These are busy times in our school districtPosted by Dr. Bill Harner on 11/13/2017
Hope you have had a restful weekend, though I know it was very busy for at least some of you! The 2017 Quakertown Marching Band competed in Nationals last night at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., placing fourth in the high Group 5 Division. This year’s program is The Twilight Zone. It was also busy for the Quakertown 2017-18 Cheerleaders, as they competed in UCA Nationals in Orlando, FL, placing second in their Division. Additionally, our Girls Soccer program recently made QCHS history by advancing the furthest in the postseason, after knocking off #1 seed Pennridge. Many thanks to our fall coaches and directors at Strayer MS and Quakertown HS. The only event left is the Thanksgiving (Turkey) Day Bowl - Quakertown at Pennridge in football. Then the winter season begins.
Speaking of winter, please remember for inclement weather/snow day calls, I use the Blackboard ConnectEd email, phone, and texting system to communicate with you, along with Twitter. Interestingly, according to the Weather Channel, next Wednesday we are supposed to have our first snow event. Although we do not have school that day, Wednesday is the day of the annual QCHS Choir Trip to NYC to see a musical - one of my favorite days of the year. Next week, we are seeing the Broadway production of The Phantom of the Opera. I can’t wait!
Veterans Day was recognized in many of our schools on Friday, and I hope you were able to thank a veteran yesterday. With the last 16 years of being at war in Southwest Asia, there are hundreds of thousands more veterans! Please take a moment to check out Neidig ES’s Veterans Day program.
At the Thursday QCSD School Board Meeting, the parent Elementary Reassignment Committee made its presentation and recommendation to the Board of School Directors. The parent committee has been meeting almost every Monday night since late August.
Charge to the Elementary Reassignment Options Committee:
The Committee is charged with (1) generating options for the reassignment of elementary students in the event Tohickon Valley Elementary School is closed; (2) evaluating those options based on: impact on academic program, impact on students and families, cost-effectiveness, efficiency, impact on facilities, requirement for construction, renovations, or modular classrooms, impact on transportation, impact on personnel savings, and other criteria as the committee deems appropriate; and (3) to report its findings, decision matrix and recommendations to the Board no later than October 31, 2017
Since early August, when the Board conducted a hearing to close Tohickon Valley ES, neither the Board nor I have received a single communication from a TVES parent not to close their school. The parent committee process about closing TVES, along with reassigning students, has been completely transparent with meeting notes posted weekly. Their plan includes only reassigning students from TVES, which will raise average class sizes across QCSD to 23 students, renovating and expanding Neidig ES over the next 2½ years, then conducting a district-wide reassignment process that will lower class sizes back again to about 21:1. All Board candidates, including the four incoming Board members who will be sworn in on December 7th, were invited to attend and comment at the parent committee meetings. Their feedback was most helpful.
It’s been four weeks since the racial incident at a Friday night football game at Alumni Field. Many of you have written to us sharing your own thoughts about racism and hate. Thank you! The volume of communication means I have yet to respond to everyone’s email, but I will. Responding appropriately to this incident and beginning the conversation about racism and hate consumed much of our time in October, and it will continue to do so in the future, as we work on a serious paradigm shift that insures we have a culture of kindness, respect and emotional safety for all of our students and adults. The local and regional news media has keep us busy. Quakertown appears to be at the epicenter for many of other events across a two-state area. QCSD has many components to its strategy moving forward. The first begins by working with Pearl S. Buck International for assessing and training adults in our school family. With students, we will be using a curriculum from the Peace Center. I will be also be meeting with small groups to fully understand the nature and extent of the problem. Then I will be asking parents and community leaders to help us with a community committee to discuss and decide on the nature of the heavy lifting that we will do to.
As always, thanks for reading. Please share you thoughts, suggestions, and criticisms with the Board and me. Come December 7th, after the Board conducts its Reorganization Meeting, new Board members will be listed to receive your comments at Board@qcsd.org.
