Super Blog

  • Many thanks and many activities

    Posted by Bill Harner at 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 next Wednesday’s Graduation Ceremony at the PP&L Center.  On Saturday, June 3rd QMPO will be holding its Annual Antique Car Show and Fundraiser.  That begins at 10 am at the Freshmen Center. Then at 7 PM 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!

     

    Tomorrow evening, June 1st is a Board Meeting at 7 PM 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 tomorrow’s 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 tomorrow night!  

     

    As always, I am most grateful for you reading my blogs and look forward to your feedback.  

     

    Thank you.

     

    Bill Harner

    Superintendent

    @bill harner

    wharner@qcsd.org

    Comments (-1)
  • QCSD Needs Your Advocacy Help with State Reps by Monday!

    Posted by Bill Harner at 5/20/2017

    Good afternoon! It is Friday, but there is still a lot going on, especially in Harrisburg come Monday.

     

    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, May 22, 2017 at 1:00PM.

     

    As always, I am very grateful for your active involvement with our district.


    Bill Harner

    Superintendent, QCSD


    PA House Representative for Milford Twp, Quakertown Borough, Richland Twp, Richlandtown Borough, Trumbauersville Borough:

     

    Craig T. Staats (R) cstaats@pahousegop.com 

    10 South Third Street

    Quakertown, PA 18951 
    (215) 536-1434 
    Fax: (215) 536-1437

     

     

    Hon. Craig T. Staats
    412 Irvis Office Building
    PO Box 202145
    Harrisburg, PA 17120-2145
    (717) 783-3154 
    Fax: (717) 260-6521

     

    PA House Representative for Haycock Twp.:                             

     

    Marguerite Quinn (R)

    Hon. Marguerite Quinn mquinn@pahousegop.com
    1032 North Easton Road
    Doylestown, PA 18902-1055
    (215) 489-2126 
    Fax: (215) 489-2129


    Hon. Marguerite Quinn
    141B East Wing
    PO Box 202143
    Harrisburg, PA 17120-2143
    (717) 772-1413 
    Fax: (717) 783-3793

     

     

    Comments (-1)
  • Please thank your children's teachers

    Posted by Bill Harner at 5/10/2017

    Good afternoon!  
     

    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.
     

    Thank you!
     

    Bill Harner
    Superintendent, QCSD

    wharner@qcsd.org

    @billharner

    Comments (-1)
  • Last Week's Board Vote, Course Change Opportunities & the Spring Musical

    Posted by Bill Harner at 5/4/2017

    It’s hard to believe that it is May, only weeks away from graduation for the Class of 2017! High school students began Advanced Placement testing this week, which will continue through next Friday - 420 students are taking 777 AP exams, up 125 exams over last year!  Having this many students stepping up and taking a college level class while in high school is awesome, then challenging themselves on a national exam, is an important part of ensuring their college readiness. We are so proud of them!

        

    Speaking of college readiness, congratulations are in order again to the students and our entire K-12 faculty for QCHS earning the US News & World Report’s Silver Award for America’s Best High Schools again. This is clearly a team award. It’s QCHS’ third year in a row as a Silver Award winner. QCHS climbed six more positions in the state rankings over last year - now ranking 60th out of 686 high schools in the state. The USN&WR measures college readiness using four steps/criteria from the senior class data. Special thanks to all of our teachers who prepared our students throughout their Quakertown experience to get them college ready!

        

    Last Thursday evening at the School Board meeting, in an 8-1 vote, the Board approved the Proposed Final Budget presented by the Administration. The Administration’s presentation on the budget remained basically the same as the one I shared with you two Fridays ago, with the addition of two slides. One slide depicts the history of QCSD’s fund balance and PSERS, with the impact of various courses of action  for ‘17-18 and ‘18-19 on it - ranging from closing the gap using the fund balance to approving the administration’s recommendations. The recommendations included their expectation for the Administration to plan and prepare for the possibility of closing Milford MS, including scheduling, packing, and staffing.  As a result, we have created different buildings and scenarios in Powerschool that reflect possible school assignments, so you may see that when you use the parent portal.  This is a necessary step in ensuring that our principals can develop different versions of the staffing and student assignment requirements for next year.

