Posts Tagged ‘class size’

From 2009-2012, Maureen Grosheider’s record as Board President was one of consecutive tax increases, higher spending, and larger class sizes.  Despite a looming pension crisis, the District lacked a long-term financial plan and failed to establish a reserve fund to defray future pension costs.

In 2009, Grosheider told the Board that the pension spike predicted for future years was so egregious “the answer lies with the Legislature, not the school districts.”  While other districts were putting money away, Grosheider did nothing.  June 24, 2009 School Board Minutes

With no financial plan in place, Grosheider led the Board to raise taxes in 2010, 2011, and 2012.

In June 2012, the District’s Business Director told the Board that “Fox Chapel has raised their millage each year…and put that money into reserve to help offset the pension costs.”  After 3 years of tax increases, North Allegheny had no pension reserve fund.

Grosheider told the Board “Hindsight is 20/20 on things like this.”  June 27, 2012 School Board Minutes

As a result of the District’s financial troubles, NA operated 13 elementary sections above class size guidelines that year.  Some elementary classes operated with over 30 students.

In November 2012, the situation worsened and the District recommended closing an elementary school.  November 28, 2012 School Board Minutes

Despite community outcry around erroneous projections, Grosheider refused to form a community task force.  Later, it was discovered that Board Policy #4215 requires a Citizen’s Advisory Committee and that the Board was not compliant with this policy under Grosheider’s leadership.

In August 2013, after wasting an entire year of Administrative resources on the proposal to close an elementary school, Grosheider said the Board would not proceed with the recommendation—noting an increase in elementary enrollment.  August 28, 2013 School Board Minutes

In December 2013, newly elected school board members took office and new Board Leadership was appointed.  December 4, 2013 School Board Minutes

Under the direction of new Board Leadership, a Budget and Finance Committee was formed, an Elementary Class Size Policy was implemented, and the Citizen’s Advisory Committee was re-instated.

The new Board has also taken steps to prioritize expenditures, grow alternative revenue and establish a long-term financial plan—while Grosheider has undermined these efforts.   During the 2014-15 school year, Grosheider approved more expenditures than any other member of the NA Board—including the new technology plan—but voted against the budget to fund the very expenditures she approved.  July 2014-June 2015 School Board Minutes

On Nov 3rd, vote for the team of candidates committed to Moving NA Forward—BLACKBURN, DISQUE, FILIAGGI, FINLEY, MAHLER, McCLURE, and MEYER!

The 2015-16 school year marks the third straight year elementary enrollment has beat projections.

In 2012, elementary enrollment was projected to decline to 3,278 students by the year 2015.*
Actual 2015 enrollment is 3,484 students (206 more students than projected.)

This year, the District required 153 elementary sections to prevent classes from operating above class size guidelines at the start of the year. The third day enrollment chart provided by the District illustrates that the class size policy passed last year is operating effectively and equitably.
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* In 2012, a consultant hired by the District predicted total elementary enrollment would drop to 3,117 by the year 2017.  This means the District would have to lose over 350 elementary students in the next two years for this projection to hold true. In fact, actual enrollment has exceeded these projections by more than 150 students each year.
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SaveNASchools has reinstated its Political Action Committee (PAC) to support candidates for the North Allegheny School Board in the 2015 Primary Election. The name of the PAC is “The Committee to Save NA Schools” and it is registered with the Allegheny County Board of Elections.

The Committee to Save NA Schools endorses the following 6 candidates:  Libby Blackburn, Kevin Mahler, Suzanne Filiaggi, Christopher Finley, Christopher Disque, and Michael C. Meyer.

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First row: (l-r) Libby Blackburn, Kevin Mahler, Suzanne Filiaggi Second row: (l-r) Christopher Finley, Christopher Disque, Michael C. Meyer

 

These candidates comprise a District-wide slate as residents of Franklin Park, Marshall, and McCandless. Three are incumbents with Board experience and three are newcomers with fresh ideas.

In 2013, the NA School Board – which included 3 newly elected members – chose new Board leadership and began the process of moving NA forward. The 6 candidates on this slate are the only individuals who can be counted on to keep that momentum going, particularly through their support of three general principles:

Avoid Annual Tax Increases by growing alternative revenue and prioritizing District expenditures. The incumbents on this slate are the only candidates who supported the 2014-2015 budget – which did not raise taxes. They’re also the only candidates who supported the Administration’s recommendation to retain a consultant to provide suggestions for expanding the District’s fundraising efforts.

