Blue Ridge School District

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Blue Ridge School District
Map of Susquehanna County Pennsylvania School Districts.png
Address
5058 School Road
New Milford, Pennsylvania, Susquehanna County 18834
United States of America
Information
Type Public
School board 9 locally elected members
Superintendent

Mr. Matthew Button, (contract July 1, 2015 to June 29, 2019) Salary $105,000 (2015)[1]
Mr. Robert McTiernan (2010-2015) Salary $112,519 (2013)[2]

Mr. Joseph Chris Dyer (2008-2010)[3]
Dean Lynn Parker
Administrator

Brian Dolan, Business Manager
Matthew Nebzydoski, MS & HS salary $86,303 (2013)
Barbara McCain, Special Education Coordinator
Mike Stewart, Information Systems Network Administrator
Ron Cranage, District Maintenance Supervisor

Linda Cole-Koloski, Food Service Director
Principal Peter Supko, MS & HS
Principal Mrs Danelle Decker, BRES
Staff 78 non teaching staff (2014)
Faculty 80 teachers (2013)[4]
Grades PreK-12
Age 4 years old to 21 years old special ed
Pupils

1,060 pupils (2015)[5]
1,025 pupils (2013)[6]
1,089 pupils (2012)[7]
1,099 pupils (2010)[8]

1,232 pupils (2007)
 • Kindergarten 89 (2014),[9] 122 (2010)
 • Grade 1 69 (2014), 78
 • Grade 2 78 (2014), 65
 • Grade 3 80 (2014), 70
 • Grade 4 66 (2014), 79
 • Grade 5 65 (2014), 81
 • Grade 6 93 (2014), 83
 • Grade 7 64 (2014), 79
 • Grade 8 72 (2014), 79
 • Grade 9 68 (2014), 89
 • Grade 10 85 (2014), 76
 • Grade 11 77 (2014), 95
 • Grade 12 84 (2014), 103
 • Other 76 (2014)
Language English
Color(s) Red & White
Mascot Raiders
Newspaper The Raider Reader
Budget

$17,192,560 (2015-16)[10][11]
$16,714,606 (2014-15)[12]

$16,995,707 (2013-14)[13]
Tuition ES - $8,577.88, HS - $9,552.73 [14]
Per pupil spending

$15,813.12 (2013)[15]
$14,962.85 (2010)[16]

$13,800 (2008)[17]
Website

The Blue Ridge School District is a small, rural, public school district located in Susquehanna County in northeastern Pennsylvania. It serves the Boroughs of Great Bend, Hallstead and New Milford and Great Bend Township, Jackson Township and New Milford Township. The district encompasses approximately 100 square miles (260 km2). According to the 2000 federal census data, it served a resident population of 7,331. By 2010, the District's population increased to 7,730 people.[18] The educational attainment levels for the Blue Ridge School District population (25 years old and over) were 89.6% high school graduates and 13.5% college graduates.[19] The District is one of the 500 public school districts of Pennsylvania.

According to the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, 42.9% of the District’s pupils lived at 185% or below the Federal Poverty Level [1] as shown by their eligibility for the federal free or reduced price school meal programs in 2012.[20] In 2013, the Pennsylvania Department of Education reported that 13 students in the Blue Ridge School District were homeless.[21] In 2009, the District residents’ per capita income was $15,852, while the median family income was $37,412.[22] In the Commonwealth, the median family income was $49,501 [23] and the United States median family income was $49,445, in 2010.[24] In Susquehanna County, the median household income was $48,231.[25] By 2013, the median household income in the United States rose to $52,100.[26] In 2014, the median household income in the USA was $53,700.[27]

According to District officials, in school year 2007-08 the Blue Ridge School District provided basic educational services to 1,250 pupils through the employment of 100 teachers, 89 full-time and part-time support personnel, and 5 administrators. By 2014, enrollment had declined to 1,043 pupils. The District employed: 81 teachers, 19 full or part-time staff member and 5 administrators. The District received $10,481,704 in state subsidies for 2014-15.

Blue Ridge School District operates three schools: Blue Ridge High School, Blue Ridge Middle School and Blue Ridge Elementary School. High school students may choose to attend the Susquehanna County Career Technology Center for training in the construction and mechanical trades. The Northeastern Educational Intermediate Unit IU19 provides the District with a wide variety of services like: specialized education for disabled students including visually and hearing impaired; state mandated training on recognizing and reporting child abuse; speech disability services; criminal background check processing for prospective employees and professional development for staff and faculty.

Governance[edit]

Blue Ridge School District is governed by 9 individually elected board members (serve without compensation for a term of four years), the Pennsylvania State Board of Education, the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Pennsylvania General Assembly.[28] The federal government controls programs it funds like: Title I funding for low income children in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the No Child Left Behind Act(renamed Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in December 2015) which mandates the district focus its resources on student success in acquiring reading and math skills.[29] The school board is required by state law to post a financial report on the district in its website by March of each school year.[30] Blue Ridge School District has posted it budget on the district site.[2]

The Superintendent and Business Manager are appointed by the school board. The Superintendent is the chief administrative officer with overall responsibility for all aspects of operations, including education and finance. The Business Manager is responsible for budget and financial operations. Neither of these officials are voting members of the School Board. The School Board enters into individual employment contracts for these positions. These contracts must be in writing and are subject to public discloure under the state’s Right to Know Act. In Pennsylvania, public school districts are required to give 150 days notice to the Superintendent and Business Manager regarding renewal of their employment contracts.[31] Pursuant to Act 141 of 2012 which amended the Pennsylvania School Code, all school districts that have hired superintendents on/after the fall of 2012 are required to develop objective performance standards and post them on the district’s website.[32]

Academic achievement[edit]

In 2015, Blue Ridge School District ranked 326th out of 493 Pennsylvania public school districts, by the Pittsburgh Business Times.[33] The ranking is based on the last 3 years of student academic achievement as demonstrated by PSSAs results in: reading, writing, math and science and the three Keystone Exams (literature, Algebra 1, Biology I) in high school.[34] Three school districts were excluded because they do not operate high schools (Saint Clair Area School District, Midland Borough School District, Duquesne City School District). The PSSAs are given to all children in grades 3rd through 8th. Adapted PSSA examinations are given to children in the special education programs. Writing exams were given to children in 5th and 8th grades.[35]

In 2009, the academic achievement, of the students in the Blue Ridge School District, was in the 27th percentile among all 500 Pennsylvania school districts Scale (0-99; 100 is state best) [42]

District AYP status history[edit]

In 2012, Blue Ridge School District achieved Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) status.[43] In 2011, Blue Ridge School District achieved Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). 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 Pennsylvania public 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.[44][45] Blue Ridge School District achieved AYP status each year from 2004 to 2010, while in 2003 the District was in Warning status due to lagging student academic achievement.[46]

Graduation rate[edit]

In 2015, Blue Ridge School District’s graduation rate was 90.67%.[47]

  • 2014 - 85.5%[48]
  • 2013 - 88.4% [49]
  • 2012 - 81%[50]
  • 2011 - 75%.[51]
  • 2010 - 73%, the Pennsylvania Department of Education issued a new, 4-year cohort graduation rate.[52]

According to traditional graduation rate calculations:

High school[edit]

Blue Ridge High School is located at 5058 School Road, New Milford. In 2015, enrollment was reported as 315 pupils in 9th through 12th grades, with 45.4% of pupils eligible for a free lunch due to the family meeting the federal poverty level. Additionally, 11.75% of pupils received special education services, while 11.75% of pupils were identified as gifted.[56] The school employed 29 teachers.[57] Per the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 100% of the teachers were rated "Highly Qualified" under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.[58]

