Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Promises, Promises

The full board meeting was held on Tuesday, March 25, 2013. Due to the inclement weather conditions, the student reports and student and staff recognition were postponed until the April 22nd meeting. Tuesday's meeting moved along quickly as most items were on the consent agenda. Two significant items were addressed. The first item was a board goal to maintain the current millage rate resulting in no property tax increase and the second item was an update on the teacher contract negotiations.

Below is the board goal as stated in the Property and Finance Committee Action Items for Monday, March 25, 2013:
Approval is requested for the Board to establish a goal for the preliminary budget that maintains the current 2012-13 millage rate, in consideration of cautiously optimistic economic indicators and our ability to maintain or increase our educational programs and services.

Mr. Carpenter indicated data would continue to be reviewed for increasing revenues and to see how expenses have come in. He stated a consistent millage rate would be a win-win overall. Let’s hope he is correct and the detailed budget presentation in April reveals efficiencies and revenue gains not yet factored into the monthly committee meeting financial presentation. Otherwise, approximately $4.3 million dollars from the fund balance savings account will be used to balance the 2013-2014 budget.

During public comment at the beginning of the meeting, Dr. Ricky Swalm, the former Board President, made the following remarks regarding millage maintenance:
I stand before you tonight to ask you to reconsider your Budget Goal as written in tonight’s Property and Finance report. While I realize a goal is not necessarily the final outcome, it does set in motion a position from which one guides one’s actions. If you do indeed follow through with your 0 millage increase you are in effect subjecting this district to what is akin to the affordable care act. You front-load the issue with attractive bait (no tax increase) to get everyone to bite (vote for those of you who are rerunning) and then in the out years everyone pays the consequences (not only must taxes increase because you painted the district into a corner, but you robbed Peter to pay Paul using the fund balance). David Copperfield would be proud of you. With a slight of hand you claim we can do this this year but fail to care enough about the next three years to weigh them against your decision. The only reason you are in this homeostasis this year is because you had the foresight last year to increase taxes (even though you took an oath not to do so when last you ran) so during the current election year you can play to the crowd. I prefer you play to the future and not write IOUs against our children’s futures or you are no better than Washington who has also mortgaged our children’s futures at the expense of current comfort. We as the caretakers of this District owe them much more. We owe them our best efforts and we owe them futures unimpeded by partisan politics.

Before the vote, Mr. Carpenter took exception to Dr. Swalms’s comments by remarking in years past there has been talk of politics and partisanship regarding raising taxes not being accurate yet the 8 sitting directors who were endorsed by the Republican Party all voted yes to support the millage maintenance goal. Mrs. Tiernan voted no to pass the goal and read the following statement:
Last Monday night I was surprised to hear Mr. Carpenter’s motion to hold taxes to 0% in the coming budget. Why does his motion concern me? We have not yet seen the preliminary budget for next year. That is on the agenda for April. We are negotiating a contract with our teachers. We are reminded each month by our own board members that the economy may not have completely recovered. We do know that PSERS costs will increase, as will health care costs. Dr. Scanlon told us at the P&F meeting that we could, indeed, live with a 0% tax increase this year, but the reality is we will have to have a tax increase the next 3-4 years in order to survive. Holding to a 0% tax increase this year may seem like an attractive option, but like all financial decisions, it has consequences for the future of our district. We are borrowing somewhere around 4 million dollars from our fund balance so that we can have this 0% tax increase. Had we engaged in a vigorous public conversation about this motion, I would have said that I’d prefer a modest increase this year to put us in an even stronger position as we face the next 3-4 years. Let us see the budget next month. Let us work out a contract with our staff. Let us be careful and look 3-4 years down the road as we budget. My vote on this motion is no.

Mr. Murphy read the following negotiations update which is available on the District website:
With state mediator Robert Brinbrauer in attendance, the West Chester Area School Board and West Chester Area Education Association Negotiating Teams held a bargaining session on February 20, 2013.

Although both sides remain far apart with regard to total cost of a contract, the Board and Association have agreed to delay the scheduling of the next negotiating session. Both sides are well aware of Governor Corbett's attempt to modify the current pension system and the impact this would have in the cost of future contracts. If the Governor is successful in his effort to modify the existing pension legislation and essentially freeze existing employees under the old system, the District’s cost in funding the Public School Employee Retirement System (PSERS) program could be reduced.

