Connellsville Area School District

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Connellsville Area School District
Map of Fayette County Pennsylvania School Districts.png
Address
732 Rock Ridge Road
Connellsville, Pennsylvania, Fayette, 15425
United States
Information
Superintendent Dr. Tammy Stern
Grades K-12
Enrollment 4896 pupils in 2010 [1]
Kindergarten 367
Grade 1 395
Grade 2 376
Grade 3 388
Grade 4 381
Grade 5 384
Grade 6 390
Grade 7 385
Grade 8 398
Grade 9 385
Grade 10 434
Grade 11 307
Grade 12 247
Other Enrollment projected to decline to 4206 in 2020.[2]
Mascot Falcons
Website

The Connellsville Area School District is a large rural, public school district which covers the City of Connellsville, the Boroughs of Dawson, Dunbar, Ohiopyle, Seven Springs, South Connellsville and Vanderbilt and Bullskin Township, Connellsville Township, Dunbar Township, Saltlick Township, Springfield Township and Stewart Township in Fayette County, Pennsylvania. According to 2000 federal census data, Connellsville Area School District serves a resident population of 38,303. In 2009, the district residents' per capita income was $15,194 a year, while the median family income was $35,638.[3] Per District officials, in school year 2007-08 the Connellsville Area School District provided basic educational services to 5,127 pupils. In the Commonwealth, the median family income was $49,501 [4] and the United States median family income was $49,445, in 2010.[5] The District employed 370 teachers, 248 full-time and part-time support personnel, and 20 administrators. Connellsville Area School District received more than $41.4 million in state funding in school year 2007-08.

Connellsville Area School District was established in 1966.

Schools[edit]

The district operates twelve schools in the 200+ Square Mile District:

Senior High Schools[edit]

  • Connellsville Area Senior High School is located on Falcon Drive in the city limits of Connellsville. The school was built in 1970 and is currently under renovation. About 1325 students in grades 9-12 attend CASHS.

Connellsville Area Junior High School[edit]

The Junior High School is located on Locust Street Extension in Connellsville, PA. The school was constructed in 1956 as Connellsville Joint High School, when the district was formed in 1966, the name was changed to Connellsville Area High School until the present school was built, then it became a Junior High School. There was extensive renovations and additions to the school in 1998. In 2012, With the board of education's decision in 2012 to consolidate the two Junior High Schools as an effect of Senior High Renovations, all seventh and eighth graders in the district attend classes in this building which was the former Junior High East.[6]

On September 27, 2012 the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sued the Connellsville Area School District over a large granite monument with Ten Commandments displayed near the main entrance to the Connellsville Junior High School, citing that the school is in violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment.[7] The School District has since covered the Ten Commandments monument in plywood, while awaiting the outcome the trial.

Elementary Schools[edit]

There are eight elementary schools in the district, all facilitate classes for grades K-6.