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2010, the school reported an enrollment of 377 pupils in grades 9th through 12th, with 166 pupils eligible for a federal free or reduced-price lunch due to family poverty. The Blue Ridge High School employed 30 teachers, yielding a student–teacher ratio of 12:1.[59] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 5 teachers have emergency certification.[60]

2015 School Performance Profile

Blue Ridge High School achieved a 75.8 score out of 100. Reflects on grade level reading, mathematics and science achievement. The PDE reported that 76% of the High School’s students were on grade level in reading/literature. In Algebra 1, only 66% of students showed on grade level skills at the end of the course. In Biology I, just 47% demonstrated on grade level science understanding at the end of the course.[61] Statewide, 53 percent of schools with an eleventh grade achieved an academic score of 70 or better. Five percent of the 2,033 schools with 11th grade were scored at 90 and above; 20 percent were scored between 80 and 89; 28 percent between 70 and 79; 25 percent between 60 and 69 and 22 percent below 60. The Keystone Exam results showed: 73 percent of students statewide scored at grade-level in English, 64 percent in Algebra I and 59 percent in biology.[62][63]

2014 School Performance Profile

Blue Ridge High School achieved a 74.3 score out of 100. Reflects on grade level reading, mathematics and science achievement. In reading/literature, 77% were on grade level. In Algebra 1, 69.7% showed on grade level skills. In Biology, 54% demonstrated on grade level science understanding at the end of the course.[64][65] Statewide, the percentage of high school students who scored proficient and advanced in Algebra I increased to 39.7% to 40.1%. The percentage of high school students who scored proficient and advanced in reading/literature declined to 52.5%. The percentage of high school students who scored proficient and advanced in biology improved from 39.7% to 41.4%.[66]

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 2,134 of 2,947 Pennsylvania public schools (72 percent of Pennsylvania public schools), achieved an academic score of 70 or higher.[67] Fifty-three percent of schools statewide received lower SPP scores compared with last year's, while 46 percent improved. A handful were unchanged.[68][69]

2013 School Performance Profile

Blue Ridge High School achieved a score of 77.5 out of 100. Reflects on grade level reading, mathematics and science achievement. In reading/literature, 77% were on grade level. In Algebra 1, 70% showed on grade level skills. In Biology, 40.5% showed on grade level science understanding.[70] According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 2,181 public schools (less than 73 percent of Pennsylvania public schools), achieved an academic score of 70 or higher. Pennsylvania 11th grade students no longer take the PSSAs. Instead, beginning in 2012, they take the Keystone Exams at the end of the associated course.[71]

AYP history[edit]

From 2003 through 2012, Blue Ridge High School achieved AYP status each school year, using safe harbor provisions.[72]

PSSA Results

Pennsylvania System of School Assessments, commonly called PSSAs are No Child Left Behind Act related examinations which were administered from 2003 through 2012, in all Pennsylvania public high schools. The exams were administered in the Spring of each school year. The goal was for 100% of students to be on grade level or better in reading and mathematics, by the Spring of 2014. The tests focused on the state's Academic Standards for reading, writing, mathematics and science. The Science exam included content in science, technology, ecology and the environmental studies. The mathematics exam included: algebra I, algebra II, geometry and trigonometry. The standards were first published in 1998 and are mandated by the Pennsylvania State Board of Education.[73] In 2013, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania changed its high school assessments to the Keystone Exams in Algebra 1, Reading/literature and Biology1. The exams are given at the end of the applicable course, rather than all in the spring of the student's 11th grade year.[74]

11th Grade Reading
  • 2012 - 68% on grade level, (11% below basic). State - 67% of 11th graders are on grade level.[75]
  • 2011 - 64% (15% below basic). State - 69.1%[76]
  • 2010 - 69% (14% below basic). State - 66% [77]
  • 2009 - 61% (21% below basic). State - 65% [78]
  • 2008 - 73% (16% below basic). State - 65%[79]
  • 2007 - 59% (16% below basic), State - 65% [80]
11th Grade Math
  • 2012 - 67% on grade level (16% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 59% of 11th graders are on grade level.[81]
  • 2011 - 60% (19% below basic). State - 60.3%
  • 2010 - 64% (18% below basic). State - 59%
  • 2009 - 49% (30% below basic). State - 56%
  • 2008 - 64% (23% below basic). State - 56% [82]
  • 2007 - 54% (21% below basic). State - 53%
11th Grade Science
  • 2012 - 46% on grade level (7% below basic). State - 42% of 11th graders were on grade level.[83]
  • 2011 - 18% (11% below basic). State - 40%
  • 2010 - 50% (8% below basic), State - 39%
  • 2009 - 37% (17% below basic). State - 40%
  • 2008 - 37% (16% below basic). State - 39%

Science in Motion Blue RIdge High School did not take advantage of a state program called Science in Motion which brought college professors and sophisticated science equipment to the school to raise science awareness and to provide inquiry-based experiences for the students. The Science in Motion program was funded by a state appropriation and cost the school nothing to participate.[84] Wilkes University provided the science enrichment experiences to schools in the region.

College remediation[edit]

According to a Pennsylvania Department of Education study released in January 2009, 17% of Blue Ridge 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.[85] 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.[86] 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.

Graduation requirements[edit]

Among Pennsylvania's 500 public school districts, graduation requirements widely vary. Blue Ridge School Board has determined that a pupil must earn 24 credits to graduate, including: a required class every year in math, English, social studies, science, Physical Education and 8 credits of electives.[87]

For nearly two decades, all Pennsylvania secondary school students were required to 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.[88] Effective with the graduating class of 2017, the Pennsylvania State Board of Education eliminated the state mandate that students complete a culminating project in order to graduate.[89] Blue Ridge continues to require the project which focuses on career planning and job shadowing.

By Pennsylvania State School Board regulations, beginning with the class of 2019,[90] public school students must demonstrate successful completion of secondary level course work in Algebra I, Biology, and English Literature by passing the respective Keystone Exams for each course.[91][92] The exam is given at the end of the course. Keystone Exams replace the PSSAs for 11th grade.[93]

Students have several opportunities to pass the exam. Schools are mandated to provide targeted assistance to help the student be successful. Those who do not pass after several attempts can perform a project in order to graduate.[94][95] For the class of 2019, a Composition exam will be added. For the class of 2020, passing a civics and government exam will be added to the graduation requirements.[96] 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.[97] Individual student, school or district reports were not made public, although they were reported to district officials by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Students identified as having special needs and qualifying for an Individual Educational Program (IEP) may graduate by meeting the requirements of their IEP.

SAT scores[edit]

In 2014, 41 Blue RIdge School District students took the SAT exams. The District's Verbal Average Score was 476. The Math average score was 478. The Writing average score was 441.[98][99] Statewide in Pennsylvania, Verbal Average Score was 497. The Math average score was 504. The Writing average score was 480. The College Board also reported that nationwide scores were: 497 in reading, 513 in math and 487 in writing.[100] In 2014, 1,672,395 students took the SATs in the United States.

