The beginning of every new school year brings with it a sense of excitement for what the future will hold, and this school year is no exception. I look forward to the beginning of school on August 21 with great anticipation and expectation for another year of learning and achievement—in the classrooms as well as the athletic fields and performance stages.
And while I enjoy looking forward, I would also like to take this opportunity to look back and reflect on my 16 years on the Bethel Park Board of School Directors, and the past 10 years as its President, as this will be my last message to you, because my tenure on the Board will end in November.
When I came on the Board to fill a vacancy in the summer of 2003, the District was trying to figure out how it was going to rebound from a $2.5 million deficit and a zero fund balance.
Within two years we were able to not only make up the deficit, but also begin saving for the future. Today the Bethel Park School District is on solid financial footing, with a healthy fund balance that will help to protect its future.
I am very proud of the work that the Board and Administration did over these past 16 years, to not only keep taxes low, but also provide a quality educational environment, which has included things such as:
• Renovations totaling almost $6 million to several of our schools in 2007, including roof replacements, electrical and mechanical system upgrades, foundation work, and probably most important, the removal of temporary trailer classrooms and replacing them with permanent additions to three of our schools—Lincoln, Franklin and Memorial.
• Building a new Bethel Park High School that opened in 2012 across the street from the antiquated campus-style school. We are proud that the school was built under budget, which enabled us to equip the school with state-of-the-art technology, flexible learning spaces, and updated finishes, such as terrazzo tile, that will hold up much longer than cheaper flooring options. Most importantly, we financially planned for this new school, and the millage impact on taxpayers was only .017 mills.
• Leading the way with a $1.3 million 1:1 technology initiative that provided all students in grades 7-12 with “take-home” Chromebooks; 1:1 access to Chromebooks for students in Grades 2-6 in their classrooms, and iPad carts for grade level usage in Grades K-1. We are beginning our sixth year with the program and can afford to upgrade/replace the computers that have served our students well these past five years.
• Preparing our students for the future through STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) programs such as Project Lead the Way at the High School, technical education at area Vocational/Technical Schools; Innovation Studios at the High School to promote collaborative learning; STEAM areas at IMS; and Maker Spaces in our Libraries, to name a few.
Additionally, I am proud that we offer 19 Advanced Placement Courses at the High School, Dual Enrollment with five area colleges and universities for students to earn college credit in high school, and our own Cyber Academy to enable students to pursue additional courses in a non-traditional manner.
We continue to look at ways to keep our students safe. Creating our own School Police Force and providing bus transportation to all students are just two of the ways we continue to improve in that area. We have also taken a comprehensive look at safety to incorporate a more holistic approach that includes family supports and counseling, as well as social workers at all of our schools, to help to identify and address issues as early as possible.
We have been able to establish a productive working relationship with our teachers’ union, settling teachers’ contracts on time and with no disruption to the education of our students. We value this great working relationship with our staff, and I am proud to have played a part in helping to foster that relationship. We have also been able to settle the majority of our bargaining group contracts over the years on time as well. I am saddened we have not been able to settle the contract for our Paraprofessionals and Aides, but we will continue to work toward an equitable agreement for everyone.
I am extremely proud of all of the things the Board of School Directors and our Administration have accomplished over the years to get us back on sound financial footing and to move the District forward with curriculum and technology, with an overarching goal of providing the best educational opportunities for all of our students. Over the course of the past 16 years, I have worked with seven different Superintendents/Acting Superintendents and 21 Board members. Everyone comes to the table with different viewpoints and ideas, but somehow we have been able to come together to work collectively for the betterment of our school district, our students, our staff, and also our community.
It has been my honor and privilege to serve the Bethel Park community these past 16 years as a member of the Bethel Park Board of School Directors. I thank you for your input, guidance and support.
I hope you and your family had a wonderful summer, and I look forward to another successful school year.