You can read the April meeting minutes at http://tesd.net/schoolbd/submeetings.html and http://tesd.net/schoolbd/meetings.html, but here the biggest highlights from my own perspective.
The board has been working hard on the budget. In particular, we’ve been examining the revenue and expense assumptions and searching for things to cut in the budget without damaging the quality of the educational program. With rising fuel costs affecting our transportation budget, falling interest rates harming our revenue, and the continued rise in benefits costs, this has been a tough task.
You can find documents relating to the budget at http://tesd.net/budget.htm. The board will approve a preliminary budget for 2008-09 on May 12, 2008 and adopt a final budget on June 16, 2008. The proposed final budget will be printed and made available for public inspection by May 22.
On April 25th, Betsy Fadem, Pat Wood, Karen Cruickshank, Rich Gusick, and I met with PA’s Secretary of Education Gerald Zahorchak to discuss the proposed Graduation Competency Assessments (GCAs). We were joined by representatives of other nearby school districts.
Secretary Zahorchak expressed his point of view that the GCAs will set high expectations for PA’s students and ensure that a high school diploma has meaning in every school district.
I am sympathetic to many of his arguments. I agree that it is critical to hold our students to high standards and to provide remedial help to students who cannot meet state standards for reading and mathematics.
The goal of the GCAs according to Secretary Zahorchak is to eliminate “meaningless diplomas.” However, I do not believe that T/E issues “meaningless diplomas” or that the GCAs are the right solution for a district like T/E.
Approximately 15% of T/E students do not pass the PSSAs, but these students are able to prove their proficiency through alternative assessments and continue on to attend excellent colleges. The GCAs would harm these students by preventing the district from issuing them a diploma unless they passed the PSSAs or the GCAs. Yet these students have proven their proficiency through their success at Conestoga and their acceptance at respected 4-year colleges.
Furthermore, adding the GCAs will further reduce the instructional time available to students in T/E. While the State intends for the GCAs to replace the traditional end of course exams used by school districts, T/E’s standards are significantly higher than the state standards. As a result, if we were to replace our end of course exams with the GCAs, it would dumb down our curriculum. The effect would be even more significant in our accelerated, honors and AP classes.
Finally, the GCAs would be another unfunded mandate for our district since we would not receive adequate funding to cover the additional remediation and other services associated with the GCAs.