Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Tuning In to the 2016 Methacton Post Prom

(for a lot more photos, check out the You-Tube video at https://youtu.be/iSTLt7EtLlo )

Comedian Woody Allen once said “In Beverly Hills, they don’t throw their garbage away – they make it into television shows”.  Perhaps much of what has made it onto the airwaves over the years fits that category, but not all of it – from the ‘Golden Age of television’ (1947-1960) til now, there have been many wonderfully written and award-winning comedies, dramas, and mini-series that came along to entertain and educate us. Many of those were fondly remembered this past Friday evening, April 26, as they graced the hallways of the senior high school.

For those who were nervously preparing to attend the senior prom (and, in some cases, looking past that into the near future where graduation, senior week and college await) the 2016 Post Prom, Methacton’s 17th, was a nostalgic trip in the way-back machine to the simpler time of our high school students’ younger days as chronicled by many of their favorite television programs (and that of their parents and faculty!).

As always, the superb creative ideas and the artistic talents that brought them to life were on full display as the experience began with a walk through television history ‘then’ and ‘now. “Then” began almost as if it were an episode of “American Pickers” (a more recent TV phenomenon) in that replicas of old-style tube-style televisions with ‘rabbit ear’ antennae and a collection of old-fashioned remotes were featured. Those taking the tour were invited to reminisce about popular shows of yesteryear, including “The Honeymooners”, “I Love Lucy”, “Bewitched”, "The Twilight Zone", “The Milton Berle Show’, “Laugh In”, Saturday Night Live”, “Mork and Mindy”, “Barney” (bet you thought you’d finally seen the last of THAT!) and others.  

“Now” featured more recent hits like “Glee”, “The Bachelor”, “Big Bang Theory”, “Friends”, “The Office”, and others, and the theme was carried throughout the school’s halls. As you might expect from a group that were toddlers and pre-teens not all that long ago, their appreciation for cartoon series such as “Family Guy”, “Jimmy Neutron”, "Rugrats" and “South Park” were affectionately reflected in some of the larger displays. Several popular game shows and reality-TV shows ("Amazing Race", Survivor", "Deadliest Catch") were represented (although, thankfully, there was no sign of "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" at post-prom).  What student wouldn’t want to spend post-prom in such a happy place?

As has become tradition, some of the other school district facilities selected a theme for one of the high school bathrooms and decorated accordingly. The boys’ restrooms were decorated by Arrowhead and Woodland volunteers in the themes of Gothic “Batman” and “Dr. Who”. The girls’ restrooms were decorated by Skyview and Arcola volunteers respectively in the themes of “Teen Wolf’ and “Let’s Make A Deal”.

In addition to the exquisite themed decorations, many planned activities are a draw to keep students and their prom guests entertained all night and happy to stay put. Choosing whether to participate in dodge ball or volleyball tournaments, cash cab trivia contests, trike races, a casino, inflatables, photo booths, caricaturist, game room, laser tag, “tattoo” artists, a hypnotist show, or a game room is the hardest decision of the evening. A quiet cafĂ© and a movie theater-style setup in the library offer quiet places for downtime if desired. New this year is an outdoor rock wall and a comedy improve group performance. A variety of food and beverage choices in abundant quantities – most of which is donated by area businesses - are available all night.

As if plentiful food and endless opportunities to socialize with friends weren’t appealing enough, there are substantial prizes available at the end of the evening – which guests have to be present to win – to guarantee they stay put until sunrise. Either purchased with donated funds or donated outright, prizes include gift certificates, iPads, laptops, TV’s, and concert and sporting event tickets.

A team of over 400 volunteers (parents, faculty, community members) help run the event, split into shifts including an overnight, 2 am to 6 am shift, and featuring on-site nurses who staff the first-aid area. Selection of the theme begins about a year prior to each post-prom event and decorating begins in the fall, accelerating into high gear in January. The gorgeous murals and other decorations created each year are stored and lent out to other schools for various events (approximately ten per year). Fundraising goes on all year to raise the tens of thousands of dollars needed to pay for supplies and obtain the sponsorships and donations of food necessary to support post-prom.

Students attend for free and participation is historically always over 97%. As a sobering reminder of why the event was started 17 years ago – to keep teens safe on one of the riskiest nights of the year for them - and what it hopes to accomplish, students pledge to abstain from any illegal substances before, during and after the prom and their signed pledges are posted for all to see, in an effort to drive home how seriously this community takes the safety of its youth.

Many thanks from the Lower Providence and Worcester Township communities to all who work tirelessly to stage and pay for this gargantuan effort each year so that our students will look back fondly, with nostalgia, at their own ‘golden age’ high school days.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Gestrich Departs Lower Providence

After a four-year tenure in the Township, current manager Richard Gestrich has parted ways with Lower Providence. 

photo credit: LinkedIn
Board of Supervisors' chairman Jason Sorgini confirmed over the weekend that Gestrich's last day was Friday, April 8, and that 'the Board and Rich mutually agreed that our visions for the township had become disparate and that a new direction was in order. The assistant manager [Geri Golas] will be in charge as we begin a thoughtful and comprehensive process to hire a new manager."

Gestrich was hired in 2012 shortly after supervisors Sorgini and Jill Zimmerman won the 2011 supervisor's election and after being interviewed by a search committee that included both. 

He was known to be good friends with former LP supervisor Rick Brown, who was chairman at the time Gestrich was hired. The two allegedly had vacation homes near each other in Florida. (Brown's ideology was primarily that LP was a 'bedroom community'; he tended to have an unfavorable view of new business and development, and I presume his hiring decisions reflected that). The Township has been trying to get the message out that they are 'open for business' (again, supposition on my part) so perhaps this is the direction they did not share. 

Gestrich had previously served as township manager in Upper Makefield Township and Middletown Township (both in Bucks County) and for two towns in Florida.  At a starting salary in 2012 of $105,000, he signed an at-will employment contract with LPT that was not time limited. At the time, Gestrich noted that the agreement included a severance package consisting of one month's pay for the first six months, three months' pay after the first year, and six months' pay after the third year of employment.  

Gestrich succeeded township manager Joe Dunbar, who was dismissed in 2011 after 7 years with Lower Providence.