     

    The Board’s direction also opened up a window of opportunity for rising 7th and 8th and 9th through 12th graders to review and change/modify course registration requests for next year. As an example, with the possibility of 9th grade students attending school in the Senior High School building next year, there is a wider elective opportunity, from AP Computer Science to music. However, due to scheduling time constraints, the window of opportunity to select a different class is only open this week. We also changed the prerequisites for participating in AP Computer Science A and AP Computer Science Principles.  The only prerequisite is successful completion of Algebra I. This brings our Program of Studies in alignment with the suggested recommendation of the College Board, whose standards and curriculum we use.

     

    Since September, our secondary math teachers have been evaluating multiple secondary math resources aligned to our end game (Keystones, SAT, ACT, AP), which also contain digital resources that will support students and parents in navigating the content in school and at home. After months of research and feedback, we are happy to announce Board approval for the purchase of Carnegie resources for Geometry and Algebra 2 and National Geographic/Cengage for PreCalculus and Calculus (including APs). These new resources will provide a long awaited refresher to our 10+ year old resources and curriculum. As a footnote, and because of student and teacher suggestions, we added Honors Calculus back into the Program of Studies.

     

    Finally, the Office for Teaching and Learning (OTL) is collecting data on the content areas entering the research and review phase of the curriculum cycle for their work in the 2017-2018 school year. In order to provide the OTL with as much information as possible, we are asking that parents, teachers and students provide us feedback on the secondary RELA, K-5 Digital Literacy, PLTW and Tech Ed courses using the link found here.  This feedback will give the OTL and the curriculum committee, comprised of teachers and administrators, the feedback needed to kick off the year with stakeholder direction.

     

    Thank you for reading and allowing me to catch you up on some of the activities in the school district.  Please share any thoughts with me, when you get a chance. Be sure to read up on all the cool things happening in the weekly Quake newsletter at www.qcsd.org.

     

    Oh, one more thing!  Tickets went on sale for this year’s high school musical - The Pirates of Penzance, by Gilbert and Sullivan. There will be four performances:  Friday, May 19 - 8:00 pm; Saturday, May 20 - 2:00 pm and 8:00 pm; and Sunday, May 21 - 3:00 pm.  We will have a fantastic display of student artwork for viewing before and after the show, and during intermission.

        

    Bill Harner

    Superintendent, QCSD

    wharner@qcsd.org

    @billharner

    Comments (-1)
  • Suggestions Reviewed; Thursday Finance Committee and Board Meeting Open to Public

    Posted by Bill Harner at 4/23/2017

    As we head into the weekend, I wanted to give you an update on the Budget for ‘17-’18.  

     

    As I mentioned before, at the Finance Committee meeting, the Administration will be presenting its recommended Proposed Final Budget ‘17-’18. The meeting will be from 5:30 PM to 6:30 PM on Thursday, April 27th at DSC.  There are only two other items for the Finance Committee to discuss that evening, so I expect that the discussion of the Budget will take up the bulk of the Finance Committee’s time. If there is time remaining after the Board Committee discussion, and before 6:30 PM, the Committee will have time to receive public comment. Nevertheless, there will be ample time for public comment on the Budget for ‘17-’18 during the regular scheduled Board meeting at 7:00 pm that follows the Finance Committee Meeting.  

     

    In preparation for the Administration’s recommendation to the Board next week, we reviewed and considered more than 60 public comments made at two Board meetings and the hearing, along with questions and comments received in scores of emails and two town hall meetings, a meeting with QMPO leadership and music teachers, and comments and suggestions made on Facebook. Of all of the feedback, I confess that I found the suggestion or possibility that aliens had taken over the superintendent and school board quite interesting! Seriously, the feedback/input has been most helpful in shaping our thinking and has been incorporated into our recommendations to the Board. For example, to eliminate any new construction costs we took the suggestion from the QCEA President and several parents to move all of the 9th graders up to the high school to create a 9th grade through 12th grade building.  Then move all of the 6th graders to former Freshmen Center to create a 6th Grade Center.

