Connellsville Area School District

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Connellsville Area School District
Map of Fayette County Pennsylvania School Districts.png
Address
732 Rock Ridge Road
Connellsville, Pennsylvania, Fayette County 15425
United States
Information
Type Public
School board 9 locally elected members
Superintendent

Mr Philip Martell, Superintendent (contract January 28, 2016 to January 28, 2021)[1] Salary $122,000 in 2016[2]
Daniel Lujetic, Superintendent (May 2012 to June 2015) $117,100 salary, $45,165 health and retirement benefits and $1,099 professional memberships[3][4]
interIm super - Dr. Tammy Stern 2011[5]

David Goodin, Superintendent (2008-2010) $109,850 salary, plus $36,697 health and retirement benefits, $3,557 for professional group memberships[6]
Administrator

Dan Solomon, Business Manager
Dr. Tammy Stern, Director of Curriculum and Instruction
Dawn Basinger, Director of Food Service
Lisa Hampe, Director of Special Education
Karen Marko, Director of Human Resources
Michael Omatick, Director of Buildings & Grounds
Michael Parlak, Director of Security
Kevin Ghost, Director of Technology

Richard Evans, Director of Transportation & Athletics
Staff 250 non teaching staff (2013)
Faculty 326 teachers (2013)[7]
Grades K-12
Age 5 years old to 21 years old special education
Pupils

4,321 pupils (2015)[8]
4,456 pupils (2013)[9]
4,896 pupils (2010)[10]
5,219 pupils (2008)
5,017 pupils (2007)

5,416 pupils (2006)[11]
 • Kindergarten 535 (2013), 367 (2010), 391 (2006)
 • Grade 1 151 (2013), 395 (2010), 383 (2006)
 • Grade 2 341 (2013), 376 (2010), 386 (2006)
 • Grade 3 343 (2013), 388 (2010), 356 (2006)
 • Grade 4 325 (2013), 381 (2010), 415 (2006)
 • Grade 5 341 (2013), 384 (2010), 389 (2006)
 • Grade 6 361 (2013), 390 (2010), 420 (2006)
 • Grade 7 384 (2013), 385 (2010), 417 (2006)
 • Grade 8 366 (2013), 398 (2010), 497 (2006)
 • Grade 9 390 (2013), 385 (2010), 439 (2006)
 • Grade 10 356 (2013), 434 (2010), 520 (2006)
 • Grade 11 227 (2013), 307 (2010), 399 (2006)
 • Grade 12 201 (2013), 247 (2010), 404 (2006)
 • Other Enrollment projected to decline to 4206 in 2020.[12]
Language English
Mascot Falcons
Budget

$62,162,979 (2014-15)
$59,673,565 (2013-14)
$58,163,304 (2012-13)
$58,117,123 (2011-12)
$58,979,521 (2010-11)
$54,492,274 (2009-10)

$54,031,715 (2008-09)
Website

The Connellsville Area School District is a large rural, public school district which covers the City of Connellsville, the Boroughs of Dawson, Dunbar, Ohiopyle, Seven Springs, South Connellsville and Vanderbilt and Bullskin Township, Connellsville Township, Dunbar Township, Saltlick Township, Springfield Township and Stewart Township in Fayette County, Pennsylvania. The district encompasses approximately 216 square miles (560 km2). According to 2000 federal census data, Connellsville Area School District serves a resident population of 38,303. By 2010, the District's population declined to 34,453 people.[13] The educational attainment levels for the Connellsville Area School District population (25 years old and over) were 85.2% high school graduates and 11.6% college graduates.[14] The District is one of the 500 public school districts of Pennsylvania. Connellsville Area School District was established in 1966. It is considered a Second Class public school district due to its resident population exceeding 30,000, but being less than two hundred fifty thousand (250,000) people.

According to the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, 55.7% 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.[15] In 2013, the Pennsylvania Department of Education, reported that 43 students in the Connellsville Area School District were homeless.[16]

In 2009, the district residents' per capita income was $15,194 a year, while the median family income was $35,638.[17] In Fayette County, the median household income was $39,115.[18] In the Commonwealth, the median family income was $49,501[19] and the United States median family income was $49,445, in 2010.[20] By 2013, the median household income in the United States rose to $52,100.[21] In 2014, the median household income in the USA was $53,700.[22]

Per District officials, in school year 2007-08, the Connellsville Area School District provided basic educational services to 5,127 pupils. The District employed 370 teachers, 248 full-time and part-time support personnel, and 20 administrators. Connellsville Area School District received more than $41.4 million in state funding in school year 2007-08. In 2012-13, Connellsville Area School District reported an enrollment of 4,658. It employed 366 teacher, 235 support staff and 21 administrators.[23] In 2012-13, Connellsville Area School District received $44,484,555 in state funding. The district's enrollment declined 16.4 percent to 4,695 students between the 2004-05 and 2011–12, state Department of Education data show.

The Intermediate Unit IU1 provides the District with a wide variety of services like specialized education for disabled students and hearing, background checks for employees, state mandated recognizing and reporting child abuse training, speech and visual disability services and criminal background check processing for prospective employees and professional development for staff and faculty.

Schools[edit]

Connellsville Area School District operates eleven schools including a career-technical school and a cyber academy is available to students in grades 7th through 12Th..