  • Bullskin Township Elementary School is located on Pleasant Valley Road (State Route 982) in Connellsville, PA, and was built in 1956. The last renovation was in 1998, when also a 4,000 sq ft (370 m2). addition was added to the structure. About 450 students attend school here. In 2010 and 2011 the school achieved AYP status.[8] In 2011, 73% of students are reading on grade level. Math 84.7% of students on grade level.[9]
  • Clifford N. Pritts Elementary School is located on Indian Creek Valley Road (State Routes 381/711) in Melcroft, PA, and was built in 1968. There are about 300 students attending this facility. In 2010 and 2011 the school achieved AYP status.[10] In 2011, 66% of students are reading on grade level. Math 70% of students on grade level.[11]
  • Connellsville Township Elementary School is located on Rock Ridge Road in Connellsville, PA. The school was built in the late 1960s and also houses the district's administration offices. The student census is around 175. In 2010 and 2011, the school achieved AYP status.[12] In 2011, 56% of students are reading on grade level. Math 64% of students on grade level.[13]
  • Dunbar Borough Elementary School is located off of Pechin Road in Dunbar, PA. The school was built in 1974 and has about 175 students. In 2011, Dunbar Borough Elementary School declined to Warning status under No Child Left Behind due to low student academic achievement. In 2010 the school achieved AYP.[14] In 2011, 38.7% of students are reading on grade level. Math 71% of students on grade level.[15]
  • Dunbar Township Elementary School is located on Ridge Boulevard near Connellsville, PA. The school holds a census of about 600 and was built in 1966. In 2011, Dunbar Township Elementary School declined to Corrective Action II 1st Year status due to chronically low student academic achievement. In 2010, the school was in Corrective Action I level due to chronically low student math and reading achievement.[16] In 2011, 58% of students are reading on grade level. Math 67% of students on grade level.[15] The school administration was required to notify parents that they could transfer their child to a successful school within the district.[17] The administration was also required to write a school improvement plan and submit the plan to the Pennsylvania Department of Education for approval. In 2008, the School was in School Improvement Level I status due to low achievement.[18]
  • South Side Elementary School is located on Race Street in Connellsville, PA and was built in 1965. There are about 325 pupils on the SSE Campus. In 2010 and 2011 the school achieved AYP status.[19] In 2011, 67% of students are reading on grade level. Math 74% of students on grade level.[20]
  • Springfield Township Elementary School was built in 2004 and is located on School House Lane in Normalville, PA. In 2011 the school achieved AYP status. In 2010, the school was in Warning status due to low student achievement.[21] In 2011, 61% of students are reading on grade level. Math 764% of students on grade level.[22]
  • Zachariah Connell Elementary School is located on Park Street in Connellsville, PA was opened in 1967 and has a census of about 400. In 2011, the school declined to Corrective Action I status due to chronic, low student academic achievement. In 2010 the school was in School Improvement II status due to low student reading and math scores.[23] In 2011, 52% of students are reading on grade level. Math 67% of students on grade level.[24] Zachariah Connell Elementary School did not meet all Adequate Yearly Progress goals in 2009.[25] The school administration was required to write and implement a school improvement plan to improve student achievement. Additionally, the school was required to notify parents they could transfer their child to a successful school within the district.[26] The school implemented a parent involvement policy.[27]

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.[28] 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 Connellsville Area School Board conducts two meetings each month. One meeting is a non voting work session with extensive discussion and the second is the formal voting meeting. Both meetings are open to the general public.[29]

The Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy Alternatives Sunshine Review gave the school board and district administration an "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.[30]

Academic achievement[edit]

Connellsville Area School District is one of three public school districts, in Pennsylvania, in Making Progress: in District Improvement I due to district wide low student academic achievement.[31] In 2010, the district was in District Improvement I status.[32] The Administration was required by the Pennsylvania Department of Education to develop and submit a district wide plan to improve student achievement. In 2009, the District failed to achieve its Adequate Yearly Progress goals.[25]

Connellsville Area School District was ranked 456th out of 498 Pennsylvania school districts in 2011, by the Pittsburgh Business Times. The ranking was based on five years of student academic performance based on the PSSAs for: reading, writing, math and three years of science.[33]

  • 2010 - 451st [34]
  • 2009 - 437th
  • 2008 - 447th
  • 2007 - 442nd out of 501 Pennsylvania school districts. .[35]

In 2009, the academic achievement of the students of Connellsville Area School District was in the bottom 6 percentile among 500 Pennsylvania school districts. Scale - (0-99; 100 is state best) [36]

Graduation rate[edit]

In 2011, the graduation rate was 84%.[37] In 2010, the Pennsylvania Department of Education issued a new, 4-year cohort graduation rate. Connellsville Area Senior High School's rate was 76% for 2010.[38]

According to traditional graduation rate calculations
  • 2010 - 87% [39]
  • 2009 - 80% [40]
  • 2008 - 77%
  • 2007 - 77%% [41]

High school[edit]

In 2011, the high school achieved AYP status. In 2010, the high school was in Making Progress: in Corrective Action II status due to chronic, low student achievement. In 2009, the school was in Corrective Action Level II due to long standing poor student achievement.[42]

