The Push For ZERO: Notes from the April 8th Board Meeting

ZEROAt the Octorara Work Session Board meeting, from April 8th, Business Manager Daniel Carsley informed the board, because of time limit requirements, a final vote for the preliminary budget must be made at next week’s Regular Board Meeting. The vote on the final budget will still be in June.

The current version of the 2013-14 budget now includes the district using an additional $1,052,000 from the “savings account.” This will bring the proposed tax rate in Chester County down from the proposed 37.5 to 36.8 mills. In order to keep the rate flat for Chester County, 36.66 mills, the district will either need to find cuts, or take moneys from the district’s “savings,” in the amount of $115,000.

Potential Cuts

Dr Newcome was asked by the board to bring with him a list of things the district could cut, and other cost saving measures. Dr Newcome will be making the list public. I am posting a few bullet points which stood out. These are not what will be cut. The list includes what is possible to cut (ie non-mandated spending).

  • Double Run Buses: This will only work in Parkesburg because of the number of students, and the close proximity to the school. 
  • Title I: Currently, $60k of what the district identifies as Title I is being paid from the general fund.
  • Reduce building budgets by 10-20%
  • Reduce or eliminate supplemental contracts
  • Reduce or eliminate athletics spending
  • Eliminate non-mandated portion of Summer Reading Camp
  • Eliminate Summer Kindergarten Outreach
  • Eliminate district’s website
  • Energy Saving: (1) eliminate classroom appliances, (2) close buildings at specific times

Mr Norris asked what impact cutting building budgets would have? Specific impact could not be known until actually within the school year. However, Mr Carsley stated, “We are starting from a high point, and cuts will put us more in line with other schools in the area.” Lisa Bowman stated she would prefer to only focus on “non-impact” items, but knows they do not amount to much savings.

Summer Reading Camp and Kindergarten Outreach Programs

Sheri Melton asked Dr Newcome about the Summer Reading Camp and the Kindergarten Outreach. How much was mandated? What happens if we completely eliminate the Reading Camp for the mandated portion? Is the Kindergarten Outreach still necessary since there is now full day Kindergarten?

Summer Reading costs the district $160,000. Of that, $35,000 is not required. The required portion is for students with IEPs requiring extended school services.

The CCIU would pickup the service for the mandated portion. The CCIU program could be at Octorara, or at another location.

The program is not part of the Special Education budget, and requires 20-25 teachers.

Eliminating the Kindergarten Outreach program would impact 45 students.

Ms Melton asked if there was any study done showing a real benefit to the Kindergarten Outreach. Dr Newcome stated he believed there was, but he would have to research it.

Double Buses

Mr Hume wanted to know how the double buses would work.

Dr Newcome informed the board, double buses would only work in Parkesburg, because of the number of students and the short distance. Instead of two buses taking students, one bus would make two trips. In the morning, one group would leave for school 30 minutes earlier. In the afternoon, one group would return home 30 minutes later than currently. The savings would be $60,000.

Per-Student Cost of IEP students

Dr Necome presented a report for the actual per-student cost. I presume this is to show a contrast to average per-student costs being discussed. The top three IEP students cost $103k, $101k, and $98k respectively. There were 7 at the around $75k, more at the $50k price point, and a full list.

One thing not brought up at this meeting, but was brought up in past meetings, is when an IEP student goes to a charter school, it costs the district $24,000. They point to this number when they want to talk about charters being a burden on the budget, but ignore the fact charters can potentially save the district $75,000 per student.

Additional Budget Comments

Shawna Johnson, Board Treasurer, reminded the board that when Lancaster County was facing high taxes, they worked to keep the taxes lower. She also reminded them of a time when Lancaster County taxes went down, while Chester County’s went up. Chester County should get similar treatment. She believes it is important to have no increase for Chester County this year, especially because of Parkesburg’s situation.

Mrs Bowman would like to split the difference between the suggested 10 and 20% cuts to building budgets, and cut 15%.

Mr Norris would prefer no more cuts, and to pay the difference out of the fund.

Charter School Achivement

In the final minutes of the meeting, Samuel Ganow wanted Dr Newcome to explain Adequate Yearly Progress with charter schools.

Dr Newcome explained that charters are reported both as a district and as a school. He stated each of the 10 charters Octorara sends students to did not make AYP as a school, even if the did as a district.

Let me explain why it is completely disingenuous to intentionally leave that hanging out there. It insults the intelligence of every taxpayer and parent.

No one is trying to sugar coat Avon Grove Charter School’s achievement report. It is not perfect, has shortfalls, but facts are fact.

Octorara is a district with 4 schools. AGCS is a “charter district” and is evaluated as a single K-12 school. Octorara spreads the risk of the elementary age kids not meeting AYP over 3 buildings. If Octorara was evaluated as a single K-12 school, instead of the multiple buildings, it would not only have missed AYP as a district, but it would be in the second year of a warning as a school.

Mr Kloss’ Comments Revisited

Ms Melton was absent at the last board meeting. She asked Dr Newcome to address Mr Kloss’ comments again, specifically if it was possible for charters to skew test results by picking and choosing who they want. She also wanted to know if they could deny IEP student services.

Dr Newcome stated that charters cannot pick and choose. They also cannot deny IEP students, and must provide services. He stated that he will communicate with Mr Kloss and make sure he has an accurate understanding.

Why Charters?

Ms Melton asked if there had been a study done, specifically for Octorara, as to why parents are choosing charter schools, and what can the district do publicly to attract students back?

Dr Newcome stated there was no report of that kind.


3 thoughts on “The Push For ZERO: Notes from the April 8th Board Meeting

  1. Tim you have done a great job! I also noticed the borough is cleaning up their act with the local taxes as well. I guess all it takes is a couple people willing to expose the truth and get the school board to listen, and to get the borough council to work for the people not their agenda’s.

    I noticed some strange activity as well the last time I went to a borough council meeting. I noticed Lester James Thomas (former police chief) sitting with the council members, but his position is administration, so why doesn’t he sit with the admin people?

    Anyway thanks again Tim

    • Thanks!! With the district, there is still more to do, even if we get the zero increase. There are the issues with over-building and labor, in addition to achievement, college readiness, and graduation rates. They are all issues the district seems to want to either ignore, sugar coat, or dismiss. Problems cannot be fixed until we can get them to admit there is a problem. We should be getting more for less.

      • It is amazing what one person can accomplish with a little research. Not bad for a so called rookie. You have accomplished more in a few months than any one I ever heard of in Parkesburg. Without your voice at the board meetings we would be facing another increase.

        On to the next!

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