As a result of the recently proposed governor’s budget, the Board has agreed to wait and see what might transpire with the state budget before scheduling another negotiating session.

Corbett’s budget proposal for the upcoming year addresses the pension issue by cutting the contribution rate for the state and local school districts for the next 5 years. The Governor justifies the reduction based on pension reforms for current and future employees. Current employees will see a reduction in future benefits while future employees will enter into a new 401(k) style plan. It appears our Board has elected to follow our Governor’s lead, placing much emphasis on pension reform to alleviate the need for tax increases and help solve our contract negotiations. In January 2013 Governor Corbett cautioned he would not cut funding to basic education assuming some pension reforms got done. Just leaves one question, what happens if nothing happens?

Monday, March 25, 2013

Beware of Those Bearing Gifts

March 18th Property and Finance Committee Meeting

In attendance: Committee Chair Sean Carpenter and members Ed Coyle, Karen Miller and Maureen Snook. Also in attendance were Board President Vince Murphy, Linda Raileanu, and Sue Tiernan.  Heidi Adsett did not attend (nor did she attend the prior week's Education and Pupil Services committee meetings of which she is a member). 
Well, I thought I was attending the March Property and Finance Meeting, but apparently I was attending a political campaign kick-off for board members Sean Carpenter, Ed Coyle, and Maria Pimley who are seeking reelection.  More on that in a moment....
It was a large agenda, but the majority of the items were housekeeping related and did not require a lot of discussion.  They fell into the categories of partial roof replacements for Glen Acres Elementary and Stetson Middle schools, ongoing renovation work at Penn Wood and East Bradford, and selection of an architect for the upcoming Fern Hill renovations.  All costs came in less than projected and all passed 4-0.  We also learned that due to this work Stetson, Westtown-Thornbury, Penn Wood, and East Bradford will be closed over the summer.
The PlanCon process which is the means by which public school building projects are reviewed, approved, and subsidized by the state is slated to remain in moratorium for new applications for yet another year.  As a result, it will be at least another year before the district can submit reimbursements for the Westtown-Thornbury, Penn Wood, and East Bradford renovations.  We don't qualify for a large subsidy due to the "wealth" of our district.  Furthermore, the amount allocated for reimbursement of those projects already in the State’s pipeline is insufficient, so it will not be possible to subsidize all current projects.
An updated Budget Forecast Model was presented, although not much time was spent discussing it.  There were no changes to the 12/13 projection and negligible changes to the 13/14 forecast. There are a few inconsistencies in the model presentation, however the P&F committee is unwilling to give the business manager the direction to make those changes—explanations were that this is how the model works and this is how the Board wants to see the data.  I have a background in financial management so have significant experience with the presentation of numbers to various audiences.  If you want to see a LOT of detail on the WCASD financials, this model will give you that.  However, if you want to give your average taxpayer a high level, easily understandable look at the financial health of the district without making their eyes glaze over, I'm not sure this is the best approach. This model is too detailed for high level dialogue that a board meeting is meant to solicit, and additionally could use some reengineering to ensure consistency and thus confidence.
And then the Campaign Kick-Off commenced during the "Approval of Board Budget Goals" agenda item.  Sean Carpenter stated he would like to see the board pass a 0% tax increase this year, and he and the other board members then explained their support of this proposal (they were all very well prepared so clearly this had been discussed in advance).  These included:
  • positive economic indicators (higher employment, more home sales) driving increases to Earned Income Tax and Transfer Tax; I am not certain whether these revenue increases are currently reflected in the forecast, and the current projected increases in transfer and earned income taxes do not fully fund our expense growth with or without the PSERs expense
  • continual tax increases may result in more home reassessments and the result could be a decrease in tax revenues; to this Mr. Carpenter asked to see appeals data at next month's meeting
  • businesses will be hard hit when healthcare reform takes effect in 2014 and as a result there will be less discretionary spending
  • Dr. Scanlon just happened to have some achievement data readily available for the 2009-2012 time period which just happens to be the period the board members up for re-election have been on the board; this data showed increases in state rankings, AP Honor Role recognition, and SAT scores above the national and state averages
Thus we were treated with a first peek at their 2013 election Platform:  we cut spending, we held taxes, and we still increased academic performance.  Sounds like a winning formula to me folks, I guess we should just pack up and call it an election.  Except...I do have some concerns.

