A local parent inquired about what I see as the ‘Top 3’ Issues as they pertain to our School Board and District. I’ll highlight the three areas/issues/goals and list my corresponding ideas here. More to come on these issues and more.
- Budget and Finances: My main goal here is to minimize tax increases without cutting quality. To avoid significant deficits, the OVSD is already on track for a steady tax increase (likely 2-2.5%) over the next several years. It is unrealistic to claim we can drastically cut taxes (after all, only 7-10% of our budget is discretionary spending!) and more realistic to attempt to hold this increase at a slow rate through thoughtful budgeting and advocating for reform at the State and Federal level.
a. Maintain small class size. We must not compromise the quality of instruction and attention our students receive.
b. Understand that we offer our teachers a competitive salary and that this is associated with improved retention and quality. We run the risk of staffing gaps and other difficulties if we attempt to cut salaries, thereby also risking additional, unintended costs.
c. Understand the role of local regulations and state and federal systems on school funding.
d. Identify areas for reform at the State and Federal levels. Specifically, support school choice while advocating for Charter School Reform in PA. As it stands, laws surrounding charter school funding have remained unchanged for over two decades. Address disproportionate cost to public schools (and taxpayers) when a child in the district enrolls in a charter school (particularly a cyber charter school). Currently, districts tend to overpay as expenditures are based on the school district’s expenses and not what it actually costs to educate that student at the specific charter school. Without reform, the growing popularity of charter schools and the current funding arrangement will most certainly drive our taxes up exponentially AND result in devastating cuts to our staffing and resources. Statewide, this stands as one of the greatest pressures on public school budgets.
e. Seek and encourage supplemental sources of funding, including grants.
- Take care to identify and cultivate the many routes for supporting our youth and preparing students for post-graduation success. Post-graduation plans, including but not limited to, traditional four-year college education, trade/vocational school, armed service, and entering the work force, should be respected and fostered.
a. Support programs that stimulate students’ interests and strengths, including the arts, student government, FFA, athletics, and other clubs.
b. Maintain and grow relationships with community and state colleges.
c. Support college credit opportunities, such as AP courses and dual enrollment and a schedule that allows for students to purse these options.
d. Identify mentors in a range of career paths and initiate valuable mentorship programs and opportunities.
e. Foster a district-wide educational environment and attitude that recognizes the unique needs, interests, and strengths of our student population.
f. Expand upon curriculum that incorporates life skills training, including money management, study skills, and drivers ed.
g. Forge relationships with community organizations that expand upon students’ interests.
h. Support the guidance department in programs that assist students in identifying career goals, building resilience, and addressing grief, coping, and other mental health needs.
i. Hire and retain support staff to meet requirements of special education programs and services such as speech, OT, and psychology.
j. Empower teachers to seek and utilize their additional training and expand upon their toolkits, to be innovative in their efforts to teach a diverse classroom of children.
k. Offer students the necessary technology and internet access to pursue applications and educational endeavors.
- Add a parent’s perspective to school board conversations. Use my intimate understanding as a parent of children in the district to forge ahead with practical solutions for new and ongoing issues and recognize the unique needs of all families in our district, including single parent, Stay-at-Home and working parent households, etc.
a. Make school board meetings accessible by continuing with live-streaming. Encourage the school to post meetings to the district’s YouTube channel. Invite parents who would otherwise miss in-person meetings to take note of and partake in our school board meetings.
b. Allow parents sufficient time and resources to make choices for their children. As was the case when little notice was provided to parents of the school switching from all virtual to full-time in person instruction last Fall, parents are left to make hurried decisions when they could be better supported in considering their options and better guided to resources.
c. Should contact tracing remain a relevant issue in the next school year, the district should aim to reduce unfair circumstances to those impacted by contact tracing. More specifically, should the school find a significant percentage of students out for contact tracing following major events or holidays, they should consider planning for temporary school-wide virtual instruction or other means to guarantee each student has the same opportunities to learn and teachers can offer their full attention to instructing all students.
Thanks for stopping by and checking out my perspective. Please stop by my Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/alisonforoleyvalleyschoolboard/) to join the conversation.