Kennett High School principal to become assistant superintendent
● By Steven Hoffman
Dr. Michael A. Barber, the principal of the Kennett High School for the last eight years, will become the Kennett Consolidated School District’s new assistant superintendent starting on July 1. The Kennett School Board unanimously approved a five-year employment contract with Barber that runs from July 1 through June 30, 2020 at the April 13 meeting.
Superintendent Dr. Barry Tomasetti said that he has developed a great trust in Barber during the five years that they have worked together, and he knows that Barber will always put the needs of the students first. Tomasetti added that Barber also has a great deal of respect for the teachers in the district, and the work that they do, which is essential for an administrator.
School board president Heather Schaen noted that it has been five years since the district has had an assistant superintendent. The position opened up shortly after Tomasetti came to Kennett, but the duties of an assistant superintendent have been divided between other administrators.
“It has become clear that an assistant superintendent is needed and valued,” Schaen said, explaining that while they were sad to see Barber leave the high school, they are looking forward to his contributions at the assistant superintendent position.
Barber, who has more than 17 years of experience in education, said that he is looking forward to helping the district continue to provide the best education possible for students.
“I'm looking forward to supporting our families,” Barber said.
Tomasetti emphasized that the assistant superintendent position is not a new one, and the district still has one less administrative position than when he came to Kennett.
Nancy Tischer, the highly regarded director of human resources for the district, plans to retire at the end of the current school year. When Barber transitions to the central office, one of his duties will be to oversee the human resources.
“What we’re trying to do is be as efficient as we can with those duties,” Tomasetti said.
The school board approved a proposed final generating operating budget of $79,062,067, which is the same amount as when the preliminary budget was unveiled in January.
In order to balance the budget, taxes would increase by 2.67 percent, or approximately $149 for the average residential property in the district, and the district would still need to dip into its fund balance for approximately $714,320.
School board member Michael Finnegan, who serves on the district's Finance Committee, said that district officials are hopeful that the tax increase that is ultimately necessary will be smaller than 2.67 percent.
This is the time of year when some long-term educators and administrators begin to announce their retirements, and that will impact the budget for the next school year. Gov. Tom Wolf's proposed state budget includes additional funding for public schools, but it seems very unlikely that the state budget will be finalized until well after most school districts have adopted their budgets. Like a lot of school districts, Kennett is working under the assumption that state funding will remain consistent from the current year to next year.
Finnegan noted that there are several large commercial and residential projects that are definitely going to expand the school district's tax base in future years, so there is reason for optimism.
If Kennett's budget were approved as is, the millage rate would increase from 27.9406 mills to 28.6871 mills.
Overall, the spending is increasing by about $3.1 million over the current year’s budget. The biggest reason for the increase is the state-mandated contribution to the Pennsylvania Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS). Last year, the district budgeted $6,213,503 for PSERS, while the costs this year are expected to be $7,565,364—a hike of $1,351,861, or 21.76 percent.
The Kennett School Board is expected to adopt a final budget in June.
The school board also approved the proposed Chester County Intermediate Unit’s core budget for 2015-2016. The services funded by the core budget are paid for by all 12 of the Chester County school districts. Kennett’s contribution to the core budget is expected to be about $35,078.
The marketplace section of the Chester County Intermediate Unit’s budget pertains to specific services that the Intermediate Unit offers to the districts, including occupational and special education services. These services are purchased by the district as needed, and Kennett is seeing more demand for these services.
Another component of the Intermediate Unit’s budget is the occupational education budget, which is supported primarily by district tuition for students attending the CCIU school. Kennett’s costs for the occupational education budget are expected to be about $1,554,396, which is based on Kennett’s three-year, full-time equivalent enrollment of 76.349 students in the vocational technical school.
In other business at the April 13 meeting, the school board also signed off on the administration’s decision to transition the real estate tax billing and collection services to Keystone Collections Group. The Keystone Collections Group already is the common collector for earned income taxes through the Chester County Tax Collection Committee. The agreement between the school district and Keystone Collections Group calls for the company to take responsibility for the production of tax notifications, collection of real estate taxes, preparation of monthly reports, and the production of the lien file. The fee will be $1.50 for each tax duplicate plus postage, and an additional 50 cents for installments and delinquent notices.
Keystone will provide enhanced services over the current process, including telephone assistance and bills written in Spanish for customers who want them, as well as credit and debit card payment options.
The school board also voted to appoint Keystone Collections Group as deputy tax collector for the district, which will enable the company to collect real estate taxes for the 2015-2016 school year.
The Kennett School Board will meet again on Monday, May 11 in the Kennett Middle School.