     

    As you would expect, digesting 44 pages of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), reading and re-reading emails, attending town hall meetings, and attending the hearing to close Milford is quite time consuming for our School Board members.  With that in mind, I also conducted four information sessions for groups of Board members this week, to insure they have all the information they need and a thorough understanding of the issues and recommendations regarding the Budget for ‘17-’18.  

     

    So that you have ample time to review the Administration’s recommendations for the Proposed Final Budget for ‘17-’18, I wanted to share a copy of those recommendations in advance. Naturally, we will continue to receive and analyze your input.

     

    Have a very nice weekend.

     

    Most respectfully,

     

    Bill Harner

    Superintendent, QCSD

    wharner@qcsd.org

    @billharner

    Comments (-1)
  • Important update about the budget process

    Posted by Bill Harner at 4/18/2017

    Good evening!  Forgive me for the long blog, but this is really important.

     

    I would like to thank all of you who have engaged in the many discussions about the QCSD Budget Options for ‘17-’18 presented to the Board of School Directors last month. Many of you have unfortunately experienced a gloomy budget cycle before. From the ‘stoplight’ - red, yellow, green list budget discussions of many years ago, to last year’s budget when the PA Legislature and the Governor could not agree on a state budget until March, to this year’s fiscal challenge. We shall get through all this, again!  

     

    This is my 14th budget cycle as a school district superintendent. I have had to work with and through what appears to be capricious decision making by elected officials. Elected officials/ decision makers - at the state and local level, bring to the table various agendas. These agendas could be to support specific programs such as early childhood education and full day kindergarten, or the performing arts, to even more drastic agendas like support for for-profit cyber charter schools. Cyber charter schools have become lucrative to campaign finances for elected office.

     

    Very few elected officials want to be labeled “tax and spend,” so they do their best to hide or pass on to the next lower level unfunded mandates to cover the agendas they support or mistakes that they have made. The most glaring examples are the ever increasing cost of PSERS and paying the prevailing wage for construction. The result of these two egregious agendas has cost your district dearly - tens of millions of dollars.  It has put our student programs, quality of instruction, and proper maintenance of our buildings at risk. It is a man-made crisis! This crisis was created in Harrisburg, and can only be fixed in Harrisburg.  For over three years now, the QCSD Board and I have aggressively communicated with our locally elected state representatives and other state leaders about fixing these two problems. All to no avail!  In fact, after the Board discussed not paying PSERS at one public meeting, they were quickly rebuked and threatened by Harrisburg.  

     

    QCSD is an incredibly effective school district. We need to keep it that way!  There is no other school district in Pennsylvania (there are 499 other districts) with our socio-economic poverty index of 31% or higher that outperforms us at the high school level.  Our graduates are getting academically stronger each year, and our performing arts and athletic programs are top shelf, too.  Even with the fiscal realities imposed upon us, it is the QCSD Board’s direction to me to not only sustain what we have, but get better.  Despite capricious decision making and agendas in Harrisburg that are neither taxpayer nor student-centric, we are required by law to balance the budget every year.  QCSD has a structural deficit that was not created by the Board, nor any nefarious contract or commitment. Decisions are required in the short term to close the deficit as much as possible, so we can keep the great programs and culture that we have for the long term.

     

    Last week at the hearing on the potential closure of Milford MS, and then on Thursday at the school board meeting, the board listened to hours of input from many of you. They are sensitive to the impassioned pleas to “wait a year to close the school," and to slow down. After reading and listening to public feedback, the Board is frustrated because they know that they have a finite amount of revenue and have the legal responsibility to address the structural deficit. Additionally, our financial advisor from the Public Financial Management Group strongly discourages the Board from balancing the budget using the fund balance for annual operating expenses due to its potential impact on our bond rating.

