Dr. Newcome Announces His Resignation and Retirement 

Dr. Newcome Announces His Resignation and Retirement

The Octorara Board of Directors held their Facilities, Policy, and Finance Committee Meetings, and the Regular Meeting on Monday, July 17, 2017. Eight Board members were in attendance. Anthony Falgiatore was absent.

Yes, Virginia, There is a Property Tax Increase

Last month, for the first time, I missed a Board Meeting. It was caused by an unavoidable situation. Unfortunately, it also occurred on the night of the budget and tax votes. We all know that my one “no” vote was not going to change the outcome, but it is the principle of it all.

Nevertheless, on June 19th, the Board did vote to approve the 2017-2018 General Fund Budget in the amount of $54 million. Additionally, they approved to increase property taxes in Chester County to 39.49 mills and in Lancaster County to 29.45 mills.

Newcome’s Resignation and Retirement

At last night’s meeting, the Board accepted Dr. Thomas Newcome’s resignation, for the reason of retirement, as Superintendent of the Octorara Area School District. The resignation is effective June 2018, and the District will be announcing its plans for a Superintendent search.

Now, I know there are those who will be tempted to make negative comments about Dr. Newcome’s impact and legacy. Franky, my opinion about Dr. Newcome’s time as Superintendent is well documented. Yet, no good will come from beating that drum. Collectively, we need to see this as a new chapter for Octorara that provides opportunities for growth and improvement. So, going forward, I would ask that any comments on this blog be kind when speaking about Dr. Newcome. Continue reading

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Forty Years of Darkness! Dogs and Cats Living Together! Mass Hysteria!

Octorara's Lego Apocalypse

The Octorara Board of Directors held their Facilities and Policy Committee Meetings, and the Work Session Meeting on Monday, February 13, 2017. All nine Board members were in attendance.

Fire and Brimstone Coming Down From the Sky

At last night’s Board Meeting, Dr. Newcome presented examples of two letters to the public. They were each regarding the proposed property tax elimination legislation brewing in the Pennsylvania Senate.The first letter was created for and by the group of Chester County Superintendents. The other was drafted by the Oxford Area School Board. Along with the samples, Dr. Newcome wrote, that he was  “recommending that [the Octorara Board of Directors] approve a statement similar to that posted by the Oxford Area School District Board of Directors.

The Oxford statement is in opposition to the property tax elimination legislation, with this concluding statement:

As this potential piece of Legislation moves forward, the Oxford Area Board of School Directors, by and large, does not support the provisions as expressed in SB 76 without significant improvement in the language discussing alternative revenue streams and/or cutting costs.

This opposition to property tax relief had me lose my mind a bit. However, it may not be for the reasons you would think. I have been a supporter of the proposed property tax elimination legislation, and it is not new. Why is property tax elimination a big deal this year, but was largely ignored last year? This same legislation was voted on in 2016, and no one seemed to pay much attention to it, and they certainly were not running around with their hair on fire. Continue reading

Octorara Previews School Performance Profile Scores

f03c99e64b57f0b4fcea91a8e3ade10fThe Octorara Area School District Education Committee held its monthly on October 27, 2014. The focus of the meeting was Octorara’s 2013-2014 School Performance Profile scores.

Last year, Pennsylvania received a waiver to eliminate school performance evaluations using the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) model, and replace it with their own new Pennsylvania School Performance Profile (SPP). The new evaluation system has been touted as more comprehensive, but the purpose remains the same… to hold Districts/LEAs accountable to students, their parents, teachers, and the community.

Please note, Pennsylvania no longer scores Districts, but I provide District Averages to create an idea about District overall performance.

SPP Academic Score
2013 2014 Difference % Change
Primary Learning Center 77.80 82.14 4.34 5.58%
Elementary School 75.10 74.90 -0.20 -0.27%
Intermediate School 72.80 75.00 2.20 3.02%
Jr/Sr High School 72.20 65.60 -6.60 -9.14%
District Average 74.48 74.41 -0.06 -0.09%

My analysis of SPP, last year, noted school scores look and are broken down much like test scores, and do lend themselves easily to a letter grade. A school with a score of 70 meets minimum standards, or could be described as having C- or 1.7 GPA.

