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PR School Board Splits 6-3 on Budget That Cuts 6.5 Teaching Positions, Raises Taxes

The new property tax rate is 22.815 mills per thousand dollars of assessed value.

The  voted 6-3 Monday night to adopt a $66.8 million budget that cuts 6.5 teaching positions and raises taxes by 4.138 percent.

Treasurer Dennis Sundo and Directors Ginny Goebel, Peter Lyons, Kevin Nigh, Laura Ohlund and Katie Shogan voted in favor of the budget.

Voting against it were President Stephen Hawbaker, Vice President Jeffrey Banyas and Director Therese Dawson.

Before the final vote, the nine-member board unanimously supported Lyons' amendment to cut one more teaching position—adding a music teacher to the 5.5 physical education teaching cuts already included in the budget.

That brought the propery tax increase percentage down slightly to 4.138 percent, which translates to 22.815 mills per thousand dollars of assessed value.

"I am stuck on the curtailments originally proposed," Hawbaker said as he announced he would vote no on the budget. He was referring to the administration's original budget proposal to cut 15 teaching positions.

Hawbaker also said he preferred a tax increase of 2 to 3 percent.

The 3 percent increase was palatable because it included reserving $477,300 to help pay for the rising costs of the Public School Employees' Retirement System, commonly referred to as PSERS, he said.

"We are at a point where we need a tax increase and the associated cost cuts," Hawbaker said.

Banyas said he supported the amendment to cut another teaching position, but did not support the budget because it did not go far enough in dealing with the sea of red ink facing the district.

Although the tax hike looks like a big jump, Ohlund said, "this is a fiscally conservative board here."

Money has been set aside in the budget to help pay for the rising cost of PSERS and to cover the cost of hiring more teachers if the student-teacher ratio gets too high, she said.

In the times set aside for public comment at the beginning and end of the meeting, Richland resident Annette Robinson told the board that she was part of an underrepresented part of the community.

Unlike many speakers from previous meetings, Robinson said she did not move to the area for the school district. 

She and her husband moved into the district because they found a small house they could afford in a nice neighborhood, but now she fears the rising cost of taxes.

Robinson said she appreciated the plight of teachers and educators and parents with children in Pine-Richland schools.

"I would implore you to make the tough decisions," she told the school board. "I believe you can do the cutting and still remain one of the best school districts."

After months of lengthy discussions on the budget, Monday's vote went quickly.

At the end of the evening, teacher Jill Linz stepped to the podium during the public commenting time to ask the board exactly what the list of cuts were.

Finance and School Services Director Dana Siford explained that 5.5 physical education teaching positions and one music position were cut.

Parent Lisa Gaffey thanked the board for "maintaining the programs you maintained."

Members of TACT—Teachers and Community Together—manned an informational table before the meeting and people wearing TACT buttons were among those filling the meeting room at the school district's administrative office building.

No one publicly addressed the board on behalf of TACT.

