Superintendent’s Message 5.20.16

May 20, 2016

From the desk of the Superintendent

Dear Parents/Guardians and Community Members,

As we move toward the Memorial Day weekend, and the fast approaching end of the school year I would like to share information with our school community about three topics of interest: our improvements to the Home Access Center which will support more parental interaction with this informational portal, our newly adopted District Policy and Administrative Regulation #253 Gender Expansive and Transgender Students, and our 2016-2017 budget development status.

Upgrade to the Home Access Center: A District tradition at the beginning of each school year had our families receiving a significant and necessary number of documents and forms provided to orient students and guardians to school procedures, and to allow the schools to update family demographic and student health information. Additionally,  our PTO/PTAs sent home information regarding the activities and programs they offer, and their important request regarding information to be included in their respective annual directories.

This process has in the past posed some challenges in efficiently updating our emergency contact information and a timely turnaround in getting accurate information to our PTO/PTAs.

This summer we will use the Home Access Center (often referred to as the HAC) to streamline a significant portion of this work. Families will now be able to directly access the HAC to:

  • Update contact information and emergency contacts for each of their children;
  • Opt-in or out of having their child(ren)’s name and/or photo included in District publications (i.e. website, yearbook, etc.);
  • Acknowledge acceptance of the District’s Acceptable Use Policy and Administrative Regulation #815;
  • Opt-in to the school directory published by their school’s PTO/PTA and to customize what family/student information is shared in those publications.

Parents will be able to enter this information throughout the summer, as well as update demographic information during the school year as necessary. Having parents update this important information before school begins will allow the district to have accurate family contact information in a more timely manner, allow our PTO/PTAs to publish their directories earlier in the school year, and reduce the number of forms sent home in hard copy. Some required forms such as the District student health form will still be collected in hard copy to permit original signatures.

The registration module is in the final development stage. As soon as it is opened, notification will be sent home to families, along with tutorials for accessing and using the HAC. We appreciate support for this improvement in communication between the schools and our families, and send a sincere “thank you” to our PTO/PTA/SPEAC/PAGE leadership for their suggestions and constructive feedback as we develop these improvements to the HAC.  Watch for upcoming announcements!

Policy Update: Following several months of public discussion and consideration by the Policy Committee and during Legislative Meetings, on May 9 the Board of School Directors adopted Policy #253 Gender Expansive and Transgender Students and the accompanying Administrative Regulation. These documents are posted on the District website and can be accessed through these links:  Policy 253 and Administrative Regulation 253.

Members of our school community may be aware that on May 13 school districts across the country received a “guidance” letter from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights and the U.S. Justice Department “…to help provide educators the information they need to ensure that all students, including transgender students, can attend school in an environment free from discrimination based on sex.” Additionally, “The guidance makes clear that both federal agencies treat a student’s gender identity as the student’s sex for purposes of enforcing Title IX.”  This guidance to districts was based on the federal requirements of Title IX and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and cautions districts that “schools receiving federal money may not discriminate based on a student’s sex, including a student’s transgender status”. (DOE, 2016). We are satisfied that independent of this communication from federal agencies the District moved forward with development of a policy that we believe protects the rights of all students.

In developing our District policy we worked closely with our Solicitor and are confident that our  policy and regulation aligns with the laws governing equitable treatment of all students. I note that the feedback that we have received from members of our community about this policy has focused on accessibility to the bathrooms and locker rooms in our schools, however, I must emphasize that this policy is about much more than accessing bathrooms. Our regulations explicitly ensure that any student who desires increased privacy when utilizing a restroom will be accommodated through access to a single stall or private bathroom. The regulations also reinforce our need to provide on-going education for our faculty, staff and students in prevention of bullying, harassment or discrimination against any student in our schools. We take very seriously our need to protect the safety and well-being of all students in Upper Dublin, and through District policy we have formalized our expectations and practices in that regard.

