Windber Area School District

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Windber Area School District
Map of Somerset County Pennsylvania School Districts.png
Address
2301 Graham Avenue
Windber, Pennsylvania, Somerset and Cambria Counties 15963-1964
United States
Information
Type Public
Established 1914 (High School)
School board 9 locally elected member
Superintendent Mr. Joseph Kimmel M'ed (salary $133,000 2016-17)
Principal Mr. Richard E. Lucas (High School/Middle School)
Principal Ms. Jessica Shuster (Elementary School)
Faculty 95 teachers
Grades Pre-K – 12
Age 4 years old to 21 years old Special Education
Color(s) Blue and White
Athletics conference PIAA District V - WestPAC
Mascot Ramblers
Budget $22,584,091 (2012-13) [1]
Tuition for nonresident and charter school students ES - $7,318.61, HS - $9,140.55 [2]
Per pupil spending $10,682 (2008)
Per pupil spending $11,298.60 (2010)
Website
Windber Area School District region in Cambria County

The Windber Area School District is a small, rural, public school district in Somerset County, Pennsylvania and Cambria County, Pennsylvania. It is centered in the borough of Windber, and also serves Paint Boro, Paint Township, and Ogle Township in Somerset County, plus Scalp Level Boro in Cambria County. Windber Area School District covers 69 square miles (180 km2). According to 2000 federal census data, it serves a resident population of 9,640. According to District officials, in school year 2007-08, the Windber Area School District provided basic educational services to 1,354 pupils through the employment of 95 teachers, 70 full-time and part-time support personnel, and 9 administrators. Windber Area School District received more than $10.9 million in state funding in school year 2007-08.

Schools[edit]

  • Windber Area Elementary School – Grades Pre-K to 5
    • 421 Sugar Maple Drive, Windber, Pennsylvania 15963
  • Windber Area Middle School – Grades 6 to 8
    • 2301 Graham Avenue, Windber, Pennsylvania 15963
  • Windber Area High School – Grades 9 to 12
    • 2301 Graham Avenue, Windber, Pennsylvania 15963

Governance[edit]

The school district is governed by 9 individually elected board members (serve four-year terms), the Pennsylvania State Board of Education, the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Pennsylvania General Assembly.[3] The federal government controls programs it funds like Title I funding for low-income children in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the No Child Left Behind Act, which mandates the district focus resources on student success in acquiring reading and math skills.

The Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy Alternatives Sunshine Review gave the school board and district administration a "B-" 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.[4]

Academic achievement[edit]

Windber Area School District was ranked 67th out of 498 Pennsylvania school districts evaluated in 2012 by the Pittsburgh Business Times. The ranking was based on the last three years of student academic performance on the reading, writing, math and science PSSAs. The PSSAs are given to all children in grades 3rd through 8th and the 11th grade in high school. Adapted examinations are given to children in the special education programs.

  • 2011 - 83rd
  • 2010 - 116th [5]
  • 2009 – 127th
  • 2008 – 108th out of 497 school districts
  • 2007 – 93rd out of 501 school districts.[6]
Overachiever statewide ranking

In 2012, the Pittsburgh Business Times also reported an Overachievers Ranking for 498 Pennsylvania school districts. School District ranked 5th. In 2011, the district was 8th. [7] The editor describes the ranking as: "a ranking answers the question - which school districts do better than expectations based upon economics? This rank takes the Honor Roll rank and adds the percentage of students in the district eligible for free and reduced-price lunch into the formula. A district finishing high on this rank is smashing expectations, and any district above the median point is exceeding expectations."[8]

In 2009, the academic achievement of the students of the Windber Area School District was in the 65th percentile among 500 Pennsylvania school districts. Scale – (0–99; 100 is state best)[9]