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Susan M. June 27, 2012 at 04:51 PM
I wouldn't call it a six week vacation. It's what teachers do..they have the summer off. However, I think their salary needs to be in line with how many days they actually work. I am more upset about the $85,000 salary that the new AD is getting (he has a Bachelor's from IUP!!!)....
Parent of 2012 Grad June 27, 2012 at 06:07 PM
Sorry, James Castle. Many students at the high school level opted to enroll and PAID to take summer gym in order to free up schedules to take AP classes or to have some flexibility in their schedule in case they were in band, etc. I believe three or more sessions were held this past summer and the summer before with a waiting list. I also believe that study halls were not and will not be brimming with 100 students. Unfortunately, comparing other professionals to teachers isn't comparing apples to apples. Most private sector professionals do not have the benefit of a contract with guaranteed health benefits. Most private sector professionals have had to adjust to the declining economy; one that forces corporations to continually reevaluate and/or eliminate positions. Most private sector professionals know that they must continually hold their work to an exceptional standard because 20 other applicants are waiting in line. Most private sector professionals could not take a six-week vacation at one time; nor would they want to because they want to be viewed as indispensable to the company. Most private sector professionals have no recourse if terminated; positions are simply eliminated.
James Castle June 27, 2012 at 07:58 PM
Parent of Grad. Congratulations on the graduation of your child. That was my point exactly. Comparing teaching to other professions is apples to oranges. I get summer gym and its philosophy and have not real feelings for its value one way or the other, I am fine with it in other words. I am saying the elimination of phys ed....and opting not to have it offered even as an elective is going to cause a scheduling nightmare for building administrators. I am sure the teachers are uspet over furloughs, especially those being furloughed--it effects the wives, husbands, and children of these people greatly---though I think most try not to think of that part of it because it looks great on a balance sheet---however administrators are equally as upset I'm sure. They have HUGE holes in schedules and a staff that will not be determined until early August at the latest. Whose to say who will be teaching what once checkerboarding is finished? It's a tough time regardless of how you feel about educators----I think we all agree quality education is important. Just hoping the best teachers are teaching their trained subjects come August. It is a very realistic possibility that this will not be the case. Then the person above who predicts the prosperous arrival of North Catholic will surely be correct.
Elizabeth June 27, 2012 at 08:41 PM
I totally agree with you. I feel sorry for the students who will be in the high school this coming year with music or gym teachers teaching 11 th grade English. A very important year for the English students with college around the corner. I think most parents don't even know whats in store for their students with checkerboarding the teachers to various subjects...... I know they don't.
PR Mom 18 June 28, 2012 at 02:58 AM
DL--The administrator who told you a terrible teacher could not be fired due to tenure was NOT DOING THEIR JOB!!!!! Yes, it is difficult to get rid of a teacher but definately not impossible. It takes a lot of documentation and a lot of time. NEVER stand for an administrator saying that to you or anyone. The problem is many administrators themselves do not know quality instruction nor do they take the time to write up the ineffective teachers or have the courage to do so. As a community we need to insist that we hire the best administrators who are not afraid to get rid of terrible teachers, no excuses! We need to make sure that the district hires the best teachers available. With taxes going up and programs being cut we can not settle for less. How many teachers do you think are on an improvement plan?? We don't need to know names but we should ask the board for the percentage. We know there are teachers in the district that should not be teaching. What are we getting in PR for our tax money that our nearby neighbors in Butler county schools are not getting?? I am ready for a charter school to start in PR to give our community another option. Any other interest out there?
crosbycat June 28, 2012 at 03:13 PM
We need Michelle Rhee, who was successfully reforming Washington DC schools as Superintendent until the union forced her out. She actually fired the bad teachers. I agree that PR students need other options like a charter school. I hope that for the next election of School Board Directors, someone like the Patch here sets up a Q&A session, where we can determine where these people stand on many different educational issues. As it is, all we got were lame flyers from each candidate, telling us how financially astute they were based on their degrees and having a kid in the district. After all this, it is crystal clear that these directors have no financial sense and no backbone to make hard but effective decisions.
Parent of 2012 Grad June 29, 2012 at 10:38 AM