After the speeches, Dr. Scanlon was asked for his opinion; he was clearly weighing his words very carefully.  He confirmed that yes we can create a balanced budget this year with no tax increase, but we will not be able to afford to do this for more than one year.  A Daily Local article stated the following:  "At the same time Scanlon pointed to the ongoing academic successes in the district and cautioned that may not be possible in future years without tax increases.  "I can almost guarantee I will be recommending a tax increase next year in order to maintain those level of rigor and academic standards,” Scanlon said" (http://www.dailylocal.com/article/20130319/NEWS01/130319545/w-chester-school-district-mulls-no-tax-increase-budget#full_story).  Dr. Scanlon also reminded the board of the need to bring on some middle school math specialists to address the requirements of the Keystones and Common Core, as well as the desire to maintain class sizes.  Mr. Carpenter acknowledged his points, but somehow I doubt we'll be hearing much about the Superintendent's warning that this cannot be sustained during the campaign, only the fact that this group secured it (as they also coincidentally did 2 years ago when 6 board seats were up for election, yet did not do last year when they raised taxes 1.7% and it was not an election year).

Many things impacting our long term financial health were not discussed: 
  • with no property tax increase we will need to take $4.3M out of the district's "bank account" to balance our budget
  • while our fund balance is currently healthy and that $4.3M is only about 20% of the portion we could use for this purpose, it does not take the next several years into account when the PSERS expense is projected to grow exponentially and our shortfall forecast to grow from $4.3M in 13/14 to a combined total of approximately $41M for the 3 years after that; thus, using this amount of fund balance without at least trying to make any cuts or find any alternative revenue sources this year is very short sited, akin to kicking the financial problems down the road as has been done with the unfunded PSERS balance; Act 1 limits property tax increase so we could find ourselves in a position where we cannot raise enough money to address our shortfalls and thus will be forced into cuts that might have been avoided with a more forward thinking approach to budgeting and transparent dialogue with taxpayers
  • we have no contract in place with the teachers; while salary increases and healthcare savings have been factored in for the other employees based upon their recently settled contracts, no expense changes have been factored in for teachers which could be considered risky
  • We have recently lost 3 top level administrators and cannot be sure there won't be additional costs required to cut off the exodus of critical management skills
  • the state's budget will not be finalized until the end of June, so we will be solidifying our budget based upon an aggressive approach by the Governor that must be vetted by the state legislature; as discussed in last month's blog, this could result in a negative shift in our budget of as much as $1M 
  • it was recently reported that the sale of the state liquor licenses will now go into a special fund instead of being dedicated to education initiatives, resulting in an increased burden to the local taxpayer
  • there was no discussion of the impact of PSERs reform on the budget, nor consideration of the significant post 13-14 projected shortfalls
So, at least now my question has been answered regarding why the board did not consider any cuts this year.  It would be hard to justify making cuts and then turning around and saying we are in such a great financial position that we don't need to raise taxes.  Of course, making that claim while in the midst of teacher negotiations doesn't seem like the most prudent move either.  Although I am not privy to the level of information that the board is, as a close follower of the district's financial status I can't help but feel that this decision was politically motivated and not based upon consideration of the long term outlook for our schools.  As the schools go, so do the community and property values.  As a parent and homeowner, that makes me very, very nervous.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

In like a lamb

A quiet month so far:

Pupil Services Committee meeting:

Committee members in attendance: Chair Linda Raileanu, Susan Tiernan, Maria Pimley
Non-committee members in attendance:  Board President Vince Murphy, Vice President Karen Miller, Ed Coyle

