Is Octorara Falling Further Behind in Education Achievement and Growth?

Is Octorara Falling Further Behind in Education Achievement and Growth?

We have been waiting for the Pennsylvania Department of Education to release their School Performance Profile Scores. At the end of September, PDE did release PSSA and Keystone scores. However, they were still working on the SPP scores which take into account more data points, including academic growth, graduation rates, SAT/ACT college readiness, and more. Those of us who are concerned about Octorara;s academic achievement and growth, and follow these numbers, are going to be disappointed but not surprised.

Today’s post shows the building level scores, makes some comparisons with other districts, and gives those data points that I feel are the most disturbing. However, I encourage every parent and taxpayer to review each report on the state website. This article only touches on a few of Octotara’s shortcomings and it is not a complete picture. It is best that you personally evaluate these reports unfiltered, without the political spin and Clintonesque language used by some Administrators and some other members of the Octorara Area School Board.

Octorara’s Building Level Academic Scores

Key takeaways from the Octorara’s Academic Performance reports:

  • Each school FAILED to meet the state minimum score of 70 – Currently, the PLC’s number is not being reported.
  • District-wide, Octorara is FAILING at Math and Reading – The average combined building score for both PSSA and Keystone tests is 45.68 for Math/Algebra and 59.78 for ELA/Literature. Regardless, none of the buildings reached the minimum standard of 70.
  • Octorara starts out well with Science but quickly drops like a rock. – The Elementary School (3rd and 4th Grades) received a score of 80 for Science, but the score drops to 51.16 for Science/Biology at the JSHS.
  • Octorara 3rd Grade Reading is not improving – The 3rd Grade Reading Benchmark is critical for student success, and the District falls short of minimum standards.

School Academic Score
Octorara Area JSHS 62
Octorara El Sch 67.4
Octorara Intermediate Sch 68.7
Octorara Primary LC* N/A

2016 High School Academic Score Comparisons

Here are some takeaways from the comparisons of Chester County High Schools (plus Pequea Valley and Solanco)

  • The median Building Level Academic Score score is 89.9 – This means that roughly 50 percent of compared High Schools scored above 89.9. The Octorara Area JSHS score is 27.9 points lower than the median.
  • The average Building Level Academic Score score is 85.4 – Octorara scored 23.4 points lower than the average score for the High Schools in this comparison.
  • 83.3 percent of High Schools met or exceeded minimum standards.- Only 3 schools did not meet the state minimum academic score of 70: Solanco, Octorara, and Coatesville.
  • 7 High Schools (39 percent) improved their academic score – Phoenixville HS receives the award for most improved, increasing their score by 8.8 points.Second was Pequea Valley HS with an increase of 4.5 points.
  • The average high school score dropped only 1.3 points – Octorara JSHS has the greatest decline, losing 10.2 points. Coatesville’s is the second worst decline, losing 7.5 points.
  • Economically Disadvantaged Students are NOT to blame for Octorara’s poor performancePequea Valley HS has 39.68 percent Economically Disadvantaged versus Octroara HS’s 31.43 percent.

Academic Score
High School 2016 2015
Unionville HS (Unionville-Chadds Ford) 101.6 97.9
Downingtown STEM Academy 98.3 101.4
Downingtown Area HS West 95.6 93.0
West Chester Bayard Rustin HS 95.3 94.3
Great Valley HS 94.3 97.6
Conestoga SHS (Tredyffrin/Easttown) 91.4 95.5
West Chester East HS 90.9 91.1
Downingtown Area HS East 90.7 95.5
West Chester Henderson HS 90.1 95.7
Kennett HS 89.6 88.9
Pequea Valley HS (Lancaster County) 87.2 82.7
Owen J. Roberts HS 86.9 87.9
Phoenixville Area HS 83.2 74.4
Avon Grove HS 77.7 83.5
Oxford Area HS 76.5 72.9
Solanco HS (Lancaster County) 69.0 71.6
Octorara Area JSHS 62.0 72.2
Coatesville Area SHS 57.5 65.0

Please Note: the High Schools in bold are those who share a border with the Octorara Area School District.

38 thoughts on “Is Octorara Falling Further Behind in Education Achievement and Growth?

  1. Assuming your post is objective, fair, and balanced — and by your lengthy, written, on-the-record track record I have no reason to think it is anything but — then this is at best truly disturbing and distressing news, and as a practical matter (to use a political metaphor now very much in the news) a genuine bombshell. The simple, scientific, objectively measured truth seems to be that Octorara is a failing school district — failing students, failing parents of students, and failing taxpayers who keep forking over more money for fewer performance results.

    As you suggested, I intend to go to the state website and read more of the data. But for now, if I understand your post correctly, OASD may still be a tad better than some other school districts in the state, but nonetheless fails to meet state minimum performance standards in the two most important, fundamental subjects of education; i.e. reading and math. So it would appear that OASD is not even getting the basics right. Right?

    And while I think it fair enough to compare OASD’s performance numbers against other school districts in Chester County, I likewise think it’s good to remember that the always top-performing Unionville and Conestoga school districts are among the best in the entire country, and that is doubtless due in no small part to the fact that they represent very affluent communities. So as a rule of thumb I tend to take comparisons of OASD with other Chesco school districts with a bit of salt, not quite an apples-to-apples comparison. But in a larger sense that’s really beside the point, because if I understood your post correctly your main point is that OASD is simply, unmistakably, undeniably failing to meet state minimum performance standards in key areas. In other words the Pennsylvania Department of Education is giving OASD a ‘F.’ Do I have that right?

    C. Vail

    P.S. And if I do have it right, if my understanding is correct, then I wish I was better with computers than I am. I would like to try to construct some sort of graph or graphical image which would depict OASD’s per-student costs, and OASD’s student performance scores, and then somehow relate them to the same two metrics, measurements, across the entire state of Pennsylvania and indeed across the entire country. My strong hunch is that a graphic like that, an easily-grasped depiction of how OASD is doing relative to financial costs and performance scores all across the fruited plain, would only underscore the rather bleak picture you have already painted and posted in this and in many previous posts, would only show more clearly that OASD is failing academically and is on an unsustainable path to financial ruin, and that taxpayers, no surprise, are being royally screwed.

    P.P.S. But I could be wrong. It wouldn’t be the first time. If I am wrong, then let us hear from the defenders, and even the apologists, of the OASD. Let us hear from OASD superintendent Dr. Newcome. Let us hear from the president, vice-president, and all other members of the board of directors who believe that generally everything is honky-dory. Let us hear from those damn-the-torpedoes parents who don’t care a whit about how high taxes rise so long as their little Johnny or Jill can get their I-Pad-enhanced ‘education.’ Let’s hear from parents who are genuinely doubtful about the quality of the education their kids are receiving. And though I don’t know how it could be done, it would be great to hear from former residents who moved away, forcibly or voluntarily, because of the onerous school taxes; and likewise great to hear from once-prospective residents who in the end decided not to move here because of the crushing school taxes and the generally poor overall performance of the school district. To state the obvious, people, most people, are not stupid. Every day and in every way people sniff-out the best value for their hard-earned money. Currently, it seems, OASD is not offering much for their real estate dollars.

    P.P.P.S. And let’s hear from OASD board members and other officials who were in office back in the early years of this century. My understanding is that back in those early years of the 21st century, when the economy was thriving, home values soaring, and people confident in the future, the OASD board of directors commissioned a study by some firm which specialized in projecting future demographic trends. The firm’s report said that the Octorara region should prepare for a significant influx of new residents. Based on that report, the then-seated OASD board of directors floated a municipal bond offering, thus putting the school district (i.e. taxpayers) on the hook, in debt, obliged to pay back the principal of the bonds sold, plus of course interest on the debt. Proceeds from the bond offering were used to significantly expand the physical plant of the OASD, to in effect create a dream campus. La-di-da.

    One can argue whether the projections of future population growth contained in the report commissioned by the OASD board a dozen or more years ago were realistic, but there can be no argument that the projections just didn’t pan out. The financial crisis, near meltdown of the global economic system that occurred in 2007-2009, blew apart, totally rendered asunder, all previous plans, projections, and ways of thinking…for individuals, for small companies and large corporations, and even for the many-tentacle agencies of government at every level. Certainly the financial crisis put the kibosh to Octorara’s dreams of a steady but manageable population increase, showed that the OASD had overbuilt in anticipation of a shadow of population growth which never appeared, and thus rendering the population growth study moot, meaningless. So let’s hear from some of the people who were there, in official positions, back when the weighty decisions were made to put taxpayers in debt in order to fund grandiose plans, plans which largely have been proven to be overblown, and with attendant student performance scores which seemingly are, in a word, dismal.

    How about a big, rousing communal discussion of what Mr. Alexander raises in his original post; i.e. the failing of the Octorara School District. Let’s hear from all. But above all, let’s hear from any and all who were there back then, in official positions, and who now are in a position to help explain how it all went wrong.

    • Thank you for your comments, Mr. Vail.

      Regarding your question, Is PDE giving OASD an F? The answer is yes and no. One can easily correspond the number score to a letter grade: 90s are an A, 80s are a B, 70s are a C, and so on. When we look at it this way, each of the schools (and the District overall) receives a D. However, we can also look at the profile as a report card made up of multiple grades. For Math/Algebra, the District is receiving an F…. ELA/Literature is an F…. the JSHS receives an F for Science/Biology… an F for Closing the Achievement Gap… and Fs for many other data points.

      You are right, on a certain level, it is “unfair” to compare Octorara to Unionville or some of the other more affluent school Districts. Nonetheless, the one fact I would point to is 83 percent of all high schools met or exceeded state minimum standards. The only Chester County High Schools that missed the mark are Octorara and Coatesville… the two districts that have historically and consistently fought for the last place in academic performance. However, the “most like us” argument does have merit, and in the past I have drilled down… using Economically Disadvantaged numbers, those schools have included… Kennett HS, Pequea Valley HS (Lancaster), Solanco HS (Lancaster), Oxford Area HS, and Coatesville Area SHS. Of those, I would look most closely at Pequea Valley because they are also a Learning Focused School.