There is an established and burgeoning cottage industry of tutors that exists as a result of Pine-Richland inadequacies. There is a waiting list for students who want to challenge themselves academically and for those who find academics challenging. With the advent of on-line classes and independent learning opportunities, a student can develop a program for success. In fact, I would venture that many of the NMS and top scholars have taken a self-directed route. Of course, this really supports the concept that the public education system is a broken system, or at the very least, a mediocre one. Concerned Parent: The English Department moved an engaging and outstanding AP teacher to the middle school. This teacher provided solid instruction, feedback and inspiration for the students. That move was unfortunate. There was an English teacher several years ago who extolled to the students at an award ceremony that “grades don’t matter.” Sometimes being provocative is just poor. After visiting over 30 colleges and universities (Villanova, CMU, etc.), I can unequivocally state that Pine-Richland has the best stadium, except for Penn State. Hearing ad nauseam the debates regarding “pay to play”, activity fees and turf issues while students don’t have AP Psychology books illustrate Pine-Richland’s misguided focus. It’s reality that PR is no longer competing academically with North Allegheny, etc. It is competing internationally.
Dee L. Wright June 30, 2012 at 08:30 PM
Yes, I spent a lot of money on tutors. My oldest daughter didn't quality for an IEP (she is dyslexic), or any additional help other than a 504, which most of the teachers in her 4 years at PR High School ignored. Yes, I was told that the math teacher could not be fired and since my daughter has graduated I hear people with children in the high school now complain about the very same teacher. It's funny that nearly everyone that I know who has experienced the PR school district has very little good to say about it (mostly the high school) and yet people want to move here because it's The PR School District. Amazing! I would love to start a Charter School in PR. My youngest is at a private school now but will be going to PR High School in a few years unless we send her to North Catholic or homeschool.
Tripitapodria July 01, 2012 at 02:04 PM
Teachers’ hefty salaries are driving up taxes, and they only work 9 or 10 months a year. It’s time we put things in perspective and pay them for what they do – babysit.  We can get that for less than minimum wage. That’s right. Let’s give them $3 an hour and only the hours they worked; not any of that silly planning time, or any time they spend before or after school. That would be $19.50 a day (7:45 to 3:00 PM with 45 min. off for lunch and plan– that equals 6 1/2 hours). Each parent should pay $19.50 a day for these teachers to baby-sit their children. Now how many students do they teach in a day…maybe 30? So that’s $19.50 x 30 = $585.00 a day. However, remember they only work 180 days a year. I am not going to pay them for any vacations. LET’S SEE…That’s $585 X 180= $105,300 per year. (Hold on. My calculator needs new batteries.) What about those special education teachers and the ones with master’s degrees? Well, we could pay them minimum wage ($7.75), and just to be fair, round it off to $8.00 an hour. That would be $8 X 6 1/2 hours X 30 children X 180 days = $280,800 per year. Wait a minute — there’s something wrong here. There sure is. The average teacher’s salary (nationwide) is $50,000. $50,000/180 days = $277.77/per day/30 students=$9.25/6.5 hours = $1.42 per hour per student– a very inexpensive baby-sitter and they even EDUCATE your kids!) WHAT A DEAL! –From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog
Tripitapodria July 01, 2012 at 02:06 PM
Delete Tripitapodria 9:59 am on Sunday, July 1, 2012 I am so tired of the teacher bashing!!! Teachers are required by law to be federally & state screened, finger printed etc.... They are also required by law to have a Masters degree, which a lot of other jobs do not require. We send our kids off to school each day & entrust them to these professionals yet we don't want to pay them what they deserve? They have a tremendous amount of college debt yet people have the nerve to say they make too much? Do you know how much time they put into their work outside of physically being in school? I remember one of my child's teachers still being at school until 8 pm on Friday nights preparing and grading papers. Teachers do not go into this profession to become rich. Maybe if we payed them like we do doctors, lawyers, CEOs of corporations, individuals would want to teach & we would have the best going into this profession. like in any other profession there is also dead weight that we need to get rid of. Also, With all of the budget cuts in education there are so many teachers that spend their own money on supplies for their classrooms! Don't we want the very best professionals teaching our kids?? If we pay them, they will come.
Elizabeth July 01, 2012 at 04:49 PM
I know quite a few teachers in the pr district that have a masters.... but it will dwindle down to a very small percentage once the senior teachers (without a masters) bump out the new ones with a masters. great quality education! PR teacher's union should look how North Allegheny, Quaker Valley etc. handle that! but they wll never let that out of their contract, and you wonder why NA etc. are better school districts!!
Susan M. July 01, 2012 at 04:59 PM
