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Bangor Area School Board mulls changes amid budget discussions

By Joe McDonald, WFMZ.com Reporter, news@wfmz.com
Published On: Jan 20 2014 11:12:41 PM CST
Bangor Area school board meeting
BANGOR, Pa. -

Faced with a new Department of Education policy linking students’ success in the classroom to how teachers are graded in performance reviews, Bangor Area School District officials Monday night said they are eyeing a number of changes.

Superintendent Frank J. DeFelice said district administrators are trying to look outside the box, but no decisions were made at the board’s work session.

Among the possible changes he said administrators are looking at is a redesign of elective courses the district offers, possibly the days those classes are offered.
“It’s complex,” DeFelice said.

Adding to the complexity is the fact that the district does not know how much funding it will receive from the state while it tries to comply with the new teaching policies and compose a balanced budget.

Business Manager Steve Wiencek said administrators have identified some programs that could “possibly be redesigned” but he declined to elaborate.

Another potential change involves what is called “block” scheduling of classes, a practice that means some students go about a year between one math class or one science class at the next.

Pressed for what changes the district has in mind, Wiencek said: “I can’t give you an answer because I don’t have it yet.”

Wiencek is preparing a preliminary budget, which should be ready by February. The board has indicated it wants to cap any possible tax increase at 2.7 percent, or 1.4 mills.

Looking back at last year’s financial decisions, DeFelice said he believes the district made a big mistake when it canceled summer school for students in kindergarten through sixth grade.

“Some children, in my opinion, those students took a step back,” DeFelice said. “I think that hurt some kids in elementary school.”

He said the board should resume summer school “if we can afford it.”

The new student-teacher policy was explained to the board by Joe Kondisko, the district’s director of curriculum.

Kondisko outlined the key elements of the new “student learning objectives” program and “educator effectiveness” component to the board.

“The goal is to improve student’s performance,” Kondisko said.

School Board Director Bob Cartwright repeatedly pointed out the high school’s generally poor ranking in the state, placing 358th out of 676.

Kondisko said the program is “connected, not contingent” to Common Core, the statewide standards for education that some have criticized.