Shortly after the gavel comes down on Monday to begin the next session of the PA State Legislature, I expect that PA Senate Bill 76 School Property Tax Elimination will be brought forward. Last year, the bill failed by one vote, 25-26 with the Lieutenant Governor casting the deciding “no” vote. Taxes are a burden for all of us! They are relative to what we earn (income tax), spend (sales tax,) and the value of our homes (property tax). It’s even worse if you are a business owner because Pennsylvania has one of the highest corporate tax rates in the nation. Many businesses have left our state because of it. As a homeowner myself, I pay the full array of taxes like most of you. However, as the Quakertown superintendent, I have a fiduciary responsibility to keep the Board and community aware of the implications of what is out there that could put the district at risk.
Just the sound of this bill makes it popular! School Property Tax Elimination! The thinking is that it is expected to be an ‘easy lift’ for the Legislature. So what’s the downside? Here it is: SB76 will virtually eliminate local financial control of schools and create an annual guessing game in the school district budgeting process. I believe this bill is short-sighted, especially for communities like ours, and in fact, for many communities across Pennsylvania. Before considering such a major shift in school funding, our elected leaders in Harrisburg need to make the ‘heavy lifts’ first, which they haven’t done yet. They need to first solve the PSERS crisis, then start controlling expenses, reduce or eliminate unfunded mandates, and balance their own budget.
How is SB76 Property Tax Elimination suppose to work? The bill promises to “replace dollar for dollar revenue lost” to school districts - that’s $15 Billion across 500 school districts. That’s a lot of funding to redistribute, and a lot of money to send to the state in hopes that we get the same amount back! To eliminate property taxes, the Personal Income Tax (PIT) rate will increase from 3.07% to 4.95%, the Sales and Use Tax (SUT) will increase from 6 to 7% and expand to apply to more items, and the state will collect all that new revenue and send funding out to school districts, to include a cost of living adjustment. This fiscal year, Quakertown Community School District receives 25% of its annual revenue from Harrisburg. If SB76 is enacted, our state revenue will jump to 86% of the ‘17-’18 QCSD Budget - if we get what is promised. A big if! This reminds me of why social security is so far in the red.
What are the repercussions for Quakertown? One wrinkle is that school districts must continue to tax property owners for debt service. In real numbers, that is over $10 million of debt payments a year until the year 2032, when it declines precipitously until 2045. Any borrowing for new construction, e.g. building, renovating or upgrading schools would have to be approved by a community-wide referendum. Historically, that route does not work. Only two school construction referenda have passed in Pennsylvania since the implementation of the Act I Index ten years ago.
Let’s put SB76 into context of past state level decision making. Over a decade ago, Governor Ridge and PA Legislature voted all state and public school employees, including themselves, a retirement increase (PSERS and SERS). It became a seriously underfunded mandate, with the burden falling on school districts. This year, 34% of every dollar of salary must be paid into PSERS by the taxpayers. That means the cost is passed on to you through property tax increases. It also resulted in cutting school programs and people as PSERS obligations crowded out other spending. For example, in Quakertown, the PSERS expenditure line item grew by a factor of 10 from what it was - 1% to 10% of our budget or $1 million to $11 million, over the past ten years. During the same time, the district cut staff by over 80 positions.
If you remember last year, the Governor and the Legislature could not come to terms on the state budget. Districts across the state received only half their state revenue until nine months into the fiscal year. Many school districts that receive 50% or more of their revenue from the state had to borrow money to make payroll - further passing more burden onto taxpayers! Exacerbating the problem in Harrisburg is that this year’s state budget was not balanced - it was underfunded by $1 billion. School boards are required to balance their budget every year by law, the state is not. So, PA began the year with a shortfall and now, half way through the fiscal year, revenue collections are running behind by $600 million, which makes that gap even bigger.
As a homeowner and district leader, who is fairly well versed in public finance, I am troubled with SB76. There is no doubt tax reform is needed badly! Let’s do it systematically! Put “first things, first!” We must address the ‘heavy lifts’ first - especially the PSERS crisis. Before we simply hand over $15 billion of our hard earned money to leaders in Harrisburg, we should expect them to get their own financial house in order. Building trust is important! The consequences of not approaching tax reform thoughtfully and in the right order could be devastating to public schools and our economy throughout the Commonwealth. I encourage everyone to follow this issue carefully and share your thoughts and concerns with your elected officials. I thought you should know.
