Friday, February 15, 2008

Building closure discussions to continue

At our last meeting, the board decided against any middle school closure options for the 2008/2009 school year by a 6-3 margin. The consensus opinion was that we didn’t have sufficient information to make such a decision within 6 days of the latest McKissick study update, and we instead opted to consider building closures for the following school year.

Earlier this week, we received clarification that we can still consider building closure for the upcoming year without having to make a final decision at this moment. I’m sure many of you will be confused and concerned by this development, and I want to reassure you of exactly what this means and what will happen next.

No later than the February 26th meeting, the board must agree to consider (emphasis on the word “consider”) closure of a particular building in order to keep our options open for the upcoming school year. The next step will be to hold a public hearing sometime in March, followed by a 90-day period during which the board has an opportunity to collect more information about the various options discussed in the McKissick study (keep in mind that the board still has yet to decide between the 6 options covered in that report). At the end of the 90-day hearing period, the board then will take a final vote on whether or not to close the building for the 2008/2009 school year.

I regret any confusion or anxiety this situation causes, and it’s imperative you understand that my position in this matter has not changed. I have always committed myself to fact-based decision making after a thorough examination of necessary data. The reason I voted no last week is because I understood (as most other board members did) that would represent the board’s final opinion in the matter, and as of that moment I did not have all the information needed to decide otherwise. By agreeing to consider a building closure now, I am simply giving myself and the other board members the time and opportunity to make the right educational and fiscal decision.

The last thing I would want is for you to become skeptical as to why the board may agree to revisit a building closure for next year. When something like this occurs, it’s natural to assume that something sneaky or unethical may have happened, or that we buckled under some sort of political pressure. I promise you that neither is the case. The only reason this is happening is exactly as I described above.

The important thing now, and always, is that you stay informed and stay active, and come to the board meetings in person. Don’t leave it to the Courier Times or your neighbors or even this blog to tell you what’s going on. There is no substitute for YOU.

As always, I value your feedback and encourage your comments to this post. If you prefer, please feel free to contact me directly via email.

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm still concerned there are board members who will stop at nothing to close a school building just to cater to the senior citizen lobbyists who want taxes cut no matter the impact on education. It's hard to argue that we shouldn't close a building, and the board should evaluate both sides of the issue but I just don't trust most of the board members. I appreciate your update though. If not for your blog, we would never have heard about this until the next meeting. I may be uneasy with this decision, but at least you are being upfront and honest about it.

Stephen K said...

I saw an email last week from a Heckman parent that made sense. It encouraged people not to simply take the position of "not my school" but instead work with the board to make the situation better for everyone. For example, Neshaminy Middle could be closed next year and be repaired, then open the following year as part of a new K-8 alignment. Then other buildings in the district could be closed. Nobody wants to see their neighborhood school closed, but it's something we should consider if we can make our district better.

Anonymous said...

Don't do it Mr. Oconnor, don't do it!!! Your only giving them a chance to get you in their evil clutches. soon you will want to close all the buildings but one and go to single class room for all students like on Little House on the Prairie.

Stephen k said...

Ok, now that's a little extreme. Thankfully Mr. O'Connor is on the board and not Laura Ingalls. Thanks for the laugh.

Hoover is a community school said...

Thank you for the update William, but while I trust you I don't trust some of the board members who made campaign promises to keep Levittown schools open. You and a couple others will be trying to make a good decision, they will not. If this decision is really going to be fair for everyone, the two Levittown board members should not be allowed to vote since their decision is based on politics, not what's good for the entire community.

Anonymous said...

Has it been determined if there will a meeting to replace this past week's meeting that was cancelled due to weather, or will the next meeting be on the 26th of February?

Don't want to come off sounding like a snob said...

I chose to come to Langhorne and pay higher taxes so that my children could go to schools in this area. Now it seems like the middle school in my area will get closed and my children will be shipped off to Lower South. Nothing wrong with that area, but I could have saved myself a ton of cash by living down there instead.

Anonymous said...

We're closing schools, losing our superintendent, and giving out jobs to political patrons. Can someone please remind me why I moved here?

Anonymous said...

I guess we have Dr. and Mrs. Evil to thank for that!

Anonymous said...

My children were affected by the closure of Tawanka and if Neshaminy Middle closes, my youngest would yet again be shipped off to another school. I hope that if they do decide to close a school, they keep the students in a school in the township we reside. Just like "don't want to come off sounding like a snob" said, I pay Middletown taxes thinking my kids will go to Middletown schools. I hope the board thinks about kids like mine who would be affected twice by a school closure. As a person who went thru Neshaminy schools from K-12, I must say my opinion of the district is going way down.