All the best,
Hate Has No Place In QuakertownPosted by Dr. William Harner on 10/12/2017
When you send your child(ren) to Quakertown schools, you expect that from the time your child(ren) gather around the bus stop early in the morning to the time they get back home in the afternoon or at night, that we keep them safe. You expect that your child(ren) is/are treated with kindness and respect, and that no harm - physical or emotional - comes to them. For that matter, everyone who attends, works, or visits Quakertown schools should expect the very same thing! Our school district has policies, procedures and programs to support, protect, and enforce that simple expectation. Unfortunately, that is not always the experience for everyone in our community. Friday night’s thoughtless incident of racism and hate that captured the news media’s attention, was not an isolated situation for our school community. We do have a problem, we need to recognize it, own it, and do our very best to fix it!
Most of my time over the past six days has been dedicated to learning about what happened Friday night, and to working through the myriad of issues resulting from it. I have been talking with and apologizing to school officials at Cheltenham, listening to investigative reports on the incidents, being interviewed by five different news media outlets, reading email correspondence from many of you and Cheltenham parents whose daughters were victims of the racial slurs, spending time in our school buildings talking with our students and faculty, and supporting our efforts to welcome the Cheltenham soccer team earlier this week.
Everything I know that is out in the news media is publicly posted on our homepage, including the editorial today in the Intelligencer. I am grateful to the students and parents who showed up Tuesday at the home boys soccer game against Cheltenham who made banners of apology and provided a wonderful example of what our community is about. But, expressing remorse is only the beginning of our work!
During my four year tenure as your superintendent, I have been aware of several acts of racism and harassment - student to student, student to adult, adult to student, and adult to adult. In fact, back in 2014, shortly after the School Board hired an African American administrator that I recommended, a parent said to the new administrator, “You know, you don’t belong here.” In fact she does belong here, because of her professional qualifications. She also provides an exemplary role model for all of our students. Incidents of students using the “n-word” are not everyday occurrences in Quakertown, but they do happen. Even one is too many.
Several hate-based incidents happened in our schools the day after the Presidential election last November. They were incredibly hurtful. Try to imagine another elementary school child asking your child, “Are you going to go back to Mexico now?” Or, being a minority student at the Freshmen Center, where white students were reported stacking up books at lunch and telling Hispanic students to “stay on the other side of the wall.” We also have incidents of religious intolerance in our schools. For example, one student asked another student - who is muslim, when he was going to bring a suicide vest to school. These kinds of comments made to anyone, let alone a child, are crushing, if not life altering. Finally, I received a couple emails from African American parents yesterday that described their children’s various racial experiences in our schools. The experiences they described were awful! A few African American students told me that they do not participate in after school activities because racial slurs are thrown at them. We need to do a better job of insuring that the values we hold dear about Quakertown Community School District are inclusive of all of the members of our community.
So how do we move forward? Yesterday, the principal at Strayer Middle School and his staff held a “unity” assembly for their 8th graders. Some of the student comments and classmate responses of support would make you cry. It’s a start! Principals and I are looking at several opportunities and curricula to address these issues head on. We will not dance around them. The Cheltenham administrative team has offered us the opportunity to participate in programs that are ongoing in their community. Last night, at the Quakertown Parent Council meeting, parent leaders from all of our school buildings unanimously supported working through these tough issues, and we will. It is my expectation that this incident will provide the catalyst for us to have those courageous conversations, grow together as a community, and make ALL of our students proud to live and attend schools in Quakertown.
Thanks for reading my blog. Sharing your thoughts with the Board and me would be most helpful, too.
I hope that you will join us to make a positive difference.
We will not tolerate racismPosted by Bill Harner on 10/10/2017
When I was a second lieutenant working in Germany nearly four decades ago, I learned early on that bad news does not get better with age. Since then, I have done my best to share both good and bad news with my leaders, and with my team as soon as possible. Given the nature of the unfortunate incident and my disappointment with what happened Friday night, I thought it best to share the bad news with you too. To say the least, I am professionally and personally embarrassed by the misconduct of several of our middle school students during and after the football game at Alumni Field.
It started out as a wonderful evening and community gathering to watch another great performance by Quakertown football that also included Senior Night, the crowning of the 2017 Homecoming Queen and King, and a spectacular post-game performance by the 2017 Quakertown Marching Band. Sadly, it was a night that ended with verbal harassment and horror including racial slurs for many of our student guests from Cheltenham. Let me briefly explain.