Contact your PA State Legislature
Good evening! What an incredible Arctic blast we received this weekend. morning’s weather forecast calls for icy conditions. Stay tuned!
As usual, so many things are going on and some fun things to report on:
AP District Honor Roll Award for 2016
Elementary School Science Kits and Social Studies books
1st week of 2017 was really good for QCHS Sports
Reminder about Board Facilities Meeting this week, topic: land development
Right before the holiday, the College Board announced that QCHS received the 2016 AP District Honor Roll award - for the third year in a row! Criteria for the award are strict:: growth in student enrollment in AP courses, growth in performance of students taking the exam, and maintained or increased participation of minority students. We know from research, and I have seen through professional practice, that as student participation and success on AP exams increase, SAT scores and college freshman year success increase. What does this mean for Quakertown? As more students step up and take more rigorous courses in the short term, we should see a dramatic increase in SAT scores and college readiness.
Science and social studies at the elementary level are content areas frequently overlooked in the era of high stakes testing and national accountability movements. A common occurrence in schools is that textbooks and other resources bought by districts become the curriculum versus building curriculum maps that are aligned to state standards, then selecting resources to match that curriculum. We have found some of those curriculum deficiencies and inconsistencies. As a result, our K-12 STEM, Reading/English Supervisors, and Social Studies specialist spent a full day in each of our elementary schools to solicit feedback/input on various resources, e.g. non-fiction books related to grade level social studies standards and science kits. After wonderful collaboration and support during these visits, we will present to the School Board several books from the American Reading Company for approval, and a contract to upgrade and maintain our Foss Science Kits.
The first week of 2017 was an impressive week for Quakertown Community HS sports - 10 wins for 15 competitions! The co-ed Bowling Team had its first ever competition and held its own. The popularity and excitement in the HS for the bowling program reminds me of years ago when Jamaica had its first bobsled team at the Olympics. Our Girls Varsity Basketball Team went 3-0 for the week - winning two of the games in overtime. Boys swimming went undefeated in two meets (5-1 overall, you go, Coach Peters and swimmers); wrestling went 3-2 against some hefty competition; girls swimming went 1-1; and boys basketball went 1-2 for the week. Capping it off yesterday was underclassman Hudson Delisle running a minute mile at the Armory in New York City despite losing his shoe half way through. His time qualifies him for the PA State Indoor Championships.
As a reminder, during Board Facilities Committee Meeting, we will see the initial conceptual drawing options for our land on West Pumping Station Road. A few months back, the Board approved the Community Facility Committee recommendation to develop the land - initially building an elementary school, then joining a middle school to it several years later. We have invited our 36 neighbors whose homes adjoin or are near the property to this week’s meeting. You can watch a video about the school building plan by clicking here. Next month, we will bring before the Board the final approval for the Sports Complex behind the high school.
Thank you for reading. Please share your thoughts about these topics or anything else of interest with us.
Greetings and Happy Holidays from the Quakertown Community School District office!
The Holidays are already off to a wonderful start with winter concerts, athletic events, and of course, a few major exams for high school students right before the winter break. I heard so much about them last night before the HS choir concert.
Before everyone shoves off to destinations far and wide I wanted to share a few important items. Please read:
Beginning on January 9th in the Senior High School Cafeteria, for the first time ever, Chartwells - our food service provider, will be providing a free or reduced breakfast for eligible students. For decades, we have provided the free/reduced meal opportunity at the lower building levels, but not at the Senior High. The service will begin at 6:45 AM and run to 7:10 AM. The meal will be in accordance with the federal breakfast program, so the meals will be French toast, pancakes, waffles, breakfast sandwiches, or cold cereal with assorted muffins, juices and milk. Many of our children qualify for this offering. The Panther Café that is out in the front lobby area will continue to serve a la carte items, including coffee.
A few parents have asked me to provide follow up information about the bomb threat at QCHS back in September. It was determined that the bomb threat came from an overseas source. As I believe I mentioned to you before, the week after the threat, local first responders - in particular Scott McElree, the Quakertown Borough Police Chief and Rich Ficco, the Richland Township Police Chief joined with our Administrative Team for an After Action Review to discuss lessons learned. We took action on those lessons.