In 2013, 48 Blue Ridge School District students took the SAT exams. The District's Verbal Average Score was 482. The Math average score was 493. The Writing average score was 458. The College Board reported that statewide scores were: 494 in reading, 504 in math and 482 in writing. The nationwide SAT results were the same as in 2012.[101]

In 2012, 46 Blue Ridge School District students took the SAT exams. The District's Verbal Average Score was 467. The Math average score was 456. The Writing average score was 442. The statewide Verbal SAT exams results were: Verbal 491, Math 501, Writing 480. In the USA, 1.65 million students took the exams achieving scores: Verbal 496, Math 514, Writing 488. According to the College Board the maximum score on each section was 800, and 360 students nationwide scored a perfect 2,400.

In 2011, 60 Blue Ridge School District students took the SAT exams. The district's Verbal Average Score was 491. The Math average score was 488. The Writing average score was 468.[102] Pennsylvania ranked 40th among states with SAT scores: Verbal - 493, Math - 501, Writing - 479.[103] 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.[104]

Dual enrollment[edit]

Blue Ridge High School offers the Pennsylvania dual enrollment program. This state program permits high school students to take courses, at local higher education institutions, to earn college credits. 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.[105] Under the Pennsylvania Transfer and Articulation Agreement, many Pennsylvania colleges and universities accept these credits for students who transfer to their institutions.[106] 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.[107] In 2010, the district received a $19,363 state grant to be used to assist students with tuition, fees and books. However, the funding for dual enrollment statewide was eliminated for the 2011 - 12 school year. The program continues with families paying a reduced rate of tuition.

Middle school[edit]

Blue Ridge Middle School is located at 5058 School Road, New Milford. In 2015, enrollment was 225 pupils, in grades 6th through 8th, with 52.9% of pupils eligible for a free lunch due to family poverty. Additionally, 15.5% of pupils received special education services, while less than 1% of pupils were identified as gifted.[108] According to a 2014 report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 100% of its teachers were rated "Highly Qualified" under No Child Left Behind.[109]

In 2010, Blue Ridge Middle School reported an enrollment of 257 pupils in grades 6th through 8th, with 135 pupils eligible for a federal free or reduced-price lunch due to family poverty. The school employed 23 teachers, yielding a student–teacher ratio of 11:1.[110] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 100% of the teachers were rated "Highly Qualified" under No Child Left Behind.[111] In 2010, the attendance rate was reported as 95%. In 2011 the attendance rate declined to 94%. In 2011,

2015 School Performance Profile

The PDE withheld SPP scores. It was reported that 55% of 8th grade students at Blue Ridge Middle School students were on grade level in reading on the PSSAs given in April 2015. In math/Algebra 1, 14% of 8th grade students showed on grade level skills. In science, 64% of the school’s 8th graders demonstrated on grade level science understanding. No eighth grade writing scores were reported. In 7th grade, 58% were on grade level in reading, while just 20% showed on grade level math skills. Among 6th graders, 64% were on grade level in reading and 28% were on grade level in mathematics.[112] Statewide 58% of eighth (8th) graders were on grade level in reading, while 29% demonstrated on grade level math skills. Pennsylvania 7th graders were 58% on grade level in reading and 33% demonstrated on grade level math skills. Among sixth (6th) graders, 60.7% were reading on grade level, while 39.7% demonstrated on grade level math skills. Statewide 61.9% of fifth (5th) graders were on grade level in reading, while 42.8% demonstrated on grade level math skills.[113]

2014 School Performance Profile

Blue Ridge Middle School achieved a score of 68.9 out of 100. Reflects on grade level reading, mathematics and science achievement. In reading/literature, 68.37% were on grade level. In Algebra 1/Math, 69% showed on grade level mathematics skills. In Science, 56.7% of 8th graders showed on grade level science understanding. In writing, 79% of the 8th grade students demonstrated on grade level writing skills.[114]

2013 School Performance Profile

Blue Ridge Middle School achieved out of 100. Reflects on grade level reading, writing, mathematics and science achievement. In reading, 74% of the students were on grade level. In Mathematics/Algebra 1, 77% of the students showed on grade level skills. In Science, only 55% of the 8th graders demonstrated on grade level understanding. In writing, 80% of the 8th grade students demonstrated on grade level writing skills.[115] According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 2,181 public schools (less than 73 percent of Pennsylvania public schools), achieved an academic score of 70 or higher.

AYP history[edit]

Blue Ridge Middle School declined to Warning AYP status due to the lagging academic achievement of its sixth grade pupils in 2011 and 2012.[116] In 2010, Blue Ridge Middle School achieved AYP status.[117] In 2008, Blue Ridge Middle School declined to Warning AYP status, due to lagging student achievement.

PSSA Results:

Sixth and seventh grades have been tested in reading and mathematics since 2006. Eighth graders are tested in: reading, writing, mathematics and Science. Beginning in the Spring of 2013, eighth graders, who are enrolled in Algebra I take the Keystone Exam for Algebra I at the end of the course. The testing of 8th grade in reading and mathematics began in 1999, as a state initiative.[118] Testing in science began in 2007. The goal is for 100% of students to be on grade level or better in reading and mathematics, by the Spring of 2014. The tests focus on the state's Academic Standards for reading, writing, mathematics and science.[119] The standards were published in 1998 and are mandated by the Pennsylvania State Board of Education.[120] In 2014, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania adopted the Pennsylvania Core Standards - Mathematics.[121]

8th Grade Reading
  • 2012 - 64% on grade level (10% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 79% of 8th graders on grade level.[122]
  • 2011 - 82%, 55% advanced (1% below basic). State - 81.8%[123]
  • 2010 - 81%, 47% advanced (11% below basic). State - 81% [124]
  • 2009 - 72%, 47% advanced (19% below basic), State - 80%
  • 2008 - 78%, 31% advanced (9% below basic), State - 78%
  • 2007 - 78%, 52% advanced (10% below basic), State - 75%[125]
8th Grade Math
  • 2012 - 77% on grade level (4% below basic). State - 76% [126]
  • 2011 - 84%, 58% advanced (2% below basic). State - 76.9%
  • 2010 - 91%, 65% advanced (1% below basic) State - 75%
  • 2009 - 75%, 45% advanced (10% below basic), State - 71%
  • 2008 - 71%, 40% advanced (16% below basic), State - 70% [127]
  • 2007 - 66%, 42% advanced (11% below basic), State - 67%
8th Grade Science
  • 2012 - 61% on grade level (15% below basic). State - 59%[128]
  • 2011 - 62% (18% below basic). State – 58.3%
  • 2010 - 58% (15% below basic). State - 57%.
  • 2009 - 57%, State - 54% [129]
  • 2008 - 46%, State - 52% [130]
Dropout Early Warning System

In 2013, Blue Ridge School District implemented a no-cost dropout prevention Early Warning System and Interventions Catalog at the junior high school.[131] The process identifies students at risk for dropping out by examining the pupil’s: attendance, behavior and course grades. Interventions are implemented to assist at-risk pupils to remain in school. The program is funded by federal and private dollars.[132]

Blue Ridge Elementary School[edit]

Blue Ridge Elementary School is located at 5058 School Road, New Milford. In 2015, the School's enrollment was 517 pupils in grades preschool through 5th, with 50.6% of pupils receiving a federal free or reduced price meals due to family poverty. Additionally, 6% of the pupils receive special education services, while less than 1% are identified as gifted.[133] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 100% of the teachers were rated highly qualified under No Child Left Behind. The school provides full day kindergarten.[134] The school is a federally designated Title I school.