2016-2017 Budget: On June 2 the Board of School Directors will adopt a budget of $95,232,410  that includes a tax increase of 2.79%, reflecting a recent trend of reducing tax increases for our community. This budget includes a planned transfer to Capital Reserve of $1,458,669; these funds result from annual reduced debt service requirements that began in 2015-2016. Our motivation for this transfer is to reserve funds for our anticipated future SRMS project.

The Board of School Directors will hold their next Legislative Meeting on June 2, at 7:00 P.M. in the Cafeteria at UDHS. All members of the community are encouraged to attend. Approved minutes from Board meetings may be accessed on the District website.

As always, I invite interested members of the Upper Dublin community to contact me with any questions or concerns you might have. I can be reached at 215 643-8802 or through dwheeler@udsd.org . Follow me on Twitter @UDSDSupt.

 

Sincerely,

Deborah S. Wheeler, Ed.D.

Superintendent of Schools

 

Superintendent’s Message 4-29-16

April 29, 2016

From the desk of the Superintendent

Dear Parents/Guardians and Community Members,

Please join us in celebrating Teacher Appreciation Week next week! And we look forward to seeing you at Foundation Day at George’s Shop-n-Bag on Wednesday, May 4 from 9AM to 7PM! The schedule of events is posted on the School District of Upper Dublin website, the Upper Dublin Education Foundation website, and on Facebook.

School Safety: For the past two years the District has been engaged in regular school safety drills that have moved beyond the traditional monthly fire drills. In addition to performing all fire drills on schedule, each of our schools also participates in semi-annual drills including on-site and off-site evacuation drills, lock-down and lock-in drills, and parent-child reunification drills. This preparation and practice resulted in an exemplary performance by our faculty and staff at Jarrettown Elementary School last week when heavy smoke from a truck fire on Limekiln Pike forced the evacuation of the school. Under Principal Meg Place’s supervision, students and staff left the school and gathered at their designated Remote Rally site on school grounds, then proceeded to their designated off-site location when the circumstance demanded that they move to a safer distance. A successful parent-child reunification process for walkers and car-pool students was completed by 4:30 PM. Additionally, our transportation department re-routed buses and riders were safely delivered home with a minimum of delay to the schedule. Many parents subsequently contacted us to share their appreciation for the calm and controlled situation they found when they arrived to pick up their children. I am confident that the faculty at each of our schools is prepared to react similarly if a disruptive event should occur at their building. Our District and school administration meets regularly with the UDPD, Township Fire services and first responders through our District Safety Committee.

School Rankings: We were disappointed recently to find that UDHS was not listed in the annual  US News listings of what they present as the “Best High Schools”. We understand why UDHS was not included in the 2016 US News rankings; we have not successfully closed the achievement gap for our economically disadvantaged students. We recognize this problem and are taking explicit steps to improve outcomes for all UD students. Among those interventions are the alignment of our curricula to PA Core standards, eliminating level 3 classes at UDHS thus increasing rigor for all students, restructuring our system for Gifted Education, and commencing a study of the schedule at SRMS. School Director Dr. Joan Ludwig shared with the Board a concise yet comprehensive review of the methodology used by US News and several other ranking systems including those that gave high ranks to UDHS, and I would like to share it with our community.  To view Dr. Ludwig’s summary Click Here.

On a related note, am very pleased to share that UDHS student Richard Y. Zhang is one of 12 Montgomery County students announced as National Merit Scholarship recipients for 2016 and has been awarded the National Merit Astrazeneca Pharmaceuticals Scholarship. Congratulations to Richard for this well deserved recognition!

SRMS Task Force Community Forum: The 2015-2016 Task Force for Exploration of Restructuring or Realignment of Grade Levels met for the final time on March 16 and reached a unanimous recommendation to the Board to maintain the status quo in placement of sixth grade at the middle school. The final report of the Task Force is posted on the District website. A community forum to review the process and conclusion will be held on May 9 at 6:00 PM in the UDHS cafeteria, before the Board of Directors’ Legislative Meeting. A sincere thank you to members of our school community who served on the Task Force as well as to those parents and community members who attended meetings, and those who shared their perspective through a petition to the Task Force.

