Conestoga High School

T/E Superintendent disputes Montgomery County DA report — Conestoga High School NOT involved in drug trafficking

Conestoga High SchoolIn the days since the Montgomery County District Attorney’s office announced the drug trafficking arrests, including the two ringleaders, Haverford School graduates, the story has become widely reported — from CNN to Good Morning America, there are articles and videos on the subject.

I’m certain that an expensive prep school such as the elite Haverford School (with upper school tuition approaching $35K) is in overdrive with damage control — much is at stake with current parents and the endowments of wealthy alum. With a tag line on their website of “Preparing Boys for Life”,  the Haverford School struggles to handle the PR nightmare.

Watching Good Morning America report on the story and the high schools (Lower Merion, Haverford School, Radnor, Harriton and Conestoga) and the colleges (Lafayette, Haverford and Gettysburg) was sad — and really eerie to the Conestoga High School logo flash on the TV screen along with the others.  But is all the information contained in the Montgomery County DA’s press release of April 21 accurate?   Apparently, not according to T/E Superintendent Dan Waters.

Waters has just released a T/E School District press release which disputes the report of the Montgomery County DA’s office.  Although Conestoga High School was named by the District Attorney in the list of Main Line high schools involved in the drug ring, Waters claims that the information is not correct.  According to Waters in the following press release, no students were identified or arrested from Conestoga High School in this recent drug trafficking incident.  Don’t get me wrong, I want to believe that Waters is correct and that no Conestoga students are involved but it seems strange that the DA’s office would just add Conestoga High School to the list of high schools involved — how does a District Attorney make that kind of mistake?   If Waters is correct and that the Montgomery County DA’s office erred in their report, shouldn’t the T/E School District board and administration demand a retraction?  Shouldn’t Conestoga High School be removed from the list?

Below is Dr. Waters response to the Montgomery County District Attorney April 21 press release —  you make your own judgement.  Coincidentally, the T/E Public Information Committee, chaired by T/E school board member Scott Dorsey, is holding their regularly monthly meeting tonight (6:30 PM, Administration building).  Although the agenda for tonight’s meeting was set before these recent drug arrests, there is certain to be discussion. At every school board meeting, president Kevin Buraks invites the public to attend committee meetings, stating that the ‘real’ work is done at the committee level.  With that in mind, I’m guessing that the Public Information committee meeting may have a ‘higher than normal’ attendance.

The Montgomery County District Attorney’s office press release reported on recent drug related arrests naming nearby high schools and colleges. The press release once again highlights the need for continued efforts to provide a safe learning environment for our students. I write to inform our community that we continue to be vigilant regarding the use of drugs and alcohol by our students within our community.

The safety of our students is paramount in our efforts to provide them with a safe learning environment. The District’s drug and alcohol practices and policies include prevention, deterrence and support for our students. The prevention strategies include classroom education efforts, schoolwide programs, student activities supporting healthy lifestyles and counseling programs. Deterrence efforts include random canine sniffs supported by the police and the enforcement of the drug and alcohol policy when applicable. Support for our students include individual counseling by our school counselors and mental health specialists. The Conestoga High School student support team, known as CARE, accepts referrals from students, parents and staff to assist students who may be in need of services. In addition, drug and alcohol counselors provided through COAD (Chester County Council on Addictive Diseases) are available to our students and families. Within the community, we have our on-going strong partnerships with ARCH (Area Residents Caring and Helping) and the police departments of both townships.

Recently, the Montgomery County District Attorney’s office issued a press release which mentioned a drug distribution ring in local high schools and colleges. Although Conestoga High School was mentioned as one of the schools in the news report, at this time, according to the affidavits forwarded to me from the Montgomery County District Attorney, there were no sellers arrested or identified from Conestoga High School. We recognize that future arrest warrants may be issued by the District Attorney if the investigation continues. We are prepared to assist law enforcement officials when they request our involvement in investigations. What can we do as a community? As the police have directed us in the past, we are all encouraged to contact the police department with information concerning illegal drug activity in our community.

 Please contact the school principal, school counselor or me should you have any questions or concerns.

