Monday, December 3, 2012

'Tis the Season

As we enter into the "Holiday Season" we reflect upon the gifts we have been given in the past and create a new wish list. In the WCASD, we are blessed with a fabulous slate of administrators, talented teachers, the lowest taxes in the county and some of the top schools in the state. We are also fortunate to have thriving communities along with great property values. People want to move to West Chester because of the schools; whether for academics, sports, or both, the WCASD has much to offer.

A large part of the November meeting paid tribute to Marc Bertrando and the gift he has been to our school district.  Dr. Bertrando ends his 20 year career at the WCASD and begins anew as Superintendent at Garnet Valley. Dr. Scanlon began his remarks about Bertrando's time in our District by going over interview notes from Marc's progression from English teacher to Assistant Superintendent.  He pointed out that Dr. Bertrando was continually recognized over the years for leading by example with focus and enthusiasm for student achievement.  Many Board Members followed suit in expressing their admiration for Marc's commitment to education and our District.  We all wish Dr. Bertrando well as he begins his new position.  Garnet Valley has a Board that will be amenable to Administration and their expertise when making decisions to better education for their children while balancing the needs of the community. I am sure a favorable educational climate will enhance the gifts that Marc Bertrando will bring to their District.

The District posted the highlights of the November Board Meeting.  All agenda items passed unanimously.  All committee meetings were covered in the previous blogs.

Mrs. Snook, our Legislative Representative and PSBA Liaison, said that it was a quiet time, in general, for legislation.  Although, she again reminded us of the impending doom of the "fiscal cliff". She recommended visiting the PSBA site to find out what is going on.

Hopefully we Pennsylvanians will receive a gift soon.  Our State is FINALLY choosing to seek a waiver from the federal "No Child Left Behind" legislation, which in its current form calls for ALL students (regardless of the studen't learning ability) to test proficient in reading and math on annual state achievement exams by 2014. 
Pittsburgh Post Gazette - No Child Left Behind Waiver Sought by Pennsylvania
DLN - PA to Seek Waiver from No Child Left Behind

Mrs. Tiernan, our Charter/Cyber School liaison, reported that she visited most of the charter and cyber schools that WCASD children attend and plans to visit the schools in our District in order to form a comparison.  She noted a recent update about a change in how Charter Schools calculate AYP. It was determined that Education Secretary Ron Tomalis did not wait for federal approval when he made the change that made it easier for charter schools to meet federal testing benchmarks than traditional public schools over the summer at the bequest of the charter school industry. The change may have inflated the success rate of charter schools because testing rules were more lenient for charter schools, The federal government ordered the state Department of Education, by January, to recompute and publicize charter schools' 2011-12 AYP grades in the same manner as public schools.  Click here to read more about this. She also said that our School Board will be hearing an application for a new charter school trying to open in our District at the next school board meeting on December 17th.

Comments from Residents:
Once again, in a prepared statement, Mr. Murphy, our Board President, read an update on the status of negotiations. I'm not sure if it is the intention of the PR Firm hired to write these statements or not, but they are always very condescending in my opinion.  Coupled with the fact that our School Board Members REFUSE to actually attend the negotiations sessions in spite of the many pleas from teachers and taxpayers, I can see why the teachers feel disrespected. Mr. Murphy even chuckled along with the teachers when he read the part about how a new contract would be a wonderful holiday gift to the teachers, students and taxpayers. Board Statement

Deb Fell, WCAEA teachers union President, found  Mr. Murphy’s comments to be disappointing and was hoping to have discussions at the bargaining table and not at board meetings. She asked that they put aside their differences and work together to reach a settlement.  She questioned if it was the intent of the Board to continually paint the teachers association in a bad light to the public and called for him to be truthful. According to Fell the teachers have moved almost 19 million in givebacks from the association’s original proposal while the board has not changed their offer either monetarily or in contract language from the initial proposal submitted by the Board. Ms. Fell respectfully requested that the board begin to truly negotiate and not just dictate. She quoted a comment from a the previous board meeting, “two monologues do not make a dialogue”.  Ms. Fell concluded that she feels this board does not appear to be interested in coming to a fair and equitable settlement with the teacher’s association.  

She's got a valid point since the school board has yet to show any interest in attending the negotiations meetings. I guess this is what happens when the Board Members on the Negotiations Team have no ties to the District.  Although maybe one of them benefits from the high property values in West Chester, none of them have kids in the school district. It makes no difference to them.

Two West Chester Area School District parents expressed concern over the sexual content in the novel "Water for Elephants". The novel was said to be required reading for some Henderson sophomores. One parent began  reading a particularly explicit passage aloud. The concerned parent did not make an opening statement and only prefaced her comments with a plea to dismiss “the children”.  She read way too long before Mr. Murphy even attempted to stop her.    The seemingly drowsy Board President appeared to finally wake up when he heard the word  “vulva”.  He then asked her to make her point.  Dr. Scanlon offered her a personal appointment to discuss. It was also noted that the content of the book was determined to be handled with sensitivity in the classroom and that an alternate book is offered to those who wanted it. 
To read more:
Patch - Parents Complain about Book's Content

So, while we prepare for the holidays this year, in the spirit of the season, we thought about what we'd like for our School District and created our own wish list:
  • Repeal of NCLB and Race to the Top high stakes testing that squanders limited time and financial resources  
  • Decision making that balances the cost of items with the educational value they provide to students, and includes more transparency of thought process
  • A responsible state education budget supported by pension and charter school reform by Governor Corbett
  • Finalization of the  teacher contract so that focus can be redirected toward the important issues facing our district
  • An end to self-serving, divisive, politicized behavior by board members
  • A board whose first concern is our students not union busting.
  • A board more united around concern for our students than their connection to the taxpayer
  • A board with connection to students and teachers of WCASD not the Chester County Republican Party
  • A board that respects and trusts education professionals understanding everyone can be fiscally responsible
  • A board that respects and understands WCASD and public education
  • A board who respects the superintendent and administration by providing governance and oversight through harmony and honesty
  • A board capable of making decisions based on what is good for our kids, their education and their future, guide the public in understanding, and take responsibility for decisions
If you'd like to read more about the school board meeting:
DLN - Both sides of WCASD negotiations hoping to reach settlement
Patch - School Board President Optimistic


  1. Great review, commentary and wish list. Cannot believe we're finally applying for the waiver! Did the number of computers/proctors needed pushed the powers that be over the edge? I'd love to hear more about the process and what the expected outcome is/what it means for testing in 2012-13.

  2. Thanks, Christy! I heard the State was holding out to see who won the Presidential election before they applied for the waiver. I'm glad things are moving forward in a positive direction. I will post any articles about testing. My son is taking the Keystone exam for Algebra I today even though he completed the class last year. Sophomores and Juniors also have to take it. Here is one article I found on the PSBA website:,0,6254771.story