Maintaining oversight of various areas of administration of a school district is the critical role of the district’s Board of School Directors. Upper Darby School District policy requires formal, public, monthly updates from District administrators to the School Board – and the public, since these reports are made at the monthly meetings, which are open to the public.
Go to Learn
In addition to an official Report from the Superintendent, which presents enrollment numbers at each school, and faculty, administration and staff counts, administration also reports on the following matters: Instruction and Curriculum, Personnel, Finance and Budget, as well as others. (Note: Recaps of the noted reports are presented at the end of this post.) These reports comprise the bulk of the Business Meeting at the regular meetings of the School Board.
Go to Get Special Updates
Sometimes, the monthly School Board meetings include special presentations to further explain District governance. This was the case during the January 8, 2013 Regular Meeting, when two of the four items on the agenda were explanations of District financial matters.
Work Session: Special Items on the Agenda
UDSD Audit Report
Bill McGowan, of the public accounting firm ParenteBeard LLC, presented the June 30, 2012 Independent Audit Report of the District finances. He noted that the management, as supervised by Director of Business Management Edward Smith, seems to be doing an excellent job of estimating its revenues.” Although McGowan noted there was a shortfall on estimating expenses, he also clarified that the shortfall resulted from the increase in grant money. He also informed the board and the public that any State or local government entity that receives at least $500,000 in Federal funds is also required to have an audit, called the Single Audit, done on the expenditures of those Federal dollars.
As part of that Single Audit the CPA is required to pick one or more of the federal programs or grants and perform a compliance audit on how the dollars were spent as required by the grant. Mr. McGowan said that for the 6.30.2012 audit the CPA picked the school lunch program to test. He noted that based on a large sample group selected for testing they found that there was discrepancy for two students as to their proper classification for qualifying for either the Free or Reduced lunch program. Mr. McGowan stated that although the finding was not significant, the discrepancy is still required to be included in the findings section of the audit report. (Ed. note: The audit report is required to be filed with the Federal Government).
School Board Director Francis Zarrilli asked if there was anything more that the District could be doing, to which McGowan replied that there was not. Smith noted that the audit would be made available to the public on the District website.
After Mr. McGowan thanked Smith and School Board Treasurer Patrick Grant for ease of working with them, he asked for questions from the public. The questions and answers follow:
Rick Shappell asked if a separate management comment letter was issued to the District, regarding any additional findings or comments not included in the audit report, such as financial or operational issues noted during the audit, and would McGowan explain the pending changes to the GASB accounting pension rules and impact? (Ed. note: GASB is the independent Governmental Accounting Standards Board, which sets accounting rules and financial report standards for State and local government entities.)
There is no such letter, because other than the items disclosed in the audit report there are no other major items to report. Regarding PSERS, the District will be required to pick up their share of any unfunded pension liability that PSERS can’t cover. (Ed. note: PSERS is the Public School Employees’ Retirement System. It is currently under-funded, and these costs will have to be paid through a mix of State and local property tax funding. The current liability by districts in Pennsylvania is $1.5billion for PSERS; that number is expected to nearly double due to complicated factors in projected calculations of investment returns and payment deferrals.) McGowan was not sure what the specific dollar amount for UDSD would be. (Ed. note: According to the PSERS financial and actuarial reports as of June 30, 2011, the pension plan was only 75.1 percent funded, which represented an unfunded liability of $19.7 billion. It was noted in that report that the Upper Darby School District was one of the top ten employers of the PSERS Pension Plan with 1,708 members or 0.61 percent of the total number of members. A more recent report from PSERS projects the pension plan funding for the 2012-2013 fiscal year at 69.0 percent and an unfunded liability of approximately $12.5 billion).
Delaware Community College (DCCC) Presentation
Superintendent DeVlieger invited Dr. Jerry Parker, DCCC President, to present to the public about the role of DCCC in our community, since DCCC is supported in part by its sponsoring school districts, of which UDSD is one. Dr. Parker gave a brief history of the community and its original funding plan vs. how it is currently funded. Some facts:
- Ten percent of the college’s funding is from the sponsoring Districts.
- $1.07 million will be UDSD’s responsibility for the 2013 year. (Ed. note: Dr. Parker stated this is a decrease from 2012-2013; according to the 2012-2013 UDSD budget it was around 0.8 million in 2012-2013. It is possible Dr. Parker was referencing a decrease in total liability. In addition to the 0.8 million, UDSD owed an additional 0.4 million in debt service for DCCC, for a total in the 2012-2013 budget of approximately $1.2 million.)