Today our Maple Glen students participated in an Arbor Day recognition ceremony that included planting of a sugar maple tree in front of the school. Once again our students represented Upper Dublin in a manner that made us proud as they attended to the speakers and participated in planting the tree donated by the UD Shade Tree Commission. A tip of the Cardinal Hat to Mr. Bickhart, the MGES faculty and our students for a beautiful ceremony.

The Board of Directors will hold their next Legislative Meeting on May 9, at 7:00 P.M. in the cafeteria at UDHS. All members of the community are encouraged to attend. Approved minutes from Board meetings may be accessed on the District website.

As always, I invite interested members of the Upper Dublin community to contact me with any questions or concerns you might have. I can be reached at 215 643-8802 or through dwheeler@udsd.org . Follow me on Twitter @UDSDSupt.

 

Sincerely,

Deborah S. Wheeler, Ed.D.

Superintendent of Schools

 

Superintendent’s Message 3-21-16

March 21, 2016

From the desk of the Superintendent

Dear Parents/Guardians and Community Members,

As we begin the District’s Spring Recess, I have several brief items for our education community.

I am pleased to announce that on March 16, the SRMS Grade Alignment Task Force unanimously agreed to recommend to the Board of Directors maintaining 6th grade at the middle school level. A sincere “thank you” to those Task Force members whose insights, garnered from participation on the original task force, proved to be invaluable and to those members of our community who volunteered to serve on the current task force. I believe that the benefits from the current work are threefold for the District. We completed the task presented by the last committee through our review of the updated enrollment projections and facilities reports. Secondly, we added to our knowledge of anticipated residential development (proposed and potential) which will inform short term District decisions about use of the school buildings and revenue projections. Finally, we presented information to our constituents about our evolving practice of moving one time revenues into our capital improvement and debt service funds as a way of preparing for our needed facilities improvements.

UD Proud! Our Upper Dublin High School swimmers excelled at the PIAA State Championships last week with the boys team following their District One championship by taking the podium as State Runner-Up to LaSalle College High School. Michael Jensen was recognized as “Swimmer of the Meet” for his outstanding achievement. Our girls team finished the meet 14th overall. Congratulations to our UD swimmers for an outstanding season. Full coverage of the 2015-2016 Cardinal swimming & diving season can be found at www.udswimming.com.

Blog Post Image: UDHS 2016 States Team – just before leaving “The Cardinal’s Nest” (L to R): Boys head coach Geoff Scheuer; Alex Flynn, Girls head coach Pat Redican, Ogden Leyens, Saemmi Yoon, Abbie Amdor, Michael Jensen, Rebecca Pendleton, Wyatt Amdor, Jenna Johns, Jake Easton, Megan Paris, Scott Luttmann, Devon Polak, Boys assistant coach, Brandon Pierce.

Here is a link to an interesting commentary published in Education Week about the potential of the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2016 (ESSA) which recently replaced No Child Left Behind (2001) as our federal education legislation. Briefly, ESSA is presented as an opportunity to leverage significant improvement in school reform efforts as much responsibility for decision making is now returned to the states and local levels. The key question posed by the author is compelling: “Will policymakers use this opportunity wisely?” The connection to our work in UD is the identification of the “most critical in-school factor” linked to student success as classroom instruction, which has been the focus of our District professional learning activities for two years. Through our commitment to developing our teacher-leaders we are moving slowly but purposefully toward expanding our learning environment in which non-evaluative peer feedback is valued and sought. You will hear much more about this as our District initiatives in learning walks, peer coaching and embedded technology evolve over the coming school years.

We are happy to announce the 2nd annual Asian-American Parent Night on April 5th, 2016 at 7:00 P.M. in the UDHS Cafeteria. We invite Asian-American parents to come out for this important event. We invite you to fill out the following survey to help prepare for the evening. SURVEY

Our work toward finalization of the proposed 2016-2017 budget continues. The Board will engage in discussion of the proposal during upcoming Legislative and Finance Committee meetings. Please visit the District website for dates and agendas for all Board meetings. The Board of Directors will hold their next Legislative session on April 11, 2016 at 7:00 P.M. in the Cardinal Room at UDHS. The Finance Committee will meet on April 21, 2016 at 6:00 P.M. also in the Cardinal Room. We encourage all members of the community to attend Board meetings to hear the discussions and ask questions. Approved minutes from Board meetings may be accessed on the District website.

