Boyertown Area School District to Transition to Middle School Model
Starting in September 2015, a group of administrators and teachers began meeting to discuss what transitioning the junior high school model to a middle school program would entail. During this time many questions concerning the schedule, programmatic offerings, staffing, and the physical buildings were considered. To help answer the multitude of questions, the team reviewed various pieces of information including input from teachers and parents of fourth and fifth grade students, the District’s priorities, and research from Hanover Research on best practices in middle school design that was prepared specifically for the Boyertown Area School District. And finally, in order to provide a transition of the sixth grade out of the elementary school and into the middle school, the committee also had to understand the current sixth grade time allocation.
This work resulted in the development of a middle school program that includes:
As we move forward to our goal of opening the doors to our two middle schools in the 2017-18 academic year there is still much work to be done. Teachers were surveyed to gauge their interest in teaching at the middle school or moving to the high school with the ninth grade students. Additional work will also be done around curriculum and professional development, as well as transition activity plans for incoming students.
We look forward to providing a middle school program that will enable our students to succeed in a changing world.
Understanding the Budgeting Process
As we work to develop the District’s 2016-2017 budget, I thought it would be helpful to provide an overview of the budgeting process. For more information on this process click on following link - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72hP9HUQQ6w
When looking at the budgeting process it helps to start by first looking at the revenue side. Funding for public education comes from local, state, and federal sources. Traditionally, federal funding sources represent a relatively small portion of total education funding. For the Boyertown Area School District federal funding represents a little over 2% of the annual budget. Approximately 30% of the Boyertown Area School District’s revenue comes from the Commonwealth. This compares to an average of about 43% in other states. The balance of the Boyertown Area School District’s revenue, approximately 68%, comes from taxpayers in the form of various taxes including property tax, earned income tax, and local services tax.
For the Boyertown Area School District the four largest expenses are salaries, benefits, debt service, and transportation. It is important to note that these expenses are either contractually negotiated, such as teacher salaries and benefits, or are mandated by the State, including the Public School Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS). For the 2016-17 fiscal year, the employer contribution rate will be 30.03%, up from 25.84% in 2015-16. The good news is that the state does provide a 50% subsidy to the Boyertown Area School District to offset the expense of the employer contribution. The net expense to the District next year is $1.3 million.
Another costly benefit for the Boyertown Area School District is health insurance. In 2010 the District made the decision to become self-insured. In becoming self-insured, the District collects its own premiums and is financially responsible for paying claims for medical and prescription expenses. Since becoming self-insured the District has been able to keep premium increases to the single digits. We anticipate a 5% or approximately $565,000, increase in the cost of health insurance for the 2016-2017 school year.
In October, the Boyertown Area School District’s Board of School Directors passed a resolution to not exceed the State’s Act 1 Index of 2.9%. If the District does raise taxes to this index, the total amount of revenue is estimated at $1.6 million. By doing this, the Board and Administration not only promised taxpayers that they would keep any tax increase to under 2.9%, they established a realistic timeline for developing the District’s 2016-17 operating budget considering the 2015-16 budget difficulties in Harrisburg. The preliminary budget is scheduled to be adopted by the Board by May 2016 with a 30-day community review period to follow. The final operating budget will adopted at the June 14 board meeting.
To help residents further understand the budgeting process, we will be creating a series of YouTube videos called Budget Basics. Links to these videos will be posted on the District’s website and Facebook page.
The Role of the Enrollment Committee
Chaired by the President of the District Board of School Directors, Mrs. Jill Dennin, the Enrollment Review Committee was established to study enrollment and the long-term needs at the elementary level of the Boyertown Area School District. The process that has been established will ensure that appropriate resources and information are provided, that community members are provided with the opportunity to provide input, and that options are presented to the board of school directors for careful consideration.
With the Boyertown Area Senior High School project nearing completion and the project at Junior High West moving forward, we saw this as a good time to examine the elementary level to ensure that we have all of the resources in place to provide a first-class elementary educational experience.
The committee began meeting in the fall of 2015, and meetings to date have included gathering information and reviewing key capital projects for each of the elementary school buildings. Information reviewed has included two research reports prepared by Hanover Research, attendance area information provided through the Transfinder system, the Feasibility Study, and the Demographic Report prepared by the Pennsylvania Economy League.
The committee’s next steps include visiting PTA/HSA meetings at each elementary school to provide a summary of findings to date and to solicit parent input. The committee’s goal is to present their findings and recommendation to the Board in the Fall of 2016.
The Enrollment Committee’s next meeting is Monday, March 7 at 7pm in the Board Room of the Educational Center. All meetings are open to the public.
If you are unable to attend the meetings in person, you can follow the progress of the committee by visiting the District’s website. There you will find meeting agendas, meeting minutes, handouts, and links to help you follow the work this committee is completing.