Elementary Schools

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

  • Bullskin Township Elementary School is located on Pleasant Valley Road (State Route 982) in Connellsville, PA, and was built in 1956. The last renovation was in 1998, when also a 4,000 sq ft (370 m2). addition was added to the structure. About 450 students attend school here. In 2010 and 2011 the school achieved AYP status.[24] In 2011, 73% of students are reading on grade level. Math 84.7% of students on grade level.[25]
  • Clifford N. Pritts Elementary School is located on Indian Creek Valley Road (State Routes 381/711) in Melcroft, PA, and was built in 1968. There are about 300 students attending this facility. In 2010 and 2011 the school achieved AYP status.[26] In 2011, 66% of students are reading on grade level. Math 70% of students on grade level.[27]
  • Connellsville Township Elementary School is located on Rock Ridge Road in Connellsville, PA. The school was built in 1963 and also houses the district's administration offices. The student census is around 175. In 2010 and 2011, the school achieved AYP status.[28] In 2011, 56% of students are reading on grade level. Math 64% of students on grade level.[29]
  • Dunbar Borough Elementary School is located off of Pechin Road in Dunbar, PA. The school was built in 1974 and has about 175 students. In 2011, Dunbar Borough Elementary School declined to Warning status under No Child Left Behind due to low student academic achievement. In 2010 the school achieved AYP.[30] In 2011, 38.7% of students are reading on grade level. Math 71% of students on grade level.[31]
  • Dunbar Township Elementary School is located on Ridge Boulevard near Connellsville, PA. The school holds a census of about 600 and was built in 1966. In 2011, Dunbar Township Elementary School declined to Corrective Action II 1st Year status due to chronically low student academic achievement. In 2010, the school was in Corrective Action I level due to chronically low student math and reading achievement.[32] In 2011, 58% of students are reading on grade level. Math 67% of students on grade level.[31] The school administration was required to notify parents that they could transfer their child to a successful school within the district.[33] The administration was also required to write a school improvement plan and submit the plan to the Pennsylvania Department of Education for approval. In 2008, the School was in School Improvement Level I status due to low achievement.[34]
  • South Side Elementary School is located on Race Street in Connellsville, PA and was built in 1965. There are about 325 pupils on the SSE Campus. In 2010 and 2011 the school achieved AYP status.[35] In 2011, 67% of students are reading on grade level. Math 74% of students on grade level.[36]
  • Springfield Township Elementary School was built in 2004 and is located on School House Lane in Normalville, PA. In 2011 the school achieved AYP status. In 2010, the school was in Warning status due to low student achievement.[37] In 2011, 61% of students are reading on grade level. Math 764% of students on grade level.[38]
  • West Crawford Elementary School was constructed in 1918 as the Dunbar Township High School. As part of the 1966 district merger, the school became a Junior High School and remained unchanged until 1999, at which time the 1912,1918, and 1942 sections were razed and an addition to the existing 1960 wing was made. The school was converted to an elementary school during the 2012-13 school term and cost $1.2 million[39] in renovations for its new use.

Governance[edit]

Connellsville Area 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.[40] 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 resources on student success in acquiring reading and math skills.[41] 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.[42] The Connellsville Area School Board conducts two meetings each month. One meeting is a non voting work session with extensive discussion and the second is the formal voting meeting. Both meetings are open to the general public.[43]

Connellsville Area School District 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.[44] 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.[45]

The Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy Alternatives Sunshine Review gave the school board and district administration an "F" for transparency based on a review of "What information can people find on their school district's website". It examined the school district's website for information regarding; taxes, the current budget, meetings, school board members names and terms, contracts, audits, public records information and more.[46]

District AYP status[edit]

In 2012, Connellsville Area School District declined further to District Improvement II Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) status due to missing nearly every academic metric measured in reading and mathematics.[47]

  • 2011 - Making Progress: in District Improvement I AYP status, due to district wide, chronic, low student academic achievement.[48] One of three public school districts to decline to this level in Pennsylvania,
  • 2010 - declined to District Improvement I AYP status.[49] The Administration was required by the Pennsylvania Department of Education to develop and submit a district wide plan to improve student achievement. They were mandated to inform the community of the low achievement and to offer tutoring to low achieving pupils at the District's expense.
  • 2009 - remained in Warning Adequate Yearly Progress status due to low student achievement.[50]
  • 2008 - remained in Warning Adequate Yearly Progress status due to low student achievement.[51]
  • 2007 - declined to Warning AYP status due to lagging student academic achievement.[52]
  • 2006 - achieved AYP status[53]
  • 2005 - declined to Warning AYP status[54]
  • 2004 - achieved AYP status[55]
  • 2003 - Warning AYP status

Academic achievement[edit]

In October 2015, Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale reported that eight schools in the Connellsvile Area School District are among the 561 academically challenged schools that have been overlooked by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.[56][57] The schools are: Bullskin Elementary School, Clifford N. Pritts Elementary School, Connellsville Twp Elementary School, Dunbar Boro Elementary School, Dunbar Twp Elementary School, South Side Elementary School, West Crawford Elementary School and Connellsville Area Junior High School. DePasquale also reported the Pennsylvania Department of Education failed to take any action to remediate the poorly performing schools to raise student academic achievement or to provide them with targeted professional assistance.[58]

Opportunity Scholarship schools

In April 2015, the Pennsylvania Department of Education released a report identifying that five Connellsville Area School District schools were among the lowest achieving schools for reading and mathematics in the state.[59] They were: Clifford N. Pritts Elementary School, Dunbar Boro Elementary School, Dunbar Township Elementary School, West Crawford Elementary School and Zachariah Connell Elementary School.[60] In 2012, 2013 and 2014, only Zachariah Connell Elementary School was on the state's lowest achievement list. In 2011, five district schools were on the bottom 15% achievement list: Zachariah Connell Elementary School, Springfield Elementary School, Dunbar Township Elementary School, Connellsville Township Elementary School, and Connellsville Junior High School West.[61] Parents and students may be eligible for scholarships to transfer to another public or nonpublic school through the state's Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Program passed in June 2012.[62] The scholarships are limited to those students whose family's income is less than $60,000 annually, with another $12,000 allowed per dependent. Maximum scholarship award is $8,500, with special education students receiving up to $15,000 for a year's tuition. Parents pay any difference between the scholarship amount and the receiving school's tuition rate. Students may seek admission to neighboring public school districts. Each year the PDE publishes the tuition rate for each individual public school district.[63] Fifty-three public schools in Allegheny County are among the lowest-achieving schools in 2011. According to the report, parents in 414 public schools (74 school districts) were offered access to these scholarships. For the 2012-13 school year, nine public school districts in Pennsylvania had all of their schools placed on the list including: Steelton-Highspire School District, Sto-Rox School District, Chester Upland School District, Clairton City School District, Duquesne City School District, Farrell Area School District, Wilkinsburg Borough School District, and William Penn School District.[64] In 2014, Monessen City School District had all three of its schools added to the list. Funding for the scholarships comes from donations by businesses which receive a state business tax credit for donating.

Statewide ranking history

Connellsville Area School District ranked 401st out of 493 Pennsylvania public school districts, by the Pittsburgh Business Times.[65] 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.[66] 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.[67]

In 2009, the academic achievement of the students of Connellsville Area School District was in the bottom 6 percentile among 500 Pennsylvania school districts. Scale - (0-99; 100 is state best) [71]

Graduation rate[edit]

In 2015, Connellsville Area School District graduation rate was 69.75%.[72]

  • 2014 - 73.50%[73]
  • 2013 - 75.29%[74]
  • 2012 - 71%.[75]
  • 2011 - 67.99%
  • 2010 - 76%, the Pennsylvania Department of Education issued a new, 4-year cohort graduation rate.[76]
According to traditional graduation rate calculations
  • 2010 - 87% [77]
  • 2009 - 80% [78]
  • 2008 - 77%
  • 2007 - 77%% [79]

High school[edit]