Really frustrated Heckman Parent said...

Why hasn't last Tuesday's meeting been rescheduled? I guess we're going into next week's meeting and just hear what the board is going to do without any advance notice? Are they just talking about a middle school, or is closing an elementary school back on the table? Note to the other 8 school board members - if you want the public to trust your intentions, then get us some information sooner than later.

Anonymous said...

The k-8, or I should say K-9, scenario already exists in Ferdebar/Poquessing and Sweitzer/Sandburg and seems to work wonderfully. They function as two schools in one building and are cost effective in many ways. Younger kids are educated in their own building, but have the added benefit of being able to see how much the big kids get to do in middle school. It makes the transition of middle school much less anxious and keeps the community of kids together longer. Seems like a no-brainer to me!

Really frustrated Heckman Parent said...

Sorry to disappoint you Tawanka Mom, but I don't think most of our board members really care about that stuff. Some of them say they care, but I think they say one thing in a meeting, then do another to appease the senior citizens. Maybe Neshaminy Middle really should be closed, but like you, I want to know that all 9 board members really thought about our children before making a decision. I feel confident that Mr. O'Connor will and maybe 2 or 3 others on the board will, but the others will just close a building to save a few shekels. If it makes you feel any better, I know several people down at Poquessing. It's a good school with an active PTOP group.

Stephen K said...

Just a request to all who post - please give yourself a nickname instead of just saying anonymous so we know who we're responding to.
To the anonymous person who commented on the grade alignments in Ferdebar/Poquessing and Sweitzer/Sandburg, I hadn't thought about it before but in a sense we do have that kind of alignment already. I encourage the school board to speak with those building principals to gain their perspectives. I'm not sure I would consider K-8 a no brainer, but it's definitely an option worth considering.

Newbie to this Blog said...

What a great blog. We've got comments about Dr. and Mrs. Evil, Laura Ingalls, board members selling out for a few shekels. All I can say is THANK GOD my children have already graduated. There was a time when you could proudly say your kids went to Neshaminy. Now, not so much.
You're a welcome addition to our school board, Mr. O'Connor. Too bad you didn't join it about 10 years ago when you could have done some good. Sorry to say this about people who volunteer their time, but the current board is a pretty worthless bunch. The same two or three people speak while the others just sit there and do nothing. My guess is the two or three are the only ones who will do their homework, and the others will toss a coin. How does it feel to know the outcome of your childrens' school will be the result of heads or tails?

Helpless in Hoover said...

I guess this means us Hoover parents will be subjected to more comments that ours isn't a true "neighborhood" school. That doesn't seem to stop you all from collecting our taxes just as quickly.

neshaminy middle parent said...

I can't say that I'm pleased about this since the board just last week said they wouldn't close our building next year. Like the parent from Tawanka said, I hope the board members will carefully consider the students in this decision. Shame on any school board member who puts their politics ahead of our children. Why did some of you even bother to run for school board in the first place if your primary allegiance wasn't to the children?

Concerned NMS Parent said...

How can the district close Neshaminy Middle for the 08/09 school year, when the High school renovations will not be complete until 09/10 school year? Where will the ninth graders go?

Anonymous said...

Suggestion....When the board meeting is rescheduled make sure it's in the auditorium...I have a feeling you are going to need the space..

Anonymous said...

OK....so to clarify this William we won't know for SURE until 90 days after the March meeting? Sometime in JUNE or JULY? Is that what you are saying? Will redistricting be done prior to this train wreck?

William O'Connor said...

To Concerned NMS parent - enrollment projections suggest that there is sufficient room in the remaining middle schools to house the NMS students including the 9th graders. My concern is how crowded will the other schools become until 9th grade moves up to the high school, and how many students will be impacted. I assume Maple Point will accept the majority of NMS students, but I also assume some current Maple Point students will be shifted to Sandburg (that's just my own speculation). I want to fully understand this before rendering a final decision.
To the last anonymous post - the "final" vote would be 90 days after the hearing just as you stated. There won't be any redistricting before that as far as the middle schools are concerned. My guess (and it's just that - a guess) is we won't close an elementary school for the upcoming school year.

Anonymous said...

Please clarify. You said that some MPMS students would be shifted to Sandburg but in the same sentence said there would be no redistricting? How would they decide who went to MPMS and who went to Sandburg?

Nesh MS parent said...

When I moved into this district, I foolishly thought my children would only have to change schools twice...elementary to middle and middle to high school. My kids were part of the handful of students switched from Lower South to Heckman when Tawanka closed. That means that if NMS closes next school year, my youngest (now in 7th grade) will have switched schools 4 times by the time she reaches high school. I sincerely hope at least some of the board members have enough sense to think of kids like mine.