You are wrong Tripitapodria. Teachers are required to have a bachelor's and a teaching CERTIFICATE! Not a master's. How many teachers do you know that actually have the mast. degree? Not a lot. And there is a little known fact that they can receive a Master's Equivalency, which states they have 36 hours of graduate training and is for SALARY purposes only, it does not entitle them to any other rewards like an earned master's degree.
Kelly Burgess July 01, 2012 at 05:32 PM
You need to meet more people from PR, D.L. I've had kids in the district for 20 years and everyone I know has had a wonderful experience and their kids have gotten an excellent education. These kids are now in some of the top colleges in the country and are succeeding there as well. Many have already gone on to successful careers. Some kids simply don't succeed, but you can't necessarily blame the school district for that. There are many factors in success or lack thereof. I would also like to hear the exact quote and exact context in which you were told a teacher could not be fired, because I don't think such an unprofessional statement would be made by an administrator at PR. There are always teachers that some don't like, but you can also find an equal number, or more, that do.
Susan M. July 01, 2012 at 06:01 PM
Kelly, what I blame the school district for is not paying enough attention to the students who are just getting by. These kids can really excel if they are given the proper tools that really are not available to the mediocre. Yes, they do put out a lot of very successful college students, but what school doesn't? How about working with the children who need help in math? Why are the parents supposed to get the extra math help and pay for it when we are paying high taxes as it is? My child needs math help, I have brought this up to the principal and his answer "currently we don't have the resources to provide additional help in math"....reading? TONS of resources for that because they want to look good on paper when the assessments are given.
Richland Parent July 01, 2012 at 06:40 PM
I guess the teachers in PR would receive more using the above calculations since the PR students go to school more that 180 days a year and the teachers go more than the students with the required in-service days. Oh yeah, what about the secondary teachers who can have 125-150 students/year. Do they get even more?!?!?
Kelly Burgess July 01, 2012 at 08:26 PM
You went to a principal, said, "My child needs help in math," and he said, in effect, "Oh well, can't help, see ya." Two of my three children are terrible in math. When they needed extra help, I went directly to their teachers and they either provided it or referred them to a peer tutor. It never escalated to a point where I needed to go to the principal. The only scenario I can imagine would be if someone was asking for help that required so much extra time or specialized attention as to be beyond the purview of the teachers/tutors that were on hand, meaning that the district would have had to actually hire someone just for their child. As for "mediocre" kids, let's not use that term. I have average kids with (mostly) average friends and even these average kids are doing very well. Did they graduate at the top of their class? Not even close. But all have been accepted to, or have attended, good, solid colleges. Years ago I was a volunteer tutor for a local after school program. Some of the kids worked hard and the extra attention really helped them. Others just couldn't or wouldn't do what was necessary. There was only so much we could do, they needed intensive, specialized help. It would be nice if we could have those specialized programs to offer to every single parent who feels their child needs one, but that's not always possible.
Dee L. Wright July 01, 2012 at 08:59 PM
I would like to clarify that I went to the principal to have my daughter transferred into a another teacher's class. It was not for math help/tutoring. I had gone that route. The teacher whose class she was transferred into, was an excellent teacher. And yes, Kelly the principal said exactly that to me, unprofessional or not. My daughter attends an excellent, well known college. As for the PR school district, in my opinion, they are subpar compared to the the other schools my children have attended.
Susan M. July 01, 2012 at 09:01 PM
You made a lot of assumptions when responding to my post, so you are off the mark. I was asking at a PTO meeting about the lack of "extra attention in math" like they have with the reading programs. The answer was "they don't have the resources to do anything extra for math"....my kid doesn't suck at math, she just isn't as good at math as she is in reading. She struggles. I was just making a point that they spend a lot of time concentrating on reading. Why not give a little of that effort towards math? If they don't get the basics now, while they are still in elementary school, they will always continue to struggle. Another assumption was that I did not go to the teacher. I did, I was provided with material to help her, and I find it extremely difficult trying to teach her. I am not saying that the school did not provide ME with the tools to help her.They did, I tried, it failed. Now what? Now I will be paying someone else to get her up to par.
Richard Stelts July 01, 2012 at 09:31 PM
This is a difficult subject. While no one is getting rich by teaching, I do not agree with public-sector unions. I own a small business and have done so for years. I rarely take a vacation and most any trip out of my driveway is business-related. I also substitute teach and coach at a local public school. It is amazing the disparity between the schedules of many teachers. I do not agree with tenure. Teaching should be as competitive as any other professions and pay should be commensurate. Yes, D.L., we should be able to choose the best school for our children.
