Union School District (Pennsylvania)
|Union School District|
|354 Baker Street, Suite 2
Rimersburg, Pennsylvania, Clarion, 16248
|School board||9 elected members|
|Specialist||Kris W. Glosser, School Psychologist|
|Administrator||Geri Nasser, Supervisor of Special Education|
|Principal||Michael Moore, (Secondary)|
|Principal||Tom Minick, (Elementary)|
|Other||Enrollment to decline by 100 more by 2019|
|Colour(s)||Blue and Gold|
|Mascot||Knights and Damsels|
The Union School District is a public school district in Clarion County, Pennsylvania. It serves the boroughs of Sligo and Rimersburg, as well as the townships of Madison, Toby, and Piney. Union School District encompasses approximately 80 square miles. According to 2000 federal census data, it serves a resident population of 4,903. Per District officials, in school year 2007–08, the Union School District provided basic educational services to 718 pupils through the employment of 66 teachers, 51 full-time and part-time support personnel, and 3 administrators.
The district operates three schools: Sligo Elementary (K-3), Rimersburg Elementary (4–6), and Union Jr/Sr High (7–12). The district is part of the Riverview Intermediate Unit 6 region. The Riverside Intermediate Unit provides support services and therapy to special education students. It also provides training to school personnel. Occupational training and adult education in various vocational and technical fields are provided by the Clarion County Career Center.
- 1 Governance
- 2 Enrollment
- 3 Academic achievement
- 4 Special education
- 5 Budget
- 6 Wellness policy
- 7 Bullying Policy
- 8 Extracurriculars
- 9 References
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 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.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, there are fewer than 650 students enrolled in K-12 in the Union School District. The senior class of 2010 has 57 students. Enrollment in Union School District is projected to continue to decline by 100 more students by 2019. The administrative infrastructure and mandate costs per pupil are high. With limited local taxation resources, opportunities for students are limited. Consolidation with adjacent school districts would achieve substantial administrative cost savings for people in each community. The administrative overhead dollars could be redirected to improve lagging student achievement, to enrich the academic programs or to substantially reduce property taxes. Consolidation of the central administrations, into one district, does not require the closing of any schools.
In 2007 a Pennsylvania Legislative Budget and Finance Committee study was conducted by Standard and Poors regarding the financial benefits of consolidating Pennsylvania's smallest public school districts. It examined creating a new district composed of neighboring districts in Clarion County that resulted in student population under 3000 pupils. It found consolidation could bring the elimination of high cost administrator positions. This would assist the residents of the districts with rising pension costs by controlling the need to raise taxes.
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). As the enrollment declines, per pupil administrative costs of the schools have continue to rise.
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. This results in excessive school administration bureaucracy and not enough course diversity. In a survey of 88 superintendents of small districts, 42% of the 49 respondents stated that they thought consolidation would save money without closing any schools. In 2011, The Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants found that the state would save over $1.5 billion if school district administration where consolidated to the county level. It also found that over $613 million would be saved if school districts consolidated just their administrations with one neighboring district. This plan would not require changing the school buildings nor the classrooms, it focused on just the school administrations.
Union School District was ranked 308th out of the 498 ranked Pennsylvania School Districts in 2011 by the Pittsburgh Business Times. The ranking was based on student academic performance as demonstrated by five years of PSSA results in reading, writing, mathematics and three years of science.
The Union School District's student academic achievement was in the 19th percentile among Pennsylvania's 500 school district. (Scale 0–99; 100 is state best)
In 2010, the Pennsylvania Department of Education issued a new, 4-year cohort graduation rate. Union School District's rate was 77% for 2010.
Former AYP graduation rate:
- 2010 – 83%, Gradation rate for males- 79%, females – 86%.
- 2009 – 72%
- 2008 – 82%
- 2007 – 98%
11th Grade Reading
- 2010 – 69% on grade level. State – 67% of 11th graders were on grade level.
- 2009 – 59%, State – 65%
- 2008 – 60%, State – 65%
- 11th Grade Math
- 2010 – 63% on grade level. State – 59% of 11th graders were on grade level.
- 2009 – 49%, State – 55%.
- 2008 – 37%, State – 56%
- 11th Grade Science
- 2010 – 42% on grade level. State – 39% of 11th graders were on grade level.
- 2009 – 24%, State – 40%
- 2008 – 31%, State – 39%
College remediation: According to a Pennsylvania Department of Education study released in January 2009, 41% of Union 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 Union School Board requires that students earn 25 credits to graduate, including: 4 English credits, 4 Social Studies credits, 4 Math credits, 4 Science credits, 2 Arts & Humanities credits, .50 Health credit, 1.5 Physical Education credits, .25 Speech/Research credit, .25 Family and Consumer Science credit, .25 Careers credit, .25 Driver Education credit, and 4 Elective credits, as well as, attaining proficiency on the 11th grade PSSA Reading, Math, Science and Writing assessments.
