Discussing Safety, Common Core, and Tenure

pennsylvania-standardsThe 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.

Budget Update

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.

Safety Conversation

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.

Visitor Comments

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.

New Terms of Use

Please read this site’s new Terms of Use policy. While, for the majority of readers of this site, it goes without saying that the statements here express only the opinions of the author and individual commentators, it is always a good idea to make sure that point is perfectly clear.

Therefore, I have crafted a site Terms of Use policy in which users agree they understand this website is maintained for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace the official record of the Octorara Area School Board of Directors, and that the opinions expressed by myself, Timothy Alexander, and those providing comments are theirs alone, and may not reflect the opinions of other Board Members, the Octorara Area School District or any employee thereof.

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.

5 thoughts on “Discussing Safety, Common Core, and Tenure

  1. In spite of Mr. Lapp’s disclaimer about not voting against the tenure for 3 teachers, that is precisely what he did. Using his position to further his own political philosophy is an abuse of his power. I have no problem with him being against tenure, but the place to address that is in Harrisburg, not Octorara. I also have no problem with any director voting against tenure for any teacher if it is a valid vote based on solid information. In other words, go talk to the teacher. Go talk to the supervisor. Talk to an administrator and review the personnel file. Then, if you believe the teacher is not deserving of tenure, by all means vote no. However, to simply vote no as a protest to a law that has been in place longer than Mr. Lapp has been alive, is denigrating to those 3 teachers and for no good reason. They took their jobs with a set understanding of the rules and they have played by those rules and served with distinction.
    Mr. Lapp also voted against “Go Math” which is needed to teach math for goodness sake. It’s the books, the curriculum, and all the rest of the materials needed. A committee of teachers and administrators labored for months to come up with this recommendation. Mr. Lapp offers no alternative to the Math curriculum he voted against. Think what would happen if a majority of the board voted down the curriculum for next year’s math and there was no other alternative. This is HIGHLY irresponsible on his part and again just political showboating.
    In his closing statements and throughout the night Mr. Lapp lamented that he feels like a puppet and he’s tired of being a puppet. This at last is something within your control Mr. Lapp. Resign from the board if you don’t like the rules and you can’t change them to fit your world view. Mr. Lapp also said that the reason he is against tenure is it guarantees a teacher a job for life. This is false and he knows it. If he doesn’t know it then he should educate himself a whole lot better. Tenure does offer protection to teachers and guarantees that they can only be fired for just cause. Public employees, including teachers, were at the whim of political bosses for years. They could be fired for not voting the “right” way, or not contributing to specified candidates. Teachers across the country get fired every day, but it is for a justifiable and proven reason.
    Mr. Lapp commented that in his own business he hires and fires who he wants. He said, “We never fire here, we just hire.” This is exactly the type of bullying tenure is meant to protect against. Mr. Lapp also said he would rather give someone a merit raise then tenure. That sounds good, but with plenty of notice about who was up for tenure did he bother to get one speck of information on any one of the three candidates? NO!
    At the close of the meeting Mrs. Bowman reminded Mr. Lapp that the GO MATH vote was not a vote for or against PA Core Standards, it was a vote for books and curriculum that teachers and students need for next year. Board members take an oath to uphold the rules and regulations and it is highly inappropriate to use these votes to make your own political statements and to try to change the rules outside of the process by which they are changed.

  2. Respectfully, might I ask of Dr. Newcome, Mr. Alexander or any other members of the OASD Board, Mr. Jones, or anybody else who might have knowledge of the matter, specifically what are the rules and regulations for a teacher gaining tenure within the OASD?

  3. That’s it?! Keep from getting fired for your first three years on the job, and then you’re virtually immune from ever being fired for almost any reason? Nice gig. Nice work if you can get it. Another question: how come almost all the rest of us can’t live and work in such privileged world? Oh wait, I forgot: the rest of us live in the real world.

    • In the interest of keeping with the theme of simplicity, it is perhaps best to think of tenure as a move to permanent employment status following a probationary period. In this sense it is very similar in many ways to the majority of organizations that rise above what we would call “small businesses.” Small businesses often do not have the organizational structure or resources to implement more entailed personnel functions. However, in the “real world” large corporations almost to a one have practices that include a probationary period (often much less than 3 years) after which time an employee who has performed satisfactorily is given a more permanent status.
      Neither permanent status or tenure provides a guarantee or immunity for discipline or firing. In schools as in other businesses it “simply” means that a standard of practice as been obtained and discipline and/or firing from this point on must be based on justifiable cause.
      At the risk of being too thorough let me say that tenure started at the university level in the 1880s. In the public school system it goes back to the 1930s. Educators are believed to have a slightly different mission then most other jobs. The job of the educator is to seek the truth and to provide an education to the students based on this principle. To do so educators must have some protection from those forces who would rather divert them from their mission. History has shown us that there is a severe criticism about the teaching of evolution as one example. If educators were not protected from these forces we would see school districts having the opportunity to discipline and fire teachers based on religious philosophy. There are so many examples of this over the years it really doesn’t warrant any more discussion.
      Probably the most important need for tenure (permanent status) is the influence and control of politics on education going back to the very beginning of public education. There is a long and well documented history of teachers being hired based on politics and fired for the same reasons. Teachers as well as all public employees in Pa were often hired based on the party affiliation. They were required to contribute to the ruling party’s candidates and to work for the candidates during the election season.
      We really don’t need to look any further than the latest versions of teacher and tenure bashing to understand why these protections are so important. Mr. Lapp never misses an opportunity to tell us all about the “sins” of the current educational system. He is also quite fond of saying how quickly he would pass judgment on teachers and fire them if given the opportunity. Many conservative politicians make sport of bashing our educators and given an opportunity would most certainly love to return to the days when they could simply fire a teacher for not giving them money and voting for them.
      Education and being an educator is a long honored tradition that is critical to the very democracy so many of us love. For those who wish they could live and work in such a privileged world I would say go for it! If you have the ability to complete the educational requirements and pass the background checks and the probationary period, teaching is open to you as it is to all of us as a profession. I suspect if we were honest with ourselves and each other we would agree that not everyone can in fact teach. It requires a huge dose of patience and fortitude and discipline. That being said, it is not a closed society and we are all free to pursue the dream of becoming a teacher. In the meantime let us not attack our teachers, but celebrate them instead. Each and every one of us is a product of our education and our upbringing. Hopefully, the two can complement each other for the benefit of us all.

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