Connellsville Area Senior High School is located at 201 Falcon Drive, Connellsville. In 2015, enrollment was reported as 1,174 pupils in 9th through 12th grades, with 52.9% of pupils eligible for a free lunch due to the family meeting the federal federal poverty level. Additionally, 11.5% of pupils received special education services, while 3.9% of pupils were identified as gifted.[80] The school employed 90 teachers.[81] Per the PA Department of Education, 100% of the teachers were rated "Highly Qualified" under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.[82] The school was built in 1970 and renovated in 2013 at a cost of $41 million.[83] It included a new gymnasium and indoor swimming pool.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2013, the school reported an enrollment of 1,203 pupils in grades 9th through 12th, with 655 pupils eligible for a federal free or reduced price lunch due to the family meeting the federal poverty level. In 2013, the School employed 91 teachers yielding a student-teacher ratio of 13:1.[84] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 100% of the teachers were rated "Highly Qualified" under No Child Left Behind.[85]

2015 School Performance Profile

Connelsville Area Senior High School achieved 87.9 out of 100. Reflects on grade level reading, mathematics and science achievement. The PDE reported that 88% of the High School’s students were on grade level in reading/literature. In Algebra 1, 80.7% of students showed on grade level skills at the end of the course. In Biology I, 77% demonstrated on grade level science understanding at the end of the course.[86] 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.[87][88]

2014 School Performance Profile

Connellsville Area Senior High School achieved 86.9 out of 100. Reflects on grade level reading, mathematics and science achievement. In reading/literature - 89.16% were on grade level. In Algebra 1, 77.8% demonstrated on grade level skills. In Biology, 76.6% demonstrated on grade level science understanding at the end of the course.[89][90] 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%.[91]

2013 School Performance Profile

Connellsville Area Senior High School achieved 83.3 out of 100. Reflects on grade level reading, mathematics and science achievement. In reading/literature - 83.97% were on grade level. In Algebra 1, 72.15% showed on grade level skills. In Biology, 62.29% showed on grade level science understanding.[92] 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.[93]

AYP history

In 2012, Connellsville Area Senior High School declined to Warning Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) status, due to missing all academic metrics measured.[94]

  • 2011 - achieved AYP status.[95]
  • 2010 - Making Progress: in Corrective Action II status due to chronic, low student achievement.[96] the school administration was required to notify parents of the school's poor achievement outcomes and to offer the parent the opportunity to transfer to a successful school within the District.
  • 2009 - Corrective Action Level II due to chronic, poor student achievement.[97]
  • 2008 - declined to Corrective Action Level II due to long standing low student achievement.[98] the school administration was required to notify parents of the school's poor achievement outcomes and to offer the parent the opportunity to transfer to a successful school within the District.
  • 2007 - Making Progress Corrective Action Level II [99]
  • 2006 - declined to Corrective Action Level II [100]
  • 2005 - Corrective Action Level I [101] Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, the school administration was required to notify parents of the school's poor achievement outcomes and to offer the parent the opportunity to transfer to a successful school within the District. No alternative school is available.
  • 2004 - School Improvement Level II [102] The school administration was required by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, to develop a School Improvement Plan to address the school's low student achievement. Under the Pennsylvania Accountability System, the school district must pay for additional tutoring for struggling students.[103] The High School is eligible for special, extra funding under School Improvement Grants which the school must apply for each year.[104]
  • 2003 - School Improvement Level I [105]
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.[106] 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.[107]

11th Grade Reading
  • 2012 - 68% on grade level, (16% below basic). State - 67% of 11th graders are on grade level.[108]
  • 2011 - 72%, (9% below basic). State - 69.1%[109]
  • 2010 - 73% (11% below basic). State - 66% [110]
  • 2009 - 60%, State - 65%[111][112]
  • 2008 - 69%, State - 65%
  • 2007 - 66%, State - 65%[113]
11th Grade Math
  • 2012 - 69% on grade level (15% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 59% of 11th graders are on grade level.[114]
  • 2011 - 70%, (14% below basic). State - 60.3%[115]
  • 2010 - 62%, (23% below basic). State - 59% [116]
  • 2009 - 44%, State - 56% [117]
  • 2008 - 59%, State - 56% [118]
  • 2007 - 50%, State - 53% [119]
11th Grade Science:
  • 2012 - 37% on grade level (13% below basic). State - 42% of 11th graders were on grade level.[120]
  • 2011 - 29% (14% below basic). State - 40%[121]
  • 2010 - 38% (12% below basic). State - 39%
  • 2009 - 33%, State - 40% [122]
  • 2008 - 32%, State - 39%[123]
  • 2007 - tested but scores not made public by the Pennsylvania Department of Education

College remediation rate[edit]

According to a Pennsylvania Department of Education study released in January 2009, 31% of the Connellsville Area High School graduates required remediation in mathematics and or reading before they were prepared to take college level courses in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education or community colleges.[124][125] 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.[126][127] Per the Pennsylvania Department of Education, one in three recent high school graduates who attend Pennsylvania's public universities and community colleges takes at least one remedial course in math, reading or English.

Dual enrollment[edit]

The high school offers a dual enrollment program. This state program permits high school students to take courses, at local higher education institutions, to earn college credits. Students remain enrolled at their high school. The courses count towards high school graduation requirements and towards earning a college degree. The students continue to have full access to activities and programs at their high school. The college credits are offered at a deeply discounted rate. The state offers a small grant to assist students in costs for tuition, fees and books[128] Under the Pennsylvania Transfer and Articulation Agreement, many Pennsylvania colleges and universities accept these credits for students who transfer to their institutions.[129]

For the 2009-10 funding year, Connellsville Area School District received a state grant of $18,785 for the program.[130] In 2010, Governor Edward Rendell eliminated the grants to students.

Graduation requirements[edit]

Connellsville Area School Board has determined that a pupil must earn 24.5 credits to graduate, including: Math 3 units (include 1 Geometry Unit), English 4 units, social studies 3.5 units, science 3 (must include Biology unit), Physical Education 3 courses, Health 0.5 unit, ½ unit of PASS and electives.[131]

For nearly two decades, 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.[132] 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.[133]

By Pennsylvania School Board regulations, for the graduating classes of 2019,[134] all public school students must demonstrate successful completion of secondary level course work in: Algebra I, Biology, English Composition, and Literature, by passing the respective Keystone Exams at the end off each course.[135][136][137][138] Keystone Exams replace the PSSAs for 11th grade.[139]

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.[137][138] 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.[140] 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.[141] 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, 166 Connellsville Area School District students took the SAT exams. The District's Verbal Average Score was 484. The Math average score was 469. The Writing average score was 446.[142][143] 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.[144] In 2014, 1,672,395 students took the SATs in the United States.

