Athens Area School District

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Athens Area School District
Map of Bradford County Pennsylvania School Districts.png
Address
204 Willow Street
Athens, Pennsylvania, Bradford, 18810
United States
Information
Closed Mosherville Elementary School 6/2012
School board 9 elected members
Superintendent Douglas Ulkins M'Ed, ($116,372 salary 2009)
Specialist Kevin Rimmey, Business Manager
Principal Beth Schulze, AAHS Principal
Principal Scott Webster, Harlan Rowe JH Principal
Principal Donald Jones, SRU Middle School Principal
Principal Andrew Latchford, Burnham/Child/Ulster Principal
Principal Christine Sullivan, Lynch-Bustin Principal
Vice principal William Clark, AAHS Assistant Principal
Head teacher Jane Montague, Director of Educational Programs
Faculty 172 teachers in 2010
Grades Preschool-12
Age 4 years old to 21 years for Special Education
Pupils 2335 pupils 2010
Kindergarten 179
Grade 1 197
Grade 2 160
Grade 3 161
Grade 4 182
Grade 5 182
Grade 6 173
Grade 7 174
Grade 8 168
Grade 9 188
Grade 10 191
Grade 11 161
Grade 12 219
Other Enrollment to decline to 1800 pupils by 2020[1]
Mascot Wildcats
Budget $33,040,150 (2012-13)
Tuition For nonresident and charter school students ES - $8,091.55, HS - $12,373.85 [2]
Per Pupil Spending $12,733 (2008)
Per Pupil Spending $14,545.16 (2010)
Website

The Athens Area School District is a mid sized, rural, public school district which serves the Borough of Athens and Ridgebury Township, Athens Township, Smithfield Township, Ulster Township and Sheshequin Township in Bradford County, Pennsylvania. Athens Area School District encompasses approximately 178 square miles (460 km2). Per 2000 federal census data, the district serves a resident population of 15,533. According to District officials, in school year 2007–08 the Athens Area School District provided basic educational services to 2,343 pupils through the employment of 197 teachers, 100 full-time and part-time support personnel, and 15 administrators. Athens Area School District received more than $16.4 million in state funding in school year 2007–08. According to District officials, in 2009-10, the district provided basic educational services to 2,259 pupils. In 2010 it employed: 191 teachers, 101 full-time and part-time support personnel, and 12 administrators. Athens Area School District received more than $16.9 million in state funding for school year 2009-10.

In 2012, Athens Area School District restructured the schools to: W.R. Croman Primary School K-2; Troy Intermediate School 3-6; and Troy Area Junior/Senior High School 7-12.

The change was necessitated by steadily declining enrollment coupled with financial shortfalls. Since 2000 the district experienced a 348 pupil decline in enrollment. In particular, Ulster Elementary School and Harriet Child Elementary had exceptionally low enrollments. The Administration also reported a lack of teacher and program collaboration between elementary buildings. The Superintendent recommended a school realignment with school closings. The board chose to permanently close Mosherville Elementary School in April 2012.[3] In May 2011, the school board approved a plan to temporarily close Mosherville and Troy Elementary Center East and realign the remaining schools. The district operated seven schools in 2010, including Athens Area High School, Harlan Rowe Junior High School, SRU Middle School, Lynch Bustin Elementary School, Sheshequin Ulster Elementary School, Harriet Child Elementary School and Gladys Burnham Elementary School.

Academic achievement[edit]

Athens Area School District was ranked 367th out of the 498 ranked Pennsylvania school districts in 2012 by the Pittsburgh Business Times. The ranking was based on student academic achievement as demonstrated by the last three years of PSSA results in: reading, writing, mathematics and science.

