The following letter was submitted by Marple Newtown School Board member John McDevitt.
As all these emails circulate concerning the budget among other things throughout the district, all involved need to take a step back and let the school board do their job as the season gets underway for the 2013-14 budget process. Before I start on instrumental music, curriculum and budget cuts, let me first point out a few things.
For the first time in recent history, this board and our teachers union have a tentative agreement eight months before the expiration of the current contract. We are all confident that this two-year deal will be ratified by the union and our teachers will be signed through the 2015 school year. I am very proud to be part of a process where a school board and union worked so closely with such respect for one another, and never losing sight of what it is all about: the kids.
There will be an open house on Saturday, Dec. 1, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the high school. Tours will start every 15 minutes. We hope you can come and we know this was a tough time to pass along the debt service to the taxpayer and we were hell bent on making sure value for every dollar spent was returned.
Our tax increase for the current school year was zero (0%). Newtown Township Manager Mike Trio and the Newtown supervisors worked with us every step of the way to stretch that dollar even farther. As Marple Township Commissioners President Mike Molinaro stated recently at the ribbon cutting ceremony at the high school, the bids were favorable due to the recession and we were able renovate the desperate community center and administrative offices.
We borrowed the money for capital improvements, which cannot be returned and must be spent on capital improvements. Local political leaders were also instrumental in obtaining a $1 million grant as well for the administrative offices.
As far as the budget is concerned, most board members are beginning the process as the board reorganizes on Dec. 3rd for the 2013 year. All are concerned with finding the correct balance between the cost and “hitting target spending” that truly elevates our level of education, versus the realities of today’s continued economic problems for so many people, including our greatest generation. It is a difficult balance and the school board represents all concerns of all citizens in this community.
As far as instrumental music is concerned, the first of I heard of it this year was when the superintendent was asked at the last budget meeting to discuss the tasks of some of her committees. To me, this is just like the budget starting point of the past to drop 9th grade sport. Not going to happen.
We just spent millions of dollars improving our band appearance, equipment and facilities. I hope the band doubles in size. More than ever, today’s youth, in addition to academics, must find their niche to where opportunity, hard work, commitment and competition equal success. This is why athletics, bands, clubs and music play such a prominent role in one’s development and why all school districts should provide such activities. These are life lessons.
No one has talked to me about personnel cuts. No one has talked to me about program cuts. Truth is, we just came off a budget where we were $2.5 million in the black and the money was transferred to the capital fund. We know we have the healthcare and pensions issues right around the corner, but if we can find the way to bring back programs that were cut a few years ago, we will. Now, that has been discussed with me.
I know our board president likes to think out loud sometimes like he did at the last budget meeting. It annoys me too. He is brutally honest at times. He would rather come back to you with good news. He is driven to get things down. The high school would not be renovated without his tireless efforts nor would we be financially positioned as we are today.
With his kids and grandkids, he has coached over 120 youth sport teams in this community. He gets it. His education has led him to great success. He is all about the kids. He would be the first to bring back valuable programs faster than you may think. He has led this board for five years and if all government was ran the way your $67 million school district has been run; the financial future would be brighter for our future, the youth of our community.
School Board Director
Facilities and Transportation Chair
Marple Newtown School District