How many remembered last Tuesday was election day for school districts and municipalities? Starting in December, the Octorara Area School Board will see a significant change. There will be three new members, or 33% of the Board. Leon Lapp, Sheri Melton, and Shawna Johnson chose not to run, and left their seats undefended. Unfortunately, excluding myself, these were the three most fiscally responsible members.
Below are the unofficial results.
SCHOOL DIRECTOR OCTORARA REGION 1 BRIAN NORRIS (DEM/REP) STEPHEN SPOTO (DEM/REP) LINDA BICKING (REP) SCHOOL DIRECTOR OCTORARA REGION 2 LISA BOWMAN (DEM/REP) SCHOOL DIRECTOR OCTORARA REGION 3 BRIAN P FOX (DEM/REP)
While it is generally true that those running saw no competition, either in the Primary or General Elections, there was an impromptu, last minute write-in campaign in Octorara’s Region 1. Anthony Falgiatore, supported by the Board’s Vice President Brian Norris, threw his name into the ring less than a week before election day.
Falgiatore ran focused on supporting school safety, enrichment and sports programs, and teachers. The effort of Falgiatore and Norris was to keep newcomer Stephen Spoto off the Board. Spoto is a fiscal conservative who ran on the issues of responsible budgets, taxes and school accountability. You may recall Spoto spoke out against armed security at several Board Meetings leading up to the June 2014 Board vote.
The effort is reminiscent of 2013 and the last minute write-in campaign of David Jones, former Borough of Parkesburg Council President, who had the endorsement of several incumbent Board Members, and was the running-mate of Nelson Stoltzfus. That was another attempt to keep a fiscal conservative, running on issues of responsible budgets, taxes and school accountability, off the Board—yours truly.
In my opinion, Stephen Spoto’s victory is a big win for students and taxpayers. It should bring us a step closer to creating more responsible budgets, getting control of property taxes, diminishing the influence of special interests, and changing Octorara’s culture of low expectations for school performance.
2014-2015 School Performance Profile Comparisons
At Monday’s work session meeting, Elena Wilson, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, gave the Board and public a presentation on the School Performance Profile Scores. I have included the comparisons Wilson provided in her presentation. It includes each of the school districts adjacent to Octorara, plus Phoenixville, Lampeter-Strasburg, and Avon Grove Charter. Phoenixville and Lampeter-Strasburg seem a little out of place, but no big deal.
|Avon Grove Charter||72.8||67.5||-5.3|
Several things of note here. First is that schools with only PSSA grade configurations have no academic scores for 2014-2015, caused primarily by last minute changes to PSSA cut scores. This means that the PLC, Elementary, and Intermediate Schools did not receive a score this year. Schools like the Octorara Jr/Sr High School had their scores based on Keystones, with the PSSA data excluded.
Also, this year’s scores where impacted by “Indicators of Closing the Achievement Gap”. With the exception of Science/Biology, the areas were not scored last year for benchmarking purposes. The sections represent the success or failure in closing the achievement gap for students, meaning the gap between those who are performing proficient and above, and those scoring basic and below.
The only area which Octorara scored well was Science/Biology, receiving a score of 100. The school scored 36.78 Percent Proficient or Advanced on PSSA/Keystone in 2014, and “improved” to 44.37 in 2015. Octorara received a 0.00 score in each of the other areas. When you are at the bottom, there is no place to go but up… right?
In Other News…
The replacement boilers and hot water heaters have been installed at the Elementary School, and are working. Maintenance has inspected the heating systems in each of the other schools, and found them to be in good shape. They did find some maintenance needs, but nothing that would cause another catastrophic failure or require the Board to look at replacement in the near future.
The board is also considering the upgrade and replacement of multiple security cameras that have reaching the end of their lifespans. The life expectancy of these devices are 8-10 years, and Octorara has squeezed out up to 15 years with some. The cost is expected to be around $84,000 and will come from the Capital Fund.