Up­per Dublin High School proud to be cho­sen to host event

The Ambler Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - By Linda Finarelli

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.”

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