PSSA Results
11th Grade Reading:
  • 2011 - 72% on grade level, (9% below basic). State - 69.1% of 11th graders are on grade level.[43]
  • 2010 - 73% (11% below basic). State - 66% [44]
  • 2009 - 60%, State - 65% [45][46]
  • 2008 - 69%, State - 65%
  • 2007 - 66%, State - 65% [47]
11th Grade Math:
  • 2011 - 70%, on grade level (14% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 60.3% of 11th graders are on grade level.[48]
  • 2010 - 62%, (23% below basic). State - 59%
  • 2009 - 44%, State - 56% [49]
  • 2008 - 59%, State - 56% [50]
  • 2007 - 50%, State - 53% [51]
11th Grade Science:
  • 2011 - 29% on grade level (14% below basic). State - 40% of 11th graders were on grade level.[52]
  • 2010 - 38% (12% below basic). State - 39%
  • 2009 - 33%, State - 40% [53]
  • 2008 - 32%, State - 39%[54]

College remediation rate[edit]

According to a Pennsylvania Department of Education study released in January 2009, 31% of the Connellsville Area High School 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.[55] 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.[56] 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 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. 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[57] Under the Pennsylvania Transfer and Articulation Agreement, many Pennsylvania colleges and universities accept these credits for students who transfer to their institutions.[58]

For the 2009-10 funding year, the school district received a state grant of $18,785 for the program.[59]

Graduation requirements[edit]

The School Board has determined that a pupil must earn 24.5 credits to graduate, including: Math 3 units (include 1 Geometry Unit), English 4 units, social studies 3.5 units, science 3 (must include Biology unit), Physical Education 3 courses, Health 0.5 unit, ½ unit of PASS and electives.[60]

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.[61]

By Pennsylvania School Board regulations, for the graduating classes of 2015 and 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.[62][63][64]

SAT scores[edit]

In 2010-2011, 205 students took the SAT exams. The district's Verbal Average Score was 469. The Math average score was 473. The Writing average score was 451.[65] Pennsylvania ranked 40th among state with SAT scores: Verbal - 493, Math - 501, Writing - 479.[66] 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.[67]

Connellsville Junior High School East[edit]

In 2011, the school was in Making Progress: in Corrective Action I status. In 2010 the school was in Corrective Action I status due to chronic, low student achievement.[68] For the past five years, Connellsville Junior High School East student achievement has been lower than state wide achievement levels, in grades 7 and 8, in reading, math and science. The school's attendance rate was 91% in both 2010 and 2011.[69] In 2007, the district administration was required to develop and implement a school improvement plan due to the low student achievement.[70] The district received federal funding to pay teacher coaches through the Tri-State program at the University of Pittsburgh to help improve teaching of math and reading. The plan was approved by the school board.

PSSA Results: 8th Grade Reading:

  • 2011 - 70% on grade level (19% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 81.8% of 8th graders on grade level.[71]
  • 2010 - 71% (14% below basic). State - 81%
  • 2009 - 65% (17% below basic), State - 80%
  • 2008 - 65% (15% below basic), State - 78% [72]
  • 2007 - 70% (14% below basic), State - 75%

8th Grade Math:

  • 2011 - 62% on grade level (17% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 76.9% of 8th graders are on grade level.
  • 2010 - 61% (15% below basic). State - 75% [73]
  • 2009 - 52% (17% below basic). State - 71% [74]
  • 2008 - 54% (27% below basic). State - 70%
  • 2007 - 46% (26% below basic). State - 68%

8th Grade Science:

  • 2011 - 45% on grade level (32% below basic). State – 58.3% of 8th graders were on grade level.
  • 2010 - 47% (31% below basic). State – 57% [75]
  • 2009 - 45% (25% below basic). State - 55% [76]
  • 2008 - 43%, (25% below basic). State - 52% [77]

Connellsville Junior High School West[edit]

