Octorara: Will This Be a Transformation Year?

Octorara: Will This Be a Transformation Year?

The Octorara Area School Board’s October meetings represent the calm before the storm. As ominous as that sounds, storms most often bring with them a renewed environment and growth. Yet, there is always the possibility that heavy rains, strong winds, and pounding hail will create havoc and cause real damage. Octorara is at the beginning of a transformational year, in more ways than one. It is very important that the public stay informed and actively participate as the Board addresses each concern. Below are just a few of those issues.

The Octorara Superintendent Search

As most are aware, Dr. Newcome is not seeking a new contract and the 2017-2018 school year will be his last at Octorara. While not much information is out to the public yet, the Octorara Board is in the early stages of the Superintendent search process. Becuase of the very nature of hiring a new executive, much of it is confidential. That said, there does seem to be a commitment to keeping the public as involved and informed as possible. In order to stay up to date, please watch for information releases that will be posted to the District website and attend future Board meetings.

Diminishing Captial Funds

At October’s Facilities Committee Meeting, Jeff Curtis provided members with an update to the 10-Year Capital Plan. At this time, we are looking at funds from capital sources being exhausted within the 2019-2020 school year, and a real shortfall of almost $1 Million. This deficit may require that facility repairs and improvements be put off. Regardless, once these sources are depleted, all capital expenses will either have to be paid out of the regular budget or the District will have to add to our debt. Everyone should have known this day was coming. Mr. Curtis did take action which has extended the life of our capital sources, but he came to our District a little too late.  Continue reading

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Lice Infestations, Property Taxes & School District Transparency

Skyrocketing Property Taxes & School District Transparency

I want to start my blog by thanking every person who showed up at last night’s meeting. In my opinion, believe it or not, that was probably the most productive School Board Meeting that I have attended. That was all because motivated people came out and spoke up. Before today, I don’t believe that some of my Board colleagues thought I expressed the real opinions of real people. They needed to hear what I have heard for the last 4 years. That said, real change will require citizens to become activists.

Many of those who attended last night’s meeting passionately spoke about the real impact of our high taxes. One speaker offered to provide the Board with a powerpoint report that revealed her own independent research about spending and return on investment. Others talked about the negative impact on home values, the difficulties selling properties, and how young families are not choosing our area. There are those who like living here, but taxes are forcing them to leave.

In addition, there were parents who were angry that the District did not think to communicate with parents when the security guard fired his weapon to kill a raccoon. The idea that parents should have been notified seemed confusing to some Board members. Parents expressed genuine outrage, sometimes shouting from the audience, when Board members attempted to defend the lack of communication.

= Firearm Use & Transparency =

The recent incident with Octorara’s security officer using his firearm is an almost perfect example of why I originally ran for the School Board. When I first started going to Board Meetings on a regular basis, I created this website to document my experience. Very quickly, one of the main focuses was highlighting issues that I believed the District was not being completely forthright about. When I was elected, one of my promises was to keep the public informed about issues they may not find out about just by attending a Board Meeting,  Continue reading

Gunshots Fired by Octorara’s Campus Security 

Gunshots Fired by Octorara's Campus Security

On March 29th, the Octorara Area Board of Director’s received a collective email from Dr. Newcome. There was an incident on the Octorara campus. An unwelcome trespasser was spotted. The West Fallowfield Police were called, but they were not on duty. Luckily, the armed Signal 88 security officer was ready and leaped into action. The intruder was quickly found and a foot chase ensued. The individual was about to get away. So, the security officer drew his weapon, then shot and killed the intruder.

Who was this monster who forced our security officer to use his firearm? A raccoon. It was a small, furry critter who was on our property, behind the High School and near the Agricultural Building, probably looking for food. Last year, during a similar situation, the District contacted animal control. The advice they received was to let the local police department handle the situation. From the memory of that conversation with an unnamed and unaccountable person on the phone, this year our District jumped to the decision to use our security officer as pest control and authorized the use of a firearm to handle the situation. Goodness knows how many countless lives were saved as a result. (I hope I don’t need to explain sarcasm.)