Shortly after the Quakertown Marching Bands’ post-performance, I received my first notice that we had a serious problem. It was an email message from a member of the Cheltenham athletic department notifying me that after the game Quakertown students threw rocks at the Cheltenham buses, while yelling racial slurs. I received a second report on Saturday morning that students gathered by the fence had also yelled racial slurs and made threatening comments behind when the Cheltenham cheerleaders were cheering. After investigation, we determined that a small group of unsupervised middle school students were responsible for these reprehensible actions.
Our Cheltenham guests knew that I was at the game, as I personally walked the visitor sidelines prior to the game welcoming their cheerleaders, the head football coach, and his staff. Also, in attendance at the game was the school board leadership team and several other board members, an assistant superintendent, our high school principal. an assistant principal, the Athletic Director, a security team, and a Quakertown Borough Police Officer.
Even with all of the adult supervision we have at every Quakertown home game, scores of middle school students roam around the stadium without parental supervision. Having unsupervised middle school students at football games is not just a Quakertown problem. I have seen it everywhere, at home and away games, for the past twenty years. Unfortunately, while 99.9% of our school community members in attendance this past Friday night were awesome hosts to the visiting Panthers of Cheltenham HS, a few children besmirched Quakertown. We will not tolerate it!
Today, we completed a thorough three day investigation, and as a result, appropriate action was taken in accordance with the Quakertown Code of Student Conduct. I am most grateful to the leaders at Cheltenham Township School District; the superintendent, high school principal, and football and cheerleading coaches, for their open dialogue, support, and understanding. Also special thanks to the game officials who confirmed that our athletes on the field, our student spirit section and other spectators in the stands were excellent Quakertown citizens. Clearly, what happened Friday night is not representative of our wonderful community.
Moving forward, this is a teachable moment that we cannot ignore. I respectfully request you use the news media and this blog as discussion points with your children. There is no place in our school district where harassment, bullying, and especially racially based slurs or misconduct will be tolerated or acceptable. We are Quakertown!
Thanks for reading, and for your attention to this important matter.
Board Meeting and Projects UpdatePosted by William Harner on 9/28/2017
What difference a day can make in the weather? It was beautiful out there for running this morning. I hope we are now getting into fall like weather! While our Quakertown Varsity Football team, Cheerleaders, Marching Band and fans are down at Hatboro tonight for a game in this wonderful weather, we have a School Board meeting. I wanted to share with you some of the presentations the Board will be receiving tonight so you can stay informed.
Finance Committee at 6 PM:
- Presentation by Family Foundation Partnership - FFP provides student support services that assist students with truancy issues.
- Report on Act I Index for the ‘18-’19 Budget of 2.4%, adjusted upward to approximately 2.9% because of our 33.4% poverty index.
- Budget Calendar for development of the QCSD ‘18-’19 Budget
- Possibility of refinancing several bonds for a savings for the district
Superintendent Report at 7 PM:
- Community Committee for Elementary School Reassignment
- Class Size Update for Kindergarten through 12th Grade. At the ES level, there is wide range of class sizes from school to school, but the averages K-5 is under 22:1. I am aware of some concerns expressed in social media at the middle school level. At the Sixth Grade Center class sizes are 26:1. And, Mr. Peiffer at Strayer MS reports that this year is no different than last year. The average is about 27+:1. We created a frequency diagram - a one page Strayer Class Size Frequency Diagram, for your easy of understanding by core content area. At the HS level, there is a wide range of class sizes because of the complex ways the HS schedule is built to accommodate so many courses. The average student load for teachers is 150 students or 25:1.
- ‘18-’19 Budget Calendar.
- Family Foundation Partnership
At our last School Board meeting the Board voted to fund two QCSD Capital Projects that were removed from the funding list early on last winter during the ‘17-’18 Budget development process. The capital funds to pay for these projects comes from the $1.7 million left over from the QCHS Renovation Project. Those funds may only be spent on capital projects, not normal operating dollar projects. The first project that the Board funded was the paving of the Sixth Grade Center parking lot. The pre-engineering work was done a year ago. The estimated cost is $600k. The second project funded is one set of bathrooms in Richland ES that were not renovated at the time the whole school was renovated. They need to be made handicap accessible. The cost is approximately $200K.
