Superintendent of Schools Matt Gordon said that the Senate reauthorized the No Child Left Behind, which is called "Every Child Achieves." This will maintain annual assessments, but states can determine their own standards. Instead of Common Core, Pennsylvania will have "Pennsylvania Core." The new program will allow teacher evaluation systems but will not require them.
The local legislators have sent letters to the School District advising it not to budget the Governor's proposed increase, but the Governor has advised that the increase should be used and districts should say what the money will be spent on.
Mr. Gordon commended the teachers and staff for their commitment to improve student performance. Students who need help are being targeted. He said "It is a vast improvement over a number of years ago. Kudos to them."
He said parents were being advised to have their children well-rested and provide a good breakfast for the PSSA tests.
The Title I funding proposals have been reduced $26,000 annually by the federal government, so the administration is considering transferring an aide to Kindergarten to help reduce the Title I costs. The projected enrollment in firth grade next year is 91, and in Kindergarten will be 52 (perhaps 55 with retentions); so plans are to transfer a teacher from Kindergarten to fifth grade. The final budget will be approved in June so a decision will have to be made by then.
Mr. Sourbeer asked how the government could square a decline in funding and the No Child Left Behind goal. Mr. Gordon said such "non-funded mandates" require the schools to "do the same amount of work with less money and less resources." Mr. Herman asked about the proposed transfer. There may also be a retirement, which could effect the staffing decision. Mr. Rimmer said that he has tried to maintain a constant student/teacher ratio. "We have to be financially responsible," he said. Mr. Anderson said he doesn't like taking an aide away from the Title program, "Some kids need help," he said. "Head Start is being cut back, which will put a load on teachers…it's too bad our educational system has to worry about costs," he said.
Mr. Rimmer said, "We have a fluid group of students accessing the Title services. We try to serve as many as possible. Mr. Holland observed that this year there are 68 students in kindergarten with four teachers, so if next year there were 52 and three teachers, the class size would be the same. "I would favor a full-time aide in Kindergarten," he said.
Kindergarten teacher Wendy Route happened to be in the audience, and Mr. Herman asked her opinion of the situation. She replied that she was reluctant to speak. She noted "A few years ago we had two full-time aides and a tutor," but the money has been reduced. Mr. Holland asked how many aides were needed, and she again declined to answer. She did say there was one aide for 40 minutes in the morning working with each teacher and 30 minutes in the afternoon. Mr Holland offered that one or two more aides would be beneficial.
The board then asked if it would be more beneficial to hire two aides or a fifth grade teacher. Mr. Jannone said that probably three aides could be hired for the cost of one teacher. Mr. Holland said that he would rather see the extra aides than hiring another teacher. Mrs. Route was asked again and did acknowledge, "More aides would [be a] help."
Elementary Principal John Rimmer discussed upcoming events, including the Battle of the Books, and a Pep Rally to start the PSSA testing. "Take your child to work day" will be observed on April 24. The Choral Festival will be at Troy on that day, and "From Our Farms to Your Arms" will be on April 28. The Science Fair and Art Show will be April 30, and the book fair will be open that night.
The playground fundraiser has received a $200 gift from a donor and also $200 from the T-Shirt fundraiser.
Enrollment is up two to 526.
High School Principal Craig Coleman apologized for missing last month's meeting and said, "I'm back and better that ever. Thanks for the well-wishes." He said. "We encourage our kids to do the best they can on the PSSAs," he said. He said that the Keystone Examinations will be coming in May. Those who do not pass must retake the test. He said that four students passed (at the proficient level) out of 20 who took the retest. This is above the state average. Of the 45 who did not pass the algebra test, eight passed the retest at a proficient level. Sixteen of the 28 retests in literature passed at the proficient level. He said "we are doing something right in literature. No other school in the NTL comes close" to that percentage. So far, only eight juniors have failed to pass the Keystone exam.
The spring sports are well underway, but the schedule has been plagued by bad weather.
The Junior-Senior Prom will be April 25 in the High School Auditorium lobby Eighth Grade Oral History Night will be May 13. With all of the upcoming events, Mr. Coleman said, "This is a time for us to shine in the public eye; there is a lot going on."
Special Education Supervisor Dan Coran reported that Special Olympics will be held in Athens on May 7. Seven high school students and sixteen Elementary students will take part. He said the school could be proud of the fact that the junior and senior classes had elected special education students to the prom courts. "This is a great thing for the district," he said. The tuxedo rental was paid by cookie sales. Mr. Coran added that a fourth grade special needs student's art work "Proves students with disabilities have abilities."
Business Manager Mark Jannone commended the coaching staffs for "a spectacular job" of getting the fields in condition to play. "Because our field is so good, Wyalusing moved their game here."
He said there "is a desperate need for cafeteria and custodial substitutes."
Mr. Jannone reminded the board that by passing the tentative budget they had "started the clock." At least thirty days must pass before a final budget is approved, so the school is in good shape as far as the schedule is concerned. He said the tentative 2015-16 budget has no tax increase, and revenues of $14,463,970 with expenses of $14,972,252. The deficit will be absorbed by the fund balance.
Food Service Director Shawn Lee said that breakfast sales are up 3% and ala carte sales "had a great month." New products are being introduced and special events were held for Dr. Seuss and St. Patrick's days. There was a fee hot chocolate giveaway, and April 22 will be Hawaiian luau day. She also said there was "dire need of cafeteria substitutes."
She commended the food services staff. "It has been very difficult for the ladies. They work hard and when we are short-staffed they work even harder. They do a great job."
Mrs. Sourbeer, reporting for the Building & Grounds Committee, told Mr. Jannone that "If the custodians mark the lines, I will get yellow paint and paint them!" Mr. Jannone said the paint would cost $3,000.
Under visitor comments, Mrs. Sourbeer said she had worked as a classroom volunteer for four years. "With the news of the Kindergarten enrollment of 55, I thought 'great, because we could have 14 students in each classroom." She suggested that ratio be tried for a year." She said, "It gets hectic at times because of [the higher] numbers." She asked that the board "come up with a scenario that will let us keep four kindergarten teachers. Let's try small class size for one year."