It took me a few days to process, but this was my written response:

I had to take some time to think about this. I am not comfortable with a discharge of a firearm on or near the campus to deal with a rodent. From the account, Pete and Rick were able to “shepherded the raccoon off the campus” and the animal does not seem to have been any kind of threat. Regardless of any training or experience, firing a weapon does have inherent safety risks. Ultimately, I believe this was reckless and inappropriate.

I presume, since it was not noted in the email, that parents were not made aware of this action. I believe it is important to make the public aware of what happened. Moreover, I think we need to have a public discussion about what constitutes the proper use of a firearm by our security officer. Personally, I don’t believe it is ever appropriate for the security officer to even draw his weapon without an imminent threat to students and staff.

The security officer has an intended purpose of dealing with active shooters and acts of violence. He is not there for pest control. In the kindest terms, this incident has me pissed off.

Continue reading

Are You Prepared for Another Property Tax Hike?

Octorara Enrollment History

The Octorara Area Board of Directors and Finance Committee met on Monday, March 20, 2017. Seven Board members were in attendance. Sam Ganow and Hank Oleyniczak were both absent.

Push Back on a False Narrative

If you watched the live-stream of last night’s meeting, you would have heard Lisa Bowman, Board President, claim that there had been no suggestions or support for Budget reductions from any Board Member. I had to push back and spoke up. I had to remind Bowman that just in November, we had a heated discussion about building consolidation. In fact, since the very beginning of the budget process, I have suggested other ideas like returning to half-day kindergarten, eliminating the 1-to-1 iPad program, and getting rid of the armed security guard. I have even advocated taking a close look at CTE programs.

While these ideas may not be popular with other Board Members, the notion that no Board Member has supported reductions, that would limit the budget’s growth, is a complete and utter deception. If you watch the video, you will see that Bowman did immediately walk back her statement when confronted. Regardless, this has become habitual behavior from both her and Brian Norris. Almost every year, since I have been on the Board, either she, Norris, or both have tried to make claims like this or that certain votes meant more than written. Each time, I have had to push back.

There is a reality with our financial situation. Years before the 2016-17 budget, I warned that cuts were inevitable, while certain other Board Members were describing me as Chicken Little. I stated that if we did not control the growth of the budget, the choice of making cuts will be taken out of our hands. That is exactly what happened. Last year, the Board passed a budget with roughly $600,000 in cuts and taxed up to the legal limit. Even with that, it required a significant use of Fund Balance. That said, we did really luck out with interest rates and being able to refinance more debt, and that savings may end up eliminating this year’s deficit. But we all need to appreciate the luck that was involved that this was able to happen. Continue reading

Discover the 2017 Candidates for the Octorara Area School Board of Directors

School Board Elections Matter

The Octorara Board of Directors held their Facilities and Policy Committee Meetings, and the Work Session Meeting on Monday, March 13, 2017. Eight Board members were in attendance. Sam Ganow was absent.

No, we did not receive a snow day. Regardless, I am going to push my update until next week with a combined post after the Regular Meeting. Today, I want to focus on the 2017 Octorara Area School Board of Directors Election.

Unofficial Candidate List

The Unofficial Candidate List is provided by Chester County Voter Services. Within each Region, voters may vote for 2 candidates. Region 2 Democrats should note that you will have only one candidate on your ballot. Additionally, Region 3 has 4 candidates to choose from, which is kinda exciting. Don’t you agree?

⇒ Region 1 (Atglen Borough, Christiana Borough, Parkesburg-North, West Sadsbury Township)

  • William Kloss (Dem/Rep)
  • Anthony Falgiatore (Dem/Rep)

⇒ Region 2 (Sadsbury Township-Lancaster County, West Fallowfield Township)

  • Samual Ganow (Dem/Rep)
  • Jere Lee Zimmerman (Rep only)

⇒ Region 3 (Highland Township, Londonderry Township. Parkesburg-South)

  • Charlie Koennecker Jr (Dem/Rep)
  • Robert Matthew Hurley (Dem/Rep)
  • Rocco Pirozzi Jr (Dem/Rep)
  • Timothy Alexander (Dem/Rep)

Continue reading