As always, I invite interested members of the Upper Dublin community to contact me with any questions or concerns you might have. I can be reached at 215 643-8802 or through dwheeler@udsd.org . Follow me on Twitter @UDSDSupt.

Sincerely,

Deborah S. Wheeler, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools

Superintendent’s Message March 1, 2016

 

March 1, 2016

From the desk of the Superintendent

Dear Parents/Guardians and Community Members,

 

I have several items of interest to share with our education community.

The new District website was launched successfully and we thank those who suggested improvements in the site content and presentation. This continues to be a work in progress; we anticipate continuous improvement in all aspects of our communication with our community. Our District newsletter is back following a 5 year hiatus and will enhance our commitment to a comprehensive distribution of information to our community. To that end, watch your mailbox for the new and improved Cardinal Notes!

The 2016-2017 Program of Studies for UDHS includes a proposed revision to the grading scale, moving from a straight letter grade A-F scale to a scale that includes pluses and minuses. Scores of 0.49 or lower will round down to the nearest whole number; scores of 0.50 will round up to the nearest whole number. A complete description of the proposed scale can be found HERE or on the UDHS link on the District website, click on Academic Program of Studies under the Quick Links. The Board’s Policy Committee considered this revision to Policy 214 Grade Point Average during their meeting on February 29 and will review additional information during their meeting on March 28. We anticipate that this proposed revision will then move to the Board’s Legislative meeting agenda for first reading on April 11.

To share information with the community about changes to the Program of Studies for 2016-2017 a community meeting will be held on March 28 at 6:00 PM at the Antioch Baptist Church in North Hills. Specifically we will review the restructuring of ninth grade and the provisions that will be in place to support students in moving from level three to level two classes as well as those moving from level two to Honors/AP classes. Watch for additional information about this opportunity.

State Budget update: the budget impasse in Harrisburg continues. The District now has received information of concern in regard to some anticipated funding. Under the current 2015-2016 Commonwealth budget proposal, two additional months of our social security reimbursement funds would be pushed from the current fiscal year into the 2016-2017 fiscal year. While this will not be lost revenue, it would present a delay in receiving funds from one fiscal year to the next. The District’s books would therefore reflect an accounts receivable for four months of social security reimbursement on June 30, 2015, with the expected receipt of cash to follow in September or later. Additionally, our anticipated loss of the 2015-2016 PlanCon reimbursement for debt service on building projects and improvements is a permanent loss and will result in a $309,991 reduction in revenue and cash for the current year. Our Board and I continue to communicate with our local legislators about the need to finalize a budget and we encourage members of our community to join us in this advocacy effort.

Nominations are now being sought for the 2016 Upper Dublin Medals awards. This prestigious recognition program is sponsored by the School District of Upper Dublin, Upper Dublin Township, the Fort Washington Business Alliance and the Upper Dublin Education Foundation, and honors community members for excellence in education and community service. Nominations for Outstanding Educator, Outstanding Citizen and Outstanding Community Business or Non-Profit Organization are due by March 17, 2016. The Awards Ceremony will be held on May 18. Please consider this opportunity to honor excellence in our community. Information and the nomination form are available HERE.

Our annual Music In Our Schools concerts will be celebrated this week in the Performing Arts Center (PAC) at UDHS, with the Choral Concert today at 7:00 PM and the Instrumental Concert on Thursday March 3 at 7:00 PM. Tickets may be purchased at the door. Please join us to celebrate the impressive talent of our students and our teachers.

