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

Newcome Provides List of Possible Budget Reductions

Newcome Provides List of Possible Budget Reductions

The Octorara Area School District Board of Directors held their monthly Work Session Meeting on Monday, March 14, 2016. Prior were the Policy and Facilities Committee meetings. All nine Board Members were in attendance. Linda Bicking attended the work session electronically.

What Budget Cuts Do You Want?

From the Work Session, the major item of note was Dr. Newcome’s presentation of potential reductions. This was provided in advance of budget discussions at next week’s Finance Committee Meeting. The list is significant, identifying almost $5.9 Million in potential budget cuts. Items ranged from minor cuts worth only $1,500 in savings to individual cuts over $1 Million.

What was originally asked of the Administration was to work with each school to find $420,000. To accomplish this, the Administration tasked each grade with finding $30,000 in savings. The idea was that having each principle, working with the staff, would be able to find cuts that had minimal impact on programs.

However, the list presented was not all that dissimilar to potential reduction lists (aka cut lists) presented by the Administration in the past. The presentation was also only a list of what could be cut. There were no specific recommendations, but the list was segregated into two categories: those that may affect programs and those that will affect programs.

Potential reductions included:

  • Miscellaneous cuts to Administration spending.
  • Reduction to building budgets by 10%.
  • Teaching cuts:
    • Substitute teachers reduction by reducing administrative leave by 30%.
    • Choosing not to replace multiple retiring/resigning teachers in K-4.
    • Not replacing or reducing a Special Education Teacher.
    • Not replacing or reducing a Spanish position.
    • Cutting a Music teacher.
    • Eliminating an Instructional Assistant position.
    • Elimination of a Reading Specialist.
    • Eliminate Librarian.
  • Returning Kindergarten to half-day or eliminating altogether.
  • Eliminating In-School Suspensions (ISS).
  • Reducing coaching staff.
  • Reducing or eliminating the Security Guard Positions.
  • Eliminate all technology.
  • Eliminate Athletics.
  • Eliminate Non-Athletic supplemental contracts.
  • Eliminate Bussing.

Continue reading