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Do Not Waste the Energy

Students in the Pottstown School District from elementary to high school know that we need to protect our environment and not waste our energy. Jennifer McGraw, 4th grade teacher at Franklin Elementary organized a school wide solar car project that had students designing and building solar powered model cars which they raced at a school wide assembly held on the school playground. The race was held on National Day of STEM. As an introduction to solar energy, Pre-K through 2nd grade students used a basic kit to build their entry. More sophisticated models that required design planning were built by 3rd and 4th graders. Mrs. McGraw said, “This was a great hands on learning experience for our students that included learning about solar energy, renewable versus nonrenewable resources, aerodynamics, and streamlining. Going from hand size soar cars to a Hydrogen Fuel Cell Powered Urban Concept Vehicle was just a matter of going to Pottstown High and Mr. Andy Bachman's Engineering class, where they had a demonstration by Montgomery County Community College professor William Brownlowe and students of Team INNOVA who built the Hydrogen Fuel Cell vehicle to compete in the Shell Eco-marathon competition for alternative fuel concepts.  The team who has won a number of awards for the design and operation of their vehicle were on hand to give a demonstration in the school parking lot. Bachman said, “This is a unique experience for our students to not only see the vehicle in operation but to be able to talk to and ask questions of the designers and builders.” Bachman's students are no strangers to some design and building of their own, last year they designed and build an operational hovercraft.  

 

 
Leaders of Tomorrow You Can Find Tomorrow’s Leaders in Our Classrooms Today

You need look no farther for tomorrow's leaders then the classrooms of the Pottstown School District. Thanks to Evan Brandt's Digital Notebook Blog for telling one of the stories of how we are helping to prepare our future leaders. 

 

 
Girls Track Team PAC Championship 2018 Girls Track Team Earns Their Place at PAC Championships

The Trojan Girls Track saw their hard work pay off at the PAC Championships. The Lady Trojans placed 8th out of 12 overall in the PAC conference. Congratulations to Aniya Hoskins who took 2nd in the 400 and 6th in the 200; Zoe Earle paced 2nd in the high jump, Amari Folly 8th in the 100 hurdles, and the girls 4 x 100 team of Julianna Figueroa, Bryonna Chimbinja, Zoe Earle, and Aniya Hoskins earned 3rd place.  Other top performers were Julia Day taking 11th in the shot put and Bryonna Chimbinja 9th in the 100.

 

 
TOTY Group 2018 Barth Elementary’s Kelli Wolfel named Pottstown Teacher of the Year, Mercury, 5-19-18

“Enthusiasm and pride” are the words Barth Elementary School teacher Kelli Wolfel’s peers use to describe her work ethic, and they are just a few of the many things which helped her on the way to being named Pottstown School District’s Teacher of the Year.

Wolfel was one of seven teachers, each elected by teachers in their own school, who were recognized as part of the annual Teacher of the Year ceremony held by the Pottstown School Board.

“In the classroom, she works tirelessly to identify and meet the needs of each child under her care,” according to the narrative written about Wolfel for the ceremony.

“As a proud alum and Pottstown parent, her own children, both inside and outside of school, are a reflection of her core values,” according to the narrative, read aloud by Human Resources Director Deena Cellini.

“In addition to volunteering to serve on nearly every district-wide committee during her tenure at Pottstown, she is currently involved in Family Literacy Nights, the STEAM committee, Wellness/SEL programming, and the math curriculum adoption.”

Franklin Elementary

“Arriving early and leaving late gives this teacher an opportunity to ensure that each of her students’ needs are met and it also gives the rest of the staff ample time to reach out to her for collaborative efforts,” is what was written about Susan Hallman.

“Her professionalism and positive energy go a great distance in making her colleagues see her as a perpetual “go to” person in the building, whether it is for brainstorming new strategies to use with students or best practices and data mining,” it was said of Hallman.

Lincoln Elementary

Jill Bolonski “does not work in isolation. She recognizes the value in the idiom of ‘it takes a village.’ Whether it is the principal, intervention team, speech, occupational, or physical therapists, or the rest of the faculty and staff, this teacher recognizes the importance of each area in taking an initiative off the page and making it a living, breathing, dynamic program to benefit students’ academic and personal growth,” read the description of Lincoln’s nominee.

