Thursday, January 31, 2008

Wow, what a meeting!

If you weren’t there last night, I’m afraid no recap I can give you would do the meeting justice. It was full of drama, emotion, and some controversy. You can learn more about it by reading this Courier Times account from Rachel Canelli.

There are a couple important points I do want to add:
1) Our budget gap is serious and we should have been in a position to fully evaluate a middle school closure last night, but we could not do so because of a board decision that occurred last summer. After Mr. McKissick’s presentation in July 2007, there was board consensus to not move the project further until after the November election. So the project went on a 6-month hiatus until McKissick was asked to update his findings last week. All of a sudden, we now have less than a week to make a decision even though we did not have all the necessary information.

2) There was much public criticism of McKissick’s study and accusations of misinformation. I believe the McKissick study is a reasonably accurate picture of our district, and I applaud his efforts. But before final decisions are made, more information is needed. A redistricting analysis must be performed by Neshaminy staff to verify McKissick’s data, assess transportation issues, consider the community impact of redistricting, and make recommendations. Unfortunately that information is not yet available to us for reasons noted above.

3) To all those parents that say not my school, please remember that every school is important to someone. Nobody on this board takes any pleasure in the possibility of closing a facility. But as enrollment declines and our buildings are underutilized, school board members are compelled to consider fiscally responsible uses for those facilities. Last night’s vote did not change the facts confronting our community. Building closures are not a matter of IF, they are a matter of WHEN.

Thank you to all attendees of last night’s meeting. It was heated and emotional at times, but the board was grateful for your opinions and participation.

There was one other newsworthy item from last night. Skip down to the next post for details.

Heading for higher grounds?

The other big news item to come out at last night’s board meeting was that our embattled superintendent appears to be looking for employment elsewhere. Some people were shocked to hear the news while most of the audience shook their heads in disbelief.

Out of respect to Mr. Kadri, I will not comment on the situation (for now) other than to say that it is my sincerest wish that he can find reason to stay in Neshaminy.

Just because I can’t say anything doesn’t mean that you cannot. Fire away!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

It's Groundhog Day in Harrisburg

"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."
- Benjamin Franklin

Earlier today our state representatives defeated a measure that would have eliminated school property taxes. HB1275, otherwise known as the School Property Tax Elimination Act, went down by a vote of 148 - 47. The House is still debating HB1600, which is basically a re-tread of Act 1.

As you may recall, HB1275 sought to eliminate school property taxes through modest increases to the state income tax along with a change to the sales tax code. Unlike all other bills brought before the House, HB1275 was the one piece of legislation that would have offered a net decrease in taxes to the average Bucks County homeowner. Instead, Bucks County residents are now confronted with the likelihood that any measure accepted in Harrisburg will cause a net increase to your taxes (any rebates you receive will be less than the tax increase).

Keep an eye out for updates coming out of Harrisburg in the Courier Times or whatever newspaper you read. And when our elected officials say that the rebates from their concept of tax reform will lower your taxes, be sure to read the fine print.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Update on school closures

There will be a special board session next Wednesday (January 30th, 7pm at Maple Point Board Room) where we will review further the various facilities options as presented earlier this week by McKissick Associates. Our goal for this meeting, which is open to the public, is to skinny down the current list of six options to a shorter list of likely scenarios. A brief summary of the plans:

Option 2: Close 1 elementary school, close 1 middle school
Option 4: Close 2 elementary schools, build 1 new elementary school, close 1 middle school
Option 9: Close 3 elementary schools, realign middle schools to grades 5-8, close 1 middle school
Option 10: Close 3 elementary schools, realign middle schools to grades 3-8, close 1 middle school
Option 10c: Close 3 elementary schools, realign middle schools to grades 2-8, close 1 middle school
Option 11: Close 5 elementary schools, realign middle schools to grades K-8

The good news with all these options is that every school in Neshaminy that needs maintenance will get it AND there will be a net decrease in property taxes.

There is so much more to these plans than I can put down in writing, so I strongly suggest you watch the cable TV rebroadcast of the January 22nd school board meeting during which the McKissick report was presented, and you should attend all school board meetings in person starting next Wednesday and until the board has reached some sort of consensus.

In the meantime, please feel free to post any thoughts or information which might help us make the best decision for all of Neshaminy.

High School needs more counselors

Superintendent Kadri unveiled his plans to hire additional high school counselors and intent to change their responsibilities which would lead to increased student interaction. Right now, the student to counselor ratio is 325:1. The nationally recommended ratio is 250:1.

For any parent with high school students, you already knew that counselor staffing levels were inadequate, and they have been for quite a few years now. Not sure why it hasn’t been brought up until now, but thank you Mr. Kadri for addressing this problem.

Advocacy groups call for $1B in school funding

Education advocates said Wednesday that they will intensify efforts to coax lawmakers and Gov. Ed Rendell to come up with a $1 billion down payment in the 2008-2009 budget for a new funding formula for Pennsylvania public schools.

Read the rest of the Courier Times article here.

Better get another plan

An emotional crowd packed the Morrisville Middle/Senior High School auditorium Wednesday night in a show of support for keeping the 116-year-old high school together.

Read the rest of the Courier Times article here.

Friday, January 11, 2008

A Morrisville Proposal

This morning's Courier Times carried an article that Morrisville is asking other school districts to educate their high school students because they are faced with the harsh reality of having to upgrade their school buildings. So let me get this straight - a bunch of folks win school board elections in Morrisville by promising to defeat the new school and saying there was a better way, then they want to dump their students off on someone else? Is that the plan? Voters in Morrisville have nobody to blame but themselves when their property values plummet.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Hike Taxes or Close School

Here's the bottom line, folks . . . either we find significant cuts to next year's budget or else we're faced with a significant tax increase. Since teacher contract negotiations will likely not be completed in time for the upcoming budget, our only option is to consider building closures in schools that are underutilized.

For the board, this is a no-win proposition because it's a highly emotional subject that will anger one side or the other. You can read more about the subject in this Courier Times article.

What do you think?

The Time for Tax Reform is NOW

The only bill before Harrisburg that actually seeks to eliminate school property taxes rather than simply shifting the burden, known as the School Property Tax Elimination Act or HB1275, now has 44 co-sponsors. Although our own Chris King says he will support HB1275 if it reaches the House floor, he is not currently among the list of co-sponsors.

Please contact both Chris King and Tommy Tomlinson to encourage their vocal support of HB1275.

You can view the complete list of HB1275 co-sponsors and learn more about this revolutionary proposal by clicking here.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Not a Good Trend

A Courier Times article shows how Neshaminy has the 2nd highest average teacher salary in all of Pennsylvania, yet our PSSA scores are lower than most of the surrounding school districts. Not exactly the kind of results we're expecting, are they?