      Octorara Area JSHS… 72.2 in 2013, 65.6 in 2014, 72.2 in 2015, and 62.0 in 2016
      Pequea Valley HS… 82.7 in 2013, 83.2 in 2014, 82.7 in 2015, and 87.2 in 2016

      Ocotarara’s wild swings are often blamed of PDE increasing rigor and standard changes. However, when we look at other Districts, the impact tends to be minimal, and some Districts actually improve. However, Orcorara has, going back to the Adequate Yearly Progress reports, struggled to meet and maintain state minimum standards… and there is certainly no evidence of improvement.

      In spite of all the evidence, what parents and taxpayers are given is a combination of puffery, excuse making, and scapegoating when it comes to academic performance. This is all a result of, in my opinion, a Board controlled by members who are more concerned with aesthetics than achievement. When you have Board Members who will fight tooth and nail to get the District a pretty new track, but they will cut the K-6 Librarian without batting an eye, this is what you get.

  2. Re. gutless wonders and their clearly evident conspiracy of silence:

    Mr. Alexander: You clearly are a master of data regarding costs, student performance, and just about everything else relating to the Octorara Area School District. And well and good that you are, and well and good that you routinely, regularly communicate with the folks hereabout. God knows that if you were not doing it, it wouldn’t get done at all. But for you, the powers that be would be successful in imposing what I am now convinced is a conspiracy to shut you out, shut you up, and shut you down, and likewise anyone who speaks up in support of some of the questions you have raised, some of the positions you have taken, anything unorthodox or antithetical to the board’s ‘Big Brother’ way of thinking.

    Look here: over the past five or six years, on at least a dozen occasions, I have rhetorically bent over backwards to try to provoke a response, even just a word or two, from any member of the board on whatever the subject may have been at the time. With one exception members of the board have been consistently silent, not a one of them ever deigning to respond and reply to me, Mr. Alexander, or anyone else. The one exception to the rule was when board vice president Brian Norris waxed indignant about a cutting joke I had made about him showing up for a board meeting sporting a nautical-like, double-breasted, navy-blue blazer.

    And that, friends and neighbors, is about all you need to know regarding the character, integrity, morals, common sense, and political savvy of most of the members of the board. They are clowns, arguably well intentioned and just misguided, but clowns nonetheless. They are overseeing the slow destruction of this school district, and yet, save for Mr. Alexander, not a single, solitary one of them will ever speak up in defense of their past actions and their miserable track record. It’s as though they believe they don’t have to answer to the people, that they are somehow sacrosanct and unaccountable, that they are somehow above the fray. Hmm…remind you of any presidential candidate?

    Look, over a period of now four or five years, Tim Alexander, myself, and many others have tried everything to get at least a burp out of most board members. All to no avail. Trying to get this board to engage with the community — with the students, the parents, and not to be forgotten with taxpayers — is truly a fool’s errand. The Bible tells us that by their actions you shall know them. And by god, this crowd has certainly given us plenty of markers by which we shall know their ineffectiveness.

    Want proof positive that a majority of the board are gutless wonders and are involved in a conspiracy of silence? Despite me having maligned them I’ll bet dollars to donuts that not a one of them (Tim Alexander excluded of course) will even deign to respond to this challenge. To do so would be beneath them, not worth their time. But perhaps I can sweeten things:

    If any member of the OASD board (Alexander excepted) will deign to respond to this message, even if he/she just offers a rhetorical burp, I will donate $50 to the charity of their choice. And if any member of the board (Alexander excepted) can offer a clear, reasoned and logical, full-throated defense* of the OASD over the past ten years, then I will happily donate $500 to the charity of their choice…even if I can’t really afford it.

    So stay tuned, but don’t hold your breath. The chances of almost any board member actually deigning to accept my challenge, engage in argument, and truthfully answer hard questions, are about as good as the odds of drawing to an inside straight.

    But as the saying goes, hope springs eternal. And maybe, just maybe, most of the gutless wonders on the board might suddenly wake up, see the light, and realize that communications with constituents is not a bad thing…and that their constituent communications responsibilities extend beyond the indescribable boredom of regular board meetings, which nearly no one attends, and for manifestly good reason. Hey, here’s a radical notion for increasing attendance at board meetings: How about offering free coffee and donuts? Nah. Probably wouldn’t work. The board has no problem routinely spending tens- and hundreds-of-thousands of dollars on projects of questionable value, but spending twenty or thirty bucks on some refreshments which might cause more residents to attend board meetings and to see just exactly what the board does (to see the sausage being made, as it were), well that is something the board will probably want to consider carefully before giving to go-ahead to coffee and donuts.

    C. Vail

    *In dispute, a decision about whether the terms of the bet have been met, and the respondent won the case, shall be determined by a randomly selected group of five persons drawn from the Parkesburg residents list.

  3. Mr Vail, Challenge accepted. For your information, several Board members including myself, responded to Tim’s post on another site recently to balance the discussion regarding a meetings’ content and intent. I chose the Parkesburg site because it seems to garner more traffic of late and I felt the accusations made were so misplaced that the more folks who saw it the better. Personally, I seldom respond on Tim’s site because I have found that it is used much like a drunk uses a lamp post, for support instead of illumination. Open dialog is hardly encouraged. Believe it or not, only a handful of Board members even follow posts on this blog. Please make your check out to the Octorara food cupboard in the amount of 50.00. My circle of friends includes Judy Dougherty, the director. I have given her a heads up to expect this most appreciated donation on your behalf. In the near future, I will be providing a “defense” of our schools performance , etc as you requested. I just have not decided which of my pet projects I wish to have you donate the $500.00 to, it will either be for new band uniforms or the stadium task force. Thank you in advance for your donation to these worthwhile endeavors and your continued interest in Octorara.

      • Brian Norris is a caring parent, Taxpayer and School BOard member. He makes decisions that are in the best interest of all parties and stakeholxers

      • Brian Norris is a man of integrity with the best interest of the community and students of Octorara School District. My Personal Care Physician works at Oyster Point Family Health Center and she graduated from Octorara and was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Her name is Elizabeth Van Auland, don’t know her maiden name but what an awseome person and outstanding Octorara Graduate. I am proud of the ducation she was given at Octorara and loved every minute of my teaching experience in such an awesome District. We need to talk more about thre success stories and not alwayts dwell on the negatives

      • Mr. Butch,

        Thank you for adding to the conversation. I’m happy you enjoyed your teaching experience within the District, and that you are proud of your Personal Care Physician. I agree that we should celebrate success, but we also need to acknowledge the District’s shortcomings. Within the School Performance Profile data, there ARE students who scored ADVANCED in Math, English, and Science. There ARE students who had exceptional academic growth for the year. However, a school district is not judged by the few. It is judged by the many and as a whole.

        Every school district has success stories. For instance, the Coatesville Area School District is also a poor performing district. Moreover, Coatesville has the worst performing school in all of Chester County: Caln Elementary School with a score of 52.8. Regardless, Coatesville does have success stories. Yet, it doesn’t change the fact that the district is a poor performer. I would even believe the worse performing regular public school in all of Pennsylvania has successes they can hang their hat on. Kensington Urban Education Academy, of the Philadelphia City School District, scored 28 overall. They also scored a 1.7 (out of 100) for Mathematics/Algebra I and 8.9 for ELA/Literature. But there are still children (very few) in those numbers doing well despite attending a failing urban school. Don’t you agree?

        For the most part, those students who thrive at Octorara would thrive in any school district. I believe we need to focus on and work for ALL students, not just those who have innate ability or whose parents have the resources for supplemental learning. So, yes, I do talk a lot about our shortcomings. However, the biggest wart on the district’s nose is an unwillingness of the Board to hold the Administration accountable for outcomes. Their focus is on image over substance and aesthetics over achievement. This was my belief before becoming a Board Member, and it has only been reinforced over the years.

      • Tim:

        I agree with your statment that our performing students would perform in any school district. But here is the problem no one is addressing. Many of those kids who are not up to state standards are from families where the parent or guardians put very little emphasis on the value of a good education. At all the back to school nights I have been to over my years at OHS, only those parents that take an inteest in their child education show up. I swouls say no morer tha 10% come to hear what the teachers have to say about their courses and at Teacher conferences those same parents show up again and again. You can;t motivate a student to do well and you can’t entice a parent to show interest in their child education. That has to be self driven and we have too many social probloems that affect the performance of students. W have a major societal problem in American. If the parents don’t care, the students see that and they don’t care. Many of thenlower lkevel student that I had never did homework or took an interest in getting good grades. They look at school as a social situatioin and not an academic institution for higher order thinking. You find a cure for that iull and you will win the Nobel Peace Prize. Like ther old saying goes: you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink it.

      • Mr. Butch,

        I am going to be completely blunt with you, and I hope you don’t take it the wrong way. I have heard comments about “some families in our area just don’t value education” and “we provide a good education for those who take advantage of it” for years, and it gets me twisted to no end. We have other local districts, with similar demographics and socioeconomics, that seem to consistently outperform Octorara. Pequea Valley HS is a perfect example of a school that has a similar population, but has maintained or improved performance. In my opinion, pointing the finger at parents and students is playing the blame game and does nothing but make struggling students feel less than.