Parent of 2012 Grad July 01, 2012 at 10:01 PM
Hi Kelly, I met with not only the teacher, but also Pietrusinski when my child began having difficulty in Honors Algebra 2. Interestingly, I researched several issues and found: “At Pine-Richland Middle School, for example, pupils who qualify with high grade-point averages and test scores are enrolled in what the district calls "pre-algebra" in sixth grade. That leads into algebra in seventh and honors geometry in eighth. "This is for students who are mathematically advanced," Assistant Principal John Pietrusinski said. He said 50 students were taking sixth-grade pre-algebra this year, but the number who stay in accelerated math drops as the grades advance. 8/27/06 Post Gazette. PR Math Curriculum findings 2005/2006 - The pilot revealed that students in the Honors Algebra 2 class have not seen a lot of the curriculum before and therefore were not able to “test out” often since the material was completely new to them (new topics included matrices, logarithms, roots of polynomial equations, and complex and imaginary numbers) in conjunction with pilot testing out program. Unfortunately, for many of these students, these conclusions were too late. We discussed areas for improvement, and I brought my child’s tutor’s recommendations. The bottom line is the math program has systemic flaws that are swept under the rug. Some math classes experience a mass exodus after the first week. As an aside, my son graduated top honors, with an A in Calc BC.
PR Mom 18 July 02, 2012 at 04:02 AM
I feel we do need to pay for qualified teachers and pay them well so that PR is a district highly qualified educators seek out. However, herein lies the problem. Teachers who have been in the PR system for 17 years, whether they are an incredible, inspiring instructor or the complete opposite are making over 94,000 (with benefits and retirement it is well over that number). PR pays a poor teacher within the system that much, yet they will not pay that to attract an exemplary educator with the same number of years (they will only offer up to four years of experience). Why would we pay poor teachers that but not be willing to pay that for a proven, talented educator? As a result, experienced, diversified educators are not coming to PR and PR is only hiring younger teachers (nothing against younger teachers) but consider what is happening. This practice creates a non diversified work environment. What has happened is that many of the younger teachers have gotten married, started their own families (as they should) and our children are being taught by many substitute teachers throughout the years.
PR Mom 18 July 02, 2012 at 04:03 AM
By getting rid of poor teachers and putting a practice into place to hire people for what they are worth, PR could bring in some highly competent teachers and create a more diversified environment. PR needs to consider the impact of personnel upon students and the district. There is much research to support teacher effectiveness in a quality educational system, however, PR administrators and School Board Members are not focused upon hiring practices even though the majority of tax dollars are spent on salaries and benefits and it is the one area that has a proven dramatic effect on student achievement. PR should hire the best and get rid of the rest.
Kelly Burgess July 02, 2012 at 11:19 AM
Susan - you said you brought up to the principal that your child needs math help and he gave you an answer about your specific child. At no point in your comment did you mention you asked a general question about the math program in a public meeting. @Parent of 2012 Grad -- we probably know each other, since I have a 2012 grad as well. I hope your child is as excited about college as mine is. My answer: there is often room for improvement in certain programs. You have obviously researched this and identified some flaws. I do not disagree at all and hope the administration addresses these. My only concern in commenting on this site is to address those who make broad, unspecified accusations against the district without any facts to back them up. @D.L. -- Again, I say, for everyone who dislikes a teacher, you can find someone who loves that teacher. As for your opinion that PR school district is subpar, thank you for making it clear that it is just your opinion. It's when people make statements such as "PR is failing too many students," without facts to back it up that I feel the need to point out that, in fact, PR turns out a lot of well-educated, successful kids. I am not defending poor teachers or the limitations of dealing with a teachers union, what I am doing is trying to provide another point of view, since so much of what is posted here is negative and critical and that has certainly not been my experience, or my kids', at PR.
Richland Parent July 02, 2012 at 12:19 PM
Ms. Martinez-I don't know where you get your facts but had you done a quick seach you could have found some facts about this district and the teachers employed here. Why not visit this site http://www.schools-data.com/schools/Pine-Richland-HS-Gibsonia.html ? (You can also look at all the other schools in the district at this site) By looking at the information it is clear that this is a year or two ago but at that time there were 114 teachers out of 258 with a masters degree. That's almost 50%. I would bet that this percent has increased since this data was gathered as newly hired teachers already have a master's to be more marketable. As far a a Master's Equivalency isn't that the same a an accountant, a doctor, a financial planner or any other professional who attends classes to be currant? I don't think I would want my taxes done by an accountant or CPA who doesn't know the lastes IRS rules.