If you have been out back behind the high school recently, you have seen that the Sports Complex is more than halfway done. The contractors had to raise the fields up to 7 feet in some areas in order to level the land and eliminate the swamps. The district has been able to cut costs with landfill contributions from Quakertown Borough, and Milford and Richland Townships. We expect the turf field to be ready for athletic competitions by late November, and the grass fields in about eighteen months. The competition field was designed to be used year round. The turf we selected is specifically designed for lower impact sports competitions, e.g. field hockey, soccer and lacrosse. Our coaches participated in the turf selection process over a year ago. The turf field will also be used for marching band practice. We fully expect the $3.6 million project to become cost neutral to taxpayers - between competition gate proceeds and rental opportunities.
Another exciting opportunity and project that the school district is engaged in is the construction of bathroom facilities the RASA Fields at Veterans Park. Over two years ago, when the Sports Complex behind the HS was being designed, the school district entered into a partnership with RASA to use their softball fields for our high school softball program, at very small cost to the school district. The budding partnership now includes Richland Township and the construction of the bathroom facilities. Like our awesome QCSD Facilities Department team did at Alumni Field two years ago - constructing the Visitors Locker Room and QMPO Concession Stand, they will be sharing their talents to build the bathroom. Our Facilities team will provide the labor, with Richland Township and the RASA organization paying for the pre-engineering and materials. In turn, our athletes will have access to a wonderful facility (with bathrooms). As you can see, our strong partnerships with our municipalities are mutually beneficial and growing.
Thank you for reading. Please share your thoughts and questions as they come to mind.
Have a wonderful evening.
Happy New School YearPosted by William Harner on 9/11/2017
Greetings from QCSD! Hopefully, all of your children and you have already had two excellent weeks of school. From reports and many school visits, our teachers and principals were ready for another exciting and rewarding school year. I was impressed by teacher readiness. Literally hundreds of students told me last week that their teachers were ready from day one! What was also impressive was the summer cleaning of our schools and classrooms. Feedback from our principals and teachers was very positive on how things looked. It was the first time in many years that our buildings were truly ready on the first day of school. Thank you, SSC!
Many of you may be wondering where I have been with my blogs! I do apologize. It’s not like there is not much to report, because there is - don't worry, I won't overwhelm you now. But, on the second day of school, my mom, a 91 year young lady, passed away after a very short illness. So, I was out of my superintendent groove of reporting our news to you. Now, I am thrilled to back and excited for ALL of our students this year!!!
On to business:
In our elementary schools, we started the academic year with new science and social studies curriculum. Teachers worked through the summer learning the new material. In early August, the Board conducted a “Hearing to Close to Tohickon Valley Elementary School” and the Community Committee for Re-districting Elementary Schools met several times. The next meeting is Monday night, September 11th, at 6 pm in the District Service Center. The Committee’s work and reports may be found on the QCSD webpage and all meetings are open to the public. At this point in their work, they are evaluating several different configurations - a K-6 configuration across the district using the Sixth Grade Center as a K-6 Building, and a K-4 configuration across the district with 5th and 6th grade at what is currently the Sixth Grade Center.
Thanks to our middle school principals, support staff, and teachers for making the transition to the new Strayer Middle School and Sixth Grade Center seamless. After the Board made its final decision to close Milford in July, everyone worked tirelessly to get things ready for orientations and the first day of school. I was truly impressed with the effort our teachers put into working with new colleagues. The only report that may be considered negative was about transportation. Besides the routine late pickups and dropoffs that occur during the first week of school, we received a concern about a bus with three students to a seat on middle school buses. In turn, I asked Alan Rosenberger at Levy Bus, Inc. to share with all of us the “Anatomy of the Three Tier Bus System.” For decades, Levy planned elementary and middle school routes with some of the seats on bus with three children per seat. For example, half the seats on a MS bus are planned to have three students per seat, with other half planned for two per seat. Part of our '17-'18 Budget last spring was to add up to three additional buses to the middle route to shorten rides from the western part of the district, at a cost of approximately $55K per bus/year. Levy only needed to add two of those buses.
We began the new academic year at the high school with 1,704 students. Secondary math teachers teaching Algebra I through Calculus had to learn our new curriculum and work with new textbooks. Last spring, we knew at the HS with 9th graders assigned that we would be short approximately 150 wall lockers. Historically, not every student uses a wall locker. Principal Finnerty reports that every student who requested a wall locker has one. For the ‘17-’18 Academic Year, QCHS Daily Announcements will be found on Parent Q-mmunity Canvas page. Parents must sign up for Canvas access.
