Thursday, January 29, 2009

Officer, Neshaminy parent, killed in traffic accident

The Board was advised a short time ago of the passing of Middletown police officer Chris Jones. The following information was sent to us by Acting Superintendent Lou Muenker:

Officer Chris Jones from Middletown Township Police passed away a short time ago. Officer Jones was on a routine traffic stop on route 1 when he was hit by a passing car. He was taken to St. Mary's Hospital in very critical condition and was pronounced dead a short time later.

Officer Jones was a Neshaminy parent and his wife is a former district employee (a cafeteria aide at Neshaminy Middle School). He leaves behind three children who attend Neshaminy High School, Maple Point Middle School and Hoover Elementary School. Officer Jones was well known, liked and respected in the community.

I know you will keep the family in your thoughts and prayers. (We) will be forwarding helpful information to the schools involved to assist students, staff and families in coping with this tragedy.

Thank you for your service, Officer Jones. Rest in Peace.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

PSSA policy change needs more time

The Board agreed last night to table a vote on the policy change that would mandate PSSA proficiency as a graduation requirement. It isn't a question of IF the policy will be enacted but rather a question of WHEN, and the Board's move gave Administration more time to prepare for a successful implementation.

I commend my fellow board members on a good decision last night. This is a dramatic, important change that must be implemented thoughtfully for the sake of the students.

Note to parents - whether they are a graduation requirement or not, the PSSA's are the stick by which our district's progress is measured. Please impress upon your children the importance of these assessments, and encourage them to take the tests seriously.

Farewell to Dr. Costanzo

After many years faithfully serving the Neshaminy School District, Sandy Costanzo is retiring. There isn't much I can add to the many accolades given to Dr. Costanzo, and I feel I am losing both a friend and a trusted associate. I will always remember her for the work she did with the PTO leaders, keeping them informed and active in the Neshaminy community. I've always regarded her as one of the people who make Neshaminy a great school district.

Congratulations and good luck, Sandy. We'll miss you!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Deadline for Homestead applications is near

If you are a homeowner who did not benefit from property tax relief for the 2008 school year, it could be that you never filed for a Homestead exemption. With the March 1 deadline fast approaching, you still have time to file for inclusion in the 2009 school year. You can learn more about this program and download an application by going to the County's website.

If you have any questions about the program or your eligibility, please contact the County office directly at (215) 348-6219.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Board to vote Tuesday on PSSA rule

As you may be aware, the Neshaminy school board could make PSSA proficiency a graduation requirement. What you may not realize is that this policy could be put into effect with the current junior class.

Although I support the concept of mandating PSSA proficiency, I don't believe that this year's junior class or their parents have been given adequate notice of this significant policy change. I am also concerned that the safety nets designed to assist students who don't achieve PSSA proficiency are not fully in place for all students who may need it.

If you feel strongly about this issue, you should make a point of attending Tuesday's school board meeting (January 27th, 7pm). For a little more detail on my objections to adopting the policy for this year, below is an excerpt from an email I sent to my fellow board members last week:

"Even though I support the concept of making PSSA proficiency a graduation requirement, I am recommending that the Board Policies Committee withdraw its recommendation to enact the rule for this year's Junior class. My concern is that there has not been adequate notice to the students and their parents of this very dramatic change in Neshaminy policy.

Despite assurances from staff at Tuesday's Board meeting that the students had been notified of this policy change, it is now clear that this is not the case. The small mention in the course selection book is hardly acceptable notice for a policy change of this magnitude. When students make their course selections, they don't read the selection book cover to cover - they review the courses they are interested in with their parents. I seriously doubt that more than a handful of students/parents even noticed the statement about PSSA proficiency, and the PSSA's are now just a few weeks away.

I also have a concern regarding the remediation course for those who do not achieve proficiency - is there even sufficient space at the high school to accommodate them? If, say, 300 kids don't pass Math and 200 don't pass Reading, that's 500 spots needed. At approximately 25 kids per class, that's 20 sections. Has that been considered is the space planning for next year?

I appreciate the effort put forth by the staff and board members who have worked on this policy, and as I said earlier, I support mandating PSSA proficiency. However, enacting such a policy with virtually no notice shows little regard for those affected by it and gives the appearance of a haphazard action on our part."

Thursday, January 22, 2009

New proposal offered to teachers

This info courtesy of a Courier Times article . . .

During a recent negotiation session, the Neshaminy school board offered the Neshaminy Federation of Teachers a new medical and prescription drug benefits proposal, according to a message posted on the district's Web site. Officials refused to reveal specifics about the new plan because the board wants to give teachers time to review it.

Board spokesman Ritchie Webb did say this deal involves a less-restrictive Personal Choice option, compared to the old proposal, which offered a more limited HMO.

"Hopefully, we can get some movement," said Webb. "We're looking for a compromise and we're optimistic that we can get something going."

In May, the district says it proposed the following: An increase in the salary schedule from 11 to 15 steps over three years; that teachers contribute 10, 11 and 12 percent to their health insurance over three years; elimination of the retirement incentive package; an increase in work days, from 188.5 to 190.5; an increase in work hours from 7 to 7.5; and a salary increase of roughly 3 percent annually, including service and education.

The following union offer, also made in May, is posted on the district's Web site: An annual 4 percent salary increase, not including service and education; no more than three consecutive teaching periods; increased prep time, from five to seven periods per week; implementation of full-day kindergarten; implementation of a technology component at the elementary level; and an increase in the retirement incentive, from $27,500 to $30,000.

You can read the full article by clicking here.