- Sponsorship entitles residents in the sponsoring districts a 50 percent tuition discount. It is $208 per credit but students from UDSD only pay $104. (Ed. note: The discount does not apply to fees.)
- Upper Darby is the largest enrolling district with 3,821 students. Of the June 2012 grads at DCCC, UDSD had 173, which was the largest number from one district.
Dr. Parker accepted questions/comments from the public. A recap follows:
Lynn Abruzzo observed that a recent report cited that UDHS students are averaging 1350 on their SATs, and maybe it would be a better use of funding to get those students college-ready and keep the money in the district than to fund the DCCC. (Ed. note: A score of 1550 on the SAT, which is often used as an admission screening tool by colleges, has been found to correlate to achievement of a B- grade on college-level coursework.)
DCCC offers remediation to many students.
Alison Dobbins inquired if anything could be done by DCCC to increase the number of sponsoring districts, such as districts in Chester County, to lessen the overall burden on UDSD.
Dr. Parker said the option is available but only one district (Chester-Upland) has joined since the original creation. (Ed. note: State Senator Dominic Pileggi arranged for the State to fund Chester-Upland’s sponsorship costs through State casino funds.)
Dobbins also asked: How many of the UDSD students are full time students, and of those how many receive financial aid such as Federal grants?
Dr. Parker said about half of the 3800 students are full time students and of that number, half receive financial aid.
School Board Director Earl Toole asked how many articulation agreements does DCCC have with four-year institutions?
Dr. Parker said that 50 schools have articulation agreements.
(Ed. note: an articulation agreement makes it easy to transfer credits from DCCC to a traditional four-year college/university.)
School Board Director Vince Gordon stated that DCCC is a community asset; that there are a lot of students in attendance at the School Board meeting, and he stated that parents speaking tonight aren’t speaking with the best interest of these students. Gordon said that SAT scores are not necessarily accurate predictors of success in life, and we shouldn’t look down on our students for scoring low on the SATs.
The agenda item New Grading Policy, to be presented by Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Daniel McGarry and UDHS principal Christopher Dormer, was postponed due to the length of the meeting. A meeting date will be announced.
Also on the agenda was a presentation by UDEA Union Representative Anna Schneider. Her brief comments included thanking the School Board Directors for their work. (Ed. note: No update was provided by Schneider, or during the meeting, regarding the status of teacher contract negotiations.)
Go to Encourage Communication
(Ed. note: Unless noted otherwise, members of the public made all comment on reports. All reports were accepted unanimously by the School Board.)
When it was time to commence the regular business of the School Board, it was nearly 9 p.m. A recap of highlights of the Business Meeting follows:
Report of the Superintendent, by Superintendent Louis DeVlieger
- UDSD Supervisor of Science, Beth Richards and DeVlieger recognized Stephanie Bailey, a third year UDHS Science teacher who was named a NSTA National Fellow for 2012 as a rising star in field of science education.
- Recognized 10 students who were Regional champions in FBLA competition with
Superintendent’s Achievement Awards.
- Recognized the entire UDHS Marching Band, which was in attendance, for their undefeated season, and UDHS student Emily Glackin for being chosen to perform in the US Army All American Band.
Instruction and Curriculum Report
Andrea Gallo thanked them for making contractual arrangements to bring arts integration specialist Susan Riley to our District for teacher training. Gallo asked what the sessions would entail.
Director of Curriculum Martha Menz answered that this was the first of what the District hopes will be many visits. Menz explained Riley is an expert in Arts Integration (AI). She also noted that one of the District’s challenges is integrating music, and Riley is a vocalist.
The contract goals, as explained by Menz, include: developing reflective teachers who can implement authentically, and moving from arts enhancement, which is the current model, to arts integration. She will work with administration in all schools the first two days. The structure of the remaining sessions is not yet fixed; it will be based on how teachers respond and what the needs are.
Assistant Superintendent McGarry added an update regarding an artists-in-residence program, PAEP, referenced at the December School Board meeting. McGarry noted that district parent and Philadelphia school district teacher Allison McConnell, Superintendent DeVlieger, and himself visited two schools that use PAEP. McGarry noted that it was interesting to see how the schools kept teacher prep periods and which specials they kept. Gallo asked how to follow up on the Susan Riley visit; Menz said she would write a report for the Superintendent, which he could share with the community at large.
