Octorara’s Board Focuses of Long Range Plan, School Safety, and Anti-Drug Policy

The Octorara Area School District Board of Directors held its monthly Regular Meeting and a combined Facilities, Finance, and Policy Committees Meeting on February 16, 2015. The February 9th Work Session had been canceled due to weather.

Only five members were in attendance. The following Board Members were absent:

  • Sheri Melton
  • Shawna Johnson
  • Brian Norris
  • Leon Lapp

During the meeting, the Board approved all listed recommended action items.

Long Range Plan – Conceptual plan and future funding

Jeff Curtis, Business Manager, has looked at the existing Long Range Plan used by the Facilities Committee to, as talked about during Budget Discussions, map Long Range Funding.

Mr Curtis has recommended taking the Long Range Plan developed by the IU, and expand it from a 5 year document to a 10 or 15 year document. This snapshot will better help him create a Funding Plan to ensure we are able meet future needs.

Safety Update

Included in the 2014-2015 Budget was approximately $70,000 to be used for School Safety, above the cost of an Armed Security Officer. The District is looking at ballistic film for windows, camera upgrades, communication equipment, and other items. The District will prioritize these items, and make the Board aware of the final costs.

Drug Policy Discussions

Anti-Drug PolicyThe Board received an update on the discussions held with parents, coaches, teachers, and students, about the District’s existing Anti-Drug “One Strike” Policy, and the proposed Drug Testing Policy. While we touched on both topics, we were primarily focused on the District’s existing “One Strike” Policy, which is a one strike for the use of drugs or alcohol on or off school grounds.

It was generally agreed by the Board that “One Strike”, which dates back the the 80s, was inflexible and unreasonable. Dr Newcome was directed to develop a draft policy that was more comprehensive and thoughtful. The policy should make a distinction between students who come to school intoxicated or in possession, and those that act inappropriate off-campus. The policy was also vague on proof, and the new policy should increase the burden of proof for off-campus misdeeds.

One issue for a majority of the parents, coaches, and teachers who oppose the “One Strike” policy was that they believed the District should not be taking disciplinary action for actions off school grounds, and that “targeting” extracurricular activities is focusing on the wrong group of kids. However, I don’t personally believe this is the consensus of the community as a whole, of which the Board is ultimately responsible.

This also leads us to a common frustration that was expressed by students… the students who flagrantly abuse drugs and alcohol, who even boast about their substance abuse, but are in activities that require them to take a character pledge, that includes to be drug and alcohol free. Students were clearly aggravated that the “good kids” were not being held accountable.

There are several reasons that it seems the Board is focusing on extracurriculars. (1), Extracurriculars are a privilege, and the District does have the right to revoke privileges. (2) School Districts have a responsibility called in loco parentis, to act in the best interest of a child in the same way a parent would. It is in the best interest of a child to teach and enforce community standards. A parent who finds their child has acted inappropriately would commonly revoke privileges, and the School District would be acting in that same manner. (3) Athletes and others school groups are held up as an example for other students. As a result, many of these students already agree to a character pledge that prohibits certain behaviors, including drug and alcohol use on and off campus. These pledges often also include a statement that the student acknowledges they will lose their position if violated.

At the end of the day, drug and alcohol use outside of school does impact what goes on inside of school. This is a Student Health issue. This is a Student Safety issue.

~ Election 2015 ~

If not you, then who? If not now, then when? Many taxpayers are frustrated, some believing local officials have priorities misplaced or have been financially irresponsible with taxpayer money, but change only happens when people get involved.

To those thinking about or interested in running for either the Octorara Area School Board or the Parkesburg Borough Council, this is a reminder that today is the first day to circulate and file nominating petitions. The paperwork can be acquired at Voter Services, and you have until March 10th to complete it. Your name will then be on the May 19th Primary.

Just so you know how easy it is, when I decided to run for the Octorara School Board, I acquired all the signatures needed in less than 3 hours on a Sunday afternoon. I picked the paperwork up on a Friday, got the signatures on Sunday, and returned the paperwork that Monday.

Share your ideas, knowledge, and experience to benefit your community.

20 thoughts on “Octorara’s Board Focuses of Long Range Plan, School Safety, and Anti-Drug Policy

  1. This is one of the reasons I am still strongly opposed to having a guard. Now that we have a guard in place it still is not enough. Now we have to pay for bulletproof film on our windows? How much longer until they ask for a second guard ?

    My son comes home from school with photo copies of text books, riped books from the library and flyer for more funrisers . what are my taxes paying for ? Is making sure our kids go to school in a prison more important then educating them ?

