May 2019 Newsletter

News from the Superintendent …

Each year it seems as if the school year goes by faster and faster, but unfortunately, that same perception does not hold true for the state budgeting process in Harrisburg. Since Governor Wolf delivered his budget address in February, there has not been much news coming from the state capitol on the progress of the state budget. Articles have been written in many newspapers across the Commonwealth on how it should be a more straightforward budget process than in previous years and how the two sides are not that far apart, but with the deadlines fast approaching for school districts, this is not enough information. Except for Pennsylvania’s substantial school districts, most school districts have to have a preliminary budget adopted before May 31st and a final budget adopted before June 30th. As of right now, the Governor is calling for a $200,000,000 increase for the Basic Education Subsidy, Susquehanna Community’s largest funding source. If this passes, SCSD would receive a Basic Education Subsidy increase of $117,759.00, but if the more realistic $100,000,000 Basic Education Subsidy increase occurs, the district’s increase will be approximately $58,800.

As the district approaches the end of its budgeting process in preparation for the May passage of a preliminary budget, the district’s expenses will far exceed its revenue even if the larger Basic Education Subsidy increase amount passes. This is primarily due to a huge increase in commercial cyber charter costs during the 18/19 school year and expected out-of-district tuition costs for the 19/20 school year. The 18/19 cyber charter tuition costs increased by over $130,000 over the 17/18 rates and the expected increase for tuition to the Susquehanna County Career and Technical Center for the 19/20 school year over the 18/19 school year is approximately $495,000. Tax increases and increases in the Basic Education Subsidy cannot cover these rising costs alone. Deficit spending will occur, as it has the past two years, due to these two factors along with increases in salaries, benefits, and the PSERS contribution rates.

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News from the High School Principal …

The end of the school year is quickly approaching and will be here before we know it. This time of year marks one of the busiest times of the school year with numerous events taking place.

I am incredibly pleased to be able to announce that Pride and Polish will include the entire high school student body. Last year, the Student Council was only able to secure enough volunteer placements for one hundred and fifty students to complete a morning of community service. This year the community has stepped up to the plate, and we will now be able to offer every student in grades 7-12 a volunteer placement for the morning of May 23, 2019. I want to commend our Student Council representatives for the work that they put into making this event a success. Pride and Polish is an event that is planned and carried out entirely by our students. Their dedication, organization skills and ability to reach out to our community to secure these volunteer placements is impressive.

Final exams will start in the high school on June 4, 2019, and run through June 10, 2019. Students’ final day of school for the 2018-2019 school year will be June 11, 2019. There will not be any final exams scheduled for this day; rather, it will serve as a final exam makeup day. As a reminder, final exams account for ten percent of a student’s grade and are a reliable indication of the material that was mastered over the year. Students should begin studying for these exams early in May.

The end of the school year also means that we send off another graduating class. The Class of 2019 has proven themselves within the high school setting and will now face the challenges that await. Please join us in celebrating our students on Class Night and Graduation. Class Night has been scheduled for June 7, 2019, and will be held in the high school gym at 6:30 PM. Graduation has been scheduled for June 15, 2019, at 11:00 AM.

 

News from the Elementary Principal…..

In November 2018, Governor Wolf launched part of his PA smart initiative with $30 million in grants to invest in Computer Science (CS) and STEM within school districts. The administrative team jumped on this opportunity and applied for the $35,000 PA smart grant. Recently, we were awarded the grant to initiate CS within our school district as we have no current computer science courses within the elementary and only a few within the high school. Part of the money awarded will go for professional development (PD) training to prepare two elementary and two high school teachers to implement the curriculum in the computer science field. The majority of the money the district receives will be used to purchase software and hardware to implement the curriculum.

So why CS and STEM? According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, there were nearly 8.6 million STEM jobs in 2015 with CS making up about 45% of those jobs. Also, these STEM occupations had wages above the national average in nearly all cases. The future is also bright for CS and STEM as growth is predicted to continue to exceed the national average especially in CS where nearly 500,000 new jobs are predicted by 2024 and another 500,000 jobs b/c of retirement, etc. The only other field with predicted growth like that is the medical field, with most attributed to growth in personal care aides as the elderly population increases.

Susquehanna Community School District is excited to be able to offer more STEM-related courses and opportunities for students, especially during their elementary years where that spark can be first ignited. The plan will be to implement CS modules in all grades in the elementary through their specials classes, as well as in grades 5 and six science. This summer two elementary educators will receive PD training that will ensure our students get quality instruction in CS and STEM. Some of the possible options for integration include OSMO, BeeBots, OzoBots, Code.org, Scratch, and Google CS First. These are a mix of computer-based and hands-on applications that will surely get the students excited and ready for 21st-century careers. By linking these to the curriculums already in place, especially in math and science, it will allow students to see the how and why of learning as we all know learning occurs faster through an application.

Susquehanna Community will continue to strive to provide the best, most relevant education possible for our students preparing them to become productive members of society. We will accomplish this by continuing to provide professional development for staff and be open to change, adapting when and where necessary.

News from the Supervisor of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment….

My time here at SCSD is fast coming to an end as I have decided it is time for me to retire and move on to the next chapter in my life which as the saying goes …is yet to be written.

I will value so many things from my time here at SCSD but perhaps the one I value most is that the district gave me the opportunity to start my career in education when I was hired to fill a one-year teaching position as a math teacher and then, when I thought I would have to go somewhere else, I was hired for a full-time job at Susquehanna. I was thrilled to remain here at SCSD and teach, and have spent all but two of my 26 years in education here.

I’ve been given the opportunity to interact with so many students outside the classroom through my coaching of Golf, seventh & 8th-grade Girls Basketball, Baseball, and After-School SAT prep classes. Additionally, I was the SADD advisor and fondly remember the “after prom” trips to Canada and Baltimore, to name a couple. This gave me the chance to know students on a different level, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

I want to thank all the students, parents, staff, teachers, administrators and board members I have had the opportunity to work with for all the support and dedication given to me during my time at SCSD. I will always cherish my memories of being part of the Susquehanna Community School District. I may have started as a Carbondale Area Charger, but I can honestly say “Once a Saber, always a Saber!”

Thank you!

Mark Gerchman