  • 2011 - 367th [4]
  • 2010 – 348th[5]
  • 2009 – 352nd
  • 2008 – 338th[6]
  • 2007 – 340th out of 501 Pennsylvania school districts.[7]
Overachiever statewide ranking

In 2012, the Pittsburgh Business Times also reported an Overachievers Ranking for 498 Pennsylvania school districts. Athens Area School District ranked 311th. In 2011, the district was 299th. [8] The editor describes the ranking as: "a ranking answers the question - which school districts do better than expectations based upon economics? This rank takes the Honor Roll rank and adds the percentage of students in the district eligible for free and reduced-price lunch into the formula. A district finishing high on this rank is smashing expectations, and any district above the median point is exceeding expectations."[9]

In 2009, the academic achievement, of the students in the Athens Area School District, was in the 32nd percentile among all 500 Pennsylvania school districts Scale (0–99; 100 is state best)[10]

District AYP status history

In 2012, Athens Area School District declined to Warning AYP status due to lagging student achievement in 5 of its schools.[11] In 2011 and 2010, Athens Area School District achieved AYP status under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.[12] In 2011, 94 percent of the 500 Pennsylvania public school districts achieved the No Child Left Behind Act progress level of 72% of students reading on grade level and 67% of students demonstrating on grade level math. In 2011, 46.9 percent of Pennsylvania school districts achieved Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) based on student performance. An additional 37.8 percent of school districts made AYP based on a calculated method called safe harbor, 8.2 percent on the growth model and 0.8 percent on a two-year average performance.[13]

  • 2009 - Warning status in 2009 due to lagging student achievement.
  • 2006-2008 - achieved AYP
  • 2005 - Making Progress - School Improvement I [14]
  • 2004 - School Improvement I
  • 2003 - Warning status

Graduation rate[edit]

In 2012, Athens Area School District's graduation rate was 89%. In 2011, Athens Area School District graduation rate was 86%.[15] In 2010, the Pennsylvania Department of Education issued a new, 4-year cohort graduation rate. Athens Area High School's rate was 86% for 2010.[16]

According to traditional graduation rate calculations:

  • 2010 – 88% [17]
  • 2009 – 92% [18]
  • 2008 – 90%
  • 2007 – 90% [19]

Athens Area High School[edit]

Athens Area High School is located at 401 West Frederick Street, Athens. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2010, the school reported an enrollment of 558 pupils in grades 10th through 12th, with 172 pupils eligible for a federal free or reduced-price lunch. The school employed 44 teachers in 2010 yielding a student–teacher ratio of 13:1.[20] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 100% of its teachers were rated "Highly Qualified" under No Child Left Behind.[21]

In 2012, Athens Area High School was in Warning status.[22] In 2011, Athens Area High School improved to achieving AYP status.[23] Athens Area High School was in Making Progress: in School Improvement I status in 2010.[24] The school was in School Improvement I due to chronically low student achievement in 2009.[25] Under No Child Left Behind the school administration was required to notify parents of the poor achievement and offer to transfer the child to a successful school with in the District. Additionally, the Pennsylvania Department of Education required the administration to develop a plan for raising student achievement which had to be submitted for approval.

PSSA Results
11th Grade Reading:
  • 2012 - 68% on grade level, Boys 71%/Girls 64% (16% below basic). State - 67% of 11th graders are on grade level.[26]
  • 2011 - 68%, Boys 67%/Girls 68% (16% below basic). State - 69.1% [27]
  • 2010 – 59%, Boys 49%/Girls 70%, (19% below basic). State - 66% [28]
  • 2009 – 62%, Boys 57%/Girls 69%, (23% below basic). State – 65%
  • 2008 – 53%, State – 65%[29]
  • 2007 – 61%, State – 65%
11th Grade Math:
  • 2012 - 54% on grade level Boys 58%/Girls 50% (23% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 59% of 11th graders are on grade level.[30]
  • 2011 - 60%, Boys 66%/Girls 56% (23% below basic). State - 60.3% [31]
  • 2010 – 55%, Boys 56%/Girls 55%, (29% below basic). State - 59%[32]
  • 2009 – 58%, Boys 54%/Girls 61%, (19% below basic). State – 56% [33]
  • 2008 – 46%, State – 56%
  • 2007 – 48%, State – 53%[34]
11th Grade Science:
  • 2012 - 41% on grade level (12% below basic). State - 42% of 11th graders were on grade level.
  • 2011 - 42% (17% below basic). State - 40% [35]
  • 2010 – 39% (16% below basic). State – 39% [36]
  • 2009 – 42%, State – 40%[37]
  • 2008 – 29%, State – 40%[38]

College Remediation: According to a Pennsylvania Department of Education study released in January 2009, 23% of Athens Area School District graduates required remediation in mathematics and or reading before they were prepared to take college level courses in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education or community colleges.[39] Less than 66% of Pennsylvania high school graduates, who enroll in a four-year college in Pennsylvania, will earn a bachelor's degree within six years. Among Pennsylvania high school graduates pursuing an associate degree, only one in three graduate in three years.[40] Per the Pennsylvania Department of Education, one in three recent high school graduates who attend Pennsylvania's public universities and community colleges takes at least one remedial course in math, reading or English.

