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