Monday, June 28, 2010

Digging a Hole?

An Editorial by Adam Scaife

Is the current ASD School Board digging our school district into a hole with a hand spade or an earth excavator?

What is the state of the ASD pension fund contributions preparedness? It has been estimated that we will owe approximately + $25 Million DOLLARS to the pension fund over the next several years. There is currently a proposed state bill with respect to the pension fund contributions. "IF" it passes it will re-amortize the contributions over a greater number of years. They didn’t say that they were reducing the overall dollar amount owed, it’s still owed, it is just spreading it out over more years. Even if our payment contributions are half of what they were to be it is a huge cost that we will have to contribute each year over the next many years. What is our ASD board and administration doing to prepare for the looming pension fund contribution? Anything? Nothing? Surrounding districts are preparing for their contribution payments. Most of the surrounding districts are reporting that they are preparing now for their pension fund contributions with tax increases and some are using portions of their fund balance (savings account) now to alleviate the tax implications toward their current budget needs and pension fund contribution preparedness.

We’ve re-opened EHS and are paying for the re-staffing and facility operational budget out of the district’s fund balance (savings account). The re-staffing of this facility is an ANNUAL COST estimated at approximately $3.5 MILLION DOLLARS. This is being paid out of the fund balance this year so that taxes are not having to be increased this year. Could it also be that there would be an up-rising by the tax base if taxes were raised this year for re-opening this facility that will only graduate 30 students at this time next year? Perhaps this Fund Balance (savings account) money could have been used more wisely to alleviate the tax burden and implications once we do have to start making our payment contributions to the pension fund? There is currently a facilities study being done and an estimated cost being tossed around at approximately $18 MILLION Dollars to renovate Elderton. How will this renovation project be justified? Again, this is for a facility that will graduate only 30 students at this time next year.

This is an inequitable and unbalanced state of affairs that this current board is imposing on the entire tax base and to the entire student body of the district. How deep will this hole be that this current ASD board is placing our entire school district in?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Effective Practices

An Editorial by Becky Fullerton and Jennifer Willyard

On Monday evening, the ASD School Board revealed the secret identity of our new Superintendent to be Stan Chapp from Freeport School District…however, that was all they really revealed.

Where was the transparency in the hiring process?

Where is the transparency in revealing the contract terms and salary?

This is all public information and should be divulged at the time of hire. And once again, where is the transparency in a long range plan for our district?

Part of the problem in the lack of transparency of the ASD school board, is they are not following half of the practices set by the Pennsylvania School Board Association. For the detailed Standards for Effective School Governance set by the PSBA here is a link:
We urge everyone to read this with particular interest paid to the benchmarks.

Some of our personal favorite questions to answer are:

"How have the boards actions and attitudes elicited community trust and respect?"

"How often do members of the board speak to or participate with community organizations?"

"How do board members balance the need to represent the electorate with the need to to lead the district forward on behalf of children?"

"How does the board measure and evaluate the public perception of the board's behavior and demeanor, and how do those preceptions help or hinder confidence in the board?"

Wow!!! Perhaps being that she is the district representative with the PSBA, Ms. Yassem should get a copy of this to all the board members for their review! Or maybe this could be one of the things that could be read and discussed during one of the 5 annual training opportunities that the board members are suggested to take part in!

There are reports that there were only six candidates in the pool for the Superintendent position and only two of those were interviewed. Why not hire an interim Superintendent for a longer period of time to make sure a candidate did not slip through the cracks. Perhaps extend the search, or even use such services as the University of Pittsburgh Tri-State Study Council or Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators, to help identify a strong candidate?

Perhaps it would have led the board to hire Dr. Chapp, but due diligence would have been done. We do not want to discount Dr. Chapp’s qualifications. He, on paper, seems to be qualified to do a great job as Superintendent of schools, however, it would have been nice if there would have at least been an open interview process so the public could hear what the vision was of each of the candidates.

Will they bring something new to the table, or is it more status quo?

What are the goals the board has for the new superintendent?

This district needs to move forward, it is time the board works with all of its constituents.

This is a time where vision is absolutely needed and transparency is a must, will the school board FINALLY do so?

With the end of the school year, we wish to congratulate all of the outgoing seniors the best of luck, health and happiness in all their future endeavors!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Court Hearing Tuesday and Wednesday!

Will five be the magic number?  The three local judges, Valasek, Panchik and Nickleach have all recused themselves from hearing the case against the Super Six and their fiscally irresponsible decision to reopen Elderton High School for approximately 250 students in grades 7-12 at a cost of 3.5 million dollars.  Now we are hearing that Westmoreland County Senior Judge Daniel J. Ackerman, who was set to hear the case on Tuesday and Wednesday has been replaced by a judge from Erie because he broke his foot.

Please, if you are able to attend the hearings June 15 and 16, please show up to support the plaintiffs.  Show that you agree with them and support their decision to file suit.  The hearings will take place in Court Room 1 at 1:00 PM.

If possible, we will be live tweeting the proceedings.  Please follow HERCasd on Twitter.

New Superintendent to be hired tonight

The Board of Directors of the Armstrong School District will hold a Special Meeting on Monday, June 14, 2010 at 7PM in the Ida R. Westwood Conference Room of the Administration Building, located at 410 Main Street in Ford City. The purpose of the meeting will be to hire a Superintendent and any other personnel-related issues that may come before the Board.