- Laura Hartley wanted to make sure that the professional appointments were at BHMS to help with the overcrowding during science and social studies classes. It was stated that the teachers were appointed to alleviate overcrowding. Hartley asked which grade those teachers would be teaching. Assistant Superintendent McGarry responded that they are letting BHMS decide how best to use them. McGarry pointed out that Drexel Hill Middle School has increased enrolment while Beverly Hills Middle School enrollment has decreased; although, it was noted that the BHMS Library is being utilized for classroom space.
- Lynn Abruzzo asked about the Network Coordinator position and if it is related to the new software. (Ed. note: At a previous meeting, the District reported that it was purchasing new student data and scheduling management software, which would begin to be implemented in January.) McGarry said that no, this position has been open for six months and is not related to this new IT program.
School Board Director Zarrilli introduced the report, which included 13 new or revised District policies, and noted that no motion to approve was necessary as this was just the first reading of the proposed changes. No vote and no comments taken. (Ed. note: The Policy changes will be presented for a second time at the February meeting, at which time they will be voted upon. The proposed changes can be reviewed by clicking on the Policy Report link available here: http://www.upperdarbysd.org/component/k2/item/8302-january-school-board-meeting-1/8/13
Amy Eckhert asked a question regarding the acquisition and implementation of the Lobby Guard system, which includes software that can run a check on drivers’ licenses of individuals visiting schools. (Ed. Note: The policy for Visitors is different than the new policy being proposed for Volunteers.) Assistant Superintendent McGarry confirmed that all computers were delivered to the schools that day for the new Raptor system. Raptor is a less expensive system that performs the function of the more expensive Lobby Guard system used at the High School.
Finance and Budget Report
Stacey Hawley asked about the real estate assessment for the Pilgrim Gardens property itemized in the report. School Board Solicitor Francis Catania explained that if the taxpayer feels their property assessment is out of balance they can appeal. (Ed. note: A STEB ratio of 67.5 percent is applied to property assessments. The District tax millage rate is then applied to the calculated STEB ratio of the assessment, and that is how property taxes are calculated, For example, a home with an assessed value of $100,000 would have a STEB value of $67,500. The current millage is 32.85 points per 1000 dollars. Multiplying the STEB value by 0.03285, which is the millage rate divided by 1000, yields a property tax of approximately $2,217.38.) Hawley wanted to know if the appeal that was being settled for the property was a reduction in taxes, and Catania confirmed that yes, it is a reduction.
One of the Student School Board Representatives, UDHS senior Howard Goodison, noted that Keystone Exams are starting. He also shared information about the MLK Day of Service at the High School on January 21, 2013.
The other Student School Board Representative, UDHS senior Kelly McCoy, shared that she acted as one of two student representatives on the Advisory Panel for the District’s partnership with the Penn Project for Civic Engagement (PPCE), the organization with which the District contracted to help keep communication open between the Board and the District residents. McCoy noted that there will be four public forums that will be scheduled between February and March, dates to be announced, and she encouraged attendance at those forums. She also reminded people that The Upper Darby Arts and Education Foundation (UDAEF) fundraising Gala, which features musical performances from District students in grades Kindergarten to 12, is 1/19/13 at 3pm with the theme One Moment in Time.
School Board Director Rose Conley is the School Board Liaison to DCCC, and she thanked Dr. Parker for his presentation. Conley shared that she was a resident when the college was started and just beginning to teach at the time. She added that she is happy to have the new DCCC site, located in Barclay Square.
School Board Director Ken Rucci gave a legislative update sharing that in December Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis did apply for a waiver from the Federal mandate No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Assistant Superintendent McGarry noted there was a two-hour Webinar about this, and in the spring the Pennsylvania Department of Education will release more information about what will be required from districts as a result of the waiver. McGarry noted that Reading, Math, and Science would have the same weights, which is not the case with the PSSA. He also shared that the waiver will hurt diverse districts as the more subgroups and “super subgroups” a district has, the harder it will be to succeed under these new measures.
- Superintendent DeVlieger shared that Comcast, which originally donated $5000 to offset the costs to the District of contracting with the Penn Project for Civic Engagement (PPCE), has donated another $5000; an anonymous community member donated $2500 for the PPCE.