        One of my issues is 3rd Grade Reading. Why? Because studies have shown 3rd Grade as a make it or break it year for children. Those children who are not reading at grade level by the end of 3rd Grade have difficulty comprehending the material in future grades, affecting their ability to learn and diminishing their enthusiasm for education. I encourage you to look up the information. The research also shows that roughly 95 percent of ALL students, regardless of socioeconomics or family situation, can be taught to read at grade level. This is not to dismiss the challenges some students within certain subgroups do have. But it does show that if we fail these children when they are young, we do have some culpability when they they fall short and lose all love of learning in high school.

        I don’t know if you have read any of my past blog posts. However, going back to its inception in 2013, I have accused the District of suffering from a culture of low expectations… an attitude that certain children are worth the effort and some just are not. There is a certain contentment and satisfaction in the idea that we just can’t make children learn if they don’t have the drive or ambition. I cannot and will not accept that notion as reality. From my point of view, this way of thinking is a failure to accept our own responsibility.

        I may not have changed your mind, but I do hope that you better understand my criticisms of some of my colleagues on the Board. Defining the District’s internal culture starts at the top, with a Board that is goal oriented, focused on outcomes, and holds the Administration truly accountable. An attitude of “this is the best we can do” (not an actual quote) creates an environment absent of the drive to improve. Mr. Falgiatore wrote is his response that it takes time to improve achievement. I agree. But, when do we stop making excuses for it not happening? We are not getting slow improvement. We are getting no improvement. And, any hiccup in the system has us taking 10 steps backward. The children in our community deserve better.

  4. First, Mr. Vail, you can keep your $50. If, however, you choose to follow through on your commitment, please make your check payable to OASD (Octorara Area School District). For your $50 I’ll send you a raffle ticket for the band uniform fundraiser and whatever number of raffle tickets for the current track fundraiser the remainder will buy. I apologize to any organizers of other school fundraisers that my offer is only for these two as I’m simply not aware of others at the moment. Mr. Vail, I wish you luck in both raffles should you proceed.

    Reading your post, I’m distressed at the level of mistrust you feel in the board. Speaking only for myself, yet having observed my fellow board members for almost a year, I’ve found everyone motivated to provide the best educational opportunities for our students. We recently received a report on Octorara’s performance and I’d certainly like to see improvement. There’s no question, we’d like to see our students doing better as compared to our past performance and that of other school districts. There is no preference of aesthetics over achievement.

    As I mentioned in another post, we are all more or less aligned on the outcomes we’d like to see. And, I’d much rather see constructive suggestions and comments rather than what are very divisive remarks. I’d much rather build bridges instead of barriers in our community. If you come to a board meeting or school event and I’m there, please introduce yourself.

  5. Reply to Brian Norris: I will personally drop off my check today, and glad to do it. Glad also to know that there is some provocation short of a firecracker down your pants which will move you to speak in a public forum, even if it is just to me and not to your constituents in general.

    You mentioned some other Parkesburg site that you and other board members prefer to direct comments to. What site is that?

    You allege that on this site “open dialog is hardly encouraged.” You know that’s an untrue statement. Just by publishing his blog Tim Alexander encourages dialog, he prints all reader comments, and he usually responds to the commenters. That is hardly a situation which discourages dialog.

    And yes, I can certainly believe that you and most other board members rarely even bother to read this blog. I can well understand that it must be uncomfortable for you.

    As for my $500 challenge, have at it. But remember, your task is to provide a rational, logical, persuasively compelling case for the proposition that over the past ten years, as school taxes have gone up dramatically and school performance has deteriorated, there isn’t really anything to complain about, that all in all things are going along swimmingly. Good luck with that.

    Nice to hear from you, Mr. Norris. Can we look forward to some future communications?

    • Mr. Vail,

      The “Parkesburg site” he is referring to is the Parkesburg Locals Facebook Group. It is also a closed discussion group. So, if one is not both on Facebook and a member of the discussion group, they don’t have the opportunity to read or respond to Mr. Norris’ reaction to the last meeting’s blog entry. However, those responses are not typical. He and Mr. Ganow thought I was overly harsh in my criticisms of the Board looking at Special Education as a source of savings.

      Also, last week,Mr. Norris made a brief post on another Facebook group, the Octorara Parents & Faculty… also a closed discussion group. He invited the public to attend Education Committee Meetings, the day after the actual Education Committee Meeting. Two parents responded that their schedules make it impossible to attend and asked if it was possible to record them. Mr. Norris did not respond to the request.

      In any event, the only online discussions completely visible and accessible are on this website… there is no special membership or access required.

      • Parkesburg locals also BLOCKS people from their blog making it impossible to see what they are posting. It must be run by the good ole boy network

  6. Not surprised, and I should have guessed as much. In any case, Mr. Norris’ acknowledgement that “only a handful of board members” follow posts on this blog, presumably including comments from readers, is both instructive and distressing. There is a term for that kind of mindset: willful ignorance.

  7. Reply to Brian Fox:

    Thanks for your polite and thoughtful response to the comments I have made on this thread. I appreciate it, and I share your frustration about declining student performance. But let’s be clear: when in fact student performance is declining, and school taxes are rising, then I think taxpayers have every right to ask: Hey, what’s going on here.

    Before I go further, let me say here, as I’ve said before on this blog and in other public forums, that I am well aware and ever mindful of the fact that board members serve for free, and are thus the best embodiment of the term ‘public servant.’ I know and appreciate that you all have a tough job, one I wouldn’t want. So please believe my thanks are sincere when I tip my hat to you and your colleagues.

    That said, there remains the fundamental, troublesome, aggravating issue: the disconnect between student performance and how much each of those students is costing taxpayers. And to remind, OASD’s annual cost-per-student is around $20,000, an amount not unlike, and perhaps even greater than, what the total cost is to send a student to any of Pennsylvania’s state universities, and including room, board and books. The fact remains, the simple and inescapable truth is that OASD’s annual cost-per-student is among the highest in the state, indeed among the highest in the nation. So, with all due respect, Mr. Fox, before you or Brian Norris, or any other would-be apologists for the sorry current state of affairs of the OASD, attempt to take me to task for asking what’s going on here, and who’s in charge here, I would suggest that you do some serious soul searching and ask yourself if maybe there isn’t something rotten in Denmark.

    I say again: I don’t doubt the good intentions of you and other board members to provide what your characterized as the best possible educational experience for the students. I just question your priorities, your keeping-up-with-the-Joneses group-think mentality. And I say again, when it comes down to the real nitty-gritty, where the rubber meets the road, frankly my dear I don’t give a damn about I-Pads for every student, new bleachers, a new surface for the track, or any of that other superficial, feel-good crap. I care about OASD’s students getting a quality education, a quality education commensurate with how much money we taxpayers are spending to provide those students with the best. Yet recent and more distant data suggests, confirms, that taxpayers are getting the short end of the stick.  When the OASD director is making nearly two hundred grand per year (not that much less than the president and on a par with members of the House of Representatives), when newly-minted, unproven teachers are hired at upwards of fifty-grand, and when probably secretaries and even janitors of any substantial tenure are making nearly as much  — AND ALL OF THIS IN THE FACE OF SERIOUSLY DECLINING STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT — then please, Mr. Fox, spare me your forlorn worries about the students, and your aspersions on my character and my motivations.

    Look:  I’m no soothsayer, no magical mystery man who pretends to have all the answers, or any, to the education conundrum that all of us are struggling with.  (I would however suggest to parents that they rip smartphones out of their kids’ hands, beat them to a pulp — the phones, not the kids — and compel their kids to start reading books, good books, and likewise newspapers, whether on paper or online.)  Full disclosure: I’m the product of 16 years of Catholic education — four years under the tutelage of the Sisters of St. Joseph, four under the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, four under Augustinian friars, and four under Jesuit priests.  In truth, none of them had much sway in my religious convictions, my political convictions, my outlook on the world, or nearly anything else.  I figured out all of those things for myself.  The one area where the influence of the nuns and the priests was absolutely critical was discipline.  Those early-life lessons of discipline were later driven home when I was drafted into the Army, in 1969, when being drafted meant a likely tour in Viet Nam.  Thanks and praise to God I wasn’t sent there, but rather to Washington, where I spent the next two years being a member of an Army ceremonial casket team, attending at 300 – 400 funerals, and graveside services, in Arlington National Cemetery.  I could write a book about how many times I had to choke off my own tears and remain stoic even as the young widowed wife, and sometimes the young children of the fallen soldier, were falling apart at the gravesite. There, but for the grace and mercy of God, could have been the late me.

    But I digress.  Sorry about that. My main message, Mr. Fox, is that a disciplined regimen, in education as well as in aImost all other aspects of life, will generally prove to be the best course.

    Most of us have probably seen some 60-Minutes segments about some inner-city school, previously a hopeless case, which was converted to a charter school.  A new, no-nonsense principal was brought in.  The new guy imposed nearly military-like discipline.  And lo and behold, the performance of the students didn’t just improve, it skyrocketed.  And the students were beside themselves in glee in contemplation of just how much they could achieve, just how special they were.

    Discipline, Mr. Fox.  Discipline, discipline, discipline. Parents of toddlers and teenagers know this: that if you don’t curtail your kid’s wilder impulses the same will come back to bite you in the ass.  The OASD board would do well to reflect on this immutable fact of life, maybe even treat themselves to a weekend retreat at taxpayers’ expense where they could make serious attempts to drill down to the essential, fundamental, bad-omen issues confronting the board and all of us.  This disconnect between lower performance and higher taxes simply cannot go on.  And until Brian Norris or some wizard comes up with a way to square this circle, to make a silk purse out of this sow’s ear, then you, Mr. Fox, and any and all similarly minded board members would be well advised to look inward, not outward.