In 2010, Blue Ridge Elementary School reported an enrollment of 511 pupils in grades kindergarten through 5th, with 305 pupils eligible for a federal free or reduced-price lunch due to family poverty. The school employed 40 teachers, yielding a student–teacher ratio of 12:1.[135] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 100% of the teachers were rated "Highly Qualified" under No Child Left Behind.[136]

Blue Ridge School District has provided full-day kindergarten for more than a decade.[137] and preschool.[138] Proponents of full day kindergarten claim it will reduce special education numbers and it will raise primary student academic achievement in reading.[139] Reading achievement has not improved. it has actually declined substantially.[140][141]

2015 School Performance Profile

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 63% of 5th grade students at Blue Ridge Elementary School were on grade level in reading on the PSSAs given in April 2015. In mathematics, 23% of 5th grade students showed on grade level skills. No fifth grade writing scores were reported. In 4th grade, 38% were on grade level in reading, while 23% showed on grade level math skills. In science, 87% of fourth graders showed on grade level understanding. Among third (3rd) graders, 60% were on grade level in reading and 30% were on grade level in mathematics.[142] Statewide 61.9% of fifth (5th) graders were on grade level in reading, while 42.8% demonstrated on grade level math skills. Pennsylvania 4th graders were 58.6% on grade level in reading and 44.4% demonstrated on grade level math skills. In science, 77.3% of fourth graders showed on grade level understanding. Among Pennsylvania third (3rd) graders, 62% were reading on grade level, while 48.5% demonstrated on grade level math skills.[143]

2014 School Performance Profile

Blue Ridge Elementary School achieved a score of 83.3 out of 100. The score reflects on grade level: reading, science, writing and mathematics achievement. In 2013-14, only 69% of the students were reading on grade level in grades 3rd through 5th. In 3rd grade, 69.7% of the pupils were reading on grade level. In math, 69% were on grade level (3rd-5th grades). In 4th grade science, 83% of the pupils demonstrated on grade level understanding. In writing, 87.95% of 5th grade pupils demonstrated on grade level skills.[144]

2013 School Performance Profile

Blue Ridge Elementary School achieved a score of 84.5 out of 100. The score reflects on grade level: reading, science, writing and mathematics achievement. In 2012-13, only 73% of the students were reading on grade level in grades 3rd through 5th. In 3rd grade, 73% of the pupils were reading on grade level. In math, 74% were on grade level (3rd-5th grades). In 4th grade science, just 94.87% of the pupils demonstrated on grade level understanding. In writing, only 78.33% of 5th grade pupils demonstrated on grade level skills.[145] According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 2,181 public schools (less than 73 percent of Pennsylvania public schools), achieved an academic score of 70 or higher.

AYP history[edit]

In 2010 through 2012, Blue Ridge Elementary School achieved AYP status each school year. In 2010 the attendance rate was reported as 95%.[146] All students can receive a free breakfast regardless of their ability to pay.[147] Low income students are eligible for a free school lunch as determined by the Federal National School Lunch Program.[148]

PSSA History

Each year, in the Spring, in order to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind Law, the 3rd graders take the PSSAs in math and reading. The fourth grade is tested in reading, math and science. The fifth grade is evaluated in reading, mathematics and writing. Pennsylvania System of School Assessments, commonly called PSSAs are No Child Left Behind Act related examinations which were administered beginning 2003 to all Pennsylvania public school students in grades 3rd-8th.[149] The goal was for 100% of students to be on grade level or better in reading and mathematics, by the Spring of 2014.[150][151][152] The tests focused on the state's Academic Standards for reading, writing, mathematics and science. The Science exam is given to 4th grades and includes content in science, technology, ecology and the environmental studies.[153] The first cohort of Blue Ridge children who attended Accountability Block Grant funded full-day kindergarten reached third grade and took the PSSAs in the spring of 2009.

4th Grade Science
  • 2012 - 98%, (0% below basic). State - 82%
  • 2011 - 94%, 45% advanced, (0% below basic), State – 82.9%
  • 2010 - 94%, 55% advanced. State - 81%
  • 2009 - 88%, 42% advanced. State - 83%
  • 2008 - 80%, 24% advanced. State - 81%

Special education[edit]

In December 2013, Blue Ridge School District administration reported that 140 pupils or 13.6% of the district's pupils received Special Education services, with 35% of the identified students having a specific learning disability.[161] Special education services in the Commonwealth are provided to students from ages three years to 21 years old. In the 2010-2011 school year, the total student enrollment was more than 1.78 million students with approximately 275,000 students eligible for special education services. Among these students 18,959 were identified with mental retardation and 21,245 students with autism.[162] The largest group of students are identified as Specific Learning Disabilities 126,026 students (46.9 percent) and Speech or Language Impairments with 43,542 students (16.2 percent).

In December 2010, the district administration reported that 249 pupils or 21% of the district's pupils received Special Education services. Fifty one percent of the special education students were identified as having a Specific Learning Disability. In December 2009, 269 children or 23% of the district's pupils received Special education services.[163]

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.[164]

Students who have an Individual Education Plan (IEP) may take the PSSA-M an alternative math exam rather than the PSSA.[165] Some special education students may take the PASA (Pennsylvania Alternate System of Assessment), rather than the PSSA.[166] Schools are permitted to provide accommodations to some students.[167]

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.[168] 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.[169] The state requires each district to have a three-year special education plan to meet the unique needs of its special education students.[170] 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.[171] The state requires each public school district and charter school to have a three-year special education plan to meet the unique needs of its special education students.[172] In 2012, the Obama Administration's US Department of Education issued a directive requiring schools include students with disabilities in extracurricular activities, including sports.[173]

Blue Ridge School District received a $704,832 supplement for special education services in 2010.[174] 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.[175] For the 2014-2015 school year, BRSD received an increase to $714,292 from the Commonwealth for special education funding.[176] Additionally, the state provides supplemental funding for extraordinarily impacted students. The District must apply for this added funding.

In 2013, the state's Special Education Funding Reform Commission provided a report on the state of funding for special education in the Commonwealth.[177] Funding for special education programs is borne largely on a local basis at 60%, with the state contributing $1 billion or 30% and the federal government providing 10% of the funding.

Gifted education[edit]

The District Administration reported that 19 or 1.66% of its students were gifted in 2009.[178] By law, the district must provide mentally gifted programs at all grade levels. The primary emphasis is on enrichment and acceleration of the regular education curriculum through a push in model with the gifted instructor in the classroom with the regular instructor. This approach permits such specialized instructional strategies as tiered assignments, curriculum compacting, flexible grouping, learning stations, independent projects and independent contracts. Students identified as gifted attending the High School have access to honors and advanced placement courses, and dual enrollment with local colleges. The referral process for a gifted evaluation can be initiated by teachers or parents by contacting the student’s building principal and requesting an evaluation. All requests must be made in writing. To be eligible for mentally gifted programs in Pennsylvania, a student must have a cognitive ability of at least 130 as measured on a standardized ability test by a certified school psychologist. Other factors that indicate giftedness will also be considered for eligibility.[179]

Bullying policy[edit]

The Blue Ridge School District administration reported there was 1 incident of bullying in the district in 2009.[180][181]

The Blue Ridge School Board has provided the district's antibully policy online.[182] 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.[183] 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.[184]

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.[185]

Budget[edit]

Pennsylvania public school districts budget and expend funds according to procedures mandated by the General Assembly and the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE). An annual operating budget is prepared by school district administrative officials. A uniform form is furnished by the PDE and submitted to the board of school directors for approval prior to the beginning of each fiscal year on July 1.

