The Octorara Area School Board of Directors met Monday, May 19th. Included was a brief Budget update, the vote to approve “Go Math,” the Finance Committee report, and other items.
Daniel Carsley, Business Manager, provided a brief update to the Budget at both the Finance and Regular Board Meeting. Of note was information on the impact of Clean & Green (Act 319) on local taxpayers.
This coming year, Clean & Green will shift roughly $5.5 Million from “farms” to other property owners. The shift over remaining properties will average $1,237 per parcel in Lancaster County, and $863 per parcel in Chester County.
Questions surrounding the Education spending increases from Gov. Tom Corbet’s budget have still not been addressed in Harrisburg.
The Board was presented with the Parent School Safety & Teacher Armed Security Survey Results, the Draft Report from the May 7th Community Conversation, and the Octorara Area School District 2013 Pennsylvania Youth Survey. The information was presented in advance of a “Board Discussion on Safety” scheduled for June 9th.
Dr Newcome stated that the poll did expose parent opinions that the Board may want to consider exploring in a second poll. The poll, as Dr Newcome stated, also exposed a communication issue that the District will need to explore further.
As stated previously, in an email poll, School District staff had also been asked, “Do you support the additional spending for armed security?” The greatest support came from the PLC staff. However, in each building, as the grades became higher, support shifted. At the High School level, staff support completely moved against the use of armed security.
School Director Sheri Melton asked if the teachers polled were all residents and taxpayers of the District, and therefore impacted by the spending? Dr Newcome replied not all staff are residents and taxpayers of the District.
Action Item Votes
Thirteen of the fifteen Recommended Action Items presented to the Board passed unanimously (with one Board Member absent). However, two items were passed 7-1: tenure status for 3 teachers and Go Math.
The Board of Directors voted to approve the attainment of tenure status for three professional employees. Director Leon Lapp voted against approval in protest of Pennsylvania’s tenure laws. As explained in later comments, Mr Lapp was not voting “no” against the teachers, but was voting “no” against what he believes is a broken system that (in his opinion) does not allow the District to reward good teachers, and only serves to protect bad teachers.
Directors also voted to approve the purchase of the Go Math resource for grades K-8. Sheri Melton express concerns about the costs associated with the program. It was explained, the purchase is what would have typically been a purchase to replace old and outdated text books, last replaced 8 years ago. After the initial cost, all updates to the program are free for 6 years.
Mr Lapp made a brief statement about the District adopting Common Core before voting “no” against Go Math. However, the item passed 7-1. Mr Lapp expressed concerns that the School Board votes (in his opinion) don’t matter because of Federal and State mandates.
David Jones, of Parkesburg, was concerned with Mr Lapp’s “no” vote against tenure. He stated the teachers have worked long and hard, going the extra mile, and deserve the recognition of tenure.
Former Board Director Bob Hume, of Parkesburg, visited to give praise to the Octorara Agricultural, Business, Environmental Science & Technology Expo and performances by students during the Parkesburg Memorial Day Parade. Mr Hume also touched on the Budget, hoping everyone understands the financial problems of the District. Additionally, he hopes that the Board takes a hard look at Inclusion, an Education model in which students with special needs spend most or all of their time with non-disabled students. He would hope special needs students are being evenly distributed.
Stephen Spoto, of Parkesburg, spoke about the recent Safety Poll and Community Conversation. As a parent who has a child attending the District through the IU, he did not understand why those parents were not asked to participate. Moreover, he was also concerned with the fact the community at large was not polled, and included in the Community Conversation forum. On a final note, Mr Spoto asked what the Board can do to opt-out of Common Core.
REMINDER: Crash Simulation
On May 22nd at 9am, the Octorara School District with be participating with Emergency Responders in a Crash Simulation. The exercise will also include the use of a helicopter. Please help get the word out that this is a Simulation Only. Uninformed citizens may become alarmed. The rain-date for this activity will be May 23rd.
Any information on this web site should be independently verified for accuracy, and you should contact other Board Members and Administration for clarification on their own personal statements, opinions, votes, or actions.