In 2013, 168 Connellsville Area School District students took the SAT exams. The District's Verbal Average Score was 479. The Math average score was 476. The Writing average score was 454. 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.[145]

In 2012, 177 Connellsville Area School District students took the SAT exams. The District's Verbal Average Score was 456. The Math average score was 463. The Writing average score was 436. 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, 205 Connellsville Area School District students took the SAT exams. The district's Verbal Average Score was 469. The Math average score was 473. The Writing average score was 451.[146] Pennsylvania ranked 40th among state with SAT scores: Verbal - 493, Math - 501, Writing - 479.[147] 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.[148]

The Center for Rural Pennsylvania, a research arm of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, compared the SAT data of students in rural areas of Pennsylvania to students in urban areas. From 2003 to 2005, the average total SAT score for students in rural Pennsylvania was 992, while urban students averaged 1,006. During the same period, 28 percent of 11th and 12th graders in rural school districts took the exam, compared to 32 percent of urban students in the same grades. The average math and verbal scores were 495 and 497, respectively, for rural students, while urban test-takers averaged 499 and 507, respectively. Pennsylvania’s SAT composite score ranked low on the national scale in 2004. The composite SAT score of 1,003 left Pennsylvania ranking 44 out of the 50 states and Washington, DC.[149]

The Pennsylvania Department of Education reported that 71 percent of students in rural areas of Pennsylvania chose to continue their education after high school in 2003, whereas 79 percent of urban high school graduates opted to continue their education.

Connellsville Area Junior High School[edit]

Connellsville Area Junior High School is located at Locust Street Extension, Connellsville. In 2015, enrollment was 749 pupils, in grades 7th and 8th, with 60.35% of pupils eligible for a free lunch due to family poverty. Additionally, 20% of pupils received special education services, while 4.14% of pupils were identified as gifted.[150] According to a 2014 report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 100% of its teachers were rated "Highly Qualified" under No Child Left Behind.[151] In 2012, the school was formed from the then closed Connellsville Area Junior High School West and Connellsville Area Junior High School East which was housed in this building. Connellsville Area Junior High School is a federally designated Title i school.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2013, Connellsville Area Junior High School reported an enrollment of 773 pupils, in grades 7th and 8th, with 464 pupils receiving a federal free or reduced price lunch due to family poverty. The school employed 62 teachers yielding a student-teacher ratio of 12:1.[152] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 100% of its teachers were rated "Highly Qualified" under No Child Left Behind.[153]

The school was constructed in 1956 as Connellsville Joint High School, when the district was formed in 1966, the name was changed to Connellsville Area High School until the present school was built, then it became a Junior High School. There was extensive renovations and additions to the school in 1998. In 2012, With the board of education's decision in 2012 to consolidate the two Junior High Schools as an effect of Senior High Renovations, all seventh and eighth graders in the district attend classes in this building which was the former Junior High East.[154]

2015 School Performance Profile

The PDE withheld SPP scores. It reported that 49.5% of 8th grade students at Connellsville Area Junior High School students were on grade level in reading on the PSSAs given in April 2015. In math/Algebra 1, 17% of 8th grade students showed on grade level skills. In science, 50% of the school’s 8th graders demonstrated on grade level science understanding. No eighth grade writing scores were reported. In 7th grade, 43% were on grade level in reading, while 26.7% showed on grade level math skills.[155] 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.[156]

2014 School Performance Profile

Connellsville Area Junior High School achieved 65.9 out of 100. Reflects on grade level reading, mathematics and science achievement. In reading/literature - 70% were on grade level. In Algebra 1/Math, 67.7% showed on grade level mathematics skills. In Science, just 51% of 8th graders showed on grade level science understanding. In writing, 57.9% of the 8th grade students demonstrated on grade level writing skills.[157]

2013 School Performance Profile

Connellsville Area Junior High School achieved 60.4 out of 100. Reflects on grade level reading, writing, mathematics and science achievement. In reading, just 62% of the students were on grade level. In Mathematics/Algebra 1, 64% of the students showed on grade level skills. In Science, only 48.5% of the 8th graders demonstrated on grade level understanding. In writing, just 50% of the 8th grade students demonstrated on grade level writing skills.[158] 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

In 2012, Connellsville Junior High School East declined to Corrective Action 2 (first year) AYP status due to chronic, low student achievement. The school missed all academic metrics measured for reading and mathematics.[159]

  • 2011 - Making Progress: in Corrective Action I status.
  • 2010 - declined further to Corrective Action I status due to chronic, low student achievement.[160] For the past five years, Connellsville Junior High School East student achievement has been lower than statewide achievement levels, in grades 7 and 8, in reading, math and science. The school's attendance rate was 91% in both 2010 and 2011.[161]
  • 2009 - declined to School Improvement 2 AYP status, due to lagging academic achievement
  • 2008 - remained in School Improvement 1 AYP status
  • 2007 - declined to School Improvement 1 AYP status. In 2007, the district administration was required, by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, to develop and implement a school improvement plan due to the low student achievement.[162] The district received federal funding to pay teacher coaches through the Tri-State program at the University of Pittsburgh to help improve teaching of math and reading. The plan was approved by the school board.
  • 2006 - declined to Warning AYP status due to lagging academic achievement
  • 2005 - achieved AYP status
  • 2004 - Making Progress - School Improvement 1 AYP status
  • 2003 - School Improvement 1 AYP status, due to lagging student
PSSA Results

8th Grade Reading:

  • 2012 - 63% on grade level (18% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 79% of 8th graders on grade level.[114]
  • 2011 - 70% (19% below basic). State - 81.8%[163]
  • 2010 - 71% (14% below basic). State - 81%
  • 2009 - 65% (17% below basic), State - 80%
  • 2008 - 65% (15% below basic), State - 78%[164]
  • 2007 - 70% (14% below basic), State - 75%

8th Grade Math:

  • 2012 - 70% on grade level (18% below basic). State - 76% [165]
  • 2011 - 62% (17% below basic). State - 76.9%
  • 2010 - 61% (15% below basic). State - 75% [166]
  • 2009 - 52% (17% below basic). State - 71% [167]
  • 2008 - 54% (27% below basic). State - 70%
  • 2007 - 46% (26% below basic). State - 68%

8th Grade Science:

  • 2012 - 50% on grade level (29% below basic). State - 59%[168]
  • 2011 - 45% (32% below basic). State - 58.3%
  • 2010 - 47% (31% below basic). State - 57% [169]
  • 2009 - 45% (25% below basic). State - 55% [170]
  • 2008 - 43%, (25% below basic). State - 52% [171]
Dropout Early Warning System

In 2013, Connellsville Area School District did not implement a no cost, dropout prevention Early Warning System and Interventions Catalog at the junior high school.[172] 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.[173]

School Improvement plans[edit]

Several of the district's schools are in School Improvement status due to chronic low student achievement. Connellsville Area High School, Junior High East, Junior High West, Dunbar Township Elementary, Zachariah Connell Elementary and Springfield Township Elementary are all in school improvement. The district applied for Federal funding for school improvement in 2009. The school board approved multiple approaches to improve student achievement. The district is mandated to offer outside tutoring. Sylvan, ATS and Huntington provide the services at no cost to parents. The district must pay $406,000 for the tutoring. According to the administration 259 students have signed up for tutoring. Students must also be permitted to transfer from the failing schools.[174]

