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

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

Republican
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
Democrats
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

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The Daily Local News Compares Chester County High Schools

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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

If You Missed the “Meet the Candidates Night” Event

Meet the Candidates Night

This past Monday evening, at the Jr High, there was a “Meet the Candidates Night”, and all candidates were invited. However, the focus could be said to be mainly on Region 3 (Parkesburg-South, Londonderry, and Highland) because it is the only competitive race. I was very excited to attend and participate, and thankful that it occurred. We typically do not have these types of events, and I hope to see more of them for both the District and the individual municipalities.

That said,, last night’s Meet & Greet was attended by approximately 50 citizens from across each of the District’s three Regions. Moreover, each candidate, whether in a competitive race or not, showed. It was an amazing turnout, considering that a typical Board Meeting has less than 5 attendees.

The format was straightforward. The first segment allowed each candidate to make a 5-7 minute pitch. After each had their opportunity, it was followed by each being given 2-3 minutes to make a rebuttal or clarification statement. Finally, we broke up individually, and audience members were allowed to ask candidates questions individually. Below, is a copy of my prepared remarks. Continue reading

Everything you wanted to know about becoming an Octorara School Director but were afraid to ask

School Board ElectionsIt is that time again friends. We are entering an off-year, meaning 2015 will have Municipal and School District elections. It is in these local elections that your vote has the greatest power.

In the 2013 Election, Region 3 (Parkesburg-South, Highland, Londonderry) had two seats for School Director that were decided by roughly 650 voters. In the Borough of Parkesburg, the Mayoral election had a turnout of less than 400 voters.

This year, there are seats up for election in every Region of Octorara:

  • 3 seats in Region 1 – Atglen, Christiana, & Parkesburg-North
  • 1 seat in Region 2 – Sadsbury Township & West Fallowfield
  • 1 seat in Region 3 – Highland, Londonderry, & Parkesburg-South

What Is A School Director?
In Pennsylvania, School Directors are elected officials (elected for a four-year term) who are charged, by law, with providing quality education for the youth of our community, and work for the best interests of all pupils and all citizens. Duties include conducting strategic planning, hiring and overseeing the superintendent, adopting school district budgets, creating policy, overseeing the school district, and representing voters.

A school board’s primary responsibilities generally include:

  • Setting the vision and goals for the District
  • Adopting policies and setting priorities to achieve goals
  • Setting student performance standards
  • Establishing school budgets
  • Approving the school calendar
  • Adopting curriculum
  • Evaluating and/or hiring the Superintendent
  • Approving contracts with outside vendors
  • Collective bargaining with District employees

In total, the School Board balances the business of actually running the District while establishing and monitoring the District’s academic priorities.

Why Run For School Board
The reason you should run is that it is better for our community to have choices.  When board members are spending $50 million or so of the community’s money, it makes sense that the community have some choice in who they are electing to spend it.  Having multiple candidates for each seat gives the community a chance to vote on what is important to them.  It is rarely good having just one candidate running for each seat.

More reasons why you may want to run for the Octorara School Board

  1. It is the best way to know what is actually happening with the Octorara Area School District.
  2. You can be a part of the decision making process (or at least have a voice) regarding changes or issues in the Octorara Area.
  3. It is the best way to be a part of helping to revive, and create the kind of vision you have, for the Octorara Area.
  4. You may not be able to change the world, but you can help make positive changes, and help empower your community.
  5. Fresh ideas and faces are needed to move the District forward.
  6. You can be on one or more of Octorara’s committees
  7. You have a voice and it will be heard…  but only if you come to the meetings!
  8. It is only twice a month – the 2nd and 3rd Monday of every month – to make a very important step in being more involved.
  9. You have an opportunity to share your business and life experience to benefit your community.
  10. You can represent different groups in the community and ensure that others have a voice in making educational and administrative decisions.

Issues Facing the District
Many parents, voters and taxpayers are frustrated, and you may want to run the Octorara School Board as a way to improve or solve what you perceive as existing issues or problems. What do you think the Board should be focusing on?