It is that time of year to consider those who are not as fortunate as many of us. Quakertown Cares is a not for profit local organization that supports children and their families who are in need, and senior citizens. Already the annual winter campaign has surpassed previous years. They have raised over $40,000 that has already found its way to our local families. Not a single dollar goes to overhead! The campaign this year is extended to February. Please consider supporting QC by supporting our families in need. Checks may be sent to Quakertown Cares, @ QNB, P.O. Box 9005, Quakertown, PA 18951.
The School Board is moving forward with the developing of 126 acres that QCSD owns behind Target and BJs. At the January 12th Facilities Committee meeting - beginning at 5:30 PM in the Board Room, the Board will be discussing for the first time initial planning ideas for the development of an elementary school - middle school complex that would replace Tohickon Valley ES and Milford MS. You are cordially invited to attend this one-hour meeting. We have already invited all of the neighbors around the 126-acre property.
Finally, so far, the weather has been kind to us this winter! We have not had to have a snow day. Currently, the day right after the New Year, Monday January 2, 2017 is scheduled to be a school day for student attendance. With this notice, it will be officially a non-school/non-work day for the entire Quakertown Community School District. Yes, no school on January 2nd.
On behalf of the Board of School Directors and all of us at the District Service Center, we want to wish you and yours a very Happy and Joyous Holiday! I could not be prouder of our school community and grateful for your faith and confidence in us. As always we look forward to listening to your ideas and feedback, as they are invaluable for building a quality school district.
Travel safely during the Holiday!
Holiday Greetings! Hope this finds you all well. There is a lot to report from the school district office:
School Board Reorganization/Annual Budget for ’17-’18.
Elementary Social Studies Curriculum
Elementary School Science Curriculum & STEM Clubs.
Challenges to our School District Culture
On December 1st, the School Board conducted its annual Reorganization Meeting. Paul Stepanoff and Chuck Shermer were re-elected President and Vice President with committee chairs remaining the same. Stephen Ripper chairs the Facilities Committee, Chuck Shermer the Finance Committee, Mitch Anderson the Education Committee, and Steaven Klein the Policy Committee. These committees meet once a month. The Board also directed the Administration to plan for Act I Index (2.9% on local property taxes) for Budget ‘17-’18, with no funding “exceptions.”
Moving to celebrations, congratulations to teachers Frank Parker and Joe Santanello, and the Quakertown Marching Band! The Marching Band had another amazing year in competition and at home supporting our school community at Night Lights. Last month, they concluded their competition season by finishing second nationally at MetLife Stadium. We are incredibly proud of Assistant Marching Band Director & Strayer Middle School Band teacher Joe Santanello, who is currently a semi-finalist for the National Music Educator of the Year Award. Another key component of Nights is our Varsity & JV Cheerleading squads. In her first full year as head coach, Quakertown grad and parent Carrie Maha led her two squads this past weekend to a qualifying spot in the national cheerleading championships, which will be held in Florida in February. Speaking of sports, last month the Board authorized the administration to begin a HS Bowling team with teacher Alan Hunsicker as coach, with Shelby Miller at Keller Williams Realty Group as the team's sponsor. Practices begin this week!.
Since high stakes testing took hold of classrooms across the country by federal fiat 15 years ago with NCLB (No Child Left Behind), social studies and science have often taken a back seat to reading and math. This is a national K-8 phenomenon and created several problems in what teachers are supposed to teach and what students are supposed to know and be able to do. Fitting everything that is expected and required into a day/week/month/school year is problematic. Our Office of Teaching & Learning is taking on this challenge systematically, deliberately, and by working collaboratively with teachers in a Six Year Curriculum Cycle. I was surprised to learn that we do not have in place a K-5 social studies curriculum across all elementary schools. A team of teachers is working on that right now, which will be integrated into the reading program.
Behind the scenes we are updating our K-5 Science Kits and science curriculum to the draft National Science Foundation standards. A topic that comes up frequently at my Parent Council meetings are STEM Clubs (Science Technology, Engineering & Math). In the past, the district only supported TSA Clubs at the middle and high school levels, but nothing STEM related at the elementary level. Therefore, STEM Clubs only existed where parents stepped up to financially support them. It was not an even playing field for all students. Therefore, in order to create cohesive extra-curricular opportunities for all students interested in the STEM fields, we re-allocated resources to support STEM Clubs at each of the elementary schools (ESs). That began this fall for Grades 4 & 5. Each of our ESs received support in selecting a STEM Club theme and activities that would best meet the needs and desires of our students. Their choices are really cool: Designing and building simple powered machines, robotics, volcanoes, geodesic gumdrops, straw bridges, and marble mazes. We expect a high student interest and participation rate.
