Oxford School Board's agenda includes honoring top students, reports on legislative actions, and more
● By Steven Hoffman
The Oxford School Board meeting on Oct. 18 included everything from recognizing the accomplishments of some top high school students to legislative updates on issues impacting Pennsylvania schools to a report on the Act 1 Index limit for the 2017-2018 school year.
The meeting began with a presentation by superintendent David Woods and high school principal James Canaday regarding some of the school's students who are doing extraordinary things. Senior Gabriella DiLossi and Junior Alexander Burns were honored for their participation in the Congress of Future Medical Leaders, which was held in June at the Paul E. Tsongas Center of the University of Massachusetts, Lowell.
Next up, Canaday introduced Oxford Area High School's four students who attained Commended status in the National Merit Scholarship Program: Hayley Allport, Callie Jaycox, Bailey Myers, Matthew Terry. The students earned the Commended status based on their results on PSAT tests.
Dr. Margaret Billings-Jones, the district's assistant superintendent, provided the board with an update about the district's overall performance on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment testing for grades three through eight.
Billings-Jones explained that Oxford's student performance in English and Language Arts generally exceeds the state average at most levels. Kindergarten students are coming into the district with slightly higher skill levels than in the last few years, which could help produce better results as the students progress through the school system.
Oxford's results on the Keystone Exams were also discussed. Billings-Jones noted that, across the state, schools are still seeing scores that are lower than they were before changes were made to make the Keystone Exams more rigorous.
In Oxford, the district implemented a new math program last year, and Billings-Jones explained that they expect to see an increase in scores as a result. The new science curriculum is being implemented during the current year to improve student performance on that area of testing.
Billings-Jones said that she expected the data from the Pennsylvania Value Added Assessment System (PVASS), to be made available on Oct. 19, a day after this meeting was taking place.
Billings-Jones concluded her report by talking about the School Performance Profile, which evaluates each school building on a number of factors, particularly standardized testing scores.
The Jordan Bank School received a 97 based on attendance and the promotion rate.
The Elk Ridge School scored a 63.9, which takes into account attendance, the promotion rate, and how the third-graders perform on standardized tests when they reach that point since no testing of first- and second-graders take place. The Nottingham School scored a 59.7, Hopewell scored 73.6, the Penn's Grove School scored a 57.9, and the high school finished with a 76.7.
Billings-Jones explained that more detailed information about each school's progress can be found at www.paschoolperformance.org.
Oxford School Board member Joseph Tighe reported that during the Finance Committee's recent meeting the committee discussed the Act 1 limit for the 2017-2018 budget. The Act 1 Index, which is established by the state, limits how much a school district can raise taxes in a given year without seeking approval from residents via a referendum. Tighe said that the statewide Act 1 Index will be 2.5 percent. Taking into account certain adjustments, Oxford's Act 1 Index limit will be 3.5 percent. One of the early steps in the school district's budgeting process will be the school board voting whether it intends to remain within the Act 1 Index limit, or whether it will be seeking approval for a larger tax increase.
School board president Richard Orpneck read a report by school board member Rebecca Fetterolf, who represents the board on the Chester County School Boards Legislative Council, regarding several issues that state lawmakers are working on.
Orpneck explained that Senate Bill 1212, which was recently passed by the State Senate, appears to be on a fast track. This legislation would require school districts to provide opiate awareness education for students between grades six and twelve as part of an effort to prevent drug use and abuse by youngsters.
State lawmakers are also working on legislation that would require schools to offer a course on civics, with students required to pass a test as part of the requirements before graduation. Unlike the opiate awareness legislation, this is not on a fast track. The legislation could be introduced again by state lawmakers in 2017, after the election.
Billings-Jones informed the board that the Jordan Bank School was recently named as a recipient of the Games On grant by an organization that promotes healthy actions for kids.
The School Board approved the appointment of board member Howard Robinson to be the board's representative to the Chester County School Authority to serve a five-year term that will expire in January of 2022.
“I had some reservations when I saw that it was for five years,” Robinson joked.
The Oxford School Board will be combining its two meetings in November, holding both on Tuesday, Nov. 15 at the administration building.