  • Budget issues and the district’s operating expense
  • Student discipline, including bullying and school violence
  • The rapid decline in the student population
  • Bond measures for facilities and operations
  • Student achievement and testing standards
  • Teacher & Administration accountability.
  • Safety measures, including student expulsion practices and the presence of security and/or law enforcement officers
  • Closing or constructing schools
  • Collective bargaining for district employees
  • School District consolidation due to budget challenges
  • Getting community input on issues

Who is eligible?
To be eligible to be elected or appointed to a Pennsylvania school board, one must be:

  • A citizen of Pennsylvania.
  • Of good moral character.
  • At least 18 years old.
  • A resident of the school district for at least one year prior to election or appointment.
  • An individual may be ineligible to run for or hold the office of school director subject to state or federal law. The following items do not constitute an exhaustive list of legal requirements related to eligibility. Other state and federal laws may determine eligibility.
    • The PA Constitution bars from elective office anyone convicted of an “infamous” crime, which the courts have interpreted to include various misdemeanors based on the nature of the crime and all felonies.
    • Section 324 of the PA School Code prohibits school directors from being employed by, or doing business with, the district where they are elected or appointed, subject to certain exceptions. These prohibitions remain in effect for the duration of the term for which the school director was elected or appointed, even if the person leaves office before the term expires. The employment prohibition contains exceptions for specific positions. Also, the business prohibition contains an exception that would require an interpretation of the PA Public Official and Employee Ethics Act. For more information, contact the Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission at (800) 932-0936.
    • Section 322 of the School Code contains a list of municipal offices that are incompatible with holding the office of school director. County, borough and township codes also contain their own restrictions for holding offices concurrently.
    • The Hatch Act, a federal statute, prohibits federal employees, and some state and local government employees whose job functions “involve” federal funding, from running for partisan elective office. The Hatch Act only prohibits running for election, but does not prohibit holding the office if appointed. For more information, visit the U.S. Office of Special Counsel’s Web site at http://www.osc.gov/hatchact.htm.
    • The military services have regulations similar to the Hatch Act, but not always coextensive, which may prohibit both holding the office as well as running for it.

For more information, see: The Pennsylvania School Boards Association: How to Run for School Board

What You Need To Do To Get On The Ballot?
Many people presume getting on the ballot is a complicated process, but it is not. You want to start by going to to Voter Services, telling them which office you wish to run for. They will provide you with a packet of information, which includes a blank nomination petition, and brief instructions.

Starting in February, you need just 10 signatures from registered voters within the political party you are choosing to run. However, School Director is one of two special offices allowed to cross-file in Pennsylvania. This means you can run both as a Republican and a Democrat, regardless of your actual political affiliation. The reason for this is Pennsylvania considers the role of School Director to be nonpolitical. If you do this, you will need at least 2 petitions… one Republican and one Democrat.

Once you have properly collected the needed signatures, the nomination petition(s) will need to be notarized. Then return to Voter Services by March 10th to deliver and file the petition(s). If everything was done properly, your name will appear on the Primary Ballot(s) in May.

There are a little more, like campaign spending limits, but for the most part it is just that easy. The Lancaster County crossover also complicates things a bit, but nothing that cannot be worked through.

Independent, minor party and political body candidates must file nomination papers, which are a bit different. Contact Voter Services for details.

Important Dates

  • February 17th – First day to circulate and file nominating petitions
  • March 10th – Last day to circulate and file nominating petitions
  • March 11th – First day to circulate and file nominating papers
  • March 25th – Last day to withdraw by candidates who files nominating petitions
  • April 20th – Last day to register before the Primary
  • May 12th – Last day to apply for a civilian Absentee ballot
  • May 15th – Last day for the County Board of Elections to receive voted civilian Absentee ballots
  • May 19th – MUNICIPAL PRIMARY

If not you, then who? If not now, then when?

Octorara 2014-2015 Preliminary Budget Presentation

Included here is the Octorara Area School District 2014-2015 Preliminary Budget Presentation, from the December 9th Regular School Board Meeting.

Here are a few bullet points:

  • 2012-13 Budget vs. Actual
    • Revenue was $553,431 higher than expected
    • Expenses were $2.3 Million lower than budgeted
    • Budget Surplus was $1.8 Million. (I know it doesn’t seem to balance, but the 2012-13 Budget was underfunded, on paper, by a little over $1 Million)
  • 2013-14 Required Health Care Premium
    • Currently $1.2 Million for the first five months of 2013-14
    • On pace to be $2.9 Million for 2013-14, or $700,000 higher than 2012-13
    • Directly affected by Obamacare’s sub-26 coverage requirement
  • 2013-14 Expense Increases
    • $195,717 for Salaries, includes $100,000 for an armed School Resource Officer
    • $749,200 for Benefits, includes $447,021 increase to PSERS Contribution
    • $272,655 for Outside Services
  • Obamacare (in addition to sub-26 costs)
    • PCORI (Patient-Center Outcomes Reach Institute Fees): $730 for 2014, $1,460 for 2015
    • Reinsurance Fees: $45,990 per year starting in 2014 thru 2016
    • Excise Tax (Cadillac Tax): 40% excise tax on employers for the value of health insurance benefits exceeding established thresholds, starting in 2018.