been following the saga in Catasauqua, and, in fact, there is an article on the front page of this morning’s print edition of the Call about it:

Steve Esack, “Catasauqua schools must be reimbursed for defunct charter school’s pension obligations, court rules.” Morning Call, January 22, 2019.

But the only charter school in Bethlehem that I, frankly, can place is Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts, 321 E. 3rd St. (I have a hard time thinking of schools without playgrounds!) What and where are the others? But I guess it doesn’t matter, for, as I understand it, charter schools are not bound by the kinds of boundaries public schools are.

Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts

In 2018 Charter Arts ranked 46th in Pennsylvania and was the highest-ranking school in the Lehigh Valley in the U.S. News & World Report ranking.

In 2018 the “U.S. Department of Education awarded the [Charter Arts] as a Blue Ribbon School, which recognizes the state’s highest performing schools” – one of only 20 charter schools nationally so recognized.

National Blue Ribbon Schools Program

2018 National Blue Ribbon Schools: Charter Schools

That’s pretty hot stuff.

 From the Charter Arts web site:

“The Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts provides a unique environment that fosters a creative academic approach to learning and a development of talent in the arts. Built upon passion, discipline and a commitment to excellence, this integrative educational experience inspires all students to believe in themselves and what they can accomplish.”

Mario Acerra is President of the Board of Directors, Dianne LaBelle is executive director and CEO, and Carise Comstock is the Principal.

“The sponsoring districts for Charter Arts are the Bethlehem Area School District and the Northampton Area School District.  These two districts renew the charter every five years. Northampton Area School District renewed the Charter Arts charter in June 2012, and the Bethlehem Area School District renewed the Charter Arts charter in June 2013.”

“Charter schools receive public funds from the sending school district of a child who chooses to attend.  A charter school receives 75% of the funding for that student.  The student’s sending/home school district utilizes a funding formula developed by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (form 363) and can deduct more than 20 categories of expenditures from their budget that are not passed on to charter schools.”

The Performer (in effect, the school newspaper)

According to the Morning Call: Begun in 2003, “The Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts enrolls more than 600 students. Academically, it’s one of the best in the area: 94 percent of students passed the English Keystone exam last year, while 73 percent passed algebra and 85 percent passed biology. The school has a 99 percent graduation rate.”

Ok, I’ll report on anything pertinent tonight, and we’ll continue to go deeper into the controversy.

W-ers ‘n B-er’s: Coalition for Appropriate Transportation (7)

(7th in a series of posts on Walkability and Bikeability)

Gadfly’s trying to raise his knowledge about “walkability and bikeability” groups he should know about. So much he doesn’t know. Suggestions?

Coalition for Appropriate Transportation


Speaking of things he doesn’t know. From the “Love Our Trails” page of CAT’s web site, Gadfly learns of a trail he hadn’t heard of, the Stockertown/Plainfield Twp Trail. On my list of places to go.

Charter School discussion Wednesday, Jan. 23

Charter schools will be part of the discussion here:

education summitLehigh Valley for All will be hosting an Education Summit to discuss many aspects of the educational system in the Lehigh Valley and beyond.  Topics will include school and neighborhood safety, charter schools, helping at risk students, education equality, strengthening staff and curriculum, current and future legislation to help improve our system.  We will allow written questions from the audience, so other topics may be covered depending on audience participation.

Environmental drama

Tara Zrinski, Northampton County Councilwoman, is a ball o’ fire.

Her resolution to ban single-use plastic bags and straws will be discussed at the county Open Space committee meeting Thursday, 1/24/19, at 4 pm. at the Northampton County Courthouse-Council meeting room.

And then voted on at the regular Northampton County Council business meeting that evening at 6:30 pm.

Gadfly has been attending our Environmental Advisory Council (EAC) meetings — meets first Thursday of the month, 7PM, Illick’s Mill — for about a year now, and we have a plastic bag proposal coming down the pipeline.

So followers of environmental issues are urged to attend one or both of the Zrinski meetings.

Gadfly cannot attend, so reports from attendees – as comments to this post or longer separate comments – are most welcome. Pictures too.

Zrinski is colorful, and fellow blogger Bernie O’Hare (see the link to his blog on our sidebar) has been having fun with her.

