Super Blog

  • Critical time for 8th graders as they consider HS courses

    Posted by Superintendent Dr. Bill Harner on 1/10/2019 5:45:00 PM

    Good evening!  I hope you are having an excellent week.  Be prepared for some snow this weekend and another Eagles victory in New Orleans!

    It’s that time of year when students in grades 8 through 11 sign up for their academic courses for next year.  Dr. Finnerty and his high school team of teachers and counselors are gearing up for Course Registration. Earlier this week, a packed house of parents and students attended Dr. Finnerty’s presentations on high school programs, course opportunities, and graduation requirements.  Throughout the evening, Advanced Placement, elective, and Upper Bucks County Tech School teachers met with students about courses we will be offering next year.  Today, during an 8th Grade Assembly at Strayer Middle School, a High School team, along with Jeff Sweda, the new Director of Upper Bucks County Technical School, presented some of the same material to students.  I took the opportunity at the end of the presentation to speak with all the 8th graders to emphasize the importance of their course decisions and the incredible opportunities ahead of them.

    No matter what grade your child is in, I respectfully request that all of you take a few minutes to review the HS principal’s presentation. It is quite comprehensive. While we know that we are a work-in-progress, we have come a long way in preparing our students for graduation.  We know that college and career readiness is dramatically improving and most of our graduates are flourishing in their chosen path after they cross the stage to receive their high school diploma.  

    But, I also know that we collectively can do better for some of our students who do not have a plan as they leave high school. For some, we miss the mark in preparing for them for college and/or career readiness.  I talk to students almost everyday and learn a lot from those conversations. For example, when I go into Giant - which is usually late at night, I talk with our students who are stocking shelves and working at the checkout counter.  I always ask lots of questions, to include how they are doing in school, what classes they are taking, and what their plans are AFTER graduation. Some of our seniors I talk with don’t have a plan, even with their impressive work ethic.

    This tells me that we (collectively) have to do better!  It takes teamwork between home and school to get ALL of our students on board with making a plan.  There are so many opportunities at both QCHS and Upper Bucks County Technical School that every student should have a vision for themselves accompanied by a plan. With technology driving change across every industry and in education, what is being taught at UBCTS and the high school is so far advanced over what many of us experienced in school.  Now, a student who attends UBCTS can earn 30 college credits in their specific area before graduation, attend Bucks County Community College for one year and earn another 30 college credits, then attend Bloomsburg University for two years and receive a bachelor's degree.  About 25 percent of our high school students attend UBCTS, then graduate and immediately begin earning more than what most college graduates earn.  Again, please help your child(ren) create a vision and plan for themselves, and let us work together to make it happen.

    The Martin Luther King Day holiday is coming up on Monday, January 21.  It also marks the first annual QCSD Day of Service.  Currently, more than 120 QCHS students will be volunteering at 15 local organizations throughout the Bucks, Lehigh, and Montgomery counties.  We will begin Monday morning at 8 AM with a kickoff breakfast in the High School Cafeteria with Pastor Gregory Edwards, a Martin Luther King Jr. scholar, and graduate of Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA.  Our Day of Service is an exciting opportunity to have our students engage with local community activities and programs at organizations that are really looking forward to our students’ involvement and support.  For more information or to join in with our work on MLK Day, please go to our link. There is still time to sign up!  Special thanks to QCHS teacher Rachel Girman, and many other teachers, who had a significant hand in launching this new opportunity to teach good citizenship and service to others in the name of Dr. King.

    A couple of final notes.  State law now requires every district to check its plumbing for lead contamination and publicly report out its findings. If you recall, we tested our facilities for contamination several years ago before mandatory testing.  We found a few problems and had them fixed immediately. A few months ago, all of our school and district facilities were rechecked for lead. The findings were all negative. We do not have a problem!

    Finally, yesterday was a busy day for Quakertown First Responders to our schools. Fire trucks were called to both Richland Elementary and the High School - for tripped alarms due to a sprinkler system malfunction and a burnt cooking project in the foods lab.  What I really want you to know about is the third call - it was for an ambulance. It was to the high school for a student who borrowed and used a “friend’s” vaping device laced with THC.  Due to a previously existing medical condition and a high dose of chemicals ingested because of using a vaping device, the student was initially found non-responsive. It was quite scary!  To better educate our students, we are closely looking at our current curriculum for when to introduce and further discuss the harm that comes from vaping, drugs and the like. We hope that you would consider having those conversations at home, too.  I’d like to share again a video from when Mr. David Fialko, Certified Prevention Specialist, presented to parents at our high school before the Holiday.

    Thanks for reading!  Fly Eagles Fly!