Out in social media, I have read reports by parents of concerns about crowded lunch periods, long lunch lines, and not enough seating. At least one parent mentioned a safety concern about overcrowding. I have attended at least a half dozen lunches, walking around asking students their opinions about lunch and other things, observing the seating arrangements, and I also invited in the Quakertown Borough Fire & Safety Marshall to assess the situation. Like the first week of a new school year with bussing, it takes time for everyone to adjust. We received a written report and thumbs up for safety, are in the process of purchasing some additional outside tables and chairs - as the Court Yard is a popular place to sit, and a few additional tables for the gym. Lines for those purchasing are often empty by half way through the lunch. Students have already “normed” on where they like to sit. By the way, we now sell Jersey Mikes hoagies at the HS for $3.50.
A reminder that QCHS also offers free speed, agility, and strength training sessions for ALL high school students throughout the entire calendar year. To participate, students are not required to be a member of a varsity sport. It’s an invaluable opportunity to develop a habit of lifelong fitness!
This week’s School Board meeting includes a few items of interest: I expect the Board to reconsider their previous vote on the location of graduation. Last week, seniors voted overwhelmingly not to hold graduation at Alumni Field. However, with a cost of over $20,000 to hold graduation at the Stabler Arena or PPL Center, I expect seniors will receive four free tickets for their family/friends, and be charged $3 to $5 for each ticket above that.
Thank you for reading. Happy New School Year! I look forward to hearing from you.
Two Weeks to GoPosted by Bill Harner on 8/11/2017
Good afternoon! As we approach the last 2 ½ weeks of the summer, I hope that you and your family have had special time together creating wonderful memories.
There is a lot going on as we gear up for the start of school. We have our first school board meeting of the academic year, preceded by Education/Curriculum Committee and Facilities Committee meetings at 5:30 PM this evening. At the Ed Committee meeting Board members will get an update on summer Professional Development activities for rolling out the new elementary level Social Studies and Science curriculum, along with the new math curriculum for Algebra through Calculus. Additionally, the Ed Committee will be reviewing new Planned Course Statements and approving new textbooks, which is required by law.
The Facilities Committee will be receiving an update on Capital Improvement Projects for AY ‘17-’18, e.g. bleachers in the Sixth Grade Gym. Also, they will be briefed on what projects were deferred from the QCSD Capital Projects Long Term Plan because of the budget cuts made last February, e.g. Sixth Grade Center Parking Lot and construction work at Richland ES - approximately $800K worth of badly needed work. We do not want to get too far behind with our Plan. Funds for these types of projects come out of the annual operating budget and are not funded through debt service like the QCHS Renovation and athletic fields.
In other news:
- The Board conducted a Hearing to Close Tohickon Valley Elementary School last Thursday. The decision to close or keep TVES open will be made after a minimum of 90 days, and after the Community Committee for Elementary Reassignment briefs the Board of School Directors in late October. The only parent concern expressed at the Hearing was about elementary class sizes across the district if TVES is closed. We will be watching that along with several other important factors. We will routinely post class sizes across the district beginning in September. The Community Committee will be examining and evaluating our options and will be meeting on a number of Monday nights this fall. Those meetings are open to the public.
- Pay to Play: At the May 25th Board Meeting, the Board publicly directed their Policy Committee to review, develop, and recommend new guidelines for Pay to Play in order to address the sharp escalation in athletic insurance. Previously, the cost per student for participating in extracurricular activities was $50. At the June 1st Board Meeting, the School Board approved Policy 211 raising the cost to $75. Why? Our insurance carrier increased QCSD’s annual premium from $20K to $50K this year. Our insurance cost went up due to nearly $100K in claims per year over the past two years. The new policy “strongly encourages” students to have their own insurance coverage, but still does not require it. For some families this is problematic, and the Board did not want to exclude students from participating in our great programs due to a lack of medical insurance.
- Graduation: The location of the QCHS Class of 2018 graduation ceremony at Alumni Field has concerned many students and parents. During the first week of school, all members of the Class of 2018 will have an opportunity to complete a survey to voice their opinion on the matter, e.g. Alumni Field, PPL Center, or Stabler Arena. Survey results will be presented to the Board at the first Board meeting in September.
