Oxford Area School District finalizes budget
● By Steven Hoffman
The Oxford School Board unanimously approved a final budget of $65,663,336 for the 2016-2017 school year at its meeting on May 17, concluding months of work on the spending plan.
There will be a one-percent tax increase to balance the budget. The millage rate will increase from 30.5347 mills to 30.84 mills. For the average taxpayer, that amounts to a $40 increase in the tax bill.
Oxford Area School District business administrator Brian Cooney previously explained that the school district's expenditures are increasing by about $2,269,456, or 3.58 percent, over the current school year. Most of that increase can be attributed to the state-mandated contribution to the Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS), which is going up by about $1.3 million overall.
The school board also approved the resolution establishing the 2016 tax levy as well as a resolution for the Homestead and Farmstead Exclusions.
In other business at the meeting, Dr. Margaret Billings-Jones informed the school board that the district has earned a $20,000 grant that will serve as seed money to initiate Project Lead The Way instruction at the Penn's Grove Middle School. Project Lead The Way is a national program that focuses on STEM education. Oxford has been offering the programming to high school students for two years, and will now be introducing that programming to students at Penn's Grove. Additionally, the district received a $7,500 grant for the Hopewell School to bring those STEM concepts to that school. Billings-Jones, who wrote the successful applications for both grants, explained that professional development is very important in STEM education, and teachers participate in special training over the summer to help them teach Project Lead The Way curriculum to students.
The school board approved dozens of renewal contracts for a variety of services, but tabled a vote on the approval of a contract with ServiceMaster Services for custodial services at the administration building, Jordan Bank School, Hopewell Elementary School, Penn's Grove School, and the Oxford Area High School.
Board member Lorraine D. Bell said that there have been recurring complaints about the quality of the work that is being done by ServiceMaster Services, and in some instances the same issues crop up time after time.
“Cleaning their rooms has been added to our teachers' workload,” Bell said. She explained that she could not vote in favor of the contract with ServiceMaster Services, when there are ongoing concerns about the quality of the work.
Cooney said that the complaints had reached the administration, and district officials had discussed the issues with the company. Cooney said that they had put together a strong plan to address the concerns going forward.
High school principal Christopher Dormer recognized the eight students who comprised this year's Oxford Area High School Envirothon team. This team took first place in the recent Environthon competition at the county level. This year, ten teams were entered into the contest, Dormer said.
The students who represented Oxford are juniors Brandon Tomasulo, Sarah Buckley, Joshua Graff and Andrew Stefanosky, sophomore Samira Barimani, and freshmen Laura Smith, Luke Winand and Ashley Dively. Craig Carlough was the coach of the team.
Dormer also announced that Olivia Cannon is the Valedictorian for the Class of 2016 and Michael Williams is the class Salutatorian. They will be speaking at the graduation ceremony, which takes place at 7 p.m. on Friday, June 3.
The school board said farewell to Alexandria Tzanakis, the student representative on the board, because it was her last board meeting in that role before she graduates. As the student representative on the school board, Tzanakis would keep the school board and the community informed about the activities and accomplishments of the students in all the district's schools. The school board presented Tzanakis with a plaque for her service. She also received a standing ovation from everyone in attendance.
The school board approved keeping the student-participation fees at the same levels: $50 to play a sport at Penn's Grove, $75 to play a sport at the high school, and $50 for parking at the high school.
The school board will meet again on Tuesday, June 14 and Tuesday, June 21. Both meetings will take place at 7 p.m. at the administration building.