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

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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)

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Is Octorara Falling Further Behind in Education Achievement and Growth?

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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.

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Octorara’s Enrollment Continues Freefall

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Octorara's Enrollment Continues Freefall

The Octorara Board of Directors held their Facilities and Policy Committee Meetings and the Work Session Meeting was held on Monday, September 12, 2016. Hank Oleyniczak was absent.

How Low Can We Go?

Earlier this year, Dr. Newcome provided the Board with the District’s student population history from 1990-91 to 2015-16. It showed that Octorara’s enrollment had dropped to its lowest since 1994-95. The 2489 student population was a drop of 248 students (a 9% loss) since 2008-09. At the time, I wrote, “Any more losses and we will have to look back 25-30 years to find a lower enrollment number.” Well, get ready…

Last night, Sam Ganow asked Dr. Newcome for Octorara’s 2016-17 student population. At the beginning of the 2016-17 school year, the District has reached a historic low of 2404 students or a 3.4% drop in just one year. This is a loss of 333 students or a 12% decline within 8 years, and a population so low we will have to look back to the 1980s or maybe even 1970s for similar numbers.

I have been trying to make people aware of Octorara’s population problem for a long time and argued for building consolidation. Back in 2013, there were 2,502 students and the trending decline was obvious. Regardless, many Board members at the time were unwilling to accept this reality. Even today, there are Board Members who will describe building consolidation, as a budget-saving measure, as “a stupid idea.” This is despite the fact that the students that were the reason for building the OIS never appeared. Moreover, the children that were the reason for building the PLC have completely vanished.

Why is this happening? I think it is because young families do not find our area attractive. The property taxes are the highest in the area, and continue to go up drastically yer after year. This makes Octorara properties less attractive than other adjacent communities. Add to this the reality that our area has virtually no jobs, no shopping, and no entertainment. Worse yet, businesses are leaving the area or closing faster than new ones coming in. The combination of the District’s high taxes, and a general unwillingness of local municipalities to develop and revitalize the area, means young families are choosing other places.

Push to Change Track Terms… Again

At last nights Facilities Committee, Dr. Newcome gave an update on Track progress, Additional stone for the base has increased the cost by $26,575. Under the terms of the agreement and vote from September 2015, this cost is the responsibility of the Field Development Task Force. The Board approved spending 50% of the cost, not to exceed $210,000. Nonetheless, the total project has increased to $445,508. The Field Development task Force is now responsible for $235,508. 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

Gov. Wolf’s Education Spending Deception

Gov. Wolf's Education Spending Deception

The Octorara Area Board of Directors and Finance Committee met on Monday, February 20, 2017. All nine Board members were in attendance.

Issues Influencing Octorara’s 2017-2018 Budget

Currently, there are no changes to Octorara’s Draft 2017-2018 Budget. We are still looking at a tax increase, once again, up to the legal limit. Despite this, a revenue shortfall will cause a deficit of $1.2 Million and a use of Fund Balance of $652,775. That said, Mr. Jeff Curtis provided the Board with new information that may affect the budget.

⇒ Governor Wolf’s Proposed State Budget

Governor Wolf has been getting some positive media coverage for proposing a “reasonable” new state budget while increasing Education spending. Well, the devil is in the details. First, here is what the Governor’s friends in the media are saying:

“In this third budget proposal, Wolf once again prioritized education spending, which was a campaign promise he made after his predecessor Gov. Tom Corbett slashed it amid the Great Recession.

Wolf’s planned $32.3 billion budget for 2017-18 calls for a $100 million increase in basic education. It also calls for  $75 million more in early childhood education, $25 million more for special education and $8.9 million more for the 14 state-owned universities.” – The Morning Call

Sounds good so far, right? In other reporting, it is explained that the increase in Education spending is not coming from tax increases, but by improved efficiencies and eliminating waste. Let us talk about reality.  Continue reading

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

BREAKING NEWS: New Push For PA School Property Tax Elimination Expected

New Push For PA School Property Tax Elimination Expected

The Octorara Area Board of Directors and Finance Committee met on Monday, January 16, 2017. Eight Board members were in attendance. Anthony Falgiatore was absent.

2017-2018 Budget Update

While the overall agenda was limited, the Finance Committee and Board did receive an update on the 2017-2018 Budget. Some of the presentation was a formalized reporting of what we have already been told. However, there was some new data and projections.

  • Early State Funding Estimates – Our developing budget does not include increases in State spending for Basic Ed, Special Ed , or Ready to Learn. This is because Pennsylvania is suffering from a revenue shortfall of $260 Million, which is expected to grow to $600 Million. There are rumors that some in the General Assembly are working to add $100 Million to Basic Education, but, for now, it is just that… rumors.
  • Anticipated Use of Fund Balance –  In December, the originally reported Anticipated Use of Fund Balance was $577.285. After the actual Debt Service refinancing, this number has increased to $652,775.
  • Taxing to the Act 1 Limit – The current deficit of $1.2 Million and an Anticipated Use of Fund Balance of $652,775 are based on a 3.2% Property Tax increase.

The Blue & The Yellow

The Finance Committee has requested an update of the infamous Blue & Yellow List, which we will loosely describe as a list of potential cuts. Last year’s list included such things as: Continue reading