    Thank you again for your courteous, conscientious, thoughtful reply.  You strike me as a serious person.  But when looking for the root causes of all the many problems besetting the OASD, please don’t point your finger at me, or people like me, who simply wonder how can it be that we pay so much for so little in return.  Answer me that, Mr. Fox, and put aside all notions of good intentions.  I’m up to here with excuses for poor performance, with cries that, holy-moly, we really did try our best.  No, you didn’t.  You could have gotten off the grid, tried some new things.  You could have pressured, forced, blowback against the ever increasing demands of the teachers’ unions, instead of just rolling over and caving in.  You and like-minded members of the board could have said no to I-Pads, and new bleachers and a whole lot of other stuff.  You could have said no, no way, unless and until student achievement scores improve dramatically.

    But you and your like-minded colleagues on the board didn’t do that, did you?  Instead you and your compatriots (I might almost say your fellow conspirators) threw caution to the wind and voted in favor of all manner of supercilious spending programs, while rarely if ever turning your attention to the fundamental fact that OASD, on the empirical evidence, is a school district half-way or more on the road to failure.

    It’s late, I’ve got to get to bed, and frankly I grow weary of trying to talk with people who have blinders on.  I mean no disrespect, but really and truly I am exhausted in trying to talk with, and get some common sense from, persons who refuse to engage on the facts, but who will all too readily engage on emotion.

    To quote Jack Nicholson’s famous line in the movie ‘As Good As It Gets,’ “Sorry, but we’re all stocked-up on crazy here.’

    • A few corrections are in order. Dr. Newcome’ salary is 139,500.00 Certainly among the lowest if not the lowest in the region and far less than what Hillary’ s salary of 400,000 when she becomes President. Just thought you should know, thanks.

      • Mr. Norris, that’s one correction, not a few. And, lets face it, someone is going to be the lowest paid and someone else will be the highest paid. That’s just the way it is. It annoys the heck out of me when folks whine and complain about being “among the lowest paid.” There’s a solution to that problem…go get a higher paying job somewhere else!

      • Newcome’s salary as described in his contract (2014/15 $135,400.00) (2015/16 $137,400.00) (2015/16 $139,500.00) (2017/18 $142,000.00) Answer me this question why is this guy getting a salary increase? The district has poor education results and this little prick gets a raise each year?…SMH

      • Just a few comments about that education at Octorara School District. It seems everyone on this blog is so quick to state the negatives about student performance and the lack of performance on standardize tests. Unless you have a concrete solution to fixing the problems and understand what is really going on inside the classroom, you really have no clue and are only are venting your thoughts of the problems. I challenge each one of you to spend one week in a teacher’s classroom observing the ins and outs of teaching and classroom management. Don’t go to the AP student classrooms but to the average level and special education classrooms to see what and how the standards are being taught. Walk the Walk then talk the talk. Unless you have a solution, you have no idea or what teaching and education is all about. Tim says he doesn’t buy the idea that the lower achieving students aren’t able to or have the parental support to perform well in school. But the fact remains. it is happening across this nation. Statistically students will perform average to exceptional if they have full parental support to do well in school and a role model for life. f not they are just surviving each and every day. So unless you have the magic answer to correcting the problem, it is all fluff with no solutions to ever achieve the results you expect. The final issue is just because student don’t do well on standardized test doesn’t mean that they will not or cannot be successful citizens in our communities. I had many students as 10th graders whom I stated will be failures in life but as it turns out most if not all have achieved success in life after High School or College. So stop being negative and become part of the solution and not part of the problem.
        OCTORARA SCHOOL DISTRICT is a great place to get a quality education if YOU DESIRE AND WANT IT. The only impediment to your success is YOU

      • Please take a moment and consider the reasoning you are using. If we accepted that train of thought, no one has a right to complain about or second guess our government’s involvement in Iraq, Libia, or Syria because most of us are not military experts, foreign policy experts, or have access to classified intelligence. No American has the right to hold elected officials accountable for shipping jobs overseas and causing 20 years of wage stagnation unless they are experts in foreign trade or economics. No one should even have a negative opinion about Obamacare or complain about skyrocketing premiums unless you are an actual expert in insurance and health care. In fact, not a single person should vote on Tuesday unless they have the experience, expertise, and answers to every problem facing this nation… because if you don’t have an expert level of understanding, you don’t even have a right to call a problem, a problem.

        The fact is Octorara is NOT an island with a uniquely derelict population that could care less about education. We share a population and community with other local school districts who are able to perform better. You are never going to convince me that Pequea Valley HS students are inherently better than Octorara JSHS students. Or that somehow Kennet families, despite the demographic similarities, value education more than Octorara families. Think about what you have just told parents reading this blog. You have told them if their child is not performing well, and they are frustrated with the District, it is their fault because they don’t want it enough. What you also told them is their child has likely been labeled as not worth the effort. And we wonder why the District has the lowest student enrollment since the 80s.

      • As a Republic WE THE PEOPLE have an Absolute right to question our leaders and government.. I am not saying that you or anyone can’t or shouldn’t second guess any government action. But we need to get to the heart of the problem and correct the deficiencies otherwise it would be an absolute mistake to accept anything less than satisfactory for our students and people. Remember the Founders believed that government works for the people and not vice versa. Sovereignty rests with us the people, not the elected officials or the government. I never alluded to the fact that we should not criticize our government. What I am saying is find a solution and work together towards a common goal but still voice your displeasure if things are not going right.

        Pequea Valley HS students are not better than our Octorara students. We need to find a way to insure they are leearning to survive in this crazy messed up world. I am telling parents to make sure they have the best interest of their students succdfss at heart. Only thorugh their efforts and caring can their child be succerssful. No student is a throw away and every student can learn but we are all different individual with different sets of problems and issues. Student are not labelled because they are not worth the effort. They are labelled due to existing problems that limit their abilities to perform on level. So they need all ther extra help and resoures available to help them meet their goals and objectives as outlined in an IEP. you are absolutely way off in your assessment of the problem. Focus on finding out WHY and plan to fix it so all students have a chance to experience the American Dream. Not just the top 10% and AP students. First of all we can never be totally equal in all gthe things we do. We are individuals with specific abilities and specific issues. The diversity is so apparent and awesome. I guess the question I have for you is what are your goals and objectives for the school district as an elected Board Member and what have you done or trying to do to move Octorara closer to having the students meet of exceed the standards? Enough said

      • Mr. Butch,

        You have left me completely confused about your opinion. Is it that Octorara does a great job and the problem is parents and children who just don’t care, or is it a misallocation of resources and a failure “to fix it so all students have a chance”? Because, the allocation of resources conversation is one I am very happy to have.

        Building the OIS was a mistake that cost taxpayers millions. It was built for students that never appeared and without a tax base to support it. Ok, it happened. What do we do now? Well continuing to operate and maintain a building we don’t need is costing us even more. Instead of cutting teaching positions and the K-6 Librarian, we could have been consolidating buildings.

        How about the iPads? I swear, you would think some Board members believe iPads can actually teach. However, spending $170,000 a year (roughly the cost of 2 teaching positions) to put a personal device in the hands of every student, in grades 7 thru 12, has not improved outcomes. They love their anecdotes about what this one teacher is doing with iPads or this one student it helped. but, overall, iPads have been a drain on resources.

        How about LFS? In 2013, Learning Focused School was promoted as a magic bullet that would increase performance to the point that the testing would become irrelevant. What has been the outcome? Nothing. Goodness knows how much the actual cost has been with all the hours of teacher training and Administrators endlessly auditing classrooms. Regardless, the proof is in the outcomes. Do we cut our losses? No, we double down.

        I could go on? My vision of the District is to move away from focusing on the aesthetics. We need outcome-based goals, not process-based goals. Who gives a crap that the school Principals and Administrators are auditing classrooms 3, 4, or 5 times a year, if it is not improving outcomes? What is the value of giving students a personal iPad, if it is not actually improving academic achievement or growth? How about full-day Kindergarten that is costing taxpayers an additional $400K over traditional half-day? It looks good… people instinctively feel it should help… but there has been no improvement in performance.

        The Board has grown the size of our campus, increased the per-student cost with new programs, but there has been no improvement in the performance. At some level, you can make the argument that Octorara is an ok school district. However, the cost has outpaced the value. If we need these things to barely tread water, then we have a major issue and need to get professionals to audit our practices and make effective recommendations. Seriously, if we need iPads just to get only 42% of our JSHS students to pass Mathematics/Algebra I and only 56 percent to meet the indicators of academic growth, then there is an intrinsic problem and we need outside help.

        If you care to respond, unless you have a question, I will give you the last word. I feel we have reached the point that must we agree to disagree. However, I do appreciate that you took the time to add to this discussion. I think it was extremely valuable to the many people who have visited this thread over the last few days. Thank you.

      • Tim:
        You make some valid points. Yes the OIC was nevr needed and a bad decision on the part of the Board at that time. It could be rented out to another entity or sold if necessary but it i a drain on resources of a district that has one of the highest if not the higest school taxes in Chester County.
        Is is a combinatuion of bith the isues you stat in your opening paragraph. Running a school district is not an easy venture these days.

        One of the prioblems I saw in my 15 years at OHS is we don’t hold back those students that are meeting the minimun requirements of the standards. We socially promote them up to the next level.
        The State legislature needs to help districts in holding studen back by making it a law that they need to graduate from HS and meet certain requirement. Too many of our students just quite and move on. They must be made to stay and graduate from HS or face some type of consequences like “FINES”.

        IIn reference to Ipads, i do support a classroom set for the students to use but not a 1-1 program. iPads are only another tool to use for students., They are not the Holy Grail for Teachers and students. Grants should have been procured for those Ipads. LFS as far as I could see was aniother program with a new name that all of the teachers were already doing in their classrooms. It was w refurbished old program by Grant Wiggins with a nioew name. Another way for consultant who are educators to get increase wealth. Lawmakers need to hold students and poarents accountable in meeting the standards to graduate from high school. If not then they need to be held back and retake those classes over until they are proficient. The problem is cost and parental complaints that the system is unfair to their students. Cost would be having them take classes over and over until they become proficient to move to the next level. Here youy need the state to backyour up totally with funding and guidelines. The law states students can go to school until age 21 so whay not utilize that option and hold back those who can’t meet the passing level for each course.