The district qualified for more federal funding under school improvement for: High School, Junior High East, Junior High West, Dunbar Township Elementary, Zachariah Connell Elementary and Springfield Township Elementary. In the summer of 2011, the administration did not apply for the School Improvement grant. The grant stipulates the funds be used for improving student achievement using one of four federally dictated strategies. The strategies are: transformation, turnaround, restart with new faculty and administration or closure of failing schools.[175] The Pennsylvania Education Secretary awarded $66 million to reform Pennsylvania's lowest-achieving schools in August 2011. The funding was for three years.[176]

For the 2010-11 school year, Connellsville Area School District administration did not apply for a School Improvement Grant. It was eligible for funding due to the chronic, low achievement at the high school, junior high schools and several elementary schools.[177] In 2010, Pennsylvania received $141 million from the federal –US Department of Education, to turn around its worst-performing schools. The funds were disbursed via a competitive grant program.[178] The Pennsylvania Department of Education has identified 200 Pennsylvania schools as "persistently lowest-achieving," making them eligible for this special funding.[179]

Special education[edit]

In December 2013, the District administration reported that 910 pupils or 19.1% of the district's pupils received Special Education services, with 44% of the identified students having a specific learning disability.[180] In December 2010, the Connellsville Area School District Administration reported that 912 pupils or 16.7% of the district's pupils received Special Education services.[181] In December 2013, the District administration reported that 910 pupils or 19.1% of the district's pupils received Special Education services, with 44% of the identified students having a specific learning disability. In December 2008, the District administration reported that 947 pupils or 18.1% of the district's pupils received Special Education services, with 45% of the identified students having a specific learning disability.

In 2007, Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Gerald Zahorchak testified before the Pennsylvania House Education Committee regarding full day kindergarten. He claimed that districts which offered the program would see a significant decrease in special education students due to early identification and early intervention. He asserted the high cost of full day kindergarten would be recouped by Districts in lower special education costs.[182] Connellsville Area School District has provided full day kindergarten since 2008. The District has not seen a decrease in the percentage of special education students it serves, yielding no savings.

In order to comply with state and federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act rules and regulations, the school district engages in identification procedures to ensure that eligible students receive an appropriate educational program consisting of special education and related services, individualized to meet student needs.[183] 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 .[184] To identify students who may be eligible for special education services, various screening activities are conducted on an ongoing basis.[185] These screening activities include: review of group-based data (cumulative records, enrollment records, health records, report cards, ability and achievement test scores); hearing, vision, motor, and speech/language screening; and review by the Special Education administration. When screening results suggest that the student may be eligible, the District seeks parental consent to conduct a multidisciplinary evaluation. Parents who suspect their child is eligible may verbally request a multidisciplinary evaluation from a professional employee of the District or contact the district's Special Education Department.[186] The IDEA 2004 requires each school entity to publish a notice to parents, in newspapers or other media, including the student handbook and website regarding the availability of screening and intervention services and how to access them.

In accordance with state and federal laws, students with disabilities who violate the Code of Student Conduct or who engage in disruptive or prohibited activities are disciplined within the guidelines set in their Individualized Education Program and Positive Behavior Support Plan.[187]

Students who have an Individual Education Plan (IEP) may take the PSSA-M an alternative math exam rather than the PSSA.[188] Some special education students may take the PASA (Pennsylvania Alternate System of Assessment), rather than the PSSA.[189] Schools are permitted to provide accommodations to some students.[190]

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.[191] 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.[192] The state requires each district to have a three-year special education plan to meet the unique needs of its special education students.[193] 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.[194] In 2012, the Obama Administration's US Department of Education issued a directive requiring schools include students with disabilities in extracurricular activities, including sports.[195]

The Connellsville Area School District received a $4,495,460 supplement for special education services in 2010.[196] For the 2011-12 school year, all Pennsylvania public school districts received the same level of funding for special education that they received in 2010. This level funding is provided regardless of changes in the number of pupils who need special education services and regardless of the costs of the services the respective students required.[197] For the 2014-2015 school year, Connellsville Area School District received an increase to $4,553,5302 from the Commonwealth for special education funding.[198] 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.[199] 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]

Connellsville Area School District Administration reported that 175 or 3.18% of its students were gifted in 2009.[200] By law, the district must provide mentally gifted programs at all grade levels. The referral process for a gifted evaluation can be initiated by teachers or parents by contacting the student’s building principal and requesting an evaluation. All requests must be made in writing. To be eligible for mentally gifted programs in Pennsylvania, a student must have a cognitive ability of at least 130 as measured on a standardized ability test, by a school psychologist. A Gifted Individualized Education Plan is developed for each gifted student.[201] Other factors that indicate giftedness are also considered for eligibility.[202][203]

Food service[edit]

In 2011, the district saw a one percent increase in students who qualify for the federal free or reduced-price lunch program due to low family income. In 2010 57% of students were enrolled in the program.[204] In 2011, enrollment increased to 58%. The district runs a federally funded, free lunch program during the summer months at several elementary schools.[205]

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.[206]

In 2013, the average teacher salary in Connellsville Area School District was $61,339 a year.[207] The District employed 453 teachers with a top salary of $118,450.[208][209] Pennsylvania teacher salaries (2013–14) are searchable in a statewide database provided by TribLive News.[210] Connellsville Area 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.)[211] 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.[212] 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.[213] 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.[214]

In 2009, the district reported employing 425 teachers with a salary range of $36,076 to $108,000.[215] The median salary was $58,720 [216] which was higher than the state median teacher salary of $55,800.[217] In June 2008, the school board approved a four-year contract with the teachers' union by 6-2. The previous contract had expired in June 2008. The new contract was retroactive from July 1, 2008 through June 30, 2011.[218] In December 2010, the board and union agreed to extend the contract 2 more years to June 30, 2013. Teachers received an increase for longevity in the steps.[219]

In 2007, the district employed 355 teachers. The average teacher salary in the district was $$55,253 for 180 days worked.[220] This was the highest median teacher salary among the county's school districts. As of 2007, Pennsylvania ranked in the top 10 states in average teacher salaries. When adjusted for cost of living Pennsylvania ranked fourth in the nation for teacher compensation.[221] Additionally, the teachers receive a defined benefit pension, health insurance, professional development reimbursement, paid personal days, 10 paid sick days, and other benefits.[222]

Administrative costs Connellsville Area School District administrative costs per pupil in 2008 was $494.71 per pupil. The lowest administrative cost per pupil in Pennsylvania was $398 per pupil.[223] 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.[224] A three-year contract with administrators was approved in 2011 that awards a $1000 raise each year through 2014.[225]

