School board won’t seek tax exceptions New members sworn-in
By: GARY P. KLINGER Review Correspondent, Staff Writer
There may not be any word for some time whether or not residents of Ephrata Area School District will see their school taxes increase for the 2012-2013 school year.
But at Monday night’s school board meeting it did become clear if taxes do go up, the district will be limited to what it can do. The re-organized board voted to "opt out" of the option to apply for exceptions under Act One, which will have the effect of keeping any tax increase to a max of 2.1 percent.
"The district would qualify for the (PSERS) Public School Employees’ Retirement System (retirement) and Special Education exceptions," explained the district’s business manager, Kristee Reichard. "The exception allowance would approximately be an additional 4.5 percent or .85 mils. The board decided that with the current financial condition of the district and the cost cutting measures the district has taken over the past years that we will be able to stay within the Act 1 index if a tax increase is needed. The Act 1 index is 2.1 percent."
While any news of a possible tax increase is not good news, that the district is able to exercise "opt out" seemingly has them moving in a positive direction. Reichard also pointed out that the district had accepted the final audit of the 2010-2011 school year with no findings, meaning it received a perfect audit.
With regard to the budget process, the board was required by state deadlines to vote on the "opt out" option even thought the actual budget process is still only in early stages.
"We are not saying there will be a tax increase," emphasized Superintendent Dr. Gerald Rosati. "At this point we just do not know but what we are saying is that the most any increase might be would be capped at that 2.1 percent."
Reichard added that with the budget process in the beginning stages, the board will be reviewing the budget and adopting a preliminary budget in April or May. Final adoption will likely be in June.
"To comment on the what is in or not in the budget is too early at this stage," commented Reichard. "The point of last night’s (vote) was the district will develop a budget below the 2.1 percent. The district has done many cost-cutting measures to reduce costs and if we stay that course we will be able to accomplish this."
In other district news, each of the school principals reported to the board with regard to their respective building goals. Throughout the presentation there was a focus on the differences in demographics between each school, with an emphasis on being in tune with the specific needs of groups and of individuals within each school, so that the education program could best be tailor fit to meet the core value of learning success.
Assistant District Superintendent Kimberly Schlemmer first introduced Kevin Deemer, principal of the Highland Elementary School.
Deemer outlined his goals including having all third grade students meeting proficiency in reading. In addition, the students and teachers at Highland will focus efforts to bring 95 percent of their kindergarten through fourth grade students to proficient or advanced status in their narrative writing skill levels, while also improving student written responses in all subject areas.
"Upon review of relevant data in reading, math and science, it was determined that an emphasis on writing was needed to help students convey their thoughts effectively to questions requiring a short open-ended response," said Deemer. "This will help students show their proficiency in all subject areas."
Fulton Elementary Principal Gary Oberly presented his school’s two goals. First, that reading achievement/proficiency benchmarks will be met by all students. Second, that mathematics and reading performance gains be realized for all students. He added that his school is attempting to handle additional learning support within each classroom rather than sending those students in need of remedial help outside of the classroom for that support.
Joy Darkes, principal of Clay Elementary said her school staff would strive to have all students proficient in the area of reading by the end of third grade through a number of different means. She said her goal is to maintain the previous year’s increase of 17 percent among economically-disadvantaged students scoring advanced and proficient on the PSSA tests. Her goal is to increase those students from 72 percent to 77 percent. In addition, they will monitoring the reading achievement of the top 20 percent of the school’s population to ensure that these advanced students are making one year of growth as indicated by their NCE score on the GRADE assessment.
Akron, too, will focus on the reading skills of their students. In fact, two of the school’s three core goals focus on reading. School principal Dr. Enrica Gerhart said that the school’s first goal would be for students to attain proficiency in reading by the end of the third grade. A second goal would be to demonstrate annual growth of fourth grade advanced reader. The third goal is for improved fourth grade science achievement.
Ephrata Intermediate School Principal Stacie Bardell outlined two key goals for this school year. The first goal is to differentiate instructional activities to meet the needs of all students as determined by pre-assessment data. The second goal is to have students achieve a 75 percent average on open-ended response type questions.
At the Ephrata Middle School, principal Gangi Cucciuffo outlined two goals aimed at transitioning 8th grade students into high school. The first goal is to put aspects in place to ensure a successful transition by engaging both 8th and 9th grade teachers in that process. The second goal is to formulate a comprehensive career planning system for 8th grade students to examine the skills needed to be successful in high school and beyond. Already this year, 8th grade students have had the opportunity to either shadow someone in a career of interest or to attend a day at the Career and Technology Center previewing possible course paths.
Goals outlined by the high school principal, Joane Eby echoed in some part those shared by Cucciuffo. The first goal for the high school is to provide a seamless academic and social transition between 8th and 9th grade, aimed at insuring that students start their high school journey off on a strong start. Her second goal focuses on consistent grading by developing and implementing a clear and consistent grading system used by all teachers at all levels, especially within the same subjects. And a third goal is to create a new schedule system that includes more time in core classes, built-in opportunities for enrichment, coaching, advisory and other supports. That also includes less academic transitions for the students throughout the day.
"We are very fortunate to work with this team," said Rosati. "Each of them are taking on financial and economic challenges. They are top-notch; not afraid to go into their buildings and say ‘we can do more for kids.’"
For more information on the Ephrata Area School District, www.easdpa.org. More SCHOOL BOARD, page A18 Tim Stauffer and Chris Weber were sworn in as new members of the Ephrata Area School Board at the annual reorganization meeting Dec. 5. In addition, Judy Beiler, Ted Kachel and Kay Kurtz renewed their oath of office.
Beiler has served on the board for eight years, Kurtz has served for four years, and Kachel was appointed in May to complete the unexpired term of Allyson Snyder, who resigned her position.
The board also elected officers at the meeting. Tim Stayer, who is beginning his 11th year on the board, was reappointed president. Glenn Martin, who is beginning his 15th year on the board, was elected vice-president.
In other reorganization news, the law firm of Stevens and Lee will remain the school board solicitor.
Business Manager Kristee Reichard will continue her roles as representative to the Lancaster County Tax Collection Bureau, Lancaster-Lebanon IU 13 Joint Purchasing Committee and Lancaster-Lebanon Joint Authority.
Jenny Miller will continue as district representative to the Lancaster County Career and Technology Center Joint Operating Committee. Martin will remain Pennsylvania School Boards Association Liaison.
Stayer made committee assignments for the coming year. He, Kurtz and Weber will serve on the Budget/Finance Committee. Kachel, Jenny Miller and Robert Miller will serve on the Building/Property/Public Affairs/Planning Committee. Martin, Beiler and Stauffer will serve on the Curriculum/Personnel/Policy Committee. Stayer, Beiler and Kachel will serve on the Board/Superintendent Evaluation Committee. More MEMBERS, page A18