In 2011, the school was in Making Progress: in Corrective Action II status. In 2010, the school was in Corrective Action II 1st year status due to chronic, low student achievement.[78] For the past five years, Connellsville Junior High School West student achievement has been lower than state levels, in grades 7 and 8, in reading, math and science. The school's attendance rate was 90%, in both 2010 and 2011.[79]

8th Grade Reading

  • 2011 - 64% on grade level (23% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 81.8% of 8th graders on grade level.[80]
  • 2010 - 79% (12% below basic). State - 81%
  • 2009 - 79% (12% below basic), State - 80%
  • 2008 - 78% (11% below basic), State - 78% [81]
  • 2007 - 72% (8% below basic), State - 75%

8th Grade Math:

  • 2011 - 52% on grade level (30% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 76.9% of 8th graders are on grade level
  • 2010 - 57% (23% below basic). State - 75% [73]
  • 2009 - 59% (15% below basic). State - 71% [74]
  • 2008 - 50% (24% below basic). State - 70%
  • 2007 - 45% (29% below basic). State - 68%

8th Grade Science:

  • 2011 - 36% on grade level (35% below basic). State – 58.3% of 8th graders were on grade level.
  • 2010 - 49% (34% below basic). State – 57% [75]
  • 2009 - 47% (30% below basic). State - 55% [76]
  • 2008 - 44% (23% below basic), State - 52% [77]

School Improvement plans[edit]

Several of the district's schools are in School Improvement status due to chronic low student achievement. Connellsville Area High School, Junior High East, Junior High West, Dunbar Township Elementary, Zachariah Connell Elementary and Springfield Township Elementary are all in school improvement. The district applied for Federal funding for school improvement in 2009. The school board approved multiple approaches to improve student achievement. The district is mandated to offer outside tutoring. Sylvan, ATS and Huntington provide the services at no cost to parents. The district must pay $406,000 for the tutoring. According to the administration 259 students have signed up for tutoring. Students must also be permitted to transfer from the failing schools.[82]

The district qualified for more federal funding under school improvement for: High School, Junior High East, Junior High West, Dunbar Township Elementary, Zachariah Connell Elementary and Springfield Township Elementary. In the summer of 2011, the administration did not apply for the School Improvement grant. The grant stipulates the funds be used for improving student achievement using one of four federally dictated strategies. The strategies are: transformation, turnaround, restart with new faculty and administration or closure of failing schools.[83] The Pennsylvania Education Secretary awarded $66 million to reform Pennsylvania's lowest-achieving schools in August 2011. The funding was for three years.[84]

For the 2010-11 school year, Connellsville Area School District administration did not apply for a School Improvement Grant. It was eligible for funding due to the chronic, low achievement at the high school, junior high schools and several elementary schools.[85] In 2010, Pennsylvania received $141 million from the federal –US Department of Education, to turn around its worst-performing schools. The funds were disbursed via a competitive grant program.[86] The Pennsylvania Department of Education has identified 200 Pennsylvania schools as "persistently lowest-achieving," making them eligible for this special funding.[87]

Special education[edit]

In December 2010, the Connellsville Area School District Administration reported that 912 pupils or 16.7% of the district's pupils received Special Education services.[88]

In order to comply with state and federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act rules and regulations, the school district engages in identification procedures to ensure that eligible students receive an appropriate educational program consisting of special education and related services, individualized to meet student needs.[89] At no cost to the parents, these services are provided in compliance with state and federal law; and are reasonably calculated to yield meaningful educational benefit and student progress .[90] To identify students who may be eligible for special education services, various screening activities are conducted on an ongoing basis.[91] These screening activities include: review of group-based data (cumulative records, enrollment records, health records, report cards, ability and achievement test scores); hearing, vision, motor, and speech/language screening; and review by the Special Education administration. When screening results suggest that the student may be eligible, the District seeks parental consent to conduct a multidisciplinary evaluation. Parents who suspect their child is eligible may verbally request a multidisciplinary evaluation from a professional employee of the District or contact the district's Special Education Department.[92]