District AYP status history

In 2011, Windber Area School District achieved Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).[10] In 2011, 94 percent of the 500 Pennsylvania public school districts achieved the No Child Left Behind Act progress level of 72% of students reading on grade level and 67% of students demonstrating on grade level math. In 2011, 46.9 percent of Pennsylvania school districts achieved Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) based on student performance. An additional 37.8 percent of school districts made AYP based on a calculated method called safe harbor, 8.2 percent on the growth model and 0.8 percent on a two-year average performance.[11] Windber Area School District achieved AYP status each year from 2005 to 2010, while in 2004 the District was in Warning status due to lagging student achievement.[12]

Graduation rate[edit]

In 2011, the Windber Area School District graduation rate was 97%.[13] In 2010, the Pennsylvania Department of Education issued a new, 4-year cohort graduation rate. Windber Area High School's rate was 93.60% for 2010.[14]

According to traditional graduation rate calculations
  • 2010 – 95.93%[15]
  • 2009 – 100%
  • 2007 – 94%[16]

High school[edit]

Windber Area High School is located at 2301 Graham Avenue, Windber. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2010, the High School reported an enrollment of 474 pupils in grades 9th through 12th, with 166 pupils eligible for a federal free or reduced-price lunch. The school employed 29 teachers, yielding a student–teacher ratio of 16:1.[17] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 7 teachers were rated "Non‐Highly Qualified" under No Child Left Behind Act and 5 teachers have emergency certification.[18]

In 2010 and 2011, Windber Area High School achieved AYP status.[19]

PSSA Results:
11th Grade Reading:
  • 2011 - 76% on grade level, (11% below basic). State - 69.1% of 11th graders are on grade level.[20]
  • 2010 – 77% (13% below basic). State - 67% (117 pupils enrolled)[21]
  • 2009 – 80%, State – 65% [22]
  • 2008 – 74%, State – 65% (119 pupils enrolled) [23]
11th Grade Math:
  • 2011 - 60% on grade level (20% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 60.3% of 11th graders are on grade level.[24]
  • 2010 – 67.9% (20% below basic). State - 59% [25]
  • 2009 – 62.8%, State – 56% [26]
  • 2008 – 65%, State – 56% [27]
11th Grade Science:
  • 2011 - 53% on grade level (6% below basic). State - 40% of 11th graders were on grade level.[28]
  • 2010 – 52% (9% below basic). State – 39%
  • 2009 – 60%, State – 40%
  • 2008 – 46%, State – 39% [29]

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.[30] Under the Pennsylvania Transfer and Articulation Agreement, many Pennsylvania colleges and universities accept these credits for students who transfer to their institutions.[31] Windber Area School District has established partnerships with Pennsylvania Highlands Community College and Mt. Aloysius College.

Graduation requirements[edit]

The Windber Area School Board has determined that students must attain 22 credits to graduate. The specific courses required include: Communications 4 credits, Humanities 4 credits, Math 3 credits, Science 3 credits, Physical Education 1.2 credits, Health 0.5 credits, Intro to Business and Computer Applications 0.5 credits, Electives 5.8 credits. These requirements will be increasing by small margins for the next four years to a total credit requirement of 27.[32]

By law, all Pennsylvania secondary school students must complete a project as a part of their eligibility to graduate from high school. The type of project, its rigor and its expectations are set by the individual school district.[33] At Windber Area School District successful completion of independent research with a multi-media oral presentation is required for a student to earn a diploma. If a student does not pass this state required Graduation Project, he/she will not be able to graduate, no matter what other grades the student may have achieved.[34]

Beginning with the class of 2015, students must take the Keystone Exams in reading and math.[35]

Challenge Program[edit]

The Challenge Program, Inc. offers $250.00 cash incentives to Windber Area High School sophomores, juniors, and seniors who excel in the categories of: Academic Improvement, Attendance, Community Service and Academic Excellence. The program partners with businesses to motivate students both in and out of the classroom by encouraging good habits in students that will last throughout their education and into their future careers. For the 2010–2011 school year, the top 10% of students in each of the categories will be eligible to win $250.00.[36][37]

College remediation rate[edit]

According to a Pennsylvania Department of Education study released in January 2009, 15% of the Windber 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.[38] 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.[39] 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.

