Octorara’s School Director Projected Winners… Plus, a Budget Update

Octorara's School Director Projected Winners... Plus, a Budget Update

Parkesburg-South Londonderry Twp Highland Twp Total
Charlie Koennecker Jr 75 85 80 240
Rocco Pirozzi Jr 60 31 17 108
Robert Matthew Hurley 74 71 77 222
Timothy Alexander 51 31 21 103
Parkesburg-South Londonderry Twp Highland Twp Total
Timothy Alexander 28 11 7 46
Robert Matthew Hurley 60 49 20 129
Rocco Pirozzi Jr 32 29 8 69
Charlie Koennecker Jr 56 51 20 127

I would like to congratulate the winners on their victory, and their supporters. At this time, the Octorara Area School District has many challenges ahead, and, for the sake of our students and the community as a whole, I wish them success. 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

“Insiders Are Wanted” – September 16, 2013 Regular Meeting

onion_peeling_350This week’s Octorara Area School Board Meeting included little of anything that could be called noteworthy, with maybe the exception of Dr Newcome’s comments at the end of the meeting. It was what I expected to write about last week:

  • A list of Bus Drivers,
  • A vote on the new bus runs,
  • A couple policy revisions,
  • A resignation,
  • A list of hiring approvals,
  • et al.

Shawna Johnson provided the Finance Committee report, which was a list of topics discussed. They received a report form the cafeteria staff, which included a discussion of new regulations. Other topics included the annual audit, obtaining a bond for the tax collector, PA State Tax Equalization, and more.

The Policy Committee report was provided by Samuel Ganow. He stated that the Committee has began looking at 801 (Public Records) and a list of several others.

“Insiders Are Wanted”

I knew we were in for a rant when I heard Dr. Newcome referencing statements directly from my candidate questionnaire. It seemed to be his attempt to defend the idea that certain voices have value, while the majority of parents, citizens and taxpayers have… not so much value.

The gist of his rant was that each of the board members have completed a real questionnaire with their volunteerism to the school. In Newcome’s world, the citizens know all they need to know about board members, and has repeatedly used the idea of a volunteer board to defend members whenever hard questions arise. He perpetuates the idea that an all volunteer board is both infallible and unaccountable. Does that make sense to you?

Since the beginning of this year, addressing the District’s issues has been like peeling an onion:

  • Talking about taxes revealed issues regarding labor costs, debt, and performance.
  • Looking at the debt found complacency toward enrollment and tax-base issues.
  • Highlighting performance issues exposed problems with subgroups and transparency.
  • Digging into the issues of transparency, showed neglect toward updating District polices… some over 10 years old and/or in conflict with current laws.

Dr Newcome speaks as one who seemingly believes in good ole boy networks and clique loyalty as an effective means to an end. It is the cronyism I referred to in my questionnaire post.  How do you think that has worked out for the District?

Dr Newcome is unapologetic for this line of thinking, because he has rationalized it and is oblivious to it being a problem. It is a worldview in which the democratic process must be managed, and the public’s role limited. Supporting political cronyism insures the majority of individuals on the board will not express or support views contrary to those of the Administration.

Have you read my Octorara School Board: What Every Voter Should Know post? Do you know which board members support accountability at every stage of schooling, consumer rights in education, and holding teachers and administrators responsible for student performance? Do you know which don’t?

Yesterday evening’s rant from Dr. Newcome was a reaffirmation and doubling-down on his firmly held belief regarding the value of a small group above the majority of parents, citizens, and taxpayers. This mentality is one of smiles and handshakes, with decisions made behind closed doors and among friends, to the exclusion of those outside the clique.

It is time to pull back the curtain and expose for all citizens the “wizard” behind the major issues facing the Octorara Area School District. The District needs a coalition of political outsiders, with vibrant and diverse political opinions, who are sick of being dictated to and dismissed. The 2013 Elections have been pretty much locked, but 2015 represents a real opportunity for citizens to take back the District.