Budgeting process moves forward in Avon Grove
By Steven Hoffman
The Avon Grove School Board approved the accelerated budget opt-out resolution at its Jan. 22 meeting. By taking this action, the school board is pledging to stay within the Act 1 limit for any tax increase that might be necessary to balance the 2015-2016 budget.
The statewide Act 1 index limit is 1.9 percent for the next school year. Avon Grove’s adjusted Act 1 limit is 2.4 percent, and school board president Brian Gaerity said that the district will be able to balance the spending plan without exceeding this limit.
The school board approved a Request For Proposal (RFP) related to the possible sale of the school district’s wastewater treatment plant. The district is issuing the RFP to gauge the interest in the plant from potential plant operators.
Facilities Committee member Edward Farina said that for as long as the district is the owner of the wastewater treatment plant, it must stay current with changing DEP regulations and do regular maintenance on the plant. Farina said that these are not areas that the district wants to be focusing on, so it might be beneficial if the district could find a company that is in the business that wants to operate or buy the wastewater treatment plant. The wastewater treatment plant currently has additional capacity available beyond what the district uses, so it could be attractive to a potential buyer.
The school board also authorized an agreement with Signal 88 Security for the services of a part-time, unarmed security guard who will split time between the high school and middle school for four hours each school day.
Dr. Lou Chance, the district's director of pupil services, made a report to the school board about the district-wide counseling plan.
Chance explained that the Pennsylvania School Code requires districts to have a comprehensive and sequential program of guidance services for kindergarten through twelfth-graders. Chance talked about the number of school counselors in each building, and the specific assignments for the counselors, including how many students each counselor is responsible for.
He noted that guidance counselors take on a variety of roles, and can do everything from responding to a crisis that a student is having to providing career counseling services to students.
Reading from the mission statement of the school counseling department, Chance said, “The Avon Grove School District believes that every child has a unique passion, otherwise known as a spark. Our goal is to help each child identify and ignite his or her spark....”
The school district formed the Avon Grove Advisory Council to review the effectiveness and scope of the services provided by the K-12 counseling program. The advisory council includes students, parents, educators, and school board members, as well as representatives from non-profit organizations, community service organizations, post-secondary schools, and the business community.
“The impacts of the advisory council have been widespread,” Chance explained to the school board.
This advisory council developed a list of skills and experiences that students must have during their academic career in Avon Grove. Chance said that a Curriculum Action Plan was developed that outlines the K-12 counseling program content that is delivered to all students. The Curriculum Action Plan is aligned to the following standards: student interpersonal skills, career and education work standards, and academic development.
Avon Grove has established a goal at the Penn London Elementary School to have a 25 percent reduction in the number of playground incidents that get reported. At the Avon Grove Intermediate School, the district used the Olweus Bullying Questionnaire in June 2014. Information and data were compiled from the student's responses and reported to the school. The Avon Grove Intermediate School then instituted the Olweus Bully Prevention Program with goal of reducing incidents of bullying from 42 percent on the 2013-2014 Olweus Bullying Questionnaire to 21 percent by the end of the 2014-2015 school year.
Academic and career planning are important components of the district's overall guidance program. The district focuses on career exploration, awareness, and interests starting at the elementary level. Individualized academic and career plans start being introduced in seventh grade. Students can take skill and interest inventories and track their progress with a personal My Plan account. Students are instructed on how to search for careers based on interests, aptitudes, and assessment results. Career exploration includes a wide variety of careers, including military careers.
At the high school level, students utilize online course selection. They are guided through four-year course planning that allows for course recommendations and pre-requisites.
Students also receive assistance planning for college, which includes searches of colleges by career interests, majors, or location. Students are taught how to search for two-year, four-year, or certificate programs, compare schools, and how to apply for financial aid and scholarships.
The district has 253 students currently enrolled at the Chester County Intermediate Unit's Technical College High School in more than a dozen different programs. Students visit and tour the Technical College High School for the first time in fifth grade. A visit to the school and a question-and-answer session is held for eighth-graders. Ninth-grade students attend an assembly and can apply to the school. Tenth through twelfth-graders receive the field experience and career scope assessments at the Technical College High School.
Chance said that the action plan will serve as a springboard to future initiatives, including an expansion of career lessons in elementary schools, more job shadowing opportunities, internship opportunities, mock interview days, career fairs, and an alumni survey.
The school board will meet again on Thursday, Feb. 12 and Thursday, Feb. 26. Both meetings are at 7:30 p.m. in the Avon Grove Intermediate School Audion.
The district’s Facilities Committee will discuss a recently completed report of the school buildings with regard to how they meet the future needs of the district during its next meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 17 at 5 p.m. The meeting will be held in the district office.