Having a high expectation and positive school district, school building, and classroom culture is essential for us to make the leap from “Good to Great” as a school community. We may have the best strategy to advance student achievement to the highest level for your children, but as I have said to you before, “culture trumps strategy every time.” When your child(ren) walk across the stage at graduation, they will be entering a culturally and ethnically diverse world in which they will meet many people who are different from them, significantly different from their experience right in our backyard of Quakertown. We need to prepare them for it.
In the news across the country and right here in Bucks County after the national election, there were many news reports of bullying by adults and students against their peers who were not of the same ethnic, religious, or racial background. You need to know that these types of incidents happened right here in our schools. Those reports broke my heart! Sadly, these types of incidents also happen every so often at bus stops and in our schools year round. That’s simply unacceptable! Saying something disparaging that is racially or ethnically charged about another adult or child for any reason is inexcusable behavior. Your children and our employees are my responsibility to protect. Please know that I take that responsibility seriously. "Community" is in our district name for a reason. So, please help us foster an environment of respect and tolerance. Thank you.
As always, thanks for reading and for all you do to support your children and us! I look forward to your feedback, which I will share with the Board and the administrative team.
On November 10, the Board adopted a new mission statement, vision, and set of shared beliefs. These are part of the 2017-20 Comprehensive Plan, which the Pennsylvania Department of Education requires us to develop and submit every three years. Our objective is to make every student in Quakertown college and career ready by graduation day. If you think about that for a moment, that is thirteen years of serious work and heavy lifting by scores of teachers along the way for every student, as they pass through the kindergarten through 12th grade continuum. Most of the teachers will have 180 days/class periods a year with your child. Their time together is precious as the student, teacher and content converge into learning the task.
Creating a district-wide community of learners - students, faculty, administrative staff, parents, and even the School Board, is paramount to our success. For the adults in this equation, professional development is key, and our children are watching our example. Leading from the front, the School Board participates in numerous activities - weekend retreats, workshops, numerous committee meetings, and just recently, in a board-administrator book study group. Currently, the Board and the district’s senior leaders are discussing The State of the American Mind.
The administrative team - building principals, their assistants, and district office leaders are constantly looking inward to determine how we can provide more effective leadership in our areas of responsibility. Year round, we expect our administrators to seek continuous improvement to become more effective leaders. In a word - to grow. We conduct book studies together, bring in guest speakers, attend relevant workshops, and invest lots of our own time into personal professional development. This year four of our nine principals volunteered to participate in a principal leadership training program through the National Institute for School Leadership. Four other school leaders are working on their doctorates.
Across the district, teachers take professional responsibilities seriously and are doing their part to grow and learn every day! At the elementary level, with introducing the new Eureka math program this year and re-aligning the curriculum for reading, teachers are working both together and on their own to be prepared every day. To help them, we have made an adjustment this school year to some of the specialist positions in our elementary schools. Our reading and math specialists, supported by the Office of Teaching and Learning, are now supporting teachers with the planning and instructional supports they need to impact the learning of all students in our reading and math classrooms.
Research on professional development for teachers consistently points out the need to provide ongoing, robust support, such as co-planning, co-teaching, and coaching to transfer knowledge and skills learned in workshops to classroom practice. At the Freshmen Center, the two middle schools, and Quakertown ES, our teachers are leading the implementation of the Instructional Rounds process to look as school wide instructional practices and determine areas for improvement. Improving classroom instruction across all of our schools is key to lifting student achievement so that ALL of our children are college and career ready. Fortunately, built into our teachers contract are 15 non-instructional days, the most in Bucks County! Six of those days are curriculum and conference days working in teacher teams and meeting with parents. The 9 remaining days are “untracked” so teachers are afforded the time they need to be the best, and they are!
A couple months ago, I promised elementary school parents the second installment of the Reading/Language Arts and Math Parent Resources guide. This is an invaluable resource that will help you follow along with what your children are doing in class.
As always, sharing your thoughts is invaluable to us. So, please do so! I share all of your input with our district’s leadership team as we all work to grow and learn every day.
