There are many aspects to running a quality school district that go far beyond providing top-notch facilities and a rigorous curriculum to prepare students for their futures. Many of the things that school districts have to consider today were not things that school boards and administrations had to worry about years ago.
Today, schools have to make safe and secure facilities a top priority. Gone are the days when anybody could just walk into a school unannounced and ask to speak with a Principal or pick a child up for a doctor’s appointment.
All of our school doors are now locked and visitors can only enter through the main door after buzzing in, showing ID and stating their purpose for visiting. No longer is the presence of unarmed security guards enough to ensure school safety. Bethel Park was one of the first districts in the area to employ a full-time School Police Force, which works closely with our School Resource Officer and the Bethel Park Police Department to provide an additional layer of security in our schools to assist with the identification of threats to our school community.
Additionally, we have social workers in all of our schools, working with students to help them with the social and emotional issues in their lives that impede their ability to succeed in school. We have partnered with the Municipality to contract with Outreach Teen and Family Services to provide screening and mental health counseling for students (with parental consent), parent training and professional development for our faculty, which will help to identify and provide solutions for many issues at an early stage.
Our special needs students at the High School will benefit from the newly-established Best Buddies Program that will begin next school year. Best Buddies is an internationally-recognized program that provides positive one-to-one friendship and leadership development opportunities for students with and without disabilities. We have been informally offering similar type programming over the years, but we are proud to be able to formally bring this quality and life-changing initiative to Bethel Park. Planning is already underway so we can hit the 2019-2020 school year running with this program.
Many of our families have two working parents, and we understand their need for quality before and after school child care opportunities for their younger children. As a District, we have worked with Lois Johnson to operate child care in our elementary schools and we are also pleased to announce that the Spencer YMCA will now be offering an afterschool program for our NAMS and IMS middle school students at the Y.
We are working hard to ensure that our schools meet the needs of all of our children, and we are proud of the successes of our students, while at the same time, keeping taxes affordable for our residents. We are also proud of the fact that we have been able to increase services over the years and at the same time, pass budgets that have contained no tax increase for the past three years. It is our goal to do that again with the 2019-2020 budget.
Before I conclude my message, I wanted to also address a couple of issues that have been brought to my attention and provide accurate information. First is the HVAC Project at the High School. As you may be aware, in 2012 when we installed that system in the high school, it was explained by numerous experts that the mechanical system we were installing was a cutting edge, energy efficient and environmentally friendly ice storage system that could handle the cooling of a high school during the school day.
With rising temperatures and the increased usage of the building after school by school and outside groups, the system that was installed does not have the cooling capacity to generate enough cooling at night for the next day, and at the same time, keep up with all of the unforeseen activities that have been scheduled in the evenings and on weekends.
The work that will be done on the HVAC system this spring and over the summer will modify the system and increase its cooling capacity to provide a comfortable learning environment during the day as well as on evenings and weekends. Through careful budgeting the District has enough money in its Capital Reserve Budget to meet the expenditures and still maintain a sufficient amount in that account for future projects without a tax increase. The District can afford to make the repairs and we plan to have everything ready to go for the start of the 2019-2020 school year.
Another issue I would like to address involves the comments that our students are not achieving on standardized tests.
During a presentation to the Board in the Fall, our Curriculum Department shared that the percentage of Bethel Park students scoring at the Proficient and Advanced levels on the PSSAs far exceeds the Pennsylvania state averages on all exams. Bethel Park High School students also exceed state averages on the Keystone Exams.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education the percentage of Bethel Park students scoring Proficient or Advanced on the 2018 PSSA English Language Arts test was 84.1 percent, compared to 61.4 percent for the State. In Math Bethel Park was at 67 percent Proficient and Advanced on Math, as compared to 42 percent for the State. Our Science scores showed that Bethel Park students were 89.5 Proficient or Advanced, compared to 64.8 percent for the State.
Over the past two years, our English Language Arts Performance levels have increased—from 82.3 percent in 2017 to 84.1 percent in 2018. Our Math scores also show an increase—from 61.0 percent in 2017 to 67.0 percent. Our Science scores also increased—from 82.4 percent in 2017 to 89.5 percent in 2018.
On the 2018 Keystone Literature Exam, 85.7 of Bethel Park High School students scored at Proficient or Advanced, compared to 72.7 of the State students. On the Math Keystone, BPHS students scored at 73.2 percent, compared to 65.2 for the State. On the Science Keystone, BPHS students outpaced the State, scoring 78.6 percent, compared to 64.4 percent for the State.
We have much to be proud of in the Bethel Park School District. As you look through the pages of this issue, you will see that our schools and our students are doing great things. We thank all of our taxpayers for your continued support of our schools, because your tax dollars make all of these opportunities and accomplishments possible for our students. If you have not visited our schools recently, we hope that you will take the opportunity to visit our schools—whether it be for a free music concert, or a sporting event, or one of the Gold Card Lunches organized by the Municipality--we know you will be impressed with our students and our facilities.
I want to close this message by wishing the students who are part of the Bethel Park High School Class of 2019 the best as they finish up their senior year and prepare for Graduation on Saturday, June 8. The Board looks forward to attending your Commencement Ceremony and being able to present you with your diplomas.
Thank you for bringing much positive recognition to Bethel Park. We wish you well in the next chapter of your lives.