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.
By Pennsylvania State School Board regulations, for the graduating classes 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.
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. Under the Pennsylvania Transfer and Articulation Agreement, many Pennsylvania colleges and universities accept these credits for students who transfer to their institutions. The Pennsylvania College Credit Transfer System reported in 2009, that students saved nearly $35.4 million by having their transferred credits count towards a degree under the new system.
For the 2009–10 funding year, the school district received a state grant of $5,370 for the program.
By law other students, that reside in the district, who attend a private nonpublic school, charter school or are homeschooled are eligible to participate in this program.
- 8th Grade Reading
- 2010 – 82% on grade level. In Pennsylvania, 81% of 8th graders on grade level.(57 pupils enrolled)
- 2009 – 78%, State – 80%
- 2008 – 72%, State – 78%
- 8th Grade Math
- 2010 – 77% on grade level. In Pennsylvania, 75% of 8th graders are on grade level.
- 2009 – 64%, State – 71%
- 2008 – 51%, State – 70%
- 8th Grade Science
- 2010 – 53% on grade level. State – 57% on grade level.
- 2009 – 62%, State – 55%
- 2008 – 45%, State – 52%
- 7th Grade Reading
- 2010 – 89% on grade level. State – 77% on grade level. (39 pupils enrolled)
- 2009 – 54%, State – 71%
- 2008 – 56%, State – 70%
- 7th Grade Math
- 2010 – 89% on grade level. State – 73% of 7th graders on grade level.
- 2009 – 72%, State – 75%
- 2008 – 62%, State – 70%
- Sligo Elementary School Academic Achievement Report Card 2010 , Report Card 2009 
- Rimersburg Elementary School Academic Achievement Report Card 2010 , Report Card 2009 
As per state regulations, the 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, 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 Instructional Support Team or Student Assistance Team. 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 Special Education Department.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania provided $1,026,815,000 for Special Education services in 2010. The funds were distributed to districts based on a state policy which estimates that 16% of the district's pupils are receiving special education services. This funding is in addition to the state's basic education per pupil funding, as well as, all other state and federal funding.
Union School District received a $532,397 supplement for special education services in 2010.
The District Administration reported that 11 or 1.8% 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 employed over 65 teachers. The beginning salary was $32,500 (182 days worked) and the top salary was $108,445. The average teacher salary in the district was $53,300 in the 2009–10 school year. Additionally, the teachers receive a defined benefit pension, health insurance, professional development reimbursement, 2 paid personal days, 10 paid sick days, 3 paid bereavement leave and other benefits. Teacher receive a progressive, longevity bonus after 20 years. Teachers who retire after 2002 have their health insurance premium paid in full. Teachers who leave employment with the Union School district, after 15 years, are paid for unused sick days.
In 2007, the district employed 59 teachers. The average teacher salary in the district was $50,148 for 180 days worked. 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. According to Rep. Glen Grell, a trustee of the state teacher retirement fund, a 40-year educator can retire with a pension equal to 100 percent of their final salary. In 2009 the district employed over 70 teachers with a salary range of $41,000 to $108,446.
The district administrative costs per pupil were $947.46 in 2008. The lowest administrative cost per pupil in Pennsylvania was $398 per pupil. The district ranked 77th out or 500 Pennsylvania school districts for administrative spending. 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.
In 2008, Union School District reported spending $13,222 per pupil. This ranked 162nd in the commonwealth.
In March 2010, The Pennsylvania Auditor General conducted a performance audit of the district. Findings were reported to the school board and school administration.
In 2009, the district reported $1,582,745 in an unreserved-undesignated fund balance. The designated fund balance was reported as $4,400,000.
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 Pennsylvania personal income tax and local earned income tax, regardless of the individual's wealth.
State basic education funding
For the 2010–11 school year the state gave the Union School District a 2% increase in basic education funding. Among Clarion County school districts, Clarion-Limestone Area School District received the largest increase at 3.92%. In Pennsylvania, one hundred fifty school districts received the base 2% increase while Kennett Consolidated School District in Chester County received a 23.65% increase in state funding. Fifteen school district received an increase of funding of over 10% in 2010. One hundred fifty school districts received the base 2% increase. 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.
In the 2009–2010 budget year the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania provided a 2.12% increase in Basic Education funding for a total of $5,521,321. This was among the lowest increases, in Basic Education Funding, that school districts in Clarion County received. The state Basic Education funding to the district in 2008–09 was $5,406,523.65. 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.
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 Union School District applied for and received $208,272 in addition to all other state and federal funding. The district used the funding to provide full-day kindergarten for the third year, to reduce class size K-3rd grade for the 7th year and to provide social services.
