Pattye Benson

Community Matters

virtual learning

T/E Parents Have Option to Have Their Child Repeat a Grade – But Decision Deadline is Thursday, July 15!

As a result of the pandemic, it’s been more than a year of struggles for students, juggling the ups and downs of virtual and hybrid learning, leaving many behind in the process.

A newly passed state law in Pennsylvania (Act 66) allows parents and guardians to decide whether their children will move on the next grade level for the 2021-22 school year. However, if you decide that your child should repeat the grade you must act fast, the deadline to notify is Thursday, July 15.

In response to the pandemic, school districts had to enact many changes in a relatively short period of time. Like so many places, our District had to completely shift how they delivered education, from in-person to virtual school. Certainly, virtual learning posed a challenge for all – students, parents, and teachers – with some fairing better than others.

The possible pandemic-related learning loss means that some parents are weighing whether their children should repeat a grade.  Some parents are worried their children have fallen so far behind because of pandemic-disrupted learning that they should repeat the grade. If I were the parent of a school age child, not sure how I would feel,

During the pandemic closure of schools, many student athletes were unable to play team sports. How does Act 66 and having your child repeat a grade impact his/her eligibility rules for sports programs. What about giving your child some extra time in a sport in they excel by another year in the same grade. Many parents count on athletic scholarships for college – would repeating the grade help with scouts that were unable to see them play during the pandemic.

From the District’s website:

” … Act 66, signed by Governor Wolf last week, permits parents or guardians of students enrolled in TESD schools during the 2020-21 school year to retain their student for the 2021-22 school year in the grade in which they were enrolled last school year due to COVID-19 learning disruptions. Also, students whose special education services would have ended due to reaching the age of 21 may have the option to extend those services for the 2021-22 school year.

Please note that there is a hard deadline of July 15, 2021, in the law for families to exercise these options. For parents who wish to exercise the option to retain a student, please take the following steps:

  1. Complete the Act 66 of 2021 Student Grade Level Retainment Notification Form for the 2021-22 school year. Click here to access the form.
  2. Submit the form to your child’s principal by email or bring the completed form to the main office on or before July 15, 2021.
    1. If a student under the age of 18 plans to repeat a grade, a parent or guardian must submit the form to the school.
    1. If a student 18 years of age or older plans to repeat a grade, the student must submit the form on their own behalf.
    1. Both the parent/guardian and the student must complete this form if a student with a disability was enrolled during the 2020-21 school year, turned 21 during the time periods listed above, and intends to return to school for the 2021-22 school year.…”

TESD Board Meeting on Monday, June 14: Will This Mark the 17th Straight Year for a Tax Increase? Non-Agenda Item: Critical Race Theory Has Parents Looking for Answers

On Monday, June 14, 7:30 PM at Conestoga High School, the TE School Board will hold its first in-person regular board meeting in over a year. (Click here for the agenda). The lengthy agenda (400+ pages!) for the meeting includes the discussion and adoption of the 2021-22 final budget and virtual programming. Will the school board break the cycle of annual tax increases?

Regarding virtual programming, the school board will discuss and vote on the District’s recommendation as follows:

1. To decline K-8 virtual pilot for 2021-22 (based on insufficient enrollment commitment) and consider possibility of offering in future year and

2. To pilot on Personal Finance Course at CHS in a combination virtual format for the 2021-22 school year.

For many TESD residents, the focus on Monday will be on the school board and the vote on the 2021-22 final budget.  Included in the agenda information are three budget options – 0% tax increase, 2.5% tax increase and 2.7% tax increase. Given the school board discussion at the last finance committee meeting, the fact that a zero percent tax increase is included as a budget option is remarkable.  All school board members attended the finance meeting and as far as I could tell there was only one school board member (out of nine) advocating for 0% tax increase – and that was Rev. Scott Dorsey.

For months, some on the school board would have us believe that a zero-tax increase was an actual possibility, but is it really?  At one of the finance or budget workshop meetings at least one school board director suggested that a zero percent tax increase was disingenuous. (I took the remark to mean there would be a tax increase included for the 2021-22 budget). And at several meetings, another school board member repeatedly suggested that Harrisburg didn’t think that we (the TE taxpayers) were taxed enough, although there was no evidence presented to back up the remark.