Under Pennsylvania’s Taxpayer Relief Act, Act 1 of the Special Session of 2006, all school districts of the first class A, second class, third class and fourth class must adopt a preliminary budget proposal. The proposal must include estimated revenues and expenditures and the proposed tax rates. This proposed budget must be considered by the Board no later than 90 days prior to the date of the election immediately preceding the fiscal year. The preliminary budget proposal must also be printed and made available for public inspection at least 20 days prior to its adoption. The board of school directors may hold a public hearing on the budget, but are not required to do so. The board must give at least 10 days’ public notice of its intent to adopt the final budget according to Act 1 of 2006.[186]

Strike

In April 2016, Blue Ridge Teachers Union issued a strike threat if their contract demands are not met. The union announced it will go on strike April 25.[187] The union is balking at paying more than 10% for their platinum health insurance policy.[188] In February 2016, the School Board offered salary increases of between 1.75 percent to 2.9 percent each year, coupled with a $250 payment for 2014-15. While teachers would continue to pay just 10% towards their healthcare, they would also pay deductibles of $100 or $300 a year. The proposal was rejected by the union negotiators.[189]

By 2013, the average teacher salary in Blue Ridge School District had risen to $56,717 a year.[190] The District employed 137 teachers with a top salary of $112,519.[191][192] Pennsylvania teacher salaries (2013–14) are searchable in a statewide database provided by TribLive News.[193] Blue Ridge School District teacher and administrator retirement benefits are equal to at least 2.00% x Final Average Salary x Total Credited Service. (Some teachers benefits utilize a 2.50% benefit factor.)[194] After 40 years of service, Pennsylvania public school teachers and administrators can retire with 100% of the average salary of their final 3 years of employment. 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.[195] In 2014-15, Pennsylvania public school district mandated teacher pension contribution rose to 21.40% of employee salaries and in 2015-16 it rose again to 25.84% of total salaries.[196] In 2014-15, the state mandated District contribution to the teacher pension fund rose to 21.40% of employee salaries and in 2015-16 it rose again to 25.84% of total District salaries.[197]

In 2011, Blue Ridge School District employed 101 teachers and administrators with an average salary of $53,360. The teachers pay just 10% of the costs of their health insurance.[198] The contract was from 2005 through June 30, 2011.[199] Teachers receive: medical insurance, dental insurance, vision insurance, 2-3 paid personal days which accumulate, severance pay upon retirement, term life insurance, and college credit reimbursement. Teachers work 186 days with 180 student days, with a 7.5 hour work day. Teachers receive step salary increases based on longevity and certifications on top of annual COLAs.

In 2009, the district reports employing over 100 teachers with a starting salary of $36,386 for 180 days for pupil instruction. The average teacher salary was $49,741, while the maximum salary was $98,000.[200] Teachers work 186 days with 180 pupil days with a 7.5-hour work day, including a 30-minute duty-free lunch. 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.[201] Additionally, effective with the 2011 contract, Blue Ridge School District teachers receive a defined benefit pension, health insurance (10% cost to employee), vision insurance (at no cost to employee), dental insurance (at no cost to employee), income protection insurance (at no cost to the employee), professional development reimbursement, 2 paid personal days, 10 sick days (which accumulate)) and other benefits. Upon retirement teachers receive pay for unused sick and personal days at $85 per day. Teachers are paid extra if they are required to work outside of the regular school day [202] According to State Rep. Glen Grell, a trustee of the Pennsylvania Public School Employees’ Retirement System Board, a 40-year educator can retire with a pension equal to 100 percent of their final salary.[203]

In 2007, the district employed 90 teachers. The average teacher salary in the district was $47,321 for 180 school days worked.[204]

Administration costs Blue Ridge School District administrative costs per pupil in 2008 was $881.67 per pupil. The district is ranked 114th for administrative spending out of 500 school districts in Pennsylvania. The lowest administrative cost per pupil in Pennsylvania was $398 per pupil.[205] Superintendents and administrators receive a benefit package commensurate with that offered to the district's teachers' union.[206] Some salaries are governed by Act 93 contracts with administrators.

Per pupil spending In 2008, Blue Ridge School District reported spending $13,800 per pupil. This ranked 117th in the commonwealth.[207] In 2010, the District's per pupil spending was $14,962.85.[208] In 2013, the per pupil spending was reported as $15,813.12.[209] In 2007, the Pennsylvania per pupil total expenditures was reported as $12,759.[210] Among the states, Pennsylvania’s total per pupil revenue (including all sources) ranked 11th at $15,023 per student, in 2008-09.[211]

The U.S. Census Bureau reported that Pennsylvania spent $8,191 per pupil in school year 2000-01.[212] In 2007, the Pennsylvania per pupil total expenditures was reported as $12,759.[213] Among the fifty states, Pennsylvania’s total per pupil revenue (including all sources) ranked 11th at $15,023 per student, in 2008-09.[214] Pennsylvania’s total revenue per pupil rose to $16,186 ranking 9th in the nation in 2011.[215]

Reserves

In 2009, Blue Ridge School District reported $1,726,407 in an unreserved-undesignated fund balance. The designated fund balance was reported as zero.[216] In 2010, Blue Ridge Administration reported an increase to $1,860,489.00 in the unreserved-undesignated fund balance while the designated fund balance was $490,000. By 2013, the District reported $1,342,024 in its unreserved-undesignated fund balance, while the designated fund balance was $2,753,345. 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.[217] By 2013, reserves held by Pennsylvania public school districts, as a whole, had increased to over $3.8 billion.[218][219][220]

Audit

In August 2010, the Pennsylvania Auditor General conducted a performance audit of the district. Findings were reported to the administration and school board.[221] According to a 2016 state audit, Blue Ridge School District’s Dean of Students/Attendance Officer was improperly assigned, due to a lack of mandated certifications. As a result, the District was subject to state subsidy forfeiture costing the District nearly six thousand dollars.[222]

Tuition Students who live in the District's attendance area may choose to attend one of Pennsylvania's 157 public charter schools. A student living in a neighboring public school district or a foreign exchange student may seek admission to Blue Ridge School District. For these cases, the Pennsylvania Department of Education sets an annual tuition rate for each school district. It is the amount the public school district pays to a charter school for each resident student that attends the charter and it is the amount a nonresident student's parents must pay to attend the District's schools. In 2015, the tuition rates were Elementary School - $9478, High School - $10,938.70.[223]

Blue Ridge School District is funded by a combination of: a property tax and a real estate transfer tax 0.5%, coupled with substantial funding from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the federal government. Grants can provide an opportunity to supplement school funding without raising local taxes.[224] Interest earnings on accounts also provide nontax income to the District. 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.[225] The average Pennsylvania public school teacher pension in 2011 exceeded $60,000 a year, plus they receive federal Social Security benefits. Both retirement benefits are free of Pennsylvania state income tax and local income tax which funds local public schools.[226] Effective 2016, active duty military are also exempted from paying the local earned income tax in Pennsylvania.[227][228]

State basic education funding[edit]

According to a report from Representative Todd Stephens office, Blue Ridge School District receives 61.2% of its annual revenue from the state.[229] This exceeds some education advocates goal of the state providing 50% of district funding.[230]

For the 2015-16 school year, Governor Tom Wolf released a partial Basic Education Funding of $3,015,229 to Blue RIdge School District, in January 2016.[231] This was part of $10.3 billion in school funding withheld from the public schools, by the Governor since the summer of 2015.[232] The dispersement did not follow the new Basic Education Fair Funding formula which had been established by the Pennsylvania General Assembly in June 2015.[233] Ten (10) Pennsylvania school districts received no increase in funding.[234][235] The District also received another $180,360 in Ready To Learn grant funds. In April 2016, Governor Wolf announced his finalized dispersement of 2015-16 state Basic Education Funding (BEF). Blue Ridge School District received a 1.3% increase for a total funding of $6,509,875.[236] This is $22,934 less than the District was to receive by law under the state’s Fair Funding Formula approved in 2015.[237][238] Governor Wolf also altered the state's Ready to Learn Grant distribution. Blue Ridge School District received $22,912 less in Ready To Learn grant than it was to receive under the legislature approved state formula for distribution. The highest increase in funding statewide was awarded by Governor Wolf to Wilkinsburg Borough School District which got a 48.07% increase in state Basic Education Funding. The average BEF increase among the Commonwealth’s 500 public school districts for 2015-16 was 2.21%. In Susquehanna County, the highest percentage increase was awarded to Mountain View School District - 2.33%.