SAT scores[edit]

From January to June 2011, 73 Windber ASD students took the SAT exams. The district's Verbal Average Score was 492. The Math average score was 493. The Writing average score was 465.[40] Pennsylvania ranked 40th among states with SAT scores: Verbal - 493, Math - 501, Writing - 479.[41] 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.[42]

Windber Area Middle School[edit]

Windber Area Middle School is located at 2301 Graham Avenue, Windber. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2010, the school reported an enrollment of 263 pupils in grades 6th through 8th, with 98 pupils receiving a federal free or reduced-price lunch due to family poverty. The school employed 19 teachers, yielding a student–teacher ratio of 14:1.[43] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 100% of its teachers were rated "Highly Qualified" under the No Child Left Behind Act.[44]

In 2010 and 2011, Windber Area Middle School achieved AYP status.[45]

PSSA Results:
Science:
  • 2011 - 79% on grade level (6% below basic). State – 58.3% of 8th graders were on grade level.
  • 2010 – 84% (9% below basic). State – 57%
  • 2009 – 71%, State – 55%.
  • 2008 – 63%, State – 52%

Windber Area Elementary School[edit]

Windber Area Elementary School is located at 421 Sugar Maple Drive, Windber. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2010, the school reported an enrollment of 605 pupils in grades preschool through 5th, with 262 pupils receiving a federal free or reduced-price lunch due to family poverty. The school is a Title I school. The school employed 40 teachers, yielding a student–teacher ratio of 15:1.[53] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 100 of its teachers were rated "Highly Qualified" under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.[54] In 2010 and 2011, Windber Area Elementary School achieved AYP status.[55][56] In September 2012, Windber Elementary School was recognized as a Blue Ribbon school of excellence by the US Department of Education. The school was nominated by the Pennsylvania Department of Education for consideration for the award. It was noted that the school excels even with a sizable percentage of low-income students.[57]

Fifth Grade[edit]

5th Grade Reading:
  • 2011 - 84% on grade level (5% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 67.3% of 5th graders are on grade level.[58]
  • 2010 – 86% (6% below basic). State – 64% (65 pupils)
  • 2009 – 77%, State – 64% [59]
  • 2008 – 75%, State – 61% [60]
5th Grade Math:
  • 2011 - 97% on grade level, 70% advanced. State - 74%
  • 2010 – 92%, 80% advanced. (5% below basic). State – 74%
  • 2009 – 80%, State – 73%
  • 2008 – 71%, State – 73%

Fourth Grade[edit]

4th Grade Reading:
  • 2011 - 98% on grade level, 68% advanced. State - 73%
  • 2010 – 89%, 52% advanced. State – 72% (101 pupils)
  • 2009 – 84%, State – 72%
  • 2008 – 71%, State – 70%
4th Grade Math:
  • 2011 - 98% on grade level, 89% advanced. State - 85.3%
  • 2010 – 96%, 74% advanced. State – 84%
  • 2009 – 91%, State – 81[61]
  • 2008 – 85%, State – 79%

4th Grade Science:

  • 2011 - 96% (78% advanced). State - 82.9%
  • 2010 – 92% (73% advanced). State – 81%
  • 2009 – 93%, State – 83%
  • 2008 – 90%, State – 81%

Third Grade[edit]

3rd Grade Reading:

  • 2011 - 93%, (4% below basic). State - 77%
  • 2010 – 92% (4% below basic). State – 75% (117 pupils)
  • 2009 – 89%, State – 77%
  • 2008 – 87%, State – 77%
3rd Grade Math:
  • 2011 - 92%, 67% advanced. State - 83%
  • 2010 – 94%, 65% advanced. State – 84%
  • 2009 – 94%, State – 81%
  • 2008 – 87%, State – 80%

Bullying policy[edit]

In 2009, the administrative reported there was one incident of bullying in the district.[62][63] The Olweus Bullying Prevention program has been implemented in the district.[64] The District is working with the Windber Research Institute to carry out the antibullying initiative.[61]

The Windber Area School Board has provided the district's antibully policy online.[65] 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.[66] 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.[67]

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.[68]

Wellness policy[edit]

Wellness Area School Board established a district wellness policy in June 2006 – Policy 5147.[69] The policy deals with nutritious meals served at school, the control of access to some foods and beverages during school hours, age appropriate nutrition education for all students, and physical education for students K-12. The policy is in response to state mandates and federal legislation (P.L. 108 – 265). The law dictates that each school district participating in a program authorized by the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (42 U.S.C. 1751 et seq) or the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 (42 U.S.C. 1771 et seq) "shall establish a local school wellness policy by School Year 2006."