In accordance with state and federal laws, students with disabilities who violate the Code of Student Conduct or who engage in disruptive or prohibited activities are disciplined within the guidelines set in their Individualized Education Program and Positive Behavior Support Plan.[93]

In 2010, the state of Pennsylvania provided $1,026,815,000 for 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.[94] The Pennsylvania Special Education funding system assumes that 16% of the district’s students receive special education services. It also assumes that each student’s needs accrue the same level of costs.[95] The state requires each district to have a three-year special education plan to meet the unique needs of its special education students.[96] Overidentification of students in order to increase state funding has been an issue in the Commonwealth. Some districts have more than 20% of its students receiving special education services while others have 10% supported through special education.[97]

The Connellsville Area School District received a $4,495,460 supplement for special education services in 2010.[98] 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. This level funding is provided regardless of changes in the number of pupils who need special education services and regardless of the costs of the services the respective students required.[99]

Gifted education[edit]

Connellsville Area School District Administration reported that 175 or 3.18% of its students were gifted in 2009.[100] By law, the district must provide mentally gifted programs at all grade levels. 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 school psychologist. A Gifted Individualized Education Plan is developed for each gifted student.[101] Other factors that indicate giftedness are also considered for eligibility.[102]

Food service[edit]

In 2011, the district saw a one percent increase in students who qualify for the federal free or reduced-price lunch program due to low family income. In 2010 57% of students were enrolled in the program.[103] In 2011, enrollment increased to 58%. The district runs a federally funded, free lunch program during the summer months at several elementary schools.[104]

Budget[edit]

In 2009, the district reported employing 425 teachers with a salary range of $36,076 to $108,000.[105] The median salary was $58,720 [106] which was higher than the state median teacher salary of $55,800.[107] In June 2008, the school board approved a four-year contract with the teachers' union by 6-2. The previous contract had expired in June 2008. The new contract was retroactive from July 1, 2008 through June 30, 2011.[108] In December 2010, the board and union agreed to extend the contract 2 more years to June 30, 2013. Teachers received an increase for longevity in the steps.[109]

In 2007, the district employed 355 teachers. The average teacher salary in the district was $$55,253 for 180 days worked.[110] This was the highest median teacher salary among the county's school districts. 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.[111] Additionally, the teachers receive a defined benefit pension, health insurance, professional development reimbursement, paid personal days, 10 paid sick days, and other benefits.[112]

Connellsville Area School District administrative costs per pupil in 2008 was $494.71 per pupil. The lowest administrative cost per pupil in Pennsylvania was $398 per pupil.[113] The Pennsylvania School Boards Association keeps statistics on salaries of public school district employees in Pennsylvania. According to the association's report, the average salary for a superintendent, for the 2007-08 school year, was $122,165. Superintendents and administrators receive a benefit package commensurate with that offered to the district's teachers' union.[114] A three-year contract with administrators was approved in 2011 that awards a $1000 raise each year through 2014.[115]

Reserves In 2010, the district reported zero in an unreserved-designated fund balance. The unreserved-undesignated fund balance was reported as $5,870,588.00. [116]

In 2008 the district administration reported that per pupil spending was $11,098 which ranked 389th among Pennsylvania's 501 school districts. In 2010, the per pupil spending had increased to $12,515.39 which ranked 319th.[117]

In September 2010, the Pennsylvania Auditor General conducted a performance audit of the school district. The findings were reported to the school board and administration.[118]

The district is funded by a combination of: a local earned income tax 1%,[119] a property tax, a real estate transfer tax 0.5%, coupled with substantial funding from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the federal government.[120] In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, pension income and Social Security income are exempted from state personal income tax and local earned income tax, regardless the of amount of personal wealth.[121]

State basic education funding[edit]

In 2011-12, the district received a $28,755,346 allocation, of state Basic Education Funding.[122][123] Additionally, Connellsville Area School District will receive $460,264 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.[124] The highest increase in state basic education funding was awarded to Duquesne City School District, which got a 49% increase in state funding for 2011-12.[125] In 2010, the district reported that 2,968 students received free or reduced-price lunches, due to the family meeting the federal poverty level.[126]

