QUALITY EDUCATION

We have a responsibility to provide all of our students with relevant, high quality learning experiences that prepare them to be active 21st century citizens in a global society.

Our community has been one of the fastest growing areas in Chester County and Pennsylvania. As such there have been incredible demands placed on the infrastructures of the community especially the schools.   Downingtown Area School District is the largest school district in Chester County and 12th largest school district in the Commonwealth.  We have been able to keep pace with the growing population while at the same holding ever increasing standards of excellence for students and educators.

FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY

  • The district is comprised of approximately 25% of households with school age children and 7.8% of our households are seniors.
  • We must extend the quality of life and property value in Wallace & Upper Uwchlan townships as well as in the entire district.
  • Budgets needs to be within Act 1 limits anticipating 1.2% next year and 0% the following.
  • Contracts need to be negotiated that are sustainable and reasonable.
  • Escalating PSERS (Pennsylvania State Educators Retirement System) and Charter School costs must be addressed.

The board needs to focus on finding innovative solutions to educational needs that are fiscally responsible.  Since joining the board tax increases have been reduced and expenditure increases curtailed.  We need to meet these financial obligations without negatively impacting educational initiatives.  (link to graph of tax increase & expenditure growth)

 PROACTIVE PLANNING

When I joined the school board the facility master plans to accommodate projected growth called for a third middle school (construction cost of $48.6 million with annual operating costs of $8.2 million) and a third high school (construction cost of $105 million with annual operating costs of $22 million).  These new facilities were projected to require significant tax increase to operate.

Faced with enrollments exceeding building capacities at the middle and high school levels, the board found two ways to significantly reduce both the construction and annual operating costs. 

The first significant change was to convert an existing 1930s building into a 3rd magnet high school targeting students interested in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) which will accommodate 850 secondary students.  A magnet high school, unlike our two other comprehensive high schools, does not require all the extracurricular activities and thereby saves significantly in annual operating costs.  The STEM high school will open in Sept 2011 with 425 9th and 10 graders.  An additional 200 new 9th graders will be accepted in each of the next two years until the enrollment reaches 850.

The second change in the master plan was to reconfigure the grade alignment from elementary (K-5); middle (6-8) and secondary (9-12) to elementary (K-5), 6th grade center, middle (7&8) and secondary (9-12).  This grade configuration now eliminates the need to build a third middle school.  A 6th grade center is both cheaper to construct and to operate annually.

New schools and renovations of existing school plus our current enrollments and feeder patterns will require redistricting.  Even with the economic struggles the district still anticipates growth between 1,700 and 2,200 by 2021. The board will need to determine the best way to accommodate that growth in its redistricting plan.

The board needs to focus on how best to meet the needs of current and expected future growth.  We need to determine the appropriate learning environment to ensure outstanding academic and personal achievement for our children.