Since I announced my retirement in October, I have been asked on a number of occasions what advice I might offer to individuals considering a career in education during these challenging times. As l close my office door for the final time in June 2017 after 38 years in education, I can reflect on three pieces of advice to offer. Hopefully, they can help as people consider entering and remaining in this very rewarding, yet demanding profession.
Recently, I had the opportunity to speak to students and staff members involved in the middle school’s mentor program at their year-end breakfast. As I look back on my years at CV before I retire later this summer, I wanted to share some stories about my mentors and how they played an important role in shaping my life. I thought it would be appropriate to share my remarks to the mentors and mentees. Best wishes to all for a safe and rewarding summer!
With my approaching retirement in June after 19 years as Superintendent of Conestoga Valley School District, I am looking back on my three decades at CV with fond memories and some lessons learned. Having over 30 years in school administration, there are two lessons that stand out for me, especially as I moved from building to district roles.
Last Friday, we recognized three individuals as “Distinguished Alumni” of Conestoga Valley. It is fitting that this event often falls close to National Teacher Appreciation Week (May 8 -May 12), since the induction ceremony is a great reminder of the impact our teachers and staff have on the lives of our students, both when they are in school and years after.
Though state lawmakers are looking at reforming Pennsylvania’s charter school law, some of the current proposals miss the mark, especially when it comes to tackling the problems surrounding cyber charter schools. While a bill currently making its way through the legislature is a good starting point, what is truly needed is legislation that levels the playing field when it comes to these online-only schools’ accountability and funding.
Conestoga Valley is currently in the process of working through a very tough budget for the next school year. Our Act 1 Index – or allowable percentage increase in property taxes set by the state – is 2.5%. Even with the allowable increase, CV is still facing a deficit that we are working hard to close. One of the ways CV can help offset this deficit is to not replace three positions at the middle school created by open positions or staff retiring at the end of this school year: geography, FCS and ISS. I invited Dr. Donovan Mann, our Director of Secondary Education, to explain a little more about how this process may work and how we plan to ensure students are receiving the education they need, even if these positions are not available.
There has been a lot of talk recently about the need to curb rising property taxes. Recently, the state Senate has discussed several proposals, including Senate Bill 406, which would require a two-thirds majority vote from a school board to approve the budget each year instead of a simple majority, and Senate Bill 76, which eliminates property taxes by increasing the state’s income and sales tax rates. Instead of focusing on how school districts raise revenue, I wanted to talk about a solution that could help address the expenses squeezing districts’ budgets: mandate relief.
For more than four decades, Conestoga Valley volunteers have made a difference in our schools. Our largest volunteer organization, Volunteers in Action (VIA), is a unique group of parent and community volunteers committed to supporting students, teachers, faculty and staff across the district. The group has a couple of events coming up in April that I wanted to highlight.