Dual enrollment[edit]

The high school offers a dual enrollment program. This state program permits high school students to take courses, at local higher education institutions, to earn college credits. Students remain enrolled at their high school. The courses count towards both high school graduation requirements and towards earning a college degree. The students continue to have full access to activities and programs at their high school, including the graduation ceremony. The college credits are offered at a deeply discounted rate. The state offers a small grant to assist students in costs for tuition, fees and books.[41] Under the Pennsylvania Transfer and Articulation Agreement, many Pennsylvania colleges and universities accept these credits for students who transfer to their institutions.[42] For the 2009–10 funding year, the school district received a state grant of $71,504 for the program.

Graduation requirements[edit]

The Athens Area School Board requires a minimum of 25 credits for graduation, including classes in Health and Physical Education, 4 credits in English, 3 credits in Science, 3.00 credits in Mathematics, 3.00 credits in Social Studies, and 10.00 credits in Pathways Electives.[43]

By law, all Pennsylvania secondary school students must complete a project as a part of their eligibility to graduate from high school. The type of project, its rigor and its expectations are set by the individual school district.[44] In ninth grade the students complete a career exploration activity, including giving a multimedia presentation. The student must also engage in 15 hours of community service and participate in career shadowing.[45]

By Pennsylvania State School Board regulations, beginning with the graduating class in 2016, students must demonstrate successful completion of secondary level course work in Algebra I, Biology, English Composition, and Literature for which the Keystone Exams serve as the final course exams. Students’ Keystone Exam scores shall count for at least one-third of the final course grade.[46]

SAT scores[edit]

From January to June 2011, 92 Athens Area High School students took the SAT exams. The district's Verbal Average Score was 488. The Math average score was 500. The Writing average score was 474.[47] Pennsylvania ranked 40th among states with SAT scores: Verbal - 493, Math - 501, Writing - 479.[48] In the United States, 1.65 million students took the exam in 2011. They averaged 497 (out of 800) verbal, 514 math and 489 in writing.[49]

Junior high school[edit]

In 2012, the middle schools were combined into a junior high school operated as part of the high school. In 2011, Harlan Rowe Junior High School achieved AYP status. SRU Athens Area Middle School SRU declined to School Improvement Status due to continuing low student achievement. In 2010, the school was in Warning status.[50]

PSSA Results:

8th Grade Science:

  • 2012 - 56% on grade level (21% below basic). State - 59% of 8th graders were on grade level.
  • 2011 - 50% (23% below basic). State – 58.3%
  • 2010 - 54% (24% below basic). State – 57%

Elementary schools[edit]

Lynch-Bustin Elementary School is located at 253 Pennsylvania Avenue, Athens. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2010, the school reported an enrollment of 601 pupils in grades kindergarten through 5th, with 284 pupils receiving a federal free or reduced-price lunch due to family poverty. The school employed 40 teachers, yielding a student–teacher ratio of 15:1.[55] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 100% of its teachers were rated "Highly Qualified" under No Child Left Behind.[56] In 2012, Lynch-Bustin Elementary School declined to Warning AYP status.[57] In 2011, Lynch-Bustin Elementary School achieved AYP status.[58] In 2012, only 59% of the students were reading on grade level in grades 3rd through 5th with 25% below basic. In math, 70% of the students in 3rd through 5th grades were on grade level and 39% scored advanced. In 4th grade science, 75% of the pupils were on grade level.[59]

Special education[edit]

In December 2010, Athens Area School District Administration reported that 411 pupils or 18.1% of the district's pupils received Special Education services, with 57.7% of identified students having a specific learning disability. In December 2009, the district administration reported that 417 pupils or 18% of the district's pupils received Special Education services.[60]