     

    At the conclusion of the budget discussion at the April 13th board meeting, Board Member Jon Kern asked the Administration to review the next tier of budget options per the decision matrix/flowchart (pg. 6) that was part of the Administration’s budget presentation.  There is a twofold purpose for looking at Tier 2 Options for budget reductions at the next board meeting. The first is that in the event that the Board does not select most of the options from the original proposal they should consider which of the Tier 2 Options they might use to balance next year's budget. The second is that if the board decides to select the “wait a year” recommendation - made by some constituents - and not accept the original Tier 1 budget options, the board will be foreshadowing the Tier 2 Options for the future.  If there is a deferral of a decision to close the structural deficit at all until next year, some of the Tier 2 Options will likely become Tier 1 Options.  That would be catastrophic to Quakertown and some student programs, and is not the preferred or recommended course of action.  

     

    It is important to note that in order to legally generate savings in personnel from furloughs, one of these things has to happen:

    • there is a significant reduction in student enrollment,

    • a school or schools are closed,

    • and/or an entire program has to be eliminated

     

    These are total program costs for Tier 2 Budget Options, by program:

     

    Art         $1.33 million             Library         $949 thousand

    Music          $2.03 million           Tech Ed     $959 thousand

    Spanish     $1.43 million             German     $237 thousand

    Mandarin    $96.3 thousand        Full Day K    $261 thousand

    Business     $1.22 million            Guidance     $2.42 million

    Sports        $550 thousand

     

    Next Thursday, at 5:30 PM, at the Finance Committee Meeting the Administration will present the Proposed Final Budget.  The Administration’s recommendation will include the original Budget Options for ‘17-’18, along with the recommendation to close Tohickon Valley Elementary School for 2018-19.  Later that evening at the regular scheduled Board Meeting, the Board is scheduled to vote on the Proposed Final Budget.  Given all of the feedback and recommendations received from the entire Quakertown community, the Administration believes that the recommended Proposed Final Budget optimizes our finite resources and minimizes the impact on student programs.  We hope we will also be able to accomplish the staffing reductions in the plan mostly through attrition in order to take the best care we can of our precious teaching resources and amazing support staff.

     

    As always we look forward to your feedback.

     

    Most respectfully,

     

    Bill Harner

    Superintendent, QCSD

    wharner@qcsd.org

    @billharner

    Comments (-1)
  • Bring your ideas to the April 11 Hearing to Consider Closing Milford

    Posted by Bill Harner at 4/7/2017

    Good morning!  I would like thank the hundreds of you who have either reached out to the School Board and me, attended one or both of the Town Hall meetings, or taken to social media to discuss the tough decisions ahead for the Quakertown Community School District.  I am most grateful!  

     

    Your feedback has painted a clear picture of your concerns and questions for the Board of School Directors on how to handle the $4.7M structural shortfall!  It is so important to stay engaged and involved in what your public schools are doing.  It is my belief that our school system’s success becomes our students success, and the school system’s success comes from only an engaged community.

     

    Next week, the Board of School Directors will be conducting a Hearing for Closure of Milford Middle School.  It will be held in the District Service Center from 6:30 to 8:30 PM.  The hearing will be conducted by Jeffrey Garton, Esquire, the Solicitor for QCSD.  The purpose of the meeting is for the Board of School Directors to listen to the constituents, about the option to close Milford Middle School.  Constituents will have up to 3 minutes to speak to the Board.  The Board has the opportunity to ask questions, but will not be making comments nor be making a decision at this hearing.  

     

    The Administration will be making a statement at the beginning of the meeting regarding the closing of Milford Middle School.  The Option that I will be presenting is “Close Milford Middle School and combine all 6th, 7th and 8th grade students to create Quakertown Community Middle School,” at Strayer Middle School.   I believe this option will provide us the greatest opportunity to not only sustain our high quality academic, arts, and athletic programs, but create the synergy for even stronger programs in the future.

     

    I look forward to your continued feedback and input as we move forward with the ‘17-’18 Budget process, and the School Boards consideration of the Options they requested to correct our structural deficit.