“She is regularly improving instruction and intervention by using data to establish high but obtainable goals for her students,” Cellini read, adding, “The positive rapport she creates with students and parents alike is a constant in her career.”

Rupert Elementary

“Any good teacher will tell you that routines are crucial to a successful classroom. The routines and environment created in this teacher’s classroom are critical to having early elementary students grow and feel successful and cared for as they continue to challenge themselves to meet the expectations she establishes for each student, individual to their needs,” Cellini read about Rupert nominee Britney Oxenford.

“Her knowledge of strategies to help meet students’ needs is a resource utilized by many staff members who seek her expertise when they are seeking the right strategy for a particular student or just a better, more engaging way of doing things in their own classroom,” she said.

Middle School Grades 5/6

“Returning from a maternity leave to a team with two new members was not enough to shake this teacher from doing what she does best. With students and colleagues, she sets high expectations and commands respect,” is what Cellini had to say about Dana DiDonato.

“Regardless of the venue, 6th grade team meeting, math department meeting, or Sunshine committee; this teacher identifies the needs, the most efficient way to accomplish those tasks, and goes about doing it with a smile on her face.”

Middle School Grades 7/8

“For this teacher, excellence comes as a quiet force; a force that sees what needs doing and does it…without complaint or want of recognition,” Cellini said about Jason Bergey.

“New special education teachers utilize this teacher as a resource for academic as well as behavioral advice. His presence in a co-taught classroom ensures that not only special education students will gain extra support but that also regular education students who need extra support will have access to his instruction and attention. “

High School

“This teacher has worked at all three levels throughout the district, starting as a third grade teacher, earning multiple teaching certificates, and moving into family and consumer sciences and most recently to the library,” Cellini read about high school nominee and 26-year veteran Kristen Ellis.

“With experience at all three academic levels, she is comfortable serving on committees that service our K-12 population including our Wellness program, participating in Healthy Bodies Healthy Minds; as a Family Literacy Night teacher, a Reading Olympics advisor, and even serves her fellow teachers as Treasurer for the Federation of Pottstown Teachers.”

 

 
Preliminary budget 2018-1 Preliminary budget; loss of hospital revenue results in tax hike, Mercury 5-18-18

For the first time in four years, school taxes in Pottstown are set to go up after June 30.

With a 7-2 vote Thursday night, the Pottstown School Board adopted a preliminary $62.7 million budget that will raise taxes by 3.5 percent — the maximum allowed by the state inflation index.

Board members Kurt Heidel and bonita Barnhill voted against adoption of the budget.

Click here for a Twitter recap of the school board meeting.

For a home assessed at $78,890 — the borough median — that means a $98.56 tax hike for those which have been registered for the homestead exemption tax relief.

Assessment challenges cut deep

The chief culprit driving the hike are challenges to property assessments, according to Business Manager Maureen Jampo.

According to the budget presentation she made to the board Thursday night, reductions in assessments and re-funds on re-assessed properties cost Pottstown taxpayers a combined $2,188,607 in revenues.

In fact, thanks to those revenue losses, although expenses have risen almost $800,000 over the current year, school district revenues are only $16,767 more than the current year’s budget.

Add on another $502,304 for salary increases and the budget started off with a budget gap of $2,690,641.

A series of cuts — including a potential $78,000 savings by outsourcing the 14-member transportation department, and the use of $433,000 from the retirement fund reserve — brought the budget shortfall to $996,045, according to Jampo’s presentation.

No tax hike without hospital loss.

By unpleasant coincidence, that number is nearly identical to the tax revenue lost by the district’s taxpayers when the primary Pottstown Hospital property, assessed at $20.2 million, was taken off the tax rolls.

According to Jampo, that single loss accounts for $936,996.30 in lost tax revenue in the coming year.

When the losses of other hospital properties taken off the tax rolls are added in, the net revenue loss to Pottstown school taxpayers is just over $1 million.

In fact, without the loss of the hospital from the tax rolls, according to Jampo, the district would only have needed to come up with $36,263 to balance the next year’s budget.

Schools Superintendent Stephen Rodriguez said if the board had instructed the administration to come up with a budget that did not raise taxes for a fourth consecutive year, “it would mean cutting programs. We have no other tricks up our sleeve.”