Review of WCASD alternative education program
An overview of this program, offered by Transformational Education Academy housed at Melton Center, was presented at October 2012 Pupil Services meeting. What Dr. Ranieri provided at this meeting was a  follow-up assessment of whether or not the District has met the original goals, set by earlier task force,  concerning alternative education in the district:  
  • bring students back to the district (Least Restrictive Environment)
  • increase graduation rates of students in AE programs
  • provide quality program utilizing district curriculum - if AE students are being taught district curriculum, it is much easier to transition them back into district schools.
Board VP Karen Miller questions why the District still uses some outside alternative education providers. Dr. Ranieri explains the types of AE, noting that not all services can be provided through TEA/District.  For example, a student may be injured, requiring him/her to spend prolonged time in the hospital.  In such a  case, the district is responsible to educate that student and it obviously cannot be done “in house”.  Dr.  Ranieri  explains another situation where students may have been involved in the same incident and  need to be schooled in separate environments.  Both Ed Coyle and Linda Raileanu suggest that the District and Mr. Van Vooren (TEA director) co-author a survey to assess parent/student satisfaction with TEA.  Mr. Van Vooren states that he did distribute a survey last year and received only 2 responses, but both were positive and he will be happy to work with Dr. Ranieri on future surveys.   The Board unanimously approved  the 3 year renewal of contract for TEA to be housed at the Melton Center (the District pays rent to the Center).

March Education Committee meeting:

Committee Members in attendance;  Chair Maria Pimley, Susan Tiernan, Linda Raileanu
Non committee members in attendance:  Board President Vince Murphy, Vice President Karen Miller, Ed Coyle

Kindergarten update
Dr. Missett reports that Kindergarten registration was successful.  Over 500 families registered for a total of approximately 673 kindergarteners.  Such a good turnout for early registration allows WCASD to better prepare for staffing.  This year, students will be assessed in June so the District can make informed placements and children will know their teachers before the start of school.  Families who register June -August will be assessed in order to be placed before start of school.

A Child’s Place, the District’s before/after care provider will pilot a half-day program to offset kindergarten.  The program will run at Starkweather, East Bradford and Fern Hill and will reinforce the WCASD curriculum. The child will not be graded on work completed in the Child’s Place program, but a portfolio will be kept.  Child’s Place has hired a supervisor for the WCASD and certified teachers will run the program at all 3 schools.  The classes will hold a maximum of 25 students for AM and PM and placement will be based on a lottery system to ensure fairness.  Dr. Missett states there are currently about 50 children signed up.  The children will eat lunch at school with the first grade. In addition, students will be using school playgrounds, but Child’s Place employees will be responsible for oversight. She clarifies that building principal and staff will not be responsible for this program and the district will not provide transportation to/from the participating schools for students attending from other District elementary schools-  that remains the parent’s responsibility. A Child’s Place leases facilities from WCASD and parents pay tuition directly to Child’s Place, thus it is a revenue-producing venture.  

Chester County Family Academy Charter renewal

This K-2 charter school, located on East Gay Street,  was one of the first in PA, originating in 1997.  It offers a year round 8AM-4PM program for approximately 60 children.  By admission, Family Academy offers “responsive support to low income challenges”.  Dr. Scanlon and Dr. Missett have asked for the school’s annual report and are planning a visit. The Board will ultimately vote to renew charter or not by April board meeting.

Update of PA School Performance Profile

Dr. Fraser reported on this evaluation tool at February Education Committee, promising to give more detail this month.  In light of the fact that PA Dept. of Education has postponed the School Performance Profile until fall 2013, opting to use 2012-13 data instead of 2011-12 data, Dr. Fraser has elected to postpone his analysis.   He does elaborate on one of the data elements of the profile, “Closing the Achievement Gap”. As discussed last month, this  particular measure will be cumulative, with “success” defined as closing one-half of the gap for “all students” and “historically underperforming students” over a six year period.   Dr. Fraser also explains that, in an effort to  identify  “gaps”  more efficiently,  PA has lowered the minimum number of students to be considered:   From PDE:

 “To include more students in the accountability system, Pennsylvania has lowered from 40 to 11 the minimum number of students to be considered (known as n size) for both reporting and accountability purposes. The State combines historically underperforming students into a gap group to increase accountability. For example, a school with only five students with disabilities, three English Language Learners, and three economically disadvantaged students will be counted in the historically underperforming students with this lowered n count of 11; thus, this change will help to identify existing gaps in more schools.”

