About the author

Jill Nickerson & Sara Herbst co-chair the Save Our Schools coalition.

Month List

PaypalDonationBox

Make a Donation

Choose Your Fund



Check out our awesome video!

clock October 24, 2012 02:02 by author Heidi |

In case you missed it the first time we posted it, here it is again. Worth a re-watch to focus on what the goal is: Building for the future of Southern Tioga School District.




Text of Heidi's comments 10/9/12

clock October 10, 2012 16:13 by author Heidi |

Friends -

This isn't an SOS statement, it's my personal statement - I'm just not sure where else to put it. Here's Cheryl Clarke's article about last night's meeting.

Even though I'm encouraging everyone to not speak about the school closure/building project issues, I continue to encourage you to attend the next few meetings: Monday, Nov. 5, Tuesday, Nov. 12, Monday, Dec. 3, all at North Penn at 6:30 p.m. There are plenty of other issues to watch: the Adequate Yearly Progress report came out last meeting - how are the board and administration going to respond? the board is considering a new bullying policy - is it adequate? Is the new outsourced cafeteria management system working? Being involved helps the board represent us better.

------------------

My name is Heidi Jones, PO Box 126, Blossburg. I’m commenting tonight as an attorney, not as an advocate – to provide some context for the law by which the school board members are making a decision about closing a school.

Under Pennsylvania law and regulation, when a school district considers a building closure, they must hold a public hearing hearing under Title 24, Article 7, Section 780 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, and provide 30 days for written comments. Then, the board must wait an additional 60 days to vote. The district held the public hearing on September fourth and then residents were able to submit written comments by mail or email until October fourth. The district wants to hear from all of us and is using this special process to ensure that all our comments and opinions about these decisions are properly recorded and submitted to the Pennsylvania Department of Education as part of the official record.

Pennsylvania Department of Education requires that copies or transcripts of all the public comments at the public hearing or in writing during the 30-day period be submitted with the District’s request to close a school to ensure that citizens were given opportunity to speak. However, the regular citizen recognition period during board meetings does not qualify as part of that official record for the school closure process.

Today is October 9th. The cooling off period started on well, should have started on, October 5th and should continue until the board votes on these issues at its December 3rd meeting.

So, that’s the law.

I want to encourage everyone to abide by the law and respect the cooling-off period because it has an important purpose: it allows us all to contemplate this huge decision calmly and rationally, with the careful deliberation it deserves. We’ve all begged the board to see the decision from our own perspectives, we’ve raised lots of excellent questions, and we’ve provided all kinds of relevant information. The board has been incredibly receptive to our questions, feelings and thoughts, and they have conducted this process in an open, inclusive and above-board manner, far beyond the requirements of the law.

But now it’s time to wait. It’s time to take a step back and let the board do its job, what we’ve elected them to do – to represent us, our communities, and our kids and make the best decision possible given the finite limits on knowledge and time. We can’t know what the future will hold – for population, for state funding, for whatever – but we can trust that this board has done its job thoroughly and conscientiously. I encourage everyone to respect the process by waiting patiently for its conclusion and choosing to respect the cooling off period.

Cooling-off periods are common in decisions with legal weight – for example, if you’re trying to get a divorce in Pennsylvania, you have to wait 90 days. If you’re refinancing your home mortgage, you have a three-day right of rescission after you sign the loan papers. For school closings, the law allows us this time to reflect and to lower the emotional energy. By continuing in this heightened emotional atmosphere, we are doing harm to our communities - both within and between our communities – that will be very hard to repair as we complete this process and make solid plans for how to implement the decisions that the board will make.

I’m not only asking us, our communities to respect the cooling-off period, I’m also asking the board tonight to consider closing comments on the school closure and building project issues. The cooling off period serves an important purpose and I think it should be respected.




SOS Presents: Let's Build 4 the Future

clock September 18, 2012 01:16 by author Heidi |
Please watch and share this video!



Update & thoughts

clock September 10, 2012 22:00 by author Heidi |

I'm sorry I've neglected the blog here - I guess I've been using that newfangled Facebook instead. So, to catch everyone up...

Last Monday, STSD held the public hearing about the school closure issue. After Superintendent Keith Yarger delivered a presentation (PDF), seventeen people spoke on the record, including Jill Nickerson, Tom Bogaczyk, Victoria Bubacz and Zach Everett. As Jill and I developed our strategy for this meeting, we decided our best approach would to be respectful, polite, and quick - I was really worried we'd be there until midnight hearing all the comments, but we were out of there by 9:30. Jill delivered a joint written comment with over 350 signatures supporting North Penn High School, and we're going to continue gathering signatures.