The 7th UDHS Athletic Hall of Fame Awards Dinner & Induction Ceremony will be held on Saturday March 5 at 5:30. The new class of distinguished athletes and coaches includes Gary Miller, Larry Brown, Kim Faust Frantz, Katie Ewart Rusch, Hope Donnell, Paul Reilly, Michael Palmisano, Matthew Lorenzo, and Christopher Melton.  A hearty Cardinal congratulations to our inductees!

The Board of Directors will hold their next Legislative Meeting on March 14, 2016 at 7:00 P.M. in the Cardinal Room at UDHS. All members of the community are encouraged to attend. Approved minutes from Board meetings may be accessed on the District website.

As always, I invite interested members of the Upper Dublin community to contact me with any questions or concerns you might have. I can be reached at 215 643-8802 or through dwheeler@udsd.org .  Follow me on Twitter @UDSDSupt.

 

Sincerely,

Deborah S. Wheeler, Ed.D.

Superintendent of Schools

 

 

 

Superintendent’s Message January 26, 2016

Dear Parents/Guardians and Community Members,

I have several items of interest to share with our community.

In the wake of Winter Storm Jonas, I encourage community members to join us in thanking the men and women of our facilities, grounds and custodial personnel who labored for many hours throughout the weekend and beyond to prepare our school grounds and buildings for the return of students and faculty. Without their hard and dedicated work we would not have been able to reopen schools on Tuesday. A sincere thank you also to our students and parents for your flexibility as drop off lines moved more slowly than usual, access to several of our recess playgrounds was delayed, and parking spots disappeared under snow banks. Snow removal and ice treatment continues throughout the District.

Exciting news from our Technology Department! We are very pleased to announce the launch of our new District Website early in February. The new website features a clean and intuitive interface, a responsive mobile design, robust calendar, and digital space to celebrate student achievement. The new site also reflects financial efficiencies. We have relied for several years on a traditional school website hosting service at an annual cost of $18,000. The new and improved site, built by Director of Technology Philip Vinogradov, will be hosted in-house for an annual hosting cost of less than $300.

As we continue to enhance our use of technology as a management tool as well as an instructional tool, we are preparing to become more interactive with students and parents through our District Home Access Center (HAC). This expansion of our capability will include making bus routes available only to parents and others authorized to access the HAC, thereby increasing security for our students. Additionally, parents will have the ability to update their children’s demographic data, allowing us to eliminate most paper forms that parents and building secretaries have had to manage in the past. Watch for upcoming information, including virtual tutorials, about the enhanced HAC.

The Board of Directors received positive financial news in regard to the results of the negotiated pricing for our Bond Refunding on January 20, 2016. Refinancing a portion of the 2008 bonds with the $9.8M Bond Series of 2016 will save the District $1,081,288 which far exceeds our anticipated savings of $600,000. Combined with the $700,000 savings realized through refinancing additional 2008 bonds with the $8.74M Bond Series of 2015 in December, the Board will realize total savings of $1.7 million over the next 11 years. These results will be discussed during the Legislative meeting on February 8, 2016. The Bond Sale Document for General Obligation Bonds Series of 2016 may be accessed on the District website, click on the Business Services page.

Additionally, during the Finance Committee meeting on January 21, 2016, the Board recommended a motion to not renew the District’s contract with Aramark. The currently out-sourced positions provided through this contract, including Facilities Director and network specialists, will become District positions. With restructuring several of these positions we anticipate realizing efficiencies in service with no increase in costs. The Board will receive and act on this motion during the Legislative meeting on February 8, 2016.

Development of the proposed budget for the 2016-2017 school year continues, and updates are being presented during Board Legislative and committee meetings. Agendas and exhibits are posted on the District website.

Signs on District property: we are collaborating with the Township to ensure that the Township ordinance governing required permits for signs is followed for signs placed on District property. Briefly, every agency that wishes to place signs on District property must apply for a permit at the Code Enforcement Department at the UD Township Building. We support community activities, but must abide by the Township ordinance and Board policies, therefore we will remove any signs on District property that have not been granted a permit from the Township. Thank you in advance for helping us comply with this requirement.