    Bill Harner

    Superintendent, QCSD

    wharner@qcsd.org

    Twitter: @billharner

    Comments (-1)
  • Greater consequences for vaping; plus a mixed bag on academic scores

    Posted by Dr. Bill Harner on 12/20/2018 4:50:00 PM

    Good evening and Happy Holidays!  There is a lot going on throughout Quakertown Community School District.

    December has been an incredibly busy month with school activities outside of the classroom in all of our schools - concerts, winter sports, TSA competition, and more!  One of the most exciting opportunities was experienced by our high school Varsity Singers singing for Governor Wolf at the Annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony in the Pennsylvania Capitol Rotunda. The acoustics in that majestic building made their voices sound angelic and classical. It reminded me of the quality of the sound when I sang in the National Cathedral in Washington, DC, back in the day, while in the Cadet Protestant Chapel Choir at West Point. A tour group from Bucks County was there to see the Tree Lighting Ceremony and listen to our Varsity Singers. Many of those in the tour group were from Quakertown.  A very special memory for all!

    The Board of School Directors held its Reorganization Meeting on December 6. The Board unanimously re-elected Steaven Klein and David Ochmanowicz Jr. as President and Vice President, respectively.  Also, Robert Diliberto was appointed Chairman of the Finance Committee. The Board voted on its new meeting schedule for the 2019 calendar year. With five new members on the Board since November of last year, everyone has come to learn their roles and responsibilities through numerous workshops, retreats, lots of study, and attendance at a score of meetings. They have formed a very strong governance and leadership team.

    During a recent meeting, a student representative highlighted the concerns of many of his high school peers who complain about students Juuling/vaping in bathrooms. This is not news to the Board, nor to the Administration. But those at the meeting found it quite insightful since the student brought up the topic.  He claimed that many students do not go to the bathroom during the school day because of it! The Administration maintains the problem is widespread and growing. Some students who are caught vaping at the high school have THC in their possession.

    Vaping by students in grades 6 to 12 is skyrocketing, on and off campus.  We know from the 2017 PAYS report that 37 percent of our high school students have tried vaping. Last week, The Intelligencer ran a front-page story on the issues of teenage vaping.  Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal ran a similar story. To assist in your understanding of the challenges, related health hazards, and discipline issues tied to vaping, we are providing a web page full of resources for you and encourage all parents to check it frequently.  

    We are taking this problem and health risk to our students very seriously. Previous consequences have not worked for us. To aid in deterring this health-threatening activity, effective January 2, 2019, any student in possession of vaping material or vaping on QCSD property will be fined $50 for the first offense, $100 for each offense thereafter, to be paid within five days of the offense or be subject to other administrative consequences.  This new Administrative Regulation is similar to what other school districts are doing across Bucks County.

    Early last fall, Dr. Hoffman, the Assistant Superintendent for the Office of Teaching & Learning, presented a report on Academic Year 2017-18 student performance as measured by the PSSA, Keystones, SAT, ACT and Advanced Placement exams.  The Board asked for a longitudinal look back of COHORT/year group performance on state assessments.  We went back to 2014, the first year that the PSSAs were aligned to the PA Common Core Standards. Remember, the student performance standards are now aligned with an upward progression of rigor that leads to freshman year college readiness.  

    There are reasons for celebration for how our students are performing relative to other high schools and districts across Pennsylvania.  For example, on high school Keystone exams, QCHS students jumped from 97th best performance in the state in 2017, to 45th in 2018.  It is a dramatic improvement, but only a snapshot of one year group - last years seniors! Also, high schoolers have greatly benefitted by stepping up to the plate and taking Advanced Placement (college level) courses and passing the national level AP exam for the courses they take. We have had a four to five fold increase in participation and success.  In turn, student performance on the SAT and ACT dramatically increased because of the hard work students and teachers are putting into these rigorous courses day-in and day-out.

    But there is still a lot of work to be done by all - students, teachers, parents, and the administration. In looking at student performance in Quakertown - over time, in grades 3 through 8, we have not yet “broken the code” on declining student performance on academic standards in mathematics and now, in reading language arts.  For example, last year only 38 percent of Quakertown’s eighth graders were proficient or advanced on the PSSAs.  As PA Common Core Standards are aligned through high school for college readiness, this means that 62 percent of our current ninth graders have a lot of catching up to do to be ready for college.

    At the Dec 6th meeting, Board member Keith Micucci asked if the Board should panic!  I said no, but we definitely need a sense of urgency at all levels of the school district, from the classroom to the district office.  Historically, 60 percent of our graduating classes attend a four-year college institution, and we need to continue to prepare them to be successful. Working together, there is no doubt that we move mountains for our students.  In the meantime, over the Holidays, please take a few moments to study your child’s past performance scores and talk with them about how they are doing. Then share what you learn with us! I am very much interested in your thoughts, as I am sure your teachers and principals are.

