When you read the articles that are contained in this issue of Chronicles, you will quickly realize what a successful year the Bethel Park School District had in 2016-2017. We are extremely proud of all of the successes of our students and staff, and we look forward to all of the positive things that will happen in the 2017-2018 school year.
The Bethel Park Board of School Directors is also proud that for the second consecutive year we were able to pass a budget that does not include a tax increase. Superintendent Dr. Joseph Pasquerilla and his administrative team have done a marvelous job of monitoring expenses and allocating money for future major expenditures, such as escalating pension and health care costs, expenditures that could not be covered by a tax increase in a single year.
The Bethel Park School District is on solid financial footing as we go into the future, and that doesn’t happen by accident. It happens because we have made the firm commitment to maintaining a quality educational program at an affordable cost to our taxpayers.
Our administrators have been working hard this summer to prepare for another great school year. Before the school year begins, I would like to take this opportunity to address/clarify a couple of issues that have arisen out of the “Rumor Mill.’
RUMOR: Superintendent Dr. Joseph Pasquerilla earns over $200,000 per year.
FACT: NOT TRUE. In May, the Board conducted its annual review of Dr. Pasquerilla as he concluded his first year of service in the Bethel Park School District. The criteria the Board used in this evaluation can be found online at: http://www.bpsd.org/AnnualSuperintendentPerformanceStandards.aspx. At our May 23 meeting, the Board awarded Dr. Pasquerilla a $10,000 raise, bringing his salary to $162,500.
In addition, the Board awarded him a one-time $10,000 performance bonus in recognition of the outstanding job he has done
RUMOR: The District was able to award Dr. Pasquerilla a raise and bonus because we’ve laid off teachers and did not purchase supplies.
FACT: NOT TRUE. The money that Dr. Pasquerilla earned was budgeted, so no cuts to staff or expenditures were made to fund his raise and bonus.
RUMOR: The District is not purchasing copy paper or other necessary supplies.
FACT: NOT TRUE. In fact, the District purchased almost 300 more cases of paper in 2016-2017 than we did in 2015-2016. As for supplies, their purchase is monitored by the building principals to make sure that there are enough supplies for the entire school year. Depending where we are within the budget year, supply requests may be scrutinized a little closer than usual to make sure that expenditures are completely necessary. We do not spend money just because it is budgeted. We spend money because it is necessary.
RUMOR: The District laid off teachers to avoid raising taxes.
FACT: NOT TRUE. Every year the District looks at its staffing needs, especially when individuals retire. Oftentimes when a teacher retires, their teaching position is not filled, but the District has not had to furlough or lay off any teacher. We have been able to restructure some positions due to a decline in enrollment at certain grade levels, as well as the fact that our new teachers contract allows our secondary teachers to teach more periods than in previous years, giving them an opportunity to earn additional money for the extra periods taught.
RUMOR: We eliminated Nursing Positions to the point where the District is not able to provide coverage in our Health Offices.
FACT: NOT TRUE. We did restructure our Health Room staffing, but it was done without having to furlough any employees, and at the same time continue to provide complete coverage in all of our Heath Rooms, per the PA School Code.
The Pennsylvania School Code requires that every child of school age be provided with school nurse services as part of the school health program. A school nurse must be a licensed registered nurse certificated by the PA Department of Education (PDE). School nurse services must be provided to every school age child and the number of pupils per Certified School Nurse may not exceed 1,500.
To be a School Nurse in Pennsylvania, a person must have a Bachelor of Nursing (BSN) degree at a PDE-approved college or university, must be a Registered Nurse, and must be certified as a School Nurse by PDE. In the 2017-2018 school year, the Bethel Park School District will employ four full time Certified School Nurses who will work five days per week in all of our schools.
The Bethel Park School District also employs Health Services Nurses. A Health Services Nurse works under the supervision of the Certified School Nurse and is either a Registered Nurse (RN) or a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN). For the 2017-2018 school year the Bethel Park School District will employ five full-time Health Service Nurses who will work five days a week and two part-time members who will work four days a week in all of our schools.
RUMOR: Hawk Time was initiated to reduce the amount of special education services the District has to provide.
FACT: NOT TRUE. As you may be aware, Hawk Time is a new initiative the District began last school year to provide all of our elementary students with additional time for remediation and enrichment. Hawk Time is not a unique concept to Bethel Park. In fact, it has been used successfully in other school districts—under different names--to give all students additional time to improve their academic skills. It has not been initiated in Bethel Park to reduce special education services. Quite the contrary, Hawk Time actually meets the Least Restrictive Environment legal parameters.
The District continues to provide outstanding Special Education services to our students. In 2016-2017, the District spent over $27,000 on each special education student, compared to the more than $14,000 spent on a regular education student. We are committed to providing the necessary services for all students to succeed, not only because we are legally required to follow federal and state laws regarding education services, but also because it is the right thing to do.
As I mentioned in my beginning comments, you will read about many positive things happening in the school district in this publication, but I would also like to add this brief chart highlighting a couple of positive things the District has been able to accomplish on the financial side of operations.
SCHOOL BOARD/ADMINISTRATION FINANCIAL ACCOMPLISHMENTS
· No tax increase for two consecutive years (2016-2017 and 2017-2018).
· Long-Term Contracts with four of five unions (All accomplished without a labor stoppage. Currently in negotiations with Paraprofessional/Aides bargaining unit.)
· Federation Secretaries through June 30, 2019
· Transportation Union through June 30, 2020
· Custodial/Maintenance Union through June 30, 2021
· Bethel Park Federation of Teachers through June 30, 2022
· Excellent Bond Rating
The Bethel Park School District did not have an underlying bond rating prior to 2008. In 2008 it was assigned an A1 rating and was upgraded to Aa2 (a two notch increase) in 2010 and has maintained that rating ever since.
· Bethel Park Online Academy (established in 2012-2013)
· Grown from 42 to 105 current students.
· Reduced the number of BPSD students enrolled in non-BP Cyber/Charter Schools from 71 in 2012 to 45 in 2017.
· The BPOA saves the District approximately $1 million per year.
The Bethel Park School District will continue to find ways to improve our processes and reduce expenditures while providing a quality educational program. That is our commitment to our students, staff and the community of Bethel Park.
On behalf of my colleagues on the Board, we hope all of you had a restful summer and we look forward to a positive 2017-2018 school year.
This message appeared in the August 2017 edition of The Bethel Park Chronicles.