Please “like” the School District of Upper Dublin Facebook page where we feature updated highlights of student and alumni achievement, posted with Cardinal Pride!!

The Board of Directors will hold their next Legislative meeting on February 8, 2016 at 7:00 P.M.in the Cardinal Room at UDHS. All members of the community are encouraged to attend. Approved minutes from Board meetings may be accessed on the District website.

As always, I invite interested members of the Upper Dublin community to contact me with any questions or concerns you might have. I can be reached at 215 643-8802 or throughdwheeler@udsd.org . Follow me on Twitter @UDSDSupt.

 

Sincerely,

Deborah S. Wheeler, Ed.D.

Superintendent of Schools

 

Superintendent’s Message December 22, 2015

Dear Parents/Guardians and Community Members,

I would like to share a brief update as we enter into our winter recess.

As the season of Winter Concerts draws to a close may I again express my pride in our students and our faculty for the very high quality of our music program throughout the District? Our students are talented and dedicated in developing their skills; our faculty is talented and dedicated in eliciting the best from our students. Thank you to them and to the parents who so strongly support our music program.

A matter of concern for Upper Dublin continues to be the budget impasse in Harrisburg. As I write we are anticipating the outcome of legislative action to adopt a true budget, avoiding a stop gap measure as has been discussed by legislators. I want to assure our community that while many districts in the Commonwealth report that they are on the brink of not being able to pay their bills; our District is in a position to meet our fiscal responsibilities at least through March. I will keep the community updated as we move forward pending an adopted State budget.

Our District budget development process for the 2016-2017 school year is moving forward. A presentation of the preliminary budget overview to the Board of Directors on December 14 is now posted on the website, under Administration/Business Services. Please check agendas of upcoming committee and Legislative meetings to stay current on the budget development process.

As we look toward beginning the second semester of the school year members of our educational community continue to engage in the work of continuous improvement. Our examination of theDistrict K-12 English/Language Arts program is moving forward with development of a rubric for evaluating various materials and resources, and site visits to school districts that are utilizing different ELA curriculum.  When we return to school, members of the steering committee will make presentations to staff, parents and the Board apprising all stakeholders of the progress being made.  Surveys will also be offered to gain additional stakeholder input.

The Gifted Review Committee is comprised of various stakeholder groups across all levels of the District.  The committee has met twice and plans to reconvene early in 2016. With the support of the Montgomery County Intermediate Unit (MCIU) Gifted Liaison, the committee will seek community input to examine strengths and needs of our programs as well as provide recommendations for future growth.

The Task Force revisiting the grade alignment at SRMS will next consider enrollment information, both that provided through the Montgomery County Planning Commission Enrollment Projections (August 2014) and our internal enrollment data. Our task for this work group is to develop a recommendation to the Board of Directors on placement of our 6th grade as we move toward improvements at the existing middle school. Information and materials pertaining to the Task Force can be found on the District website.

I include a brief technology update from Phil Vinogradov: “The findings from our recent faculty and student technology survey indicate that the overwhelming majority of respondents appreciate how our 1:1 program is significantly enhancing the teaching and learning process. This success results from the ongoing work of teachers and students, exploring together new opportunities, tools, and strategies for personalized learning, tightening the feedback loop, creativity, and collaboration. The first year of a 1:1 initiative is a significant growth year as we continually implement, evaluate, and refine aspects of the program, and we appreciate the tremendous work and innovation happening in our classrooms daily.”

Finally, the Combined Leadership of our PTOs, PTAs, and SPEAC will meet on January 20th to continue our intra-district collaboration.

The Board of Directors will hold their next Legislative Session on January 11, 2016 at 7:00 P.M.in the Cardinal Room at UDHS. All members of the community are encouraged to attend. Approved minutes from Board meetings may be accessed on the District website.

As always, I invite interested members of the Upper Dublin community to contact me with any questions or concerns you might have. I can be reached at 215 643-8802 or throughdwheeler@udsd.org . Follow me on Twitter @UDSDSupt.

 

Sincerely,

Deborah S. Wheeler, Ed.D.

Superintendent of Schools