- The Comprehensive Planning Committee will begin on January 17th, and parent members include Bill Kaplan, Beth Gallis, Allison McConnell and Kate Smith.
- The Professional Education Subcommittee will include Carolyn Felker, Trish Lauria, Rachel Mitchell and Charlotte Mulvihill.
- School Board Director Maureen Carey, president of the School Board, encouraged everyone to attend the UDAEF fundraising Gala or make a donation if they cannot attend. UDAEF president Angelo Roman confirmed since it was established, UDEAF has given more than $1.5 million in grants to our District. (Ed. note: The Gala, a fundraiser for the UDAEF, will be presented on January 19th at 3 p.m. at the UDHS Performing Arts Center. Tickets are available for purchase through the UDPAC)
Go to Hear Announcements
Three Important Announcements
- Director of Business Management and School Board Secretary Ed Smith announced that there would be a preliminary budget presentation on January 30, 2013 at 7:30 p.m. in the Board Room, which is located at UDHS, accessible via the main entrance of the high school. The presentation should be short in length, Smith said, lasting approximately 30 minutes. The District is required by law to have Preliminary Budget in mid-February so the Preliminary budget will likely be voted upon at the February Board Meeting.
- Smith also announced that on Tuesday, February 5th, there will be another Charter School Hearing in the Board Room. He also announced that emailing email@example.com would make your comments regarding the Charter application part of the record.
- Superintendent DeVlieger announced that school would not start until after Labor Day for 2013- 2014.
Go to Comment, to Question – Educate Yourself and Others
(Ed. note: In order to make public comment at the end of the School Board meeting, speakers must be residents of Upper Darby and sign in by 7:15 p.m. Speaker comments, including the time for responses, if appropriate or requested, are limited to three minutes. Speakers must stand at the microphone to receive their answers.)
- Lisa McNamee asked whether the A/B schedule for the Related Arts was really happening. Director of Curriculum Menz explained that the Related Arts (art, library, music, and physical education) instructional time is shared with Science and Social Studies; Week A=Pure Arts and Week B=Blended connection. She stated that the schedule has been happening, but that the reality is that Art instruction may be more blended, as opposed to pure arts instruction, than the other Related Arts classes because those are projects that take time. She said the students are still getting art instruction through the blended projects. McNamee asked about Physical Education instruction being blended with Health instruction. Menz said that starting the second half of the school year, the Health curriculum would be integrated with Physical Education on B weeks, but that instruction would be held in the Gym so students can still get physical activity. McNamee asked about Family & Consumer science. Menz said they added babysitting unit. McNamee also asked what is happening to show a year of growth by students at the elementary level, one of the reasons given for the realignment of the related arts. Assistant Superintendent McGarry said a big part of evaluating growth in the middle and high schools is the MAP test, and in the elementary schools, which do not currently have MAP testing, fluency scores, math check, and lots of data points are used as evaluation tools.
(Ed. note: At this point the three minutes alloted to each speaker were finished. President Carey explained that the School Board could not make an exception and allow her to continue speaking, nor could it allow her to take someone else’s time, as another speaker offered.)
- Lynn Abruzzo thanked School Board President Carey for attending Aronimink Elementary’s Winter Concert. Abruzzo also noted for School Board Director Gordon that when he would have taken the SATs there were two parts, not three. (Ed. note: In 2005, a writing section was added to the SATs, making the highest possible score a 2400. Prior to 2005, the highest grade possible was 1600.) Abruzzo asked for an update on the software implementation, referenced during the Personnel report, as noted above. Director of Business Management Smith said they have a fully executed contract; the District’s technology person is working with them on a time frame. Assistant Superintendent McGarry noted that conversion is starting now and it is hoped it will be fully implemented by the 2013-2014 year.
- Rick Shappell asked about AEDs in the schools. Assistant Superintendent McGarry confirmed that all schools have them. Shappell also asked about the Curriculum and Superintendent’s reports, and why we are paying for 131 students at conventional schools. Director of Special Education Mary Cedrone shared that some of those students are placed through court adjudication and/or mental health needs. The challenge is that these costs are not capped; the schools can charge what they want and we are required to pay. Superintendent DeVlieger shared that they have been asked by State Senator Erickson to come to Harrisburg and do a 20-minute presentation on this issue.