Unfair state funding

Another major factor affecting the budget and the ensuing tax increase is the unfair method Pennsylvania uses to fund public education, said school board member John Armato.

Pennsylvania is currently rated as the worst state in the nation for the gap in funding per student between rich and poor school districts.

To correct that problem, the General Assembly adopted a “fair funding formula” two years ago that corrects for things like high local tax effort, cost of living and poverty rates in specific districts.

However, the state currently funnels less than 10 percent of its education funding through that formula.

Were it in place today, Pottstown Schools would enjoy a boost of more than $13 million in state funding.

Rodriguez confirmed that were the fair funding formula fully implemented, the Pottstown School District could not only be expanding programming, but providing a 30 percent tax cut instead of a 3.5 percent tax increase.

Advocacy for fair funding continues

That’s one reason, he said, he will be attending another rally in Harrisburg on May 26 with the Pennsylvania League of Urban School Districts, advocating for a fuller implementation of the formula.

“When you look at school funding on a per-student basis,” said Rodriguez, “55 percent of Pennsylvania students attend an underfunded school. That’s wrong and it has to change.”

Toward building that voice for change, Rodriguez issued a letter to the community May 11 in advance of the budget vote, explaining some of the factors driving the tax increase.

Other than those already mentioned, those include a higher-than-average percentage of special education and homeless students, an ever-increasing number of things Harrisburg requires but does not pay for, as well as the unfair funding issue.

“There is no question that traditional public education is under attack. However, our advocacy and our voice is critical in building our community, providing for our children and our students, and correcting an outdated education funding system that is hurting the students and citizens of our district,” Rodriguez wrote.

The letter, which urges residents to join the advocacy efforts to provide fair funding for Pottstown schools, includes links, addresses and phone numbers explaining the particulars of the problems and the state representatives to contact about correcting them.

Not much local response

Hopefully he will have better luck getting Pottstown taxpayers interested in the budget than he seems to have had so far.

The only member of the public to address the board about the budget was David Miller, who questioned some spending, including the $10,000 the district provides to Pottstown Area Industrial Development Inc., the economic development arm of the borough.

Miller, who ran unsuccessfully for the school board in November and also applied for the vacancy created by the resignation of Ron Williams, is also part of an elite group of three.

After months of debate, the district last month issued invitations to 13 people to form a citizens budget advisory commission.

Miller is one of only three who agreed to help.

The other two are former board member Thomas Hylton, who also applied for the board vacancy, and Barth Elementary School teacher Kelli Wolfel, who also happens to be this year’s Teacher of the Year for the district.

“I informed the finance committee of the results and I think it’s safe to say they were disappointed,” said Rodriguez. “They indicated they wanted some time to think about what to do next.”

The school board will hold a final vote in June on the budget and the ensuring tax millage of 40.6260 mills, which at this point can be reduced in the final budget, but not increased.

 

 
Uniforms 5-2018 School Board Votes to Drop Uniform Policy After This School Year, Mercury 5-18-18

In a surprise move that even surprised some board members, the Pottstown School Board unanimously upended nearly 10 years of policy Thursday night and removed the school uniform requirement from the lower grades when the students return in the fall.

The action, which was not listed on the evening’s agenda, was the result of two motions by school board member Emanuel Wilkerson.

Wilkerson is a former student member of the board and, as a high school student, successfully advocated for the suspension of the uniform requirement in the high school in favor of a “temporary” dress code.

He was subsequently elected to the board while still a senior in school.

Wilkerson’s first motion was to make temporary dress code a permanent one.

The second motion was to remove the requirement that students in the middle school and elementary schools wear the trademark blue and white uniforms.

Instead, the board’s policy committee is now charged with coming up with a “comprehensive” dress code to apply to the lower grades before school starts in the fall.

Board members Raymond Rose and Bonita Barnhill were the only board members to express a fondness for the uniforms.

But Barnhill said she recognized it could be a financial burden and given the board had passed a tax hike earlier in the evening, decided to try to lessen the financial burden on parents.

Both Wilkerson and Vice President Katina Bearden said the issue had been discussed to death.

“It’s been on the agenda ad nauseam,” said Bearden, perhaps riffing on the irony that the matter was in fact, not on that night’s board agenda.

