Education

Methacton School Board Adopts Goals for School Year

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The Methacton School Board voted to approve "ambitious" goals for its 2014-15 school year. Here, at left, Dr. David Zerbe, and Board Vice President Herbert Rothe III, right, said it took a great collaboration of the board and administration to create and work toward achieving the goals. Credits: Melissa S. Treacy
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It is important to have goals. It keeps one focused and accountable. The Methcton School Board of Directors agreed. The discussions to set such goals for the board began at an Aug. 5 special meeting of the board. Last week, at the board’s work session, the members discussed things they’d like to see make the cut.

“We put some detailed notes together, and left the meeting with three goals,” said Board Member Kim Woodring.

The goals included at the time:

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1.     Reviewing all programs and operations for efficiency

2.     Increase fund balances for future projects

3.     Establishing partnerships with public and private entities to support educational projects and operations

Additional goals were then discussed Sept. 18, including what to do about the fields’ project, long-range visions for the curriculum and a five-year fiscal outlook as named possible inclusions.

Tuesday night, the board finalized and approved its list.

Board Member Peter MacFarland framed the new list, prior to particular portions being read aloud by various board members.

“I’d like to summarize that this list developed, which has been developed since our Aug. 5 meeting, in both public setting and informal discussions, including several discussions with Dr. [David] Zerbe as to the coordination of the accomplishing these goals, and there is an unspoken [addition] that there is a strategic overriding piece to this, which is the board’s desire to understand clearly what lies ahead in regards to finances, understand clearly where expenses in op areas are, and un ” said MacFarland. “And once there is an understanding of that, we will be able to communicate that to the voting public, what is facing the district and some of the actions that might need to be considered, after we know some of those things. We will go through each of the goals, but that underlying thought is what is the supporting reason behind these goals.”

MacFarland added that, should the board approve the list, the job did not stop there.

“It is recognized that, as a follow up, there probably need to be identified tactics and responsible parties [handling each].”

Each goal on the list, which was read aloud for public, also had an embedded timeline alongside it to ensure a deadline for its action items.

“[The goals] have completion date targets, so all can expect to accomplish the task at hand in a timeframe that makes them valuable,” explained MacFarland.

The following goals were approved, 7-0, by the board. Board President Christian Nascimento and Board Member Jim Phillips were not present.

The goals for the 2014-15 school year included:

A. Educational Goals

1. Review the high school course offerings

              a.     List of state-mandated graduation requirements

                             i.       Given to the board by administration

                            ii.     Deadline: Nov. 30, 2014

              b.     Assessment of course participation over last three years

                            i.       Shared with board by Jan. 30, 2015

                            ii.     Top and bottom 20 subscribed courses created by Nov. 30, 2014

              c.     Provide PSSA/Test Score data to the board

                            i.       Arranged by subject

                           ii.     Includes all standardized tests taken in 2013-14 school year

                          iii.    Copy to board by Nov. 30, 2014

2. In-Year Achievement Improvement

               a.     Grade spans of 3-4; 5-6; 7-8; 9-12

               b.     Improve from 2012-13 scores by cumulative 10 percent over next four years

               c.     Includes PSSA and Keystone scores

B. Operation Goals

1. Contingency Plan

               a.     Develop a reverse-priority plan to identify expenditure reductions by 5 percent on the fiscal 2014-15 operating budget

               b.     To be used in consideration on 2015-16 operating budget

               c.     Have completed by Dec. 1, 2014

2. Internal Communications

               a.     Develop increased and structured internal communication process

               b.     Monthly review of prior month cost and expenditures included

               c.     Include specific updates on status and curriculum; outstanding and new litigation; student-related issues; school building updates, etc.

               d.     Create list of potential topics by Nov. 1, 2014

               e.     Initiate by Dec. 1, 2014

3.     External Communications

              a.   Offer increased and regular communications documents to the public on key issues facing the district

              b. Electronic newsletter, website page and public forums/coffee hours to be included

              c.  Final format to be deterimined

              d. Facts and projected schedules about significant cost areas (ex. Retirement funding, benefit costs, athletic fields’ project, etc.) presented in an non-editorial format

              e. Difficult board issues could be better received

              f.  Initiated by Nov. 30, 2014

4. Contract and Agreement Planning     

              a. Create a full review and analysis of both employee and subcontracted services and agreements

              b. Adminstration will provide review/comparisons

              c. Show common and contrasting components of each

              d. Completion by Dec. 31, 2014

C. Finance Goals

1. Increase the fund balance

               a. Develop a five-year schedule to increase the fund balance

               b. Final result fund balance no less than 7% of operating budget

               c. Current rate is around 4%

2.Identify mandated increased costs

               a. Examples include STEP and salary increases; PSERS payments and other required increases (bond, education)

                b. Outline each of next three school years

                c. Develop absorption plan to pay for costs without a tax increase

                d. Complete by Nov. 30, 2014 (list)

                e. Contingency plan for absorption by Feb. 28, 2015

3. Identify new expenditure reduction measures

                a. Determine if possible on

                          i. Discretionary spending

                         ii. Non-mandated programs

                         iii. Outsourcing

                         iv. Staffing

                        v. Supplies

                        vi. Professional Services

               b. Find associated cost savings

               c. Complete by Dec. 30, 2014

D.Projects and Capital Improvements

1. Fields’ Project

              a. Offer and accept bids for fields’ project

              b. Complete and playability by Aug. 15, 2015

2.Student Enrollment Study

              a. Obtain and assess results of an outlook of student enrollment

              b. Review coming 10 years

              c. Dec. 18, 2014 completion date

Vice President Herbert Rothe III, filling in for President Nascimento who was absent, said he was glad to see such goals being adopted by the board.

“As a senior board member, I’ve never seen a documents like this come across the board,” said Rothe. “I think it is excellent, and I thank everyone that contributed to this. Everyone put into this, and they are very ambitious, and it is going to take a lot of hard work on our parts, and some creative thinking about how to achieve them, but it will be well done.”

Board Member Brenda Hackett agreed.

“This is an ambitious list,” she said. “I think we’ve covered most of the areas that are important to us, and I am supportive of this set of goals.

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