     

    Most respectfully,

     

    Bill Harner

    Superintendent, QCSD

    wharner@qcsd.org

    @billharner

    Comments (-1)
  • Plenty of history and information about budgets linked here

    Posted by Bill Harner at 4/1/2017

    Good evening!  This is an update on the QCSD budget process. I would like to thank so many of you for reaching out to the Board and me with comments, criticisms, and suggestions about the Budget Options that I presented to the Quakertown Board of School Directors last week. If there is a silver lining to our school community’s challenging financial situation, it is that significantly more people are now involved in the discussions about what’s important for both students and taxpayers. I am personally grateful for that and I hope we don’t lose this synergy!  Online discussion groups, public and private, have provided us tremendous insight to your concerns, priorities, and aspirations for the district.  Your participation in the process will help the Board make the optimal decision for all concerned, and take care of our wonderful students, faculty and staff.
     

    There is concern about how the district got to where it is today financially.  Between the records of Board meetings on BoardDocs, my twice monthly blogs, and the Reports section of QCSD website, there is a very rich history of information, reports, data, and decisions.  I am a firm believer in transparency in the public process of our work. For over three years now, I have shared with you in my blogs about pending board decisions, actions taken, and other important matters that I believe you should hear directly from me, particularly about the budget. This has given you the opportunity to respond, if you so choose.  No surprises for you, better policy decisions by the Board for the Administration to implement!  
     

    Our budgets have been extremely tight every year because of state mandates and increases in debt service because of the High School Renovation project.  Every year we start off with a structural deficit. Every year we have found strategies to get by - one slide in the Budget Options presentation lists some of these strategies.  Now, after years of belt tightening, this year’s deficit is more than double the budgets in the past, and we are out of strategies. This requires immediate action, or we risk the loss of student programs beginning in ‘18-’19 school year.  No legally allowable tax increase will avoid that.  Some have said that it did not have to be this way. Last year in a blog, on April 28th, I let you know that I was going to make a presentation to the Board that recommended they approve Exceptions for the local property tax increase, which would have raised about $900k more in tax revenue above the Act I Index. It is obvious that there was no support in the community for higher tax increases, and our Board did not accept my recommendation.   
     

    Our Board has certainly supported reasonable tax increases, going to the full or almost the full Act I Index for the past three budget cycles.  They knew that state imposed budget pressure points like PSERS would continue to use up most of every year’s tax increase. Let’s fast forward to last Thursday night’s Board meeting.  After I presented the Budget Options to the Board and community for the first time, during public comment, QCEA President Ryan Wieand reminded the Board that they could have avoided the problem if the Board had approved Exceptions to raise taxes further last year and this year. Quakertown school boards have a long history of raising taxes every year since the ‘70’s. The Board decided, in deference to the taxpayers, to choose a fiscal philosophy and approach that requires us to continue to provide an effective education program, but in a more efficient way.  This is where we are now, considering options to close the structural deficit. It’s there, it’s real, and the Board has a legal obligation to approve a balanced budget. That’s where we are right now, with two months to go!
     

    Earlier this week, I met with the teachers of Milford MS to discuss the budget, the option to close their school, to answer questions, and to hear about their love for the Milford community and their students.  As you would expect, there were several teachers who showed their feelings with tears. I truly understand how special Milford is!  I have heard it from Board members, parents, teachers, students, and so many others.
     

    One thing the Milford teachers asked for was one more year to study the Milford MS closure option, along with making other suggestions.  But, like the many e-mails and Facebook postings that the Board and I received or have seen over the past eight days, there do not seem to be other suggestions or ideas on how to close a structural budget deficit of $4.7M, while keeping student programs intact and positioning QCSD in a good place for ‘18-’19 and beyond.  
     

