Derry Area School District

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Derry Area School District
Map of Westmoreland County Pennsylvania School Districts.png
Address
982 North Chestnut Street
Derry, Pennsylvania, Westmoreland County, 15627
United States
Information
School board 9 locally elected members
Superintendent Roberta J. McCahan (salary $132,117 in 2009)
School number 724 694-1401
Grades K-12
Age 5 years old to 21 years old for Special Education
Pupils 2452 pupils (2009-2010) [1]
Kindergarten 153
Grade 1 181
Grade 2 146
Grade 3 170
Grade 4 158
Grade 5 203
Grade 6 202
Grade 7 179
Grade 8 205
Grade 9 193
Grade 10 204
Grade 11 215
Grade 12 243
Other Enrollment is projected to be stable through 2019[2]
Newspaper The Trojan Horse
Budget $31,898,270 2012-13
Tuition for nonresident and charter school students ES - $7,741.24, HS - $9,015.84 [3]
per pupil spending $11,221 in 2008
Per pupil spending $12,390.53 in 2010
Website

The Derry Area School District is a midsized, suburban public school district located in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. The Derry Area School District is located 35 miles east of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The district encompasses approximately 109 square miles (280 km2). The school district serves the municipalities Derry Township, Derry Borough and the Borough of New Alexandria. According to 2000 federal census data, it serves a resident population of 18,312 people. According to District officials, in school year 2007-08 the Derry Area School District provided basic educational services to 2,479 pupils. Derry Area School District employed: 179 teachers, 138 full-time and part-time support personnel, and 11 administrators in 2008. Derry Area School District received more than $15.3 million in state funding in school year 2007-08. In 2011, the district is having declining enrollment 1289 secondary students (down from 1358 in 2010‐2011) and 924 Gr. K‐5 students (down from 948 in 2010‐2011).[4]

In 2011, the district operated one high school, one middle school and one elementary school all located in Derry Township. The district receives services from the Westmoreland Intermediate Unit.

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.[5] 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 "D" 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.[6]

Academic achievement[edit]

Derry Area School District was ranked 169th out of 498 Pennsylvania school districts by the Pittsburgh Business Times in 2012.[7] The ranking was based on student academic achievement as demonstrated on the last three years of the PSSAs for: reading, writing, math and science.[8] The PSSAs are given to all children in grades 3rd through 8th and the 11th grade in high school. Adapted examinations are given to children in the special education programs.

  • 2011 - 185th [9]
  • 2010 - 156th [10]
  • 2009 - 157th
  • 2008 - 153rd
  • 2007 - 153rd out of 501 school districts.[11]

In 2012, the Pittsburgh Business Times also reported an Overachievers Ranking for 498 Pennsylvania school districts. Derry Area School District ranked 35th. In 2011, the district was 37th. [12] 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."[13]

Western Pennsylvania school districts ranking

Derry Area School District was ranked 41st out of 105 Western Pennsylvania School Districts in 2012 by the Pittsburgh Business Times. The ranking was based on the last three years of student academic performance on the PSSAs for: math, reading, writing and science.[14]

  • 2011 - 49th
  • 2009 - 42nd
  • 2008 - 42nd

In 2009, the academic achievement of the students of Derry Area School District was in the 69th percentile among 500 Pennsylvania school districts. Scale - (0-99; 100 is state best) [15]

In 2011 and 2010, Derry Area School District achieved AYP status under No Child Left Behind. 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.

Graduation rate[edit]

In 2011, the graduation rate was 95%.[16] In 2010, the Pennsylvania Department of Education issued a new, 4-year cohort graduation rate. Derry Area High School's rate was 93% for 2010.[17]

According to traditional graduation rate calculations

The Derry Area Middle / High School share one building complex.

