inside sources print logo
Get up to date Delaware Valley news in your inbox

‘An Apple Isn’t Enough:’ Camden Dispensary Gives Teachers Discount on Pot

The Camden Apothecary Dispensary & Wellness shop is offering a 10 percent discount for teachers who buy marijuana there.

“Because sometimes an apple just isn’t enough,” its Facebook ad says.

While the line is meant to be funny and grab attention, pharmacist and owner Tony Minniti, 54, seriously wants to help people. Minniti started working in his grandfather’s drug store at 14. When his family’s business bought Bell Pharmacy in 1997, he found an old bottle of prescription marijuana from the 1930s.

So when New Jersey legalized marijuana for adults over 21 in 2021, he was happy to add a marijuana dispensary next to his pharmacy.

Minniti’s parents were teachers, and his wife is an assistant superintendent, so he knows firsthand how much anxiety the job can bring.

“Obviously, we wouldn’t want teachers to be under the influence of anything while they’re teaching,” Minniti said. However, many of his patients are taking strong prescription medications for anxiety, depression, or insomnia. And those patients might be able to benefit from using marijuana, with their doctor’s permission, instead of more potent pharmaceuticals, he said.

And while other marijuana dispensaries offer discounts for first responders and veterans, he thought teachers should also have a discount.

“Those in the education field have an extremely stressful environment,” Minniti said. The discount “makes it more affordable for them to avail themselves of something that may help.” Over the years, he’s seen teachers “wrestle with and cope with stress.”

Marijuana is not covered by health insurance and remains an illegal drug under federal law. Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) joined 10 other Democratic senators in a letter to the Biden administration Tuesday asking that it be legalized. Fellow Democratic Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey, who is up for re-election this year, did not sign the letter.

“Thus, the DEA should deschedule marijuana altogether. Marijuana’s placement in the CSA (Controlled Substances Act) has had a devastating impact on our communities and is increasingly out of step with state law and public opinion,” according to the letter which Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) also signed.

Minniti said marijuana can be used to treat pain for cancer patients and others with chronic pain conditions instead of opioids, which can be very addictive. And people feel comfortable talking to pharmacists about whether they should try marijuana for their conditions.

Some of the other pharmaceuticals commonly prescribed for anxiety can change people’s brain chemistry, he noted. Many, like Xanax, are recommended for short-term use, yet people often stay on the drugs for much longer. Patients using Ambien for insomnia often stay on it for lengthy periods, he said. But marijuana might help them instead with fewer side effects.

“Why not have that conversation?” asked Minniti. Marijuana can also treat opioid and alcohol addiction, he said.

Minniti acknowledged that “a lot” of his customers come over the bridge from Pennsylvania to buy marijuana. But he noted that Pennsylvanians also cross over to New Jersey to buy liquor and cigarettes, which they’re not supposed to. And, by New Jersey law, they don’t keep their marijuana clients’ contact information.

“I’d ask if the discount would be larger if a bunch of us got together and bought in bulk,” said retired teacher Carol Bassetti, a Cheltenham resident. “I definitely agree with their motto.”

Older people are more comfortable going to a dispensary that is part of a pharmacy rather than a freestanding marijuana store.

“What we try to bring is a health-related focus,” said Minniti. “More so than clerks in the liquor store (for those who are self-medicating with alcohol). We bring a serious medical approach. It’s not Cheech and Chong. There is the potential to help a lot of people.”

Please follow DVJournal on social media: Twitter@DVJournal or

Teacher Shortage in PA? Critics Say the Math Doesn’t Add Up

Is Pennsylvania having a teacher shortage? It depends on who you ask.

Some look at an increase in the number of teachers in classrooms statewide, coupled with decreasing student enrollment, and conclude the teacher-shortage crisis narrative is bunk.

But education experts said statistics only tell part of a complicated story. They point to a troubling trend of fewer new teachers entering the workforce.

A decade ago, the state certified about 20,000 new teachers. Last year the number was only 6,000, said Laura Boyce, the executive director of Teach Plus Pennsylvania.