In 2010, the state of Pennsylvania provided $1,026,815,000 for special education services. The funds were distributed to districts based on a state policy which estimates that 16% of the district's pupils are receiving special education services. This funding is in addition to the state's basic education per pupil funding, as well as, all other state and federal funding.[61]

Athens Area School District received a $$1,383,146 supplement for special education services in 2010.[62]

For the 2011–12 school year, all Pennsylvania public school districts received the same level of funding for special education that they received in 2010–11. This level funding is provided regardless of changes in the number of pupils who need special education services and regardless of the level of services the respective students required.[63] In 2012-13 the district was again level funded by the Commonwealth.

Gifted education[edit]

The District Administration reported that 22 or 0.91% of its students were identified as gifted in 2009.[64] By law, the district must provide mentally gifted programs at all grade levels. Students identified as gifted attending the High School have access to dual enrollment with local colleges. The referral process for a gifted evaluation can be initiated by teachers or parents by contacting the student’s building principal and requesting an evaluation. All requests must be made in writing. To be eligible for mentally gifted programs in Pennsylvania, a student must have a cognitive ability of at least 130 as measured on a standardized ability test by a certified school psychologist. Other factors that indicate giftedness must also be considered for eligibility.[65]

Bullying and school safety[edit]

The Athens Area School District administration reported there were 12 incidents of bullying in the district in 2009. The administration also reported there were 4 incidents of sexual harassment and 2 arrests. Two students were assigned to alternative education.[66][67]

The district has not provided its antibullying policy online. All Pennsylvania schools are required to have an anti-bullying policy incorporated into their Code of Student Conduct. The policy must identify disciplinary actions for bullying and designate a school staff person to receive complaints of bullying. The policy must be available on the school's website and posted in every classroom. All Pennsylvania public schools must provide a copy of its anti-bullying policy to the Office for Safe Schools every year, and shall review their policy every three years. Additionally, the district must conduct an annual review of that policy with students.[68] The Center for Schools and Communities works in partnership with the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime & Delinquency and the Pennsylvania Department of Education to assist schools and communities as they research, select and implement bullying prevention programs and initiatives.[69]

Education standards relating to student safety and antiharassment programs are described in the 10.3. Safety and Injury Prevention in the Pennsylvania Academic Standards for Health, Safety and Physical Education.[70]

Preschool[edit]

Beginning in 2007, the district offered a taxpayer-funded preschool program. In addition to educational activities the program provided free meals and transportation to income eligible four year olds. The Gladys Burnham Elementary Schoo preschool program replicated the federally funded Head Start program which is locally available. The Pre K Counts state grant funded the program in part. In 2011, the program was ended due to local budget constraints.[71] For the 2011 school year, Pre-K Counts was funded at the 2010 levels of $83.6 million statewide in Gov. Tom Corbett`s proposed budget,. The state also supplements the federal Head Start preschool program with an additional $37.6 million. Pre-K Counts funding was initiated during the Rendell administration. In 2007-08 the state funded Pre-K Counts at $75 million. Athens Area School District received funding in 2007-08.[72] In 2009-10 the district received $118,500 to provide preschool to 15 children.[73][74]

Budget[edit]

In 2011, the average teacher salary in Athens Area School District was $64,736.80 a year, while the cost of the benefits teachers receive was $16,824 per employee, for a total annual average teacher compensation of $83,560.80.[75] According to a study conducted at the American Enterprise Institute, in 2011, public school teachers’ total compensation is roughly 50 percent higher than they would likely receive in the private sector. The study found that the most generous benefits that teachers receive are not accounted for in many studies of compensation, including: pension, retiree health benefits and job security.[76]

In 2011, the district's administration revised the curriculum and staffing to adapt to a decline in state and federal funding. The plan discontinued programs and decreased teacher staffing by 16 positions.[77][78]

