2008-09-24 / Local & State

So. Fulton Parents Outraged Over Sr. Class Field Trip

Students who did not meet adequate yearly progress in state testing excluded from Ocean City trip
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz STAFF WRITER

After writing a "Letter to the Editor" criticizing the administration and school board of the Southern Fulton School District on their recent decision to award certain members of the senior class with an out-of-state field trip, a Harrisonville area mom stood before the group to personally voice her displeasure.

Michelle Foor informed the board and administration her daughter and fellow senior classmates who were not allowed to attend a trip to Ocean City, Md., between September 7 and 9 were "discriminated against."

Accompanied at the September 16 meeting by her husband John and 17-year-old daughter as well as several other parents at the September 16 meeting, Foor elaborated among those left behind were kids suffering from special learning disabilities and students who may not be as academically advanced as others. Additional students, Foor stated, may achieve the honor roll each semester but may not fare as well during standardized testing.

"These kids are not created equal, but they work just as hard," said Foor.

Foor reminded the board that the trip, for those seniors who achieved adequate yearly progress or higher during PSSA testing in 2007-08, was funded by district taxpayers. An exact amount of the overall cost of the trip was not yet available through the administration as all receipts had not yet been submitted. The district, however, did pay for hotel accommodations and transportation bringing the guesstimate on district expenses to $4,000. Parents, Superintendent Ralph Scott confirmed, provided their children with money for meals and souvenirs.

Scott related the trip was proposed to the administration by members of the faculty before it was brought to the board for review and approval. The guidelines for participating in the trip were established as a "motivational tool" to encourage the students to try their best during the PSSA testing, which is imposed through the federal and state governments. Schools choosing not to participate in the testing are, in turn, not eligible to receive much-needed federal funding.

In addition to grading a school district on testing participation rates, other benchmarks entering into play in annual PSSA testing are overall improvement or proficiency in both reading and math, attendance and graduation rates.

Scott further elaborated that the district has increased its spending on special education students from $400,000 to $1.26 million in the last six years. "We are allocating resources to these children to help them pass these tests," concluded Scott.

In light of the Foor family obtaining legal counsel and filing formal complaints with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, state Auditor General Jack Wagner, Pennsylvania State Board of Education and the Bureau of Special Education, little comment was provided by the board or administration on the matter.

Transportation

A request from contractor Glenn Ward for a two-year contract extension for bus route 12 was met with an 8-1 roll-call vote. Board member John McKee dissented. Ward related to the board his 72-passenger, 1999 Blue Bird bus was previously utilized on the extracurricular activities route and currently has 139,000 miles. By continuing to use it on route 12 through the conclusion of the 2010-2011 school year, it would log an additional 30,000 miles.

Board member Danny Crouse stated based on Ward's good track record with the district, which spans 39 years, he should be awarded the extension. Fellow board member Kenny Wuertenberg reminded those on hand that the board has endured both good and bad experiences by granting extensions.

Continuing its ongoing debate on the enactment of a fuel adjustment clause, the board again discussed at length the financial ramifications rising fuel costs have had on the district and contractors.

Board member Ed Yates informed the group that due to the difference in area fuel prices, some local contractors are travelling to neighboring Bedford County where they are filling portable tanks with fuel at the popular Road Kill Cafe. He also added something needed to be done one way or another to aid the contractors.

Patrick Bard noted by giving the contractors money they don't have, they could be opening up a Pandora's box but should be given something. Following Bard's recommendation of a one-time only, up-front payment, the board unanimously granted a 30-cent-per-gallon (based on six miles per gallon) lump-sum payment to each contractor. The payments will cost the district an estimated $11,500. The motion to grant the distribution of the additional monies is contingent upon the contractors signing a memorandum of agreement acknowledging the deal is for one-time only.

M&C Lumber Co. Inc. will be providing afternoon transportation services for prekindergarten students to the elementary school at a daily rate of $100. The contract is effective retroactive to September 8.

Personnel

With board members Yates and Crouse voting against the measure, the board approved Ryan Ickes to serve as an elementary teacher effective September 8. Ickes' salary was accordingly set at $35,683, which equates to step one on the salary scale.

Pending the completion of paperwork, the following substitute teachers were approved for the current 2008-09 school year: Holly Stambaugh, Christy Boehme, Deborah Cooper, Rachelle Rowles, Diane DeMarco, Hope Kephart and Jessica Grove.

Curriculum

Extended Family Program was authorized to serve as the district's provider for alternative education through Act 48. In the meantime, Manito will be providing services to students needing help through the Student Assistance Program (SAP). The services of Manito will be offered at no cost to the district.

A contract with Vision Quest, which recently took over the There's Room In The Inn facility located in Buck Valley, was accepted retroactive to August 19. Vision Quest provides services to adjudicated female juveniles.

Children enrolled in kindergarten through second grade are now eligible to participate in the Child Evangelism Fellowship Bible Release at the Needmore Bible Church.

New high school Principal Meredith Hendershot informed the board a total of 21 high school students are participating in the dual enrollment English 101 class offered through Allegany College of Maryland. As a result of funding received, the district is paying for the full cost of course tuition and books for all students and may possibly reimburse parents for registration fees. Allegany College is supplying a teacher for the course, which is held three days weekly during first period.

In speaking on the issue, Superintendent Scott noted that the union representatives for the Southern Fulton Education Association "did not cooperate one iota" and resisted the district's efforts with the dual enrollment program. Board member Richard Mosemann added "it was shame" as some faculty members were in favor of helping.

Finance

An agreement was established with F&M Trust that will be providing Repo Sweep Account services to the district.

Policy

The second reading of Policy 906, Community, Public Complaints, was approved as was the second reading of multiple program related policies.

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