    Have a wonderful Holiday!    It’s supposed to be a record year on America's highways, so safe travels in all that you and your family do.

    Bill Harner

    Email: wharner@qcsd.org

    Twitter: @BillHarner

    Comments (-1)
  • KidsVote, Bucks Arts Expo, drug abuse education and Veterans Day highlight the week

    Posted by Dr. Bill Harner on 11/11/2018

    Good afternoon!   Happy Sunday! It is wonderful to have blue sky above us.

    Lots going on throughout the District since we last chatted besides the usual hard work that goes on every day by our students, teachers and staff. For Red Ribbon Week SRO Brain Hendrzak taught numerous drug abuse classes at Strayer MS, the week before, HS school students worked days to prepare the decorations for the Homecoming Dance at which a record setting 900 students attended, The Neidig Renovation Planning Group conducted its 20th planning meeting, Trumbauersville ES hosted elementary principals from across Philadelphia School District for a day to watch and learn from our awesome teachers, then Friday night, in the rain and drizzle, our Panther Football team made us proud in the second round of the playoffs, and finally last night the Quakertown Marching Band placed 4th in national competition at MetLife Field.  It is life in the fast lane, and its been fun and worthwhile!

    Prior to the 2018 Election Day on Tuesday, our students took to the polls at their schools between October 29th and November 5th.  As a school community, before every election, students from grades 3 through 12 are offered the opportunity to participate in KidsVote. For 2018, the participation rate was 58 percent of “eligible voters,” or 2439 ballots cast.  Naturally, we had a fun referendum question that got voted down. We asked, would you prefer a four-day school week versus the current five-day school/work week. Remaining on a five-day week squeaked by - 52.3 to 47.7 percent. The individual school and districtwide results may be found here.

    The first Bucks County Student Arts Expo was held Wednesday evening at Bensalem High School.  Visual and performing arts programs were on display from the 13 districts across Bucks County.  I was thrilled and proud to witness that Quakertown was well represented that evening! The Strayer Players performed two songs from their upcoming musical Mary Poppins, under the direction of teacher Marcia Vanderslice and parent Karen Quinn, and then Strayer’s Messa di Voce performed two of their songs for this year’s program, under the direction of teacher Cynthia Teprovich.  QCHS teacher Laurie Stoudt provided numerous pieces of artwork for display in the Bensalem HS lobby.  It was a wonderful evening of celebration for arts programming across Bucks County schools. I heard many compliments on our student performances from my superintendent colleagues.

    School safety is front and center on everyone’s mind!  Early last week, I shared with you that David Fialko from the Council of Southeast Pennsylvania would be making a presentation on recent trends in drug abuse in the Quakertown Performing Arts Center Wednesday night.  His presentation was preceded by QCSD Pupil Services staff member Carrie Staffieri on Quakertown’s PA Youth Survey results for 2017. Quakertown’s PAYS Report is at the link. Thanks to our Lincoln Kaar’s students in QCHS TV Production Studio for filming both presentations for you.

    With today being Veterans Day, a hearty thank you to those who wear a uniform in defense of our country. Last Friday, several of our sixth graders traveled to Palisades Middle School for a Veterans Day event that rotates each year among the Upper Bucks districts. They were very fortunate to hear from Navy Rear Admiral Linda Wackerman, who was the guest speaker. Three of her children are Quakertown graduates, and one more is on his way. Here’s the story on our website that highlights her words to students.

    As I have mentioned before, we take very seriously the safety of our students and employees of Quakertown Community School District. Providing a safe and healthy environment for every student is a clear expectation of yours for us - as it should be!   One of the most common and unfortunate disruptions to the social, emotional and behavioral context in our schools is bullying. Bullying comes in many forms, and it often comes from the lack of understanding, respect, and tolerance for individual differences.  One of those differences are students that identify as LGBT.

    Recently, in Quakertown social media a few of our parents have commented on a perceived change of QCSD policy or practice regarding LGBT, specifically regarding transgender students. That is not the case.  Quakertown’s practice has not changed. In fact, school-based faculty and staff have worked closely with parents and transgender students for decades, ensuring their safety, respecting their rights, and providing social-emotional support.  With the prevalence of LGBT becoming more common across the world, QCSD brought in a consultant that conducted a professional development session for our principals, guidance counselors, and school psychologists. It was invaluable and timely!  In June 2018, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision to uphold the Boyertown Area School District policy that allows transgender students to use the school bathroom of the sex that the student identifies with. The Court’s decision is explicit in its justification, it is the law that QCSD must follow, and it’s been our practice for a very long time.  