Reserves In 2010, the district reported zero in an unreserved-designated fund balance. The unreserved-undesignated fund balance was reported as $5,870,588.00. [226] In 2005, the total reserve funds held by Pennsylvania public school districts was $1.9 billion.[227] By 2013, reserves held by Pennsylvania public school districts, as a whole, had increased to over $3.8 billion.[228][229][230]

Per pupil spending In 2008, the District administration reported that per pupil spending was $11,098 which ranked 389th among Pennsylvania's 501 school districts. In 2010, the per pupil spending had increased to $12,515.39 which ranked 319th.[231] In 2013, the District's per pupil spending was reported as $13,541.02[232] In 2011, Pennsylvania’s per pupil spending was $13,467, ranking 6th in the United States.[233] In 2007, the Pennsylvania per pupil total expenditures was reported as $12,759.[234]

Audit In September 2010, the Pennsylvania Auditor General conducted a performance audit of the school district. The findings were reported to the school board and administration.[235]

Freedom From Religion Foundation lawsuit On September 27, 2012 the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sued the Connellsville Area School District over a large granite monument with Ten Commandments displayed near the main entrance to the Connellsville Junior High School, citing that the school is in violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment.[236] On August 28, 2015, U.S. District Judge Terrence F. McVerry ruled that the Ten Commandments monument violates the establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.[237] It was removed from school property on Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, ending the controversy.[238]

Tuition Students who live in the Connellsville Area School 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 Area 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. The 2013 tuition rates are Elementary School - $8,196.05, High School - $9,558.54.[239]

Connellsville Area School District is funded by a combination of: a local earned income tax 1%,[240] a property tax, a real estate transfer tax 0.5%, coupled with substantial funding from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the federal government.[241] Grants can provide an opportunity to supplement school funding without raising local taxes. 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.[242] 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.[243] Effective 2016, active duty military are also exempted from paying the local earned income tax in Pennsylvania.[244][245]

State basic education funding[edit]

According to a report from Representative Todd Stephens office, Connellsville Area School District receives 68.5% of its annual revenue from the state.[246] This exceeds some education advocates goal of the state providing 50% of district funding.[247]

For the 2015-16 school year, Governor Tom Wolf released a partial Basic Education Funding of $14,310,101 to Connellsville Area School District, in January 2016.[248] This was part of $10.3 billion in school funding withheld from the public schools, by the Governor since the summer of 2015.[249] The dispersement did not follow the new Basic Education Fair Funding formula which had been established by the Pennsylvania General Assembly in June 2015.[250] Ten (10) Pennsylvania school districts received no increase in funding.[251][252] The district also received another $910,595 in Ready to Learn grants.

For the 2014-15 school year, Connellsville Area School District received $29,147,164.81 in State Basic Education funding. The District also received $842,447 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.[253] 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.[254]

In the 2013-14 school year, Connellsville Area School District received a 1.4% increase to $29,149,321 in Pennsylvania Basic Education Funding. This is $393,975 more than its 2012-13 state BEF to the District. Additionally, Connellsville Area School District received an additional $460,264 in Accountability Block Grant funding to focus on academic achievement and level funding for special education services. Among the public school districts in Fayette County, Laurel Highlands School District received the highest percentage increase in BEF at 1.9%. 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.[255] 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 was nearly 49 percent of the district's budget.[256] 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.[257]

For the 2012-13 school year, Connellsville Area School District received $28,755,346 .[258] 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. Connellsville Area School District received $460,264 in ABG funds. The state also provided a $544.4 million payment for School Employees’ Social Security and $856 million for School Employees’ Retirement fund called PSERS.[259] 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 2011-12 school year, Connellsville Area School District received a $28,755,346 allocation, of state Basic Education Funding.[260][261] Additionally, Connellsville Area School District will receive $460,264 in Accountability Block Grant funding. The enacted Pennsylvania state Education Budget includes $5,354,629,000 for the 2011-2012 Basic Education Funding appropriation. This amount is a $233,290,000 increase (4.6%) over the enacted State appropriation for 2010-2011.[262] 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.[263] In 2010, the District reported that 2,913 students received free or reduced-price lunches, due to the family meeting the federal poverty level.[264]

For the 2010-11 budget year, Connellsville Area School District received a 2.66% increase in state funding for $30,984,487. The highest increase, in Fayette County, was given to Laurel Highlands School District which received a 6.29% increase in Basic Education Funding. One hundred fifty Pennsylvania school districts received the base 2% increase. The highest increase in 2010-11 went to Kennett Consolidated School District in Chester County which received a 23.65% increase in state funding.[265] 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 set by Governor Edward Rendell and then Secretary of Education Gerald Zahorchak, as a part of the state budget proposal given each February. This was the second year of Governor Rendell’s policy to fund some public school districts at a far greater rate than others.[266]

In the 2009-10 budget year, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania provided a 4.03% increase in Basic Education Funding for a total of $29,914,880. Among the districts in Fayette County, the highest increase went to Laurel Highlands School District which got a 4.23% increase in state funding. Ninety Pennsylvania public school districts received a 2% increase in BEF. Muhlenberg School District in Berks County received a 22.31% increase in state basic education funding in 2009.[267] The amount of increase each school district received was set by then Governor Edward Rendell and the Secretary of Education, Gerald Zahorchak as a part of the state budget proposal given in February.[268]

The state Basic Education Funding to the Connellsville Area School District in 2008-09 was $28,755,346.27. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 2,936 district students received free or reduced- price lunches due to low family income in the 2007–2008 school year.[269] According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Pennsylvania spent $7,824 Per Pupil in the year 2000. This amount increased up to $12,085 by the year 2008.[270][271]

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.[272] By 2015, Pennsylvania is spending over $27 billion on public education (local, state and federal resources combined).[273]

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, Connellsville Area School District applied for and received $1,249,271 in addition to all other state and federal funding. The District uses the funding to provide full-day kindergarten and to increase instruction time for struggling students.[274][275]

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.[276]

Connellsville Area School District received $842,447 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.

Classrooms for the Future grant[edit]

The Classroom for the Future state program provided districts with hundreds of thousands of extra state funding to buy laptop computers for each core curriculum high school class (English, Science, History, Math) and paid for teacher training to optimize the computers use. The program was funded from 2006 to 2009. The Connellsville Area School District Administration did not apply to participate in 2006-07. The District was denied funding, by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, in 2007-08. Connellsville Area School District was the only Fayette County school district denied funding in 08-09. The district received $188,223 in 2008-09.[277] Among the public school districts in Fayette County, the highest award was given to Albert Gallatin Area School District which received $412,696. 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 his 2009-10 state education budget.

