Upper Dublin High School proud to be chosen to host event
The Upper Dublin High School gym has a capacity of 2,000, and the expectation was that every seat would be filled when first lady Michelle Obama arrived Aug. 9 for one of three campaign stops in Pennsylvania.
The first lady was scheduled to “speak about what’s at stake in this election for Pennsylvanians” and encourage people to join a grassroots effort to re-elect President Obama, according to a press release from the Obama-Biden campaign.
“I’m extremely excited,” Upper Dublin School District Superintendent Michael Pladus said Aug. 7. “Regardless of your political persuasion, an opportunity to listen to and see the first lady, I think, is a thrill.”
Pladus said he got a call from Montgomery County Commissioners Chairman Josh Shapiro the previous weekend to see if the district would be interested in having the first lady speak at the new high school venue.
“When you get a call that it’s the first lady, you’re always interested,” Pladus said. “I don’t know how we were selected. I’d like to believe it’s because of our high academic standing, the new facility or maybe because we’re the only [new high school construction] in the state approved through referendum.”
Shapiro said Aug. 7 that the Obama campaign had contacted him to suggest potential venues for a campaign stop in Montgomery County by the first lady.
“I told them about the merits of going to Upper Dublin … encour-
aging them to go there,” he said.
Shapiro said he suggested Upper Dublin High School for three reasons: “The outstanding support the president received in Montgomery County and particularly in the Upper Dublin area” in the last presidential election; “the commitment Upper Dublin has made to motivating [students] in education is a hallmark of the administration”; and logistics and the “unique attributes of the building,” such as its energy efficien- cy, which “is another reason why the campaign wanted to be there.”
The school district was not sponsoring the event, said Pladus, who had announced it in an email, which noted the district “does not endorse any political candidate or party, and no taxpayer funds are being used to subsidize this event.”
The rental fee for the gym is $1,500 a day, Pladus said, so the Obama campaign would be billed $3,000 — setup on Wednesday and the event and take down on Thursday — plus any other associated costs such as custodial overtime or security.
Due to the political nature of the event, the school board had to waive its policy of prohibiting political campaigning on its premises, Pladus said. Each board member was contacted individually to obtain the waiver, he said.
Five years ago, when former President Bill Clinton spoke at a political rally at the high school on behalf of Hillary Clinton, who was running for the presidential nomination, the school board modified its policy, but a waiver was still required, Pladus said. If the first lady had come to speak on a topic, such as her nutrition campaign, “it wouldn’t trigger a waiver, but this is really part of the campaign,” he said.
The event actually has nothing to do with politics where the police are concerned, according to Upper Dublin police Deputy Chief iee Benson, who said the department would use its own overtime allotment to pay for the more than 15 officers needed to cover the event.
“We are requested to as- sist the Secret Service, a federal agency, to provide security,” Benson said. “We accommodate them; we don’t want anything to happen.
“It’s a team effort,” he said of those assigned to the event along with the normal patrol shift in the township. The Fort Washington Fire Company fire police, who are volunteers, will also help out by directing traffic, he said.
The department had been working non-stop on the details since Sunday and will continue until the event ends and everyone leaves the high school campus Thursday, Benson said Aug. 8.
“It’s kind of fun. It’s kind of an honor for the entire township and we’re happy to work the event.”
Pladus said the district was given “a small allotment of tickets” for the event, and he and a number of school board, faculty and staff members planned to attend.
“I’m happy, excited, and proud that we were chosen,” Pladus said. “It’s not often any district has an opportunity to bring in the first lady.”