Happy Valentine's Day - Several major topics for families to be aware of

Happy Valentine's Day - Several major topics for families to be aware of
Posted on 02/14/2021

Good afternoon!  Happy Valentine's Day!  No doubt a very special day.


Hope that you and your family are enjoying the long weekend.  I know many of our families are off visiting colleges right now, both near and far!  Safe travels to all!  It is an exciting time as high school students and their parents ponder the many possibilities out there.  We know our college and career readiness indicators climb to higher heights, as our students pull in national academic awards and scholarships, and acceptances to the finest colleges and universities in the country.  Please take a moment to visit our QCSD Newsletter published this week with several examples of individual successes. 


Thursday night, February 11th, the School Board conducted its February meeting.  The evening was chock full of information from multiple presentations.  Dr. Hoffman presented QCSD’s 2nd Grade through Algebra I, English & Biology Mid-Year Benchmark student performance data.  This was followed by the community Elementary Redistricting Committee presenting its findings and recommendations to the Board for K-5 redistricting, and Zach Schoch, the district’s Chief Operating Officer, presented the Preliminary Budget for Academic Year, 2021-2022.  Later, during Board Committee reports, HR Committee Chair Ron Jackson presented the Tentative Agreement with the Quakertown Community Education Association.  


Most likely, of immediate interest to you is the Mid-Year Benchmark Report.  As presented last spring and again in October, Quakertown transitioned from NWEA MAP to LinkIt! formative assessments this year for two reasons, utility and cost.  NWEA is an adaptive assessment, which means that it collects data on student ability level but not necessarily against grade-level standards.  LinkIt! benchmarks are a grade level normed assessment in which students are measured entirely against grade-level standards.  While both assessments are statistically valid, the way in which they arrive at their predicted proficiency differs.  So comparisons from last year to this year is problematic.  


Our Mid-Year Report provides both an overview of student performance, and allows you a deep dive into the data.  Overall, students have done well in most areas, but remain challenged in the traditional areas of concern, such as grades 6-8.  As you review the middle school data, be mindful that many of our students beginning in 6th grade are enrolled in Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II and do not take the grade level assessment.  Therefore, the grade level data is skewed lower because it doesn’t include all of those students. 


I hope you will take this opportunity to sign up for a LinkIt! Parent portal account, if you have not already done so. If you did not receive an email or are missing students from your account once logged in, please submit this form.  This will allow you to view your child’s benchmark assessment data for the 2020-2021 school year.  Historical assessment data will be added over the summer. 


The community Elementary Redistricting Committee met most Wednesday nights since last August.  They selflessly devoted countless hours to developing an operational understanding of our five elementary schools and the 6th Grade Center before jumping into student redistricting assignments.  Their recommendation is designed to minimize the turbulence of student reassignments by keeping neighborhoods together and equalizing class sizes across grade levels in our elementary schools.  With the 6th Center Center at half capacity and K12 enrollment projected to drop another 900 students over the next five years, the community Committee considered various options, including consolidating facilities, closing Quakertown Elementary School, and moving the district back to a K-6 elementary school model.


After more than four months of deliberation on their findings, the Redistricting Committee recommended keeping the K-5 model, renovating Quakertown Elementary, redistricting students across existing facilities, and investing in Facilities and Enrollment Studies. The recommended plan involves moving approximately 200 students to new schools for 2021-22.  Having previewed their Report prior to Thursday evening, I recommended to the Board that it approve the redistricting map for 2021-22 at its next scheduled meeting on March 11th.  This will allow transition planning and the new school welcoming process to begin. Bifurcating the decision making process on the recommendations this way provides the Administration time to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of the Committee’s remaining recommendations, and to give the Board ample time to reflect and deliberate on the other recommendations without creating uncertainty for families about 2021-22.


The QCSD 2021-22 Preliminary Budget presented Thursday night did not come with a recommendation - yet. There remains too many unknown costs and possible savings ahead that need to be decided upon and captured before spring. The big unknown costs that require decisions include the Elementary Redistricting Committee’s recommendations and a new transportation contract (only Levy School Bus and First Student submitted proposals).  On the savings side, we won't know for a while what attritional savings we can capture, as student enrollment continues its decline. A key savings strategy is FTE management - capturing savings through professional and support staff resignations and retirements. Since last March, FTE management has saved the district over $4 million. For program improvement we listed three new professional staff additions: an English Language Learning teacher, a school psychologist, and a band/strings teacher.  We plan to expand instrumental music offerings at the secondary level. Next year, the Act 1 Index is 3.5%, the maximum tax increase.  Our recommendation will be somewhere from 0.0% to the full 3.5% depending on Board decisions.  Expect the Administration to make its recommendation in early April.


The final big information item at the Board meeting was provided by the HR Committee of the Board.  It was a Tentative Agreement for a three-year contract with QCEA - our professional staff members’ labor organization.  The projected approval date is at the March 11th Board meeting.  You may find the details at the following link.  


Finally, congratulations to Coach Kurt Handel and the Quakertown HS Wrestling Team for winning the Liberty League and Tournament Champions this weekend with numerous individual weight class champions.  Quakertown will play host to District One - North and Regional Wrestling Championships over the next few weeks.


Thank you for reading!  As always, I encourage you to reach out to the Board and me (board@qcsd.org) with your thoughts, feedback and criticism. 


Bill Harner

Superintendent, QCSD

wharner@qcsd.org

Twitter: @billharner


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