In 2009, the district reports employing over 200 teachers with a starting salary of $42,968 with 187 days.[79] The average teacher salary was $62,018 while the maximum salary is $112,654.[80] As of 2007, Pennsylvania ranked in the top 10 states in average teacher salaries. When adjusted for cost of living Pennsylvania ranked fourth in the nation for teacher compensation.[81] The teachers work 7 hours 30 minutes, including a prep period and a paid 30 minute lunch period. Teachers are paid 1.5 times their salary for time worked past the contracted hours. Additionally, Athens Area School District teachers receive a defined benefit pension, health insurance, professional development reimbursement, a Group Income Protection Plan, 3 paid personal days, 10 sick days which accumulate, 2 paid alternate religious holidays, 5 paid bereavement days and other benefits. Teachers receive a terminal leave payment which includes payment for unused sick days. Retiring teachers can receive an up to $13,000 bonus. The district provides the teachers' union with 15 paid days to perform union business, including travel outside the district. The union pays for a substitute teacher.[82] According to State Rep. Glen Grell, a trustee of the Pennsylvania Public School Employees’ Retirement System Board, a 40-year educator can retire with a pension equal to 100 percent of their final salary.[83]

In 2007, the Athens Area School District employed 179 teachers and the average teacher salary in the district was $53,377 for 180 days worked.[84]

The district administrative costs in 2008 were $807.66 per pupil. This ranked 188th among Pennsylvania's 501 school districts. The lowest administrative cost per pupil in Pennsylvania was $398 per pupil.[85]

In 2008, Athens Area School District reported spending $12,733 per pupil. This ranked 193rd in the commonwealth.[86]

In January 2010, the Pennsylvania Auditor General conducted a performance audit of the district. The findings were reported to the school board and administration.[87]

The district is funded by a combination of: a local earned income tax 1.56%, a property tax, a real estate transfer tax 0.5%, coupled with substantial funding from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the federal government. Grants provide an opportunity to supplement school funding without raising local taxes. In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, pension and Social Security income are exempted from state personal income tax and local earned income tax, regardless of the income level.[88]

State basic education funding[edit]

In 2011–12, the district will receive $10,880,801 in state Basic Education Funding. This was a 5.42% increase in funding from the 2010–11 state BEF level.[89][90] Additionally, the district will receive $179,024 in Accountability Block Grant funding. The enacted Pennsylvania state Education budget includes $5,354,629,000 for the 2011–2012 Basic Education Funding appropriation. This amount is a $233,290,000 increase (4.6%) over the enacted State appropriation for 2010–2011.[91] According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 984 Athens Area School District students received free or reduced-price lunches due to low family income in the 2010–2011 school year.

For the 2010–11 budget year, Athens Area School District received a 2.92% increase in state basic education funding for a total of $11,644,363. In Bradford County, the highest increase went to Towanda Area School District which received an 6.36% increase in state funding. Two Bradford County school districts received the base 2% funding increase. One hundred fifty school districts in Pennsylvania received the 2% base increase for budget year 2010–11. The highest increase in the state was given to Kennett Consolidated School District of Chester County which was given a 23.65% increase in state funding.[92] The amount of increase each school district receives is determined by the Governor and the Secretary of Education through the allocation set in the budget proposal made in February each year.[93]

In the 2009–2010 budget year, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania provided a 3.97% increase in Basic Education funding for a total of $11,312,693. The state Basic Education Funding to the Athens Area School District in 2008–09 was $10,880,769.09. Seventy school districts in Pennsylvania received the minimum base increase of 2 percent. The highest increase in Bradford County went to Towanda Area School District which received an 8.43% increase. Muhlenberg School District of Berks County received the highest Basic Education Funding increase in Pennsylvania – an increase of 22.31 percent. Sixteen Pennsylvania school districts received an increase in funding of over 10 percent in 2009.[94] The amount of increase each school district receives is determined by the Governor and the Secretary of Education through the allocation set in the budget proposal made in February each year.[95]

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 949 Athens Area School District students received free or reduced-price lunches due to low family income in the 2008–2009 school year.[96]

Accountability Block Grants[edit]

