School board moves to make curriculum cuts

April 26, 2011|By JENNIFER FITCH |

WAYNESBORO, Pa. — The Waynesboro Area School Board passed a resolution Tuesday night that would allow it to make significant changes to its curriculum.

The board will send documents to the Pennsylvania Department of Education seeking permission to make cuts in several programs, including foreign languages, physical education and health, technology education, and family and consumer science.

Some board members described the resolution as a starting point for future budget discussions and emphasized they're not bound by the proposals. Others said they couldn't vote "yes" for the initiative in good faith.

"This is going to kill our community because we're not giving our children the best education we can," board member Bonnie Bachtell said.

"We're not going to fill a $1.9 million deficit with hope and pixie dust," board member Billie Finn said.

The anticipated $1.9 million deficit in the 2011-12 budget would exist after six teaching positions and two support staff positions are cut. Contributing to the deficit is Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett's proposed budget, which returns K-12 public education funding to 2008-09 levels.

Because of state restrictions, the school board is limited in the amount by which it can raise taxes. For 2011-12, the board could raise property taxes by up to 6.49 mills.

A mill represents $1 of every $1,000 assessed property value. In the Waynesboro Area School District, the average cost per mill is $17.11 for property owners.

Board member K. Marilyn Smith said she's concerned because of talk in the legislature about removing exemptions that allow school districts to raise taxes beyond an inflationary index. Without exemptions, Waynesboro would be limited to 1.51 mills without voter or court approval.

Voting in favor of the resolution were Smith, Finn, Firmadge Crutchfield, Edward Wilson, Chris Lind and Leland Lemley. Voting "no" were Bachtell, Pat Heefner and Sherry Cline, who told the superintendent his document did not incorporate her requests.

During a public comment period in Tuesday's meeting, teachers, students and residents urged the school board to preserve various programs.

Family and consumer sciences department chairwoman Phyllis Deatrich said her classes build foundations for positive human relations, good nutrition, financial skills and child development practices.

"These courses are meaningful to our students," she said.

Health and physical education teacher Tara Engle said Waynesboro joins the rest of the nation in an obesity crisis leading to diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol in young people.

"Our district students are in trouble," Engle said, saying in-school physical education classes are sometimes the only exercise a student has.

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