For the 2010-11 budget year, Connellsville Area School District received a 2.66% increase in state funding for $30,984,487. The highest increase, in Fayette County, was given to Laurel Highlands School District which received a 6.29% increase in Basic Education Funding. One hundred fifty Pennsylvania school districts received the base 2% increase. The highest increase in 2010-11 went to Kennett Consolidated School District in Chester County which received a 23.65% increase in state funding.[127]

In the 2009-2010 budget year, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania provided a 4.03% increase in Basic Education Funding for a total of $29,914,880. Among the districts in Fayette County, the highest increase went to Laurel Highlands School District which got a 4.23% increase in state funding. The state Basic Education Funding to the Connellsville Area School District in 2008-09 was $28,755,346.27. Ninety school districts received a 2% increase. Muhlenberg School District in Berks County received a 22.31% increase in state basic education funding in 2009.[128] The amount of increase each school district receives is set by the Governor and the Secretary of Education as a part of the state budget proposal given each February.[129]

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. 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, the district applied for and received $1,249,271 in addition to all other state and federal funding. The district uses the funding to provide full-day kindergarten and to increase instruction time for struggling students.[130][131]

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 to 2009. The Connellsville Area School District Administration did not apply to participate in 2006-07. The District was denied funding, by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, in 2007-08. Connellsville Area was the only Fayette County school district denied funding in 08-09. The district received $188,223 in 2008-09.[132]

Federal Stimulus grant[edit]

The district received an extra $1,412,065 in ARRA - Federal Stimulus money to be used in specific programs like special education and meeting the academic needs of low-income students.[133] The funding is for the 2009-10 and 2010-2011 school years.[134]

Race to the Top grant[edit]

Connellsville Area School District officials did not apply for the federal Race to the Top grant which would have provided nearly two million dollars in additional federal funding to improve student academic achievement.[135] Within the state's application, Connellsville Area School District was designated as a turnaround district which qualified it for an additional $700 per pupil on top of the basic grant amount.[136] Participation required the administration, the school board and the local teachers' union to sign an agreement to prioritize improving student academic success.[137] In Pennsylvania, 120 public school districts and 56 charter schools agreed to participate. Pennsylvania was not approved for the grant.[135] The failure of districts to agree to participate was cited as one reason that Pennsylvania was not approved.[138][139]

Technology grant[edit]

In 2010, the district was identified as being eligible for a federal Enhancing Education through Technology grant.[140] The district did not apply for funding.[141]

Common Cents state initiative[edit]

The School Board elected to not participate 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.[142] After the review of the information, the district was not required to implement the recommended cost savings changes.

Enrollment and consolidation[edit]

Due to declining enrollment, the school board conducted a study to examine consolidating schools within the district. The options being examined would save the district up to $872,000 a year.[143] State Representative Tim Mahoney, of South Union Township, has pushed a proposal to consolidate the administration of Fayette County's six school districts into one administration. A study was done by The Education Management Group, LLC., found that Connellsville Area School district experienced a sharp decline in enrollment of 1,100 students since 2001. The study demonstrated millions would be saved by consolidating, just the Fayette County school districts administrations, into one central county-wide public school administration.[144] Several counties in Pennsylvania have just one school administration, including Philadelphia County, Juniata County School District and Sullivan County School District. In August 2011, Fayette County Judge Ralph Warman barred placement of a voter referendum regarding school administration consolidation, on the November 2011 ballot.[145]

Over the next 10 years, rural Pennsylvania school enrollment is projected to decrease 8 percent. The most significant enrollment decline is projected to be in western Pennsylvania, where rural school districts may have a 16 percent decline. 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).[146] Statewide, there are 187 districts that are projected to have an enrollment decline of 15 percent or greater. Geographically, these districts are clustered in western Pennsylvania and in the state’s northern tier.[147]

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. Less than 95 of Pennsylvania's 501 school districts have enrollment below 1250 students, in 2007.[148] A study was done examining consolidating neighboring districts.[149] The study noted that consolidation could significantly decrease administrative costs for many communities, while improving offerings to students.