    Finally, the Diversity Committee meets again tomorrow evening at 6:30 PM, in the District Support Center. Lots more to share on this, and the MLK National Day of Service in January a little bit later!

    Thank you for reading and I look forward to your feedback!

    Bill Harner

    Superintendent, QCSD

    WHarner@qcsd.org

    Twitter: @BillHarner

    Comments (-1)
  • Big issues to discuss: Selling schools, taxes, musical instruments, vaping and a level playing field

    Posted by Dr. Bill Harner on 10/28/2018 6:45:00 PM

    Good evening! Hope you had a relaxing weekend!  

    Last Thursday night, the School Board conducted a Finance Committee meeting, then its second Board Meeting of the month. There were important items that were discussed and subsequently voted on that I wanted you to share with you. The Board voted 7-2 to approve the contract to sell Milford Middle School (and its 39 acres) and Tohickon Valley Elementary School (and its 10.4 acres) to Faith Christian Academy for $900,000 and $1.1 million, respectively.  Faith Christian Academy now has 90 days to do its “due diligence” to complete its own feasibility study of the two facilities, then complete the purchase no later than March 31, 2019. Selling two old schools is a coup for any school district. I expect the Board will use the $2M from the sale to apply it to the renovation/expansion cost of Neidig Elementary School. Additionally, the $580,000 which was set aside in this year’s budget for the demolition of Milford MS will become a savings to the district.  

    Another item discussed and recommended by the Finance Committee, and subsequently approved 9-0 at the Board Meeting, was to “Opt Out” of Exceptions to the Act I Index for the next school year. The Act I Index for Quakertown for Fiscal Year 2019-20 is 2.7%. Making sound financial decisions that includes controlling expenses is so important to maintaining a healthy financial posture. To give you a balcony view of the district’s overall financial posture, please take a moment to review the PFM Budget Model. It’s a snapshot of the district’s financial health - where we’ve been, where we currently are, and how things are projected to look for us five years from now.  It assumes an Act I Index tax increase each year of 2.7%. Specifically, find the Total Expenditures row on the left column (reddish brown shaded area), then follow it across to columns for Actual 2017 and Estimated 2018.  You will find QCSD’s expenditures for both years, not yet finalized as the audit hasn’t been completed, were an estimated $104 million.  We expect to net more than $1 million from the 2017-28 school year to our Fund Balance.

    Another fiscal item the School Board approved Thursday night was the purchase of $65,000 worth of band instruments for our middle school students. While used high school instruments migrated down to middle school after the infusion of $265,000 worth of new instruments for the HS band program, the middle school had additional needs.  We heard from our teachers that transporting tubas home on the bus has been problematic, and a safety concern. So, we threw the net a little wider and ordered more than just tubas for the middle school band program.  Next year, all of our music programs will be in “Year Two of the Six-Year Curriculum Cycle” when music teachers will be refining and realigning their curriculum. Once Year Two work is completed, then additional funds will be allocated toward the music program’s needs. Our instrumental music teachers have provided top notch programs - concert, marching and jazz bands. In turn, the Board has done its part to keep the momentum going!

    A point of concern to us is the dramatic, if not alarming increase in the use of e-cigarettes and vaping - not only while at school, but out in the community. The most popular brand of vaping device in America is the Juul, which makes up 71 percent of the national market.  Juuls look like a small USB flash drive for a computer.  While vaping is medically safer for adults than smoking regular cigarettes, vaping still creates nicotine addiction, and vape devices are also used for smoking marijuana and other illegal substances. I encourage you to take the time to thumb through the 2017 PA Youth Survey report that summarizes what Quakertown secondary students - grades 6, 8, 10, 12, are self-reporting about their knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors towards alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use to help communities address root causes of antisocial behavior. Last spring, we invited David Fialko of the Council Of Southeast Pennsylvania to present at Parent Council about drug abuse and trends.  On November 7, at 6:45 PM, in the Quakertown Performing Arts Center, David will be back to do a reprise of his spring presentation. Additionally, Director of Pupil Services, Janet Pelone will provide a short presentation on the results from our PAYS survey. I encourage you to attend this important presentation!

    Finally, the Board unanimously approved a resolution that recommends the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association redesign postseason athletic competition, separating  boundary (traditional high schools) and non-boundary (parochial and charter) schools from each other in the playoffs. Already scores of other school boards across PA have supported a similar resolution. The PA Legislature, hopefully, will take note and direct the change to level the playing field.

    Thank you for taking the time to read.  I encourage you to share your feedback whenever you have the time.  We are most grateful for the opportunity to hear your perspective.