Advance NA’s Education Model by supporting small class sizes, improving classroom technology, and promoting STEM initiatives. The incumbents on this slate are the only candidates who voted for a policy to support smaller elementary class sizes.  This slate of candidates also supports new initiatives to help NA forge ahead with classroom technology and STEM education, areas where NA fell behind comparator districts under prior Board leadership. 

Encourage Community Involvement by supporting the Citizen’s Advisory Committee which was reinstated last year under new Board leadership.   Under prior Board leadership, the District was not compliant with Board Policy #4215, which requires that the District maintain a Citizen’s Advisory Committee to provide feedback on important District matters.  This slate of candidates values the community and their input.

To read more about these candidates, click here.

 

 

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North Allegheny school directors who were elected on the platform of elementary class size made good on a campaign promise. They have proposed a method to determine the number of sections of each elementary grade.

To read more, click here.

Since September of 2012, Save NA Schools has advocated redistricting in order to create more equity across all elementary schools and better utilization of “excess capacity” in some buildings.  Balancing enrollment is critical to reducing class size- which has been a central focus of this group.

On March 15, 2013, Save NA Schools stated that balancing enrollment would allow the district to

  1. keep class size within the district’s guidelines
  2. adequately administer elementary programs (music, ESAP, GOAL)
  3. reasonably accommodate future growth

Many members of the North Allegheny community, including parents from HES, IES, MCK, MES and PES,  spoke in support of the redistricting proposal for those reasons.  On Wednesday, February 19, the North Allegheny School Board voted 7-2 to balance enrollment across all of the district’s buildings– making the 16-month community campaign to “save class size” a success.

The redistricting plan incorporated the top two requests from the community:  1.) move the fewest number of students, and 2.) grandfather current 4th and 7th grade students.

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The North Allegheny School Board Wednesday approved redistricting students for the next school year. The plan moves fewer than 200 elementary students and allows for current fourth- and seventh-graders to stay in their current schools. It was introduced by the administration last month to take into account comments from residents about three previous plans

To read more, click here.

At the school board meeting on Wednesday night, the administration presented two preliminary redistricting scenarios.

SaveNASchools believes that, prior to redistricting students, the administration needs to:

  1. acknowledge increasing enrollment trends, and
  2. adopt a new projection model

If the redistricting plan is not based on a model that accurately reflects enrollment trends, it will limit the district’s ability to administer equitable class sizes across all buildings.

Last year, the administration recommended closing Peebles Elementary School based on a projected decline in elementary enrollment in McCandless.  This year, there was a 60 student increase across Peebles (+15), Hosack (+20), and McKnight (+25).

The projection model used by the district to make 5-year enrollment forecasts has consistently underestimated actual enrollment.  In 2008, the district predicted an elementary enrollment of 3,182 students for the 2013-14 school year—400 students below the third-day enrollment of 3,582 students.

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SaveNASchools has endorsed candidates who are focused on improving projection models and creating more transparency around the board’s decision-making processes.  Please visit www.movenaforward.com to learn more.

SaveNASchools believes North Allegheny is a thriving district, not a district in decline. We believe that if we continue to (1) hire top-quality teachers, (2) offer top-ranking programs, (3) provide a top-notch education, (4) implement new ideas, and (5) make sound decisions, the district will continue to flourish.

1. Teachers and class size play an important role in the learning process. We do not support the district’s decision to hire fewer teachers and operate 13 elementary sections above the district’s class size guidelines.

2. Programs such as music, GOAL, and ESAP are integral to the elementary curriculum. We do not support cuts to these programs because they are essential in developing the breadth and depth of the whole student.

3. The closure of any building will require the remaining buildings to operate with higher enrollments and fewer spare classrooms than we’ve ever operated at in the past.  We do not support an education model that will limit the district’s ability to manage class size and displace programs integral to the elementary curriculum.

4. The district needs a long-term plan that is focused on moving the district forward and generating new revenue.  We do not support the district’s position that we have to cut teachers, cut programs, and close a building because of economic challenges.  The challenges we have relate to the district failing to establish a reserve for PSER contributions and choosing to raise taxes instead of forging ahead with new revenue initiatives (e.g. creating a STEM education program that is open to non-district residents).

5. The district should adhere to a best practices model when making significant decisions. We do not support the district’s decision to (i) ignore a petition with 1,000+ taxpayer signatures requesting a community task force, (ii) hire a consultant who donated his services after being involved in a lawsuit with the district, and (iii) rely on enrollment projections that have underestimated elementary enrollment for the last several years.

In summary, SaveNASchools supports teachers, programs, class size guidelines, long-term planning, and best practices to keep our district strong.  We want North Allegheny to preserve what is great about our district while promoting new ideas that will make it even better.