Dan Waters
Superintendent of Schools
Tredyffrin/Easttown School District

Suburban schools no longer a safe haven from illegal drugs

The use of drugs in suburbia is a growing epidemic – it’s not just on the streets anymore, it’s in suburban neighborhoods.  The drug epidemic has pulled cocaine and heroin out of the dark shadows of American cities and into our suburban schools.

Today’s drug bust headlines mark a sad day for many of the ‘best of the best’ main line high schools and colleges.We learned of the arrest of 11 people involved in ‘Main Line Take Over Project’, a drug trafficking ring.  Apparently two Haverford  School graduates, Neil K. Scott, 25, and Timothy C. Brooks, 18, were the drug operation kingpins and hired students at Conestoga, Harriton, Lower Merion, Haverford School and Radnor high schools and college students from Gettysburg, Lafayette and Haverford as their drug peddlers.

A press release this afternoon from Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Ferman’s office contained the details of the drug ring.  A 4-month long investigation into the trafficking organization identified Brooks and Scott as the organization’s principal suppliers.  Scott was shipped bulk pounds of marijuana from a California supplier and the shipments were delivered to his Haverford apartment (the base of the operation), to his parents’ home in Paoli and to Brooks’ family home in Villanova. In addition to marijuana, Scott and Brooks sold cocaine, hash oil and ecstasy to the high school students and college students.

According to the police report, Scott had designed a business plan with sales incentives for his drug business:

Neil Scott encouraged college sub-dealers to locate new customers to offset his cost of driving to their campuses. Scott offered the sub-dealers incentives for locating new customers and making referrals. The incentives were lower prices for drugs and the opportunity to buy them on credit.

Text messages recovered during this investigation revealed that Neil Scott gave Timothy Brooks business advice on how to expand the sale of marijuana in local high schools. Brooks in return, supervised sub-dealers who sold marijuana at the local high schools. Brooks supplied them with marijuana and encouraged them to efficiently distribute drugs at their schools.

The high school sub-dealers were encouraged to sell at least one (1) pound of marijuana a week. Brooks encouraged his sub-dealers to meet their weekly quota. The incentives included a lower purchase price for marijuana in order to increase their profit margin. Brooks instructed the high school sub-dealers to make certain there was always a constant supply of marijuana in their assigned school. Brooks said this was important to him because he remembered not always being able to buy marijuana when he was in high school.

Multiple search warrants found drug trafficking evidence at 9 locations in Montgomery, Chester, Delaware, Northampton, Adams and Philadelphia counties plus the homes of Scott and Brooks.  According to the police report, the following items were seized:

  • Approximately 8 pounds of marijuana
  • Approximately 3 grams of hash oil;
  • Approximately 23 grams of cocaine;
  • Approximately 11 grams of MDMA; (Ecstasy)
  • $11,035.00 in U.S. Currency;
  • 1 loaded .223 caliber AR-15 Assault Rifle;
  • 1 loaded 9mm semi-automatic pistol;
  • 1 .22 caliber AR-15 style rifle;
  • Additional .22 caliber, .223 caliber and 9mm ammunition;
  •  A 2007 Toyota 4 Runner sport utility vehicle;
  •  A 2009 Acura RDX sport utility vehicle;
  •  8 cellular phones;
  •  1 computer;
  •  Equipment and supplies used to manufacture butane hash oil;
  •  Numerous items of drug paraphernalia.

Last month we read in the Philadelphia Inquirer, that Chester County released theirheroin overdose statisticsand at that time District Attorney Tom Hogan commented, “Heroin does not discriminate.  It is a deadly drug that is abused by young and old, poor and rich, white and black.  Nobody is safe … There are students in every high school in Chester County who are using heroin, from Conestoga to Coatesville, from Unionville to Oxford.”

For decades, families moved from cities and into the suburbs in part because many believed that suburban schools provided a more wholesome environment.  Many believed that moving from the city to suburbia provided a certain way of life, one of tranquil, tree-lined streets, soccer leagues and better schools for their families.  Similarly, to my upbringing outside Washington, DC in a Maryland suburb, there are probably Main Line parents who thought that suburban public schools would provide their children with safe and more wholesome environment than their urban counterparts. Today’s drug arrest on the Main Line should provide a reality check for all.