For the 2014-15 school year, Blue Ridge School District received $$6,262,456.54 in State Basic Education funding. The District also received $164,010 in new Ready To Learn Block grant. The State’s enacted Education Budget included $5,526,129,000 for the 2014-2015 Basic Education Funding.[239] The Education budget also included Accountability Block Grant funding at $100 million and $241 million in new Ready to Learn funding for public schools that focus on student achievement and academic success. The State paid $500.8 million to Social Security on the school employees behalf and another $1.16 billion to the state teachers pension system (PSERS). In total, Pennsylvania’s Education budget for K-12 public schools is $10 billion. This was a $305 million increase over 2013-2014 state spending and the greatest amount ever allotted by the Commonwealth for its public schools.[240]

In the 2013-14 school year, Blue Ridge School District received a 1.2% increase or $6,263,492 in Pennsylvania Basic Education Funding. This is $73,737 more than its 2012-13 state BEF to the District. Additionally, Blue Ridge School District received $91,770 in Accountability Block Grant funding to focus on academic achievement and level funding for special education services. Among the public school districts in Susquehanna County, Montrose Area School District received the highest percentage increase in BEF at 1.5%. The District had the option of applying for several other state and federal grants to increase revenues. The Commonwealth’s budget increased Basic Education Funding statewide by $123 million to over $5.5 billion. Most of Pennsylvania’s 500 public school districts received an increase of Basic Education Funding in a range of 0.9% to 4%. Eight public school districts received exceptionally high funding increases of 10% to 16%. The highest increase in state funding was awarded to Austin Area School District which received a 22.5% increase in Basic Education Funding.[241] The highest percent of state spending per student is in the Chester-Upland School District, where roughly 78 percent comes from state coffers. In Philadelphia, it is nearly 49 percent.[242] As a part of the education budget, the state provided the PSERS (Pennsylvania school employee pension fund) with $1,017,000,000 and Social Security payments for school employees of $495 million.[243]

For the 2012-13 school year, Blue Ridge School District received $6,189,755.[244] The Governor's Executive Budget for 2012-2013 included $9.34 billion for kindergarten through 12th grade public education, including $5.4 billion in basic education funding, which was an increase of $49 million over the 2011-12 budget. In addition, the Commonwealth provided $100 million for the Accountability Block Grant (ABG) program. Blue Ridge School District received $91,770. The state also provided a $544.4 million payment for School Employees’ Social Security and $856 million for School Employees’ Retirement fund called PSERS.[245] This amount was a $21,823,000 increase (0.34%) over the 2011-2012 appropriations for Basic Education Funding, School Employees' Social Security, Pupil Transportation, Nonpublic and Charter School Pupil Transportation. Since taking office, Corbett’s first two budgets have restored more than $918 million in support of public schools, compensating for the $1 billion in federal stimulus dollars lost at the end of the 2010-11 school year.

In the 2011-12 school year, Blue Ridge School District received a $6,189,755 allocation, of state Basic Education Funding.[246][247] Additionally, Blue Ridge School District received $91,770 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.[248] 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.[249] In 2010, the District reported that 496 students received free or reduced-price lunches, due to the family meeting the federal poverty level.[250]

For the 2010-11 school year, Blue Ridge School District received a 2.39% increase in state Basic Education Funding resulting in a $6,569,429 payment.[251] Elk Lake School District received a 2.82% increase, which was the highest increase in BEF in Susquehanna County. Kennett Consolidated School District in Chester County received the highest increase in the state at 23.65% increase in funding for the 2010-11 school year. One hundred fifty school districts received the base 2% increase in 2010-11. Fifteen (15) Pennsylvania public school districts received a BEF increase of greater than 10%. The state's hold harmless policy regarding state basic education funding continued where each district received at least the same amount as it received the prior school year, even when enrollment had significantly declined. The amount of increase each school district received was determined by the Governor Edward Rendell and Secretary of Education, Gerald Zahorchak through the allocation set in the state budget proposal made in February each year.[252] This was the second year of the Governor Rendell’s policy to fund some districts at a far greater rate than others.

In the 2009-10 budget year, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania provided a 3.65% increase in Basic Education funding for a total of $6,415,929. The District also received supplemental funding for English language learners, Title 1 federal funding for low-income students, for district size, a poverty supplement from the commonwealth and more.[253] Montrose Area School District received a 4.88% increase, the highest increase in Susquehanna County for the 2009-10 school year. Among the 500 school districts in Pennsylvania, Muhlenberg School District in Berks County received the highest with a 22.31% increase in funding.[254] 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.[255]

The state Basic Education funding to the District in 2008-09 was $6,189,754.86. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 496 district students received free or reduced-price lunches due to low family income in the 2007-2008 school year.[256]

All Pennsylvania school districts also receive additional funding from the state through several funding allocations, including: Reimbursement of Charter School Expenditures; Special Education Funding; Secondary Career & Technical Education Subsidy; PA Accountability Grants; and low achieving schools were eligible for Educational Assistance Program Funding. Plus all Pennsylvania school districts receive federal dollars for various programs including: Special Education funding and Title I funding for children from low income families. In 2010, Pennsylvania spent over $24 billion for public education - local, state and federal dollars combined.[257] By 2015, Pennsylvania was spending over $27 billion on public education (local, state and federal resources combined).[258]

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 Blue Ridge School District applied for and received $249,067 in addition to all other state and federal funding. The district used the funding to provide full-day kindergarten for the 6th year and to reduce class size K-3rd grade.[259][260]

Ready to Learn grant[edit]

Beginning in the 2014-2015 budget, the State funded a new Ready to Learn Grant for public schools. A total of $100 million is allocated through a formula to districts based on the number of students, level of poverty of community as calculated by its market value/personal income aid ratio (MV/PI AR) and the number of English language learners. Ready to Learn Block Grant funds may be used by the Districts for: school safety; Ready by 3 early childhood intervention programs; individualized learning programs; and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs.[261]

Blue Ridge School District received $164,010 in Ready to Learn Grant dollars in addition to State Basic Education funding, Special Education funding, transportation reimbursement, reimbursement for Social Security payments for employees and other state grants which the district must apply to receive. While the District is eligible for the state's PreK Counts Funding grant for the preschool classes, the administration has not applied.[262][263] This avoids complying with the many mandates and data reporting associated with the grant.[264][265][266][267][268] In 2013, Pennsylvania was awarded a $51.7 million federal grant to fund early learning programs.[269]

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. Blue Ridge School District did not apply for funding in 2006-07. In 2007-08 the district received $151,622. For the 2008-09, school year the district received $45,413 for a total of $197,035. Of the 501 public school districts in Pennsylvania, 447 of them received Classrooms for the Future grant awards.[270] Among the public school districts in Susquehanna County, the highest award was given to Montrose Area School District which received $337,927. The highest funding statewide was awarded to Philadelphia City School District in Philadelphia County - $9,409,073. The grant program was discontinued by Governor Edward Rendell as part of the 2009-10 state budget.

