Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Dad and a Gingerbread House

Dad and Daughter

Yesterday I had the pleasure of helping in my daughter's second grade class as the students built gingerbread houses. What a blast. Mrs. O'Hara and the entire second grade team had their students build gingerbread houses using graham crackers. It was wonderful to watch the students create something and put their own mark on a creation. It was messy, a little noisy and a GREAT TIME! Mrs. O'Hara managed to use the lesson as a way to reinforce some thinking skills. When the students were ready to "accessorize" their creation she asked them to stop, think and make a plan just like they do when approaching some math problems. I also liked the day because I was "dad", not the superintendent.

I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

2010 District Report Card

Pennsylvania compiles a "report card" for every school district in the Commenwealth.  The report card is based on the results of the PSSA test scores.  The report card allows anyone to "dig deep" into the PSSA data.  RASD has a lot to be proud of regarding the improvement in PSSA scores over the past few years; although there is still work to be done.  The link to the report card is on the district web site as well as here.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Congratulations to the Chorus students

I took my family to the Middle School/High School Christmas Chorus Concert last week and we really enjoyed the music.  I have asked Mrs. Morley-Palmer to "guest blog" and share with you all of the good things that our chorus students are participating in.

The choir students have been very busy for the past 5 years. They have performed in Florida, Bermuda, Virginia, New Jersey, and New York. The students have participated in a Pirate Dinner Theater, cruised the Atlantic, taken a class on Sports in Theater on Broadway, seen both Young Frankenstein and Addams Family on Broadway, and toured the Jamestown Colony in Williamsburg, Virginia, along with spending a day at both Busch Gardens, VA and Six Flags in New Jersey.
On November 12th, 2010 the show choir held a dance-a-thon to raise money for the trip to Florida. During this dance-a-thon the students made a dvd to submit to Disney for consideration to perform on a Disney stage during the choir's upcoming trip in April 2011. The songs performed for the audition were Don't Mean a Thing if It Ain't Got That Swing, Swing, Swing arranged by Tom Anderson and "Boy from New York City" arragned by Kirby Shaw. The choir has been chosen to perform at Disney. Three weeks prior to the performance the choir will be notified of the time and location of their performance. The only information given so far is that the choir will be performing on Saturday April 23, 2011.

Thank you Mrs. Morley-Palmer!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Unsung Heroes of the School District

I would like to write about all of the people in the school district that keeps things running in the background.  Truly, if it was not for the custodians, secretaries, aids, kitchen staff, maintenance men and contracted bus drivers this district would not be able to function.  I was told by a wise professor when I graduated from Penn State in 1991 that there are two people that I must get to know when I started my first job.  I expected him to say that I should get to know the principal and superintendent.  However, he told me that the two most important people in most schools is the head custodian and the office secretary because they know what is really going on in the schools.  I know that I learn an incredible amount of important things about the buildings and the students through conversations with all of the support staff.  I have also experienced how my own children react when they see a custodian or someone else outside of school…they go running to them and want to give them a hug!  We have great people that work for this district and I am proud of the job that our support staff does for our children.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Budget Talk Already?

Yes, it is time to start thinking about the school district budgeting process. According to Act 1, Pennsylvania school districts must decide in January whether or not they will raise taxes above the Act 1 index. This index is provided by the State to every school district. The school district cannot raise taxes above that index without going to a voter referendum. I do not believe that the school district will ask for a tax increase that will be above the Act 1 minimum (about 1 mill). With that being said, I want to share with you some of the factors that will be part of the decision making process as the school district works through the budgeting process.

1. The school district is basing much of our budgeting information on the five year budget model that has been used for almost one year. The model allows the district to input various amounts of information to predict where the budget will be in five years. The biggest impact that the model has had so far is the decision this Fall to offer an early retirement incentive to try to decrease our payroll liability.

2. The new political environment in Harrisburg. The amount of State funding available for public education has increased almost every year since Governor Rendell took office. A new Governor and a Legislature dominated by republicans will probably mean less money available for public education.

3. The five year non-negotiable goals for student achievement and instruction will focus the school board on priorities in the school budget.

4. The impact of the pension “solution” put forth by the legislature to respond to the issues that are occurring in the pension.

5. Finally, the retirement incentive will play a large part in the budgeting process as the school district decides on who will be replaced and what positions do not get replaced.

There are some tough decisions that will need to be made in the upcoming months. I am confident that the school district will continue to focus on what is best for the children.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Blogging for Education Reform

November 22nd was “blog for education reform” day. The goal was to have many people blog about education reform to allow many different views and opinions to be heard across the country. I just found out about this effort so I am now going to contribute my two cents to the national discussion.

I have stated earlier in this blog that education must move away from reform and move toward transformation. Transformation must be a local decision based on local needs considering local sensibilities. Public education is too important for community sustainability for educators not to consider “radical” ideas within the system. I think right now the most radical idea would seem to be that local control is not only important, but essential. The educational policy landscape is overwhelmed with national and state initiatives that are being force-fed to local communities; a good exemple is a national curriculum. NCLB, Race to the Top, data collection schemes all tear control of the schools away from the local communities. I understand that there is a role for the Federal and State governments in education. After all, basic civil right must be protected and local communities (at least in the past) at times may not want to honor those rights. However, I am concerned that our children are being cheated from an enriching curriculum when schools are forced to implement a curriculum produced and created for a national audience. Where is the local relevance for students? Just some thoughts of mine.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Christmas Chorus Concert

The Middle School/High School Chorus concert will take place this Thursday, December 9th at 7:00PM in the high school auditorium.  Please come and enjoy the great sounds of the seasons!