Mark Twain once said, that "if voting made a difference they would not let us do it." Of course he was kidding! Voting is indeed a right that does make a difference. Having lived overseas and all over the United States during my 24 years in the military, I always made sure to vote Absentee back here in my home state of Pennsylvania. Now, I make sure my own two children, who are in the active duty military, have their Absentee ballot. I truly believe that passing on the responsibility of being an engaged American citizen is important. So does the Board of School Directors. In fact later this week, the Board will be adopting a new mission statement that includes "citizenship."
"The district's mission is to prepare all students with the knowledge, habits, and skills they need to graduate ready for college or career and for engaged citizenship, all at the best value to our community."
Having our graduates become "engaged citizens" is vital to having our community and nation continue to flourish. We all must do our part as parents and adults to teach our children the very special blessings and rights we have as Americans and US citizens. Two of special events happen this week that more than symbolize our rights as citizens - a national election that includes candidates down to the local level and Veterans Day. QCSD will be actively involved in both.
With the General Election, all of our students will have the opportunity to vote in their school today. In coordination with the Bucks County Intermediate Unit, students will vote electronically for the Office of the President of the United States through Bucks County Student Voters. Elementary school students will vote at some point during the day with their classroom teachers. Secondary students will vote during their Social Studies classes. We look forward to sharing the results with you when we receive them. Over the next two days, you will have mutliple opportunities to ask your students how voting went and to share with you children the importance of the voting experience, yours and theirs. In fact, with students off on Election Day, you may even want to consider taking your children to your polling place.
Below are a few resources that I wanted to share with you, if you wanted to consider a developing a learning plan about voting and this election for your children at home.
Thanks for reading! Have a wonderful week.
Good evening and Happy Halloween!
I would like to share a couple newsworthy items with you this evening! They are: School Performance Profile, new QCSD Architect, local area information, and Pennsylvania Youth Survey Community Committee.
But first, congratulations are in order for outstanding performances by all of our Fall Sports teams and Quakertown Community High School Marching Band. Special shoutout to our Girls’ Varsity Soccer Team for securing the Continental Conference Championship and an amazing 14-1-3 season. Another shoutout to the Marching Band for becoming Pennsylvania State Champs in their division, on Saturday. The Marching Band will compete in nationals at MetLife Field in two weeks. Good luck!
A few weeks ago, the Pennsylvania Department of Education released the 2016 School Performance Profile (SPP) results. The score for a school is based upon indicators that define a high performing school. Expectations and standards of performance are high and demanding. If you recall this time last year, the SPP was only available for high schools because of the significant statewide decline in PSSA scores with the assessments’ re-alignment to Common Core. This year, every school has a score. At the link, you can drill down from Bucks County to School District, and click on individual schools’ SPP. This is a banner year for Quakertown Community High School as its students outperformed every other public high school in Bucks County and 6th overall in the four county Philadelphia area with a final SPP score of 97.9. I am truly optimistic that we will anchor student achievement at the highest levels with the work we are doing and the work we know we still have to do.
At the October 28th Board meeting, the Board of School Directors unanimously approved SchraderGroup architecture, LLC as the school district architect for Phase I of the new building program. Dave Schrader and members of his team worked with the Community Facilities Study Committee last school year and helped us develop a ten year view of the district’s school facilities needs. At next week’s School Board meeting, the Board is expected to adopt the Facilities Master Plan and let us get right to work with the SchraderGroup.
Hiring the architect last week was perfect timing given what was made known to QCSD this month. The Lehigh Valley Health Network sent representatives to meet with me regarding their concept design and plan to develop 89 acres on the property that fronts Route 309 and West Pumping Station Road (formerly Workout Plus) and that extends back to Portzer Road and property owned by the school district. A formal plan by LVHN will be presented to the Richland Township Board of Supervisors next month. We look forward to immediately working with the LVHN, and Richland and Milford townships to develop conceptual drawings and plans for a new configuration of West Pumping Station Road that will go through the district’s recently acquired 126 acre property.