US News & World Report ranks Conestoga HS #5 in Pennsylvania and #313 in US

US News & World Report ranks Conestoga HS #5 in Pennsylvania and #313 in the US. The annual rankings of the country’s best high schools are out this week from US News & World Report. The rankings offer a snapshot of a school’s performance based on test data from 21,000 public high schools which represented 49 states (Nebraska did not present enough data to be considered) and the District of Columbia. Conestoga High School received gold level standing, listing a distinctive ranking of 313 of all public schools in the country. In Pennsylvania, US News listed Conestoga as #5.

The news outlet’s formula for determining their list of best high schools is a combination of school performance on state proficiency tests and how well they prepare students for college. A review of the individual states, had California leading the nation in 2013 rankings of best high schools with nearly 28 percent of its eligible high school receiving gold or silver levels. Maryland came in second with 25 percent receiving top designations and Connecticut third at 18.9 percent. To be eligible for a state ranking, a school must be awarded a national gold or silver medal. Pennsylvania has 570 school districts and 687 public high schools. In Pennsylvania, 168 high schools qualified for ‘best high school’ ranking by US News & World Report with either gold, silver or bronze medals. Nationally 500 schools earned gold medals, 1,790 were awarded silver and 2,515 took home bronze medals. Magnet and charter schools, which accept a limited number of students through a lottery or application process, accounted for 145 of the top 500 schools.

Here are the top 10 public high schools for 2013 as listed by US News & World Report:

#1 Julia R. Masterman, Philadelphia
#2 Lehigh Valley Academy Charter School, Bethlehem
#3 Northwest Pennsylvania Collegiate Academy, Erie
#4 Wyomissing Area Jr-Sr High School, Wyomissing
#5 Conestoga High School, Berwyn
#6 Central High School, Philadelphia
#7 Upper St. Clair High School, Pittsburgh
#8 Radnor High School
#9 Lower Moreland High School, Huntingdon Valley
#10 Unionville High School, Kennett Square

Last year on Community Matters, I provided the top 10 high schools in Pennsylvania for 2012, listed below:

:#1 Julia R. Masterman, Philadelphia
#2 Northwest Pennsylvania Collegiate Academy, Erie
#3 Conestoga High School, Berwyn
#4 Unionville High School, Kennett Square
#5 Wyomissing Area Jr-Sr High School, Wyomissing
#6 Radnor High School, Radnor
#7 New Hope-Solebury High School, New Hope
#8 Mt. Lebanon High School, Pittsburgh
#9 Upper St. Clair High School, Pittsburgh
#10 Central High School, Philadelphia

In reviewing the Pennsylvania ‘best high schools’, it is interesting to note that Conestoga High School as well as Radnor and Unionville high school dropped slightly in the US News rankings (Conestoga from #3 to #5, Radnor from #6 to #8 and Unionville from #4 to #10) yet Masterman, a magnet school in Philadelphia retained first place. Charter school Lehigh Valley Academy in Bethlehem did not make the 2012 top 10 best high schools but is #2 in the state on the 2013 list.  US News & World Report ranked Great Valley High School as #12 in 2012 but for 2013 the school has dropped to #21. Although Phoenixville High School was ranked as #25 in 2012, the school did not qualify for the 2013 rankings.

$1.5 Million Budget Deficit … Will T/E Use Fund Balance in Lieu of Demotion or Increasing Class Size?

Click here to see the draft on the 2012-13 final budget of TESD to be presented at tonight’s school board meeting – 7:30 PM, TESD administration office, 940 West Valley Road, Suite 1700, Wayne.  Click here for the agenda.  Thanks to Community Matters reader Roberta Hotinski for providing the updated information and link from the District.

The draft budget reflects a proposed tax increase of 3.3%  …  1.7% from Act 1 Index ($1.5 million) and 1.6% from Act 1 Exceptions ($1,498,916).   Based on an average residential assessment of $252,601, the average  tax increase proposed by the budget is $155 to the taxpayer.

Applying the previously accepted strategies, the District’s budget deficit for 2012-13  is $1,547,888. Now here is the curious part … you will note on page 3 of the proposed final budget (see below) that next to the $1.5 million+ deficit are the words “Satisfied with Fund Balance Contribution”.  At both the last school board meeting and the finance committee meeting, when various residents asked school board members about using some of the $32 million fund balance for the budget shortfall, that option was quickly dismissed (with little discussion).  School board members were unwilling to discuss using the fund balance to bridge the budget gap but rather focused attention on the remaining strategies of (1) soliciting tax exempt property owners in lieu of taxes, (2) increasing class size and (3) demotion of professional staff for economic reasons.

