Tuesday, June 17, 2008

NMS closes, Tawanka remains open

During the final meeting of the school year, the board closed one of the two buildings on the chopping block while keeping the other open for another year. Closure of Neshaminy Middle seemed like a no-brainer despite the tremendous inconvenience caused to staff, students and parents due to the delay in pursuing the findings of the McKissick Study. Given the declining enrollment and pending budget crisis, clearly the board/district had to do something with one of its middle schools. Although nobody was in love with the idea of closing NMS, even the community members participating on the Redistricting Committee agreed it was the right thing to do.

One of the ongoing controversies with consolidating middle schools surrounded grandfathering of next year’s 8th and 9th graders to Maple Point. Many parents voiced concerns their 8th and 9th graders should be permitted to attend that school regardless of where the redistricting boundaries fell, but district administration could only ensure a quality school year for the grandfathered 9th graders; adding another 50 or so 8th graders to Maple Point is more than that building could handle.

My own opinion is that while grandfathering 9th grade students is understandable, it’s going to be way too crowded at Maple Point next year with over 1400 students in attendance. Two of my children attended MP when there were 1200 students and that seemed like chaos. I cannot imagine what over 1400 students will be like in that building. For those parents who fought to keep their kids at Maple Point another year – as the saying goes, be careful what you ask for.

Regarding Tawanka, that was a less obvious decision. Most, if not all, of the board agrees that the alt ed program at Tawanka is academically successful. There is some question as to what the true per-student cost for the program is, and some board members believed the program could be made more cost effective if it were moved to the high school or a middle school building. But because there were not five (5) votes to support its closure, Tawanka remains open for another year. The ideal location for the alt ed program would be the Eisenhower facility, but it would require $200k in renovations. In the end it was cheaper to keep the program where it is for now – Tawanka, but the board and district must continue to evaluate the cost effectiveness of the program, and find the best location to house it.


Here is a link to this morning's Courier Times article on these facilities.

14 comments:

That was a close one said...

Why wasn't Rick Eccles at the meeting? My neighbor was there and said that Mr. Kozol seemed surprised that he had to take over as president. It sounds like Eccles didn't tell anyone he wasn't coming, and I guess that was the best thing possible because the right decision was made for Tawanka. I heard that Kozol wanted to just dump the Tawanka kids up at the high school. Maybe he doesn't understand the meaning of the word "alternative" in the Alternative Education Program. Yeah, let's just put them back in an environment they couldn't succeed in the first place. What's more frightening is that 3 other board members agreed with him. I'm really surprised and disappointed that Katsuridis (sorry for the misspelling) voted with that group.

Anonymous said...

Good luck to the Neshaminy Middle students as you transition to different schools next year. You'll do just fine.
The board did the right thing by closing Neshaminy Middle, but they have to keep working on Tawanka's costs. Everyone keeps saying the costs there are too high. Even though it's best to keep the special program kids there for another year, either we have to get the costs lowered or we may have to farm those kids out someplace more reasonably priced.

conspiracy theorist said...

To Close One and any of the board members who think it's a coincidence that Eccles didn't show up, your political naivete is showing. Eccles is joined at the hip with Webb and Koziol. He wouldn't fail to show up without communicating to them on one of the most important moments in recent Neshaminy history. His failure to show guaranteed that Tawnanka would not close, and it would allow Webb, Koziol, Boyle and Katsouratis to save face by voting no. It's an old political move that gave all 9 members a win-win. I wouldn't be surprised if the 4 board members who voted not to close Tawanka knew about it all along.
Come on, Mr. O'Connor. Isn't there something you'd like to tell us?

time to go said...

To conspiracy theorist...

I think you are directing your question to the wrong board member. Yes, Eccles, Webb and Koziol are connected at the hip, but it was obvious that no one on the board was aware that Eccles would be a no show. I was at the meeting and you could see how angry Webb was with the outcome of Tawanka. Up until last night, Eccles was in support of closing the Tawanka school. Eccles vote was needed for the motion to pass.

This isn't the first time Eccles has avoided a hot topic. I've witnessed him many times leaving the room when the discussion gets heated or when it is time to vote on a controversial subject. Remember, his voting to keep the school open would have angered his supporters that sit in the front row. This is the group that Lindner sits with when he comes to meetings.