Substance abuse and use of illegal drugs are a serious problem in our community. You may have heard about the drug-related tragedy this past weekend in downtown Perkasie Park that involved the arrest of three 15-16-year-old high school students, and a victim who graduated from Pennridge HS in June 2015. The drug problem is very real and getting worse. It is not only in our “backyard,” but it is in some of our homes. I personally hear very sad stories that make my heart ache. We need a QCSD strategy for our schools, our students, faculty and staff. There are a slew of resources that we need to do a better job of tapping into besides our participation in the Upper Bucks County Drug Task Force. I have asked Janet Pelone, the Director of Pupil Services, to develop a community committee to help us chart a positive course. The first thing the Committee will examine is the PA Youth Survey that was completed last year by all 6th, 8th, 10th and 12th graders. What our students say should be the perfect launch point for designing a community anti-drug abuse strategy in our schools. If you are interested in volunteering for the committee please email Janet at email@example.com. The first meeting will be Wednesday, November 16, 2016 at 6:00PM at the District Office. Here is the link to the survey results.
Thanks for reading. If you have any feedback, ideas, criticism or thoughts to share, please don’t hesitate to let me know.
I hope that you have an enjoyable evening.
I would like to talk briefly about school safety and the serious consequences for making a threat.
Late Friday evening, a QCSD middle school student received a text message threat from an unknown person claiming to be a clown. The perpetrator, the person who sent the text message, wrote, “We are attacking Milford Middle School this Tuesday at 1:14 pm so be fair-warned.” Can you imagine the horror that a pre-teen and his/her parents felt and the heavy burden that unexpectedly came into their lives? After a week of clown threats nationwide in social media, children were having nightmares about clowns. Nerves were already rattled and on edge. Parents were feeling their own personal trepidation and concern about what safety precautions were being taken in schools because of these threats.
The QCSD child’s parents took the appropriate action. They called their local law enforcement authority, in this case the PA State Police. The next day, the parents contacted the Milford principal, who then contacted me. Fast forward to this morning: Thanks to an excellent and swift investigation conducted by School Resource Officer Bob Lee of the Quakertown Borough, the case was solved. The perpetrators were our own students. This saddens me.
The QCSD Board of School Directors and Administration take this situation seriously. I respectfully request that parents and/or guardians conduct a strong, straight forward talk with your own child(ren) about making a threat - verbal or written. There are serious consequences for someone who makes a threat. In Quakertown, we have two Board policies that I would like to bring to your attention - QCSD Board Policies 218.2 Terroristic Threats/Acts and 233 Suspension and Expulsion. We take a no nonsense stance in adjudicating a substantiated/verified threat. All threats will be handled in accordance with Board Policies, and where appropriate, charges will be filed with the Bucks County District Attorney for Terroristic Threats and Disorderly Conduct. This afternoon, the District Attorney accepted charges on these students who exercised extremely poor judgment.
When children are given access to cell phones and social media at a young age, parents should address family rules and expectations, along with the school district’s rules and expectations. It is our #1 priority to keep everyone safe and to provide a school environment in which everyone feels safe.
In advance, thank you for your thoughtful attention to my request.
Have a good night.
Greetings from the District Services Center! I hope the new school year got off to a wonderful start for you and your family!
I would like to catch you up on some of the behind the scenes work that is going on in Quakertown Community School District and share a neat “show and tell” rubric that was designed for elementary school parents by our Math and Reading/English Supervisors that will help you stay informed about what is going on in the classroom.
For the past two and a half school years, the Board afforded me the time and opportunity to create a systems thinking environment that is student-centered and data-driven. It became our Theory of Action. We looked at everything we do to see if it makes sense, is a wise expenditure of our finite financial resources, and rises to the level of rigor that will make our graduates college and career ready. That is a high hurdle to jump over, and requires a long term view of what we are doing - a vision!
There are several phases to our plan. The 1st Phase (Spring ‘14) was looking at how QCSD spends its money and what we were getting for it, then taking the findings to the Board, and getting their approval for change. There were significant financial savings from changing how we deliver transportation services and how we staff our schools. We recommended that over a three year period we re-allocate, re-structure, and realign our resources. It was a zero-sum game financially. In fact, over the past few years, the district has used some of the savings to offset increased PSERS and school construction costs.
The 2nd Phase (‘14 - ‘17) - “beginning with the end in mind,” began with implementing a plan that would impact some of our earliest learners, while simultaneously raising rigor in the high school. The Board funded Full Day Kindergarten and other programs at the elementary school level that will change our students’ long term possibilities because of a significantly stronger elementary foundation. We had only a few hiccups along the way, such as not being able to find a Latin teacher for the High School and a second Chinese language teacher for the middle schools.
