Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What do tax reform and strike-free education have in common?

They needed to break out some extra folding chairs for the crowd at August WCASD Board meeting.   And while one anticipated hearing more of the same since negotiations began, i.e.,  the  aggressive and endless rhetoric of blame concerning  “what the union wants” vs.  “what the Board is offering”,  it was an uncharacteristically civil and thankfully short evening. 

Public comment on agenda items:

Just one, concerning a special education settlement.  An admittedly nervous parent spoke bravely of her frustration each time she sees a special education settlement on the agenda, stating that money spent for lawyers is money NOT spent on a student.  Thanks for your courage.

Committee reports:

Education Chair Mrs. Adsett gives us a recap of Education meeting, thanking the now-vacationing Dr. Pimley for filling in for her while she was enjoying  a much needed vacation with her family. 

In Dr. Pimley’s absence, Mrs. Tiernan covers Pupil Services. Items approved by Board: Special Education settlement and service agreement with PTS, a physical therapy provider already working with District. (Education/Pupil Services summary: http://westchestervote.blogspot.com/2012/08/if-nothing-else-lesson-in-acronyms.html )

Property and Finance – among items approved, Policy DFF, Grants from External Sources and Policy KDC, Flyer Distribution.   

Other Reports:

Mr. Coyle/Intermediate Unit – there was no IU Board meeting in August

Mrs. Tiernan/Charter & Alternative – she has a couple of visits lined up for September

 Ms. Raileanu/Outreach – Board outreach season is officially open in September.  We are reminded to let the Board know of PTO and other school events and they will do their best to attend.

 Ms. Miller/Personnel – new hires were welcomed and hiring will continue as needed. 
Listing of hires: http://home.wcasd.net/files/_fbI67_/8afa2add6a88dbc73745a49013852ec4/August_27_2012_Board_Packet_for_Website.pdf

 Mr. Murphy gives a brief update on negotiations.  District Negotiations team and West Chester Area Education Association will meet again on  8/29.

 Mrs. Snook/Legislative –informs us that the PA General Assembly reconvenes on 9/24.  The horrors of state pension system and its impact on district are once again noted and while there are numerous proposals out there, we are reminded that the Board favors Representative Warren Kampf’s House Bill 2454 .  (FYI, local co-sponsors of Kampf’s  House Bill 2453, addressing state employees, and HB 2454, addressing school district employees: Representatives Truitt, Barrar, Killion and Ross)

 Mrs. Snook also reports on the first official meeting of the House Select Committee on Property Tax Reform, held on August 20.  This Committee was established through the passage of Representative Tom Quigley’s (R-Montgomery) House Resolution 774.   The Committee heard testimony from the prime sponsors of the following property tax proposals:

House Bill 2230, sponsored by Rep. Seth Grove (R-York, local co-sponsor Steve Barrar), would allow school districts to reduce or eliminate property taxes and replace them with a 1% increase in the county sales tax, with voter approval. The measure would also allow local governments to levy an income tax to reduce millage rates by at least 30%. The bill was voted out of the House Finance Committee and sent to the House floor for consideration. http://www.pahousegop.com/NewsItem.aspx?NewsID=15065

House Bill 2300, sponsored by Rep. David Maloney (R-Berks), would amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to allow principal places of residence to be completely excluded from property taxation. Such a constitutional change requires passage in two consecutive sessions and then the approval of voters. The measure was unanimously passed by the House and sent to the Senate for consideration.