    Bill Harner

    Superintendent, QCSD

    WHarner@qcsd.org

    Twitter: @BillHarner 

    Comments (-1)
  • Potential 3-hour delay added to schedule, plus other key financial votes coming

    Posted by Dr. Bill Harner on 10/22/2018 6:45:00 PM

    Good evening!  Hope all is well and that you have your cold weather jackets ready for this week.  Things will actually be a bit fall-like or even winter-like in the near future!

    I recall that one year as a Pennsylvania superintendent (versus South Carolina), my first snow day call was on October 31 - Halloween.  Not knowing what Mother Nature will provide us, I would like to review Quakertown’s procedures for inclement weather calls - delayed start time, cancelation of school, or early release from school.  Ostensibly, the driving factor is the weather, though I get lots of input from students who follow me on Twitter and post their thoughts about delaying or canceling school!

    Primarily, I follow the weather situation through various news media and weather outlets, consult with Warren Levy of Levy School Bus Company and with the superintendents of Palisades and Pennridge School Districts. Warren usually drives the back roads of the school district and talks with various transportation directors in other districts at all points of the compass before providing me with his recommendation.  If the situation is a borderline decision, I go out driving myself the evening before and early morning before a decision is made.

    The two other Upper Bucks superintendents and I attempt to make the same decision because we share the Upper Bucks County Technical School. The Technical School’s start time depends on our collective decision. For me, the lowest common denominator in making a decision depends on whether I believe students - our youngest drivers - can safely navigate the roads to school. Oftentimes, if I could have one more hour of the sun on the roads and/or have the local and county road plowing crews out for another hour clearing/salting/sanding the back roads, we could get a school day in. Therefore, this year we have added a three-hour delay possibility.  Schedules for two and three-hour delays will be posted to our schools’ and district websites in the coming days.

    On Thursday of this week, the Board has three important voting items on their agenda.  The first is the annual decision on the high school’s Program of Studies. The Program of Studies outlines graduation requirements and all course offerings for students in grades 9-12. There are only a few changes for next year. The majority of the information presented is similar to previous years.  

    The second decision is to approve the contract for the sale of Milford MS and Tohickon Valley ES to Faith Christian Academy of Sellersville for $2 million (#8. A.). The Board approved entering into contract negotiations a few months ago for the sale of the two properties.  Our attorneys have been working since then on an agreeable contract. One of the provisions of the contract is that QCSD has the first right of refusal to purchase back the properties if they are placed on the market at some future time.

    The third agenda item that the Board will consider is to approve or not the “Opt Out of Exceptions” for the QCSD Budget for 2019-20  (#8,C.). In recent years, exceptions were valued up to $1 million. Next year’s exceptions are valued at approximately $100,000. With the elimination of the structural deficit by closing two school buildings and realigning staff due to declining enrollment, the district is in an excellent financial position. With an early Board decision on “Opting Out of Exceptions”, the Administration will formally have the Board’s guidance on budget development.

    As always, thank you for reading.  Please provide us with feedback and thoughts about issues that are important to you.

    Bill Harner

    Superintendent, QCSD

    wharner@qcsd.org

    @BillHarner

    Comments (-1)
  • Taking you behind the curtain for valuable look at enrollment, music curriculum

    Posted by Dr. Bill Harner on 10/3/2018

    Good evening!  

    Last Thursday evening, the School Board conducted its second meeting of the month.  After receiving an update on the Parent Safety Committee and the Diversity Steering Committee meetings, the Board and the Administration did a deep dive into the District’s 2018-19 Ten-Day Enrollment Report and how the Music Department fits into the Six-Year Curriculum Cycle. The combined discussions lasted for several hours, which we post for viewing after each meeting.  I believe these discussions were helpful in providing the context of previous Board decisions and recent actions by the Administration. Understanding what goes on “behind the curtain” may be valuable for your understanding of these two systems.

    Student enrollments drive so many facets of school and district operations, especially funding and staffing. The annual Ten-Day Enrollment Report is the first public look this year at class sizes across all schools. For decades - up until four years ago - we had “open areas” instead of hard boundaries for school assignment, to keep class sizes similar at each elementary school. This resulted in students from the same neighborhoods attending different schools.  The plan to eliminate open areas and keep neighborhoods together was approved by the Board after a parent Redistricting Committee spent months studying the issue and made a recommendation to the Board. Except for the reassignment of Tohickon Valley ES students to other elementary schools this summer as a result of the building closing, the five-year commitment to the 2014 Redistricting Plan has remained intact.

    The declining trend in student enrollment in Quakertown is expected to continue for at least another five years.  In fact, the current birth rate across our six municipalities is continuing to go even lower. For the sixth year in a row, elementary enrollment significantly decreased - a total of 350 students. This year alone, we have 87 fewer elementary students than last year.  By closing an elementary school and re-assigning students fairly evenly across the remaining schools following the Reassignment Committee plan, we have nine fewer regular education classroom sections, with class sizes increasing by 1 student on average. These hard boundary lines, however, created disparities at some grade levels.  