  8. This response is for C. Vail.
    I understand your frustration concerning the taxes and low student scores but directing that frustration into name calling and and being disrespectful and offensive to Board Members who you do not even personally know even on an acquaintance level is wasted energy. Why not use that energy to come to board meetings and offer possible solutions to these and other issues.

    Just because a board member does not have a blog or is on facebook does not automatically mean we have our head in the sand and or not open to the residents we serve. All the board members have an email address posted on the district website for any concerned parent or resident to contact us. I personally have been contacted by residents that are served by Mr.Alexander’s region, they have reached out to him for help on issues only to be told in essence, “oh well, it is what it is” he offered no assistance. This is not a direct quote but the spirit of his basic responses. I dare say that is the type of board member you are referring to. I have also put my cell number out there for any person to call and have received countless calls on varius issues in the short time I have served and my wife Melissa has received face book messages she has forwarded to me. I have met with the head of the teachers union in an informal setting when I first came on the board and also met with the librarian whose position was ultimately cut to learn more about her full function. I voted against cutting her position after meeting with her and hearing from numerous residents who were also against this cut. Many board members, if not all, have heard from residents who are retired but work part or full time just to pay their school taxes and their municipal taxes. This hits personally home, as my in laws are one of those residents that are retired but work to pay their taxes.
    Before blaming past boards or the current board you should also include the elected municipal officals in the areas that make up the school district that have continually blocked resident and business growth that could help ease the burden.

    Your opinion that the board is just trying to keep up with the Jones’s is not accurate in this regard; Some of the replaced or updated items were actually donated to the district and through fund raising by specific groups made up a lion share of the costs. The board did help with track repairs but it was done in order to actually help save the taxpayers. These upgrades were necessary because of being overlooked for many years. These upgrades will help keep the students safe and residents who use them after hours safe and thus keeping liability to a minimum. It is my hope as a board member we can find solutions to better maintain our disticts facilities and sports fields instead of waiting to they are too far gone causing such a burden to all.

    You sound like you are opposed to sports programs but these programs are an extension of the classroom as they teach the student athletes additional skills outside of specific academics. Also, you sound like you are not a fan of the IPad’s. I would strongly recommend you come to an education meeting and see the amazing things our teachers currently do with the students because of the iPad’s. Don’t just take Mr. Alexander’s word that the education meetings are full of puffery and come out and make your own mind up. One could say that Mr. Alexander’s blog has a certain amount of puffery in what is said in it.

    The school board and the administration and teachers as a whole are committed to providing a quality education to the students and unfortunatley its not like just flipping a switch, It will take time and resources to get the scores up and investing in our students by investing in our teachers. Providing quality facilities and competitive wages and benefits attracts quality teachers and administrators. We have some really awesome teachers in all the buildings. The adminstrators for these buildings are equally doing a great jog with the resources at their disposal. Some may not agree with that but that is their right.

    You seem to have alot to say and while it is healthy to question things, doing it by name calling and listening to a less than fully accurate blog for your information may not be where you want to plant your feet especially if you expect people to take you seriously.

    I will also extend the same as Mr. Fox in that please come up and introduce yourself at a board meeting as I would be more than happy to listen and speak with you after a meeting.

    Also, please make your check out to the Octorara Jr/Sr High Soccer Booster Inc. Their treasurer will be contacted and will be looking for your generous donation.

    I look forward to meeting you at a board meeting or education meeting.
    Respectfully,
    Anthony Falgiatore

    • Mr. Falgiatore, I appreciate you took the time to comment, but there are some things I need to clear up from your comments.

      You wrote, “I personally have been contacted by residents that are served by Mr.Alexander’s region, they have reached out to him for help on issues only to be told in essence, ‘oh well, it is what it is’ he offered no assistance.”

      Whoever told you that was not being accurate. There has never been a single instance that if someone asked for my help that I did not get involved at some level. Now, the person may not have always got the answer they wanted… an incident with a student wearing the Confederate flag to school comes to mind… but in every instance, I did try to help, even if it was me trying to get them to understand school policy.

      You wrote, “The board did help with track repairs but it was done in order to actually help save the taxpayers. These upgrades were necessary because of being overlooked for many years. These upgrades will help keep the students safe and residents who use them after hours safe and thus keeping liability to a minimum.”

      The choice for the Board was not an either-or of upgrade the track to competition level or have an unsafe track. First, we have in writing that the track was safe for the general use of students and the public. I can get you a copy if you need it. Second, there were multiple other options, including if the track really was unsafe, just removing it. Track and Field had existed a long time without home events, but the only reason it was ultimately upgraded was to fulfill that want.

      You wrote, “Before blaming past boards or the current board you should also include the elected municipal officals in the areas that make up the school district that have continually blocked resident and business growth that could help ease the burden.”

      There are also the county officials that have a green spaces plan that is directing development to more populated areas of Chester County. Regardless, the economic limits of our area are known. We can’t blame a lack of development for spending choices. The OIS was built for children who never appeared and without the tax base to support it. Ipads created a deficit. The armed security guard added to the deficit. These are some examples of spending choices, and no other government entity forced the District to make those choices. There were cuts in teaching and other staff in 2007 and 2008, at the peak of student enrollment. Yet, the budget and taxes grew massively. Why? Because building the OIS blew up the budget and they could not tax enough. Why did we cut $537,800 from this year’s budget? It was because of past spending decisions were forcing the District to spend down the Reserve. I mean seriously, the Board has had to even use debt refinancing as a revenue source. That is not opinion, interpretation, or stuff just pulled from thin air. It is fact.

    • I’m sorry, I have one more thing, Mr Falgiatore.

      You wrote, “The school board and the administration and teachers as a whole are committed to providing a quality education to the students and unfortunately its not like just flipping a switch, It will take time and resources to get the scores up and investing in our students by investing in our teachers.”

      You are right, academic achievement does take time. However, this issue goes back to when No Child Left Behind and Adequate Yearly Progress started. And, it has become a bigger issue as taxes have skyrocketed over the last 10-12 years without improvement to academic performance. Granted, most of my experience started in 2013. However, that year was their first year of SPP and Octorara starting LFS. What was said that year, and just about every year since, was that “within 5 years,” performance would increase to the point tests would be irrelevant. In 2013 it was 5 years… in 2014, it was still 5 years away… in 2015, you guessed it, we would be there in 5 years. However, that statement was conspicuously missing from this year’s report. I know you are new to the Board, but you seem to have some strong, well-formed opinions. How many years do you think is acceptable to get to the point of just consistent performance, never mind improvement? Where do you think the revenue is going to come from for the Direct to improve academic achievement, when there is no willingness to cut things that are not working or pet projects?

  9. Mr. Fagiotore: I’d like to promise that I will step out of character and be brief. But frankly the chances of that are slim to none. In any event, here goes:

    1. You said that I indulged in name calling…and that my comments were disrespectful and offensive. Well, I do plead guilty to using the term ‘gutless wonders,’ but that was more of a challenge than an accusation, and besides which it was not directed at any board member specifically, or even the board collectively, but rather to those who consistently refuse (at least up until now) to engage on this blog and to address the hundreds of complaints lodged over the past three years regarding the increasing inability to afford OASD’s increasing taxes. Now, Sir, you and others may choose to talk to each other on some closed discussion chatroom on some social media website, but that is not a public forum, at least not in the way this blog is. As to whether I have been “disrespectful and offensive,” I urge you to go back and read all of my comments on this thread, especially my reply to Brian Fox. I think that a fair-minded reading would lead most people to conclude that, while I may have been a bit harsh in a few places, there were as many or more places where I was at the least sympathetic, and in some instances close to being laudatory. So like most people, I don’t always choose my words and phrasing with the greatest of skill and delicacy, but I do try very hard to avoid invective, because as you said that rarely does any good. And for that matter, Mr. Fagiotore, I invite you to dig into the archives of this blog. I think you will find I’ve got a pretty good track record of being respectful. I especially invite you to go back in the archives to the fall of 2013, when Common Core was a little-heard-of, brand new thing. I posted several very lengthy pieces, compiled and composed at the cost of many hours of my personal time, trying to explain what Common Core was about, at least to the best of my knowledge and understanding. And while I’m not trying to toot my own horn, at that time almost nobody had even heard of Common Core, there was very little about it in mainstream media, and I at least had seen nothing about it emanating from either the OASD administration or the OASD board. I just instinctively knew that Common Core was a complete game-changer; and, well, I guess I just felt a responsibility to try to alert citizens, but especially parents, that this whole new thing, Common Core, was coming down the tracks, barreling straight towards them.

    2. You said it sounded as though I was opposed to sports programs. Not at all. Nor am I in theory opposed to I-Pads or other tech innovations which might be shown to be true enhancements to the educational process. But let the proof be in the pudding. I simply tried to make the point that a list of priorities should be drawn up and adhered to, with a focus on tried-and-true ACADEMIC things; and that’s simply because I believe that a school district which is underperforming academically and which is undercutting new resident immigration and commercial development because of taxes which are becoming truly onerous (at least in a relative sense), then that school district, to my way of thinking, should keep its eye on the things that truly matter — aka the tried-and-true — and be cautious about spending more money than it can really afford on things which, while nice, are not essential to the main mission of turning out kids who are good readers and writers, who have math skills adequate to function in an increasingly numbers-focused society, who have a decent sense about the history of their country and of the development of society, and who are able to pick out the country of France on a map. Back when I was coming up all of these knowledge points and skills were pretty much taken for granted. Now I’m not so sure.