At this point, there is a question from Linda Raileanu concerning the composition of these smaller "gap groups".  She cites particular ethnic groups, noting they are likely to be in the "historically underperforming" group, and verifies with Dr. Fraser they would be accounted for in the new system.  While one is confident that Ms. Raileanu was indeed simply attempting to clarify "gap groups"  and confirm those students are included,  some in the room heard, and sadly took away,  the opposite of her query.

Dr. Fraser feels there will be additional changes to the Profile and will keep us updated.  He also informs us that PA has officially submitted an ESEA flexibility request (NCLB waiver) to US Department of Education and there are no surprises: Common Core/Keystones, teacher evaluation and PA Performance Profile are included.  Confused as to exactly how these systems correspond to Pennsylvania’s request for flexibility?   Simply put, a state waiver asks for “flexibility” in meeting the “federally-defined principles” of NCLB:  college and career readiness, supporting effective leadership and state accountability.  The Common Core/Keystone assessments claim to support college and career readiness, the state’s new teacher and principal evaluation system proposes to support effective leadership and the PA Performance Profile serves as an accountability system. The waiver was submitted on February 28 - a summary can be viewed here. For the complete version, visit PDE,  click Forms and Documents on left menu and enter “ESEA waiver” in Forms Search.

 Adoption of Middle School Math Textbook
Math Supervisor Ian Kerr reports on the selection of Math In Focus textbook by textbook selection committee, per WCASD Policy IFAA.  Mr. Kerr tells us the book is both concrete and pictorial, emphasizing  “multiple representations of numbers” and will align nicely with Common Core standards.  Mr. Kerr commends Dr. Pimley, who served as the Board representative on the selection committee, for allowing changes to the selection rubric, making it more “math-specific”.  For Dr. Pimley , this was the first time she served on a textbook selection committee and she expresses her enjoyment of being involved, not only as a “math nerd”,  but as a parent with a child entering middle school.  She also notes the positive feedback she has received from teachers.  Along with the adoption of the new textbook, the Board suggests the District offer parent “help” sessions in order to support the textbook’s home use.  Mr. Kerr agrees that the District could provide orientation sessions for parents.  Math in Focus was unanimously adopted by committee.

Before it is over, please remember March is Women’s History Month! 
If you have not done so already, please take some time to remember, honor and celebrate women in history.  Visit the online exhibits at the National Women’s History Museum  http://www.nwhm.org/online-exhibits/

Thursday, March 14, 2013

More of the Same

February 25th Property and Finance Committee MeetingIn attendance: Committee Chair Sean Carpenter and members Karen Miller and Maureen Snook. Also in attendance were Board President Vince Murphy, Linda Raileanu, Sue Tiernan, and Heidi Adsett. Committee Member Ed Coyle did not attend.

There was only one topic on the agenda in addition to the approval of last month's meeting minutes, and the meeting was quite short.  There were approximately 10 audience members in attendance.

Before the meeting began, Mr. Scully, Assistant Director of Business Affairs, informed us that he would be leaving WCASD in April.  Mr. Scully is the 3rd high level administrator to leave WCASD in recent months, a somewhat alarming trend.

Dr. Moore then lead the group through a discussion on the recently released Governor's Budget for next year and what it means for WCASD.  Here are the highlights:
  • state basic education funding was increased by $90M, a 1.7% increase, and WCASD's basic education subsidy was increased by $175k
  • if the Governor is able to sell the state’s liquor store system, he has proposed using $1B of this for a new block grant initiative called “Passport for Learning” which would award grants to school districts for expenditures in areas such as school security, preschool education, and grade 6-12 STEM programs
  • Special Education was flat funded for the 6th consecutive year, and because $10M has been moved to a contingency fund, school districts will see a small decrease in their special ed subsidies this year (WCASD will receive ~$20k less)
  • the Accountability Block Grant has been level funded again after being cut by 60% in 2011
  • critical subsidy items that were eliminated in prior years such as charter school reimbursements, intermediate unit funding, and school improvement grants have not been even partially reinstated so overall education funding is still far behind what it was in prior years
  • It is interesting to note that the administrative budget for the PA Council on the Arts received a 3.7% increase and the PA Historical and Museum Commission received a 3.8% increase
How, you might ask, was Governor Corbett able to balance his budget without any cuts to education as we have seen for the past 2 years since he took office?  Corbett has come up with his own pension reform plan which he claims creates short term savings as well as long term structural changes.  A key part of Corbett’s reform would further reduce already suppressed pension contributions from 4.5 percent annual growth to 2.25 percent annual growth – this would achieve $175M in “savings” (delayed expense) this year and further savings over the next five years.  However, the unfunded liability will come due eventually and will continue to grow.  But this approach would allow both WCASD and the state to collectively spend almost $2M less on our district’s pension costs next year and amounts greater than that for the following 3 years.