Senate Bill 1400 , sponsored by Sen. David Argall (R-Schuylkill, local co-sponsor Ted Erickson), would eliminate property taxes and replace those funds with revenue generated through an increase in the state personal income tax and an expansion of the state sales tax. The proposal has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee. http://www.pahousegop.com/NewsItem.aspx?NewsID=15067

Per Representative Quigley’s resolution,  the Committee meets again in September to continue to study these tax proposals and will report its findings to the House by a deadline of November 30.  At least one member of the Select Committee does not hold out much hope for true reform.  State Representative Nick Micozzie (R-Montgomery) served on a property tax reform committee nearly 12 years ago.  At that time the committee crafted a report to reform school property taxes, yet all attempts at gaining support for legislation failed.  He is not optimistic this time will be any different, stating:   “I think we’re going to spin our wheels a lot of times, like I have done over the years.” http://emmaus.patch.com/articles/lawmakers-tread-water-on-property-tax-reform
Mrs. Snook  comments on the Tax Reform Committee, stating that “one of the legislators”  said something to the effect that the “only way to get tax control is to control spending”. She continues, speaking of the need to “get rid of mandates” and to remember that “we represent the taxpayers, not special interest groups”.   Intriguing words, but Mrs. Snook’s?  Alas, no - they were simply a continuation of the legislator’s quote referenced by Mrs. Snook.

 That legislator is first-term State Representative Justin Simmons (R- Lehigh/Northampton), a member of the House Select Committee on Property Tax Reform, who stated:

 “The only way you are ever going to get any tax under control is to control spending. We do know there are state mandates we can help our school districts with by getting rid of them. We need to keep in mind that each of us represents the taxpayers and not a special interest group.”

So just who is  this  thoughtful and bold young Republican? Before being elected to service, Mr. Simmons interned for Congressman Pat Toomey and also served as a legislative aide for Senators Rob Wonderling and Bob Mensch.  In addition, Mr. Simmons serves on the House Education Committee, and is a  proponent of  the “Strike Free Education Pact”, a movement in support of House Bill 1369 (local co-sponsors: Representatives Barrar, Killion, Truitt)  and House Bill 1640 (local co-sponsors: Representatives Barrar, Truitt), which actually proposes a “strike-free” amendment to the PA Constitution. See Representative Simmons’ Strike Free Petition Packet at http://repsimmons.com/strikefreepetition.aspx . 

Mrs. Snook ends on a cheery note which was clearly her own.  She,  along with Mrs. Tiernan,  attended an event to welcome new District hires, recounting it was a “heartening” experience to see many new and optimistic faces ready to begin the school year. 

 Public comment on non-agenda items:

Comment from local realtor/former Board member Mr. Davison: West Chester is “looking healthy” financially and he “applauds” Business Director Dr. Suzanne Moore and all those responsible for getting us there. 

Two-part question from East Bradford taxpayer/former Board member Mr. Smith:  What are bus costs per student and what is the status of superintendent and Act 93 contracts (principals/administrators) that expired July 1?   No public answer.

A West Goshen resident speaks on behalf of a  10th grade exchange student from Cologne Germany, who  is unable to attend East High School this year due to “technical” issues. Housed under the category of “Anomalous Students” is WCASD Board Policy JQKA/Foreign Exchange Students, which states  “Application for admission of an exchange student shall be received by July 1”.  Apparently the German student had  met all requirements for admission by July 1,  except for the fact that she had not secured a host family until last week.   Speaker is asking the Board to accept the student regardless,  asserting  it will be “win, win, win” situation: a win for the German student, a win for East students who will benefit from the cultural exchange,  and a win for the Board, who will show they have made a “reasonable decision” in the matter. The Board is mute, but Dr. Scanlon addresses the  issue: in order to accept student, Board would have to “waive” policy.  The earliest date the Board could vote to waive the policy would be at the full Board meeting on September 24 - too late for admission.    The superintendent tells those in attendance that he has been making phone calls to other agencies, including one in Michigan, in order to find placement for the student for this school year.  The timing is indeed unfortunate and the District looks forward to welcoming the student next year -  auf Wiedersehen!



Friday, August 24, 2012

Happy Days Are Here Again...?

 All board members were in attendance at the 8/20 P&F Meeting with the exception of Heidi Adsett.  The largest portion of the meeting was spent discussing the financials which had not been covered in several months.  I was expecting someone to break out the champagne with all the good news that Dr. Moore was delivering, at least for the past year and perhaps the upcoming.