    3. You rightly acknowledge that taxes are becoming a bigger and bigger problem, especially for retired persons like myself, and even for your own in-laws who have to keep working part-time in order to pay the taxes. Doesn’t that tell you something? Doesn’t it make you wonder why some senior citizens — who have worked hard, played by the rules, paid taxes their whole lives, and who in many cases have paid off their mortgages — should now, in the December of their lives, effectively be forced out of their homes because they can longer afford OASD taxes, which in many if not most cases I suspect eats up a quarter or more of their entire retirement income? Add in county and borough taxes, sales taxes on nearly everything we buy, plus more government fees of every kind than you can shake a stick at — and then factor-in how everyone’s retirement savings took a gigantic hit back in 2008-09 — and at this rate it won’t be long before we once again start seeing and reading tragic stories of seniors eating cat chow for dinner. And of course it’s not just seniors who are taking it on the chin. As everyone knows, and as both presidential candidates acknowledge, the entire middle class of this country has been taking it on the chin for about 20 years. Am I right? Is it not true that, adjusted for inflation (which has been mild if not miniscule), the middle class has not had a pay raise in 20 years?

    4. You invited me to attend meetings of the education committee, and by extension I assume you are suggesting that I might want to attend meetings of the other committees. I do appreciate the offer, and the spirit in which it was offered. But no, I don’t think that would be to anyone’s benefit. In the first place, I would always be lacking information, never quite knowing what the committee members were drilling down into, what they were talking about, what patch of weeds they were going into next. No, sorry, but at this stage of my life, with no family members in the school district (and none ever attended), I just don’t want to get involved with that level of detail. If I really wanted that, I’d run for a seat. But believe me, Mr. Fagiotore, since moving to Parkesburg six years ago I have sought out and stepped up to many opportunities to try to give back to the community. And I will continue to do so, as long as God gives me the strength. As for attending regular board meetings, I attended a dozen or so in the first few years — including the one which first sprang the news about Common Core and which prompted me to try to spread the news via this blog — and frankly, as I suspect most board members and any other persons ever in attendance will admit, regular board meetings are as dull as dishwater…B-O-R-I-NG! Am I right? A minimum of 30% of the stuff on the agenda is just routine (votes for new hires, retirements, promotions, to tweak this or that policy which is not of any real consequence). And besides, virtually everything that comes up in the regular board meetings has already been thrashed out in committee meetings, and thus rarely is there any real debate, the decision having been pre-ordained. And then there is this: whereas Brian Norris, in a prior comment, accused this blog of being a place where “open dialog is hardly encouraged,” (a patently false statement), in those board meetings which I did attend I found the atmosphere to be, shall we say, less than warm and hospitable. Oh sure, to be sure, each meeting carved out a time at the end for attendee comments, as I think is required by state law. But attendee comments were strictly limited in time, and while I can’t now remember how much time was allocated to each speaker, I remember that it wasn’t much. And I vividly remember the generally passive, stone-faced demeanor of most board members as they listened to the speaker. Now and again an individual board member would speak up to offer a few words, rarely more than a few, in response to whatever issue the speaker had raised. But that was the exception, not the norm. In my experience, the board members would feign attention, maybe even through a slight smile or a raised eyebrow signal either approval or disapproval, but in general, and as a rule at least in my own experience, they would for the most part sit there like a board of Buddahs, inscrutable, saying thanks to the speaker, but otherwise signaling that your comments have been noted, so go back and sit down and let us all get the hell out of here. Really and truly, unless things have changed dramatically, what I have just said above is a pretty accurate description of how general board meetings go. So pray tell, what is the incentive for people to come out on a cold winter’s night? To be bored my minutia? To screw up the courage to try to speak principle to power only to have the powers that be adopt a posture, non-verbal communication, that bespeaks bored tolerance at best. If the board really and truly wants greater attendance, then reference my earlier suggestion about offering free coffee and donuts. And add free pizza. And free hoagies. And advertise those freebies as widely as possible. Do you for one second think that such tangible goodies would not significantly increase attendance? And after all, a couple of hundred bucks now and again for goodie incentives to goose attendance at board meetings would not be even a minor blip on the district’s bloated, $50 million budget. Am I right? If the board really wants more citizens to attend meetings, maybe the board could spring for several three-foot-long hoagies from Wawa, or a hundred or so donut holes from Dunkin’ Donuts. This isn’t rocket science or brain surgery, Mr. Fagiotore. It is the first rule of marketing: if you want the people to come, give them a good reason to come. As things are now, attending board meetings is akin to attending a funeral. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Board meetings, once the necessary routine stuff is out of the way, which could be done in 15 minutes or less, could become de facto block parties. And hey, wouldn’t that be great? Here’s my final word on me personally attending any more board meetings: Never say never, but it’s unlikely, because I just don’t see the purpose, unless things drastically change. So in my absence, just imagine me being there, weighing-in by phantom proxy. Pretend I’m there in the peanut (the kids’) gallery. And assume that whenever the board votes ‘aye’ in favor of any spending project which cannot be directly and demonstrably related to enhancing the academic discipline and performance of the students — at least until such time as performance improves significantly — that I will be offering hoots and catcalls from the gallery. And when it comes my time to speak I will need only a few seconds to ask: What the hell is wrong with you people, what in the name of God are you thinking of, where is your sense of priorities, where is your regard for people who can no longer afford this school district’s onerous taxes…and where, Mr. Fagiotore, is your sympathy for the plight of your own parents-in-law?

    5. In the end I think that it’s really quite simple: (a) OASD’s annual cost per student is $19,388, based on the most recent budget and student enrollment numbers I could find; (b) the average annual cost per student statewide, in Pennsylvania, is $13,961. And the average annual cost per student nationwide (from kindergarten through high school) is $11,008. Thus OASD’s annual cost per student is $5,424 above the statewide average, and $8,380 above the national average. If I was better at math I’m sure I could show that the percentage differences between OASD and statewide and national averages range anywhere from 30% above the norm to about 80% above the norm. And thus painting a rather ugly picture, but an irrefutable one, that OASD spends way above the norms, way above the averages, and, sadly, is getting little in return. If anybody needs to reminded of that, then just refer to the original post which set off this thread, this thread which has too often spiraled downward into a defensive, apologist posture by certain members of the board, rather than really and truly engaging in the issues, and most especially in the numbers, the ranking and the ratings. Curious, don’t you think, that the only thing which provokes members of the board to engage in this public forum is when somebody dares to tickle them and taunt them where they live?

    6. And finally, Mr. Fagiotore…Sorry Charlie, about trying to cash in on my offer to donate $50 to a charity of choice. If I was imprecise in my original wording, well then let me be clear here. I did not mean the offer to be a blanket invitation to all of you otherwise mutes to suddenly sit up and offer a burp, which was my only criterion. Still, I have to say how impressed I am that when there is cash on the line, even if just for charity, you guys actually do have the capability to stand up and speak out. Brian Norris was the first to offer a burp, which was the only criterion in my original challenge, misunderstandings of my writing, or your intentional misreading aside. A check in the amount of $50 has been written, sent, and I’m sure received by the food bank. I was more than happy to do it. And I thank Brian Norris for the burp which compelled it.

    Have I addressed all of your issues, Mr. Fagiotore, answered any and all of your questions about me and my possible motivations? I hope so. If not, please feel free to contact me on this blog or at crvail@verizon.net. I’m always happy to engage in spirited argument.

  10. Frankly, folks, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I for one am getting pretty well bored with this thread. And my own personal take on the thread, my own personal summation, is that the hard-assed questioners won the game over the mealy-mouthed OASD apologists by a score of 60 to one.

    The hard-asses just kept asking hard questions, and the pussy-assed apologists just kept pleading: (a) that you people are not nice; and that (b) one should never underestimate the value of good intentions.

    Yeah, right. Been there and done that throughout my entire adult life, now nearly a half-century in the making. If there is one true thing I have learned it is this: be wary of everything and almost every person in the so-called ‘public sector.’ Their interests are almost always antithetical to the interests of you, me, and most other folks. Government people, even if unpaid, can be vipers. Here in the OASD we have a board headed by a couple of certifiably crazy, lunatic, far left-wing, so-called liberals. But it’s even worse than that. The two of them, together, probably do not have the IQ power of a typical fifth-grader. And yes, Mr. Fox and Mr.Fagiotore, I realize that I just committed a personal slur, so no need for you gents to call me on it.

    So look, unless some die-hard, masochistic members of the board want to continue to have their asses rhetorically spanked — and until such time as the great and all knowing Brian Norris comes down from the mountaintop to deliver to all of us the explanation of how two plus two doesn’t equal four, but rather five, and perhaps even more than five, well, sorry, but I am outta here. Frankly, you fools bore me to death. My grandsons, ages 14 and 11, are far better rhetorical combatants than you, Mr. Norris; you, Mr. Fox; and you, Mr. Fagiotore. Please, have at me. But you had better bring your ‘A’ game. Otherwise, if push comes to shove, if you really and truly rankle me and try to push me up against the wall, I promise that I will rip each of you a new hole in an unwelcome place. So just shut your stupid yaps and let this thread die. Don’t test me. Do not cross swords with me. You will lose. I promise and swear you will lose.

    • Mr. Vail,

      I understand your frustration. Generally, our Board suffers from a group-think that blames everyone else, anyone else for our problems, from Harrisburg to parents. An even bigger frustration for me is that most people, as Ronald Reagan put it, will vote with their feet, and we see that in the dramatic decline in school-aged children living in the area. Not only are the high taxes pushing young families out of this District, but it has made it easy for families to choose other better-performing school districts.