High school[edit]

Derry Area High School is located at 988 N. Chestnut Street Ext., Derry. (724) 694-2780 According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2010, the school reported an enrollment of 830 pupils in grades 9th through 12th, with 304 pupils eligible for a federal free or reduced-price lunch. The school employed 53 teachers, yielding a student–teacher ratio of 16:1.[22] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 100% of its teachers were rated "Highly Qualified" under No Child Left Behind.[23] Administration - Principal: Dr. Kathy L. Perry, Associate Principal: Mr. Christopher S. Campbell, Dean of Students: Lisa Dubich

Derry Area High School ranked 65th out of 123 western Pennsylvania high schools, by the Pittsburgh Business Times in 2012, for academic achievement as reflected by the last three years of 11th grade results on: math, reading, writing and science PSSAs.[24]

  • 2011 - 74th
  • 2010 - 49th [25]
  • 2009 - 44th [26]

In 2011 and 2010, Derry Area High School achieved AYP status under No Child Left Behind.[27]

PSSA Results
11th Grade Reading
  • 2011 - 76% on grade level, (8% below basic). State - 69.1% of 11th graders are on grade level.[28]
  • 2010 - 64% (18% below basic). State - 66% [29]
  • 2009 - 69%, State - 65% [30]
  • 2008 - 68%, State - 65% [31]
11th Grade Math
  • 2011 - 70% on grade level (8% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 60.3% of 11th graders are on grade level.[32]
  • 2010 - 50% (29% below basic). State - 59%
  • 2009 - 59%, State - 56% [33]
  • 2008 - 56%, State - 56%
11th Grade Science
  • 2011 - 46% on grade level (7% below basic). State - 40% of 11th graders were on grade level.[34]
  • 2010 - 33% (12% below basic). State - 39%
  • 2009 - 38%, State - 40%
  • 2008 - 37%, State - 39% [35]

College remediation rate[edit]

According to a Pennsylvania Department of Education study released in January 2009, 18% of Derry 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.[36] 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.[37] 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 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.[38] Under the Pennsylvania Transfer and Articulation Agreement, many Pennsylvania colleges and universities accept these credits for students who transfer to their institutions.[39] For the 2009-10 funding year, the school district received a state grant of $3,197 for the program.[40]

Graduation requirements[edit]

The School Board has determined that a pupil must earn 25.5 credits to graduate, including: mathematics 3 credits, English 4 credits, social studies 4 credits, science 3 credits (Physical Science & Biology required), an additional credit of either science or math, Senior Technologies 1 credit, Humanities 0.5 credits, Physical Education 1 credit, Health 0.5 credit and electives 6.5. The school also requires each student to have participated in at least 10 hours of community service. Students receive 1 credit for successful completion of PSSAs/Keystone Exams.[41] A students must earn at least 5.50 credits to be promoted from 9th grade to tenth grade. Students must earn 11.00 credits to move to eleventh grade.

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.[42]

By Pennsylvania School Board regulations, for the graduating class of 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.[43][44][45] In 2011, Pennsylvania high school students field tested the Algebra 1, Biology and English Lit exams. The statewide results were: Algebra 1 38% on grade level, Biology 35% on grade level and English Lit - 49% on grade level.[46] Individual student, school or district reports were not made public, although they were reported to district officials by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

SAT scores[edit]

From January to June 2011, 103 students took the SAT exams. The district's Verbal Average Score was 469. The Math average score was 489. The Writing average score was 457.[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]

Middle school[edit]

Derry Area Middle School is located at994 N. Chestnut St. Ext, Derry. (724) 694-8231 According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2010, the school reported an enrollment of 570 pupils in grades 6th through 8th, with 253 pupils receiving a federal free or reduced-price lunch due to family poverty. The school employed 47 teachers, yielding a student–teacher ratio of 12:1.[50] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 100% of its teachers were rated "Highly Qualified" under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.[51] Administration Principal: Ms. Cheryl A. Walters
Associate Principal: Mr. Jeffrey W. Metzger

In 2012, the 8th grade was ranked 37th out of 141 western Pennsylvania middle schools based on three years of student academic achievement in PSSAs in: reading, mathematics, writing and science. (Includes middle schools in: Allegheny County, Beaver County, Butler County, Fayette County, Westmoreland County, and Washington County.[52]