- Follow up on ‘17-’18 QCSD Budget: Through retirements and resignations of teachers (14) this spring and summer, we achieved our objective for reducing staff per the Board’s budget decision on June 1st. This means there will be no furlough letters going out in September which was publicly discussed this past spring.
- MS Chromebook 1:1 Initiative: Beginning this school year, all 6th graders will be issued a Chromebook. The district already has enough Chromebook devices for every student to use, so the only additional cost to the district in moving to a formal 1:1 is the cost for Chromebook cases. Mr. Zackon will be following up with more specific information.
Thanks for reading! Looking forward to seeing you and your children back in our buildings and classrooms soon.
Half way through the summer, here we are!Posted by Bill Harner on 7/13/2017
Greetings from the Quakertown Community School District!
I hope the first half of your summer has gone well and that you will have quality time with family and friends. My vacation is already behind me, as is the 5,800 miles that I drove out to Arizona and back. Our son got married in a destination wedding by Cathedral Rock in Sedona. It was a very special day for my family! Our return trip took us through several beautiful places in the Rockies.
While school is not in session, there is still a lot going on in the Quakertown schools. For example, throughout the summer the Office of Teaching & Learning is holding numerous professional development sessions to introduce the new social studies and science curricula as well as digital portfolios to our elementary school teachers. We are excited that already a good number of teachers have already participated in these sessions. If you recall from a previous blog, the district had not revised its elementary social studies and science curriculum in over a decade. What curriculum we develop/select matters! Having a comprehensive content-rich curriculum that is implemented with fidelity across all schools is essential for making significant student learning gains. A committee of teachers selected the new science curriculum. Chad Evans, a supervisor in the OTL and former social studies teacher, developed the new elementary social studies curriculum. Click here to see a broad overview of the changes to the elementary science and social studies curricula.
In other academic news, last week, the PA Department of Education and College Board released spring assessment results for PSSAs, Keystones, and Advanced Placement. It was the third year of PSSAs using the PA Common Core Standards. There are a lot of positives in our results, especially considering this past year was the first year of district-wide implementation with the Eureka Math curriculum. In early August, we will provide you a detail report on the results. What we do know is that math is still the one content area where we need to continue to offer professional development opportunities for our teachers to improve student performance. This past school year, teachers had the opportunity to develop new curriculum maps, and they participated in selecting new textbooks for Geometry, Algebra II, and Calculus, which will be available next month for students. This completes the K-12 math curriculum review and purchase of new math textbooks that began three years ago.
With our endgame being the preparation of students for college and career readiness, QCHS and Upper Bucks County Technical School continue to knock it out of the park! There are several key data points as evidence. For Quakertown’s seventy UBCTS Class of 2017 graduates, 89% passed their NOCTI (Occupational) exam. At QCHS, there was significant growth in the number of students passing an Advanced Placement exam (up 13%), which means QCHS has doubled the number of students taking and passing a college level exam over the past four years. Special kudos to our students and teachers in several of the AP course areas: it was the first year QCHS students tested in Art History, Research, Microeconomics, and Macroeconomics. Their results were spectacular! There were several all-time highs in the number of students passing exams: Music Theory, US Government, US History, World History, with 12 students passing both Macro and Microeconomics. Eight students were awarded the coveted AP Capstone Diploma for successfully completing AP Research and Seminar, along with six other AP courses. Congratulations to all!
As part of our ongoing work to evaluate all program areas for effectiveness, the Board approved a three year contract with the District Management Group at the Board meeting. DMG will review and assist us with improving the effectiveness and efficiency of our special education supports and services. It is important that we serve all students, especially those who face additional challenges. We are looking for outside assistance to insure we are faithfully serving these students correctly while following state and federal guidelines. It is a sizeable district commitment - $14 million or roughly 14% of the QCSD budget, with 56 district and BCIU special education teachers serving over 800 students. The Board also received a presentation/update from the Office of Pupil Services, so they are most sensitive to program requirements and needs in the district, including state targets.