    • Pete Mango loves to expand his Signal 88 business!…you will most likely be getting a guard in every building and 5 signal 88 vehicles sitting in each parking lot before you know it in my opinion. I occasionally drive by the school and most of the time I find the guards sleeping in their vehicles, and I even posted pics of it for everyone to see. Octorara should not have hired Pete Mango because he was a former school board member right before getting hired, and too close of a friend to the board members in my opinion. It is too late to complain now, and what if Signal 88 becomes a Union? You will never get rid of those security guys who prey on the tax payers for a false sense of security.

      • What business owner wouldn’t want to expand their business? And they aren’t taking advantage of any tax payer. They are a contractor that was hired by the school district.

        Joey, that picture you posted was of a traffic guard, not a security guard. Signal 88 provides a traffic control officer to help ease the flow of buses /cars from 715-9 am and from 230-345 pm. They are there during those hours to help with traffic, not to provide security.

      • Joey, that was the point i pleaded to the school board. This task force will not stop at just one guard. We will end up paying for a guard at each building along with a vehicle.

        It seem to me they are doing it back wards . we should have already update the equipment in the school . that’s what we came up with at the town hall.

      • Eric you can pay for the sleeping “security” guards which is what Signal 88 is, and not traffic control. We could hire crossing guards to help traffic flow, or even let Cochranville PD handle it as they have in the past. I’m pulling my kids out of Octorara as soon as possible because I don’t want some boy scout with a badge and a gun roaming the halls of the school accidentally shooting a student or his foot by accident. Money wasted because you are all scared…that means the terrorist have won. It is a false sense of security because if a person wanted to get into the school to do harm they will find away around all the sleeping guards.

      • Joey,

        While I agree with much of what you wrote as far as providing a false sense of security, and being upset with the security officer assigned to traffic being caught sleeping on the job, I have to challenge the “boy scout with a gun” comment. Errol L. Galloway, who served as Chief of Police in West Grove from 1988 to 2014, was assigned to the Octorara Area School District to serve as the Armed Security Officer. I agree there are greater priorities that would have been a better use of money, especially since we used Reserve Fund money and there was really no reason for such frivolity. However, all these issues have nothing to do with Chief Galloway.

      • My boy scout theory was based off of the Pros and cons review and no pun intended toward any individual member of signal 88.

  2. Just a quick review of Signal 88 for those who haven’t researched their business.


    I worked at Signal 88 Security full-time (more than a year)

    Pros
    Computer system works fairly well
    Initial manager was good
    Freedom to choose work site (when available)
    Radio system works really well
    Franchised company
    Promised training in take-downs, firearms, OC, handcuffs, etc.
    Cons
    “Upper management” (company of <20 has 5 administrative staff), administrative staff consists of individuals who do not posses any management skill.
    Several administrative staff members "are ex law enforcement", meaning that they served as a detention center employee in one capacity or another.
    Management struggles with basic communication
    Administrative employees lack the required experience — No HR experience at all, etc.
    Unlicensed security guards working in a licensed capacity
    Unlicensed armed security guards working in an armed capacity
    Absolutely horrible relationship with law enforcement (mainly due to S88 guards placing people under arrest when they have no authority, or battery, etc.)
    Was never given any formal training, was given OC and handcuffs without any knowledge of how they work or how to properly use them.

    Very stressful – often on your own in lethal situations (nearest backup is 3+ minutes away).
    Advice to Management
    Hire some people with management experience, and look into their references. Get rid of 80% of the current administrative staff. I've worked in a few security companies, and for several other employers – this is the WORST management structure that I have ever seen."

    I rest my case!

      • Joey – I found that review you posted! It’s from a Signal 88 franchise in Florida. Are you kidding me!? You’re tearing down a local business from a review that has nothing to do with the company here in Parkesburg/Octorara.

        Here is a review of a current employee of the franchise that actually works with Octorara and Pete Mango. And here is the link:
        http://www.glassdoor.com/GD/Reviews/Signal-88-Security-Philadelphia-Reviews-EI_IE384049.0,18_IL.19,31_IM676.htm?filter.includePastEmployees=false

        “Signal 88 Franchise Group #23 – Octorara PA ”

        Current Employee – Patrols/Hospitals/School/Construction Sites in Parkesburg, PA
        I have been working at Signal 88 Security part-time (more than 3 years)

        Pros
        Owner is very considerate of most employees schedules. Owner is very hands on and involve with the day to day operations. The upper management does call with short notice for new client sites or additional coverage. The management does usually compensate me for my time and effort. I do work a full time job and never had a issue with turning down work with Signal 88 because of my full time job. I like that fact that I can go on Inteliguide and pick a schedule from the posted shifts. Since my full time job has a rotating schedule it works for me. There are time when there is not anything available but in the three years I have work for them it has only ever happen twice.
        Cons
        The Inteliguide system does not always function correctly, especially the app on the phones to sign in and out for a shift.
        Advice to Management
        The Octorara franchise owner and management should continue the good working they are doing. Very happy with this franchise
        Recommends
        Positive Outlook
        No opinion of CEO
        Helpful + Employer Response

      • Eric , you seem to miss the point . we do not need a guard in our schools. Doesn’t matter what company they are from . from the town hall I was in with parents, teacher and students the biggest problem was the communication equipment was outdated . no one said the biggest problem was the lack of a guard walking the halls and doing the job the staff should be doing.

