Kennett School Board approves fees for events and a number of routine personnel changes
● By Steven Hoffman
The Kennett School Board tackled a number of issues, ranging from fees for various school events to routine personnel changes to a discussion about a new math program, during a 90-minute meeting at the Mary D. Lang Kindergarten Center on July 10.
The school board approved the adoption of fees for a variety of school events for the 2017-2018 school year.
The fees to attend athletic events at the high school are $3 for students and $5 for adults. To attend the high school musical, the fees are $6 for students and $10 for adults. At the middle school, the cost to attend the musical is $4 for students and $6 for adults. The fall play fee will be $5 for students and $8 for adults. Regular dances at the high school will have a fee of $5 for students, while the Homecoming Dance and the Winter Formal will cost $5 for tickets purchased in advance and $7 for tickets to these dances at the door. Dances at the middle school will be $4 for regular and holiday events. Residents of the district who are 65 years of age or older will be admitted without charge to all school athletic and musical events, and at a 25 percent discount to drama events.
The school board also approved numerous personnel items, including the hiring of eight new employees, and several retirements, resignations, and requests for leave.
In his superintendent's report, Dr. Barry Tomasetti updated the school board about the effort to introduce a new, district-wide math program. Tomasetti said that the district is providing extensive staff development and training for teachers as the new program is rolled out.
“We're confident that it's going to make a difference for our students,” Tomasetti said of the new math program. “We're excited about it.”
The school board approved first readings and second readings of a handful of policy revisions. The first readings of policies pertaining to jury duty regulations for employees, unlawful harassment for employees, drug and substance abuse for employees, and maintaining professional adult and student boundaries were approved. Second readings of policies pertaining to immunizations and communicable diseases, uncompensated leave for employees, responsibility for student welfare for employees, and benefits for part-time employees were also approved.
The school board voted to table the policy for public participation in regular board meetings after school board member Rudy Alfonso raised a concern about the rules restricting the public from bringing signs to school board meetings. While it's rare for a member of the public to bring such a sign to a meeting, Alfonso pointed out that when state or federal lawmakers meet, such signs are permitted. The school board opted to table the discussion about this policy so that the board's sub-committee that handles policies can do some more work on it.
During the public comment session, Lisa Anderson, a parent of a student at New Garden Elementary and a former president of that school's PTO, said that some parents are concerned about the possibility of larger class sizes in some of the grades at the school. She explained that last year a fourth grade teacher was taken away before the start of the school year, leaving the remaining fourth-grade teachers with larger classes. She said that parents are concerned about the impact that larger classes will have on students.
Tomasetti responded to the concerns, pointing out that it's a challenge for the district to make staffing decisions because the enrollment in a particular grade can fluctuate from one year to the next. The district often isn't notified in a timely fashion when a student withdraws, so the fluctuations in a particular grade can be unpredictable. A few extra students in the fifth grade, as compared to the fourth grade, could prompt the district to add a teacher to accommodate the increase. With limited resources, district officials sometimes have to make difficult decisions about how the schools are staffed.
Regarding the fourth grade at New Garden Elementary, Tomasetti noted that before the one teacher position was taken away, a position had been added the year before—so in effect the staffing was returning to a previous level. The superintendent praised the district's teaching staff for ensuring that students receive the attention that they need, regardless of how many students are in a specific classroom.
Tomasetti said that the district uses guidelines for class sizes and does its best to keep the number of students in each class as low as possible. He said that based on the most recent information, there are 88 students enrolled in fourth grade for the upcoming school year, so with the same four teaching positions for that grade there would be 22 students per class, on average. He thanked Anderson and the other parents who had contacted him about the issue for sharing their concerns.
“We're always trying to do things to improve,” Tomasetti said.
The school board approved a contract with Maria del Carmen Aja for parent liaison services for the fiscal year that started on July 1. Additionally, the district has appointed Dr. Michael Kirk as the district's physician consultant. The Pennsylvania Department of Health Guidelines for the state's schools requires that a district have a physician consultant to provide standing orders authorizing the administration of specific over-the-counter medications. Dr. Kirk replaces the district's longtime physician consultant, Dr. L. Peter Soraruf, who retired from practicing medicine.
The school board also voted to authorize district officials to negotiate an agreement with the Kennett Creamery that would allow patrons of that pop-up beer garden and gathering space to use the district-owned parking spaces near Legacy Fields. Board member Bob Norris suggested that district officials begin the negotiations, noting that the agreement would have to be free of conflicts with any other agreements that the district already has. Board member Michael Finnegan, who presided over the meeting, also noted that the parking areas could only be used when it doesn't conflict with school activities. The Kennett Creamery is open each Thursday through Sunday through September.
The school board will not have a meeting in August so the next meeting will take place on Monday, Sept. 11 at 7 p.m. at the Kennett High School library.