    Our current fifth-grade class is the last of the large grade level classes with 410 students. Over the next five years, as these students move up from one grade level to the next, we expect to have another 350 fewer students in the district than today, with nothing on the horizon to change that downward trajectory. With the possibility of new home construction only happening in Richland Township, and that being limited, this begets at least a few questions about the future.  First, what does teacher staffing and class size look like moving forward? Second, what does it look like to optimize the use of our school facilities?

    Answers to both questions are ultimately Board-level decisions.  However, with the loss of teaching and administrative staff positions through attrition resulting from the closing of two school buildings - two key strategies that closed our $4.7 million structural budget deficit - we find ourselves on sound financial footing.  Therefore, it is the Administration’s intent to retain teaching staff to reduce class size beginning at the elementary level, as student enrollment continues to decline. Next year, before the Neidig ES renovation and expansion project is completed, we expect to form another Parent Redistricting Committee to review the possibilities of how to optimize the use of our facilities from 2020-21 and beyond.  

    During the first Board meeting in September, a few Board members had questions about how the Administration was planning to utilize the new Music teaching position that the Board approved in June during Final Budget discussions. This was not a position that the Administration requested for this academic year nor is it needed to sustain our Music Department programs or level of support.  Adding the new Music position came from a Board member’s motion before the Final 2018-19 Budget was approved in June. Therefore, during the Superintendent’s Report last week, we took the opportunity to follow up with answers to their questions with an in-depth presentation.

    Some of you may be familiar with “design thinking” in the business world.  In education, as a significant part of our systems creation and development, we use “backwards by design” - a beginning with the end in mind, backwards planning, and other educational modeling techniques.  On Thursday night, we provided a detailed briefing on the Six-Year Curriculum Cycle, how it relates specifically to the Music Department, and background documentation that captures the awesome level of support for the music program by the Board and Administration over the past five years.  Currently, Music Department funding and support is second-to-none in the district. With the Six-Year Cycle, the Music Department is up next year for curriculum development, then funding for their K-12 programs will follow.

    On BoardDocs, we provided the School Board several Music Department related reports that include staffing levels and growth in annual budgets, along with one-time expenditures that greatly exceed any other content area/department in the district.  It is important to note that Music Department staffing was steady for seven years until two schools were closed and enrollment declined precipitously.  Since there was serious music community interest to add another band teacher at the elementary level, we provided student-instrumental music teacher ratios.  These ratios depict that we are comfortably staffed to the point of having unprogrammed time in many teacher schedules.  Therefore, with the expectation by the Board to add a music teacher, I decided to begin to offer string instrument instruction this year as a part of our Instrumental Music Program.  The Six-Year Implementation Plan is also on Board Docs.

    As mentioned in a previous “Super Blog,” the new music teacher will be teaching string instruments at all five elementary schools.  The new teacher, Megan Edinger, is scheduled to begin with us in November once she is released from her current teaching contract.  Students can begin to rent/purchase instruments now and will be able to begin instruction as soon as Ms. Edinger begins with the district.  We are also exploring possible after-school sessions by Ms. Edinger in October/November for students who want to get started sooner.  More information about this will be sent out in the coming weeks.

    I hope you will take some time to review the detailed planning “behind the curtain” for our recommendations and actions that support our mission to prepare all students with the knowledge, habits, and skills they need to graduate ready for college or career and for engaged citizenship, all at the best value to our community.

    Thanks for reading!  As always, your feedback is greatly appreciated.

    Bill Harner

    Superintendent, QCSD

    Wharner@qcsd.org

    Twitter: @billharner

     

    Comments (-1)
  • Mark your calendars for important meetings on school safety, MLK Day of Service

    Posted by Dr. Bill Harner on 9/19/2018

    Good afternoon!  Hope that you are all having another great week!

    I would like to provide a reminder of two community committee meetings that are coming up real soon.  First, Thursday, September 20, at 6:30 PM is the initial Parent Safety Committee meeting that will be held in the District Service Center (DSC) at 100 Commerce Drive.  Then, next Monday, September 24, at 6:30 PM in DSC is the first meeting of the Diversity Steering Committee. Both meetings are open to the public. If you can not make the meetings, be assured that meeting minutes will be posted on the QCSD website after each meeting.  The work of both of these committees is of paramount importance to the safety, security, and culture throughout the district.

    As I mentioned in a blog last winter, we are inspired to begin a Martin Luther King Day of Service on his birthday this year, which will become an annual event in Quakertown. We plan to use Dr. King’s words as guidance as we plan to support organizations within Bucks and Lehigh counties on MLK Day in January. Yesterday, I attended a meeting with teachers, community leaders, and Dr. Finnerty to build upon discussions that started last school year. Students, teachers, and parents have already begun working to develop our plans. The school board enthusiastically supports this initiative.