For the record, page 7 of the proposed final budget continues to list strategies, N-14, Solicit Tax Exempt Property Owners in Lieu of Taxes, N-16, Demotion/Attrition of Professional Staff for Economic Reasons – $640,328 and N-19, Increase Class Size by One at Each Level – $607,500.  However, based on the proposed fund balance transfer listed on page 3 of the budget, it would appear that the school board might have changed their mind in regards to demotion and increased class size as budget strategies.

If I am interpreting the District budget proposal correctly in regards to the fund transfer, this could be good news for those supporting the District teachers most in risk of demotion.  Additionally, maybe this new information will begin to move the teacher contract negotiations forward towards a peaceful resolution. Here’s hoping!

 

US News Ranks Conestoga High School #3 in Pennsylvania, #279 Nationwide!

Between the final tweaking of the District budget for 2012-13 and the continuing teacher contract negotiations, it is timely that the US News & World Report releases its list of the best high schools in America.  The publication reviewed test data from 22,000 public high schools and 500 schools received the highest ‘gold’ level award.  Conestoga High School received gold level standing, listing at a distinctive rank of 279 of all public high schools in the country.  The US News results indicate an impressive #3 ranking for Conestoga for all public schools in Pennsylvania.

There are 579 school districts in Pennsylvania and 752 high schools.  As part of the state’s graduation requirement, PA high school students take assessments in reading, writing, math, and science in the 11th grade.  US News Report uses the Pennsylvania Systems of School Assessment (PSSA) is used in the criteria for ranking the high schools.  Conestoga scored 54.3 on the college readiness index, based on AP (Advanced Placement) participation rate. The AP participation rate at Conestoga is 56%.

In 11th grade, Pennsylvania school students take Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) tests in reading, writing, math and science. Here’s the breakdown on the reading and math proficiency results  for Conestoga High School students:

PSSA Reading Proficiency results:
Total Students Tested      491
Below Basic:  2%
Basic:  5%
Proficient:  23%
Advanced:  70%
Results indicate 92% proficiency rate in reading.

PSSA Math Proficiency results:
Total Students Tested 478
Below Basic:  3%
Basic:  4%
Proficient:  20%
Advanced:  73%
Results indicate 93% proficiency rate in math.

Here the list of the top 10 high schools in Pennsylvania:

#1 Julia R. Masterman, Philadelphia
#2 Northwest Pennsylvania Collegiate Academy, Erie
#3 Conestoga High School, Berwyn
#4 Unionville High School, Kennett Square
#5 Wyomissing Area Jr-Sr High School, Wyomissing
#6 Radnor High School, Radnor
#7 New Hope-Solebury High School, New Hope
#8 Mt. Lebanon High School, Pittsburgh
#9 Upper St. Clair High School, Pittsburgh
#10 Central High School, Philadelphia

Interesting to note that 2 of the top 10 public high schools in the state are located in Philadelphia!

Locally, how did our neighboring high schools rank. Radnor High School made the top ten list in Pennsylvania at #6 and achieved a national rank of 432, qualify for gold level. Lower Merion High School received silver level nationwide, coming in at 835 and ranked #16 in the state.  Great Valley High School was listed at the silver level nationwide, at 725 and #12 in the state. Phoenixville High School, another silver level, ranked 1,094 nationwide and #25 in Pennsylvania.

Congratulations to Conestoga students, parents and teachers on this achievement!

TESD Responds Officially to Absence of Conestoga HS on Newsweek’s Best High School List

The latest edition of the T/E News dated August 4 contains the following article explaining the absence of Conestoga High School on Newsweek’s best of the best high school list.  Contained in the article is a link to the annual publication, Conestoga Profile, which provide up-to-date statistical information on the high school students. 

The school calendar is included in the T/E News and I noted that grades 1-12 will start August 31 which is the week before Labor Day.  I thought that school didn’t usually start until the week after Labor Day — just curious, when did that date change?  Did the District change the calendar to accomodate possible snow days?