The legislation placed the responsibility of developing a wellness policy at the local level so the individual needs of each district can be addressed. According to the requirements for the Local Wellness Policy, school districts must set goals for nutrition education and physical education that are aligned with the Pennsylvania State Academic Standards for Health, Safety and Physical Education, 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.[70] The policy requires that the Superintendent or designee shall report to the Board on the district’s compliance with law and policies related to student wellness. The Pennsylvania Department of Education required the district to submit a copy of the policy for approval.

Special education[edit]

In December 2010, the district administration reported that 157 pupils or 12% of the district's pupils received Special Education services, with 43% of identified students having a specific learning disability. In December 2009, the district administration reported that 184 pupils or 13% of the district's pupils received Special Education services.[71][72]

Intermediate Unit 8 and each school district in Somerset counties have established and implemented procedures to locate, identify, and evaluate students and young children suspected of being exceptional. These procedures include screening activities which include but are not limited to: review of group-based data (cumulative records, enrollment records, health records, and report cards); hearing screening (at a minimum of kindergarten, special ungraded classes, first, second, third, seventh, and eleventh grades); vision screening (every grade level); motor screening; and speech and language screening. In schools which have a Pre-Referral, Child-Study, Early Intervening or Instructional Support Team, the above screening activities may lead to consideration by the teams to move the next level of screening activities. 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 Department of Special Education.[73][74]

Enrollment[edit]

The district's enrollment is in the bottom 10% in Pennsylvania. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, there are fewer than 1300 students enrolled in K-12. The senior class of 2010 is 117 pupils. In 2015, the senior class is projected to have 90 pupils. The administrative infrastructure and mandate related costs per pupil are very high. With limited local taxation resources, opportunities for students are limited.[75]

Consolidation with an adjacent school district would achieve substantial cost savings. These savings could be redirected to improving lagging student achievement, to enriching the academic programs or to reducing property taxes. In 1994, a consolidation study was conducted at the request of district officials.

A statewide study was conducted in 2004, examining consolidating the school administrations of school districts in Somerset County.[76] The study noted that consolidation could significantly decrease administrative costs for both communities while improving offerings to students.

Rural Pennsylvania school enrollment is projected to decrease 8 percent by 2011. The most significant enrollment decline is projected to be in western Pennsylvania, where rural school districts may have a 16 percent decline. More than 40 percent of elementary schools and more than 60 percent of secondary schools in western Pennsylvania are projected to experience significant enrollment decreases (15 percent or greater).[77]

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.[78] This results in excessive school administration bureaucracy and not enough course diversity.[79] In a survey of 88 superintendents of small districts, 42% of the 49 respondents stated that they thought consolidation would save money without closing any schools.[80]

Budget[edit]

In 2011, the average teacher salary in WASD was $57,089.89 a year, while the cost of the benefits teachers receive was $14,054.87 per employee, for a total annual average teacher compensation of $71,144.77.[81] 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.[82]

In 2009, the district reported employing over 93 teachers with a salary range of $32,000 to $83,500 for the 185-day school year.[83] Additionally, the teachers receive a defined benefit pension, health insurance, bereavement leave 5 days, professional development reimbursement 50% at Indiana University when earning a B- or better, bereavement leave, personal days 2, sick days 10, and other benefits. Certified staff receive extra pay when performing extra duty. The district pays an early retirement bonus of $9,000 to $14,000 based on years of teaching in Pennsylvania. Under specific circumstances, the district also pays for health insurance for the employee until the former employee qualifies for Medicare.[84]