While the 2011-12 numbers have not gone through their final audit, they are not expected to change much, if at all.  Highlights of how we ended this past school year compared to what was projected in April include:
  • Revenue was $1.7M higher than projected due to
    • Earned Income Tax $700k higher, most likely due to a new regulation requiring all employers to withhold EIT for their employees (whereas before many people were expected to pay quarterly estimated taxes but may not have been--could be a timing thing)
    • Transfer Tax $750k higher than projected due to home sales being double what they were a year ago which is great news
    • Delinquent Taxes were $400k higher than projected but this is likely at least partially a reflection of timing and an offsetting reduction could be seen in 2012/13
    • State Transportation Subsidy $440k higher due to a prior reporting error
    • This ~$2.3M positive variance was offset by $300k lower than projected federal subsidies, $200k lower PSERS/FICA subsidies due to lower salary and associated expenses, and $150k lower current RE tax revenue
  • Expenses were $4.6M lower than projected due primarily to
    • $1M benefits savings due to realized gains from self insurance
    • Lower salary-related costs including $800k teacher salary-related savings (Regular Salary, Severance, Extra Duty, Sabbatical), $200k technical salary, $250k crafts/trades salary, $600k associated FICA/Retirement
    • $1M utility savings 
    • $200k maintenance projects
For the 2012/13 school year, expenses are currently projected to be ~$700k lower than budget primarily due to $782k lower projected benefit costs based upon historical results, $199k lower projected sabbatical payments, and $322k lower expected charter and other alternative ed tuitions; these positive projections are offset by $673k projected higher special ed costs.  There is an additional $2.7M in reduced debt service cost due to bond refinancing, and this has been reserved in a capital fund to be used for the elementary school renovations.  2012/13 revenues are also projected to be ~$500k better due to the final State Basic Education subsidy being higher than originally proposed by Governor Corbett. 

As a result of more favorable 11/12 and 12/13 years, the 13/14 budget is looking better as well, but the Business Office still needs to evaluate what savings are one time and which are sustainable before a more definitive picture of 13/14 can be presented.  Right now we are projecting a $5.4M deficit vs. the $9.8M deficit shown back in April, a $4.4M improvement.  The forecast model currently shows use of $4.9M from the fund balance to offset the majority of this deficit, but it is unlikely we will utilize that much of our fund balance given the significant shortfalls currently expected for the 3 following years (between $12M and $14M).  We can expect these numbers to evolve over the next several months, at which time some parameters will likely be set for how much can realistically be taken from the fund balance, what types of cuts will need to be made, and whether a tax increase will be needed for next year.