Beginning in 2004–2005, the state launched the Accountability Block Grant school funding. This program has provided $1.5 ;billion to Pennsylvania’s school districts by 2011. The Accountability Block Grant program requires that its taxpayer dollars are focused on specific interventions that are most likely to increase student academic achievement. These interventions include: teacher training, all-day kindergarten, lower class size K-3rd grade, literacy and math coaching programs that provide teachers with individualized job-embedded professional development to improve their instruction, before or after school tutoring assistance to struggling students. For 2010–11, Athens Area School District applied for and received $485,916 in addition to all other state and federal funding. The funding was used pay for the extra teachers to provide all-day kindergarten for the 7th year.[97][98]

Education Assistance grant[edit]

The state's EAP funding provides for the continuing support of tutoring services and other programs to address the academic needs of eligible students. Funds are available to eligible school districts and full-time career and technology centers (CTC) in which one or more schools have failed to meet at least one academic performance target, as provided for in Section 1512-C of the Pennsylvania Public School Code. In 2010-11 the School District received $49,920.[99]

Classrooms for the Future grant[edit]

The Classroom for the Future state program provided districts with hundreds of thousands of extra state funding to buy laptop computers for each core curriculum high school class (English, Science, History, Math) and paid for teacher training to optimize the computers use. The program was funded from 2006–2009. Athens Area School District was denied funding in 2006–07. In 2007–08 the district received $215,494 in funding. For the 2008–09, school year the district received $45,413. Of the 501 public school districts in Pennsylvania, 447 of them received Classrooms for the Future grant awards.[100] In Bradford County the highest award was given to Troy Area School District which received $449,423. The highest funding state wide was awarded to Philadelphia City School District in Philadelphia County - $9,409,073. In 2010, Classrooms for the Future funding was curtailed statewide due to a massive state financial crisis.

PreK Counts grant[edit]

Athens Area School District receives state funding to provide preschool at the elementary schools. For the 2011 school year, Pre-K Counts was funded at the 2010 levels of $83.6 million statewide in Gov. Tom Corbett`s proposed budget,. The state also supplements the federal Head Start preschool program with an additional $37.6 million. Pre-K Counts funding was initiated during the Rendell administration. In 2007-08 the state funded Pre-K Counts at $75 million. School District received funding in 2007-08.[101] In 2009-10 the district received $118,500 to provide preschool to 15 children.[102][103]

Federal stimulus grant[edit]

The Athens Area School District received $3,749,755 in ARRA – Federal stimulus money to be used in specific programs like special education and meeting the academic needs of low-income students.[104][105] The funding was limited to the 2009-10 and 2010-2011 school years.[106] Due to the temporary nature of the funding, schools were repeatedly advised to use the funds for one-time expenditures like acquiring equipment, making repairs to buildings, training teachers to provide more effective instruction or purchasing books and software.

Race to the Top grant[edit]

School district officials did not apply for the Race to the Top federal grant which would have brought the district hundreds of thousands of additional federal dollars for improving student academic achievement.[107] Participation required the administration, the school board and the local teachers' union to sign an agreement to prioritize improving student academic success.[108] In Pennsylvania, 120 public school districts and 56 charter schools agreed to participate.[109] Pennsylvania was not approved for the grant. The failure of districts to agree to participate was cited as one reason that Pennsylvania was not approved.[110]

Common Cents state initiative[edit]

The Athens Area School District School Board participated in the Pennsylvania Department of Education Common Cents program. The program called for the state to audit the district, at no cost to local taxpayers, to identify ways the district could save tax dollars.[111] After the review of the information, the district was not required to implement the recommended cost savings changes. The report found multiple opportunities for savings.[112]

Real estate taxes[edit]

Athens Area School Board set the property taxes rate at 46.41 mils for the 2012–13 school year.[113] A mill is $1 of tax for every $1,000 of a property's assessed value. Property taxes in Pennsylvania apply only to real estate – land and buildings. The property tax is not levied on cars, business inventory, or other personal property. Certain types of property are exempt from property taxes, including: places of worship, places of burial, private social clubs, charitable and educational institutions and government property. Irregular property reassessments have become a serious issue in the commonwealth as it creates a significant disparity in taxation within a community and across a region. Additionally, service related, disabled US military veterans may seek an exemption from paying property taxes. Pennsylvania district revenues are dominated by two main sources: 1) Property tax collections, which account for the vast majority (between 75–85%) of local revenues; and 2) Act 511 tax collections, which are around 15% of revenues for school districts.[114]