You should be asking Eccles where he was and why didn't he have the courtesy to let anyone know he would not be at the meeting? I would think that the district would have heard if he had an emergency. So if it is a conspiracy you are looking for, then look to Eccles.

William O'Connor said...

Dear Conspiracy, sorry but I have no insights to share regarding last night's meeting and your theory. I guess anything is possible although I would be disappointed to learn if this were true. I can only focus on doing what I believe is right, and I have to trust that my fellow board members are doing the same.

pianomom said...

I am terribly disappointed in Mr. Kutsouratis vote to close Tawanka. I expected it out of the other 3 but I thought he would be more savvy. Mr. Kadri and Dr. Spitz both said it would be cheaper next year to keep the program at Tawanka and we can't just dump those children in a large high school environment in which they struggle. Instead of balancing both education and expense, Kutsouratis took the politically safe route to vote in favor of closing Tawanka just to please voters who don't know any better. Just because your constituents may lack understanding of the economics doesn't mean you have to vote that way Mr. Kutsouratis. My PTO friends in Lower South told me last November that they elected "a good one" when they voted for you. Now I wish we had Mrs. Barrett back on the board.

tfr1984 said...

Well said pianomom. When Mr. K's young children grow older, let's hope school board members at that time are a little more compassionate about the students. It would only be fitting if his children needed special attention during their high school years but none was available. I can't imagine how he could look at himself in the mirror.

your home price said...

Important school board decisions usually affect real estate prices indirectly. We all know what the new high vs renovation decision did to Neshaminy real estate prices. Tawanka is a special place and you can not put a value on how much a place like that helps us all. It is a huge plus for Neshaminy. I don't know if it stayed open by accident, but it showed smart financial decision making. This is a good example of "thinking things thru" (Kadri) vs "cut everything" (Koziol). These school board decisions directly affect our financial assets. School boards have very little to do with our property taxes. That can only be changed by Harrisburg. But schools boards play a major role in determining the value of our homes. Add one to the plus column for the price of our homes.

KAC said...

I attended the school board meeting when the children and parents from Tawanka addressed the board. These children clearly have issues that took them out of the high school setting. Many mentioned how they “could not make it in a typical high school environment.” I thought it was very courageous of them to stand up and articulate their thoughts in a very clear way regarding the troubles they have encountered and how this program has helped them.

I understand the need to move the program eventually, however to keep suggesting that it be moved to the high school is an affront to these children and their families. The board was informed by those children personally about the importance of the Tawanka program being away from the high school. This program is an alternative to the high school. An alternative is defined as “(of two things, propositions, or courses) mutually exclusive so that if one is chosen the other must be rejected.” It is nonsensical to send children back to the very environment that they found so difficult to navigate in the first place.

I am surprised that Mr. Koutsouradis voted the way he did. I hope the Tawanka group will become even more organized and educate the board again on the importance of this program remaining apart from the high school. Don’t give up Tawanka parents.

I must be living in jersey said...

Although I'm pleased that nobody had to be laid off, it does seem odd that after retirees, we had just enough teachers to go around - not too many, not too few. Maybe the district is just being careful during contract negotiations. If there is more teachers than we need next year, we really should cut some staff.

Anonymous said...

Teachers have a varying degrees of certification. Usually a certification for elementary is K-8 or K-6. We are fortunate that so many teachers retired and new teachers did not have to be hired.

Keepin' it real said...

Jersey, FYI they didn't have "just enough teachers to go around". There were about 75-80 retirements, but the overall staff is being cut by 55 according to the Superintendent (mostly due to the NMS closure), so I think they're still going to hire about 20-25 new teachers to make up the difference.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to know your source of 20-25 teachers being hired? I encourage you to contact some of the principals in the "under utilized" buildings and see how CROWDED they are. There is no room for the classes that are now beyond capacity due to summer registrations.
Most likely, LTPD staff will be hired at the end of the summer, two days before school starts.
Check on that and get back to us..."keeping it real"...

st319 said...

The fact is that the budget is down and we should all be complimenting Mr. Kadri for doing such a great job. I've never seen any previous superintendent get the budget down to such a small increase or work as hard.

And the budget already is allowing for any additional teachers that will be needed.