Newsweek Magazine’s List of Best High Schools 

For the T/E community members who follow Newsweek magazine’s annual America’s Best High Schools story, you are aware that Conestoga High School (CHS) has been included in the list for the past several years, yet was absent from the list this year. Since the criteria Newsweek uses to determine rankings did not significantly change, we inquired about our status. We learned that Newsweek changed the way in which they collect data about high schools. Newsweek responded that they sent an email earlier in the year to all secondary schools requesting information. According to Newsweek, the email was sent to a CHS counselor. The counselor, however, reported that the email was not received. We subsequently sent our data to Newsweek, and were informed by the Newsweek staff that CHS would have ranked competitively based upon our students’ performance and Newsweek’s calculations.

The T/E School District publishes an annual publication called the Conestoga Profile that spotlights the outstanding achievements of CHS students. The Conestoga Profile provides an overview of the school’s strong educational program and statistical information about our students’ academic performance.  

T/E School District Offers Explanation of Conestoga’s Omission from Newsweek’s ‘Best High Schools in America’ Rankings

Following-up on Newsweek’s listing of America’s best high schools; I emailed an excerpt from my Community Matters post to TESD administration, school board members and to Karen Cruickshank, president of the board.  I asked for comment or explanation of why Conestoga High School was missing from the Newsweek best high schools in America list when neighboring high schools (Lower Merion, Radnor, Great Valley, etc.) were listed.

There has been a response from the school district and from Karen Cruickshank.  Like many of us, Karen too was disappointed that Conestoga was not on the Newsweek list and volunteered that she had received phone calls from realtors asking the same question as to ‘why’.  She assures me that the error will be corrected and that T/E will participate in the Newsweek high school survey next year.

To offer an explanation as to why Conestoga High School was not included in this year’s ‘best of the best’ rankings by Newsweek, Karen sent the following response she received from T/E administration:

I am writing to respond to the message concerning the Newsweek Best High Schools List. As you are aware, Conestoga was not included in this year’s Newsweek list of “America’s Best High Schools.” In following up with Newsweek, we learned that an email was sent in mid-May to all secondary schools requesting information. The email, Newsweek explained, was sent to a Conestoga High School counselor. The counselor, however, reported that the email was not received. We subsequently sent our data to Newsweek, and we would have placed around #100 on the list based upon their calculations. We have since corrected the Newsweek contact information to ensure that we are included in its analysis in future years.

Althoughk nowing why Conestoga HS did not appear on this year’s Newsweek rankings may not satisfy everyone, it does help explain the omission.

According to the administration, the Newsweek email was not received by the school district.  After the fact, the school district did submit Conestoga’s survey data to Newsweek but apparently did not make the submission deadline.  Additionally, the administration offers that Conestoga should have “placed around #100”.  Since the data was public when sent to Newsweek, I will ask the school board to provide the submitted information.  Conestoga’s statistical data will be posted when I receive it.

Regardless of how you feel about rankings, it’s the world we live in . . . whether you are looking at colleges or finding a doctor, some of us find the information useful in making decisions.

Community Matters – in and around Tredyffrin

Community Matters . . . in and around Tredyffrin

In one of the biggest property deals since the start of the global financial crisis, the Australian company Centro Properties Groups has agreed to sell its 588 US shopping malls to private equity giant Blackstone Group for $9.4 billion.

The local connection – Centro owns Chesterbrook Shopping Center and Valley Fair Shopping Center! I assume the existing retail leases in these shopping centers will pass with the transfer of sale.  Many folks are looking forward to McKenzies Brew House restaurant plans for the old Charlie Brown location at Valley Fair Shopping Center.  Here’s hoping that Blackstone will breathe new life into Chesterbrook Shopping Center and find a tenant for the empty Genuardi’s grocery store.  And let’s not forget that this corporate sale could mean significant transfer tax revenue to the school district and the township!

In case you missed this one . . . in order to make shelf room for new products, the Pennsylvania State liquor stores is having special discount sale, starting today.  Approximately 400 items have been marked down to clearance prices until they are gone.