The 3rd Phase slightly overlaps the previous and involves district wide heavy lifting with curriculum and professional development. Using a systems approach to organizational design that leads and supports the work in schools and classrooms, the district rebranded the former Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment Office to the Office for Teaching & Learning. The OTL developed a 6 year curriculum cycle, and designed a professional development model that supports teacher choice with full year cohorts about topics and ideas that are most important to them. We are also creating opportunities for focused collaboration while implementing and revising curriculum. This is what teachers told us they wanted during contract negotiations last spring, and our team delivered.
Already, there are greater teacher-parent collaboration opportunities because of the systems design. For example, math and reading rubrics are being developed to guide parents on what is happening in the classroom so they can be informed. It is truly exciting and is essential for improving student achievement in Quakertown.
I am personally grateful to so many of our teachers who have already contributed to these sizeable efforts and complex work. Together, we are creating new opportunities for teaching and learning that were only a concept a few years ago. As the bar has been raised for student performance with the introduction of the PA Core Standards and your expectations of us, we know that doing things the same way, and expecting better results just isn’t going to happen. With your support, and the awesome work of our professional staff, student achievement will thrive and flourish!
Thanks for reading. Have a good evening!
Good morning! I hope that your child(ren) had a highly successful first week of school, they are ready for week two, and that you and your family enjoyed a lovely holiday weekend.
This morning, I wanted to share a few things with you about 1) high school graduation requirements; 2) upcoming PSAT; 3) information about the Advanced Placement AP Capstone program; and 4) world travel.
At the second School Board meeting in August, the Administration provided a brief update on the PA Department of Education’s Findings & Recommendations Pursuit to Act 1 2016. It is PDE’s study and report to the PA Legislature regarding PA Keystone Exams and high school graduation requirements. PDE recommended the elimination of Project Based Assessments, while re-affirming local school district’s authority under Chapter 4 of the School Code with determining high school graduation requirements. Therefore, there will be no change to QCSD’s current graduation requirements.
This year’s PSAT will be administered October 19. This year, only 8th and 10th graders will be taking the exam. This will be the new norm moving forward. Last year, all students in grades 8 through 11 took the newly designed 8/9 or 10/11 PSAT. PSAT results provide invaluable grade level information to parents and guidance counselors about where students are in regards to a college readiness trajectory. Along with detailed results from the PSAT, like the SAT, students are provided a free individualized online SAT prep tutorial service. This is an incredible service and value. While QCSD paid for the cost of the PSAT for 1,600 students last year, fewer than 4% used this tutorial opportunity afterwards.
The high school is in its second year of a two-year roll out of the AP Capstone program. (Be sure to read about 101 QCHS students’ tremendous success with AP exams last year in Kudos.) Last year, Mrs. Bassett and Mrs. (Trosino) Girman taught the AP Seminar Course, the first part of the AP Capstone program. This year, Mrs. Ritter will teach the AP Research course, the second part of the program. I encourage high school parents to click on the link above to read more about the courses, what they will do to make your student better prepared for college, and about our students’ incredible success in the first year of offering AP Seminar.
A part of the Board of School Directors’ vision is to create numerous program opportunities for our students to be better prepared for college and career, and the potential to become leaders in a global society. These opportunities include the study of world languages, world travel, and the participation in the World Affairs Council and Youth Congress. We are now offering Spanish K-5, Spanish and German in middle school, with adding Chinese at the high school. Our plan was to offer Chinese at the middle school this year, but we could not find a qualified teacher for our students. Some of our students are even starting to study two languages at the same time while in high school.
Last year, after a hiatus since 9/11, the Board also brought back travel to foreign countries - Germany and Costa Rica. Several school board members routinely travel internationally with their manufacturing and engineering vocations and see the need for students to have these experiences. The Board's objective is to get students studying foreign languages, human geography, world history and European history at the AP level and create opportunity for travel experiences to supplement what students learn in the classroom. Three more trips are on the books – to Spain and Germany this spring, China and Peru in 2018. Having personally lived and worked in Asia for two years, and Germany for three (and traveled to other parts of the world, too), I can speak that these types of experiences broaden a student’s cultural awareness and understanding, and creates memories that will last a lifetime.
Thank you for reading! Please don’t hesitate to pass on your thoughts, ideas, and concerns.