Saturday, August 17, 2013

August Pupil Services and Education Committee Summaries

August 12 Pupil Services Committee summary:
Members in attendance:  Heidi Adsett, Maria Pimley, Sue Tiernan
Members absent:  Linda Raileanu

An enthusiastic overview of accomplishments in the Extended School Year program (ESY) is provided. At the elementary level, the program took place at Starkweather Elementary with average daily attendance of 145 students. There were 5 classes in the 6-week program and 13 classes in the 5-week program, with an average class size between 6-10 students.  At the middle school level, the program was offered at Fugett  with, on average,  35 students attending on a daily basis. The high school program took place at Henderson with 21 students enrolled in 5-week program and 12 in 6-week program.

Highlights of Life Skills/Autistic Support Class:  the students baked dog treats and delivered them to needy friends at the SPCA, took a tour of Wegman’s where they purchased lunch in the café, and visited Giant  in order to purchase food to prepare a weekly meal for the entire class.

Through responses to questions from Board members, we are reminded that the need for ESY is   determined by a student's Individualized Education Program (IEP) team.  In addition, the focus of the program is on maintenance of, rather than progress towards, IEP goals.  WCASD cannot force any student to attend ESY program and students can/do not attend for various reasons, such as camp attendance, travel, etc.   Ed Coyle questions:  If parents decline IEP team recommendation for ESY,  is that refusal "documented"?  Yes, in the sense that parents sign if/when services are declined.  

More news from the Special Education supervisors: 

 Project Max:

For the past 2 years, the District has received a $5,000 grant to fund the Multiple Disabilities classroom at Starkweather Elementary.  Project Max is a new initiative to expand that work to Stetson Middle School.

 Participation in University of PA Research Study:

District is participating in a study of high functioning autistic students, with focus on social skills intervention at recess. Dr. Jill Locke is the lead researcher and a meeting will be held with principals of participating schools (Fern Hill, Hillsdale, Mary C. Howse and Westtown-Thornbury).  More information will follow.  

August 12 Education Committee meeting summary:
Members in attendance:  Heidi Adsett, Maria Pimley, Sue Tiernan
Members absent: Linda Raileanu

More from Curriculum Director Dr. Fraser on Act 82/Teacher Evaluation. You may recall Dr. Fraser began this discussion at a previous Education Committee hearing, but only provided a brief overview due to time constraints. Tonight, a detailed explanation was provided and a lengthy discussion followed.  For details on the mandate, see August Education Committee meeting agenda.

In sum, there are 3 different evaluation systems, one each for:

  1. Teachers who teach tested grades/subject areas
  2. Teachers who teach non-tested grades/subjects
  3. Staff members who are considered “non teaching professional employees”

Each of the above groups will be evaluated with systems that will be phased in over 2-3 years.  For the upcoming school year 2013-14, Groups  #1 and #2 will be evaluated based on 85% observation and 15% building data and Group #3 will be 100% observation.  Brought to light in the discussion is a timing issue in that “building data”, which includes test scores, must either be taken from the prior year’s results or held until current year results are released in summer, which would most likely delay completion of that evaluation component until after the start of the school year.  In essence, a district is either a year behind or 2-3 months into the next school year.    West Chester has been participating in a teacher effectiveness pilot project and should have an easy transition to these PDE mandates.

Enrollment & staff update

Director of Elementary Education Dr. Missett reports there are currently 5,037 students enrolled, with projected enrollment at 5,099.  New teachers were hired at Exton, Glen Acres and Hillsdale.  She is currently watching “hot spots” (buildings where another class may need to be added)  at Fern Hill and East Goshen.  If this is necessary, District is well within budget for elementary staffing and will hire as needed.

Director of Secondary Education Dr. Sokolowski reports there are currently 2,709 enrolled at middle schools, 6 less than projected.  High school enrollment is 3,880 with 45 additional students expected by beginning of year.  Secondary staffing is also well within budget if needed.

Dr. Sokolowski notes that the search for East High School Principal has been posted since July 26 and is open through September 6.  The first round of interviews will begin September 9 and will include representatives of all stakeholders (parents, teachers, Board member, etc.).   The interim principal for East will be officially announced after the Personnel meeting on August 19.

Activity Fee update
A financial summary of the 2012-13 school year is given.  WCASD reached 95.92% of its budget target:

Amount budgeted:  $303,225.00
Total fees received: $290,853.75

$4,595 was received in scholarship revenue, with $1,255 scholarships granted.  Dr. Sokolowski informs us that the scholarship program will not be as highly publicized this year as last, but people are aware of the opportunity and contributions will continue to be accepted.  

Next, a participation summary is provided which shows a  3.3% increase, or 212 additional students participating in funded activities, since inception of activity fees. In 2011-12 school year, 6,402 students participated in funded activities.   In the 2012-13 school year, the number was  6,614.   

Policy revisions/deletions (first reading)
Most are language clarifications/updates and will  be submitted for second reading after changes are made.  For the three of us in attendance, this discussion is beyond difficult to follow since copies of the actual polices are not provided, making any references made by the Committee meaningless.

Policy IDDCA/IDCA-R:  Home Education Programs - Language will  be changed to allow home-schooled students to participate in technical college high school.  Dr. Sokolowski and others comment that this change could bring some home-schooled students "back" to our schools once they see the great programs offered at the school.  He contrasts this policy decision with  a former policy decision to disallow such students to attend traditional classes in district buildings during the week.  The difference: the technical college offers a "program" of study while attendance at one or two classes can be disruptive to the traditional school day.   

Dr. Pimley asks a "general question" about homeschooling:  where do home-schooled students take tests?   The first response is "they don't have to", but it becomes clear she is asking about standardized tests.  Home-schooled students are currently, per PDE,  required to take "nationally normed" standardized tests in grades 3,5 and 8.  Home-schooled students can arrange to take the tests at a local school.

Policy JHF/IDEA: Equal Access - A general update of format, a discussion of “extracurricular”  and inclusion of athletic groups.  Here, there is a comment from a parent in attendance concerning the appropriate use of funds by booster clubs and members of the administration admit they have heard those concerns before.

And here is where it just became silly to attempt to follow Board remarks such as "on page 2, paragraph 3...."  with no copies in front of us, so the trio in attendance leaves. While one assumes and respects the reasoning behind not supplying copies for these first readings was to save resources - although the leftover stack of Pupil Services packets on the empty chair in front of me  quashed that thought -  perhaps a note on the online agenda  to encourage attendees to "bring your own" next time could increase participation in policy revision discussions. 

In the end, we are confident the oversight is innocent and these are only first readings so there is still opportunity to review them and offer input should you see fit. Find them under the Policies tab on the Board website.

Per meeting packet outline, here is what was discussed after we left:

Policy IDFA/MDBA:  Interscholastic Athletics - A general update of format and medical update to include concussion and cardiac language.

Policy IDFAC: Recognition of Athletic Groups - Medical update of concussion and cardiac language and inclusion of Act 114 clearances (arrest/conviction)

Policy JAA: Equal Educational Opportunities - Language updates


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