I have been asked a variety of questions by the public in my 14+ years of serving as a School Director, but the one that makes me smile the most is when I am asked where my office in the District is located.
The answer to that question is that no Bethel Park School Directors have offices in the District. Like all School Directors in Pennsylvania, we are locally elected officials, not paid employees, and as you may or may not know, we actually serve on behalf of the Pennsylvania state legislature. We are also the only elected officials in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that do not receive compensation for our service.
According to the Pennsylvania School Code, the primary responsibilities for School Directors include:
• Provide for the education of all children
• Adopt textbooks and courses of study
• Hire a superintendent, principals, teachers, and other staff
• Adopt an annual school district budget
• Levy taxes
• Enter into contracts
• Adopt and maintain policies
We are not, nor should we be, micromanagers of everything that happens in the Bethel Park School District. That is the responsibility of the Superintendent. We hired Dr. Pasquerilla because we believe he is capable of running the District on a day-to-day basis and ensuring that we are providing a quality educational program to our students.
In a nutshell, our job as School Directors is to oversee the District’s operations, but not directly run the District.
However; being an effective School Director still requires a large time commitment. In addition to the two monthly meetings that are scheduled, Directors spend a great deal of time becoming familiar with the myriad of educational and legislative issues that arise not only from our nation’s capital, but also from Harrisburg.
Nationally, we have had to transition from No Child Left Behind to the Every Student Succeeds Act. Our curriculum had to be adjusted to meet Common Core Standards.
On a State level, the PSSAs are not the only tests our students are required to take. Now we have the Keystone Exams. We have PVASS data to show us how our students have or have not grown from year to year. New State legislation is routinely enacted and we need to fully understand what actions the District must take to be in full compliance with the new laws. For example, newly-enacted Act 55 impacts how school districts can and cannot furlough employees. And while we rely on our Administration to determine how to best meet these objectives, as School Directors, we still need to understand these things—and so much more.
Oftentimes training or re-training is required to get up to speed with many of these issues. The Pennsylvania School Boards Association does a good job of providing numerous training opportunities for School Directors. Preparing for Board meetings requires lengthy reading to have an educated grasp on the issues that we must decide.
By law, all of our votes must be taken at a public meeting. While the law permits us to discuss issues surrounding personnel (employment, termination, evaluation and discipline), negotiations, the purchase of property, and legal issues such as potential litigation in a private Executive Session, all official votes that necessitate action on any of the aforementioned items must be taken at a public meeting.
The public has an opportunity to share their feelings about issues at the beginning of our meetings (on agenda items only) and at the end of the meeting (on any topic related to school operations or programs) per our current policy. The public can also email the Board with any concerns. Please include your full name and contact information, including telephone number, when emailing, as it is difficult to respond to anonymous correspondence.
We do our best to respond to all identifiable correspondence in a timely way, but oftentimes it takes time to find the correct information to share with you. Sometimes we are not able to provide the answer to your question because it may involve a legal or disciplinary issue and we are not able to discuss it. Other times we may not be able to get back to you as quickly as you would like because we are out of town or are dealing with issues related to our jobs, families or personal commitments, or we may already be hard at work finding a solution to your concern(s). It is always best if you have a question to first contact the appropriate District employee, who is closest to the situation and can more readily respond to your inquiry.
The decisions the Board makes may not always be popular ones with everyone, but I can assure you that they are all made by a team of individuals who has spent a great deal of time studying and discussing how these decisions will impact the District. And whether you agree or disagree with the decision, please know it was made with the best interest of the students of the Bethel Park School District as our primary goal.
Best wishes to you and your family as the 2017-2018 school year embarks on its second semester.
This message appeared in the February 2018 issue of the Bethel Park Chronicles.