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 schools.[150]

Real estate taxes[edit]

Property tax rates in 2011-12 were set by the school board at 12.6000 mills. A mill is $1 of tax for every $1,000 of a property's assessed value. 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.[151] Property taxes, in the Commonwealth of 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. Additionally, service related, disabled US military veterans may seek an exemption from paying property taxes. Pennsylvania school 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.[152]

  • 2010-11 - 12.6000 mills [153]
  • 2009-10 - 12.6000 mills.[154]
  • 2008-09 - 12.6000 mills.[155]
  • 2007-08 - 12.6000 mills.[156]

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.[157] In June 2011, the Pennsylvania General Assembly eliminated six of the ten the exceptions to the Act 1 Index.[158] The following 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 taking into account on the PSERS contribution rate.[159][160]

The Pennsylvania School District Adjusted Index for the Connellsville Area School District 2006-2007 through 2011-2012.[161]

  • 2006-07 - 5.8%, Base 3.9%
  • 2007-08 - 5.0%, Base 3.4%
  • 2008-09 - 6.6%, Base 4.4%
  • 2009-10 - 6.1%, Base 4.1%
  • 2010-11 - 4.3%, Base 2.9%
  • 2011-12 - 2.1%, Base 1.4%
  • 2012-13 - 2.5%, Base 1.7% [162]

Late in December 2011, the newly elected Connellsville Area School Baord voted to limit any tax increase to the Act 1 index of 2.5% for the 2012-13 school year.[163] Each year, the 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 published annually, by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.[164]

For the 2011-12 school year, the Connellsville Area School Board did not apply for an exception to exceed the Act 1 Index. 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.[165]

Connellsville Area School Board did not apply for any exceptions to exceed the Act 1 index for the budget in 2010-2011.[166] For the 2009-10 school budget, the board also did not apply for exceptions to exceed the Index.[167] 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.[168]

Property Tax Relief[edit]

In 2010-11, the property tax relief for Connellsville Area School District was $149 for 9,787 properties.[169] In 2009-10, the Homestead/Farmstead Property Tax Relief from gambling for the School District was set at $151 for the 9,710 approved primary homesteads and farmsteads.[170] The highest tax relief among Fayette County school districts was given to Uniontown Area School District which was set at $200. In 2009, Connellsville Area School District tax relief was set at $152 for 9,623 homesteads.[171] 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 (40,000 m2) and must be the primary residence of the owner. Farmers can qualify for both the homestead exemption and the farmstead exemption. In Fayette County, 72% of eligible property owners applied for property tax relief in 2009.[172] Pennsylvania awarded the highest property tax relief to residents of the Chester-Upland School District in Delaware County at $632 per homestead and farmstead in 2010.[173] This was the second year CUSD was the top recipient.

Additionally, the Pennsylvania Property Tax/Rent Rebate program is provided for low income Pennsylvanians aged 65 and older; widows and widowers aged 50 and older; and people with disabilities age 18 and older. The income limit is $35,000 for homeowners. The maximum rebate for both homeowners and renters is $650. Applicants can exclude one-half (1/2) of their Social Security income, consequently individuals whose income is substantially more than $35,000 may still qualify for a rebate. Individuals must apply annually for the rebate. This can be taken in addition to Homestead/Farmstead Property Tax Relief.

Property taxes in Pennsylvania are relatively high on a national scale. According to the Tax Foundation, Pennsylvania ranked 11th in the U.S. in 2008 in terms of property taxes paid as a percentage of home value (1.34%) and 12th in the country in terms of property taxes as a percentage of income (3.55%).[174]

Extracurriculars[edit]

The district offers a variety of clubs, activities and sports at the high school and both junior high schools. Eligibility for participation is determined by school board policy and the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association.[175] Student athletes are accountable for off campus behavior as outlined in the Student Code of Conduct.[176]

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 extracurricular programs, including all athletics. They must meet the same eligibility rules as the students enrolled in the district's schools.[177][178]

References[edit]

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