Laurel Highlands School District
|Laurel Highlands School District|
|304 Bailey Avenue
Uniontown, Pennsylvania, 15401
|Superintendent||Dr. Gary Brain|
|Other||Enrollment is projected to decline 2954 by 2020|
Laurel Highlands School District is a public school district located in Fayette County, Pennsylvania. It serves North and South Union Townships. Laurel Highlands School District encompasses approximately 55 square miles. According to the 2000 federal census, it serves a resident population of 25,477. The residents per capita income was $16,768, while the median family income was $37,681 a year. In the Commonwealth, the median family income was $49,501 and the United States median family income was $49,445, in 2010. Per Laurel Highlands School District officials, for the school year 2007-08, Laurel Highlands School District provided basic educational services to 3,439 pupils. The District employs 235 teachers, 141 full-time and part-time support personnel, and 16 administrators. Laurel Highlands School District received more than $20.1 million in state funding in school year 2007-08.
- 1 Creation of LHSD
- 2 Elementary schools
- 3 Laurel Highlands Middle School
- 4 Laurel Highlands High School
- 5 Governance
- 6 Academic achievement
- 7 Special education
- 8 Budget
- 9 Extracurriculars
- 10 References
- 11 External links
Creation of LHSD
LHSD was created in 1965, merging rivals North Union and South Union School Districts. The change did not become official until the 1967-1968 School Term. Students attended High School in the former high schools until completion of the current high school in 1972.
- Hatfield Elementary - was constructed in 1952 and renovated in 1991. A new roof and windows were added in 2006. Hatfield is located in South Union Township and is named for the former Hatfield family farm on which the school's property was constructed on. The school achieved AYP status in 2011 and 2010. In 2011, 75% of the students are reading on grade level, while 87% are successful in math. Report Card 2011 
- Hutchinson Elementary - was built in 1965 and recently underwent a major renovation and addition in 2006. The school is located in the Hutchinson section of South Union Township. The school achieved AYP status in 2011 and 2010. In 2011, 72% of the students are reading on grade level, while 75% are successful in math. Report Card 2011 
- R.W. Clark Elementary - located near the High School, the school was built in 1962 and renovated in 2000. It is named after a former Laurel Highlands school principal. In 2011, only 66% of the students are reading on grade level, while 83% are successful in math. Report Card 2011 
- George C. Marshall Elementary - was constructed in 1966 and renovated in 1992. A four classroom addition was built in 2005. The school is named after the government official who was the Secretary of State at one time in the 1940s. In 2011, only 54% of the students are reading on grade level, while 66% are successful in math. Report Card 2011 
John F. Kennedy Elementary School was part of the school district until it was closed after the 2003-2004 School year. John F. Kennedy School was later turned into a mental health treatment facility, called New Directions, for school age children.
Laurel Highlands Middle School
The building opened as South Laurel Junior High School in 1968, housing grades seven through nine. Originally, students from the district's three elementary schools in South Union Township (Areford, Hatfield, and Hutchinson) attended South Laurel Junior High. When North Laurel, the other junior high, was closed in 1984, it was renamed Laurel Highlands Junior High School. Ninth grade was moved to the high school, and the new merged junior high housed all Laurel Highlands students in grades seven and eight. After an extensive renovation was completed in August 2003, the school was renamed Laurel Highlands Middle School, with students in grades six through eight attending.
Laurel Highlands High School
- Laurel Highlands High School
300 Bailey Avenue
Uniontown, Pennsylvania 154019
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. 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 Laurel Highlands 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.
Laurel Highlands School District was ranked 425th out of 498 Pennsylvania school districts in 2011, by the Pittsburgh Business Times. The ranking was based on five years of student academic performance on the reading, writing, math and three years of science PSSAs.
In 2009, the academic achievement of the students of Laurel Highlands School District was in the lowest 11th percentile among 500 Pennsylvania school districts. Scale - (0-99; 100 is state best)
In 2011, the Laurel Highlands School District graduation rate was 83%. In 2010, the Pennsylvania Department of Education issued a new, 4-year cohort graduation rate. Laurel Highlands Senior High School's rate was 68% for 2010.
- According to traditional graduation rate calculations
Senior high school
11th Grade Reading
- 2011 - 73% on grade level, (10% below basic). State - 69.1% of 11th graders are on grade level.
