As the new year begins in the Palisades School District, new features are evident as responses to concerns voiced by activist parents during the last term.
Among new full-time staff additions, a new full-time guidance counselor has been added at Durham Nockamixon Elementary School, and she was introduced at the Sept. 4 public school board meeting.
Parents had voiced concern about staff hours management by the superintendent and her staff, where fractions of teacher and counselor time were assigned to key roles and tasks, vs. full-time assignment. Increased use of that traditional tool, for helping to minimize staff budgeting, had made many parents nervous about the district maintaining its commitment to high-quality teaching and support services.
At the Aug. 21 school board meeting, in response to a request from Board Treasurer David Haubert, for staff to consider new initiatives to promote the district’s excellence, toward new families considering moving in within its borders, Superintendent Bridget O’Connell noted that staff was already moving in that direction, with a new feature on the district website called “Points of Pride.”
During the recent two-year discussion of possibly closing one or more school buildings as a response to declining enrollment, which has been tabled indefinitely, parents had repeatedly called for the district to do more to try and attract new families.
Hindering the response were limitations on what a public school district is permitted to do in that regard, as contrasted with the freewheeling, taxpayer-supported advertising by privately-owned charter schools. School board members have complained bitterly about that as one part of an urgent need for reform of charter school funding and oversight.
During his Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) liaison report at the Sept. 4 meeting, Board President Bob Musantry said there was no new action by the state Legislature on that need, while discussion on the need for reform had expanded to a review of what charter schools had originally been established to accomplish, as contrasted with how their industry has developed.
Critics have noted that one key objective was to provide an opportunity to try out new ideas and innovations, without the need for as lengthy an approval process that is required by public schools.
Also at the Sept. 4 meeting, the board approved a flat fee for architectural services, not as a percentage of construction costs, for the Palisades High School science wing renovation, and also approved a not-to-exceed budget for replacing the abandoned building eyesore on School Drive with a new storage facility for the district.
Local organizations and projects benefiting from the Aug. 27 annual Community Service Day by the district’s 300 employees included Route 412 Cleanup, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Delaware Canal State Park, Durham Township, Haycock Ministries, Lake Nockamixon Trails, Last Chance Ranch, Lord’s Pantry, Ottsville Fire Company, Peyton Heart Project, School Gardens, Silver Creek AA, Springfield Fire Company, St. Luke’s Hospital, Stop the Bleed, Tinicum Civic Association, Veterans’ Letters, and Worthwhile Warehouse.