News

School vs. School

DTSD to Challenge Gardens, Museum, Etc.

In a special meeting of the Derry Township School District Board of Directors, the board voted unanimously Monday, July 25 to take court action against the M.S. Hershey Foundation, which operates the Hershey Theatre, Hershey Museum, Hershey Gardens, Hershey Community Archives and ChocolateTown Square.

The resolution passed by the school board was formally introduced by the district's new superintendent, Richard Faidley, and it says:
I move that the School Board authorize special legal counsel to file a petition for declaratory judgment in the Orphan's Court division of the Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County, requesting that the court render a declaratory judgment, and determine whether the Hershey Musuem, Hershey Theatre, Hershey Gardens, and Hershey Archives are proper recipients of income from the 1935 M.S. Hershey Foundation Trust; whether the trustees of the 1935 M.S. Hershey Foundation Trust should be required to divest the Foundation of its interests in the Hershey Museum, Hershey Theatre, Hershey Gardens, and Hershey Archives; and that the court grant such additional relief as may be appropriate.

Relief = Money?
 
It is unclear what “additional relief” the school board might seek, and no member or representative of the board would speak on the matter following the vote.
 
However, money could be the motivation, and one person connected to the dispute told The Sun that the school district wants the Orphan’s Court “to determine whether the Foundation trust should be used to fund the school.”
 
Indeed, the school district has sparred with both the Foundation and the Hershey Entertainment & Resort Company in the past over amusement tax payments, and in 2010, Don Papson, Executive Director of the M.S. Hershey Foundation, confirmed to The Sun that the Foundation had made $25,000 “grants” to the Derry Township School District and Derry Township itself.
 
Still, those were largely private battles, fought behind closed doors. This legal action is very public and puts the Derry Township School District in clear conflict with the Milton Hershey School and Hershey Trust Company, which effectively control the Foundation.
 
'Other Districts Would Be Grateful'
 
Shortly after The Sun informed the School and Trust of the school district resolution, the Foundation released a copy of a letter sent by Papson to Faidley on July 20, 2011:
 
Thank you for your letter of July 18, 2011. Allow me to reiterate my willingness to meet with the School Board as the M.S. Hershey Foundation Board of Managers’ representative to review and discuss the extensive history of the Foundation, its support of the missions expressed in Mr. Hershey’s Agreement of Trust, and specifically the Foundation’s interaction with the Derry Township School District over the years.

While we welcome the District’s interest in a new partnership, we believe a strong partnership between our entities has always existed, and certainly exists today. Students from Derry Township are given numerous programs free of charge when they visit Foundation properties with their school classes.  The program topics offered are rich and diverse, and include Hershey history, geography, science and economics, community development, American Indian history, archival research and the performing arts. All educational programs align with Pennsylvania Academic Standards in their respective disciplines. Below is a list of the many ways the Foundation currently supports the Derry Township School District and its students:

- All 3,500 Derry Township students, from kindergarten through grade 12, are offered educational programs free of charge at The Hershey Story, Hershey Theatre and Hershey Gardens, when they visit with their school classes. 
-In 2010, the Foundation properties hosted approximately 1,120 DTSD students, again, free of charge.  
- All second-grade students participated in programs at The Hershey Story and Hershey Theatre.
- All third-grade students completed the Hershey Community Archives program.
- All fourth-grade students enjoyed a visit to the one-room school house, a program coordinated by the education department of The Hershey Story.
- Derry Township students involved in theater arts have had the opportunity to be involved in the Hershey Theatre Apollo Awards since 2008. Derry Township students have received more than $2500 in the past three years from the Hershey Theatre Apollo Awards.

In addition, to address your concerns about the Foundation’s value as an educational resource, and to alleviate your concerns that entertainment is our focus, we include the following information on educational programs available to students from Derry Township as well as other school districts:

Each year, The M.S. Hershey Foundation provides affordable, educational field trips to 13,000 school students in addition to Derry Township students.  Educational programs and cultural opportunities are also offered to home-school groups, preschool groups, Scouts, college students, educator forums, summer camp programs and students from culinary institutes.  The Foundation, in conjunction with volunteer lecturers from The Hershey Company Technical Center, offers advanced science programming to students as well.  Many of these students come from nearby communities and counties.  Milton Hershey felt strongly that the children and families of people who worked in Derry Township should benefit from The M. S. Hershey Foundation’s programs.

Foundation fundraising initiatives (funds that do not come from our Trust) have resulted in nearly $50,000 in contributions for the education of Central PA students during 2010. The Hershey Story conducts an annual History Contest for Young Writers, which garnered a record 482 entries in 2010. Incidentally, a Derry Township Middle School student won first prize in the junior poetry category that year. Winners of this contest are publicly recognized at our Business Partners in Education annual breakfast, an event that serves as a fundraiser for youth education programs at the museum. We also raise money to subsidize the cost of field trips to The Hershey Story for children in need. Hershey Theatre Apollo Awards’ fundraising event, Beyond the Footlights, benefits our performing arts educational scholarship fund. 
 
The PA Dept of Education, in conjunction with PA Dept of Community and Economic Development, has designated The M.S. Hershey Foundation as an Educational Improvement Organization (EIO).  EIOs are non-profit organizations that have been approved by DCED for participation in the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program. To become an EIO, the non-profit must apply to the DCED to demonstrate how their programs improve educational opportunities for children. 
 
The Foundation has always been keenly aware of Mr. Hershey’s interest in public education. Mr. Hershey established a testamentary trust for the benefit of the Derry Township School District. This trust, which was established at the time of Mr. Hershey’s death in 1945, currently generates in excess of $1.8 million in annual income, payable to the District. This trust was a rare and substantial gift from Mr. Hershey, established 10 years after the Foundation Trust, a bequest that other districts would be grateful to enjoy. The Directors of The M.S. Hershey Foundation decided unanimously back in 1967 that, in light of Mr. Hershey’s generous bequest to the District, the Foundation would focus its more limited resources on providing the District, and the broader community, with meaningful supplemental educational offerings. That continues to be our focus.

Although we remain available to meet with the District to continue our discussions on the Foundation’s support of the District and its students, we find the ultimatums and criticisms that the District has delivered to us inconsistent with the spirit of our partnership, and neglectful of the facts.

I would be happy to host you and your family on a personal tour of Hershey Community Archives, Hershey Gardens, The Hershey Story, and Hershey Theatre. They are remarkable resources that bring tremendous ongoing benefit to the children of the Derry Township School District. 

 

The Purposes of the Foundation
 
Established in 1935, the Foundation’s “Agreement of Trust” outlines the purposes of the organization:
a. For the establishment and maintenance in whole or in part of one or more educational institutions in Derry Township, Pennsylvania; and/or
b. The support of the public schools of Derry Township, Pennsylvania, and the improvement and elevation of the standard of education therein; and/or
c. The vocational, cultural or professional education of any resident of Derry Township, Pennsylvania.


Updated: July 25, 2011, 10:39 p.m.

 


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