  • 2011-12 - 45.2900 mills [115]
  • 2010–11 – 44.4000 mills[116]
  • 2009–10 – 42.6000 mills[117]
  • 2008–09 – 41.9000 mills[118]
  • 2007–08 – 40.7000 mills[119]
  • 2006–07 – 38.8000 mills[120]
  • 2005–06 – 35.8000 mills[121]

Act 1 Adjusted index[edit]

The Act 1 of 2006 Index regulates the rates at which each school district can raise property taxes in Pennsylvania. Districts are not allowed to raise taxes above that index unless they allow voters to vote by referendum, or they seek an exception from the state Department of Education. The base index for the 2011–2012 school year is 1.4 percent, but the Act 1 Index can be adjusted higher, depending on a number of factors, such as property values and the personal income of district residents. Act 1 included 10 exceptions, including: increasing pension costs, increases in special education costs, a catastrophe like a fire or flood, increase in health insurance costs for contracts in effect in 2006 or dwindling tax bases. The base index is the average of the percentage increase in the statewide average weekly wage, as determined by the PA Department of Labor and Industry, for the preceding calendar year and the percentage increase in the Employment Cost Index for Elementary and Secondary Schools, as determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the U.S. Department of Labor, for the previous 12-month period ending June 30. For a school district with a market value/personal income aid ratio (MV/PI AR) greater than 0.4000, its index equals the base index multiplied by the sum of .75 and its MV/PI AR for the current year.[122] In June 2011, the Pennsylvania General Assembly eliminated six of the ten exceptions to the Act 1 Index.[123] Several exceptions were maintained: 1) costs to pay interest and principal on indebtedness incurred prior to September 4, 2004 for Act 72 schools and prior to June 27, 2006 for non-Act 72 schools; 2) costs to pay interest and principal on electoral debt; 3) costs incurred in providing special education programs and services (beyond what is already paid by the State); and 4) costs due to increases of more than the Index in the school’s share of payments to PSERS (PA school employees pension fund) taking into account the state mandated PSERS contribution rate.[124][125]

The School District Adjusted Index for the Athens Area School District 2006–2007 through 2011–2012.[126]

  • 2006–07 – 5.6%, Base 3.9%
  • 2007–08 – 5.0%, Base 3.4%
  • 2008–09 – 6.4%, Base 4.4%
  • 2009–10 – 6.0%, Base 4.1%
  • 2010–11 – 4.3%, Base 2.9%
  • 2011–12 – 2.0%, Base 1.4%
  • 2012-13 - 2.5%, Base 1.7% [127]

For the 2012-13 budget year, Athens Area School Board did not apply for exceptions to exceed the Act 1 Index. For 2012-2013, 274 school districts adopted a resolution certifying that tax rates would not be increased above their index; 223 school districts adopted a preliminary budget leaving open the option of exceeded the Index limit. For the exception for pension costs, 194 school districts received approval to exceed the Index. For special education costs, 129 districts received approval to exceed the tax limit. For the exception for pension costs, 194 school districts received approval to exceed the Index. For special education costs, 129 districts received approval to exceed the tax limit.[128]

For the 2011–12 school year the Athens Area School Board did not apply for exceptions to exceed the Act 1 Index. Each year, the Athens Area School Board has the option of adopting either 1) a resolution in January certifying they will not increase taxes above their index or 2) a preliminary budget in February. A school district adopting the resolution may not apply for referendum exceptions or ask voters for a tax increase above the inflation index. A specific timeline for these decisions is publisher each year by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.[129]

According to a state report, for the 2011–2012 school year budgets, 247 school districts adopted a resolution certifying that tax rates would not be increased above their index; 250 school districts adopted a preliminary budget. Of the 250 school districts that adopted a preliminary budget, 231 adopted real estate tax rates that exceeded their index. Tax rate increases in the other 19 school districts that adopted a preliminary budget did not exceed the school district’s index. Of the districts who sought exceptions 221 used the pension costs exemption and 171 sought a Special Education costs exemption. Only 1 school district sought an exemption for Nonacademic School Construction Project, while 1 sought an exception for Electoral debt for school construction.[130]

