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On Facebook, Via Cells, First The News Then A Firestorm

POTTSTOWN PA – Many residents of the Pottsgrove School District, who never witnessed the Board of School Directors‘ Tuesday night (Feb. 28, 2012) unanimous vote to create grade-level education centers, nonetheless learned of the decision mere seconds after it happened, thanks to an army of Internet-connected cell phone users.

At Tuesday night's school board meeting, many had cell phones in hand to report events to other parents who could not attend

In what during recent years has become a staple of live news reporting, several parents and onlookers who turned out for the board meeting at Pottsgrove High School auditorium used mobile devices to extend the directors’ discussion to others at home tending to children and chores.

The focus for much of the back-and-forth, blow-by-blow drama was the “Pottsgrove Residents Against Centers” group page on Facebook, now the world’s most-viewed social media platform. Created by centers’ opponent Rick Rabinowitz and subscribed to by 267 members, those logged into the page provided minute-by-minute accounts of what was said and who was talking.

“Motion made,” Mindy Lee Missmer Lipsky texted, just as board member Philip Keogh finished offering a resolution to approve the centers’ plan. Less than a minute later she added, “Passed.”

Seats away, and almost simultaneously, Lisa Grubbs Engle reported “Voting. Motioned carried for centers.”

The reaction from afar, both from computer keyboards and other cell phones, was equally immediate.

“i feel sick,” responded Kristina Christman. “NOOOOOO WE ARE GOING IN TO CENTERS,” Bailey Shukowitsh chimed in. “How the hell is this possible?!?!?!?!?!?,” asked Iris Lindtner-Gibney.

“So they voted for centers???,” Christine Collins wondered incredulously. “Unanimous vote,” Jeananne Kissinger Lockey replied. “Unbelievable,” she added moments later.

Although the auditorium emptied quickly afterward, the online chatter lasted well into early this morning (Wednesday, Feb. 29). Some group members monitored the page as late as 2 a.m., weighing reactions and reacting themselves, describing their worries and what they said were their children’s tears, and expressing their anger.

Mike Swan was among the most direct. “We need to get 9 new school board members in place. These idiots in there now are a joke. I can’t believe the half-ass presentations by the admin were enough for a unanimous vote. I have lost all respect for the district and am really disappointed with the board,” he wrote.

“Also, where were the teachers?,” Swan added. “They should have voiced their opinions either way. If they were intimidated by the admin, then they should have had the guts to band together and let the board know this…. If not, then they should have stated valid reasons for the centers, since I still have yet to see anything factual about the benefits.”

At the “Pottsgrove Redistricting Informational Site,” a Facebook page that had far fewer followers and was perceived as home to those either advocating or at least indicating comfort with the centers, the response was singular and muted. “Well after months of emotions running high the school board has decided in favor of the centers. I support their decision and will do my part as a parent,” page creator Danielle O’Brien wrote.

Related (to Pottsgrove School District redistricting):

Related (to the Pottsgrove Board of School Directors’ Feb. 28 meeting):

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