In truth, the district has undertaken polls and held large public meetings on the subject with the result often the same — half the people hate the uniforms and the other half like them.

“Our concern should be that the students are properly clothed, not what color shirts they wear. Our job is to give them the education that they need,” Bearden said.

Parent Clinton Bradshaw told the board that the school uniform “carries a stigma. It is not very empowering for students when the neighboring school districts don’t have them.”

David Miller, who ran for the board and applied for the board seat made open by the resignation of Ron Williams, had the opposite view. He said the uniforms kept bullying down and instilled a sense of pride in the district.

Board President Amy Francis, who spearheaded the effort to establish the uniform policy in 2008, said she had done so with a desire to improve the district. At the time, she also touted the ability of uniforms to cut down on school violence.

However, she said, the issue had also dogged her through her many years on the board. “Different times,” she said, adding “I’ll be happy to have this issue decided.”

 

 
school budget-2 Preliminary Purposed 2018-19 Budget Information

At the May 17th school board meeting, a preliminary purposed budget for 2018-19 school year was approved. At present the budget would call for a 3.5% tax increase, which for the average home assessed at $78,890 would result in a $108.38 tax increase. Prior to the final budget approval at the June school board meeting we will continue to work at reducing the increase while at the same time providing students with quality educational opportunities that will lead to adult success.  Click the links below to see budget information presented at the meeting. 

Preliminary Budget 5-17-18

Revenues

Expenses 

 

 
school board-2 School Board Meeting Report 5-17-18

At the school board meeting decisions were made on school uniforms, honored teachers of the year and approved a preliminary 18-19 budget. You can read about it in Evan Brandt's Digital Notebook Blog.

 

 
Spring Keystone Test Dates and Information

Click HERE for important information 

Test Takers 

- all students who are taking the Keystone Exam will be notified by their teacher. They will receive a paper giving them the subject, times, and dates to report. Report time is 7:45am

Non Test Takers

- on testing days the school will follow a 2 hour delay schedule for those students who are NOT taking a Keystone exam. Report time is 9:45am

 

Dates       Keystone Exams

May 15 =  English  Mod 1

May 16 =  English   Mod 2 

May 21 =  Algebra Mod 1

May 22 =  Algebra Mod 2

May 23 =  Biology Mod 1

May 24 = Biology Mod 2

 

 
notice calendar change 2017-18 UPDATED CALENDAR INFORMATION

Baccalaureate = June 7, 2018, 7:00 pm

Graduation = June 8, 2018, 6:15 pm

District Wide Early Dismissal = June 11, 2018
HS = 12:10 pm
MS = 12:25 pm
Elementary = 1:10 pm, Mod Pre-K

Last Student Day = June 12, 2018
Early Dismissal:
MS = 10:15 am
HS = 10:30 am
Elementary = 10:55 am, Mod Pre-K:
AM = 8:40-9:40 am
PM = 9:55-10:55 am

 
Register Now-1 2018-19 Pre-K and Kindergarten Registration Begins March 12, 2018
Please click the student registration tab to complete an online registration and schedule an appointment.
 
 
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Notice of Non-Discrimination
The Pottstown School District, in accordance with Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972, will not discriminate in educational programs which it operates, or in admission or enrollment procedures on the basis of race, religion, sex, color, age, national origin, or handicap.  We assure that procedures and practices are followed to provide equal access to all programs.  Any questions concerning the application of Title IX, compliance or complaints may be referred to Deena Cellini, Compliance Officer, at 230 Beech Street, Pottstown, PA 19464. Telephone 610-970-6657.

Notice of Special Education Services
 According to state and federal special education regulations, annual public notice to parents of children who reside within a school district is required regarding child find responsibilities. School districts (SDs), intermediate units (IUs) and charter schools (CSs) are required to conduct child find activities for children who may be eligible for services via Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. For additional information related to Section 504/Chapter 15 services, the parent may refer to Section 504, Chapter 15, and the Basic Education Circular entitled Implementation of Chapter 15. Also, school districts are required to conduct child find activities for children who may be eligible for gifted services via 22 Pa Code Chapter 16. For additional information regarding gifted services, the parent may refer to 22 PA Code Chapter 16. If a student is both gifted and eligible for Special Education, the procedures in IDEA and Chapter 14 shall take precedence.
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