Athens Area School Board did not apply for exceptions to exceed the Act 1 index for the budgets in 2009–10 or in 2010–11.[131][132] In the Spring of 2010, 135 Pennsylvania school boards asked to exceed their adjusted index. Approval was granted to 133 of them and 128 sought an exception for pension costs increases.[133]

Property tax relief[edit]

In 2011, property tax relief for 3,875 approved residents of Athens Area School District was set at $239.[134] In 2009, the Homestead/Farmstead Property Tax Relief from gambling for the Athens Area School District was $241 per approved permanent primary residence. In the district, 3,835 property owners applied for the tax relief.[135] The relief was subtracted from the total annual school property tax bill. Property owners apply for the relief through the county Treasurer's office. Farmers can qualify for a farmstead exemption on building used for agricultural purposes. The farm must be at least 10 contiguous acres and must be the primary residence of the owner. Farmers can qualify for both the homestead exemption and the farmstead exemption.[136]

Enrollment and consolidation[edit]

In 2010 the Pennsylvania Department of Education projected that Athens Area School District enrollment will continue to decline over the next decade to 1800 pupils in 2020.[137]

A Standard and Poors study found that an optimal Pennsylvania school district size, to conserve administrative costs, was 3000 pupils. Consolidation of administrations with an adjacent school district would achieve substantial administrative cost savings for people in both communities.[138] According to a 2009 proposal by Governor Edward Rendell, the excessive administrative overhead dollars could be redirected to improving high school student academic achievement, enriching the curriculum programs or to reducing local property taxes.[139]

In March 2011, the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants Fiscal Responsibility Task Force released a report which found that consolidating school district administrations with one neighboring district would save the Commonwealth $1.2 billion without forcing the consolidation of any school buildings.[140] The study noted that while the best school districts spent 4% of the annual budget on administration, others spend over 15% on administration.[141]

More than 40 percent of elementary schools and more than 60 percent of secondary schools in western Pennsylvania are projected to experience significant enrollment decreases (15 percent or greater).[142] Pennsylvania Department of Education data shows that from 1999–2000 to 2008–09 there has been a 12 percent increase in public school staff even as there was a 1 percent decline in enrollment. Pennsylvania schools added 17,345 professional employees and 15,582 support workers over this time, while enrollment declined by 26,960.[143] Total public school enrollment in 2009 was 1,787,351 pupils.

Pennsylvania has one of the highest numbers of school districts in the nation. In Pennsylvania, 80% of the school districts serve student populations under 5,000, and 40% serve less than 2,000. This results in excessive school administration bureaucracy and not enough course diversity.[144] In a survey of 88 superintendents of small districts, 42% of the respondents stated that they thought consolidation would save money without closing any schools.[145]

Governance[edit]

The school district is governed by 9 individually elected board members (serve four-year terms), the Pennsylvania State Board of Education, the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Pennsylvania General Assembly.[146] The federal government controls programs it funds like Title I funding for low-income children in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the No Child Left Behind Act, which mandates the district focus resources on student success in acquiring reading and math skills.

The Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy Alternatives Sunshine Review gave the school board and district administration a "F" for transparency based on a review of "What information can people find on their school district's website". It examined the school district's website for information regarding; taxes, the current budget, meetings, school board members names and terms, contracts, audits, public records information and more.[147]

Extracurriculars[edit]

The district offers a variety of clubs, activities and an extensive sports program. Eligibility to participate is set by school board policies.

By Pennsylvania law, all K-12 students in the district, including those who attend a private nonpublic school, cyber charter school, charter school and those homeschooled, are eligible to participate in the District's extracurricular programs, including all athletics. They must meet the same eligibility rules as the students enrolled in the district's schools.[148]

Athens Area School District offers a Driver's Education program for all students. This is a paid course at the cost of $250.

Sports[edit]

The District funds the following varsity sports:

  • According to PIAA directory July 2012 [149]

A typical cafeteria menu offering at Athens Area Schools could be: chicken nuggets with a bread slice, ham and cheese quesadilla, steamed peas, applesauce, and milk.[150]

References[edit]

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