  • 2011 - 45th
  • 2010 - 50th [53]
  • 2009 - 53rd [54]

In 2010 and 2011, Derry Area Middle School achieved AYP status.[55]

PSSA Results:

8th Grade Science:

  • 2011 - 63% on grade level (15% below basic). State – 58.3% of 8th graders were on grade level.
  • 2010 - 63% (21% below basic). State – 57% [60]
  • 2009 - 53% (18% below basic). State - 55% [61]
  • 2008 - 46%, (21% below basic). State - 52% [62]
  • 2007 - tested, but results not made public.

Elementary schools[edit]

For many years, the district operated three elementary schools, all located in Derry Township. After the 10-11 school year, Loyalhanna Elementary School (K-1) at 314 Loyalhanna School Road, Latrobe and New Derry Elementary (K-1) located at 314 Pittsburgh Street in New Derry were closed. Faced with steadily declining enrollment, the school board consolidated all elementary students to one school building. Grandview Intermediate School underwent extensive renovations to accommodate the increase of students during the 11-12 school year. It was renamed Grandview Elementary School. Additionally, the school board authorized the sale of Loyalhanna School building.

Grandview Elementary School is located at 188 Recreation Road, Derry. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2010, the school reported an enrollment of 709 pupils in grades Kindergarten through 5th, with 331 pupils eligible for a federal free or reduced-price lunch. The school employed 50 teachers, yielding a student–teacher ratio of 14:1.[65] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 100% of its teachers were rated "Highly Qualified" under No Child Left Behind.[66]

In 2010 and 2011, Grandview Intermediate School achieved AYP status.[67]

PSSA results
4th Grade Science
  • 2011 - 94%, 66% advanced (1% below basic). State – 82.9%
  • 2010 - 95%, 69% advanced (0% below basic). State - 81%
  • 2009 - 96%, 70% advanced (1% below basic). State - 83%
  • 2008 - 86%, 60% advanced (1% below basic). State - 81%

Preschool[edit]

The district is part of Barbara Thompson Early Learning Center collaborative preschool program supported by R.K. Mellon Foundation, the Heinz Foundation, Derry Area School district and Greater Latrobe School District as well as the Indiana University of Pennsylvania. The program began in 2007. The school uses the state's prescribed STAR curriculum and the Innovative Early Learning website from the Fred Rogers Center at St. Vincent College.

Teacher evaluation pilot[edit]

In 2011, the district agreed to participate in a pilot program to develop a new way to evaluate teachers that, in part, takes into account student achievement. Several York County school districts are participating.[72] The pilot program had 104 K-12 entities, including: nine career and technical centers, nine charter schools and nine intermediate units. Beginning in January 2012, some schools will use the new evaluation method and provide feedback to the Department of Education. This new evaluation will not be used to determine an educator’s official 2011-12 assessment. Under the new evaluation system, 50% of the evaluation of a teacher will be based on an observation divided into four categories: planning and preparation, classroom environment, instruction, and professional responsibilities. The other half will be based on student achievement (15 percent will be building-level data, 15 percent will be teacher-specific data, and 20 percent will be elective). The new evaluation system has both announced and unannounced observations. There are meetings between the teacher and evaluator before and after the direct observation of a lesson.[73]

Special education[edit]

In December 2010, the district administration reported that 263 pupils or 11.6% of the district's pupils received Special Education services. Of the identified students 35% had specific learning disability.[74] In December 2009, the district administration reported that 258 pupils or 11% of the district's pupils received special education services.

