Since the beginning of this year, addressing the District’s issues has been like peeling an onion. When we investigated taxes and return on investment, we revealed issues regarding labor costs, debt, and performance. We dug into the issue of debt; we found complacency toward enrollment and tax-base issues. Looking deep into performance issues, we exposed problems with subgroups and transparency. When we looked at the issue of transparency, we found neglect toward updating District polices… some over 10 years old and/or in conflict with current laws.
What should change look like? These are my Top Priorities if elected.
Promote true transparency by advocating all board business be in public, particularly dialogue among board members prior to each vote;
It is the right of the public to be present at all meetings of agencies and to witness the deliberation, policy formulation and decision making of government agencies. This right is vital to the enhancement and proper functioning of the democratic process. Secrecy in public affairs undermines the faith of the public in government, and the public’s effectiveness in fulfilling its role in a democratic society.
We must ensure the right of parents, citizens, and taxpayers to have notice of and the right to attend all meetings of the Octorara Area School District at which District business is discussed or acted upon.
Actively engage with citizens and taxpayers, not only providing information but actively soliciting public feedback to assess and improve.
Strengthening relations with parents, citizens, and taxpayers is a sound investment for better policy-making and a core element to good governance. It allows government to tap into new sources of policy-relevant ideas, information, and resources when making decisions. It contributes to building public trust in government, raises the quality of democracy, and strengthening civic capacity.
The Octorara Area School District must invest adequate time, resources and commitment in building robust frameworks, develop appropriate tools, and elevate their performance engaging parents and citizens in policy-making.
Balance educational excellence and fiscal restraint, ensuring efficient use of taxpayers’ dollars.
There is one great fact that Octorara Area voters should remember when they go to the polls on November 5th. The Preliminary 2014-2015 Budget, expected in January, will contain a built-in tax hike before one additional dollar is proposed.
The School Board punted the ball last June, using “savings account” money to pay for increases in spending. Expect the current $47.5 Million budget to jump to $48.7 Million when the Preliminary 2014-15 Budget is presented in January. It will potentially be a tax increase from 36.6 mills to 38.2 mills, but it could be even more.
The Octorara Area School District must make a serious effort to fix the problems of debt and labor costs. It must focus on a budget which provides a commitment to both fiscal discipline and educational excellence, and recognizing that organizations without maintaining the former we will not have the latter.
Promote excellence by fostering a true partnership between students, parents, teachers and community members.
Octorara tends to generally characterize parent involvement as volunteers assisting in the classroom, chaperoning students, and fundraising. This outdated model must be replaced with an expanded, all-inclusive school-family-community partnership approach, which stresses (1) parenting, (2) communicating, (3) volunteering, (4) learning at home, (5) decision making, and (6) collaborating with the community.
The District must…
- Expand their understanding of family backgrounds, cultures, and goals for children;
- Create two-way communication channels between school and home that are effective and reliable;
- Improve volunteer recruitment, and provide work that is meaningful;
- Involve families with their children’s academic learning at home, involving families in goal setting and curriculum-related activities;
- Include families as active participants in school decisions and governance, and
- Improve and expand the coordination of resources and services for families and students with local agencies, businesses, cultural and civic organizations and universities.
Make subgroup (special ed, economically disadvantaged, minority) performance a top priority.
Ask many parents where Octorara has been focusing school improvement efforts, and chances are they will say offering college-level curriculum, but at the cost of overall performance and subgroups… especially special education students and economically disadvantaged. Many parents also believe there exists an institutionalized bigotry of low expectation with subgroups. It’s not difficult to understand why. In addition to the District’s overall low academic achievement scores, Octorara also does worse than most other Chester County districts when it comes to subgroup performance.
Octorara must approached subgroups comprehensively, rather than taking a one-issue-at-a-time approach. The District must focus on issues of school culture, academic rigor, academic support, teacher preparedness and learning. Moreover, the District must have a goal to consistently outperformed the state averages on standardized tests, and accomplish this without “pushing out” any groups of students by allowing them to drop out or otherwise leave the District. Our graduation rate needs to be at or above state and county averages. Academic success cannot be accomplished at expense of subgroups.
- “Insiders Are Wanted” – September 16, 2013 Regular Meeting (octorarataxes.wordpress.com)
- Timothy Alexander – School Board Candidate Questionnaire (octorarataxes.wordpress.com)
- Octorara Area Schools Share Pennsylvania School Performance Profile (parkesburggazette.wordpress.com)
- Octorara Intentionally Blocking Parents from Emailing Teachers (octorarataxes.wordpress.com)
- SPP Scores: Has a new day dawned? (octorarataxes.wordpress.com)