    We developed a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) document on our website to answer questions that have been posed to us. Please also take a moment to review the staffing at our secondary schools.  Even if the Board selects ALL of the Budget Options, average class sizes are in a very good place for our students in the future, no doubt we will remain the envy of many other districts across the region.  If the Board selects the option to close Milford MS, average class size will still be reduced overall at the MS level, and ALL students will be in a relatively new or renovated facility, and the faculty will have the potential to collaborate across the entire grade level by being in one building. We also received a couple really good ideas/suggestions on how to optimize the implementation of Phase II for ‘18-’19 - the closure of an elementary school with minimal re-districting.  Thank you!
     

    April will be a busy month for meetings for us discussing the Budget Options!  I will be conducting two town hall meetings about the middle school school closure/consolidation.  The first will be this Monday evening at Milford MS for rising 6th, 7th & 8th grade parents, April 3rd in the Gym, and the second on April 6th, for the same at Strayer MS in the their Auditorium.  Both will be from 7 to 8:30 P.M. These meetings are not for the general public. Then, on April 11th, the Board will conduct a formal public hearing about the Milford MS closure in the District Service Center from 6:30 to 8:30 P.M.  There are two Board meetings in April, the 13th and the 27th.  The school district budget will be discussed at both board meetings in April, with the approval of the Proposed Final Budget on April 27th.  The Final Approval of the ‘18-’19 Budget is planned for June 1st.  If the Board continues to consider closing Milford MS, the final decision for that will be mid-July.  
     

    Thank you for taking the time to read what has become my longest blog.  We welcome your input!  No final decisions have been made at this point. In fact, there is a lot of time to be heard. I simply ask that you consider that the Administration is provided a finite amount of financial resources each year and is expected to provide the optimal plan on how to use them and improve student achievement.  Timing is everything at this point!
     

    I promise to be back soon with an update.
     

    Most respectfully,
     

    Bill Harner
    Superintendent, QCSD

    wharner@qcsd.org

    @billharner

    Comments (-1)
  • Budget Proposals include a hearing to close Milford for 2017-18 school year

    Posted by Bill Harner at 3/23/2017

     

    Good evening!  At the QCSD Finance Meeting earlier this evening, and subsequently at the Board Meeting tonight, I presented the Board of School Directors numerous options for closing the structural deficit projected for the ‘17-’18 Budget while addressing our many and significant facilities needs.  Unlike the federal and state government, school districts are required by state law to approve a balanced budget every year. Doing nothing to close the deficit would be a disastrous option!  The strategy to use the fund balance to balance the ‘17-’18 Budget will double the problem for the ‘18-’19 Academic Year.  It would posture the district for serious program reductions.  It is simply not an option!  Meanwhile, we have students attending school in old, substandard buildings, with no solution in sight for more than a decade.

     

    As I shared with you before, the Board is considering raising taxes to the Act I Index for next year.  In deference to our taxpayers, they declined to use Exceptions under Act I and to restructure our debt service payment to free up operating dollars to help us bring our budget into balance for next academic year.  At the Board’s last meeting on March 9th, they directed the Administration to come up with more options for them to consider to close the deficit, which is approximately $4.7 million.  The Board’s guidance/direction includes:

     

    • Not compromising student programs - academic, arts, and athletics,

    • Freeing up operating dollars to pay for Phase I of the Community Facilities Plan and complete necessary annual capital maintenance.

     

    The presentation that I made to the Board tonight - “Budget and Facilities Options.” can be found at this link. It includes eight options for the Board to consider. A few of the options require near immediate decisions while others may be extended out over time.  

     

    As always, we would like your feedback, thoughts, and criticisms.  As you consider this presentation and process some of your first thoughts, please know that the Administration’s purpose is the optimize the financial resources that we are provided to advance student achievement  and improve college and career readiness, while taking care of our people. QCSD has a wonderful faculty and staff that make things happen, each and every day.  I am incredibly proud of what they do.  So we must be mindful of our team of professionals to sustain the positive motion and direction that the district is going!

     

    Tomorrow, in faculty meetings across the district, principals will be talking to their teams about what we know and our objectives. There are a lot of thoughts, concerns, hurt feelings, and disappointment to share.  No doubt, it is a lot to digest, especially if your school building is directly affected by one of the options.  Nevertheless, we will work collaboratively and transparently through the decision process. We hope that you participate in this collaborative process.