Other grants[edit]

Blue Ridge School District did not participate in: Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's Environmental Education annual grants;[271][272] PA Science Its Elementary grants (discontinued effective with 2009-10 budget by Governor Rendell);[273] Education Assistance Grants; 2012 Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy grant;[274] 2013 Safe Schools and Resource Officer grants; 2012 and 2013 Pennsylvania Hybrid Learning Grants;[275] nor the Project 720 High School Reform grants[276] (discontinued effective with 2011-12 budget).

Federal grants[edit]

Blue Ridge School District received an extra $138,657 in ARRA - Federal Stimulus money to be used in specific programs like Title 1, special education and meeting the academic needs of low-income students.[277] The funding was limited for the 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years.[278] The funding was limited to the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 school years.[279] Due to the temporary nature of the funding, schools were repeatedly advised by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, the Pennsylvania Senate Education Committee, the Governor and the Pennsylvania School Board Association, 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]

Blue Ridge 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.[280] 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.[281] 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.[282]

English language learners grant[edit]

The Federal government provides annual grants to schools to assist in educating immigrant children and children who are identified as limited English proficient.[283] Upon registering for school a language survey is done for all new enrollment pupils, typically in kindergarten or preschool. They identify the primary language spoken at home. This data is collected and submitted to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, which in turn notifies the federal government.[284]

In 2012-13, Blue Ridge School District received $1,086 in Title III funding for English language learners.[285] For 2014-15, Blue Ridge School District received $855 in Title III funding.[286]

Title II grants[edit]

The Federal government provides annual grants to schools to be used to improve the quality of teacher instructions to pupils. The goal is to provide each child in public schools with “Highly Quality” teachers and principals as defined by the state.[287] The funds are sent to the state Department of Education which distributes them to each school district and charter school.[288] Beginning in 2002, the federal funding committed to Title II was $3,175,000,000.

Public school district administrations must apply to the state annually for the Title II funds. In 2012-13, Blue Ridge School District received $50,049 in federal Title II funding.[289] In 2014-15, Blue Ridge School District applied for and received $47,820.[290]

Common Cents state initiative[edit]

The Blue Ridge School Board chose 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.[291] After the review of the information, the district was not required to implement any of the recommended cost savings changes.

Real estate taxes[edit]

Property tax rates in 2015-16 were set by the school board at 48.3900 mills.[292] 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 all government property (local, state and federal). Additionally, service related, disabled US military veterans may seek an exemption from paying property taxes. Unlike other states, under Pennsylvania state tax policy, natural gas and oil pipelines are exempted from property taxes.[293] There are a plethora of gas pipelines in the District due to marcellus shale gas development.[294] Pipeline companies prohibit development within the 100 foot wide right-of-way, there by limiting future development options for the landowner. This limits future potential property tax revenues for the school district, by constraining future land development. Located in the marcellus shale region, Blue Ridge School District is adversely impacted this way by the Constitution Pipeline.[295][296]

Pennsylvania public 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 (Local Tax Enabling Act), which are around 15% of revenues for school districts.[297] When a Pennsylvania public school district includes municipalities in two or more counties, each of which has different rates of property tax assessment, a state board equalizes the tax rates between the counties.[298] 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.[299]

The average yearly property tax paid Susquehanna County residents amounts to about 3.66% of their yearly income. Lackawanna County[clarification needed] ranked 331st out of the 3143 United States counties for property taxes as a percentage of median income.[309] According to a report prepared by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, the total real estate taxes collected by all school districts in Pennsylvania rose from $6,474,133,936 in 1999-00 to $10,438,463,356 in 2008-09 and to $11,153,412,490 in 2011.[310] 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%).[311] Pennsylvania's 2011 tax burden of 10.35% ranked 10th highest out of 50 states. The tax burden was above the national average of 9.8%. Pennsylvania's taxpayers paid $4,374 per capita in state and local taxes, including school taxes.[312]

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 authorized 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.[313]

The School District Adjusted Index for the Blue Ridge School District 2006-2007 through 2010-2011.[314]

For the 2015-16 budget year, Blue Ridge School Board did not apply for any exceptions to exceed its Act I Index limit. For the school budget 2015-16, 310 Pennsylvania public school districts adopted a resolution certifying that tax rates would not be increased above its Act 1 Index limit. Another 187 school districts adopted a preliminary budget leaving open the option of exceeding the Index limit. Regarding the pension costs exception, 172 school districts received approval to exceed the Index limit in full, while others received a partial approval of their request. For special education costs, 119 districts received approval to exceed their tax limit. No Pennsylvania public school districts received an approval for the grandfathered construction debts exception.[321]

For the 2014-15 budget year, Blue Ridge School Board did not apply for exceptions to exceed their Act 1 Index limit. In 2014-15, all Pennsylvania school districts were required to make a 21.4% of payroll payment to the teacher’s pension fund (PSERS).[322] For the school budget 2014-15, 316 Pennsylvania public school districts adopted a resolution certifying that tax rates would not be increased above its Act 1 Index limit. Another 181 school districts adopted a preliminary budget leaving open the option of exceeding the Index limit. Districts may apply for multiple exceptions each year. For the pension costs exception, 163 school districts received approval to exceed the Index in full, while others received a partial approval of their request. For special education costs, 104 districts received approval to exceed their tax limit. Seven Pennsylvania public school districts received an approval for the grandfathered construction debts exception.[323]

For the 2013-14 budget year, Blue Ridge School Board did not apply for exceptions to exceed their Act 1 Index limit. In 2013-14, all Pennsylvania school districts were required to make a 16.93% of payroll payment to the teacher’s pension fund (PSERS). For the school budget year 2013-14, 311 Pennsylvania public school districts adopted a resolution certifying that tax rates would not be increased above their index. Another 171 school districts adopted a preliminary budget leaving open the option of exceeded the Index limit. For the pension costs exception, 169 school districts received approval to exceed the Index. For special education costs, 75 districts received approval to exceed their tax limit. Eleven Pennsylvania public school districts received an approval for grandfathered construction debts.[324]

For the 2012-13 budget year, Blue Ridge 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.[325]

For the 2011-12 school year, Blue Ridge School Board did not apply for an exception to exceed the Act 1 Index. Each year, the Blue Ridge 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.[326]

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.[327]

In the 2010-11 school year, Blue Ridge School Board did not apply for exceptions to exceed the Act 1 index for its budget.[328][329] 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.[330]

For the 2009-10 school budget, Blue Ridge School Board did not apply for exceptions to exceed the Index.[331] 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.[332]

Property tax relief[edit]

In 2013, Blue Ridge School District approved 2,036 homestead properties received $360.[333] The decline in amount was related to more residents applying for tax relief and a decline in table games tax revenues. The amount received by the Blue Ridge School District must be divided equally among all approved residences.[334]

In 2009, the Homestead/Farmstead Property Tax Relief from gambling for the Blue Ridge School District was $377 per approved permanent primary residence. In the district, 1,943 property owners applied for the tax relief.[335] The tax relief was subtracted from the total annual school property on the individual's 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. The Pennsylvania Auditor General found that 48% of property owners applied for tax relief in Susquehanna County.[336] In Susquehanna County, the highest property tax relief in 2009 was awarded to the approved property owners in Blue Ridge School District. Pennsylvania awarded the highest property tax relief to residents of the Chester-Upland School District in Delaware County at $632 per homestead and farmstead in 2010.[337] This was the second year Chester Upland School District was the top recipient.