Next Facilities Director Kevin Campbell gave an informative presentation showing how our 4 major utility costs (electric, natural gas/oil, water, & sewer) have trended over the last 5 years.  In aggregate we have experienced a total 5 year decrease in utility costs of $1.5M/34%.  The most significant contributor to this was electric which was reduced by 39%/$1.2M; natural gas/oil showed a 36% cost decrease of $389k, and these 2 cost reductions were offset slightly by cost increases for water (up 8%/$19k) and sewer (up 27%/$45k).  The major contributors for each cost change are as follows:
  • Electric
    • deregulation of electrical supply, after which WCASD participated in alternative purchase processes such as partnering with Chester County as part of a consortium, utilizing the services of an energy broker, and negotiating rates on our own
    • conservation efforts adopted at all schools
    • participation in the Demand Response Program in which the district agrees to shut down power due to electrical grid demand (only required 3 times over the last 3 years)
  • Natural Gas/Oil
    • all time low costs for natural gas and resulting discontinuation of heating fuel oil
    • conservation efforts adopted at all schools
  • Water:  all water is provided by Aqua PA and they have received modest increases over the last 5 years
  • Sewer:  the Westtown Sewer Authority revised its rate structure for schools which nearly doubled our costs; it is at times like these that I lament being a Westtown Township resident as it seems our township continues to be the most difficult for the school district to work with.
Factors that could impact these costs going forward include:
  •  Electric
    • we are starting to see an increase in rates and our current pricing is only effective through 1/13
    • the installation of a/c at Penn Wood and Westtown-Thornbury will result in increased costs
    • Demand Response Program payments have some potential upside
    • positive impact from shale production
  • Natural Gas/Oil
    • natural gas prices are rising, however production from shale should help keep them contained
    • we had an extremely mild winter in 2011/12 which cannot be counted upon going forward
    • additional square footage due to the Penn Wood and Westtown-Thornbury renovations will result in higher costs
  • Water
    • Aqua PA is now working to persuade the Public Utilities Commission to increase their rates as much as 20%
    • WCASD will develop and implement a water conservation awareness program
  • Sewer
    • as part of its renovation process, W-T will be moving to public sewer which will increase our costs
    • the district will work with Westtown Township to see if they can revise our rates somewhat.
The next topic was the status of contract negotiations with School Media, the vendor chosen to facilitate the purchase of in-school advertising.  It seems several issues have brought finalization of this contract to a standstill:
  1. while WCASD can reject prospective ads for content, School Media will not allow us to be involved in where the ads are placed (within the parameters of predetermined spaces at each school)
  2. School Media insists on a 3 year contract as well as the stipulation that we will not contract with any other broker or advertiser for one year following the contract expiration, which effectively ties us to them for 4 years (even if they default on the contract); however, they do not guarantee to provide us a single acceptable advertisement, so we could spend 4 years with no advertising revenues and no alternatives; furthermore, they want agreement that any legal action will be remedied in Minnesota which could be a large financial risk to the district
  3. School Media will not provide a fee schedule for ads we accept, but will also not allow us to reject ads if their associated revenue is not sufficient
It appears this deal is dead unless School Media agrees to make some concessions, which they are not currently indicating they are prepared to do.  I agree with the board's decision to not move forward with the contract as it stands.  My only concern is that no other vendors are being considered at this time (since this is a new field) and the district will need to find a way to make up the shortage this lack of revenue will create in our budget (advertising was projected to generate between $200-$400k by the 15/16 school year).

Mr. Carpenter chose to discuss the second readings of new Policy DFF Grants from External Sources and revised Policy KDC Flyer Distribution jointly, although for what reason I'm uncertain since the only thing these 2 have in common is the large number of objections that have been raised against them. Perhaps he just wanted to get past them quickly.  I planned to ask (as I have on several occasions) why the policy states that grants should not impact the general fund budget (expenses) rather than focusing on total impact to the general fund (operating results), but frankly I did not have the energy to ask again knowing I would not get a straight answer.  As if almost reading my mind, Mr. Carpenter did clarify that these stipulations would be used for prioritizing rather than as firm requirements, however that made the summer's rejection of the the Keystone to Opportunity Grant that much more confusing since there was nothing else for that grant to be "prioritized" against.  Be that as it may, I believe we've made our point on this subject and will have to abandon any hope for a true explanation from the board.

Regarding the flyering policy, however, I was not feeling quite so acquiescent. The original intent of this policy was to outline how schools would handle requested dissemination of information that benefits students (such as non-district sports clubs). The Board has attempted to amend the policy to cover the flyering of cars since, let's be honest, this policy is being changed because some board members were displeased that West Chester VOTE did this during the last election. But they're trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. If you read the "Purpose" section of the policy, it states that any non-school organizations "seeking to have students participate in or be informed of the opportunity to participate in non-school-sponsored activities shall be governed by this policy". When WCV put flyers on cars we were not seeking to inform STUDENTS of anything, nor were we trying to make them aware of the opportunity to participate in any sort of activity. The policy says nothing about the flyering of personal automobiles.

There are other things that trouble me about this policy as well. How is it that campaign materials are listed as "prohibited materials" yet political organizations can rent district facilities and presumably distribute campaign materials on school grounds at the time? And why is there nothing about religious materials being "prohibited"? Could it be because an after-school “Bible Study” program run by a controversial fundamentalist group has rented space at one of our elementary schools and sent flyers home to recruit student participants?  One can only assume that the district was forced to allow this under the directives of the First Amendment.