        Now that we have one guard walking the halls we are going to upgrade the equipment ? Our kids need books and supplies. Spending tax money on a guard is a waste and does nothing except make a small group of parent feel better.

      • Guards sleeping in their vehicles while on duty is a direct slap in the face to tax payers, and Signal 88 needs to go. Pete Mango was a former board member who most likely used his connections to start a business using our high tax dollars in my opinion, and this cronyism needs to stop. The board members who voted for security should be sued for wrongful spending in my opinion. By the time this gets fixed Dr. Newcome will be enjoying his retirement, and we are stuck paying the tab. A false sense of security is all you have hiring Signal 88 considering they have been caught sleeping on the job!

  3. Joey – Cochranville PD never provided traffic control for the school district. It was Parkesburg PD that did it prior to Signal 88.

  4. This school district reminds me of the Government.Spend spend spend don’t worry about it until it’s to late. We will just raise taxes. Look at the situation the district has caused .Home values have decreased because of the taxes and a school rating of 5 just a step above Coatsville When surrounding districts perform at lower taxes and higher ratings.The School district has ruined the Community.

  5. Speculation on behalf of board members a decade ago has killed the community.” This is a drum I have beating for a long time. We are paying, and will continue to pay for the foreseeable future, $6 Million a year in debt payments. Much of the debt is related to campus building & expansion programs over the last 10 years for expected students that never appeared” Quote by Tim Alexander

    Dr Newcome reported in September that there were 2,502 students enrolled for the 2013-2014 school year. This number is 148 students less than the 2004-05 school year, and 691 students less than speculated more than a decade ago. Moreover, the Pennsylvania Department of Education is projecting continued declines in our enrollment through the end of the decade.

  6. Is the already held-in-low-esteem and deemed to be ‘out of touch’ school board seriously willing to consider paying to have ‘ballistic film’ applied to all the windows in all the buildings of the OASD? If so, what’s next? How about a super-strength concrete umbrella built over the entire campus to protect against incoming nukes from North Korea, or particle beam attacks from alien invaders? And while we’re at it, let’s rip up all the parking lots and walkways, then install sub-surface heating elements before repaving, just to ensure that none of our precious children should ever slip on ice and fall on their butts, possibly spraining a muscle or even breaking a bone, and potentially bringing on a law suit from their parents for negligence.

    Beam me up, Scottie. There is no intelligent life down here, at least not in this neck of the woods of Planet Earth, and certainly not among the majority of the school board of the Octorara School District.

    C. Vail

    P.S. Earth to most OASD board members: your liberal minded, pie-in-the-sky, disconnected-from-reality crazy notions that the school district exists apart from the harsh, hard, cold and cruel existences of the people whose ridiculous and outlandish taxes pay for the over-compensated and under-achieving teachers and staff, is killing us, absolutely killing us, individually and communally. How much more clearly can we state it than to say that we simply cannot afford your naivete and your crazy delusions. Three-fourths of you, if you have any honor and personal integrity, should immediately resign, because clearly under your stewardship the District has gone from bad to worse. And in any event, going forward, not a word should be spoken in any official OASD meeting about spending items which are not absolutely essential, and certainly not about anything so silly as ballistic film for windows. It’s high time, long past time, that the OASD board started acting like adults, instead of mimicking the underdeveloped brains of the children in their charge, who can never quite understand why they can’t have everything they want.

    • C.Vail. The Octorara School Board is a lot of things, liberal NOT being one of them. They have no progressive thought in their collective minds AND the surrounding districts that have been praised in this discussion are made up of more “liberal” officials than this gang. They are conservative and reactionary.

      • cricket,

        Thank you for taking the time to comment. I would say a majority of the Board members are Social Conservatives, or at least it seems that way to me. As a Libertarian Republican, I believe I am probably the most socially liberal, but it really depends on the subject. However, there are only 3 (maybe 4) that I would identify as Fiscal Conservatives, and that number includes me.

        Having an R or D next to an official’s name tells one nothing about an official’s position on every issue, in every area, but I really only know of the actual political affiliation of three members. The School Board is considered “non-political” and officials can (and often do) run both as a Republican and Democrat. Some of the members have spoken in support of the new Democratic Governor’s proposed policies, so… you know.

  7. Tim, I counted 7 principals and assistant principals for the current school year which, according the this thread has 148 less students than in 2004-2005. Do you know how many principals and assistant principals there were in 2004-2005?

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