In 2007, the district employed 85 teachers. The average teacher salary in the district was $55,272 for 185 days worked. This was the highest average teacher salary among Somerset County school districts.[85] 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.[86]

Winder Area School District administrative costs per pupil in 2008 was $664.03 per pupil. This ranked 365th for per pupil administrative spending in the state. The lowest administrative cost per pupil in Pennsylvania was $398 per pupil.[87] The Superintendent earned $116,395 in 2009[88]

In 2009 the per pupil spending was reported at $13,600.[89] In 2008, the district administration reported spending $10,682 per pupil which ranked 424th among Pennsylvania's 501 school districts.[90]

In October 2010, the Pennsylvania Auditor General conducted a performance audit of the district. The findings were reported to the administration and the school board by state officials.[91]

Reserves In 2008, the district reported a $4,054,182 in an unreserved-undesignated fund balance. The designated fund balance was reported as $8,500,000.[92] In 2010, Windber Area Administration reported $262,360.00 in its unreserved-undesignated fund balance and $9,854,356.00 in its reserved-undesignated fund. Pennsylvania public 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.[93]

The district is funded by a combination of: a local income tax, a property tax, a real estate transfer tax, coupled with substantial funding from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the annual Title 1 grants from the federal government. In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, pension income and Social Security income are exempted from state personal income tax and local earned income tax, regardless of the person's wealth.[94]

State basic education funding[edit]

For the 2012-13 school year, the district will receive $8,403,861.[95] The Governor's Executive Budget for 2012-2013 includes $9.34 billion for kindergarten through 12th grade public education, including $5.4 billion in basic education funding, which is an increase of $49 million over the 2011-12 budget. The state also provides $100 million for the Accountability Block grant. The state will also provide $544.4 million for School Employees’ Social Security and $856 million for School Employees’ Retirement fund called PSERS.[96] This amount is 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, Windber Area School District received a $8,309,132, allocation, of state Basic Education Funding.[97][98] Additionally, the Windber Area School District received $94,729 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 was a $233,290,000 increase (4.6%) over the enacted State appropriation for 2010-2011.[99] 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.[100] In 2010, Windber Area School District reported that 546 students received free or reduced-price lunches, due to the family meeting the federal poverty level.[101]

For the 2010–11 budget year, Windber Area School District was allotted a 2.04% increase in Basic Education Funding for a total of $8,688,845. The highest increase in state education funding awarded to public school districts in Somerset County was provided to: North Star School District and Somerset Area School District both of which received a 2.82% increase. One hundred fifty Pennsylvania school districts received the base 2% increase. The highest increase in 2010–11 went to Kennett Consolidated School District in Chester County which received a 23.65% increase in state funding.[102] The amount of increase each school district receives is set by the Governor and the Secretary of Education as a part of the state budget proposal given each February.[103]

In the 2009–2010 budget year, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania provided a 2.48% increase in Basic Education Funding for a total of $8,515,468.[104] Somerset Area School District received a 4.87%. The state Basic Education Funding to Windber Area School District in 2008–09 was $8,309,131. Ninety Pennsylvania school districts received a 2% increase. Muhlenberg School District in Berks County received a 22.31% increase in state basic education funding in 2009.[105]

Accountability Block Grants[edit]

Beginning in 2004–2005, the state launched the Accountability Block Grant school funding. This program has provided $1.5 billion to Pennsylvania’s school districts. The Accountability Block Grant program requires that its taxpayer dollars are focused on specific interventions that are most likely to increase student academic achievement. These interventions include: teacher training, all-day kindergarten, lower class size K-3rd grade, literacy and math coaching programs that provide teachers with individualized job-embedded professional development to improve their instruction, before or after school tutoring assistance to struggling students, For 2010–11 the district applied for and received $257,119 in addition to all other state and federal funding. The Windber Area School District uses the funding to provide taxpayer funded preschool for 80 students (2nd year) and for assistance to students through extended instructional time.[106][107]

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. Windber Area School District was denied funding in 2006. In 2008, the district received $124,604 and in 2009 – $45,604 for a total of $170,017.[108] In Somerset County the highest award was given to Somerset Area School District which received funding each year for a total of $391,245. The highest funding statewide was awarded to Philadelphia City School District in Philadelphia County - $9,409,073. In 2010, Classrooms for the Future funding was curtailed statewide due to a massive state financial crisis.