This year, the Primary Learning Center receives a Gold Star for increasing their performance from 77.80 to 82.14, taking their grade from a C+ to a B-. The improvement was an increase of 5.58%.

Unfortunately, the Jr/Sr High School finds itself struggling as their score dramatically drops from 72.20 to 65,60, or going from a C- to a D.

The net result is a District Average that remains flat and, with a score of 74.41, maintains a solid C. Continue reading

Octorara’s Playbook for Academic Success

first_day_of_school_2

Before we get into the meat of Monday’s Education Committee Meeting, let me first welcome students and parents back. Yesterday was the first day of school for the Octorara Area School District. I hope everyone survived. 😉

Education Committee Meetings tend to be very informative and interesting to attend but, when written about, typically will create essays and posts that can cause people to glaze over. Therefore, I want to present an example of how Learning Focused Schools and the iPad program combine, and try to avoid things like explaining “intentionality,” which is more a philosophical concept than a get‘er done way of doing. I want to stay away from abstract concepts, and focus on meat and potatoes.

Below is a youtube video created by Mr. Anthony (RAnthonyOctorara) that provides a small example of what can be done. It is an example of a “flipped classroom.”

The way many of us were taught, the teacher would lecture during class, and then send work home. Some teachers would review homework, and some wouldn’t, but  either way that next day’s lecture had to be done.

Continue reading

Education Committee – March 24

This past Monday was the Education Committee Meeting.

First on the agenda was the Learning Focus Schools Update. Elena Wilson informed the Committee the next generation of LFS is being released. The new version adds changes both to adapt to common core, and streamlining modifications to the implementation process. However, nothing changes the current course of implementation of LFS at Octorara.

Scott Rohrer informed the Committee that, with the help of Teacher and Parent Advisories, next year’s goals for the iPad program have been created. Those goals include (1) paper reduction; (2) increased use in the classroom for engagement purposes, and (3) parent involvement with apps such as MyHomework.

The Committee was also informed teachers have been instructed all new text book requests must be for digital texts. However, some publishers are requiring districts buy at least one physical classroom set before allowing digital copies are purchased. Additionally, cost savings for the most part appear to be minimal, but the percentage of saving is also dependent on the publisher.

The Committee then moved on to a Curriculum Update by Elena Wilson. Revisions to Math and ELA, adapting to PA Core, are almost complete. Work has started on English/Language Arts.

Sheri Melton, Region 1 Board Member, asked if the Committee could receive a demonstration of how Math will now be taught. Some have concerns with how “Common Core Math” is taught vs old methods. We were informed that the big change is that concepts are taught first and earlier, and that is what causes confusion. It is not truely a new kind of Math, just a change in how it is taught. The presentation will be at an upcoming meeting.

What happens in 3rd Grade, stays in 3rd Grade

You may remember that I asked Elena Wilson to provide two reports, back in January. The first report was to following Proficiency Scores for the Class of 2014 from 3rd Grade Reading until their Keystone Literature testing. I also wanted to see a comparison of 3rd Grade Reading year-over-year from 2005 until today.

When presented, the latter report showed Reading Proficiency in 2008 and 2009 were out of the ordinary higher, begging the question, “What was different about those 2 years?” Therefore, I have asked Ms. Wilson to provide me a report showing how these students have done with Reading since.

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What we see is that immediately, beginning with 4th, Reading Proficiency Scores begin to mirror each other, and continue that way. I ended the comparison at 7th Grade because that is the last Grade all 3 classes could be compared.

What do we find out from this comparison of data? Not much, and there is nothing glaring to motivate digging deeper. The higher 3rd Grade Reading Scores in 2008 & 2009 could have been higher for any number of reasons, but the higher scores did not continue. Additionally, the fact that the drop in score was immediate, it suggests that the 3rd Grade scores may have just been an anomaly.

One conclusion we can make, at least up until implementation of Learning Focused Schools, is it seems Octorara’s Proficiency Scores follow fairly predictable trends. As we stated before, this is Summative Data, and nothing here is specifically actionable. However, it is “the score at the end of the game.”

With the District now a Learning Focus School, and also adapting to PA Core, if we had found something, we may not have been able to use it. Things have changed too much. As a result, Elena Wilson will developing a benchmark, which we should be able to track year to year progress going forward.