The education nonprofit is working with state education officials to increase the recruitment and retention of educators who are increasingly complaining of burnout, especially after the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many educators worked double-duty, preparing lesson plans for different platforms as schools shifted between virtual and in-person learning amid shutdowns and tightened restrictions.

“My first thought on that is when we talk about shortages in any other profession, we talk about supply versus demand,” Boyce told DVJournal. “Demand for teachers is high and potentially rising. And we’ve seen the number of new teachers (entering the field) decline. We see higher rates of teachers leaving the profession… I don’t see a lot of denialism that this is happening. We’re seeing an exodus of qualified teachers. I think there’s enough overwhelming data” to support that.

Actually, no, says the Commonwealth Foundation. It points out in a new report that statewide public school enrollment has dropped by 120,000 students, or 6.6 percent, since 2000.

Public school enrollment declined from about 1.78 million students during the 2010-11 school year to roughly 1.68 million in 2021-22, according to state data reviewed by DVJournal.

Meanwhile, the state has added about 20,000 more employees, up 8.7 percent along with a nearly 40 percent growth among administrators. State data also show the number of full and part-time teachers employed for the 2020-2021 school year was 123,461, up from 119,790 in 2015-16.

More teachers and fewer pupils, the Commonwealth Foundation argues, doesn’t add up to a shortage.

And, the organization adds, there is no shortage of taxpayer funding, either.

This year alone, the state’s education budget soared to about $7.6 billion, including a $525 million bump in basic education, plus another $225 million to help underfunded districts. School districts receive most of their funding through local property taxes rather than state or federal revenue. Average teacher salaries hovered around $71,000, which was the 11th highest in the nation, Commonwealth said. Funding for public education nearly doubled in the last decade.

The state Department of Education laid out a comprehensive plan earlier this year called the Pennsylvania Educator Workforce Strategy, detailing how it hoped to increase the number of teachers over the next three years.

“By August 2025, the state will need thousands of new teachers, hundreds of new principals, and thousands of educators in other critical roles trained and ready to guide our students’ educational futures,” the report said.

At a press conference this year, the state’s acting education secretary Eric Hagarty said teaching was the “profession that unlocks the workforce for all other professions,” according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Yet not enough people are thinking of teaching as a viable profession.

To address that, officials hope to bolster the number of students enrolled in teaching preparation programs from 18,000 to 21,600 over the next three years, the report outlined.

And they hope aggressive recruiting and policy changes that make it easier for teachers to get credentialed and expanded apprenticeships will nip at the number of vacancies across the state.

State officials say districts serving low-income students are “bearing the brunt” of the alleged shortages and have more trouble filling vacancies.

For example, in Philadelphia, the state’s largest district, about 169 teachers left the system between Dec. 1 and Dec. 15, double the number of teachers who resigned from the previous year, according to Chalkbeat.

More “underqualified candidates” are brought in to fill the void, said Boyce, who taught in the Philly area and recalled juggling teaching responsibilities while serving as a principal in Camden, N.J.

She said the political climate has worsened conditions for fed-up educators.

“We’ve seen in recent years increases in political attacks that they’re indoctrinating students,” she said. “It’s a very isolating job that has become more and more stressful.”

Despite all the struggles, Boyce is “cautiously optimistic” that the state can reverse the trend.

“I think we’re at a moment where the public and policymakers are paying attention,” she said. “This is the most pressing threat facing Pennsylvania. I’m very worried about doing nothing.”

Please follow DVJournal on social media: Twitter@DVJournal or

‘They Won’t Let Us Tell the Parents:’ Whistleblower Teacher On Great Valley Schools Transgender Policy

If you are the parent of a child questioning their gender identity in the Great Valley School District, their teacher is not allowed to tell you.

In fact, under district policy, the teacher is required to keep that information secret from parents. And the teacher must also call your child by the name they choose and refer to them by the pronouns they wish.

“It seems to be a very disturbing thing to me, keeping this information from parents,” a long-time Great Valley school teacher told Delaware Valley Journal. DVJournal is withholding the teacher’s name at their request, to allow them to speak freely without the fear of backlash.