     

    Again, I am looking for your feedback.  I will share it with the Board and the district leadership team.

     

    Most respectfully,

     

    Bill Harner

    Superintendent, QCSD

    wharner@qcsd.org

    @billharner

    Comments (-1)
  • Snow Day Blogging: Celebrations and Looking Ahead

    Posted by Bill Harner at 3/15/2017

    Bill plows snow

    Some important business up front! The snow make up day for today’s closing is Monday, April 17th.  So thanks to Stella, now there is school on Thursday, April 13th, and Monday, April 17th. Please mark that on your calendar.

     

    There have been so many exciting things happening around QCSD besides an unseasonably warm February, and a cold and snowy March!  College acceptance letters are coming in droves for our seniors, and our athletes, band and choir members, and Quakertown ES Robotics Team are reaching for excellence in competition. A rundown of some of their accomplishments:

     

    Hayden Smith qualified two weeks ago for the Pennsylvania Music Educators All State Choir and this week, Caleb Szabo qualified for PMEA All State Orchestra on his tuba. The only winter sports teams still in season and competing are swimming and diving.  Swimmer Kaylee Heimes, and the sister-brother diving team of Taylor and Bayne Bennett are competing in PIAA State Championship next week. Hudson Delisle continued to break school track records this winter, taking 3rd Place in the 800m at the PIAA Indoor Track State Championship, on top of setting a school record.  Then late last week, after our wrestling team won the American Conference of the Suburban League - Noah Wood and Josh Stahl made it all the way to the Giant Center in Hershey to complete in the Wrestling PIAA State Championships. Topping all of this off, the Quakertown Cheerleading Team competed at Nationals a few weeks ago in Florida.  Needless to say, all of our articistic performers, teams and athletes did well across the board.  Quakertown Panther Proud!

     

    In other community news, the Rotary Club of Quakertown is looking for three host families for next academic year to share the hosting of a foreign exchange student.  Usually the exchange student spends a few months with each of the host families.  If interested in becoming a host family, please contact David Freeman, President/CEO of Quakertown Bank at 267-377-5922.

     

    In academic news, our middle school math program is gaining strength!  If you recall, several years ago, accelerated math - Algebra I and Geometry - was eliminated from our MS curriculum. We put it back. In AY ‘14-’15, less than 25% of our 8th graders were taking an accelerated math course.  Our projections for 8th grade next year are that nearly 50% will be taking an accelerated math course. Thank you teachers, parents, and especially students!  Great work.  Our objective is for students to have Algebra I successfully completed by the end of 9th grade.  But, our ‘reach goal’ is to have as many students as possible successfully complete Algebra I in middle school. It sets them up to take at least one year of calculus - a known predictor of college readiness and success.

     

    Facilities Plan and the ‘17-’18 Budget:  Our problem - we have a community developed comprehensive facilities plan, and no money to fund it without compromising program. And while we wait to figure out how to afford to renovate or replace old school buildings, it’s expensive to keep old equipment going, like boilers. The sum of the parts (costs for repair), is much greater than the whole. The Board is in a Catch 22, and still staring at a $4 million budget deficit for next year.  Last Thursday night at the Facilities Committee Meeting, then later that night during the Board meeting, I was directed by the Board to bring back a “clear path” to accomplish both bringing the budget into balance AND moving forward to meet our facilities needs.  To make it all work will be a game changer!  I am charged with bringing forward a plan next week that will maintain effectiveness (keep programs), but increase efficiency (lower costs).   I expect the possible solutions to be a paradigm shift for many.

     

    Thank you for reading.  Please continue to share your thoughts, ideas, suggestions, and criticisms with me.  I routinely share all of your input with the Board leadership.  It helps us get better at what we do!

     

    Bill Harner

    Superintendent, QCSD

    wharner@qcsd.org

    @billharner

    Comments (-1)
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