Understanding the Pennsylvania Common Core Standards
There is much confusion surrounding the implementation of the Common Core in Pennsylvania. In an effort to address the confusion, I thought it would be helpful to provide a brief overview of the Common Core Standards in Pennsylvania.
Originally called Academic Standards, Pennsylvania has had core standards for learning since the 1990s. After analyzing the national standards, a group of educators crafted the Pennsylvania Common Core State Standards, which were put into effect by the Legislature on March 1, 2014. The PA Core State Standards align to the National Common Core (about 85%). Adjustments were made to the National Common Core Standards by Pennsylvania to better fit the needs of Pennsylvania students.
The Pennsylvania Common Core standards are a set of rigorous, high-quality academic expectations for math and English that all students must have mastered by the end of each grade level. The standards are robust and relevant to the real world. The standards are not a curriculum nor do they dictate how teachers must teach in the classroom. Our teachers still have the ability to choose strategies that work with their specific students and the choice of curriculum materials used is still given to each local school district. Differentiating instruction remains a vital part of the progressive education program in Pennsylvania.
What the Pennsylvania Common Core provides is more emphasis on the focus of mathematical processes, coherence of topics within the grade level and rigor. Focus in the classroom is demonstrated by a student being able to think about explanations given for answers and deciding to agree or disagree with a logical argument. Coherence addresses the need for skills to be mastered before moving on to the next skill, and rigor is the hard work and practice required to make the concept fluent.
In Language Arts, a strong emphasis has been placed on more exposure and learning of non-fiction text. This does not mean the elimination of fiction, nor does it mean the scaling-back of fiction. It does mean that non-fiction text is more prevalent in math, science and social studies curriculum. Another instructional goal of the PA Core is to use evidence from literary and non-fiction text to answer questions.
In the Boyertown Area School District, we believe we are preparing students for jobs that don’t exist yet, and we believe that by utilizing the expertise of our professional educators to increase the level of rigor our students will be better prepared to compete in a global society.
A few weeks ago I had the privilege to see a Career Portfolio presentation by one of our current 12th grade students. This student did an excellent job of relating what he has learned over the past few years to help him make decisions on the next steps he will take to prepare himself for success after graduation. In between each step outlined in our Career Education Plan – job shadowing, interest inventory, college visits, etc. – he shared his reflections on how these activities helped him determine what he PLANS TO DO and NOT DO as a career. This young man also did an excellent job of learning from life events and using that knowledge to assist his decisions. He shared that he has been accepted to a four year university to study in a medical field and has a part-time job in our community with a health care provider. I left this session highly impressed with the work done by this student and the Boyertown Area School District (BASD) to help prepare him for success.
The Career Portfolio presentation is completed by each of our students during their senior year as the capstone of their required graduation project. The presentation summarizes several years of work as outlined in our Career Education plan. BASD implements activities and educational opportunities for our students in grades K-12 that meet the Pennsylvania Standards for Career Education. We took the additional step at BASD to match these activities to our graduation project as we fully understand the importance of ensuring all of our students are prepared to begin their careers and/or further their education when they graduate.
Over the course of the next few months our School Counselors, in collaboration with representatives from all stakeholder groups, will be reviewing and recommending revisions to our current Career Education Plan. We know our current plan is strong. We also know that we can always improve what we do to provide additional supports for our students. The following links will provide you with additional information on Career Education:
· http://www.boyertownasd.org/site/Default.aspx?PageID=86 : for information specific to the portfolio activities and requirements
· www.pdesas.org/standard/views : to view the Career Education and Work Standards
I also encourage you to contact our school counselors or principals if you would like to learn more about this exciting component of our program.
Literacy in the 21st Century
Growing up, I can remember always being told the importance of literacy and the three R’s; reading, writing, and arithmetic. In the 21st Century, this is no longer the reality. Certainly, this does not mean the three R’s are no longer important nor does it mean that they lack relevance. The reality, however, is that literacy now includes an additional essential element for which schools must prepare students. In a 21st century school, it is no longer enough to simply master the three R’s, students must also learn to master technology as a tool to enhance their own learning, processing, and productivity.
Educators must be cognizant of promoting digital literacy by recognizing the proper utilization of digital tools and technology at the same level as reading and writing. Nurturing a high level of technology interest to develop digital literacy is a modern-day education necessity. Digital literacy skills are transferrable from the technology world to the real world and meet many of the basic requirements of current learning standards.
Instilling high levels of digital literacy creates numerous pathways to learn and practice higher-order thinking skills such as analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. Developing digital literacy skills affords students the ability to seek out and utilize knowledge resources that help them create a personal learning connection. Not to be lost in all of the higher-order thinking and personalized learning benefits is the fact that the workplace is becoming increasingly digitized. Many of our goals as educators focus on ensuring students have the tools they need to become successful post K-12 citizens. These tools now include having familiarity with technology.