Last night was the Board of Supervisors Meeting. Notes of the evening included Mike Heaberg’s swearing in as new supervisor by Judge Jeremy Blackburn; recognition of the 300th anniversary of the historic Baptist Church in the Great Valley and certificates of appreciation for volunteer service to Grace Keffer, Bob Haver and Molly Duffy.

By Board of Supervisors appointment, a Sidewalk Subcommittee was formed in March 2010 to look at resident’s wants and needs of sidewalks in the community.  The process included public meetings, resident sidewalk survey, observations and discussion and Sidewalks Subcommittee chair Tory Snyder presented the findings and recommendations last night at the Board of Supervisors Meeting. (Here is a link to the recommendations). Surprising some of us in the audience, supervisor Phil Donahue made a motion for the board to accept the Sidewalk Subcommittee recommendations and move it to the Planning Commission to create a draft ordinance.  Michelle Kichline seconded the motion and it passed unanimously. Hat’s off to the supervisors for this progressive, proactive show of support for the community!   (As an aside, the Sidewalk Subcommittee Green Routes Network recommendation includes St. Davids Golf Club sidewalk in the plan.)

In addition to crafting a draft ordinance in regards to the Sidewalk Subcommittee recommendations, the Planning Commissioners is drafting an amendment to the Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance to give the Board of Supervisors final land development authority.  Although there is a Public Hearing on land development authority scheduled for March 21, it was agreed there would be no final decision on that matter until after the sidewalk ordinance is resolved.

I was notified of a an updated ‘Best High School in Pennsylvania’ list and am pleased to report that Conestoga High School continues to receive high marks.  Each year, “Newsweek” magazine ranks the nation’s top 1,600 high schools–that’s only six percent of all public high schools in the country. This ranking helps parents and educators set standards for themselves. In 2010, 33 high schools from Pennsylvania, including Conestoga High School, made the list. These schools received high marks from both “Newsweek” and “U.S. News & World Report.”

According to the eHow.com 2011 update, “Conestoga High School is ranked as the No. 502 high school in the nation by “Newsweek” and as No. 79 by “U.S. News & World Report.” It offers more Advanced Placement courses than any other high school, public or private, in Pennsylvania, and had 37 National Merit semifinalists in 2010. . . “   Congratulations Conestoga High School and Tredyffrin-Easttown School District!

Speaking of Conestoga High School . . . the curtains go up tonight on the student production of Phantom of the Opera.  The show will run March 1 – 6, click here for ticket information. Phantom is one of my all-time favorite musicals –  best wishes to the cast & break a leg!

That is it for now.  I look forward to your thoughtful comments and please email me at tredyffrincommunitymatters@gmail.com if you have news or thoughts to share.

Conestoga Students Not Supportive of Possible High School Programming Changes

In today’s mail, we received an update from the T/E School Board – focused on the 2011-12 budget and the corresponding challenges facing the school district.  The looming deficit facing the school district is a staggering $8.8 million. Reasons for the deficit include continuing decrease of revenue, salaries, increased teacher pension contributions and rising health care costs. These factors remain relatively unchanged from the 2010-11 school year.  

The million-dollar question (or rather the nearly 9 million-dollar question) is how to solve the deficit problem.  The school board will undoubtedly vote in favor of increasing property tax by 1.4% for the 2011-12 school year, which is the limit permitted by the Act I index set by the State.  This move will provide the district with approximately $1.2 million in revenue . . . clearly, not close to the $8.8 million deficit.  The district already has some cost cutting measures in place including the elimination of the FLES (foreign language in the elementary school program).  There is also discussion of requesting an Act I exception that would provide an additional $2.4 million in revenue by increasing property taxes by an additional $2.8%.  These suggestions will help decrease the deficit situation but do not eliminate the problem.

So what other cost-cutting measures can the school district take?  Suggestions include (1) optimizing staffing – additional high school teachers will teach 6 periods instead of five; (2) restructure the high school program for 42 periods instead of the current 48 periods; (3) eliminate German and Latin in the middle school: and (4) continue to implement operational efficiencies.

There are some important T/E School Board meetings coming up in January. There is a special School Board meeting on January 3 at 7:30 PM to vote on using eligible Act 1 exceptions.  If the Board votes to apply for exceptions, the School Board will present a preliminary budget on January 4 for public comment.  The School Board will vote on the 2011-12 budget on January 24.  