The Derry Area School District received a $1,535,714 supplement for special education services in 2010.[75] 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.[76][77]

Gifted education[edit]

Derry Area School District Administration reported that 124 or 4.78% of its students were gifted in 2009.[78] 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 certified school psychologist. Other factors that indicate giftedness will also be considered for eligibility.[79][80]

Budget[edit]

In 2009, the district reported employing 268 teachers and administrators with a median salary of $55,441 and a top salary of $132,117.[81] Teachers work 188 days with 180 days of student instruction. The work day is 7 hours forty minutes witha duty-free lunch and a daily preparation period. In addition to salary, the teachers receive a defined benefit pension, health insurance, vision insurance, life insurance, professional development reimbursement, 2 paid personal days, 2 paid emergency days, 10 paid sick days (which infinitely accumulate), 5 bereavement days, and other benefits. The Board provides the Union with 6 days leave without loss of pay to conduct Union business. Thirty year or more employees who retire receive health insurance until they reach the age of 65 years.[82][83] In 2011, the average teacher salary in DASD was $51,427.78 a year, while the cost of the benefits teachers receive was $14,708 per employee, for a total annual average teacher compensation of $66,135.77.[84] 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.[85]

In 2007, Derry Area School District employed 160 teachers. The average teacher salary in the district was $49,803 for 180 days worked.[86] 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.[87]

Derry Area School District administrative costs per pupil in 2008 was $712.55 per pupil. The lowest administrative cost per pupil in Pennsylvania was $398 per pupil.[88] 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 provided to the district's teachers' union, including the state's school employee pension.[89]

In 2008 the district administration reported that per pupil spending was $11,221 which ranked 337th among Pennsylvania's 501 school districts. In 2010 the per pupil spending had increased to $12,390.53 which raked 329th in the state.[90] Among the states, Pennsylvania’s total per pupil revenue (including all sources) ranked 11th at $15,023 per student, in 2008-09.[91] In 2007, the Pennsylvania per pupil total expenditures was $12,759.[92]

Eastern Westmoreland Career and Technology Center and Derry Area School District have an agreement for supervision of school health services.

Reserves In 2008, the district reported a balance of zero in its unreserved-designated fund. The unreserved-undesignated fund balance was reported as $2,264,948.00 [93] In 2010, Derry Area Administration reported an increase to $3,171,713 in the unreserved-undesignated fund balance and $910,000.00 in its unreserved-designated fund. Pennsylvania school district reserve funds are divided into two categories – designated and undesignated. The undesignated funds are not committed to any planned project. Designated funds and any other funds, such as capital reserves, are allocated to specific projects. School districts are required by state law to keep 5 percent of their annual spending in the undesignated reserve funds to preserve bond ratings. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, from 2003 to 2010, as a whole, Pennsylvania school districts amassed nearly $3 billion in reserved funds.[94]

In September 2009, the Pennsylvania Auditor General conducted a performance audit of the District. The findings were reported to the School Board and the District’s administration.[95]

The district is funded by a combination of: a local earned income tax, a property tax, a real estate transfer tax 0.5%, coupled with substantial funding from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the federal government.[96] In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, pension income and Social Security income are exempted from state personal income tax and local earned income tax, regardless of the level of the individual’s personal wealth.[97]

State basic education funding[edit]

In 2011-12, the district received a $10,756,851, allocation, of state Basic Education Funding.[98][99] Additionally, the Derry Area School District received $157,135 in Accountability Block Grant funding. The enacted Pennsylvania state Education budget included $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.[100] 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.[101] In 2010, the district reported that 1,002 students received free or reduced-price lunches, due to the family meeting the federal poverty level.[102]

In the 2010-2011 budget year, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania provided a 3.77% increase in Basic Education Funding for a total of $11,593,323. Among the districts in Westmoreland County, the highest increase went to Yough School District which got a 7.40% increase. 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.[103] The state's hold harmless policy regarding state basic education funding continued where a district received at least the same amount as the year before, even where enrollment had significantly declined. The amount of increase each school district received was set by Governor Edward Rendell and then Secretary of Education Gerald Zahorchak, as a part of the state budget proposal given each February. This was the second year of Governor Rendell’s policy to fund some districts at a far greater rate than others.