PreK Counts grant[edit]

While the District runs an extensive preschool program it has not sought funding through PreK Counts. For the 2011 school year, Pre-K Counts was funded at the 2010 levels of $83.6 million statewide in Gov. Tom Corbett's proposed budget,. The state also supplements the federal Head Start preschool program with an additional $37.6 million. Pre-K Counts funding was initiated during the Rendell administration. In 2007-08 the state funded Pre-K Counts at $75 million.[109] In 2009-10 the district received $209,350 to provide preschool to 52 children.[110][111]

Science It’s Elementary grant[edit]

Windber Elementary School did not participate in the Science It’s Elementary grants. For the 2008-09 school year, the program was offered in 143 schools reaching 2,847 teachers and 66,973 students across Pennsylvania.[112] In 2007, the Pennsylvania Department of Education initiated an effort to improve science instruction in the Commonwealth’s public elementary schools. Called Science: It’s Elementary, the program is a hands on instruction approach for elementary science classes that develops problem-solving and critical thinking skills.[113] To encourage schools to adopt the program’s standards aligned curriculum, the state provided a grant to cover the costs of materials and extensive mandatory teacher training.[114] The grant was discontinued in 2010 by Governor Rendell due to a massive budget shortfall at the state level.

Federal Stimulus grant[edit]

The district received an extra $1,136,885 in ARRA – Federal Stimulus money to be used in specific programs like special education and meeting the academic needs of low-income students.[115] The funding was for the 2009–10 and 2010–2011 school years.[116]

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 579 students qualified for free or reduced-price lunch due to low family income in 2008.[117]

Race to the Top Grant[edit]

Windber Area School District officials applied for the Race to the Top federal grant which would have meant hundreds of thousands of additional federal dollars for improving student academic achievement.[118] The administration, school board and teachers' union prioritized free resources to improve student success over local control. Pennsylvania was not approved for the grant. The failure of districts to agree to participate was cited as one reason that Pennsylvania was not approved.[119][120][121]

Common Cents state initiative[edit]

The Windber Area School Board decided 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.[122] After the review of the information, the district was not required to implement the recommended cost savings changes.

Real estate taxes[edit]

Property tax rates in 2012 were set at 30.73 mills for residents in Cambria County and 18.27 mills for residents in Somerset County.[123] 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.[124] Property taxes, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, apply only to real estate - land and buildings. The property tax is not levied on cars, business inventory, or other personal property. Certain types of property are exempt from property taxes, including: places of worship, places of burial, private social clubs, charitable and educational institutions and government property. Additionally, service related, disabled US military veterans may seek an exemption from paying property taxes. Pennsylvania school district revenues are dominated by two main sources: 1) Property tax collections, which account for the vast majority (between 75-85%) of local revenues; and 2) Act 511 tax collections, which are around 15% of revenues for school districts.[125] When the school district includes municipalities in two counties, each of which has different rates of property tax assessment, a state board equalizes the tax rates between the counties. Winder Area is such a school district.[126] 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.[127]

  • 2011-12 - 27.8400 mills Cambria county and 16.3300 mills Somerset County.[128]
  • 2010-11 - 27.4324 mills Cambria County and 15.9861 mills Somerset County.[129]
  • 2009-10 - 27.4324 mills for residents in Cambria County and 15.9861 mills for residents in Somerset County
  • 2008-09 – 26.1375 mills for residents in Cambria County and 15.4000 mills in Somerset County.[130]
  • 2007-08 – 25.2835 mills for residents in Cambria County and 15.4000 mills in Somerset County.[131]
  • 2006-07 - 25.0850 mills for residents in Cambria County and 15.4000 mills in Somerset County.[132]
  • 2005-06 - 25.7000 mills for residents in Cambria County and 15.4000 mills in Somerset County.[133]