    In the coming months, you will hear more about all of the service our students already provide in the community, receive information about possible service events in our area in which students might participate, as well as hear about a series of options available on MLK Day for which students and community members can volunteer. We look forward to sharing more with you in the future and look forward even more so to seeing you on January 21 in the community. If you would like to volunteer with us or have an organization for which you might like help, please email us at quakertownmlkday@gmail.com.   

    Thank you.  Have a wonderful evening.  

    Bill Harner

    Superintendent, QCSD

    Wharner@qcsd.org

    Twitter: @billharner

    Comments (-1)
  • Lots happening as we do our best to stay cool

    Posted by Superintendent Dr. Bill Harner on 9/9/2018 7:50:00 PM

    Greetings and Happy Sunday!  

    What a difference a few days makes when it comes to temperatures.  Fortunately, only two of our eight school buildings do not have air conditioning - Neidig and Quakertown Elementary Schools. The students from both schools had half-day schedules for the first three days of school.  Later in the afternoons, after students had been dismissed, classroom temperatures in some areas rose to over 90 degrees. Pfaff Elementary had a major HVAC control system overhaul this summer and had temperature and humidity adjustment issues we had to work through last week, but our awesome maintenance team worked through them. Hopefully, the fall weather is upon us and the floodwaters do not rise too high from the hurricane bearing down on the East Coast.

    The School Board has had two meetings this new academic year.  Last month, most of the Board’s discussions were about the Renovation and Expansion of Neidig Elementary, the selling of Milford MS and Tohickon Valley ES, and updates on other construction projects.  The Board voted to allow Neidig students, staff, and faculty to use to use Tohickon Valley ES for the 2019-20 academic year to speed up the construction project by half a year and save approximately $1 million.  Additionally, the Board authorized the Administration to sell Tohickon Valley and Milford to Faith Academy of Sellersville for $2 million. Three other maintenance projects that were completed this summer were the 6th Grade Center parking lots, replacing the Trumbauersville ES roof, and renovating the three bathrooms at Richland ES that were not included in the recent renovation project. The Board also received a presentation on student performance results on PSSAs, Keystone Exams, ACTs, SATs and Advanced Placement Exams for last academic year.

    As we begin the new academic year, we find ourselves in a much better place financially.  We virtually closed the projected $4.7 million structural deficit from the year before. This allowed us greater flexibility to make adjustments and reduce class sizes in two elementary schools before school started last week by adding additional teaching staff. After the 10th day of school we will be looking to see if any further adjustments are needed.

    One exciting development in teacher staffing is the addition of a beginning strings program in our elementary schools. During the spring of 2014, the School Board approved a Re-Staffing Plan that included full-day kindergarten, full-time guidance counselors, coding and elementary Spanish.  One staff position was set aside to start a strings program, which would have started last year. Due to the the structural deficit, the funds set aside for the position were used to balance the budget. This past June, during Final Budget discussions, the School Board added back a music position which will be used to add a strings music option for elementary students.  During elementary Back to School Night meetings this week and next, parents will get a chance to meet the teacher and sign their 4th- and 5th-grade students up for this music option.

    We also have two community committees this year which will begin their work this month - the Community School Safety Committee and the Diversity Steering Committee.  The Community School Safety Committee will have its first meeting on Thursday, September 20th. The first Diversity Steering Committee meeting will be on Monday, September 24th at 6:30 PM., and will continue the Welcome Workplace work we began last year.

    Thank you for reading!  Have a wonderful - and cooler - week.

    Bill Harner

    Superintendent, QCSD

    Twitter: @bharner

    Email: wharner@qcsd.org

    Comments (-1)
  • Welcome Back! Its Going to Be Hot This Week!

    Posted by Dr. Bill Harner on 9/3/2018

    Good evening!  Happy Labor Day!  We all hope that you and your child(ren) enjoyed the summer and are ready for school to begin tomorrow!  We certainly are! Over the summer our teachers, administrators and staff members attended workshops, refined plans and schedules, while our facilities team completed lots of projects across the district - including the complete repaving of two 6th Grade Center parking lots, upgrading bathrooms at Richland Elementary, and completely renovating the whole right side of the District Service Center building for our new 8-12th grade program called The Academy at Quakertown.   

    What is really cool for all of our students attending the high school is the new Panther Cafe. It is like having our own Starbucks (I am a really big fan) which will have lots of beverages and food items for sale for the entire high school community all day long. Chartwells, our food service provider, paid for the entire project, as a part of their renewed contract with the district.  And yes, Wawa will continue to be the coffee of choice for those who are interested, and booster clubs will have access to the facility to support evening and weekend activities.

