IU budgets top Oxford School Board agenda
● By Steven Hoffman
During a meeting of the Oxford School Board on March 19, there were reports or discussions about the core budgets of the Chester County Intermediate Unit, the work of the Oxford Educational Foundation, the Safe2Say Something reporting system, and Oxford’s nominee for the 2019 Citadel Heart of Learning Award.
The Oxford School Board approved the Chester County Intermediate Unit’s core services budget and occupational education budget for the 2019-2020 school year. All Chester County school districts are asked to approve the Chester County Intermediate Unit’s budget each year because those budgets establish what school districts will be paying for the wide variety of programs and services offered by the Chester County Intermediate Unit. There is no increase in Oxford’s core budget costs for the 2019-2020 school year.
Safe2Say Something, the state’s anonymous reporting system aimed at preventing school violence, was one of the topics included in the monthly report by assistant superintendent Dr. Margaret Billings-Jones.
Safe2Say Something is a statewide program that allows students, teachers, school administrators and others to anonymously report potential threats of violence and other problems before they happen. The system was established and funded by the Pennsylvania legislature and signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf last year. The Safe2Say Something reporting system is based on the principles of anonymity and confidentiality to encourage reporting of problems, potential threats of violence, self-harm or other incidents.
Nearly 5,000 tips were handled during the first month that Safe2Say Something was launched at schools throughout Pennsylvania. Billings-Jones explained that all tips that are made to Safe2SaySomething are handled through the State Attorney General's Office. When a tip is received, school district officials, both at the district and building level, are contacted. In instances where it is appropriate to do so, law enforcement authorities are contacted. Police can even be dispatched to homes of students for wellness checks.
Billings-Jones said that since Safe2Say Something was launched, the process has worked fairly smoothly. Oxford has received about 25 reports through the tip line, and all of those tips were investigated. Billings-Jones noted that most of Oxford’s tips have been related to the Penn’s Grove School, and she lauded that school’s principal, Tami Motes, for her attentiveness to incidents whenever a tip has been filed.
As a result of the success of the Safe2Say Something system, Oxford is now discontinuing its own safety tipline that had been used up until the launch of Safe2Say Something.
More information about Safe2Say Something can be found at www.safe2saypa.org. Information can be reported by calling 1-844-Saf2Say (844-723-2729).
Billings-Jones also talked about the district's curriculum review cycle as well as a few events that were held recently to encourage students to read more.
In his Chester County School Boards Legislative Council report, school board member Dr. Eric Owens talked about the proposed state budget. The proposed budget calls for small increases in the state subsidy for public schools, but the school district will most likely approve its own budget for the 2019-2020 school year before state lawmakers finalize the state budget, which means that the exact details about funding levels won’t be known by then.
Regarding Oxford’s budget for 2019-2020, school board member Robert Tenga, who serves on the district's Finance and Budget Committee, said that they should soon be able to make a recommendation on whether a tax increase will be necessary to balance the budget for the next school year.
Steve Roberts, the president of the Oxford Educational Foundation, provided a brief report to the school board about the organization's activities in support of Oxford schools. Roberts explained that this is the 24th year of operation for the Oxford Educational Foundation, and so far the organization has offered tutoring services to 484 Oxford students. One tutor, Roberts noted, has worked with 54 different students during that time.
Superintendent David Woods congratulated Oxford Area High School English teacher Carynne Burnett for being named as Oxford’s recipient of the 2019 Citadel Heart of Learning Award. Burnett is now one of 15 finalists for the county-wide Citadel Heart of Learning Award, which is sponsored by Citadel Credit Union and the Chester County Intermediate Unit, and will be presented during the annual awards banquet in May. The annual award recognizes the outstanding job Chester County’s teachers perform in educating and caring for young people. Burnett has been teaching at the high school since 2004, and currently teaches ninth and 12th grade Honors English and 12th grade AP literature and composition.
The Oxford School Board will meet again for a work session on Tuesday, April 9. The next regular school board meeting will take place on Tuesday, April 16. Both meetings begin at 7 p.m. and will be held in the district’s Administration Building.