Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Survey says . . .

62% of readers believed that PSSA proficiency should be a graduation requirement while 38% said no (78 total votes). Undoubtedly this topic will remain controversial while it is being considered by the board, and I encourage any interested parties to attend an upcoming Education Development Committee meeting (date tbd) to learn more about this topic.

Next survey question . . . Should the board close the Tawanka Learning Center and move the alternative education program to another facility? Proponents of the idea believe it's the only way that Neshaminy can meet its Act 1 fiscal requirements, and it is prudent to make use of underutilized space in other facilities. Opponents of the idea say that the alternative program thrives at Tawanka because it is removed from the other facilities, and offers struggling students a safe haven away from the crowd of a larger building.

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

It's really hard to respond to this survey. The kids that attend this program are kids that are at risk and are not thriving in the high school. These are the kids that would be in this communities best interest to turn around and help to become productive members of our community. Someone, somewhere along the way dropped the ball on these kids and if we have a program that currently exists that is working, and working well, we need to try and preserve the integrity of this program. The question becomes, can this program be duplicated in another environment and still maintain what makes it successful? This question can not answered in a survey and I would have to defer to the staff members that make this program a success as well as the students that have benefited from this program and moved on to become productive members of our society. Therefore, I don't think I can respond to this survey and I implore those who have experience with this program to educate us. It's really not because I don't care, it's just I don't know.

William O'Connor said...

Dear Anonymous: Your struggle for the right answer reflects just how difficult a decision this is. Financially speaking, it's a no-brainer; educationally speaking, the answer isn't so clear.
To echo something you said, the program is working well. I guess that's why this has become such a difficult decision. I'm sure you'll be reading comments from others who are as equally torn as you.

Parent of a children not from NMS or TLC said...

From what I gathered from the meeting, it is really important that these children be in their own building.

And I do agree with one of the counselors who said that parents would be up in arms if the children were placed in a seperated place from the middle school. Unless alot of information was given about the extent of the separation (meaning a locked down door between) parents would be worried. (probally needlessly, but it would happen and these alternatively schooled kids don't need that added burden ) I agree with the other point the counselor made that these children would stand out from the other younger children. If the program gets moved I think it truly needs to be moved where it is a stand alone facility.

For that to happen more planning needs to take place as to what-if any elementary schools are getting closed..or a K-8....basically I think the board needs to plan plan plan and not move hastily.

It's unfortunate we had financial downturn in our investments, because we are in a bind right now.

What programs would need to be pulled for a year in order to accomodate more planning for the Tawanka school and Neshaminy Middle School? Not that I want programs cut, but curious what that would entail.

I was especially concerned that other schools that are closer to "ideal" enrollment are having a real problem with space (hearing that an IOP was in the back of an auditorim during choral rehersal was worrisome )

Sorry so long, but that meeting raised alot of legitmate questions and once we start moving this "beast" it could quickly get very chaotic without some real planning.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. O'Connor,

I really have heard nothing negative having come out of this facility, only positives. One case in particular that I heard of was a student who was sent to this facility after striking another student who had been picking on him. This facility became a huge positive when the staff from this facility took the time to listen to this youth, hear his side of the story and work to transition this child back into a safer environment at his other school. I'm not condoning how this student behaved, but his negative action did produce a positive outcome. This speaks to the integrity of this program and for the sake of these students and our community it must be preserved. It goes back to my original question, can it preserved in another environment? Please get a satisfactory answer before you vote to move this program.

Anonymous said...

I don't think anyone was against closing Tawanka. And if one more board member reiterates "We're not closing the program" and goes off on a twenty minute tangent...WE GET IT!
What is the huge problem with closing Tawanka, moving it to Eisenhower and moving the facilities to the space at the highschool? For crying out it really that difficult to solve? The Tawanka students need and deserve to maintain the atmosphere of it's unique placement. That already has been shared, substantiated and observed. We don't need the board to conduct another $60,000 "study" to determine that.
I feel like our board is a lot like The View...all of this drama!

Anonymous said...

William you should RENAME your survey should the Tawanka program be relocated. It is very misleading.

William O'Connor said...

Unfortunately I cannot change the question once a vote has been cast or I would take your advice.
Regarding the "tangent" issue, it's no different than when seniors explain their financial hardships. Yes, it can be summed up in 1 or 2 words, but sometimes people feel obliged to explain their views in detail, and we listen to all of them. It's no different for board members who speak on a topic. Cut us a little slack.

Anonymous said...

Given that the TLC students have not been successful in a traditional school setting, I feel that it is of the utmost importance that the setting remain separated from the middle schools. And to put the TLC students at NHS would certainly be disasterous. However, if they can be housed at Eisenhower, they could still be successful. If there is interest in leasing the Tawanka building and the students can be housed separately in Eisenhower, then we should move forward. If not, leave well enough alone. The program has turned otherwise unsuccessful students and have made them contributing members of our community. That, in itself, is worth the cost of the program. We can not turn our backs on these students.

Anonymous said...

What is the conflict with moving TLC to Eisenhower and Facilities to either the middle school or High School?
Moving facilities makes more sense...It is moving staff and "things".

William O'Connor said...

Eisenhower is certainly a consideration and that is part of what we are researching. There may be a question as to whether or not we can make those changes in time for next school year. It is possible that the alt ed program could end up there but may need an interim location next year. Not sure yet. Please stay tuned.

Anonymous said...

For my own future reference:

Do school closings get voted on first and then administration comes up with redistricting plans, leasing options ect?

Also..That is just totally not right that TLC students get moved twice because moving administration just can't occur in time. If admin can't make the move fast the heck can the students/teachers be expected to make a move that fast?

TLC should be in Eis. Start moving admin NOW. Just because you can't legally vote yet, everyone seems to be ok with closing the program as long as it opens in a separated space. Can't you start moving around stuff NOW and have the official vote in June?

Really curious about that...

William O'Connor said...

If not vote to consider a closure, a board would at least have a consensus for possible closure before admin would start working on a redistricting plan. There is much that goes into such a study, and you want to be sure there is some sort of consensus before undertaking such an effort.
The issue with Eisenhower may not be as simple as just moving people. My guess is that some level of renovation must be done to make the entire facility suitable for classroom utilization.
With our hands tied by Act 1 fiscal limits, we must consider difficult decisions such as this one. It's most unfortunate that the McKissick study was shelved for 6 months last year. That time could have been used to accumulate the data we're looking for now, and this decision wouldn't be so rushed.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the explanation William. There is a lot of "red tape" besides that created by certain board members, that confuse the general public. A lot of this could have been avoided had the report not been "shelved" for political reasons.
Now there is a huge mess to clean up and those responsible just sit with their hands across their belly at meetings watching the mess that has been created letting the community go at each other's throats. After all, it takes the heat off of those actually responsible. How they can sleep at night is beyond me :(