Thursday, October 24, 2013

Sharing a Common Goal

Property & Finance Meeting - Monday, October 21, 2013 

Committee Members in Attendance:  Sean Carpenter (Chair), Ed Coyle, Karen Miller
Absent:  Maureen Snook
Board Members in Attendance: Maria Pimley, Sue Tiernan, Vince Murphy
Absent:  Heidi Adsett and Linda Railenau

This month's meeting was sparsely attended.  A few teachers, a PTOC rep, a WCV rep (me), a Chester County Republican Party rep, a reporter from the Daily Local and a couple of the Better Direction candidates were in the Cheap Seats.

I have to start out by saying that I am no financial wizard, but I will try my best to summarize the meeting. Our resident WCV financial go-to girl was Robin Kaliner and she has moved onward and upward! Hopefully, she will be taking her skills and expertise directly where we need it the most when she gets elected to the school board in 2 weeks!

First on the agenda was a revision to the Elementary School Master Plan Construction Schedule.  They want to revise the timeline so that they have 3 years to complete the construction of Fern Hill instead of 2 because of their experience this past summer with school construction and trying to get it done on time.  Makes sense since there was a lot of rain this summer and some schools were not ready until a day or two before school started.

There was a Capital Plan Financing Update from the District Financial Management Group representative. He discussed the need for an additional $12 million for 2014 for construction needs that will come from redeeming bonds.

A review of the Budget Forecast Model showed that the District is way behind in revenues from where we were last year at this time.  The real estate market is tapering off and income tax collection is at a lower level than it was last year.

There was also a discussion about a pending expense of an additional $576,000 for Charter School Tuitions.  This anticipated expense is a result of a hearing; charter schools are demanding payment for 3 years of federal programs and IDEA (Special Education) Programs.  The Charter Schools do not agree with the funding formula for tuition rates for special education students that was determined by the State so they are going after school districts for the money.  Our District needs to hold this money aside in case the Charter Schools win the judgement.  This will also affect future fund balances.

As of now, there is still a $3,877 million gap in the budget for the 2014-2015 school year.  It is being assumed that there will be a 0% increase for salaries.

Superintendents's Recommendation for the 2014-2015 Building Budget Funding:
Total Building Budget Funding is slightly less than it was last year.
Per Pupil Allocation will remain the same as it was last year - $134.20.
Fixed Activity Budgets for Secondary Schools will add $1,500 per school to cover the competitive cheer teams which have recently become PIAA sports.

Kevin Campbell presented an update on the Land Development of Excess Land at Rustin High School. Fifty lots have been approved for the property by Westtown Township.  Houses will be in the $400-600,000 price range on 1/3 - 1/2 acre lots (closer to 1/3), house will be approximately 3,000 square feet in size. Property should be developed and sold by May 2014.  It is estimated that the sale of this property will bring in about $5 million (money cannot go into the general fund but can be used for construction and one time projects). It was mentioned that the land for the "Proposed Athletic Field" near the school entrance was offered to Westtown Township at no cost, but Westtown would need to pay the School District for field maintenance.  Westtown declined the offer but talks are still ongoing.

Personnel Meeting - Monday, October 21, 2013 

Committee Members in Attendance:  Karen Miller (Chair), Sean Carpenter, Ed Coyle,
Absent:  Maureen Snook
Board Members in Attendance: Maria Pimley, Sue Tiernan, Vince Murphy
Absent:  Heidi Adsett and Linda Railenau

There have not been many Personnel Meetings in the past year since most have been "Executive Sessions" and thus not open to the public.

Only one item on the agenda, 2013-2014 School Board Goals.  Ms. Miller read the goals although it seemed like she deferred to Sean Carpenter to explain the goals and answer questions.  Most questions from the public were pertaining to "Fiscal Responsibility" and "Student Achievement". Although the Goals are fairly vague, questions arose about the philosophy behind some of the numbers. Teachers in attendance questioned the assumption that Student Achievement is the responsibility of the Board.  Mrs. Pimley explained that the School Board is ultimately responsible for student achievement.  Mrs. Tiernan reminded us of the roles of a School Board.
In essence, school boards have three functions: planning, setting policy and evaluating results.
  • Planning -- Boards are required to engage in strategic planning by regulations of the State Board of Education. Appropriate reports of the results of such planning must be filed with the Department of Education.
  • Setting policy -- The central responsibility of a board, both in theory and in law, is to be the policy-forming body. Policy means actions of the board that set written goals and objectives for the school and parameters for actions.
  • Evaluating results -- The board must evaluate the results of planning. Evaluation “ completes the loop ” and, in fact, leads inevitably to more planning. Evaluation occurs all the time, both formally and informally. As a group, the board is not an administrative body; neither should it be a “ rubber stamp ” for professional educators. The selection of competent administrators who understand their role is to carry out public policies established by the board is one of the board ' s most important functions.                                                                                             (source: )
Click here to view the 2013-2014 School Board Goals.

Seeing this year's Board Goals reminded us of last year's Board Goals.  When asked we were told that the Board evaluates themselves and that they would post the results online.
Click here to view 2012-2013 School Board Goals.

I think it's great that the Board sets goals for the upcoming school year.  I would hope that they are not just going through the motions to create a list of goals that is too broad.  It would have been wonderful to see something regarding rebuilding and repairing the damaged relationship with the teachers as part of "Board Engagement".  Whether they want to admit it or not, the teachers in this District do not feel the love that this Board claims to have for them.  There have been many derogatory statements made and a general tone of discontent that has made the employees in this District feel unappreciated and disrespected.  It is harmful to the District as a whole to not address these issues.With all this talk of PLCs, Common Core, testing, accountability and added technology in education, we can't ignore the fact that learning and achievement take place when a teacher works directly with the students.  Teachers who are frustrated or feel that they are not appreciated will not put forth the same effort into their jobs and it will affect student performance. Everyone should feel valued, appreciated and considered a vital part of the team.  After all, don't we all share a common goal of putting children and education first?