In the 2009-2010 budget year, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania provided a 6% increase in Basic Education Funding for a total of $11,172,515. Among the districts in Westmoreland County, the highest increase went to Southmoreland School District which got a 6.44%. The state Basic Education Funding to Derry Area School District in 2008-09 was $10,756,850.97. 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.[104] The amount of increase each school district received was set by Governor Edward G. Rendell and the Secretary of Education Gerald Zahorchak, as a part of the state budget proposal.[105] According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 936 district students received free or reduced-price lunches due to low family income in the 2007–2008 school year.[106]

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 $426,505. in addition to all other state and federal funding. The district uses the funding to provide full-day kindergarten and teacher training.[107][108]

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. Derry Area School District did not apply to participate in 2006-07 or in 2007-08. The district received $154,406 in 2008-09.[109] In Westmoreland County the highest award was given to Franklin Regional School District. 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.

Science It’s Elementary grant[edit]

Derry Area School District successfully did not apply to participate in the Science It’s Elementary grant in 2008-09. For the 2008-09 school year, the program was offered in 143 schools reaching 2,847 teachers and 66,973 students across Pennsylvania.[110] In 2007, the Pennsylvania Department of Education initiated an effort to improve science instruction in the Commonwealth’s public elementary schools. Called Science: It’s Elementary, the program is a hands on instruction approach for elementary science classes that develops problem-solving and critical thinking skills.[111] To encourage schools to adopt the program’s standards aligned curriculum, the state provided a grant to cover the costs of materials and extensive mandatory teacher training.[112] The district was required to develop a three-year implementation plan for the participating school. They had to appoint a district liaison who was paid $3000 by PDE to serve as the conduit of all information between the district and the Department and its agents along with submitting orders and distributing supplies to implementing teachers. For the 2006-07 state education budget, $10 million was allocated. The 2006-07 State Education Budget provided $635 million in new spending for pre-K through 12th grades for the 2006-07 school year. This marked an 8-percent increase over 2005-06 public school funding.[113] The grant program was expanded to $14.5 million in the 2008-09 budget.

Literacy grant[edit]

Derry Area School District was awarded a $964,247 competitive literacy grant. It is to be used to improve reading skills birth through 12th grade. The district was required to develop a lengthly literacy plan, which included outreach into the community. The funds come from a Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy grant, also referred to as the Keystones to Opportunity grant It is a five-year, competitive federal grant program designed to assist local education agencies in developing and implementing local comprehensive literacy plans. Of the 329 pre-applications by school districts reviewed by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Derry Area School District was one of only 148 entities that were invited to submit a full application. In Westmoreland County, 2 school districts were awarded funding for one year.[114] The funds must be used for teacher training, student screening and assessment, targeted interventions for students reading below grade level and research-based methods of improving classroom instruction and practice. The board named one Grandview Elementary teacher as literacy coach for children from birth to grade 5 and a second teacher as district data coach. An eighth-grade English teacher, became secondary literacy coach for the middle and high schools. Their salaries are to be paid the grant. The coaches work with classroom teachers to enhance literacy skills of Derry Area students and the literacy project will involve community outreach. Derry Area School District will work with three preschools—the Barbara Thompson Early Literacy Center, the Head Start program at Grandview Elementary, and the New Life Christian Child Care Center in Derry Borough. Pennsylvania was among six other states, out of the 35 that applied, to be awarded funding. Pennsylvania received $38 million through the federal program. The Department of Education reserved 5% of the grant for administration costs at the state level.

Federal Stimulus grant[edit]

The district received an extra $3,755,026 in ARRA - Federal Stimulus money to be used in specific programs like special education and meeting the academic needs of low-income students.[115] The funding was limited to the 2009-10 and 2010-2011 school years.[116] 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]

District officials applied for the federal Race to the Top grant which would have provided nearly one million dollars in additional federal funding to improve student academic achievement.[117] Participation required the administration, the school board and the local teachers' union to sign an agreement to prioritize improving student academic success. In Pennsylvania, 120 public school districts and 56 charter schools agreed to participate.[118] 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.[119][120][121]

Real estate taxes[edit]

