The Daily Local News Compares Chester County High Schools


The Daily Local News Compares Chester County High Schools

On April 25th, The Daily Local News compared and ranked Chester County High Schools based on analysis done by U.S. News and World Reports. Using publically available data and statistics, the analysis comparing Chester County High Schools created a list not all that dissimilar to when one compares the Building Level Academic Scores from the state’s School Performance Profiles.

Comparison of Chester County High Schools

1. Conestoga High School
2. Unionville High School
3. Great Valley High School
4. Avon Grove High School
5. West Chester East High School
6. West Chester Bayard Rustin High School
7. Kennett High School
8. Downingtown High School West Campus
9. Phoenixville Area High School
10. Octorara Area Junior/Senior High School
11. Coatesville Area Senior High School

As in previous analyses, the only school district with a worse performance than Octorara is Coatesville. Of course, this is not breaking news. We have known for a long time about Octorara’s declining academic performance.

However, what I do question is, why The Daily Local News did not list all Chester County high schools? For instance, Downingtown High School East Campus and Owen J Roberts High School also received scorecards from U.S. News, but the media outlet chose not to list them. Continue reading


What Does Trump Mean to the Octorara Area School District?

What Does Trump Mean to the Octorara Area School District?

The Octorara Board of Directors held their Facilities and Policy Committee Meetings and the Work Session Meeting on Monday, November 14, 2016. Eight of the nine members were in attendance, Hank Oleyniczak was absent.

2016 Student Achievement and Growth Measure: District and Building Response

Elena Wilson, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, lead a presentation to address questions and concerns about the 2016 Pennsylvania School Performance Profiles. For those interested, please go watch the video on The Cube or (eventually) YouTube. However, while interesting, it is dry. The presentation included a look at data points, a list of action items for improvement, each principal talking about their school, and look at the positives. It is a lot. Therefore, I am going to share some points I feel are important.

School Name 2012-13 SPP 2013-14 SPP 2014-15 SPP 2015-16 SPP
Octorara Area JSHS 72.2 65.6 72.7 62
Octorara El Sch 75.1 75 NA 67.4
Octorara Inter Sch 72.8 75 NA 68.7
Octorara Primary LC 77.8 82.4 NA NA
District Average 74.5 74.5 72.7 66.0

Dr. Scott Rohrer – When he spoke to the Board, Dr. Scott Rohrer made the statement that he owns his building’s scores, but he did not feel they reflected the capacity of the JSHS’s students and teachers. Capacity! This is an important, informative, and a reassuring word choice. Moreover, taking ownership is a big deal. It is one of the main characteristics of an effective leader, and it should not be underestimated. Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Why Is There an Octorara Board Vacancy? Candidates Needed

Why Is There an Octorara Board Vacancy? Candidates Needed

Three new (or new-ish) Members were expected to join the Octorara Area School Board of Directors: Brian Fox, Stephen Spoto, and Linda Bicking. Mr Spoto informed Dr Newcome and Board leadership that he is moving outside the Region he was elected. Once he moves, he would no longer be able to represent that Region.

Spoto had two options. He could have taken the oath of office, and served until on or about December 15-20, or simply not take the oath. If he had taken the oath he would have been able to sit for the December meetings. He chose to not take the oath.

The decision puts the Board in a precarious position. When a vacancy occurs, the Board must fill the position within 30 days. If he had waited, the Board would  have had more time to accept applications, interview candidates, and deliberate. Now, keeping in mind that we are about to enter the winter holidays, the Board must make a decision and have the position filled by January 7th, the week before the January Work Session Meeting.

As a result, the Board has decided to place notice of the vacancy on the District website, and ask all interested individuals to appear at the December 14th Regular Meeting, to be publically interviewed and have deliberations. The term will be only for two years, which is 2017, the next Municipal Election year. If you would like to be considered, please visit the website or contact Dr Newcome for more information. You must live within Region 1 (Atglen Borough, Christiana Borough, Parkesburg-North, West Sadsbury Township).

Information from the Reorganization Meeting

Lisa Bowman was nominated by Hank Oleyniczak to maintain her position as Board President, and was re-elected by majority vote. Brian Norris was nominated by Linda Bicking to maintain her position as Board Vice-President, and was also re-elected by majority vote.

The following are hold-over Directors, each with terms expiring in 2017:

  • Samuel Ganow (Region 2)
  • Hank Oleyniczak (Region 2)
  • Nelson Stoltzfus (Region 3)
  • Timothy Alexander (Region 3)

The following are the newly elected Directors, who took their oath, with expiring terms in 2019.

  • Brian Norris (Region 1)
  • Linda Bicking (Region 1)
  • Lisa Bowman (Region 2)
  • Brian Fox (Region 3)

The Board President made the following appointments: Continue reading

Octorara continues trend of high average teacher salaries

Octorara teacher salariesPlease Note: While reading this blog, keep in mind that CNN reported last August that American median incomes are 4.8% lower than they were at the start of the Great Recession in December 2007 and 5.9% below January 2000. (link)

Regular readers know, I have been tracking Octorara’s high labor cost for a good number of years. As a line-item, tracked as an Actual Cost, the “total salaries” (which includes everything from administration to janitorial) have been fairly well controlled in recent years.

Unfortunately, this has been accomplished with a combination of eliminating positions, outsourcing, and replacing retirees with less experienced teachers, rather than actually controlling the wages of professional employees.

According to a report published by the National Education Association, the U.S. average Classroom Teacher salary in 2014-15 is estimated to be $57,379 (p. 76).

The Pennsylvania Department of Education’s 2014-15 Professional Staff Summary Report indicates the average salary in 2014-15 of a Classroom Teacher in Pennsylvania was $64,542.

This same report shows the average Classroom Teacher in Chester County was $64,544, and in Lancaster County was $63,160.

Octorara’s average Classroom Teacher salary is $67,409.

  • $10,030 higher than the national average.
  • $2,876 higher than the Pennsylvania average.
  • $4,249 higher than the Lancaster County average, and
  • $2,865 higher than the Chester County average.

This year, I am comparing school districts in Chester County, plus the two adjacent Lancaster County school districts. Continue reading