Octorara Work Season Board Meeting – November 11, 2013

Yesterday’s Work Session Meeting was the first since the School Director Elections. Mr Hume and Mr Ganow were both absent. There was no presentation, no visitor comments related to agenda items, and no informational items.

Lisa Bowman, Board President, quickly read through the list of agenda items, to be voted on at the November 18th Regular Monthly Meeting. The vast majority of items revolved around personnel issues: requests for Family Medical Leave, Resignation Approvals, Hiring Approvals. Next week, the Board will vote to approve the first reading of policies 801 “Public Records” and 806 “Child/Student Abuse.”

The Board will also vote on the Career and Technical Programs Advisory Committee (CTP). The committee is necessary for the Career and Technical Programs, and is made up of business people and community members. They meet twice a year, and quarterly as individual groups.

Facilities Committee Report

Mr Stoltzfus, as always, gave a very thorough report of yesterday’s Facilities Committee Meeting:

  • Work to the Water Treatment will begin in the Summer of 2014;
  • A Capital Improvements List should be completed by December;
  • They are still in the process of finding a fix to the water problem at the high school;
  • The Committee is exploring the option of converting a damaged water pump to wireless;
  • The concession stand is being worked on;
  • Daniel Carsley, Business Manager, will be providing each school with a survey about custodial services;
  • The Field Development Task Force will be having a fundraiser in January;
  • Environmental issues regarding the disposal of slag, used as back fill, could make refurbishing the existing track too costly, and alternative solutions may need to be explored.

Security was the spotlight issue from the Facilities Committee Report. Mr Stoltzfus stated security has been an issue discussed at every meeting recently. Expect it to be part of the budget discussions, and the District will also be looking into various grants. However, the District cannot make decisions based on one small, but very vocal group. Hiring a school resource officer, or a police officer, will be a costly, annual budgetary item. A greater number of people will need to speak up in favor of such action before the District commits.

Education Committee Report

Mr Norris gave a report of last month’s Education Committee Meeting. (My account of the meeting can be found here.) He highlighted Elena Wilson’s presentation of the Pennsylvania Value-Added Assessment System (PVAA). The data reviewed showed some “not so kind” facts and statistics, while other data points were more optimistic. Also noted was the data will be used in the new Teacher Evaluations, and in conjunction with Learning Focused Schools.

The update on the iPad program mentioned that Channel 8 News (WGAL) did a feature on Octorara. The news report can be viewed here. Parents will have the opportunity to receive iPad training this month. However, a date for the training has not yet been revealed.

Visitor Comments

Mr. Jerry Zimmerman, Christiana, thanked the Board & the Facilities Committee. A Security Advisory Committee will be meeting every first Tuesday, at 6:30pm in the District Office Conference Room. He stated the Committee already had a general consensus on the hiring of a school resource officers, or police officer. He will also create a list of safety issues agreed on by other parents.

Zimmerman stated the people involved in this initiative are very passionate. He will encourage individuals to communicate that passion to Board members and the Administration with phone calls and emails. He believes the number of people supporting the idea is larger than the District perceives.

Elizabeth Lapp, Octorara High School student, addressed the Board to thank Mr Stoltzfus for the use of his barn to create a Halloween attraction. Mr Stoltzfus was presented with a Thank You card. The event has been on ongoing, with the exception of last year, since 1995.

Miscellaneous

Dr Scott Rohrer and Dr Newcome praised Elizabeth Lapp’s performance, and the performance of all the students, in their production of Cinderella: The Untold Story.

Dr Rohrer stated final numbers should be next week, but it appears the schools raised over 5,000 pounds of food from their Food Drive. Mr Norris stated the donation to the Octorara Area Food Cupboard was equivalent of 2 months worth of food.

Last month, Mr Norris offered up the idea of having Board Meeting streamed live over the internet. He mentioned the idea again tonight, asking if there was any objection to starting the practice immediately. There was no objection, and Dr Newcome stated there was no problems with staring with the next scheduled Board Meeting.

I believe streaming live Board Meetings is a major first step to the active encouragement of public participation we have been discussing. Hopefully, the streaming will also include the archiving of meetings on YouTube or other service. However, it cannot be understated what a major step this is for the District.

Immediately following yesterday’s meeting was an Executive Session for Personnel & Labor Relations.

