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Chester County Press

Misinformation in Avon Grove?

12/18/2018 12:35PM ● By Steven Hoffman selected “misinformation” as the word of the year, and it seems as if there might some misinformation being pumped out in Avon Grove.

The Avon Grove School Board’s recent reorganization meeting illustrated the deep divide that continues to exist between the nine board members. Reorganization meetings are usually quick and painless. Avon Grove’s reorganization meeting this year was neither. It was a challenging end to what has been, in many ways, a challenging year for this school board. And misinformation played a part, it seems.

The selection of a president and vice president was quick enough. But the reorganization meeting took a turn when a statement was read providing “fact checks” on some information about the high school project that was shared on a local website.

Some members of the board objected to the statement, or at least the fact that it was presented as a “board statement” when the full board didn’t vote on it, and hadn't even been given sufficient time to read it.

Hopefully, the school board can use the upcoming retreat to work through some of the procedural issues that are dividing them. But the school board shouldn’t be divided on clarifying inaccurate, misleading information about the school district—especially on matters of consequence, like how much is being borrowed to build a new high school.

The post on a website maintained by the Avon Grove Taxpayers for Responsible Spending

that prompted the board statement raised a question about how much the school district will be borrowing to pay for the high school project, and made it clear that the school board was trying to increase the amount to be borrowed by $12 million. At a meeting in November, the Avon Grove School Board approved a resolution that established parameters for borrowing, and the resolution included the $139 million figure as the maximum amount in the parameters filing. According to the statement read at the reorganization meeting, the $139 million figure was used only for technical purposes “in order to allow the financing team to price the bonds in the most advantageous way for the school district and its taxpayers.” The statement went on to say that the “board has clearly instructed the total amount borrowed to be set at a maximum of no greater than $127 million.”

At one point during the reorganization meeting, school board member Jeff Billig challenged his colleagues to acknowledge that there was no confusion, among the nine board members, about what the resolution actually meant. His point was that the information posted on the website was inaccurate and misleading.

The nine school board members shouldn’t be confused about what they voted on. Did the resolution approved by the board mean that the borrowing associated with the project is increasing by $12 million or not? A significant number of board members are opposed to borrowing at the $127 million level. If there's a behind-the-scenes effort to increase the borrowing without being forthright to the public, that's clearly wrong.

Should residents believe the statement which was read at a public meeting? Or the information posted on the website?

It's understandable why some board members would be upset that the statement wasn't shared with them until two hours before the meeting. But at the end of the day, it's not really important to the taxpayers and children in the school district about whether the statement is identified as a “board statement” or a “board president statement.” It's far more important for what the school district said with its statement to be accurate.

The nine members of the school board have some responsibility here, and it falls to them to make it clear if there is misinformation being spread about a very important project.