People need to understand that information is getting out in our schools regardless of this policy, and some of it might be objectionable to some people. Although groups must add a disclaimer that they are not endorsed by the district, I believe that by virtue of the fact that a school sends something home there is an implied belief in the safety of what our children are being exposed to...but who gets to decide what is safe? My points are these: 1)the school cannot always control what information our kids get and 2)free speech allows the dissemination of information that everyone may not always agree with, but unless the information is so offensive as to be universally objectionable to all, why should the board get to decide what is and is not acceptable?
Other items discussed included:
  1. demolition of a structure situated on a parcel of land on West Boot Road that was obtained to hold a retention basin to handle storm water runoff from Mary C. Howse Elementary
  2. an arrangement for WCASD to obtain 10 hours/week on West Chester University's cable TV channel on Monday nights from 5-10pm and on Friday afternoons from 12-5pm (it was not clear exactly what the district intends to air but perhaps due to the Monday night timing we could see board meetings broadcast in the future)
  3. second reading of new Policy DJF Food and Beverage Expenditure Guidelines which outlines the use of school district funds for food and beverage expenses
  4. first reading of new policy DFAD Reverse Appeals which establishes procedures for the district to apply for reverse appeals on properties that are deemed to be under-assessed based upon recent sales prices, to insure that the tax burden is equitably distributed.
At the conclusion of the meeting the floor was opened for any "other business" comments or questions.  Two residents spoke:
  1. One resident brought the Negotiations Update newsletter he received and said that he took issue with the district spending tax money on something that he considered to be highly politicized and one sided.  Mr. Carpenter said that he would speak to the Negotiations Team and get back to him.  This response seemed somewhat strange, given he, Mr. Murphy, and Ms. Miller were all present and are the board members who sit on the Negotiations Team...who exactly is he going to talk to and what is he looking for them to tell him in order to respond to this gentleman?
  2. Another resident questioned the student/teacher ratios in the forecasting models as they didn't seem consistent with current class size policy, and was told that those he referred to were not used in the actual calculations of the model.  He then stated that he believes WCASD has an excessive number of resources for our less than 12,000 students and that he would like the administration to perform a study, I assume to see how we compare to other PA districts in regard to facilities vs. headcount.  Mr. Carpenter appeared to agree that this could be done. 
This gentleman's comments caught my attention due to other things I have heard him say in the past.  My first exposure to him was when the Community Budget Task Force findings were presented last December and he spoke for the Elementary Class Size Committee.  He appeared to fully support the increase of class size maximums by 3 students (although WCASD has the 3rd highest class sizes in Chester County), as well as other potential cost savings options outlined in the report such as "asking new students to attend another school if it would otherwise result in the need for another class, waiving the class size maximum if space allowed for another student and there was an experienced teacher willing to take on the extra work, and offering students who live close to an elementary school boundary the chance to volunteer to change schools if that would make a difference".   I did not attend the August Pupil Services/Education Committee meeting, but apparently at that time he stated that "a district that performs average at best" should not be spending so much money and I can only assume he thinks a good way to cut costs would be to increase class size.  Had I been there I would have taken issue with that statement:  WCASD ranks 5th out of the 12 Chester County districts in terms of PSSA scores and 35th in the state out of 500, all for the lowest millage in Chester County--I'd call that a pretty good value for your money...but that's just me. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

If nothing else, a lesson in acronyms

Combined Pupil Services & Education Committee Meetings, August 13:
In attendance: Board President Vince Murphy, Pupil Services Chair Dr. Maria Pimley and Pupil Services/Education Committee members Mrs. Snook and Mrs. Tiernan. Personnel Committee Chair Ms. Miller was also in attendance.   In the absence of Education Chair Mrs. Adsett, Dr. Pimley  rose to the task  of providing  professional and time-efficient leadership of both meetings. 

