Tredyffrin Easttown School Board Meeting . . . Notes from Ray Clarke

We are very fortunate to have Ray Clarke not only attending the Tredyffrin Easttown School Board meetings but so generously willing to share his notes and thoughts with all us.  Last night was no exception — and below are Ray’s notes from the meeting. 

I am curious about the IT upgrade proposal.  The School Board accepted the proposal from Teranet Consulting Services for Phase I – Part 1 of the IT upgrade, not to exceed $11,625.  According to the information on the TESD website, “The consulting services are to survey the network, develop a project plan and establish specs for support and services needed to implement the upgrades recommended by the administration.” 

Last week the 4 page proposal from Teranet Consulting Services was part of the agenda package but after last night’s school board meeting the proposal letter is no longer available online.  I wish the proposal letter from regarding Teranet was not removed, as I was trying to track down the company ‘Teranet’ and could not find it — only a company out of Chicago. No conspiracy theory on my part, . . . just trying to get further information on this consulting group.  If someone from the School Board is reading Community Matters, perhaps they could provide a link to the proposal or a copy of the proposal to me at tredyffrincommunitymatters@gmail.com . Thank you.

Here are some items that caught my eye and ear in Monday’s School Board meeting.

1. The administration reported on proposed changes to the high school schedule and staffing, to implement a 42 period cap for students and to increase teaching classes for teachers. 

The cap would be subject to a few exceptions; for example, for co-curricular classes like orchestra and chorus that also meet outside the school day, and for academic support.  Much discussion by the Board of whether studio art classes should also be exempt, although these seem to be just like music classes which would be in the cap.  Reportedly the cap is highly favored by students.  The middle school “advisory period” has proved really popular.

Eliminating the “professional period” for teachers would bring the number of teaching periods for T/E in line with neighboring districts, at the expense of activities that teachers elect to undertake, like “office hours”, club oversight, mentoring, etc. 

Note that both these changes will in the long run bring financial benefit to the district, but only after the staff has reduced through attrition.

2. The high school musical will be Phantom of the Opera, for which the rights have just been released to schools.  If this comes close to matching the stunning Les Miserables production of five or so years ago, tickets will be hard to come by.  Big vocal and technical demands, though, especially for the radio-controlled boat….
 
3.  Under Education, there was discussion of increasing the Highway Safety class size to 60 – maybe not so bad – and teaching AP World History in 9th Grade – a big stretch, it seems to me.  Also the changes in World Languages look to be enabling deeper immersion in core languages like Spanish and French.  A good development.

4.  Under Facilities, the Board was presented with, and approved, only the first part of the consultant proposal for work on the data network upgrade.  To me, this constraint is a step in the right direction.  It would be nice to see an IT project that is actually driven by user/education requirements and a real business case rather than by the technical/facilities people!  We should watch future Facilities Committee meetings closely for the justification of the likely multi-million dollar expenditure.

5.  And the Committee to be watched most closely, of course, is the Finance Committee.  Kevin Mahoney previewed the December 13th meeting, which will set the stage for the Board’s big tax decision on January 3rd.  That next meeting will unveil near term projections including:

  • Updated PSERS costs from Harrisburg’s parting “gift” of HB2497, (a slight reduction over the expected increase for 2011/12 and much bigger benefit for the following few years, as discussed here previously)
  • New estimates for key budget variables (eg interest rates, price increases, compensation increases)
  • Presumably some guess at the attrition-enabled impact of the Education programs
  • Any other budget strategies

An important date for anyone concerned with tax increases.

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  1. The first rule of Consulting is to render a study that supports the wishes of the group that has hired you. So if one thinks the study will not support the IT or Admin. folks – think again.
    The consulting group also wants the project to go forward as they may well be retained to administer the project, bringing even more money to their pockets.

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