See his “Steve Samuelson Assaulted at MLK Breakfast” post today!

Gadfly’s MLK Day 2019

“Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thanks to a nudge from follower Doug Roysdon, Gadfly went to the Ice House to see art work and to hear poems and songs from the Northeast Middle School “Rally 4 Peace” club under the guidance of Denise Parker, Christopher Bellman, and Jennifer Doncsecz.

And then to Banko Alehouse Cinema for a showing of Anita, Freida Mock’s documentary about Anita Hill, who “sparked a national conversation about sexual harassment in the workplace when she testified at the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Clarence Thomas in 1991” – followed by a discussion with our US representative Susan Wild, our Councilwoman Olga Negron, our NAACP president Esther Lee, and Lehigh University prof Suzanne Edwards, moderated by Deborah Sacarakis.

Both events were dramatic examples of people finding their voices.

Speaking out is dear to Gadfly’s heart and mission.

It’s not ever easy.

We sometimes think that MLK, 26 when he went to Memphis, was fearless, but he was almost always afraid, even when denying it.

Hill was 35 when she found her voice, reluctantly but inescapably. “It would have been more comfortable to remain silent,” she said, “[but] I felt that I had to tell the truth. I could not keep silent.”

But when teens and pre-teens find their voices, it is unnerving, almost other-worldly.

Listen to Frances defuse hate:

Listen to Bianca indict the love that is deadly:

Listen to Justin daring violence to sit down:

Listen to Elyza’s fight song:

A few audience members at Banko sounded a note of weary impatience and frustration at the rate of social change.

What we need is a steady stream of people who cannot not speak out.

That promise filled the Ice House.

As Elyza said, what Rally 4 Peace is “really about is changing the world and spreading world-wide peace through many different and beautiful forms of art.”

A big wave of the Gadfly wings to Northeast Middle School.

Suggestion for the Co-op: contract out core functions

John Marquette is a retired librarian/archivist, author, historian, and a resident of Bethlehem. His current project is focused on the restoration of the interior of the Archibald Johnston Mansion in Housenick Park.

Bethlehem Food Co-op


Have you been to Weaver’s Way Co-op in Philadelphia (two locations with a couple of stores per location) and Ambler (big, bright store)? It’s a great operation with member-how does your grocery store checkout_FINAL_11x14owners.

More importantly, they have the systems experience in place to manage the back office needs of our co-op. I’m talking about inventory, payroll, cash registers, cash management, and so on. Why do our members and board need to take on these tasks if we can enter into a good working relationship with a similar and far larger organization?

Cooperative organizations do far better when they stick together. I note that many credit unions allow members of other credit unions to use tellers, ATMs, and other functions. It’s because they work together and share what’s important.

It would be reasonable someday to take over our own operations, but if contracting out core functions to another organization with common cause, it would mean having the physical store open sooner.

I’m member #17.


Gadfly doesn’t know much about the Co-op and hopes to learn more soon.

Dialogue on development

(14th in a series on Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan)

Followers will recognize that Gadfly has been fussin’ over how to feel about “development.”

He is much intrigued over the phrase “socially conscious development” in Council candidate Grace Crampsie Smith’s press release and is anxious to hear more about what’s behind that phrase.

So he couldn’t help but be drawn into the public dialogue between our past mayor Don Cunningham and our present Councilwoman Paige Van Wirt (who is running again) on Amazon, truck traffic, and the growth of warehouses (delightfully termed “sprawl in a box”!).

What Gadfly has seen now several times and really likes in CW Van Wirt is her dismissal of dichotomies. You know, the simplistic either/or kind of thinking that characterizes so many politicians. When she says things like “as if our only choice is between warehouses and economic stagnation,” Gadfly’s antennae go up and his wings flutter. That’s an interstice (good SAT word) he needs to believe in. Yes, maybe we can have significant development with its economic advantages but common-sense and socially conscious development.

PVW’s thoughtful piece worthy of attention.

Don Cunningham, “You can’t use Amazon and then complain about truck traffic.” Morning Call, January 16, 2019.

