Letter to the Editor: Shame on you, Jeff Hellrung

It is a very sad day for the UCFD school district when a sitting school board member, Jeff Hellrung, uses his position to engage in politics in an election outside his region. Jeff’s scurrilous editorial attack on Kathy Do, Bev Brookes and Gregg Lindner has no place in schoolboard dynamics. It will only poison the well of our deliberations.

I’ve been a member of the UCFCD Board for nearly two years. Kathy Do and Gregg Linder have never raised politics in any of our meetings. Both have repeatedly said to me that politics has no place in School Board deliberations. I couldn’t agree more. I have watched Gregg, who is vice chair and who sits on both the finance and buildings and grounds committees, work tirelessly to do what is best for the school district and our students. I’ve also watched Kathy, as chair of the curriculum and technology committee, give countless hours and thought to a wide range of curricular and technology issues trying to figure out what is in the best interests of our students.

Unlike Jeff, neither Gregg nor Kathy ever developed a political action committee to spread their political views about education and our public school system. Jeff’s, and his colleague Keith Knauss’, political action committee aims to promote what they called efficient education. When I first joined the board, Keith encouraged me to visit their website Efficient Education. What I found there was alarming — the use of shoddy statistical work and cherry picking of the academic literature to suit their ideological predispositions. As a practicing research economist I was appalled.

To make matters worse, Jeff’s political action colleague said at a recent board meeting that he’d like to see the UCFSD create a KIPP charter school. Except for the Hellrung/Knauss ideological predispositions, I can’t see how this makes any sense. Sad to say, I’m led to conclude that Jeff not only carries his political predispositions into his role as a school board member, now he is parlaying his political action work into a local school broad election outside his region where it has no place. Jeff, shame on you.

Michael T. Rock
Newlin Township
Michael Rock is a UCFSD School Board
director for Region B and is a professor of
economic history at Bryn Mawr College

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4 Responses to “Letter to the Editor: Shame on you, Jeff Hellrung”

  1. Amy Baram says:

    I couldn’t agree more with Mike Rock’s rebuttal to Jeff Hellrung’s Letter to The Editor. This type of behavior has created a damaging scene. It saddens me to know that so many qualified and dedicated community members have turned away from the opportunity to serve on our school board because they do not feel they have the thick skin needed to deal with the political nonsense.

  2. Keith Knauss says:

    Dr. Rock is doing exactly what he criticizes Mr. Hellrung for – sticking his nose into a “local school broad election outside his region where it has no place”. How ironic!

    I see that Dr. Rock is afraid of competition in the form of charter schools. Has he ever looked at the incredible work KIPP schools have achieved with disadvantaged children? Should we be afraid of a charter school specializing in the arts or STEM? Is he afraid that parents might enjoy having a choice of where to educate their children? Maybe he is unaware that we (the Chester County Intermediate Unit) already runs two cyber charter schools in the area. Why? To save the taxpayers money that would drain to other charter schools outside the county.

    I also see that Dr. Rock continues to criticize my statistical analysis done on the 60 Philadelphia area school districts showing parental education and parental income are the major factors determining student achievement. (note: the school board has no control over these two factors) Spending, student to teacher ratio and teacher salaries, the factors school directors do control, are relatively minor factors. This is nothing new and is standard knowledge for educational researchers going back decades. I know Dr, Rock is uncomfortable with this conclusion. I challenged him many months ago to analyze the data for those same 60 districts so he can correct my “shoddy statistical work”. Who better than a “practicing research economist? So far, he is content only to criticize. Is he afraid that he might reach the same conclusion – that many school districts in the Philadelphia area spend far past the point of diminishing returns and more money is not the answer to a better education for our children?

  3. Katherine Dillon says:

    Mr. Knauss, Mr. Rock’s action of writing a letter is not analogous to Mr. Hellrung’s doing so. Mr. Hellrung purposely is interfering in an election. Mr. Rock is merely responding to zMr. Hellrung’s letter, as you are responding to Mr. Rocks.
    As for spending per pupil, you say the main factors are parental income and education
    The parents in the UCFSD for the most part are in a much-above-average income bracket and are highly educated. So what is your objection? Property taxes? If you’re concerned, then contact your state legislators to tell them to reform the pension system, which accounts for a large chunk of a district’s budget.
    As for a KIPP charter school, many of the local charter schools close very quickly due to administrative mismanagement. Why would any parent support a charter school? The district must reimburse the charter for its per pupil cost. As well, I believe most parents are quite happy with a UCFSD education, which rivals or exceeds any charter’s.
    I read recently you resigned from the board to spend more time with your family. Does that mean you will fill any idle hours by assuming the role of a curmudgeon who questions the school board’s actions? Haven’t you learned anything from your school board tenure? Let them do their work. If you wanted to effect change, you should have stayed on the board.
    Katherine Dillon

    • Keith Knauss says:

      Ms. Dillon,
      You must be new to the area. I have a rich history of questioning board decisions over 15 years. There is no need to be on the board to effect change. I dare say that I had more influence in my years off the board. Ask around and become informed.

      As for property taxes, please don’t try to deflect responsibility onto the state legislators. Pension contributions are a minor factor. School directors control the major factors – the number of employees and the salary of those employees.

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