However, it seems I need to take a moment to explain how a public comment process works. It's a formal set of rules that dictate what is appropriate action at various times. In this case, the district published a notice on August 20 that it would hold a public hearing on Sept. 4under Section 780 of the Pennsylvania Code. So for Sept. 4, I wrote a detailed, technical comment and Jill delivered it with her short overview speech. The written comment period opened at the same time and will close on Oct. 4. Then the board has to wait 90 days to hold the vote, which is called the cooling-off period. They will vote on Dec. 3. The cooling-off period tries to ensure that the board isn't carried away by community sentiment but can focus on the facts, the public spoken and written comments, and make a clear-headed decision. 

This also means that commenting on the school closure issue is INAPPROPRIATE at any other time. If you wanted to speak about the school closure issue, Sept. 4 was your opportunity. If you want to write a comment, you have until Oct. 4 to submit it by mail (241 Main Street, Blossburg, PA 16912) or by email publichearing@southerntioga.org




STSD Work Session - Monday!

clock August 2, 2012 00:27 by author Heidi |

I hope you'll join us for the Southern Tioga School Board's monthly work session this Monday, August 4, 6:30pm at North Penn High School auditorium. RSVP here at the Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/139914209480627/ 

Also save the date: next Monday, August 13, 6:30 pm at Liberty High School is the school board's regular monthly meeting where we expect them to vote on two critical issues: the potential to close a school and continuing the NPHS building project. We need everyone there! 

Our goals

We want to see increased educational opportunities for our students:

  • Equity across the district.
  • More foreign language instruction.
  • More advanced placement courses.
  • Full schedules of electives.
  • Potential for vocational technology instruction.

We want the district to improve its fiscal sustainability:

  • Keeping all schools open would result in a $4.6M budget gap in five years. We wholeheartedly wish we could keep K-12 in each community but the fiscally responsible option is to close one in 2013 and look at consolidation for the future.
  • Consolidating to one central high school would result in significant operational savings, which can then be devoted to improving educational opportunities.

Questions? Comments? Don't have Facebook? Talk to us here or email us at sos [at] blossburg.org




Let's Build for the Future

clock July 26, 2012 19:21 by author Heidi |

Friends -

We haven't been posting much here as we've been waiting for the results of the feasibility study by Crabtree, Rohrbaugh & Associates, an architectural firm hired by Southern Tioga School District to examine the district's buildings & sites, capacities, and projected enrollments, and to make recommendations about the facilities for the future. CRA gave presentations at the June 11 and July 9 school board meetings. You can find the powerpoint presentations here.

The presentations were clear as mud, so I re-wrote them into something understandable. Here's the nerdy version: Feasibility study explanation.pdf (135.16 kb). Jill & I also made a two-page easy-to-read version: let's build for the future.pdf (164.28 kb)

You might have read about the "Our Kids Count" meeting in Mansfield Monday night. Here's the Williamsport Sun Gazette article by Cheryl Clarke. Sean Bartlett may have identified a major mistake in CRA's capacity calculations. I didn't re-run any of the numbers when I did my explanation, so those numbers may be faulty.

What's next?

  • ATTEND THE WORK SESSION! Monday, August 6, 6:30 p.m., NPHS auditorium.
  • ATTEND THE SCHOOL BOARD MEETING! Monday, August 13, 6:30 p.m., Liberty High School.

We support building a school in Blossburg that allows the district to plan for the future, that will allow for a more equitable education across the district's high schools. More than two years of foreign language! More advanced courses! Liberty & NPHS are so small that it's really hard to offer these fancy things. Also, the Island has the capacity for all the athletics currently offered at both LHS & NPHS, but the combo will be explosive in the NTL!

Really, you need to be there. If you have any questions about this info, please contact me or Jill and we'll try to get answers if we don't know them.

Thanks for all your support, folks. See you at the meetings!

 

Let's Build for the Future

Let's Build for the Future page 2




Research resources

clock May 15, 2012 11:05 by author Heidi |

Someone pointed out that the research I've been referencing isn't easily accessible via this blog so here it is

 

Penn State Center on Rural Education and Communities

-- http://www.ed.psu.edu/educ/crec/topics/development   Schools & community development

-- http://www.ed.psu.edu/educ/crec/topics/transportation   Transportation

-- http://www.ed.psu.edu/educ/crec/topics/consolidation   School consolidation

Rural School and Community Trust

--http://www.ruraledu.org/articles.php?id=2038   School size 

 

If you're interested, here's the letter Blossburg Improvement Association sent the STSD board members back in Nov. 2009. It neatly summarized our overall argument: if NPHS closes, Blossburg will die; if the district loses the tax base of an entire town, it's going to be in much worse financial shape in the long term. 