- Damien Warsavage shared his personal feelings about DCCC; his mother and sister are both attending DCCC. He also announced that the Education Policy and Leadership Center will be conducting a School Board Candidates Workshop in our area on Saturday, February 2nd from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Montgomery County Intermediate Unit. Visit the EPLC website for details.
- Phyllis Fields attempted to defer her time to Lisa McNamee but President Carey said that it would be against the rules to allow Lisa McNamee to speak twice; McNamee could give her questions to Phyllis to read but could not speak. McNamee declined to do so. Phyllis Fields then spoke and urged the public to pay attention to the charter school situation; she had attended a workshop and learned that if we do not contact our representatives in Harrisburg then by 2017, we will not have public education. We must fight with everything we have against charter schools. At this time, President Carey noted that it is more successful to send personal letters or emails to representatives than the form of bulk emails or bulk signatures.
- Kate Smith thanked them for the opportunity to serve on a committee, and asked if the Special Education Committee, for which she had applied, had been selected. Assistant Superintendent McGarry explained that Mrs. Cedrone had already selected a parent, which is why Smith was placed on the other committee. (Ed. note: The parent on the Special Education Committee is Penny Starr-Ashton.) Smith also asked about the DIBELS testing as a tool to evaluate a year’s worth of student growth. McGarry clarified that this would be a data point for the District, not the State. Smith said she has grave concerns about the proposed changes to School Board policy, for which one proposed change is to meet every other month. Director of Business Management Ed Smith explained that every other month is what is required to be stipulated, by law. President Carey added that this is what is required but the School Board will still meet monthly. Kate Smith also questioned the reasoning of the Volunteer Policy, which is stricter than the District Visitor Policy, and asked the Board to carefully consider the proposed changes of all of the policies, to avoid unintended consequences.
- Colleen Kennedy informed the School Board and the public that an investigation is being conducted of the letters of support for the Charter school, since the letter of support from Rite Aid was signed with the name of a non-existent Rite Aid employee. Kennedy also expressed concern over the lack of books in the BHMS Library compared to the DHMS library. Assistant Superintendent McGarry said that BHMS Library is one of the best libraries in the District. President Carey commented that perhaps all the books were out in circulation. Kennedy asked about why only 60 minutes per month for gym (physical education). What empirical data shows that this is a good idea? McGarry explained that in the contract there was only 30 minutes for specials. Some schools did 30 minutes while others did 35 or 45; it was not consistent. The contract is 30 minutes for prep and 30 minutes for lunch and that is what is happening across the district now.
- Stacey Hawley asked about rumor that Central Registration would be moving to the UDHS Gym. She has concerns about safety of building given the contentious nature of registration at times. Assistant Superintendent McGarry responded that Central
Registration wasn’t a warm and welcoming place. He thanked Director of Public Safety and Attendance Louis Gentile for creating a way for Central Registration at the High School to only have one access point; this means the District is out of that building and that cost. Registration is also going to have electronic components of the registration process to speed up and streamline the process. Hawley reiterated mobilizing now to talk to legislators in Harrisburg about the Budget. She also commented, that as a District, we need to raise the bar on the SATs; we know the press loves to point out Districts that “don’t meet the mark.” She also questioned why the Gala isn’t on the District website under the “News” heading. Finally, Hawley pointed out that the Charter School applicants seem to know our Achilles heel. We say something at the board meeting and the charter puts it in their application. We need to review policy to make sure we don’t lack; we need to educate the community on the positive things the District does.
- Rachel Mitchell asked about page two of the proposed new Volunteer policy. She noted that it leaves a lot to the principal’s discretion, and noted that in the past the inconsistency across the district was a concern raised by the PIP committee. Assistant Superintendent McGarry said that the policy is not intended to restrict volunteers, but that principals need to have the power to override the policy for situations where a volunteer meets the “no criminal record” requirement but still causes problems as a volunteer. Under the proposed language, the principal has the ability to restrict such individuals from volunteering.
- Alexa Hogarty asked about what is happening with Library? Arts? Physical Education? She noted that Director of Curriculum Menz had answered this question earlier, but Hogarty wanted to reiterate the need for appropriate instructional time in Library and Physical Education.
What is the point? Becoming a more-informed stakeholder. Hope to see you at the February meeting!