      Every $1,000 in annual property taxes equates to roughly $20,000 of financed home value (over 30 years at current interest rates). People don’t buy a home based solely on sale price, they buy based on their monthly payment. This directly affects the decision making of home buyers, especially young first-time buyers. When I bought my home in 1998, there was a real value here. However, over the years that value has disappeared. Even though my current interest rate is much lower than my original mortgage, our actual payments are almost 25 percent higher, all from taxes. Each time we refinanced to cut our payments, the savings from lower interest rates were quickly and completely erased by the choices made by the Octroara Area School Board. Once mortgage interest rates start moving up again, this area will have even more difficulty attracting young families with school-aged children.

      However, our decline in enrolment has been too massive, with the lowest number of students since the 1980s, to be explained solely on taxes. This brings us to the return on investment. Does the Octroara Area School District provide enough value to justify the taxes paid? I believe our dramatic decline in enrollment is not just that young families are choosing other places to live, but that many families are choosing to pick up and leave… essentially voting with their feet. If this idea pans out to be true, we can expect a continued decline in school performance. I expect many more (specifically, those the District considers the most interested in their child’s education) will flee the area.

      However, the group-think that infects our Board will not accept any level of responsibility. To them, it is everyone else’s fault… Harrisburg for not sending them more money to spend… municipalities for not pushing more residential development… parents for not caring about education… children for not taking advantage of the “world-class education” the District provides. This finger pointing will push more and more families out of the District.

      This year, we are expecting a record turnout for the Presidential Election. Next year will be Municipal Elections, and we will be lucky if 1 in 5 eligible voters show up to the polls. In fact, it would be extremely shocking if we actually have any real competition for the seats. While Municipal Elections more directly affect people personally, and School Boards have the power to literally tax people out of their homes, most people will not get involved. However, those concerned about taxes and performance will vote with their feet. Why fight the system, causing yourself stress as you become a target by “The Establishment”, when you can easily move a few miles down the road… buying a similar home at a similar price, but with lower taxes and a better performing school district?

  11. I have an idea! Let’s pull our high school and junior high school kids from English class and send them to Parkesburg to paint store windows. That should improve test scores. Maybe in the spring, kids can skip algebra and measure square footage on my property while they mow the lawn. Or better yet, can they shovel snow instead of learning civics? This is liberalism at its finest. Feel good nonsense at the expense of the taxpayers and their kids’ education. I am supportive of Making Parkesburg Great Again, but can’t this be done on a Saturday? Seriously, taxpayers paying for students to paint windows! No wonder our kids don’t learn. Whose genius idea was that?

    By the way, the windows look great! The kids did a very good job. It’s a shame we don;t have state testing for bubble letters.

    • Thank you for your comments. I wouldn’t speak those words too loud. You’ll be accused of being negative and not appreciating the intent.

      Octorara is good at a lot of things. Unfortunately, academic achievement is not one of them. Don’t look at our academic performance scores… look at these painted windows or our pretty new track.

      You know, not every child will or needs to go to college. However, ‘even’ someone entering the trades will need at least a high school level of learning in Literature, Writing, Math, Science, and History. As an adult, to become a productive worker, citizen, and parent… to be an informed voter, responsible for your own health, or be able to involved in your own child’s education, a person needs these fundamental elements. We have failed every child who graduates unable read and comprehend a user’s manual, a voters guide, or a news article.

      But that is being negative.

  12. Thank you for keeping me anonymous. Unfortunately, my job is in sales and I cannot be viewed as one-sided or I won’t be able to pay my taxes.

    I think the store fronts look great! I am happy the students were able to bring life to downtown Parkesburg. This small act symbolizes my larger point. Our school performance “grade” is bad. And blaming the test is dishonest. Every student in every district takes the same crappy test under the same crappy circumstances, yet we manage only to beat Coatesville! If we want to improve our scores, which improves our district, which improves the value of our homes, which will attract homeowners and businesses, then we need to focus on teaching skills for our kids to be successful. Whether they go to college or a trade school, they need a basic education. Paying teachers to watch students paint windows is crazy! I would venture to bet the students who painted the windows most likely don’t even live in Parkesburg! So, we can’t even say they helped their community.

    I am glad I heard about the board argument last week. I am now tuned in. While I don’t think combining buildings is the answer to our problems, I do think we need to start looking at the district as any business-minded person would. And a business-minded person understands that everything starts at the top. The board, the central office and the union bosses.The teachers are held to the contract negotiated by the union bosses. The principals and vice principals are held to the policies of the central office. And it all comes under the board. I have a few friends who work for Octorara. I am planning to have many conversations with them to find out what’s really going on.

    • octoraraforever,

      Over the years, apologists for our School Board have occasionally argued that The School Directors are a group of individuals who are unpaid and freely give their time to the community. Their assertion is that taxpayers and parents should not be overly critical of those who give of themselves but receive nothing in return. That idea is complete poppycock. No one is going to park themselves in an unpaid position, with real responsibility, for 12/16/20 or more years if they are not getting something out of it. They may not get paid a salary for their time, but there is some payout… it may be they are there for their kids, their social standing, padding their resume, or maybe they just like people kissing their backside to get something passed. I don’t know. I’m not in any of their heads. Regardless, if it was just about being active in the community, there are other less risky ways, that have less potential for causing real harm.

      The School Board has real power and authority. They can literally tax people out of their homes and destroy the futures of a generation of children. While most of our votes are largely procedural, like approving checks for payment and personnel changes, there are some big, weighty issues we must tackle. It takes only one big, really bad decision to go awry to start the District down a rabbit hole. Just one vote, and taxes and education are negatively impacted for a generation.

      We need LEADERS who can think for themselves, thoughtfully considering the long-term consequences of their decisions, and who take responsibility for when things don’t go as planned. A true leader accepts personal responsibility and encourages that characteristic in their team. They do not whine, bellyache, or complain because the conditions changed or their predictions turned out to be wrong. They adapt to the new conditions and push forward. Every truly successful person has suffered pitfalls and made mistakes. However, what made them successful is the ability to recognize their mistakes, accommodate new environments, or to simply walk it off when they fall.

      The Octorara Area School Board needs real leaders… not a bunch of crybabies who moan, bitch, and point the finger at others. What we have now is a Board who complains about the municipalities for not approving new residential development, Harrisburg for flat funding education, Special Education students for impacting the cost per student, and on and on and on. They do all this scapegoating while at the same time they have built a school for children who don’t exist and continue to add or expand spending programs that do not improve academic achievement.

  13. Don’t know you who you are Mr/Ms OctoraraForever, but welcome to the scrum. I sense you are savvy about these matters. And I sense you are passionate. So please, let us hear more from you. Do your best, everything you can, to be provocative and to broaden the discussion. It’s all to the good. After all, this blog is the only open forum available to talk about any and all matters relating to the OASD, and the onerous taxes we all pay to support an academically under-achieving student body, and what is almost surely a bloated teaching and administrative staff.

    You can attend board meetings and committee meetings until the cows come home, but you will rarely if ever be enlightened, truly enlightened, because in the end, truth be known, and despite protestations to the contrary, most members of the board are happiest when nearly nobody attends meetings, allowing them to work their will without dissent, and allowing them to wrap up meetings expeditiously and get back to their families and their regular lives. Let no one ever forget that members of the board serve at no recompense.

    In just the paragraph above I think I offered six or more cues for members of the board who might have felt indignant at my accusations to come forward and offer a defense, not just of the board itself but as well their own actions. We shall see if any take up the challenge. But don’t hold your breath. For as board vice-president Brian Norris has acknowledged/claimed, most members of the board do not even deign to read this blog. (And darn-tootin’ you can take the word of Brian Norris to the bank, never mind that we all know the old, crusty, Tim Alexander-hating members of the board monitor his blog like a lizard watches a fly within tongue’s grasp. Really, it’s silly, and pathetic, the way that the old-school, and old-guy members of the board try to ignore, try to pretend, that Tim Alexander, and what he represents, isn’t really there, isn’t really anything. Trying their best at deflection and deception, they say: don’t look there, look over here: look at the bright shiny objects of a new track surface and new bleachers, etc., etc. P.T. Barnum-like showmen, and con-men, all of them, until such time as the apologists can offer a believable rationale that our hard-earned tax dollars are being well spent, flowering in over-achieving students. NOT! Quite the opposite. Even as we pay more, student scores decline. And tough nuts to anyone who might think otherwise, but I think this state of affairs sucks, royally and big time.

    Please, somebody, anybody, tell me where I’m wrong. Why should the superintendent of this demonstrably failing school district continue to get substantial annual compensation increases? Since when was failure cause for reward? Similarly, all of OASD’s teaching and administrative staff. If the product you all are supposedly all about is student performance, and if student performance sucks, why pray tell should any of you be compensated at a higher level. For what, failure? Try selling that slop in the real, private sector world. (Oops, sorry boss, but we made a mistake, and a good portion of the millions you invested has gone down the tubes.) Uh-huh, you can imagine the fate of those responsible for the screw-up. But that’s how things are in the private sector world. In the public sector world — aka la-la land — nobody is ever held accountable, there are never any repercussions, everybody holds on to their jobs, and Mr. and Ms. John Q. Taxpayer are expected to just take it on the chin, suck it up and stop complaining, accept the fact that anything controlled by, or even touched by government is inherently inefficient, and quite often rife with the old standbys of waste, fraud, and abuse. The OASD board, while from time to time mounting some feeble defenses, is not far removed from, and is in fact part and parcel of this liberal line of thinking; i.e. we are your representatives, we are government, so please trust us and don’t trouble us with pesky questions.

    On November 8 we all saw how that line of thinking went down.

    But look, it is and will forever be about the equation of student performance and school taxes. Right now the equation clearly shows that taxpayers are getting hosed big time. The message cannot be drummed home often enough: right now, in the OASD, the annual cost per student, including kids from kindergartners to high school seniors, is around $20,000 per student. HELLO! There is something seriously wrong, something seriously perverse, with this picture. When OASD taxpayers are, on average, paying as much for a local kindergartner as what state-wide taxpayers are paying for a student at Penn State, for example, then there is clearly something wrong, very, very wrong with this picture.