Additionally, the Pennsylvania Property Tax/Rent Rebate program is provided for low income Blue Ridge School District residents aged 65 and older; widows and widowers aged 50 and older; and people with disabilities age 18 and older. The income limit is $35,000 for homeowners. The maximum rebate for both homeowners and renters is $650. Applicants can exclude one-half (1/2) of their Social Security income, consequently individuals who have income 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.[338]

Enrollment and consolidation[edit]

Blue Ridge School District is experiencing low enrollment in K-12. The Pennsylvania Department of Education projects the district's enrollment will remain below 1000 pupils through 2018.[339] Shifting population trends across the U.S. and Pennsylvania are affecting school enrollment and may impact the building needs of school districts in the years to come.[340] Over the last 10 years, rural Pennsylvania school enrollment decreased by over 8 percent.[341] According to a 2009 public school district administration consolidation proposal by Governor Edward Rendell, the excessive administrative overhead dollars could be redirected to improve lagging academic achievement, to enrich the academic programs or to reduce property taxes.[342] Consolidation of two central administrations into one would not require the closing of any schools. The Governor's proposal called for the savings to be redirected to improving lagging reading and science achievement, to enriching the academic programs or to reducing residents' property taxes.[343]

A study done by Standard and Poor's in 2007 (at the request of the Pennsylvania General Assembly), examined the Blue Ridge School District consolidating administrations with neighboring Mountain View School District. It found that residents in both districts would realize substantial savings in a consolidation. Savings of over $1000 per pupil were estimated.[344] Superintendent were asked about savings, if their district were to merge with another district at the administrative level only, but not close any of their schools. It found 42% of survey respondents thought consolidation could achieve cost reductions. Additionally, 63% of responding superintendents believed that consolidation with another district would help provide additional academic enrichment opportunities for the students.[345]

In March 2011, the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants Fiscal Responsibility Task Force released a report which found that consolidating school district administrations with one neighboring district would save the Commonwealth $1.2 billion without forcing the consolidation of any schools.[346]

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.[347] Pennsylvania had 2,361 public school districts in 1959. The state compelled mergers reducing the number to 505 by 1980. Mergers slowed through the 1980s after a 1981 court order desegregated and combined the Edgewood, General Braddock, Swissvale, Churchill and Turtle Creek districts into the Woodland Hills district.[348]

Over the last twenty years, Susquehanna County has experienced a nearly 50% decline in live birth rate. In 1990, the live birth rate was 612.[349] It declined to 499 in 2000.[350] Finally in 2011, the State’s birth rate declined further to just 374 births county-wide.[351]

Wellness policy[edit]

Blue Ridge School Board established a district wellness policy in 2005.[352] 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." Most districts identified the superintendent and school foodservice director as responsible for ensuring local wellness policy implementation.[353]

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, physical activity, 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.[354] The Pennsylvania Department of Education required the district to submit a copy of the policy for approval.

Blue Ridge School District offers both a free school breakfast and a free or reduced-price lunch to children in low income families. All students attending the school can eat breakfast and lunch. Children from families with incomes at or below 130 percent of the federal poverty level are provided a breakfast and lunch at no cost to the family. Children from families with incomes between 130 and 185 percent of the federal poverty level can be charged no more than 30 cents per breakfast. A foster child whose care and placement is the responsibility of the State or who is placed by a court with a caretaker household is eligible for both a free breakfast and a free lunch. Runaway, homeless and Migrant Youth are also automatically eligible for free meals.[355] The meals are partially funded with federal dollars through the United States Department of Agriculture.[356]

In 2013, the USDA issued new restrictions to foods in public schools. The rules apply to foods and beverages sold on all public school district campuses during the day. They limit vending machine snacks to a maximum of 200 calories per item. Additionally, all snack foods sold at school must meet competitive nutrient standards, meaning they must have fruits, vegetables, dairy or protein in them or contain at least 10 percent of the daily value of fiber, calcium, potassium, and Vitamin D.[357] In order to comply with the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 all US public school districts are required to raise the price of their school lunches to $2.60 regardless of the actual cost of providing the lunch.[358] The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 mandates that Districts raise their full pay lunch prices every year until the price of non-subsidized lunches equals the amount the federal government reimburses schools for free meals. That subsidy in 2013-2014 was $2.93. In 2015, federal reimbursement rates were: $3.07 per meal for students who are income-eligible for free lunches and $2.67 for those who qualify for a reduced price. School lunch participation nationally dropped from 31.6 million students in 2012 to 30.4 million in 2014, according to the federal Department of Agriculture. Pennsylvania statistics show school lunch participation dropped by 86,950 students in the same two years, from 1,127,444 in 2012 to 1,040,494 in 2014.[359]

In 2014, President Barack Obama ordered a prohibition of advertisements for unhealthy foods on public school campuses during the school day.[360][361]

The Food and Drug Administration requires that students take milk as their beverage at lunch. In accordance with this law, any student requesting water in place of milk with their lunch must present a written request, signed by a doctor, documenting the need for water instead of milk.[362][363]

Blue Ridge School District provides health services as mandated by the Commonwealth and the federal government. Nurses are available in each building to conduct annual health screenings (data reported to the PDE and state Department of Health) and to dispense prescribed medications to students during the school day. Students can be excluded from school unless they comply with all the State Department of Health’s extensive immunization mandates. School nurses monitor each pupil for this compliance.[364][365] Nurses also monitor each child's weight.[366]

In 2016, the Pennsylvania Department of Health distributed to each Pennsylvania high school the overdose antidote drug naloxone in a nasal spray. School nurses were also provided with educational materials and training developed by the National Association of School Nurses.[367] The cost was covered by a grant from a private foundation.[368]

Extracurriculars[edit]

The Blue Ridge School District offers a variety of clubs, activities and sports. Eligibility to participate is set by school board policies.[369][370]

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 home schooled, 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.[371][372][373]

According to PA Child Abuse Recognition and Reporting Act 126 of 2014, all volunteer coaches and all those who assist in student activities, must have criminal background checks. Like all school district employees, they must also attend an anti child abuse training once every three years.[374][375][376]

Sports[edit]

Coaches receive compensation as outlined in the teachers' union contract. When athletic competition exceeds the regular season, additional compensation is paid.[377] Blue Ridge School District provides its athletics disclosure form on its web site.[378] Article XVI-C of the Public School Code requires the disclosure of interscholastic athletic opportunities for all public secondary school entities in Pennsylvania. All school entities with grades 7-12 are required to annually collect data concerning team and financial information for all male and female athletes beginning with the 2012-13 school year and submit the information to the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Beginning with the 2013-14 school year, all non-school (booster club and alumni) contributions and purchases must also be reported to PDE.[379]

According to Pennsylvania’s Safety in Youth Sports Act, all sports coaches, paid and volunteer, are required to annually complete the Concussion Management Certification Training and present the certification before coaching.[380][381]

The District funds:

Varsity
Middle School Sports

According to PIAA directory July 2015[382]

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