Oxford School Board sets 2017 graduation date
● By Steven Hoffman
The Oxford School Board set a graduation date for the Class of 2017, handled routine items on the agenda, and engaged in a lengthy discussion about the school district's summer reading program at the March 21 school board meeting.
In his Finance Committee report to the school board, Brian Cooney, the school district's business administrator, said that work is continuing on the preparations for the 2017-2018 budget. The Finance Committee will be bringing to the board a recommendation to utilize $2.8 million of the district's fund balance for capital projects and health care costs.
Board member Robert Tenga, who is Oxford's representative on the Chester County School Boards Legislative Council, informed the board about a number of legislative items being considered at the state and federal level that could impact the district if they are approved.
Pennsylvania lawmakers are considering a measure that would establish a civics exam as a graduation requirement for all Pennsylvania students. Students would need to pass the test, similar to the one required for U.S. citizenship, in order to graduate.
There are also bills under consideration in Harrisburg that would establish a property tax freeze for senior citizens and another that would allow retired teachers to substitute teach for up to 90 days per school year. Another bill would create a two-year kindergarten program for children between the ages of four and six. At the federal level, lawmakers are considering cuts to the Medicaid program, which could impact funding for states.
There was a lengthy discussion about the district's Summer Reading Program. Dr. Margaret Billings-Jones, Oxford's assistant superintendent, offered an overview of the program, explaining that the main goal of the program is reduce the loss of progress that many students can experience during the long summer break. The average student can lose up to one month of instruction during the summer, and disadvantaged students who are often struggling to make progress in the area of literacy are disproportionately affected.
“We want to make sure that all our students are reading, not just the advanced students,” Billings-Jones said.
Several school board members expressed some concerns about the summer reading program, including those that were shared by parents. One concern was that the books that are selected for the elementary school students don't tie in directly with the curriculum once the new school year starts. An issue was also raised that the reading plan for the high school students who are taking AP classes may be too rigorous, and will actually discourage students from taking the AP English course because they would want to avoid all the extra work that is required at the start of a busy year. District officials are going to take into consideration some of the concerns that were raised to see if some solutions to the issues can be identified.
Billings-Jones informed the board that the district would once again be offering summer learning academies for students in grades two through eight. The academies focus on art, music, fitness, math STEM. There will be a young authors academy and—new this year—an academy for computer science. More details about the academies will be posted on the school district's website.
Also at the meeting, the Oxford School Board voted to formally set the graduation date for the Class of 2017 for Friday, June 2.
The Oxford School Board will hold its next work session on Tuesday, April 11. The next regular meeting will take place on Tuesday, April 18. Both meetings begin at 7 p.m. and will be held in the Administration Building.