If you do not have children in the school district, it can be difficult to understand the impact of the cost-cutting suggestions.  Conestoga High School students will be impacted if the school board members decide to restructure the high school program.  I was curious if the students were surveyed (or asked) to offer their opinion on the proposed programming changes at the high school. By chance, I saw the following editorial in the recent edition of ‘The Spoke’, Conestoga’s newspaper.  The opinion article speaks directly to student concerns in regards to possible programming changes.

No to proposed class cuts

Posted on 21 December 2010 by the Spoke Newsdesk
This article originally appeared on page 7 of the Dec. 21, 2010 issue of The Spoke.

The school district has proposed a plan that would cut down certain Conestoga elective courses from being six days a cycle to three days a cycle, a proposal that, The Spoke editorial believes, would have drastic repercussions in the future.

When asked what makes Conestoga unique when compared to other high schools, most students will not hesitate in answering that it is the wide variety of classes that the school offers. Elective courses offered here, ranging from AP Music Theory to Culinary Arts, allow the school to foster a sense of creativity and imagination that goes far in providing a well-rounded education. 

Because of the ongoing budget crisis, however, the school district has proposed a plan that would, if passed on Jan. 3, jeopardize these elective courses. The district plans to remove some classes from the program of studies while cutting down the majority of them, including popular courses like Beginning TV and Ceramics 1, from being six days a cycle to three days a cycle. While this initially might not seem like a substantial decrease, it is sure to have repercussions in the future. 

Though it is understandable that continuing some classes is economically unfeasible considering our current fiscal situation, the school should not cut down these important courses that offer students a way to creatively express themselves. Because many students at Conestoga take academically challenging courses, often filling up their schedules with Advanced Placement and Honors classes, they look at these classes as outlets that offer them both an entertaining and relaxing break. Such elective courses also allow students to branch out their interests so that they can focus on artistic or vocational skills, rather than center their high school careers on strictly academic disciplines.  Most of the classes require students to gain a cumulative understanding of the topic, something that is difficult for the teacher to instill if classes only meet half of the cycle. Students are bound to forget important information and teachers will have to sacrifice valuable class minutes when classes resume next cycle. Therefore, students who eventually progress to the Advanced level classes might not be as proficient as others in past years and so the advanced matter will have to be diluted to compensate for information not taught in the limited amount of time.  

By choosing to make these decisions about elective courses, the district will in essence stifle the uniqueness and creativity that thrives in our school community. In the past, students have left Conestoga knowing that they have had the opportunity in our high school to hone their artistic, technical and vocational skills. 

Though The Spoke’s editorial board consists of mostly upperclassmen, we nevertheless lament the loss of the six-day elective courses, and are especially saddened by the fact that the underclassmen will not be able to capitalize on the many opportunities that we once took for granted.

We understand that Conestoga is among the elite in the country when it comes to offering students the luxury of elective courses and so we plead the district to reconsider their proposal. By limiting or eradicating some of these cherished courses, Conestoga risks its reputation as a place where creativity is fostered and originality is nurtured.

1st Annual Conestoga Film Festival — Open to the Public — Friday, 4/30

I was asked to include the 1st Annual Conestoga Film Festival on Community Matters — and I’m excited to make the announcement!  Having served as the Executive Producer of the township’s documentary, Tredyffrin . . . The First 300 Years, I have more than just a passing interest in film production and videos. 

The weekend promises wonderful weather; what better than to kick it off than with the 1st Annual Conestoga Film Festival! Showcasing the talented students film and video at Conestoga HS, please consider attending the film festival and show your support!

What: 1st Annual Conestoga Film Festival
Where: CHS Auditorium
When: Friday, April 30th   3:00 – 5:00 pm
Tickets: $5 available at the door.
Proceeds benefit Youth AIDS researches and donations will be welcomed at the door.

Come see a spectacular program of short films & video projects produced entirely by students. Prizes will be awarded, including Best of Show as voted by the audience!

Questions:
Bryan Persons  personsb@tesd.net
Television Studio Aide

Mike Baskin  baskinm@tesd.net
District Video Production Contractor

Conestoga Senior High School
Room 200 – Television Studio
200 Irish Road
Berwyn, PA 19312
610.240.1000 X 1054

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