Online Registration, 'Imagine Learning' English, AP Test Costs and More
Remaining notes from a May 2 Baldwin-Whitehall School Board meeting.
Deborah A. Hindmarch, the Baldwin-Whitehall School District's information systems manager, formally suggested to the B-W School Board on Wednesday night that the district begin to utilize paperless options for enrolling children in its grade levels and in its particular courses.
Hindmarch specifically recommended entering into a three-year contract with SRC Solutions, Inc., of Dunmore, PA, at a cost of $20,346.75 for the first year and $14,768.50 each for the second and third years.
Hindmarch said that a partnership with SRC Solutions would save the district a little over $2,000 per year in paper and mailing costs, not to mention costs associated with the labor of sorting through physical paperwork. Digital enrollment would also save district families and employees hours of labor, she said.
In addition to requiring that enrollment be done digitally, the district's free-and-reduced lunch applications would also be made available online.
School board member Nancy Sciulli DiNardo expressed concern that some families may not have Internet access in order to take advantage of the SRC system, but Hindmarch said that a district kiosk would be made available to those families. And for those families that could not reach the kiosk, she said, paper forms would still be sent to them.
The board will decide at a later time whether or not to accept Hindmarch's recommendation, but that seems inevitable with no board members expressing dissatisfaction with the plan on Wednesday.
"This is where we need to go and want to go," board member Kevin J. Fischer said.
"We're moving into the 21st century," board President John B. Schmotzer said.
Virginia Deasy, the B-W School District's director of pupil services; and Darlene DeFilippo, the district's director of programs, made a joint presentation to the school board on Wednesday suggesting the implementation of a new reading program for students in grades 2-8.
Dr. Randal A. Lutz, who will assume the role of district superintendent on July 1, described the program—known as Imagine Learning—as one that would address English-reading deficiencies in Baldwin-Whitehall among special education students, English-as-a-second-language (ESL) students and low-performing readers.
Should the board enter into an agreement with Imagine Learning, the district would receive 250 student licenses for the program over three years at a cost of $116,000—starting in the fall of 2012. In addition, the district would receive, at no further cost, 85 student licenses to use over the next two summers (starting with the summer of 2012).
The district would use its summer licenses this year on students in kindergarten and first and second grades as a de facto trial for older students in the fall.
Because the district is expecting to receive around $134,000 in state contingency funds this year, using part of that money for an Imagine Learning agreement would mean no local dollars being spent on the program.
Deasy said that the 5-year-old software that Utah-based Imagine Learning offers is a "constantly evolving instructional program" with different languages added periodically.
She said that the software, which stresses vocabulary, phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency and comprehension, would be implemented as part of a student's classroom experience when necessary. She called the software "high-quality, scientifically based instruction," "explicit and systematic" and a "unique curriculum tailored to the needs of individual students."
DeFilippo said that the program's questioning formats are very similar to those found on Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) exams.
Deasy said that 33 different languages can be found among students in Baldwin-Whitehall's public schools.
"Any ESL student, after a year or two," said current district Superintendent Dr. Lawrence C. Korchnak on April 11, "is going to be tested (in the PSSA) the same way as a kid who's native here, and that is not fair. But that's the law."
Deasy said that Imagine Learning claims two years of reading growth for students in just one year of time.
"I'd be thrilled with one year," she said.
Click here for Imagine Learning's YouTube channel.
AP Test Costs
Edward Lippl, the senior class representative to the B-W School Board, has been lobbying for the district to reimburse Baldwin High School students for passing scores on Advanced Placement (AP) entrance exams.
After much board discussion—and persistence by Lippl—Schmotzer said on Wednesday night that the board will decide "once and for all" during its May 9 meeting whether or not the district will reimburse students for AP entrance exams taken during the 2011-12 school year and, for that matter, in coming years.
The district used to fund those exams with a grant of around $20,000 that came under former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell's Project 720 plan, which no longer exists.
Lippl has said that it would take about $16,000—a figure that he said that he got from B-W's Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education Dr. John D. Wilkinson—to cover the cost of the exams at Baldwin High.
The cost per entrance exam is $87.
Concern Over Art and Music Education Cuts
Whitehall Borough resident Aaron Booz, of 3181 Bel Air Dr., questioned Lutz during public comments time on Wednesday for the second straight board meeting about proposed cuts in district students' elementary art and music education.
District administration has proposed removing one day each of art and music classes for students in grades 2-5, a move that Booz said in an email on Thursday "may seem convenient now, but participation and skill level could be affected in the years ahead."
Booz continued by praising the recently wrapped-up Baldwin H.S. musical. "It always is (great)," he said, "and we love the band, the orchestra, the choir program. We love how the marching band plays and marches, and the reason those kids can do what they do—the reason they have those musical skills, and I'm less familiar with visual art, but I'm sure it's exactly the same—the reason they can do those things is because they learned those fundamental skills at a fundamental level in elementary music and art."
Lutz told Booz on Wednesday, "It's not something that I want to debate. Your facts are your facts."
Lutz said that he would speak to Booz in a non-public setting.
Lippl Added to Graduation Speakers List
Sciulli DiNardo made a motion near the end of Wednesday's meeting to allow Lippl to speak at the district's Class of 2012 commencement ceremony. The motion passed, 7-0, with board members George L. Pry and Ray Rosing absent.
"I've known Eddie Lippl since he's been in first grade," Sciulli DiNardo said. "He has had a profound impact on this board. He has advocated for (district) kids at every level, regardless of who they were or where they were, and I think that he's deserving to speak at graduation."
Because of a family matter, Korchnak was absent from Wednesday's meeting.
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