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Chester County Press

Avon Grove School District says goodbye to two school board members

11/20/2015 11:59AM ● By Steven Hoffman

The Nov. 19 meeting was the last one for the Avon Grove School Board as it is currently constituted—a reorganization meeting is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 7, when the newly elected board members will be sworn in. District officials and residents took the opportunity to thank departing school board members William Sites and Donald Needham for their efforts during their four-year stints on the school board. Both Sites and Needham opted not to seek re-election this year.

School board president Brian Gaerity said that Sites and Needham both took on leadership roles and served the community well.

Superintendent Dr. Christopher Marchese lauded Needham and Sites for helping to make decisions that moved the district forward.

Gaerity also extended congratulations to Bonnie Wolff, Herman Engel, and Charles Beatty III, the three board members who won re-election to the board, and to the two new board members, Traci Lisi and Jeff Billig.

The agenda for the Nov. 19 meeting was filled with items that have been in front of the board on an ongoing basis.

Officials said that the district is still continuing to operate as normal despite the delay in receiving subsidies from the state because of the ongoing budget impasse. In his Pennsylvania Legislative Committee report, Beatty explained that the district is still able to operate as planned, and can make payments to the charter school even though the state will soon enter its sixth month without an approved budget for 2015-2016.

According to multiple reports, the talks between Gov. Tom Wolf and state lawmakers will soon produce a new budget. The absence of a spending plan has delayed state subsidies for school districts and payments for other social services, but Beatty assured residents that Avon Grove is still in a strong enough financial position to make its payments without borrowing money. Some school districts haven't been as fortunate, and have been forced to borrow money to stay afloat until the state subsidies start again.

Gaerity said that it's a good sign that lawmakers are at least working toward a deal. Wolf's initial budget proposal called for more funding for Pennsylvania's schools, but at this point no one knows how Avon Grove might be impacted with the new spending plan.

“How this all ends up, we still don’t know,” Gaerity said. “It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.”

Sites, who serves on the district’s finance and budget committee, reported that the district continues to have discussions with Aqua Wastewater, Inc. about selling off the wastewater treatment plant. The district sought requests for proposals from companies interested in purchasing the wastewater treatment plant early in 2015, with the hopes of no longer having the responsibility of operating a sewage treatment plant. The only company to submit a proposal was Aqua Wastewater, Inc. The company provides water and wastewater services to approximately 3 million people in eight states. The company has offered to pay $100,000 for the sewage treatment plant, with plans to put an additional $150,000 of work into it to comply with Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection regulations. Once the wastewater system is sold, the district will likely pay about $75,000 annually for connecting to the system, although terms of the agreement are still being worked out. The wastewater treatment system has sufficient capacity to meet the district’s needs into the future, and Aqua Wastewater, Inc. would have the option of expanding the wastewater treatment plant and sell capacity to other customers.

There were a number of presentations at the meeting, including a student presentation about how fourth grade teacher Chris Montagna’s students are utilizing technology for 21st Century learning in the classroom.

The students are using Skype to communicate with other classrooms. In another instance, they also relied on Skype to allow an author to talk to the class about writing. Nearpod allows for interactive classroom presentations, and hybrid lessons are taught utilizing video. Montagna said that the StoryBird technology has resulted in the most creative writing by students that he has seen yet. A group of fourth-graders led the presentation and expressed their enthusiasm for various kinds of technology that they regularly use in the classroom.

District officials were also ecstatic about some of the technology that is being used in the high school. Students working on AGTV are now able to use a drone to take photos and video of events happening on the school campus. AGTV records and streams events to the school district's website.

Avon Grove Intermediate School Principal Jeffrey Detweiler led a presentation about the schedule changes that was implemented at the beginning of the school year at the Avon Grove Intermediate School. The schedule changes were made to give students more classroom instruction time in longer blocks for core subjects like math and language arts. Detweiler explained that they surveyed students, staff, and parents about the changes. Some aspects of the new schedule were liked, while other aspects of the new schedule were viewed less favorably. But, overall, the responses by all stakeholders indicated that there were enough positives to continue with the current schedule as it is to see how the opinions of parents, teachers, and students change during the course of the school year.

The school board approved an agreement with Resource Development Company, Inc. to produce an administrative salary study for the Avon Grove School District. The cost of the study is not to exceed $7,150.

The school board also approved an agreement with Rob Dos to serve as an independent information technology consultant. The services should not exceed costs of $50,000.

An audit report prepared by Barbacane, Thornton & Co. for the 2014-2015 school year was also accepted by the school board.

The Avon Grove School Board will hold its reorganization meeting on Monday, Dec. 7 at 7:30 p.m. at the Avon Grove Intermediate School (AGIS) audion. The Committee-of-the-Whole meeting is slated to take place at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 10, also in the AGIS audion. The regular school board meeting for December will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 17 in the AGIS audion.