For those that have only recently moved to the TE School District, you may think that a 2.5 or 2.7 percent tax increase is no big deal; particularly if your move here is based on a perceived quality of the education.  On the surface, I would probably agree but the problem is that a tax increase is an annual event in T/E.  If the approval of the final 2021-22 budget includes any tax increase – it will mark the  17th straight year of tax increases.

But it’s more than an annual tax increase that is troubling — questions continue to swirl regarding fictitious budgeting (underestimating revenues and overestimating expenses). Although residents regularly comment and ask specific questions regarding the District finances, there is little response from the school board. Clearly the answer should not be to simply follow the business manager, wherever he leads!

Critical Race Theory … Is the District teaching?

In addition to the scheduled agenda items, it is anticipated that parents will have questions for the board and administration regarding “critical race theory” (or CRT). There is confusion (or at least I should say that I am confused) about whether the school district is teaching critical race theory in the classrooms.

Critical race theory isn’t a simple – or single – idea. So … does the District teach CRT? There are those parents who claim that TESD teaches CRT and that it should continue. Conversely there are parents who do not support CRT in the classroom (and say that it is taught). And then there are those (including at least one school board member) who says that the District does not teach CRT. This should not be so difficult — does TE School District teach critical race theory?

The District has a contract with Pacific Educational Group (PEG), national consulting firm which provides racial equity training. Does this group provide CRT curriculum information/suggestions to the District?

I don’t have the answers, but parents should have no confusion on whether CRT is taught in TESD. According to District Policy 6132, “Parents have the right to inspect any instructional material in the child’s curriculum …” and “Parents have the right to inspect any instructional material in the child’s curriculum.” If followed, the policy takes away the confusion and parents can easily know what their children are taught. So other than the question about whether the District teaches CRT, is Policy 6132 followed?

This week, three Change.org petitions related to critical race theory and the TE School District began to circulate around the community.  The below links include the originator or group name, petition title and current number of signatures. To understand the position of those behind the individual petitions, click on the links. Review the petitions and read the comments.

Start Date: June 7, 2021
Originator: Concerned Parents
Title: Families Stop Critical Race Theory in the Tredyffrin Easttown School District
Current Number of Signatures: 493
https://www.change.org/p/families-stop-critical-race-theory-in-the-tredyffrin-easttown-school-district

Start Date: June 9, 2021
Originator: TESD Resident Anita Friday
Title: Support Critical Race Theory in the Tredyffrin Easttown School District
Current Number of Signatures: 123
https://www.change.org/p/change-org-support-critical-race-theory-in-the-tredyffrin-easttown-school-district

Start Date: June 10, 2091
Originator: United TE Parents & Community
Title: Uniting Tredyffrin-Easttown for Accuracy, Equity, & Respect
Current Number of Signatures: 264
https://www.change.org/p/the-entire-tredyffrin-easttown-community-uniting-tredyffrin-easttown-for-accuracy-equity-respect

Bottom line, whether it is the budget, yearly tax increases or critical race theory, the school board meeting on Monday, June 14 (7:30 PM, Conestoga High School) is important … please make the effort to attend.

Our collective voices need to matter more!

The Results Are In … Two-Thirds Majority (67%) of T/E Parents Commit to Full In-Person Learning!

TESD parents were asked to select full in-person learning or 100% virtual instruction and submit the District’s form by March 3. As we learned at the special board meeting this week, the commitment was important to aid the District in the logistical details (such as classroom setup, bus routes, cafeteria/lunch arrangements, etc.).

The results from the parent’s commitment form are in and posted on the District’s website. Districtwide, the commitment is approximately two-thirds majority (67%) of parents are choosing full in-person learning and approximately one-third (33%) of parents are choosing virtual instruction.

The response to the District is clear — the majority of the parents want their children back in school full-time. Starting March 15, the schools will be open four days a week for instruction (Wednesday virtual only) with the hope for five days a week to follow. Once the schools reopen for full in-person learning the hybrid model will no longer exist although students can remain completely virtual.

T/E parents commitment to full in-person learning is shown in the graph below – Districtwide breakdown and also by individual school:

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