The educator said other teachers in the affluent Chester County district are also uncomfortable keeping the information secret from parents but are afraid to speak out.

In past years, a small number of kids might identify as a different gender, but since the schools opened again after the pandemic closure, the number of those students has exploded, they said.

“In September, the guidance counselor gave us the names,” the educator said. About 20 children per grade were either transitioning or thinking about changing their gender.

“We really wanted clarity,” the teacher said. “Why the district believed this was in the best interest of the kids for parents not to know this information?”

A spokesperson for the Great Valley School District did not respond to the Delaware Valley Journal’s requests for comment.

The teacher believes some staff members encourage kids to consider changing their gender. And some kids are doing it just to get attention. They have learned about being transgender on social media or through their peers or library books.

During puberty many kids are “confused and have discomfort about their bodies,” the teacher said. Most of the students who say they want to change their gender are girls, they added.

The district has even instructed elementary school teachers to withhold information about children questioning their gender.

“Especially, in the upper elementary (grades) it’s permeated so much of what we do,” the teacher said.

One concern is that children who are questioning their gender might also need mental health services. How will they get those services if their parents are being kept in the dark?

“How can we rationalize keeping this information from the very stakeholders who are in the best position to help? The parents.”

Also, clubs like Safe Space run by the guidance department are not on the district’s website, so parents have no idea they exist, the teacher said.

“It’s not on the same page as the chess club, the robotics club.” Parents “basically they don’t know.”

And any teacher who raises concerns over what can sometimes appear to be an ideological agenda in the schools is labeled “intolerant or bigoted,” the teacher said.

Bruce Chambers, a former school board president, shared an email that a guidance counselor sent to a teacher about a student who uses a different gender at school than at home:

  • Name in student’s records: Grace
  • Preferred name:  Greg
  • Preferred pronouns: they/them
  • Parent Awareness:  Greg’s parents are NOT aware. So please use Grace and the pronouns “she/they” if making contact with the parents
  • Greg mentioned that they will write “Grace” on papers in school since the parents will see those schoolwork papers

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The names were changed to protect the student’s identity.]

Chambers, who served on the board from 2009 to 2011 and was board president for two years, is appalled by the district’s current policy. He is a grandparent now and a “concerned citizen.”

“In this case, Grace has asked to use the name Greg and the pronouns they/them. The teachers are being instructed not to tell the parents about this and go along with the name and pronoun changes that the student wants. And, you see that the teachers are aware that the student is hiding it from her parents.  Also, note that the guidance counselor uses the student’s preferred name and pronoun in the last bullet,” Chambers said.

“So, basically the students are taking on a new gender, name, and pronouns in school, hiding it from their parents, and the district staff and teachers are instructed to conspire with the student to hide it from the parents,” said Chambers.

This is the district’s policy:

“All persons, including students, have a right to privacy, which includes the right to keep private one’s transgender status or gender-nonconforming presentation at school. Information about a student’s transgender status, legal name, or gender assigned at birth may constitute confidential medical or educational information. Disclosing such information to other students, their parents/guardians, or other third parties may violate privacy laws such as the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

Therefore, school personnel should not disclose information that may reveal a student’s transgender status or gender-nonconforming presentation to others, including the student’s parents/guardians and/or other school personnel, unless legally required to do so or unless the student has authorized such disclosure.

Transgender and gender-nonconforming students have the right to discuss and express their gender identity and expression openly and to decide when, with whom, and how much to share such private information. When contacting the parent/guardian of a transgender or gender nonconforming student, school personnel should use the student’s legal name and the pronoun corresponding to the student’s gender assigned at birth unless the student, parent or guardian has specified otherwise.”

There is no age given in the policy so it could be applied to students as young as kindergarteners, said Chambers.

“Teachers need to have a trust relationship with parents,” said Chambers.  “My wife (Janet) was a teacher and they pride themselves on having a relationship with parents. Holding something back is just contrary to a trusting relationship.”


Follow us on social media: Twitter: @DV_Journal or