William O'Connor said...

Anonymous - There would be no redistricting before a building closure decision. My concerns about kids shifting to different schools would be IF (and therefore after) we ultimately decide to close a school. Also to be clear, my thoughts about some MP students possibly going to Sandburg are at this point an unsubstantiated concern. A redistricting study will need to be done, and that will indicate which students should go to which school. I assume such a study will consider building utilization and proximity to the surrounding students. This is a new process for me, so I will be learning about it just as you will be.

William O'Connor said...

Nesh MS Parent - I promise you that at least some of the board members (I cannot speak for all) are concerned about the number of children who will go through multiple shifts. I believe Mrs. Cummings brought up the fact that if we close NMS for 2008/2009, that could impact some of the same kids who were part of Tawanka (this would be the last class former Tawanka class that could happen to, I believe).
I cannot promise you that we won't close NMS in either the upcoming or following school years because there are many factors we must consider. But the families impacted by this decision will most certainly be a primary consideration.
Probably not much comfort to you, but that's the most honest answer I can give you. I hope it helps.

Anonymous said...

Actually Mr. O'Connor The current 6th grade student was in Kindergarten when Tawanka was closed and the kids impacted by this closure had to transition to another school for 1st grade. Now as a 6th grader in Neshaminy Middle and if the school closes at the end of 2009 these students will have to transition to another school for 8th grade and then transition to the high school the following year. The current 5th graders were not impacted by the closure of Tawanka but will be impacted by the closure of Neshaminy Middle and will then have to transition to middle school for one year and then have to transition to another school for two years and then have to transition to the high school. So in essence the closure of Neshaminy Middle will have a major impact on some students either year the school is to be closed. It you look at it from this perspective either year that is chosen to close this school will have a major impact on someone's student.

Anonymous said...

I just want to comment on the Federbar/Poquessing and Schweitzer/Sandburg set ups and provide some additional info. The only thing the two schools share is a school nurse. There are separate principals, guidance counselors, gymnasiums, libraries, driveways, parking lots, and cafeterias. (At Schweitzer/Sandburg the cafeteria has a movable wall that divides the side for each school. The kitchen is shared by both schools. Poquessing's kitchen also provides the meals, but Ferdebar kids eat separately.) Just some additional information to think about.

someone said...

The building closure's could just be a fact of life. My parents live in LoSo and are well into their 70's and my inlaws live in Middletown and are in their 70's and I know many retired people that still live in this district. It's a older district in some ways. On my street in RedRose Gate there have been 2 houses sold this winter that were owned by sr. citizens and younger families with young pre school kids have moved in. Until that happens in more mass quantities we will have this situation we are in. I'm not for school closure's because we have Samuel Everett right here in our neighborhood and it would become a white elephant and drive our home value's down. So I hope what ever happens that they do it right.......ha ha ha this school board.....and the public has input.
All that being said these things fall deaf ears anymore and they do what's right for their ego's and not who they were elected for......THE KIDS. I hope they can sleep at night.

st319 said...

To the person who wrote about how some of the current 6th graders at NMS had to transition when Tawanka was closed and now will be effected again with NMS closing...

It was always the intent to close NMS for the 2009-2010 school year when the construction was done at the high school. This isn't new information. If a new school was built, NMS would be closed by now. One grade was going to be impacted twice by switching in both the 8th and 9th grades. As parents we need to make the move a positive one and not add so much stress anxiety. All the children will be in the same situation. Others from NMS will be switching with them, so they will have old friends when they arrive at their new school and the opportunity to make new friends. My children have switched to other schools within the district and made the move just fine. It’s all how we as parents present it.

Anonymous said...

To st319,
I was simply clarifying a comment made by Mr. O'Connor that he believed that the current 7th graders will be the last grade level impacted by the Tawanka closure. Mrs. Cummings had made the argument that she supported not closing the school this year as to not impact the same students that had been impacted at the Tawanka closure and I was just supporting the theory that either year will be an impact on someone's student.

I totally support the notion that we need to be positive for the sake of our kids to make any transition a better one. No matter what decision is made the reality is it will impact someone, if not all and we need to be aware of the facts in the matter.

I also support the notion that any decision that is made about school closures should be a process that is based on fact and public input. The public deserves the right to fight for their community and deserves the right to make sure this board makes a decision that is best for the community at large. The public also deserves the right to ensure that the board does not hastily make decisions based on the short term and looks to what's best for our community's future.