Paige Van Wirt, “Lehigh Valley shoulders heavy burden of warehouses.” Morning Call, January 21, 2019.  (online link not available yet, will add later)van wirt newspaper

“You’re not allowed to hate what you love and what you use, and then complain about what it [Amazon] creates.” (DC)

“I think characterizing truck traffic in the Lehigh Valley as a consequence of our own dependence on internet retailers such as Amazon is in error. This opinion ducks our responsibility as a region to adequately plan for warehouse expansion that minimizes traffic and environmental impacts, and it disregards the loss of our farmlands to warehousing.” (PVW)

“If you order products online and have them delivered to your door, you are not allowed to complain about trucks on the road.” (DC)

“It’s easy to point the finger at internet retailers and say the rest of us should consider ourselves lucky, as if our only choice is between warehouses and economic stagnation. But people who are stuck on Route 22 behind six big rigs, or the mom dealing with yet another asthma attack as her child breathes our air, might find this dismissal of the problem just wrong.” (PVW)

“People are inherently lazy and love little wrapped gifts and surprises, even if we know what’s in them. So, the idea of sitting on the couch, ordering things and having someone bring them to our door is appealing. Voila, a new industry is created: e-commerce. And, yes, trucks deliver the packages.” (DC)

“Watertown, Mass., recently mandated the installation of solar panels on all new commercial buildings, and even on renovations of buildings over a certain size. Imagine the pollution and energy costs that could be avoided by mandating solar panel installations on top of all those flat, treeless warehouse roofs.” (PVW)

“Nonetheless, we go online, order packages, try on clothes, return them if they don’t fit and have someone carry a new package to our door all the while complaining about the explosion of warehouses in the Lehigh Valley.” (DC)

“What we should be demanding from our region-wide planners is a path for centralization of the warehouses, so truck traffic impact is minimized, as well as conducting highly localized studies of the particulate burden in our air in order to prevent the siting of any warehouses in current air pollution hot spots and creating green standards that specify how warehouses can operate.”

It’s Monday, January 21, do you know where your local Climate Action Plan is?

Charter Schools: Let’s reset (2)

(2nd in a series on Education)

Prothero, Arianna. (2018, August 9). Charter Schools. Education Week.

The impact of charter schools on our taxes has been significant, and Gadfly has wanted to investigate and learn more.

So Gadfly started a thread on charter schools a week ago, suggesting we start with a 2017 article focused on Bethlehem.

That was a mistake.

That Carol Burris article took me into the mud too deeply and too fast.

Let’s reset with the above basic article in the respected Education Week for a big picture overview.


“As the first credible competition to the traditional system of public schooling—and a direct competitor for tight resources—charter schools are the source of ongoing controversy and debate.”

What Are Charter Schools? How Do They Work?

  • a tuition-free school of choice that is publicly funded but independently run
  • conceived to loosen red tape around public schools
  • conceived to free up educators to innovate
  • exempted from many of the state laws and regulations that govern public schools
  • bound to the terms of a contract, or “charter,” that lays out a school’s mission, academic goals, fiscal guidelines, and accountability requirements
  • enjoying the “charter bargain”: more freedom for more accountability
  • do not draw students from an assigned area
  • families choose to send their children

Who Runs Charter Schools?

  • a school leader or principal overseen by an appointed board
  • unlike public schools, not overseen directly by an elected school board
  • an authorizer with power to approve and close down
  • a growing share are run by larger management organizations

Are Charter Schools Non-Profit?

  • many of the best-known networks are run by nonprofit charter management organizations, or CMOs
  • some states allow for-profit companies, education management organizations, EMOs
  • non-profit schools may hire for-profit companies to manage the school

How Are Charter Schools Funded?

  • state and local money based on the number of students enrolled
  • federal funds to provide special education services

Are They Public or Private?

  • a source of debate depending on how you define a public school
  • generally viewed under state laws as public schools whose students are required to take all the same assessments as those who attend traditional district schools


  • classroom innovation
  • freedom of choice
  • competition for students spurs improvement
  • alternative curricular approaches
  • focus on specific fields of study
  • virtual or cyber schools


  • divert vital resources from cash-strapped school districts
  • educate proportionately fewer students with disabilities
  • cherry-pick students
  • punitive discipline practices
  • more racially segregated
  • financial mismanagement
  • nepotism

Effectiveness: What the Research Says

  • mixed, contradictory

Ok, now Gadfly feels a little bit better. How about you?