EASD eliminates lead development position

By on March 28, 2012

By: GARY P. KLINGER Review Correspondent, Staff Writer

The Ephrata Area School District (EASD) reported at its Monday night board meeting that the district and the Ephrata Area Education Foundation (EAEF) have dissolved the position of their development director. This was a position held by Kati Farrer, who was laid off at the end of February.

Stephanie Gingrich, EASD communications director, explained the move.

"The elimination of the position and the timing of the decision were based on economic considerations," she said. "Money was not coming in. The district and the foundation will absorb the responsibilities."

The EAEF was founded in 2004 as a means to provide additional funding to the public schools in the Ephrata Area School District. It is a blending of community, business and school leaders to foster a positive educational environment throughout the district.

Through its considerable efforts, EAEF has been able to supplement the education Ephrata students receive through supporting teachers with equipment, student scholarships, even grants for programs which are so beneficial to the students but which might not find funding through the school district. This was important enough to inspire the start of the foundation. But as state and federal budgets continue to squeeze the local districts to do more through unfunded mandates but with less money coming from those levels of government, groups like EAEF become an especially important and integral part of the quality of local education.

As the economic slump continues, the EAEF, like all organizations, has been forced to cut costs in the facing of growing demands for the very services they are providing. It was in just such an environment that the decision was made to eliminate the development director’s position.

Farrer joined the foundation in November 2010. Her primary duties included grant writing, fund-raising and alumni relations.

Farrer was previously a volunteer grant writer for the Lancaster Career and Technology Foundation and served as public information director for Wilson School District.

Also at Monday’s meeting, the EASD announced that it is looking to bring several classes currently being handled by the Intermediate Unit 13 (IU 13) back under local control.

But it may not be all that simple.

EASD is not alone in considering possible cost savings associated which could be appreciated by bringing certain IU courses back to the local schools. However, in doing so districts are finding they have little to no control over the staffing of those programs.

The process of taking back classes is guided by a Transfer Between Entities (TBE) process. It is Pennsylvania School Code and has been around for many years. The guidelines exist to address situations when districts and intermediate units change the way in which services are provided to students. PSEA monitors the process to ensure it is being followed and the employment rights of teachers are honored.

School board members were briefed by the board’s IU representative, Judy Beiler, during her monthly report.

Under TBE guidelines, any district taking an IU program back must first offer the position to the current IU teacher covering that course. If that teacher declined the offer, the district would then be required to hire from the IU’s pool of approved personnel, bypassing the usual interview process entirely.

Unfortunately, the district could find itself with little recourse should the performance or fit of the IU instructor prove unsatisfactory at the local level.

"The performance of teachers in programs that the district takes back is not one of the factors that can be considered in the TBE process," Gingrich explained. "However, IU 13 and district administrators work collaboratively to support teachers in their development so that they can meet expectations."

Gingrich further explained that the EASD is looking to take back four classes for next year. In the fall of 2008, the district took back two classes at the high school — one emotional support and one life skills.

"By taking these classes back, we can provide more students with the right supports closer to home, which allows the students to experience more of the district," she said. "It also gives us the opportunity to bring back Ephrata students who are currently being served by other districts. "

According to Gingrich, the cost to the district when the IU runs programs is more than if those same programs were run by EASD, even when including staffing costs. The district estimates that bringing back four classes will save the district close to $400,000 annually.

For additional information on EASD, visit easdpa.org. Gary P. Klinger welcomes comments, questions and suggestions via e-mail at klingerglobal@gmail.com. More SCHOOL BOARD, page A15

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