- 2010 - 65% (18% below basic). State - 66%
- 2009 - 69% (17% below basic). State - 65%
- 2008 - 68% (17% below basic). State - 65%
- 2007 - 61% (19% below basic). State - 65%
11th Grade Math:
- 2011 - 61%, on grade level (20% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 60.3% of 11th graders are on grade level.
- 2010 - 55%, (25% below basic). State - 59%
- 2009 - 56%, (22% below basic). State - 56%.
- 2008 - 49%, (30% below basic). State - 56%
- 2007 - 41%, (38% below basic). State - 53%
11th Grade Science:
- 2011 - 38% on grade level (14% below basic). State - 40% of 11th graders were on grade level.
- 2010 - 31% (17% below basic). State - 39%
- 2009 - 37% (13% below basic). State - 40%
- 2008 - 27%, (18% below basic). State - 39%
College remediation rate
According to a Pennsylvania Department of Education study released in January 2009, 24% of the 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. 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. 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.
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 Under the Pennsylvania Transfer and Articulation Agreement, many Pennsylvania colleges and universities accept these credits for students who transfer to their institutions.
For the 2009-10 funding year, the school district received a state grant of $14,910 for the program.
The Challenge Program, Inc. offers $250.00 cash incentives to Senior High School students who excel in the categories of: Academic Improvement, Attendance, Community Service and Academic Excellence. The program partners with businesses to motivate students both in and out of the classroom by encouraging good habits in students that will last throughout their education and into their future careers. For the 2010-2011 school year, the top 10% of students in each of the categories will be eligible to win $250.00.
The Laurel Highlands School Board has determined that a pupil must earn 25.5 credits to graduate, including: Math 4 credits, including: Algebra 9, Algebra 10, Geometry 11, and Algebra 12; English 4 credits; social studies 4 credits; science 4 credits (Biology and three Science Electives; Health and Physical Education 2.5 credits; Arts/Humanities 2 credits, freshman seminar - 0.5 credit and electives.
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. Beginning with the Class of 2009, students are also required to complete a Career Portfolio in order to be eligible for graduation. The portfolio includes: Freshman Discovery Plan, Sophomore Exploration Plan, Junior Experience Plan Packet and a Senior Implement Plan.
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.
Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps
AFJROTC is a 3- or 4-year program offered in grades 9-12. Students (cadets) receive elective credit toward high school graduation by successfully completing Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFJROTC) classes. Cadets are introduced to the Air Force organizational structure; uniform wear; military customs and courtesies; flag etiquette; citizenship in the United States; basic drill and ceremonies; and effective communications.
Advance Placement Academy
Students participating in the Advanced Placement Academy must take at least six of the Advanced Placement classes offered at the High School. The high school offers 13 AP courses in a wide variety of subjects.
In 2010-2011, 142 students took the SAT exams. The district's Verbal Average Score was 482. The Math average score was 486. The Writing average score was 458. Pennsylvania ranked 40th among state with SAT scores: Verbal - 493, Math - 501, Writing - 479. 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.
Laurel Highlands Middle School
In 2011, the Laurel Highlands Middle School declined into Warning status due to lagging student achievement. In 2010 the school achieved AYP status. The attendance rate in 2011 was 95% while the rate was 91% in 2010.
8th Grade Reading
8th Grade Math:
8th Grade Science:
- 2011 - 59% on grade level (18% below basic). State – 58.3% of 8th graders were on grade level.
- 2010 - 55% (26% below basic). State – 57%
- 2009 - 46% (25% below basic). State - 55%
- 2008 - 51%, (21% below basic). State - 52%
7th Grade Reading
7th Grade Math:
6th Grade Reading:
6th Grade Math:
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. 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 . To identify students who may be eligible for special education services, various screening activities are conducted on an ongoing basis. 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.
The Laurel Highland School District works closely with neighboring school districts and Intermediate Unit # 1 to place students who cannot be served within the district. The small number of students who needs cannot be accommodated in the public school setting can receive services in an approved private school such as New Directions, Communities in Schools- Success Academy within the Laurel Highlands School District or other licensed facilities at school district expense.
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. 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. The state requires each district to have a three year special education plan to meet the unique needs of its special education students. 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.
The School District received a $2,135,294 supplement for special education services in 2010. 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 level of services the respective students required.
The District Administration reported that 89 or 2.47% of its students were gifted in 2009. 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.
In 2009, the district reported employing 225 teachers, with a salary range of $33,000 to $103,200. The median teacher salary was $55,280.