Classrooms for the Future grant
Union School District did not apply for a state Classrooms for the Future grant to purchase computers for the high school students' use along with paying for mandatory teacher training to optimize the computers' use. Computers were for core academic courses: English, Math, Science, and History.
Classrooms For the Future was launched in 2006 as a three-year, $200 million project. It called for a laptop computer for every high school student and the teacher. Fifty Pennsylvania school districts never applied for grants. An audit by the Pennsylvania Auditor General found over three years, PDE eventually provided, at least partial funding, to all but four school districts who applied for Classrooms for the Future grants.
Federal Stimulus funding
The district received $869,280 in ARRA – Federal Stimulus money to be used in specific programs like special education and meeting the academic needs of low-income students. This is for the 2009–10 and 2010–2011 school years.
Race to the Top grant
School district officials did not apply for the Race to the Top federal grant which would have brought the district hundreds of thousands of additional federal dollars for improving student academic achievement. 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.
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 2010–2011 were set at 48.8000 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.
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 2010–2011 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.
The School District Adjusted Index for the Union School District 2006–2007 through 2011–2012.
- 2006–07 – 5.9%, Base 3.9%
- 2007–08 – 5.1%, Base 3.4%
- 2008–09 – 6.7%, Base 4.4%
- 2009–10 – 6.2%, Base 4.1%
- 2010–11 – 4.4%, Base 2.9%
- 2011–12 – 2.9%, Base 1.4%
The Union School Board did not apply for any exceptions in 2010–11. 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 2009, the Homestead/Farmstead Property Tax Relief from gambling for the East Pennsboro Area School District was $134 per approved permanent primary residence. In the district, 1,067 property owners applied for the tax relief. In Clarion County the highest amount of tax relief in 2009, went to Clarion-Limestone Area School District at $140. The highest property tax relief, among Pennsylvania school districts, went to the residents of Chester Upland School District of Delaware County who received $632 per approved homestead. The relief was subtracted from the total annual school property tax bill. Property owners apply for the relief through the county Treasurer's office. Farmers can qualify for a farmstead exemption on building used for agricultural purposes. The farm must be at least 10 contiguous acres and must be the primary residence of the owner. Farmers can qualify for both the homestead exemption and the farmstead exemption. In Clarion County, 47.86% of eligible property owners applied for property tax relief in 2009.
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, so people who make 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%).
Union School Board established a district wellness policy in 2006 – Policy 246. The policy deals with nutritious meals served at school, the control of access to some foods and beverages during school hours, age appropriate nutrition education for all students, and physical education for students K-12. The policy is in response to state mandates and federal legislation (P.L. 108 – 265). The law dictates that each school district participating in a program authorized by the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (42 U.S.C. 1751 et seq) or the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 (42 U.S.C. 1771 et seq) "shall establish a local school wellness policy by School Year 2006."
The legislation placed the responsibility of developing a wellness policy at the local level so the individual needs of each district can be addressed. According to the requirements for the Local Wellness Policy, school districts must set goals for nutrition education and physical education that are aligned with the, campus food provision, and other school-based activities designed to promote student wellness. Additionally, districts were required to involve a broad group of individuals in policy development and to have a plan for measuring policy implementation. Districts were offered a choice of levels of implementation for limiting or prohibiting low nutrition foods on the school campus. In final implementation these regulations prohibit some foods and beverages on the school campus. The policy requires that the Superintendent or designee shall report to the Board on the district’s compliance with law and policies related to student wellness.
The Pennsylvania Department of Education required the district to submit a copy of the Student Wellness Policy for approval.
The Union School Board prohibits bullying by district students and faculty. A policy approved in May 2006 defines bullying and cyberbullying. The Board directs that complaints of bullying shall be investigated promptly, and corrective action shall be taken when allegations are verified. No reprisals or retaliation shall occur as a result of good faith reports of bullying. The board expects staff members to be responsible to maintain an educational environment free from all forms of bullying. All Pennsylvania schools are required to have an anti-bullying policy incorporated into their Code of Student Conduct. The policy must identify disciplinary actions for bullying and designate a school staff person to receive complaints of bullying. The policy must be available on the school's website and posted in every classroom. All Pennsylvania public schools must provide a copy of its anti-bullying policy to the Office for Safe Schools every year, and shall review their policy every three years. Additionally, the district must conduct an annual review of that policy with students. The Center for Schools and Communities works in partnership with the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime & Delinquency and the Pennsylvania Department of Education to assist schools and communities as they research, select and implement bullying prevention programs and initiatives.
Education standards relating to student safety and antiharassment programs are described in the 10.3. Safety and Injury Prevention in the Pennsylvania Academic Standards for Health, Safety and Physical Education.
Union School District offers students a variety of clubs, activities and sports. By district policy, students who choose to participate must submit to random drug testing on demand. The school board determines eligibility to participate.
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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