Property tax rates in 2012-13 were set by the school board at 75.000 mills.[122] 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. 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.[123] When the school district includes municipalities in two counties, each of which has different rates of property tax assessment, a state board equalizes the tax rates between the counties.[124] In 2010, miscalculations by the State Tax Equalization Board (STEB) were widespread in the Commonwealth and adversely impacted funding for many school districts, including those that did not cross county borders.[125]

  • 2011-12 - 74.5000 mills.[126]
  • 2010-11 - 74.5000 mills.[127]
  • 2009-10 - 74.5000 mills.[128]
  • 2008-09 - 74.0000 mills.[129]
  • 2007-08 - 70.0000 mills.[130]
  • 2006-07 - 70.0000 mills.[131]

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.[132] In June 2011, the Pennsylvania General Assembly eliminated six of the ten exceptions to the Act 1 Index.[133] 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.[134][135]

The School District Adjusted Index for the Derry Area School District 2006-2007 through 2011-2012.[136]

  • 2006-07 - 5.5%, Base 3.9%
  • 2007-08 - 4.9%, Base 3.4%
  • 2008-09 - 6.2%, Base 4.4%
  • 2009-10 - 5.8%, Base 4.1%
  • 2010-11 - 4.1%, Base 2.9%
  • 2011-12 - 2.0%, Base 1.4%
  • 2012-13 - 2.3%, Base 1.7% [137]

For the 2012-13 budget year, Derry 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.[138]

For the 2011-12 school year, the Derry Area School Board applied for two exceptions to exceed the Act 1 Index: pension and special education. Each year, Derry 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 published annually, by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.[139]

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.[140]

The School Board did not apply for any exceptions to exceed the Act 1 index for the budget in 2011.[141] For 2009-10 school budget, the board did not apply for exceptions to exceed the Index.[142] 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.[143]

Property tax relief[edit]

In 2010, property tax relief for 5,132 approved residents of Derry Area School District was set at $189.[144] In 2009, the Homestead/Farmstead Property Tax Relief from gambling for the Derry Area School District was also $190 per approved permanent primary residence. In the district, 5,095 property owners applied for the tax relief. In Westmoreland County, the highest tax relief went to New Kensington-Arnold School District which was set at $300.[145] The highest property tax relief, among Pennsylvania school districts, went to the homesteads of Chester Upland School District of Delaware County which received $632 per approved homestead in 2010. This was the second year they received this amount.[146] 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 Beaver County, 64% of eligible property owners applied for property tax relief in 2009.[147]

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 people who have an income of 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%).[148]

Extracurriculars[edit]

The district offers a variety of clubs, activities and sports. Eligibility for participation is determined by school board policy.

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.[149]

Athletic Teams[edit]

Sport Boys Girls
Basketball Class AAA Class AAA
Baseball Class AAA
Cross Country Class AAA Class AAA
Football Class AAA
Golf Class AAAA Class AAAA
Soccer Class AA Class AAA
Softball Class AAA
Swimming and Diving Class AA Class AA
Tennis Class AA
Track and Field Class AAA Class AAA
Volleyball Class AA Class AA
Wrestling Class AA

In May 2012, the Board agreed to spending on sports facilities. Vasco Sports Contractors of Massillon, Ohio, was hired to recondition the stadium's all-weather track at a cost of $49,953. Additionally, Sturdisteel Company of Waco, Texas, was awarded a $204,500 contract to replace the stadium press box with a new prefabricated steel structure. The press box will be wired for digital access. Mashan Inc. of Home, Indiana County will handle related electrical work at a cost of $613,672. The project was funded from the District's $2.7 million Capital Improvements fund, which got $1.2 million when the district refinanced debt bonds issued in 2002 and 2008 and the interest savings was allocated to the fund.

Vocational - Technical School[edit]

Students in Grades 10-12 in Derry Area have the opportunity to attend the Eastern Westmoreland Career and Technology Center in Derry Township

References[edit]

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  149. ^ Home-Schooled, Charter School Children Can Participate in School District Extracurricular Activities, Pennsylvania Office of the Governor Press Release, November 10, 2005

External links[edit]