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The Lincoln University seeks to be designated a Keystone Opportunity Expansion Zone

09/25/2013 04:54PM, Published by ACL, Categories: In Print, Schools



By Steven Hoffman

Staff Writer

Dr. Robert Jennings, the president of The Lincoln University, made a presentation to the Oxford School Board on Sept. 19 regarding the university’s application to be designated as a Keystone Opportunity Advancement Zone.

“We are interested in bringing to our area a research and development park,” Jennings said. “This is something that we’ve been planning and envisioning for a long time.”

Jennings said that the research and development park would help support the university’s STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) programs and create internship opportunities for students.

The project would also foster economic opportunities and stimulate industrial, commercial and residential improvements.

Pennsylvania has been using Keystone Opportunity Zones as a tool for economic development since 1999. The program is designed to allow for the development to occur with greatly reduced state and local taxes. Local municipalities and school boards must approve a Keystone Opportunity Zone as part of the application process. The Keystone Opportunity Advancement Zone designation would make the project eligible for exemptions, deductions, abatements, and credits for real property, earned income tax, net profits, mercantile and business privilege taxes within a specific geographic area. The designation would be good for ten years and would help lure developers to the project.

“We believe it will also provide jobs for this area,” Jennings said.

He noted that since property owned by The Lincoln University is already tax exempt, waivers by Lower Oxford Township and the Oxford School Board won't have an impact on those entities' tax revenues.

The university president added that the application to the state is due on Sept. 30, and that Lower Oxford Township already gave its approval for the designation.

The school board obliged Jennings' request and voted to support the Keystone Opportunity Advancement Zone.

In other business:

School board member Joe Scheese, who serves on the Technology Committee, talked about the progress that is being made toward supplying iPads to all students at the high school.

“We’ve been meeting every week for the last two months,” said Scheese. “We have 350 iPads on site for the freshmen. The target roll out date for the freshman class is Oct. 7.”

Scheese said that district officials are working on deciding on some of the standard software and apps that will be used on the iPads.

Some of the Oxford Area High School students who are serving on the Student Advisory Committee that is assisting with the implementation of the iPads demonstrated some of the educational uses of the devices. High school principal Christopher Dormer said that iPads will allow for real-time collaboration. The students spent a few minutes researching the history of Oxford and made brief presentations to the board about the findings.

The board also approved a collective bargaining agreement with the Oxford Area Education Support Personnel Association (maintenance and custodial staff). The agreement extends from July 1,  2013 to June 30, 2017.

During public comment, Kate Black, a district employee for five years and the director of an equine therapy summer camp that is utilized by Oxford students, expressed concerns about the district's reluctance in paying for all the services from this year's program.

“Every summer, we have students come out to the farm and work on social skills,” said Black. On the first day of the program this year the school district did not allow for the transportation of students because the request was not filed properly. Black said that when they learned that students wouldn't be able to come out to the farm, she and her staff drove to the school and met with the students.

“It wasn’t horse therapy that day, but it was the best that we could do,” she said. “We provided services. We talked about social skills. We made students feel comfortable about coming out to the farm.”

The transportation issue was resolved the next day and the program continued as planned. But when Black submitted the invoice to receive payment, the district withheld $783, the amount of one day of programming.

Black said that it is the district's responsibility to take care of the transportation, and the district should honor the agreement. She noted that she held up her end of the agreement, even though she had to change plans for the first day.

“I paid my employees for that day,” she said, “even though that wasn’t what we expected to be doing.”

Black said that she hopes the district will pay for the day even though, for her, it isn't about the money.

“I haven’t made any profits {from the program} but I love what I do,” Black said. “The money I earn from this helps me care for the horses.”

The school board directed the administration to look into the matter and report back at next month's meeting. The school board meets on again on Thursday, Oct. 10 and Thursday, Oct. 17.


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