Education Assistance Grant[edit]

The state's EAP funding provides for the continuing support of tutoring services and other programs to address the academic needs of eligible students. Funds are available to eligible school districts and full-time career and technology centers (CTC) in which one or more schools have failed to meet at least one academic performance target, as provided for in Section 1512-C of the Pennsylvania Public School Code. In 2010-11 the Connellsviile Area School District received $366,837.[278] In 2003-04, Governor Rendell signed into law the EAP for targeted tutoring at a funding level of $38 million. Almost 35,000 students in 82 academically challenged school districts received extra help in the first year. The program was continued at the same funding level in 2004-05. In 2005-06, the program received $66 million in funding and expanded to support tutoring in 175 school districts and Career and Technical Centers.

Other grants[edit]

Connellsville Area School District did not participate in: Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's Environmental Education annual grants;[279][280] PA Science Its Elementary grants (discontinued effective with 2009-10 budget by Governor Rendell);[281] Education Assistance Grants; 2012 Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy grant;[282] 2013 Safe Schools and Resource Officer grants; 2012 and 2013 Pennsylvania Hybrid Learning Grants;[283] Project 720 High School Reform grants[284] (discontinued effective with 2011-12 budget); nor the federal 21st Century Learning grants.

Federal grants[edit]

Connellsville Area School District received an extra $1,412,065 in ARRA - Federal Stimulus money to be used in specific programs like special education and meeting the academic needs of low-income students.[285] The funding is for the 2009-10 and 2010-2011 school years.[286] 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]

Connellsville Area School District officials did not apply for the federal Race to the Top grant which would have provided nearly two million dollars in additional federal funding to improve student academic achievement.[287] Within the state's application, Connellsville Area School District was designated as a turnaround district which qualified it for an additional $700 per pupil on top of the basic grant amount.[288] Participation required the administration, the school board and the local teachers' union to sign an agreement to prioritize improving student academic success.[289] In Pennsylvania, 120 public school districts and 56 charter schools agreed to participate. Pennsylvania was not approved for the grant.[287] The failure of districts to agree to participate was cited as one reason that Pennsylvania was not approved.[290][291]

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.[292] The funds are sent to the state Department of Education which distributes them to each school district and charter school.[293] 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, Connellsville Area School District received $465,512 in federal Title II funding.[294] In 2014-15, Connellsville Area School District applied for and received $440,957.[295]

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.[296] 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.[297]

In 2012-13 - Connellsville Area School District received $1,358 in Title III funding for English language learners.[298] For 2014-15, Connellsville Area School District did not receive Title III funding.[299]

Technology grant[edit]

In 2010, Connellsville Area School District was identified as being eligible for a federal Enhancing Education through Technology grant.[300] The district did not apply for funding.[301]

Common Cents state initiative[edit]

The Connellsville Area School Board did not elect to not participate in the Pennsylvania Department of Education Common Cents program.[302] 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.[303][304] After the review of the information, the district was not required to implement the recommended cost savings changes.

Enrollment and consolidation[edit]

Due to declining enrollment, Connellsville Area School Board conducted a study to examine consolidating schools within the district. The options being examined would save the District up to $872,000 a year.[305] State Representative Tim Mahoney, of South Union Township, has pushed a proposal to consolidate the administration of Fayette County's six school districts into one administration. A study was done by The Education Management Group, LLC., found that Connellsville Area School district experienced a sharp decline in enrollment of 1,100 students since 2001. The study demonstrated millions would be saved by consolidating, just the Fayette County school districts administrations, into one central county-wide public school administration.[306] Several counties in Pennsylvania have just one school administration, including Philadelphia County, Juniata County School District, Warren County School District, Forest Area School District and Sullivan County School District. In August 2011, Fayette County Judge Ralph Warman barred placement of a voter referendum regarding school administration consolidation, on the November 2011 ballot.[307]

Over the last 10 years, rural Pennsylvania school enrollment decreased by 8 percent. The most significant enrollment decline was in western Pennsylvania, where rural school districts experienced declines of up to 16 percent in enrollment. More than 40 percent of elementary schools and more than 60 percent of secondary schools in western Pennsylvania experienced significant enrollment decreases (15 percent or greater).[308] Statewide, there are 187 districts that are projected to have an enrollment decline of 15 percent or greater. Geographically, these districts are clustered in western Pennsylvania and in the state’s northern tier.[309] Connellsville area School Board saw significant declines provoking the consolidation of the junior high schools and consideration of closing low enrollment elementary schools. The Board closed Zachariah Connell Elementary School.[310] In 2016, the Board was to examine closing Dunbar Borough or South Side elementary schools.[311]

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.[312]

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.[313] A study was done examining consolidating neighboring districts.[314] The study noted that consolidation could significantly decrease administrative costs for many communities, while improving offerings to students.

Real estate taxes[edit]

Property tax rates in 2015-16 were set by the school board at 12.9528 mills.[315] 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.[316] Property taxes, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, apply only to real estate - land and buildings. The property tax is not levied on cars, business inventory, or other personal property. Certain types of property are exempt from property taxes, including: places of worship, places of burial, private social clubs, charitable and educational institutions and government property. Additionally, service related, disabled US military veterans may seek an exemption from paying property taxes. Unlike other states, under Pennsylvania state tax policy, natural gas and oil pipelines are exempted from property taxes.[317] There are a plethora of gas pipelines in the District due to marcellus shale gas development.[318] 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, Connellsville Area School District is adversely impacted this way. Texas Eastern has several major pipelines passing through Fayette County both north-south and east-west.[319][320][321]

Pennsylvania school district revenues are dominated by two main sources: 1) Property tax collections, which account for the vast majority (between 75-85%) of local revenues; and 2) Act 511 tax collections, which are around 15% of revenues for school districts.[322] 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.[323] 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.[324]

Act 1 Adjusted Index[edit]

The Act 1 of 2006 Index regulates the rates at which each school district can raise property taxes in Pennsylvania. Districts are not allowed to raise taxes above that index unless they allow voters to vote by referendum, or they seek an exception from the state Department of Education. The base index for the 2011-2012 school year is 1.4 percent, but the Act 1 Index can be adjusted higher, depending on a number of factors, such as property values and the personal income of district residents. Act 1 included 10 exceptions, including: increasing pension costs, increases in special education costs, a catastrophe like a fire or flood, increase in health insurance costs for contracts in effect in 2006 or dwindling tax bases. The base index is the average of the percentage increase in the statewide average weekly wage, as determined by the PA Department of Labor and Industry, for the preceding calendar year and the percentage increase in the Employment Cost Index for Elementary and Secondary Schools, as determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the U.S. Department of Labor, for the previous 12-month period ending June 30. For a school district with a market value/personal income aid ratio (MV/PI AR) greater than 0.4000, its index equals the base index multiplied by the sum of .75 and its MV/PI AR for the current year.[335] In June 2011, the Pennsylvania General Assembly eliminated six of the ten the exceptions to the Act 1 Index.[336] The following exceptions were maintained: 1) costs to pay interest and principal on indebtedness incurred prior to September 4, 2004 for Act 72 schools and prior to June 27, 2006 for non-Act 72 schools; 2) costs to pay interest and principal on electoral debt; 3) costs incurred in providing special education programs and services (beyond what is already paid by the State); and 4) costs due to increases of more than the Index in the school’s share of payments to PSERS taking into account on the PSERS contribution rate.[337][338]