Pupil Services meeting begins with summary of Special Education ESY (extended school year) program by WCASD Special Education supervisors Mrs. Shacklady-White and Mrs. Phifer. The ESY program services 50-60 students per year and the accomplishments of our students in this program, along with the dedication of District staff were highlighted.  Two-fold question from Mrs. Snook:  How many full-time teachers are utilized in this program and how are “benchmarks” met?  Answer: 7 at elementary level, 8 at middle and 4 at high. ESY program is not about “benchmarks” – it is a “maintenance of skills” program for our students.   

Meeting continues with a  brief  Gifted and ELL ( English Language Learner) Curriculum Alignment presentation by Gifted  K-8/ELL  Program Supervisor Mrs. Verbovsky.  She reports  WCASD administration and staff are “working on” curriculum alignment for common core standards/Keystone exams.  Mrs. Verbovsky has received training from WIDA (World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment) to aid in her supervision of curriculum alignment in district. 

 Education Committee Meeting:
Assistant Superintendent/Director of Secondary Education Dr. Bertrando provides update on PA Common Core Standards/Keystone exams, topics most recently discussed at May’s Education Committee meeting.  For refresher on PA common core standards, visit http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/current_initiatives/19720/common_core_state_standards/792440

As in May, we hear from Supervisor of Mathematics, Mr. Kerr, who is joined by Supervisor of English Language Arts (ELA) Mrs. Elliott.  Dr. Bertrando introduces both administrators  as “thought leaders”, not only in the WCASD, but also on a state level, explaining that Mr. Kerr and Mrs. Elliott  have spent much time in Harrisburg during the past months, discussing implications of common core/Keystone exams  with their peers on a state level.  Apparently, Mrs. Elliott is also an educational  “thought leader” on a national level and we are fortunate to have her and Mr. Kerr in our district.   Both administrators  provide summaries and a  “Common Core Standards Fact Sheet” was distributed  as well as  Keystone Exams timeline (http://static.pdesas.org/Content/Documents/2012_Assessment_Transition_PowerPoint_v2.pdf).

Astute public comment questions Keystone timeline and wonders why the state is not recommending that non-11th grade students, who have completed Algebra 1 and Biology, take the Keystone Exam sooner instead of waiting until 11th grade.   For example, this year's sophomore class will have an entire year of no Biology and most  will have  3- 4 years of no Algebra 1.  In addition, there are current 8th grade students who took Algebra 1 in 2011-2012 who will not  have that particular Keystone exam until their junior year. Administration agreed this is certainly something the District will need to take into consideration in preparing our students for these tests.

For the sake of comparison, those in attendance were shown examples of PSSA and Keystone exam questions in both English Language Arts and Math.   Most noted there was more reading involved in the Keystone questions, both ELA and Math.  Dr. Pimley, while she appreciated the need to increase  “rigor”, questioned how we get a “bell curve” with the Keystone exams: will  there be questions that “99% of kids” can answer?  Interesting question,  and no one really had a definitive answer for her.

On August 15, Andrew Porter, Dean of Graduate School of Education at University of PA was on NPR (National Public Radio), addressing the question, “Why do we keep re-inventing education?” (http://whyy.org/cms/radiotimes/2012/08/15/the-common-core-standards-for-public-education/).  Porter feels that the United States tries something new in education every 10 years or so and is uncertain if we ever really give any strategy enough time to fully develop.  Interestingly, he spoke of common core standards as a “crazy idea” for the United States, commenting that the US Department of Education basically “bribed” states into adopting common core standards through Race To The Top (RTTT) funding.  He is surprised there has not been more public outcry on this “state’s rights” issue, and jokes with his interviewer that perhaps there will be after we begin to take the tests.

Porter’s professional opinion as to whether the common core standards are truly  “ratcheted up toward higher order thinking’’:  the math common core standards involve “about the same” higher order thinking as the average current state standards, whereas ELA common core standards are “a little more” higher order thinking than average current standards.   He is asked: “Are they too tough? " While Porter never directly answers this question, he laughingly states  he is “sure” that common core standards will “not be implemented in a way that is too tough”.    