At first glance this sounds like great news, right?  Less $ put into pensions means more $ for our kids' educations.  There are 2 problems with this "reform" however:
  1. this is not "reform" in that it does not address the actual problem which is that the PSERS system is woefully underfunded, the state does not have the money to address the shortfall, and the magnitude of the underfunding is simply too great to put on the backs of taxpayers; all this proposal does is DELAY the problem, however, and put off the inevitable pain yet again; we don't need another delay, we need a CHANGE to this system which is not sustainable as is
  2. Governor Corbett cannot unilaterally decide to make this funding change on his own, he must get the legislature to buy into it; in fact, he has publicly stated that if the legislature does not adopt these pension reforms then the basic education subsidy will be cut
So what could it mean for West Chester's state funding if the legislature does not buy into this idea of kicking the can down the road once more?  We know it would go down, but the exact amount is not certain because there is more than one way to estimate the impact.  Based upon a very aggressive methodology (and one I maintain does not sufficiently reflect the potential risk), since WCASD's basic education subsidy is calculated as 0.13% and the current proposed budget underfunds next year's state PSERS obligation by $154M, you could argue that our share of the $154M shortfall would be 0.13% which equates to ~$201k.  However, if you consider that the 2013-14 proposed budget includes $964k less than West Chester would receive per the current mandated PSERS rate, you could also reason that without the governor's pension reform we could actually lose that much from our state funding; this is a much more conservative estimate yet a very possible risk.  Either way, be it as low as $201k or as high as $964k, it will more than wipe out the $175k Basic Ed increase currently being projected for us.  What the governor has done is actually quite ingenious--no one is jumping up and down as they did after the initial budget draft was released the last 2 years because on paper it looks like schools will be getting a slight increase to their funding rather than the cuts we were seeing...and if it turns out that the changes to pension funding are not made and schools actually experience funding cuts yet again, well that will be the legislature's fault for not doing what it was asked to do...right?
Dr. Moore then presented that if this first draft of the budget was to pass without any changes, our projected shortfall for next year would decrease from $4.3M to $3.2M.  This could be partially offset with a tax increase no higher than 1.7%, with the remainder (or the entire amount) being addressed using our existing fund balance.  I felt the need to bring up the same issue I raised last month.  With or without this so-called "pension reform", we still have a multi-million dollar shortfall to address.  Given the board's objective to have a draft budget pass in April, any expense cuts or revenue enhancements should have been presented by now; since none have, one can only assume that the board is targeting neither.  The logical question is why?  There are numerous potential cost saving measures remaining from the last budget task force--why are they not being vetted?  Have we determined that there are no reasonable cuts remaining?  The pension reform that the governor has proposed will actually serve to increase the overall cost of the pensions, so the costs are not going away; while we do have enough fund balance to cover next year's costs, that will not be the case for the next several years when these costs become even higher.  So, couldn't the choice to use such a large amount of our savings in lieu of any cost cutting investigation be considered short sighted and financially irresponsible?

Similar to last month, no answer was provided.  There was talk about the capacity of the various committees to pursue any cost cutting measure they chose, but these committees are not some abstract group of people somewhere else--they are the very same people who were currently in the room, and none of them voiced any intention of pursuing any changes (yet they also would not confirm that no reasonable money saving options remain).  And so I remain baffled on exactly what the long term financial plan of this board really is--do they have one, or are they simply trying not to rock the boat as we go into Primary season with 3 current members running for re-election?  We can only wait and see, and hope that the financial health of our district does not become the casualty of a political strategy.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

What Some Might Find Interesting

West Chester Area School District Board Meeting, Meeting Held February 25, 2013

Time has gotten away from me, so I will just focus on the big issues.

