By Steven Hoffman
In his first official school board meeting as the superintendent of schools in the Avon Grove School District, Dr. Christopher Marchese talked about his efforts to get acclimated in the new environment.
“My transition to Avon Grove has been outstanding,” Marchese said at the Nov. 14 meeting. He was appointed as the new superintendent in August following a seven-month search that attracted 29 candidates for the position. His first official day on the job was Nov. 1. Marchese said that he spent that day touring all the district’s schools with assistant superintendent Dr. Margaret Sharp. On Nov. 5, during an in-service day for teachers, Marchese had the opportunity to address the professional staff collectively for the first time. He has also been meeting with groups of various stakeholders in the district.
“Each one of those meetings brings additional knowledge for me,” he said.
While Marchese is new to Avon Grove, he has more than 15 years of experience in education. He previously served as the assistant superintendent for the Wissahickon School District. Before that, he worked as a principal and vice principal, as well as an adjunct professor for four university graduate programs. He also has experience working in non-public schools, serving as a teacher, department chair, and assistant principal.
In his first superintendent’s report, Marchese thanked three board members—Dennis Gerber, Bob Weidenmuller, and Bruce Dobsch for their service on the board. It was the last board meeting for all three. Gerber has served on the board for ten years, Weidenmuller for eight years, and Dobsch for the last two.
Weidenmuller, who serves on the Personnel Committee, said that district officials are considering some new requirements for prospective employees who are hired to work in the business office. A background check is already conducted, and Engel said that they are considering expanding the check to include whether the employees have paid all their taxes and whether there is a lien against their houses.
In his facilities report, school board member Donald Needham said that there is a plan to thoroughly clean all the schools during the Christmas break in an effort to improve the buildings’ conditions.
Herman Engel said that the Finance and Budget Committee is doing work on the 2013-14 budget and the Act 1 index is expected to be about 2.8 percent for Avon Grove. This is the maximum increase in property taxes that the school board could approve without seeking approval for a larger tax increase from the public through a referendum. The district is also eligible for some exceptions that would allow the tax increase to exceed 2.8 percent slightly.
The school board designated Loree Lonsinger to serve as the treasurer, right-to-know officer, and tax collector from Nov. 1, 2013 through June 30, 2014.
Dr. Cynthia Holland, the principal of the Penn London Elementary School, outlined the school-wide behavior plan that the school uses to encourage students to feel good about themselves. Holland said that teachers talk to students about filling up a figurative bucket with good thoughts and good deeds throughout the day. The school has a series of rules that encourage students to be kind to one another. A group of kindergarten, first grade, and second grade students performed a song at the meeting that illustrated the goal of making sure that students fill their buckets with good deeds and thoughts.
Holland said that the behavior plan is effective in getting the students to feel good about themselves.
The school board agreed to cancel its second November meeting because of the Thanksgiving holiday. Instead, the board will meet next on December 2 for the reorganization meeting. New members will be sworn in and new officers will be elected at that time.