Timothy Alexander: Top Priorities If Elected

Priority stampWe are less than two weeks away from the election on November 5th. The parents and citizens have a decision to make. Do we accept more of the same, or do we demand change?

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…

  1. Expand their understanding of family backgrounds, cultures, and goals for children;
  2. Create two-way communication channels between school and home that are effective and reliable;
  3. Improve volunteer recruitment, and provide work that is meaningful;
  4. Involve families with their children’s academic learning at home, involving families in goal setting and curriculum-related activities;
  5. Include families as active participants in school decisions and governance, and
  6. 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.

10 thoughts on “Timothy Alexander: Top Priorities If Elected

  1. Tim, you definitely have mine and my wife’s vote, but I worry that you don’t have enough coverage on the street by means of signs. Is this something you’re planning on doing?

    • I have a great deal of confidence that yard signs for a last minute candidate, who has no platform or vision, will not win this election. It doesn’t mean he won’t win, but it will not be because of a few signs.

      People who know David Jones, know he previously served as Parkesburg Borough Council member and President, along with Ken Knickerbocker. It could be argued the two, at least partially, are responsible for the Borough of Parkesburg’s high Municipal Property Tax, and many of the issues the Borough is struggling with today.

      Additionally, Ken Knickerbocker is a former Octorara Area School Board member and President, who could be argued at least partially, is responsible for the Octorara’s high School Property Tax. He has been a strong apologist for the District’s poor spending decisions, and a propagandist (until very recently) of Octorara’s academic excellence myth.

      Mr. Knickerbocker is also very prideful of being apart of Dr Newcome becoming Superintendent of Schools, and maintains a close personal friendship. Knickerbocker’s legacy is tied to Newcome being seen as a success or failure.

      This is little more than a group insiders trying to circle their wagons, but in an off-year election, there is no doubt there is a possibility he could win. However, at this point, yard signs are not going to switch votes.

      What does Dave Jones believe?

      Jones has come out against the Urban Outfitters expansion in Gap PA, a project that will bring up to 1500 new jobs into the local area. We would have to presume he would also be against this type of major development and job creation with the Octorara Area.

      Jones believes that the Coatesville Area School Board allowing Superintendent Como to quietly resign (at least they wanted it quiet), instead of firing him after the racist text message scandal, was the best decision. It was a decision that rewarded Como with a $70,000 payout for banked sick, personal, and vacation time.

      He also made his “it’s time to move on” comments as Arc of Chester County and other organizations made statements the issue was greater than text messages, and alleged discrimination against students with special needs and minorities. The District Attorney’s Office is expanding their investigation, and stating the School Board is not cooperating with the investigation. Yet, Jones wants everyone to just move on.

      What changes if Jones becomes a School Board member? Nothing, and that is the point of his write-in campaign. The aristocracy claiming ownership of the Octorora Area School District doesn’t want change. They want quiet, not accountability.

      They don’t want to turn back the clock on taxes or spending. They built those buildings, and expanded the campus, and they are not giving that up. They don’t care enrollment shows expansion was (then and now) unnecessary, or that there is no tax-base to support the debt.

      They don’t want to hold the line with the Teachers’ Union. The unspoken truth seems to be they are proud of having some of the highest paid teachers in Chester County. They don’t care the total cost of labor is a major cross for District taxpayers to bear.

      They don’t want to hear about achievement gaps or performance assessments. They are comfortable with the excuses and finger pointing. They are even resentful and questioning of the State when it comes to this. They want to go back to the days when they had convinced themselves Octorara provided a “world-class education” supported by anecdotes centered only on the most talented and gifted students.

      We live in a school district with the highest property taxes, high per-student costs, high labor costs, and high debt. All the tax dollars spent has produced no improvement to academic performance. We are the second worst performing district in Chester County. Thank you Coatesville!!

      Dave Jones is the status quo candidate. Most who will vote for him know this.

      The election will not be won with signs, but with turnout. Those who paid attention to the primary election results know this. Nelson Stoltzfus is only on the ballot because of voter turnout in Parkesburg. He had a major loss in Londonderry, and would have been kicked off the ballot if turnout was slightly different.

      Jones’ signs lets those who prefer the status quo know that there is an alternative to vote for, but it also lets those who want change know this election is not a slam dunk.

  2. Good question, vigodagod. Would you agree that after 9 months of blood, sweat, toil and tears, poring his head and heart into his OASD blog and campaign for a board seat — asking questions and delving into areas previously unexamined, giving us all an education in local politics in the process — it would be a damn shame if Tim should lose to some johnny-come-lately interloper/board puppet/straw man, a guy skilled at planting yard signs and offering mealy-mouthed mush about his reasons for running, but strangely silent about what he actually wants to DO?

  3. David Jones would be well advised to constrain himself to his silly little ‘Jones Food Street Journal’ reports on the equally silly Parkesburg Today website. Jones orgasmically tells us about his latest culinarary adventures, here, there and eveywhere. Jones is apparently clueless to the fact that for five years and more most families have been unable to dine out.

    David Jones is, ipso facto, a clueless, idiot, brain-dead moron without an original idea in his head. Why woule qnybod ever for for our4 xoooun5tenqnde wudh ii iieiowcy/ head. head. morib und brain.

    • David is a write me in candidate, and nothing more. He has no political platform that we have seen to this day, and he didn’t do his homework for the past year like Mr. Timothy Alexander who in my opinion is not only the best choice but the only choice we have. The question I have is why haven’t DJ, and John given us some insight on their agenda instead of hiding behind a ranting blog full of biased opinions,no facts, and terrible journalism skills?

  4. Tim, I have told you before that your feedback mechanism leaves much to be desired. Trying to register a comment is as frustrating as they say it is trying to enroll in Obamacare. Do yourself, me, and others a favor, and simply get it right. It is hard to offer words of support when your own website is, shall we say, uncooperative. That is not my problem, but rather yours, and it is incumbent on your to fix it.

    • Mr Vail,

      I know you have had issues with commenting on the site, but I have not been able to reproduce the issue. When I comment, I do not use the site’s backend. I comment just like everyone else, and have not run into any issues.

      I’m not at all claiming “user error.” All I’m saying is without being able to reproduce the problem, I have no way to fix it. In order to ask the hosting company to look into it, I need to be able to describe the actions leading up to the error, any error messages, and preferably provide screen captures.

  5. Tim you have my vote, and all my friends and family in the area are also voting for you!

    Thank you for your devotion to reduce the school taxes that have caused a burden to all of us including the seniors on fixed incomes.

  6. Wow. You folks sure are “haters” of just about everyone that doesn’t agree with you and everything that doesn’t agree with your vision of the world. I wrote a lengthy response, but then I deleted it because most of this doesn’t deserve a response and/or isn’t relevant to Octorara. I’ll simply say good luck next Tuesday. If you win it will be because the majority of voters share your approach. If you don’t win it will be because the majority does not share your approach. I will say that anyone who questions my use of yard signs doesn’t know anything about this or any other election I’m afraid. My name is not on the ballot, my challenge is to get my name and recognition out there to the point that it at least balances the names the voters see in the booth. Then I have to get them to actually write my name. You have had lots of exposure and I don’t bemoan that fact, I’m just trying to get as much exposure in 3 weeks as you have built over a longer period of time. Good luck and may the best man win. To Chuck, Bon Appetite!

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