Dee L. Wright July 02, 2012 at 01:28 PM
Kelly, why are you are so sensitive and defensive regarding other's opinions and experiences with The PR school district? You've even opined that the principal's comment about a certain teacher was a fabrication. This is an open forum where people should be able to express their opinions and experiences without being attacked. The fact remains that teachers' unions protect bad teachers. Perhaps you need to watch the documentary, Waiting for Superman.
Elizabeth July 02, 2012 at 01:40 PM
totally agree with the union statement
Kelly Burgess July 02, 2012 at 02:18 PM
I'm not sensitive or defensive. I merely have a different opinion and it's positive. My issue is that there are so many blanket, negative statements about the district that are not supported by facts, but by anecdotes and opinion. I still do not think the principal's answer to a complaint about a teacher would be to imply that, yes, he or she is bad, but cannot be fired. I've complained about teachers as well, and that was never implied. Rather, I was assured that the administration was aware of the issue and was taking steps to fix it. It's not the administration's fault that they can't fire teachers. I can't imagine that anything I've ever said could be construed as an "attack." I even said I appreciated the fact that you made clear your statement was opinion. You are entitled to your opinion and I respect it, I just happen to have a different one and I'm expressing it. No school is perfect, but an unrelentingly negative view of PR is not a fair picture either.
Parent of 2012 Grad July 02, 2012 at 02:40 PM
Thanks, Kelly. My child is excited for college. AP Scores are out today and can be checked off the college list. I appreciate your point of view. However, it will be forums such as these that generate discussion and create more transparency. It is useful for parents to learn that others have had similar experiences, become aware of alternative solutions and/or develop coalitions/collaborations. It can evoke much needed change. We are paying top dollar in a district that, as my child said, “markets well,” yet has significant room for academic improvement and has spent too much time on window dressing. Ask your kids which teachers inspired, required exceptional work, or whom they would grade A+? Shouldn't it be a really long list? I cringe when I think of students who may not have the benefit of (persistent) advocates, run into roadblocks, insufficient funds, etc.; particularly, in a subject such as math which requires foundational learning. It may not be that some "students don't succeed." Like it or not, our 2012 graduates will be competing in a global arena and need to be prepared. Off my soapbox.
Kelly Burgess July 02, 2012 at 03:24 PM
I completely agree with everything you said. My children's list of inspiring teachers is a long one, thank goodness! These forums are useful for generating discussion and I appreciate the different points of view when they are thoughtfully presented, such as yours are, rather than hyperbolic statements that denigrate the district without offering constructive criticism. Our kids are competing in a global arena and my children, so far (the two in the work force), were well-prepared for that. I would like the students of PR to all have similarly successful outcomes, and if that requires change, then let's encourage those changes in a targeted, respectful manner. In my opinion, too many posters are entirely negative. I like to balance that with a few positives. I'm not an apologist, merely a realist. And thanks for the heads up on the AP scores, I did not realize they were out today.
Richard July 03, 2012 at 11:47 AM
I think that we all agree that there are a few people in all professions that should not have a job, and education is the same way. It does take some work for principals to get rid of teachers but it is not that difficult, just time consuming. The principals at the high school have released 2 teachers in the past 3 years that were inadequate at their jobs, so it is being done. Not sure if everyone knows it because they are not "fired". The teachers are simply told to resign or they will be fired. This site does a great job of getting people more informed. I am sure that there will be a lot more discussion as the contract struggles continue. Hopefully the teachers will be patient and willing to work without a contract at the beginning of the year. The school is not in a good financial place right now and hopefully the teachers will understand that. It isn't the teachers fault, they pay into their retirement at 7% and make 10K less than NA teachers at the top and are near equal to Deer Lakes teachers. Regardless, the union and school board need to work out a 3-4 year contract with I would say a pay freeze in the first year and a slight raise the next 2-3 with increased health care payments. Right now they pay more than most school districts teachers, but it still needs to be more. Overall, I believe that students at PR are ready for college and that overall the teachers do a very good job in preparing our students for college. We should support our schools!

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