The Octorara Area School District Board of Directors held its monthly Work Session meeting on August 11, 2014, as well as the Facilities Committee Meeting. Seven Board Members were in attendance at the Work Session, Samuel Ganow and Sheri Melton were absent.
During the Work Session, the Board approved all recommended action items, including hirings and changes in status, and the Agenda Items to be voted on at the Regular Meeting on August 18th.
Debt Profile and Refinancing Review
The Board received a presentation from RBC Capital Markets on how doing an Advance Refunding of Bonds could potentially save the District $300,000. The recommendation was to approve the legal proceedings for the potential action so that, if rates are favorable, the DIstrict would be in a position to receive the benefit.
Currently, the cost of the District’s debt is to the tune of $6 Million (+/-) per year until 2029, not including any of future debt that will be required such as to complete the $25 Million renovation of the Jr High. The current total still to be paid is $91.5 Million.
At this week’s Facilities Committee Meeting, the Administration presented the Security Personnel Proposals from three companies which provided the District with bids. Two of the bids were generally inline with each other, the third was significantly (22%) higher. Several Facilities Committee voices, after briefly reviewing the proposals, did not believe there was enough information to exclude any of the Security Firms from consideration.
However, I stated that at this point in the process, it was my belief, if it had been any company other than that of a local franchise, Signal 88 would have been immediately been dropped from consideration for being completely out of line with the other two bids. My distinguished colleagues, who asked for the additional information, disagreed and insisted there was just not enough information to exclude any company at this time. The additional delay could impact being able to have Security in place for the start of the school year.
High School Water Infiltration
“What do you expect for $25 Million?” was the question asked by Brian Norris during the update of the High School Water Infiltration issue. The original Engineering Firm, Architect, and Foreman Group have come together to finalize a plan to resolve the problem once and for all. To the Facilities Committee’s surprise was their question of where the Board stood on paying for the fix. The issue of the “Drain Pipe to Nowhere” should have been averted within the original design, and could have also been caught during the renovation process itself. It is the opinion of the Committee, the taxpayers should not have to pay for the errors and failures.
Working on 3rd Grade Reading
Elena Wilson informed the Board that the nonprofit Partners In Outreach will be starting a reading tutoring program within the 2nd Grade. Ms Wilson stated the motivation was one of the issues I have zeroed in on, 3rd Grade Reading and how today’s research identifies low reading skills a greater predictor of academic development than socioeconomic status. Studies have shown a student who can’t read at grade-level by 3rd Grade is four times less likely to graduate. This pilot program is intended to help increase 3rd Grade Reading Proficiency Scores, and consequently improve students overall performance throughout their academic career.
Partners In Outreach is a primarily Chester County organization, based in Chester Springs, with many strong connections throughout the community. In the past, they have donated thousands of free books that have been distributed to students in grades K-4, and the new program is for the purpose of advancing their commitment to early grade level reading. It is a volunteer driven tutoring program, with many volunteers who are retired teachers and education professionals.