    Poor little OASD. Most, at least most with common sense, recognize poor little OASD. But not OASD’s board. To them, OASD, being part of Chester County, should be on a par with some of the ultra-rich counties and school districts to the east in Chester County, some of the classic ‘Main Line’ communities of fact and folklore. And that, simply, in a nuts and bolts way, is why the OASD board of directors is spending all of us into penury, and undermining whatever economic prospects which might otherwise exist for this neck of the woods.

    You simply cannot grow a community, an economic base, when the tax cost of having a kid in kindergarten is tantamount to the cost of having a student at Penn State or at any other of Pennsylvania’s state universities…and especially when you factor in that the Penn State student’s cost includes tuition, room, board and books. Let me state it plainly:

    OASD’S PER-STUDENT COSTS ARE AN OUTRAGE, AN OBSCENITY, ESPECIALLY WHEN CONSIDERED IN LIGHT OF STUDENT PERFORMANCE SCORES. OASD’S PER-STUDENT COSTS ARE NEAR THE HIGHEST IN THE STATE, NEAR THE HIGHEST IN THE NATION. AND FOR THAT, OUR OUTRAGEOUS, OBSCENE TAXES, WE GET WHAT? BUPKUS, THE VERY LOW SIDE OF MEDIOCITY AT BEST, JUST A HAIR’S BREADTH ABOVE THE PERFORMANCE OF THE COATESVILLE SCHOOLS. WHUP, WHUP…IF BEATING OUT COATESVILLE IS NOT CAUSE FOR RAUCOUS JUBILIATION, THEN I DON’T KNOW WHAT IS. CONGRATULATIONS, OASD, YOU MANAGED, BARELY, TO BEAT OUT ONE OF THE MOST SEVERELY CHALLENGED SCHOOL DISTRICTS IN THE ENTIRE STATE.

    But look, anonymous Octoraraforever, forget about expecting, hoping, even dreaming about engaging with the powers that be, the OASD board, at least on this blog. They act like, and profess, that they don’t even deign to read it, and state that they direct whatever occasional thoughts they may have to some obscure closed discussion group on some subscription-only social media site, who knows what.

    To reiterate: evidence shows that OASD is failing. Any questions? Any defenses? Please speak up.

    • Here is something that drives all of what you said home. That private and closed “Octorara Parents and Faculty” group on Facebook was started independently by a teacher. Initially, the screening of members and posts was to ensure that it remained focused solely on OASD news and issues. But there was a free flow of ideas.

      Well, apparently, the Facebook group has been commandeered and the original teacher who started the group is no longer running it. Also, it is now focused on providing only a “positive message” about the District. Guess who is running it? Brian Norris is the current Administrator and (from what I have been told) he is heavily censoring content, not allowing parents to discuss issues.

  14. Not being privy to the Facebook discussion group referenced on several occasions — ‘Octorara Parents and Faculty’ — I of course have no idea what goes on there. It is, you say, closed to outsiders, non-members. But damn, I sure would like to be a fly on the wall of that clubhouse. Who knows what insights might be gleaned.

    Nor have I any way of knowing whether Brian Norris has more or less taken over the discussion group and more or less appointed himself editor-in-chief, censoring what actually appears. But if that’s true, count me as being unsurprised. Mr. Norris would fit right in with the pooh-bahs at the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Big-Three broadcast networks, and other would-be controllers of what the public sees, and the spin on how the public should see it. Too bad that the NYT, WP, ABC, CBS, and NBC have all pretty much shot themselves in the foot, pretty much rendered their journalistic integrity and credibility a joke, and are hemorrhaging readers and viewers like nobody’s business.

    The Constitution guarantees freedom of assembly and freedom of speech. And thus on that score I’ve got no beef with the members of the Facebook discussion group. But I do wonder how much good it does, what such a closed group hopes to accomplish, when it would seem that, ipso facto, they are pretty much preaching to the choir, folks who already have like-minded views. I thought that the great, several millennia-long tradition of public discourse, going back to the ancient Greeks, was that in fact it be ‘public,’ open to anyone willing to lend an ear. And in the founding of this country, and in the writing of its Constitution, who would deny that a primary intent was for matters of general interest to be publicly aired, argued about, and ultimately settled by vote…hopefully by vote of those who had taken the time to inform themselves.

    I’m not a social media guy. I don’t understand the attraction. If I feel the need to communicate with someone I’ll pick up the phone or shoot them an email. That’s all. And if I feel the need to bark back against something I read in ‘the press,’ well then I’ll send an email, or write on the comment form, and always, always sign my name. I’ve got nothing to hide, no opinion to be ashamed of. I’m suspicious of social media. I suspect it wastes a great deal of people’s time. And it’s clear that social media can be used for nefarious, even evil purposes. Just ask any psychopath or jihadi bent on mass murder. Too much of social media, I think, is conducted in dark, anonymous corners and corridors.

    And I guess that’s what troubles me about the apparent existence of this Facebook ‘Octorara Parents and Faculty’ discussion group. It appears to be, at least might be, by Webster’s dictionary definition, a ‘clandestine’ group: i.e. “marked by, held in, or conducted with secrecy; SURREPTITIOUS.”

    I don’t understand why that should be, why this alleged discussion group should be closed, in effect secret, members-only. I mean, what are you members of the discussion group doing behind your veil of secrecy? Don’t you understand that secrecy leads to conspiracy theories? So what is it…is Board VP Brian Norris secretly leading a cabal of crazy-assed conspirators who are intent on imposing martial law in the OASD, and using that takeover as a springboard to eventual world domination? Or conversely, might Brian be leading a plot to wreck OASD from within? With silence and secrecy, one never knows what to think, do one?

    And so I would say to the members of ‘Octorara Parents and Faculty,’ come on in, jump right in, to the pool of truly public discourse. The water’s fine. Don’t hang back and hang there in the shadows where nobody else can see you and no one but other like-minded persons can hear your voice. Give yourselves the freedom to let your voices be heard as far and wide as possible…and that necessarily means engaging on this blog.

    But look, if you don’t like this blog, if you hate it, and even if you hate Tim Alexander’s guts, that’s cool, that’s fine, and I’m sure Tim Alexander would say the same. You don’t have to post or comment on this blog. But for god’s sake, if y’all are going to yammer about the state of affairs in the OASD, have the decency, the integrity, to do so publicly. Open up your closed discussion group. Better yet, start your own, open blog, just as Tim Alexander did five or so years ago.

    And to be sure, Alexander has been hit by many slings and arrows, more than I would care to count. Despite and through the many onslaughts, Alexander has remained remarkably, astonishingly steady. He has never risen to anyone’s bait. He has treated all commenters with respect, including the respect of responding to almost all of them. In his posts and in his replies to reader comments, he has never, to the best of my recollection, engaged or indulged in personal pique, invective, or any other kind of nasty stuff. To the contrary, since he launched this blog, Tim Alexander has been almost exclusively about the facts, just the facts. And even when he offered commentary, it never strayed too far away from the facts. He has been a fact-focused gentleman, debating and thrashing it out there on the public square, on the basis of facts. And so far as I know, no real harm has come to Mr. Alexander for having the guts to run for a seat on the board; after winning his seat to become a thorn in the side of establishment members; and to continue to publish his ‘OASD Taxes’ blog. So far as I know he hasn’t received any death threats, his house hasn’t been egged or toilet-papered, or any of his other personal property vandalized.

    But I have no doubt that he has paid a heavy price in time, and I have little doubt that both he and his family have paid a heavy price in terms of emotional distress. When one challenges vested, establishment interests, there will always be a price to be paid. And the price may well, perhaps likely, include problems for one’s loved ones. It ain’t easy being a maverick, bucking the tide, going against the grain, being a dissenting voice amongst a chorus, a cabal, of other voices who essentially just want to limit their need to drill down into the real nitty-gritty of issues, who are happy enough to go along to get along, and who, one senses, don’t really have a grasp of what their mission is supposed to be about.

    Love him or hate him, the early signals from Donald Trump suggest he is deadly serious about drilling down into the fetid, bureaucratic mess that is the federal government. I suggest that Tim Alexander got there before The Donald did. Can anyone ever recall an original post of Tim Alexander’s wherein he did not drill down into the basics and all sorts of other relevant things?

    But I digress, as is my bent, my curse. Bottom line: come out from the shadows you secret soothsayers on ‘Octorara Parents and Faculty.’ There is nothing to fear from open and honest communication. And as I said, if you don’t like this blog, well then start your own. But let it be open, accessible to all, so that we can have a genuinely frank conversation about the Octorara Area School District. Sure beats a circle-jerk.

    Let a hundred, a thousand, all voices be heard. But let them be heard in public, not just in some small, dark, back-alley place where non-members of the group are decidedly not welcome.

    Hmm…

    • While a closed discussion group does conjure thoughts of conspiracies on the dark web, especially when associated with a government entity, this issue is not so much what gets posted and discussed but what does not. Its purpose is to “keep things positive.” If a parent has a concern about Octorara educating their child, and wants to reach out to other parents for information, guidance, or support, that kind of “negativity” will not be tolerated. If a taxpayer wants to start a discussion about what can be done to get taxes under control, that kind of “negativity” will not be tolerated. If a person wants to talk about Octorara’s declining performance scores, that kind of “negativity” will not be tolerated.

      Recently, I had a parent reach out to me upset because her posts were not being approved on that group, thinking I had some power. I had to explain to her that there was nothing I could do. The group is private, not an official page of the District, and as a result can be run under the mantra “my house, my rules.” However, we have all witnessed the hubbub and boohooing about this blog. Could you image if it was a private, members-only website? How about if I screened comments and refused to allow dissenting opinions? The hypocrisy is amazing.

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