In 2007, the district employed 210 teachers. The average teacher salary in the district was $53,015for 180 days and 6 inservice days worked. They were the second highest paid teachers in the county. 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. Additionally, the teachers receive a defined benefit pension, health insurance (district pays the full cost of the BS/BC plan), dental insurance, professional development reimbursement, 2 paid personal days, 5 paid bereavement days, 10 paid sick days, and many other benefits.The district offers an Early retirement incentive that includes health insurance coverage.
Laurel Highlands School District administrative costs per pupil in 2008 was $623 per pupil. The lowest administrative cost per pupil in Pennsylvania was $398 per pupil. 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.
Reserves In 2008, the district reported zero in an unreserved-designated fund balance. The unreserved-undesignated fund balance was reported as $3,525,406.
In 2008 the district administration reported that per pupil spending was $11,261 which ranked 370th among Pennsylvania's 501 school districts. In 2010 the per pupil spending had increased to $11,955.62
In October 2011, the Pennsylvania Auditor General conducted a performance audit of the district. The findings were reported to the school board and administration. Among the serious issues noted was a failure to write and retain Board Meeting official minutes in violation of Pennsylvania Public School Code. Board members approved minutes, without having a copy of the minutes to read first.
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. 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 individual's wealth.
State basic education funding
In 2011-12, the district received a $13,091,281 allocation, of state Basic Education Funding. Additionally, the Laurel Highlands School District will receive $239,090 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. 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. In 2010, the district reported that 1,891 students received free or reduced-price lunches, due to the family meeting the federal poverty level.
For the 2010-11 budget year, Laurel Highlands School District received the highest increase, in Fayette County, a 6.29% increase in Basic Education Funding for a total of $13,620,698. 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.
In the 2009-2010 budget year, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania provided a 4.23% increase in Basic Education Funding for a total of $13,620,698. Among the districts in Fayette County, the highest increase went to Laurel Highlands School District. The state Basic Education Funding to the district in 2008-09 was $13,067,933.08. 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. 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.
Accountability Block Grants
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 $648,950 in addition to all other state and federal funding. The district uses the funding to provide full-day kindergarten.
Federal Stimulus grant
The district received an extra $1,450,000 in ARRA - Federal Stimulus money to be used in specific programs like special education and meeting the academic needs of low-income students. The funding is for the 2009-10 and 2010-2011 school years.
Race to the Top grant
District officials did not apply for the federal Race to the Top grant which would have provided over one million dollars in additional federal funding to improve student academic achievement. 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. 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.
Classrooms for the Future grant
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. The Laurel Highlands School District did not apply to participate in 2006-07. In 2007-08 the district received $370,652. The district received $67,581 in 2008-09, for a total funding of $438,233.
Common Cents state initiative
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. After the review of the information, the district was not required to implement the recommended cost savings changes.
Real estate taxes
Property tax rates in 2011-12 were set by the school board at 14.2109 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. 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.
- 2010-11 - 13.9323 mills
- 2009-10 - 13.3965 mills.
- 2008-09 - 13.3965 mills.
- 2007-08 - 13.0000 mills.
Act 1 Adjusted Index
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. In June 2011, the Pennsylvania General Assembly eliminated six of the ten the exceptions to the Act 1 Index. 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.
The School District Adjusted Index for the Laurel Highlands School District 2006-2007 through 2011-2012.
- 2006-07 - 5.4%, Base 3.9%
- 2007-08 - 4.7%, Base 3.4%
- 2008-09 - 6.1%, Base 4.4%
- 2009-10 - 5.8%, Base 4.1%
- 2010-11 - 4.0%, Base 2.9%
- 2011-12 - 2.0%, Base 1.4%
- 2012-13 - 2.4%, Base 1.7%
For the 2011-12 school year, the Laurel Highlands School Board did not apply for an exception to exceed the Act 1 Index. 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.
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.
The Laurel Highlands School Board did not apply for any exceptions to exceed the Act 1 index for the budget in 2011. For 2009-10 school budget, the board did not apply for exceptions to exceed the Index. 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.
Property tax relief
In 2010, the Homestead/Farmstead Property Tax Relief from gambling for the School District was $152 per approved permanent primary residence. In the district, 6.700 property owners applied for the tax relief. 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, 71% of eligible property owners applied for property tax relief in 2009. In Fayette County, the highest amount of tax relief in 2010, went to property owners in Uniontown Area School District which received $198. The highest property tax relief in Pennsylvania went to the residents of Chester Upland School District of Delaware County who received $632 per approved homestead. This was the third year they were 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, individual with income much 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%).
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.
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