A really cool opportunity that we expanded on this year is Summer Camp! Over 140 Quakertown students are participating in camp over the next three weeks at Richland ES and Quakertown Community HS. I received feedback about it already from parents and teachers alike. , at at the HS there will be a showcase of activities by each camp. Don’t hesitate to stop in.
The four years of renovations at QCHS will be over shortly. Official handoff of the two hallways in the back of the HS is scheduled for mid-August, but already teacher boxes have been pre-positioned in the new classrooms. It looks wonderful! If you happen to drive by the HS on 5th or 7th Streets you will see the beginning of the construction of the sports fields out back. The fields are expected to be completed by November.
As a reminder, next is the Special Meeting to vote on the closure of Milford MS. Members of the public will have the opportunity to speak for up to 3 minutes each during public comment towards the beginning of the meeting. A special Transition FAQ, addressing transition issues specifically, is posted on the website.
Thanks for reading and allowing me to catch you up on the latest.
Continue to have an awesome summer!
Many thanks and many activitiesPosted by Bill Harner on 6/1/2017
Lots going on in Quakertown Community School District as we are less than one week away from graduation and the end of the school year. Thank yous and congratulations and are in order for so many people and organizations and teams throughout the district. Here are a only a few: to Jonathan Lechner and his team for a wonderful musical - The Pirates of Penzance, to the 7th grade faculties at Milford and Strayer Middle Schools for Outdoor School, to the Girls and Boys Softball and Baseball teams for making it several games deep into the post-season playoffs. Special shoutout to Junior Hudson Delisle for winning a Bronze 3rd Place Medal at the Pennsylvania State Track & Field Championship in the 800M. And, thank you to all of our elementary school teachers who implemented the new math curriculum - Eureka, with fidelity this year. Finally, thank you to teacher Ricki Stein for keeping us all up to date with all of the celebrations across the district with the weekly Quake. She works tirelessly to get the word out from writing stories to YouTube videos produced by our students.
We have several important events happening in between now and Graduation Ceremony at the PP&L Center. On QMPO will be holding its Annual Antique Car Show and Fundraiser. That begins at at the Freshmen Center. Then at in the Quakertown SHS Performing Arts Center, Leon Bates will be conducting a piano concert with Strayer MS’s Messa Di Voce singers. This event is sponsored by the Lehigh Valley Community Foundation and the Quakertown Community Education Foundation. Tickets are still available!
evening, June 1st is a Board Meeting at where the Board of School Directors will have two important items for consideration for final approval. The first is the final vote on the Academic Year 2017-2018 Budget, and the second is the vote on the ‘change order’ on sports fields behind the high school. Currently, there are no changes from what the Board initially approved for the Final Budget several weeks ago. The Administration’s Recommendation for the sports field ‘change order’ warrants some discussion here.
At the beginning of the Board meeting, during the Superintendent’s Report, Assistant Superintendent Nancianne Edwards and I will be discussing the history of the change orders throughout the HS Renovation Project. There have been many! When I arrived to the district in January of 2014, the QCHS Renovation Project was halfway through Phase One of a four year construction project. Architectural drawings were complete, a construction company was on-site and had begun work, and the Board had sold its initial bonds to begin paying for the project. Only two current Board members - Paul Stepanoff and Bob Smith, were on the Board at the time when the initial decisions/votes had taken place.
What I found during my first month was there was no district administrative oversight of the project, except for paying the bills, and there was only limited, to no teacher input for ‘educational specifications’ of special content area classrooms, e.g. the Performing Arts Center, band and chorus, Project Lead The Way (pre-engineering), art, and Family Consumer Science, in addition to important science lab educational specifications. This first came to my attention during a meeting I requested with the band and chorus teachers three weeks into my superintendency. Chorus teacher Jonathan Lechner shared with me issues with the poor quality stage floor that had been designed for the QPAC - it was not designed to sustain dancing on it. As I dug further into the renovation project, I found that teachers had not been consulted or their recommendations were overlooked and ‘value-engineered’ away. In fact, the old plexi-glass window corridor was eliminated to cut costs and the old two story boiler room was left intact - a complete waste of space and unsightly blemish right in the middle of the building. The connecting corridor elimination would have caused a serious safety hazard for students, staff and faculty in the high school. The ‘change order’ to make it right was approximately $450K. After finding one challenge after another, I assigned the Assistant Superintendent, Ms. Edwards to be the administrative project lead to get things right! She did, working hand-in-glove with end-users, our teachers, to make sure that the future phases of the project met the needs of our students and programs.