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.[134] The average yearly property tax paid by Somerset County residents amounts to about 2.35% of their yearly income. Somerset County is ranked 1104th of the 3143 United States counties for property taxes as a percentage of median income.[135]

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.[136] In June 2011, the Pennsylvania General Assembly eliminated six of the ten exceptions to the Act 1 Index.[137] Several exceptions were maintained: 1) costs to pay interest and principal on indebtedness incurred prior to September 4, 2004 for Act 72 schools and prior to June 27, 2006 for non-Act 72 schools; 2) costs to pay interest and principal on electoral debt; 3) costs incurred in providing special education programs and services (beyond what is already paid by the State); and 4) costs due to increases of more than the Index in the school’s share of payments to PSERS (PA school employees pension fund) taking into account the state mandated PSERS contribution rate.[138][139]

The School District Adjusted Index for the Windber Area School District 2006–2007 through 2011–2012.[140]

  • 2006–07 – 5.7%, Base 3.9%
  • 2007–08 – 5.0%, Base 3.4%
  • 2008–09 – 6.5%, 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% [141]

For the 2012-13 budget year, Windber Area School Board applied for 2 exceptions to exceed the Act 1 Index: special education costs and teachers pension costs. 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.[142]

For the 2011-12 school year, the Windber Area School Board did not apply for any exceptions to exceed the Act 1 Index. Each year, the Windber Area School Board has the option of adopting either 1) a resolution in January certifying they will not increase taxes above their index or 2) a preliminary budget in February. A school district adopting the resolution may not apply for referendum exceptions or ask voters for a tax increase above the inflation index. A specific timeline for these decisions is published annually, by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.[143]

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.[144]

The Windber Area School Board did not apply for exceptions to exceed the Act 1 Index for the budget year 2010–2011.[145] 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.[146]

Property tax relief[edit]

In 2010, the Homestead/Farmstead Property Tax Relief from gambling for the Windber Area School District was $115 per approved permanent primary residence. In the district, 2,411 property owners applied for the tax relief.[147] The relief was subtracted from the total annual school property tax bill. Property owners apply for the relief through the county Treasurer's office. Farmers can qualify for a farmstead exemption on building used for agricultural purposes. The farm must be at least 10 contiguous acres and must be the primary residence of the owner. Farmers can qualify for both the homestead exemption and the farmstead exemption. In Somerset County, 47% of eligible property owners applied for property tax relief in 2009. In Cambria County,70,038 a 54.33% of eligible properties applied.[148] In Somerset County, the highest amount of tax relief in 2010, went to Shanksville-Stonycreek School District at $211. The highest property tax relief in Pennsylvania went to the residents of Chester Upland School District of Delaware County who received $632 per approved homestead.[149] This was the third year they were the top recipient.

Additionally, the Pennsylvania Property Tax/Rent Rebate program is provided for low income Pennsylvanians aged 65 and older; widows and widowers aged 50 and older; and people with disabilities age 18 and older. The income limit is $35,000 for homeowners. The maximum rebate for both homeowners and renters is $650. Applicants can exclude one-half (1/2) of their Social Security income, consequently, individual with income much more than $35,000 may still qualify for a rebate. Individuals must apply annually for the rebate. This can be taken in addition to Homestead/Farmstead Property Tax Relief.[150]

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%).[151]

Extracurriculars[edit]

The district offers a variety of clubs, activities and sports. Eligibility for participation is determined by school board policy. Students arriving at school after 9:30 am or leaving before 2:00 pm without prior permission will not be permitted to participate or be a spectator at extra-curricular activities, practices, performances, and/or competitions.[89][152]

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.[153]

Sports[edit]

The District funds:

Junior High School Sports
  • According to PIAA directory July 2012 [154]

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External links[edit]