    Tomorrow, and the rest of the week, we are expected to have record high temperatures and be very hot.  With the heat index, it could climb over 100 degrees! We still have two buildings, Neidig and Quakertown Elementary Schools without air conditioning. There are only a few select classrooms in those buildings with window mounted air conditioning units. Earlier today, our Facilities team checked all of our buildings to insure building HVAC systems were up and operational.  We are still working through the “punch list” at the high school, and know we have two rooms with issues, along with the front office area.

    Therefore, for safety reasons and planning purposes, tomorrow and the rest of the first week of school, I wanted to let you know.  We are considering and planning for the possibility of running only half day schedules for Neidig and Quakertown Elementary Schools. It all depends on the early morning temperatures and what is expected later each day. The final decision and notification to parents and staffs at these two buildings will be no later than 10:30 am each day. I truly apologize in advance for the inconvenience.

    In case you missed it last week, at the link is the newsletter for opening the new school year from the Board of School Directors.  Have a wonderful new school year. Welcome back!!!

    Bill Harner

    Superintendent, QCSD

    Twitter: @bharner

    Email: wharner@qcsd.org

    Comments (-1)
  • Heavy Board agenda tonight: Presentation on Neidig, votes on budget and School Resource Officer

    Posted by Dr. Bill Harner on 6/14/2018

    Good afternoon! Happy second day of summer!  Later this afternoon, the entire QCSD Administrative team will be completing the second day of Summer Leadership, Part I. We  are finishing up our Action Plans for next school year.

    I wanted to keep you all in the loop on a couple of things. Tonight, we have Facilities and Education Committee Meetings at 6 PM, followed by a School Board meeting at 7 PM. There is a lot that will be covered tonight. During the Facilities Meeting, we will be presenting proposals for facility changes to improve security at our schools, an update on the new Panther Cafe at QCHS - a Starbucks-like cafe that will be open throughout the school day - and a presentation on the Neidig Renovation Project, to mention a few.  The Panther Cafe is included in the cost of QCSD’s contract with Chartwells, our food service provider.

    During the School Board meeting, the Board will be voting on numerous items to get ready for next year - most importantly the Final Budget for the 2018-19 academic year. The motion on the floor is for a 4.2% tax increase, which includes the Act I Index of 2.8% plus a 1.4% portion of exceptions for special education and PSERS. The proposed tax increase will cover part of the increase in the cost of doing business.  These cost increases include salaries, $443K; PSERS, $652K; Healthcare, $762K; Capital Projects, $1M; Debt Service (Neidig Project), $441K; and Special Education, $799K; for a total of $4.1 million. This proposal includes using nearly $800K from the QCSD Fund Balance to balance the budget. The Board will also review the end of year Superintendent Goals '17-’18 Final Report and approve the degree of completion, and approve the Superintendent Goals for '18-’19, along with considering the approval of hiring a second School Resource Officer, who would be housed at Strayer MS.

    Several of you have asked about our work on diversity training and when we will form the QCSD Community Diversity Committee.  There has been a lot of work going on behind the scenes. Since late fall, we have been working with Pearl S. Buck International to create and implement The Welcome Workplace.  Administrative assistants, teachers, administrators, and the Board participated in the initial training and completed confidential Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI)  about their own personal views. Pearl S. Buck then followed up the surveys with one-on-one confidential discussions with every Board member and administrator. In mid-August, the entire QCSD Administrative team will participate in Summer Leadership, Part II, at the Pearl S. Buck offices in Dublin, Bucks County, for a two-day workshop on The Welcome Workplace.  When we get back into the school year, teachers who completed the confidential IDI this past spring will have the opportunity - if they choose - to sit down with a member of the Pearl S. Buck team to review their own individual survey. At the district level, one of our 2018-19 Superintendent Goals is to build on our Welcome Workplace work by creating a District Steering Committee to develop specific action plans for this year, and in September, we will have our first Community Diversity Committee meeting.

    Names continue to come in of parents interested in serving on the Community Safety Committee next year. As a reminder, please let your principal know if you are interested and they will add your name to the list.

    Every year, one of the Superintendent’s Goals is to improve Parent Engagement at the classroom, building and district levels.  One of the ways we already do this is the Panorama Family survey system.  As a reminder, if you have not completed the family survey this spring, please do so by Monday, June 18th. Your survey can be found at this link.  We are most grateful for your feedback.  

    Thanks you for reading.  The Board and I look forward to your feedback.

    Bill Harner

    Superintendent, QCSD

    wharner@qcsd.org

    Twitter: @BillHarner

    Comments (-1)