  • Although there was no statement read by board president this month regarding negotiations with the teacher's union, the following is on the district website:
February 21, 2013 - A negotiation session was held on Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at the Spellman Administration Building. The West Chester Area Education Association and School Board negotiating representatives met to discuss open issues regarding a new contract. While no imminent solution was reached, both sides continue to work towards an agreement. No date has as yet been established for the next negotiating session.
  • On Thursday, February 14th Sean Carpenter and Simon Campbell were guests on a WCHE radio show - Sheepdog Hour hosted by fellow Tea Partier Rich Davis. From what I gather, the two school board members are having a row.  Mr. Campbell is upset with our school board for not following his lead in dealing with our unions.  Apparently, Daryl Metcalfe (a state representative from the Pittsburgh area) has asked all school board members in the state to not sign contracts in order to send a message to Harrisburg in regards to Right to Work Issues. Mr. Campbell was interested in learning more about a conversation Mr. Carpenter had with Chester County Republican Chairman Val DiGiorgio. Campbell asked at least four times if he and Board President, Mr. Murphy, had ever discussed teacher negotiations with the Party Leader.  Mr. Carpenter's answers ranged from "I don't know what you're talking about," to "No," and then finally "Yes." Interesting, indeed.  Mr. Carpenter also talks about all the money saved by settling 2 of the 3 union contracts.  But, how much money are we losing by the board refusing to negotiate and settle the teacher's contract? If you have 48 minutes to spare, give it a  listen.
  • As part of Maureen Snook's legislative report, we were reminded that Governor Corbett's budget proposal has been unveiled.  She also talked about HB 2 which deals with Special Education and segued into alerting us about some interesting talk going on in Washington about disbanding all school sports and making them clubs.  What??? I needed more information, so I decided to research and found nothing.   I then emailed Mrs. Snook to find out the source of this little nugget that she threw into her report. I haven't gotten any further info, just a promise for her to look into it.

On Tuesday, Feb 26, 2013, at 3:15 PM  
Dear Mrs. Snook,  
You, indeed, peaked my curiosity with your interesting legislative report.  Can you please direct me to the source of your information about the disbanding of all school sports and making them clubs?  I would like to learn more about it. 
Thanks for your help.
Dana Seaman

Sent: Sunday, March 3, 2013 6:52 PM
Hello Ms. Seaman and thank you for the inquiry.  
We have a CCIU legislative council meeting this coming week and I will inquire about the federal government "suggestion" regarding the status of school sports.  
Thanks again!  
Maureen Snook 
Maureen Craig Snook
Director, West Chester Area School Board liaison, Legislation and PSBA

Sent: Monday, March 04, 2013 6:43 AM 
Dear Mrs. Snook,    
Although I appreciate your response, it still doesn't answer my question.  Can you please supply me the source of the information about the "suggestion" of disbanding all inter-scholastic sports in the schools and making them all clubs?  I would think that the words did not just appear on the paper that you read at the school board meeting and that you did some research on the subject while preparing the report.
As an elected official, you have an obligation to all stakeholders in this community.  I have tried numerous sources of finding this information to no avail.  I do, however, find it completely unethical for you to include information in your reports that has no basis.  
Thank you for your help in clearing up this matter.
Dana Seaman

  • Yet another one of our administrators will be moving on from the WCASD.  John Scully, Assistant Director of Business Affairs, will be leaving in April to go to another district. We wish him much peace and happiness in his new position.  Good luck Mr. Scully!

  • The Whole Life Charter School application was denied. (see articles below)
  • There were only 3 public comments.  All teachers asking for school board members to respect the teachers and negotiate with them.

View the latest school board meeting or set your DVR to record:Videos of the School Board Monthly meetings and the Board Committee meetings can also be seen on West Chester Community Access TV, Verizon FIOS Channel 33 at 5:30 pm on Monday nights and 12:30 pm on Friday afternoons.

DLN 2-5-13:  Many questions concerning e-mail and addresses
DLN 2-5-13  W. Chester has concerns about charter school proposal
DLN 2-7-13: Another view concerning state’s pension system problems
DLN 2-25-13:  Districts reject charter school’s application
Patch 2-26-13:  Charter School Application Denied