The Pennsylvania School District Adjusted Index for the Connellsville Area School District 2006-2007 through 2011-2012.[339]

  • 2006-07 - 5.8%, Base 3.9%
  • 2007-08 - 5.0%, Base 3.4%
  • 2008-09 - 6.6%, Base 4.4%
  • 2009-10 - 6.1%, Base 4.1%
  • 2010-11 - 4.3%, Base 2.9%
  • 2011-12 - 2.1%, Base 1.4%
  • 2012-13 - 2.5%, Base 1.7% [340]

Late in December 2011, the newly elected Connellsville Area School Board voted to limit any tax increase to the Act 1 index of 2.5% for the 2012-13 school year.[341] Each year, the School Board has the option of adopting either 1) a resolution in January certifying they will not increase taxes above their index or 2) a preliminary budget in February. A school district adopting the resolution may not apply for referendum exceptions or ask voters for a tax increase above the inflation index. A specific timeline for these decisions is published annually, by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.[342]

For the 2011-12 school year, the Connellsville Area School Board did not apply for an exception to exceed the Act 1 Index. According to a state report, for the 2011-2012 school year budgets, 247 school districts adopted a resolution certifying that tax rates would not be increased above their index; 250 school districts adopted a preliminary budget. Of the 250 school districts that adopted a preliminary budget, 231 adopted real estate tax rates that exceeded their index. Tax rate increases in the other 19 school districts that adopted a preliminary budget did not exceed the school district’s index. Of the districts who sought exceptions: 221 used the pension costs exemption and 171 sought a Special Education costs exemption. Only 1 school district sought an exemption for Nonacademic School Construction Project, while 1 sought an exception for Electoral debt for school construction.[343]

Connellsville Area School Board did not apply for any exceptions to exceed the Act 1 index for the budget in 2010-2011.[344] For the 2009-10 school budget, the board also did not apply for exceptions to exceed the Index.[345] 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.[346]

Property Tax Relief[edit]

In 2010-11, the property tax relief for Connellsville Area School District was $149 for 9,787 properties.[347] In 2009-10, the Homestead/Farmstead Property Tax Relief from gambling for the School District was set at $151 for the 9,710 approved primary homesteads and farmsteads.[348] The highest tax relief among Fayette County school districts was given to Uniontown Area School District which was set at $200. In 2009, Connellsville Area School District tax relief was set at $152 for 9,623 homesteads.[349] The relief was subtracted from the total annual school property tax bill. Property owners apply for the relief through the county Treasurer's office. Farmers can qualify for a farmstead exemption on building used for agricultural purposes. The farm must be at least 10 contiguous acres (40,000 m2) and must be the primary residence of the owner. Farmers can qualify for both the homestead exemption and the farmstead exemption. In Fayette County, 72% of eligible property owners applied for property tax relief in 2009.[350] 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.[351] This was the second year CUSD was the top recipient.

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

Property taxes in Pennsylvania are relatively high on a national scale. According to the Tax Foundation, Pennsylvania ranked 11th in the U.S. in 2008 in terms of property taxes paid as a percentage of home value (1.34%) and 12th in the country in terms of property taxes as a percentage of income (3.55%).[352]

Extracurriculars[edit]

The district offers a variety of clubs, activities and sports at the high school and both junior high schools. Eligibility for participation is determined by school board policy and the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association.[353] Student athletes are accountable for off campus behavior as outlined in the Student Code of Conduct.[354]

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.[355][356]

Closed schools[edit]

Zachariah Connell Elementary School was located on Park Street in Connellsville, PA was opened in 1967 and has a census of about 400. The school building closed in 2013 and students now attend school in the former Junior High West building, which resulted in a $1.2 million renovation and the creation of West Crawford Elementary School.[357] In October 2015 the Board voted to sell the building and associated lot to Highlands Hospital for $207,000. Connellsville Area School Board voted unanimously to use the proceeds from the sale of the building toward technology and software upgrades in the district.[358]

In 2011, the school declined to Corrective Action I status due to chronic, low student academic achievement. In 2010 the school was in School Improvement II status due to low student reading and math scores.[359] In 2011, 52% of students are reading on grade level. Math 67% of students on grade level.[360] Zachariah Connell Elementary School did not meet all Adequate Yearly Progress goals in 2009.[50] The school administration was required to write and implement a school improvement plan to improve student achievement. Additionally, the school was required to notify parents they could transfer their child to a successful school within the district.[361] The school implemented a parent involvement policy.[362]

Connellsville Junior High School West Closed in 2012, students shifted to combined Connellsville Area Junior High School in the Connellsville Junior High School East building.

In 2012, Connellsville Junior High School West declined to Corrective Action II 2nd Year AYP status, due to low student achievement in reading and math.[363] In 2011, Connellsville Junior High School West was in Making Progress: in Corrective Action II status. In 2010, the School was in Corrective Action II 1st year status due to chronic, low student achievement.[364] For the past five years, Connellsville Junior High School West student achievement has been lower than state levels, in grades 7 and 8, in reading, math and science. The school's attendance rate was 90%, in both 2010 and 2011.[365]

8th Grade Reading

  • 2011 - 64% on grade level (23% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 81.8% of 8th graders on grade level.[366]
  • 2010 - 79% (12% below basic). State - 81%
  • 2009 - 79% (12% below basic), State - 80%
  • 2008 - 78% (11% below basic), State - 78% [367]
  • 2007 - 72% (8% below basic), State - 75%

8th Grade Math:

  • 2011 - 52% on grade level (30% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 76.9% of 8th graders are on grade level
  • 2010 - 57% (23% below basic). State - 75% [166]
  • 2009 - 59% (15% below basic). State - 71% [167]
  • 2008 - 50% (24% below basic). State - 70%
  • 2007 - 45% (29% below basic). State - 68%

8th Grade Science:

  • 2011 - 36% on grade level (35% below basic). State – 58.3% of 8th graders were on grade level.
  • 2010 - 49% (34% below basic). State – 57% [169]
  • 2009 - 47% (30% below basic). State - 55% [170]
  • 2008 - 44% (23% below basic), State - 52% [171]

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