BIA-SaveNPHS.pdf (66.47 kb)

 

One more note - I'm aware that the school board is having loud debates about the direction of the district and these terrible budget decisions, but we're not seeing that at the public school board meetings. I'd like to gently remind the board members of their duties under the state Sunshine Act and hope to hear more public debate at the next work session on June 4. (This is my position, not necessarily one that's endorsed by the Save Our Schools Coalition - I haven't asked for a policy discussion on the topic.)

 

 

 

 

 

 




Ad for PennySaver

clock May 7, 2012 13:28 by author Heidi |

Jill & I put together an ad for this week's PennySaver hoping to initiate more conversation and awareness of the complex issues around the school board's decision-making process. Feel free to print and share with friends & family or post to Facebook or other websites.

Penny saver ad 5-7-12.pdf (195.91 kb)

 

 Source for enrollment numbers http://www.southerntioga.org/documents/RenovateNorthPennCorrectednumbers9-2010.pdf

 




What's going on?

clock April 26, 2012 13:10 by author Heidi |

At the April 9 school board meeting, the board decided to accept the administration's suggestion that they hire a consulting firm to perform a feasibility study that includes an examination of the buildings and other facilities, the educational programming, staffing and cost-saving options. The feasibility study is to be conducted immediately. It's really important that parents, students and community members attend the next work session and board meeting!

  • May 7, 6:30 p.m. North Penn High School - work session
  • May 14, 6:30 p.m. Mansfield High School - board meeting

What we're doing:

  • Mailing a postcard reminder of these meetings to Blossburg-area residents.
  • Providing board members with a summary of the research we conducted in 2009-2010.
  • Keeping in touch with district administration.

What you can do:

  • Attend the meetings!
  • Get your friends & family to attend the meetings!



Chart of Options presented at 3/12/12 STSD board meeting

clock March 13, 2012 19:41 by author Heidi |

Option

Description

Bond & Rating Risk *

Reimburse-ment Risk

Community Loss & Transportation Increases

Vo-Tech viability

Long-term Operational Budget Savings °

1

Full feasibility study: curriculum needs, student needs, community needs, long-term budgeting, buildings.

? **

Yes

-

-

-

2

Close North Penn, send 9-12 to MHS & LHS, BES becomes K-8. Some renovation $ needed.

$5.1M loss, ratings lowered

Yes

Yes, Blossburg area

Severely reduced

$700K/yr staffing, $110/yr utilities

3

Close LES, move K-8 to LHS, send 9-12 to NPHS and a few NPHS students to MHS. Continue with building project. (LES will need renovation next.)

No

No

Yes, Liberty area

Enhanced

$700K/yr staffing, $60K/yr utilities

4

Cancel project, give bond money back.

$5.1M loss, ratings lowered

Yes

No

-

-

5

Continue with NPHS/BES project as is.

No

No

No

Enhanced

None, projected $4.6M operational budget deficit five years out.

* The bond was issued about Oct. 2010 and according to IRS regulations for tax-exempt status, 85% of the total must be used for capital repairs and construction costs within three years (~Sept. 2013). See °. The bond was issued rather early in the PlanCon process because a federal income tax benefit that made the bond more attractive expired at the end of 2010.

The Department of Education will only reimburse if we continue with the current PlanCon process. At the moment, this reimbursement is uncertain because the Corbett administration’s budget proposal would impose a moratorium on school construction projects and the definition of how that moratorium would work or whether it would impact STSD is unknown. However, changing the PlanCon would clearly risk our reimbursement.

° The budget has two components for which money is dedicated and cannot be reallocated:

1.    Operational budget - on-going costs to keep everything running such as salaries, utilities, books, and supplies.

2.    Capital budget - major repairs and improvements to the physical plant – roofs, toilets, buildings.

** If study is not completed on time OR does not recommend continuing with NPHS/BES renovation plan as submitted in the PlanCon, the district will have the consequences of 2 or 4. If the district chooses this option, the reimbursement may still be at risk for not following the PlanCon schedule.

STSD-20120312-options-chart.pdf (62.83 kb)