By eliminating the boilers and putting in a floor, we captured additional classroom space, which allowed the construction of a combined Dance Studio/Black Box Theater, all as a part of building a Performing Arts Academy - a performing arts school within a school. With a new dance curriculum and experienced teacher in place this fall that matches what is offered at a charter school in Allentown and will support other performing arts programs, the return on investment will be significant for our students. I am most grateful for the Board’s approval of these change orders to get things right inside the high school and allow us to offer more opportunities for our kids.
The finishing touch for the HS Renovation Project lies behind the high school. In the spring of 2014, I found a swamp out back. Due to the lack of adequate drainage, our baseball team could only practice four days out of the entire baseball season and did not play a single game out there. The current Board-approved plans call for it to remain the same. After expanding on our partnerships with RASA and Quakertown Borough for use of their softball and baseball fields, the Administration was directed to work with other coaches and the marching band, along with the architects, to get maximum use out of the property behind the high school. The bonds have already been sold to complete the sports field, but change order approval is required by the Board to set in motion the building of the new sports field that will meet the needs of the district for years to come. That will hopefully happen night!
As always, I am most grateful for you reading my blogs and look forward to your feedback.
QCSD Needs Your Advocacy Help with State Reps by Monday!Posted by Bill Harner on 5/20/2017
Good afternoon! It is Friday, but there is still a lot going on, especially in Harrisburg come .
I wanted to share with you news about a PA House of Representatives bill that just came to my attention yesterday that has the potential to have a serious negative impact on our school district. Quakertown CSD and the 499 other public school districts across Pennsylvania need your help now! Since legislation for Property Tax Elimination has stalled (so far) in the PA Legislature, there was legislation introduced that shifts the property tax burden from commercial properties on to homeowners. It is House Bill 1213, kindly referred to as “Dark Store Theory.” Here is a link to give you more information about the bill.
If HB 1213 passes there would be serious implications to school district budgets in the short term. For example, it is projected that this bill alone will diminish annual revenue to the QCSD by $2.4 million, Pennridge SD - $2.1 million; and Palisades SD - $350,000; a total loss to 13 Bucks County school districts of $42 million. (2015-16 projections). The annual loss of revenue due to the impact of the bill is then anticipated to increase over time. So as we are digging ourselves out of a $4.7 million structural deficit over the next two years, the legislature is poised to throw us another curve ball that will cost us another $2.4 million annually.
After reviewing what this legislation is about, I urge you to contact Representative Craig Staats or Representative Marguerite Quinn immediately and let them know your thoughts. Their contact information is listed below. The debate and vote on this bill is scheduled to be held this Monday, .
As always, I am very grateful for your active involvement with our district.
PA House Representative for Milford Twp, Quakertown Borough, Richland Twp, Richlandtown Borough, Trumbauersville Borough:
10 South Third Street
PA House Representative for Haycock Twp.:
Please thank your children's teachersPosted by Bill Harner on 5/10/2017
I wanted to make you aware, if you didn’t know it already, that it is National Teacher Appreciation Week. Please take a moment out of your very busy day to send an email, or two, or even three to teachers who have made a difference in your child(ren)’s life. Teachers are the sina qua non - without which nothing follows, of the public education system! A great teacher kicks wide open the door to student learning, makes student achievement happen on a daily basis, is a wonderful role model, and genuinely cares for each and everyone in their classroom. Teachers ultimately change the future potential of their students, our community, and the nation. Quakertown Community School District is blessed with an awesome teaching faculty that we are very proud of and feel lucky to have.
All of us can reflect back when we were in school, and remember teachers that made a significant difference in our lives. For me, there were many - which is a major reason I got into public education! Since I am not far from my own hometown roots - Route 309 south to Glenside and Cheltenham Township schools, I deliberately looked up to say thank you to many of my own K-12 teachers. I even invited a few of my teachers up to Quakertown for sporting events. For those I am on Facebook with, I thank them on their birthday! Teachers do rock!!!!
So, I respectfully request that you take the time to say hello to your child(ren)’s teachers. Thank them for their time, commitment to public service, and for being a great role model for our students.
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