11 thoughts on “Octorara Work Season Board Meeting – November 11, 2013

  1. I believe the estimated cost stated for an officer last night was between $65,000 and $100,000. That appears to be a preliminary “estimate” and may go higher once coverage issues are included. By this I mean you will need more than one officer to cover for time off and other days. I haven’t heard whether this coverage will “only” be during the regular school day hours, or if it will include after school hours when as many as 10 busloads of children remain in the building. I also haven’t heard whether it will include extra-curricular activities “in” the school, such as concerts and plays, etc. We have heard this officer will be armed, but little else about the duties.
    I’d like to know your position on this added expense Tim, since it will either have to be added to the taxes or some other area cut significantly to stay budget neutral.

  2. The idea of hiring a school resource officer, or police officer, seems to have come in reaction to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings.

    I do not believe hiring one SRO would satisfy the ultimate purpose. Minimum coverage would seem to require at least one SRO in every building, at anytime they are open to students. Less than that, in my opinion, we would just be buying a false sense of security.

    However, these events,while unpredictable, are very unlikely. The investment just does not seem to provide a reasonable value, and the cost-benefit is currently not in favor of hiring any SROs.

  3. I wanted to give my input on this streamline listed below:

    “Last month, Mr Norris offered up the idea of having Board Meeting streamed live over the internet. He mentioned the idea again tonight, asking if there was any objection to starting the practice immediately.”

    Perhaps Brian doesn’t want more people coming to the actual meetings to give comments on his terrible choices in my opinion. Will the streamline allow visitor comments?

    I hope more people attend the meetings in the future and I especially hope to see more people like Tim Alexander get on the board…I would like to see a recall election for Brian Norris and Lisa Bowman, and get some new blood on the board who actually care about the students and the tax payers but oh well…

    • Joey,

      I believe the streaming of Board Meetings will in no way keep people home. It gives people the opportunity to watch meetings who have a limited ability to attend. It could even motivate people to come and speak at meetings. There is absolutely nothing negative about the idea.

  4. In a perfect (imperfect) world, sure, why not add to school security? But in the real world choices and trade-offs must be made. Personally I do not think the security risk is anywhere near great enough to justify having armed officers on premises at all times when students are present, and I believe many residents simply can’t afford any increase in their taxes. That’s my position. What’s yours, Mr. Jones?

    • One of my concerns is the comment made Monday night that there is already a general consensus on the committee to hire a security resource officer. That sounds like the horse may be out of the barn. However, Mr. Stoltzfus’ comments about needing more support before the board could take action is encouraging. Mr. Zimmerman indicated about 13 families have expressed support for the increased security spending and he anticipates more support from parents coming forward.
      I would say that while I appreciate the concerns of parents I think this provides a false sense of security not a real upgrade in security. I am not in favor of increasing taxes for this purpose and with the challenges on the horizon for educational improvements I think the costs for security upgrades could be better spent on extra late buses for more students to stay later for additional instructions and support with teachers.
      That being said, I know that several Octorara students were recently arrested for “armed” robbery in Gap along route #41 and several other home break-ins. We obviously have at least a small number of kids who are very challenging to say the least. Going forward I would hope that we could keep the conversation civil and get a real sense of whether there is a majority for or against the issue of increased spending on security. I am not in favor at this point.

  5. P.S. to David Jones: Have you also inquired of the current board members what their position is on this matter? If so, have you invited/encouraged them to make their positions known, either on this blog or in some other public forum? If not, why don’t you do so, publicly? Wait…why don’t I do it myself? I hereby do.

    • As I understood the board comments Monday, they seem to want to hear more community input and I think that is wise. I may be wrong in reading the “tea leaves”, but I sense a hesitancy is there. That Mr. Zimmerman is saying there is a general consensus on the committee may be evidence the board is leaning toward the increase, but that may not be solid. What is needed is for residents to weigh in for whatever position. I’m not so sure it’s a good idea for board members to get involved in on-line discussions Mr. Vail. I think it is sometimes better for them to listen to what the community is saying. I think of spots like this as “our” outlet. I know members of the board read this and consider opinions that are offered here. That’s a good thing.

  6. Obviously public officials should ‘listen’ to constituents. But that doesn’t mean they cannot or should not also voice their own thoughts and opinions; i.e. ‘lead.’ It doesn’t have to be on this blog or any other. People from the pope, to the president, to state-level pols Tweet and have
    Facebook pages. They also make speeches and give interviews. They seek out opportunities to speak out and to influence public opinion. But from our local officials? Largely silence.

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