So what exactly does common core  “implementation” look like in WCASD?  In contrast to Porter’s above remark, WCASD appears to continue to unveil quite a “tough” implementation  strategy. In the past months, we recall that WCASD has updated two textbooks to better align with common core standards.  At present,  district-wide committees are being formed, in both ELA and Math, to evaluate current resources and revise District curriculum to align with common core standards.  Committees will consist of  K-12 representatives, building principals, instructional coaches, ELL, Gifted and Special Education staff. In addition, all WCASD teaching staff will receive training through utilization of in-service days.  Keep in mind that ALL of this “implementation” is being accomplished by the WCASD staff during a “normal” school year.  We are grateful to all involved for ensuring our students are well prepared for this major educational “reinvention”.

Activity Fee Update -  communications have been distributed electronically, through newsletters, building principals, etc., so everyone participating in District activities should have Activity Fee information.  Some activities have started and payments are already being received.  Public comment asking for clarification:  if payment is not received by deadline,  District will contact family of student to assess reason, and not simply ban student from activity, true?  True, and if there is an  issue, family will be encouraged to apply for scholarship (the fund is now nearly $2000).  Follow up question:  if payment is late,  is  the coach the person who would contact family for payment?  No, responsibility would fall to school principal. Member of public remarks that is a lot to ask of principals who already have quite a lot of other responsibilities.   Duly noted.

Question from public:  realizing and respecting the great amount of work the District and Community task force put into the adoption of pay-to-play system, is it “too late to stop”?  Questioner reasoned that the activity fee is ultimately a “tax”, stating something to the effect that increasing revenue alone “never works”.  Dr. Pimley graciously explains that the activity fee was the result and decision of a Community Task Force and was voted on by full Board. She explains there was time for public comment on this matter before that vote was taken months ago. Questioner still asks for “two minutes of public comment” and Board President Mr. Murphy accommodates.  In those remarks, questioner cleverly manages to work in incendiary words/phrases such as  “negotiations”, “giving teachers raise”, etc.  Dr. Pimley calmly and professionally brings the meeting back to task, clarifying for the questioner that no one has been “given” ”anything and gently reminding him that  the Board and the West Chester Area Education Association are still in  “negotiations”.   Dr. Scanlon closes the activity fee discussion commenting that, at this point, the only way to “stop” the activity fee would be a full Board vote to revoke the system. 

Director of Elementary Education Dr. Missett ends the meeting with a discussion of 2012/13 district enrollment.  We are given both projected and actual enrollments as of August 8:  Elementary is projected at 5130, actual is 5016. Middle school is projected at 2786, actual 2764.  High school  is projected at 3899, actual 3857.  Staffing allocations reflect variance at all levels.  Dr. Missett admits there are a couple of “hot spots” in District, i.e., classes that may go over limit and require formation of additional section, and they are keeping an eye on the numbers.   There is a question  concerning  “six new teachers”.  Dr. Missett clarifies that the six positions are “open” - vacant due to teacher retirement and resignations – not “new”. Open positions will hopefully be confirmed by August Board meeting.

Agenda nears end with a question from Mrs. Snook to Dr. Bertrando concerning  field trip costs:  would it be possible, without too much trouble, to get a listing of how much the District spends on field trips?  Dr. Bertrando admits it may not be an easy task because the District does not actually fund field trips.  Field trips are most often subsidized by student and/or volunteer fundraising.  The real cost to the District is the cost of providing substitute teachers during field trips.  Someone mentions the DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America, an association of marketing students) trip and Dr. Bertrando notes that DECA is a District student group and any District costs associated with that trip  could certainly be supplied to Mrs. Snook.  Mrs. Snook is still curious and “down the road” would like to see a cost breakdown of District field trips. 

And for that "road", one final acronym: NAEP (National Association of Educational Progress).   East, Fugett and Peirce were chosen to take these tests during the 2012/13 school year. 
Busy, busy.