Budget, Test Scores Among School District Issues In 2015

In 2015, the Crestwood School Board dealt with a number is issues, including the budget, test scores, physical plant improvements, and the appointment of a new district superintendent.

Led by President Jerry Orloski, the board took an early fiscal look at the 2015 budget needs, asking Courtney Lomax representing district Business Manager, Albert B. Melone Company to offer guidance on the yearly plan.

She explained that school districts have the option to pass a resolution saying that they will not exceed the state allocation index in June, which in Crestwood’s case is 2.4%. “Or,” she reported, “the district can do a proposed preliminary budget like we’re doing -to leave the options open going forward for a tax increase.”

The eventual state contribution, added to increases in earned income taxes allowed the district to offer a preliminary budget with a tax increase within the index amount of 2.4%. Lomax cautioned that the February vote was simply a holding action not a commitment, giving the board the option of that millage in June when the matter would be finalized. The final rate, set in June was 9.6347 millage.

Not so definite was the attendee’s response to testing results through the year. Releases of state testing levels brought parents out questioning the curricular decisions being implemented in the district.

In February, skeptical parents questioned SAT scores. Assistant to the Superintendent Brian Waite was directed by Superintendent David McLaughlin-Smith to explain the districts’ standing. Waite stated that 72% of the students took the exam in 2014, a significantly higher participation level than other districts. He added that the results showed an improvement of 37% from the 2013 results.

Subsequent meetings brought similar challenges to the administration’s leadership regarding standardized test results. But parents pushed back several times during the year when news outlets presented scores showing Crestwood not so competitive as the top tier of regional districts.

At a relatively quiet May meeting, Superintendent David McLaughlin-Smith announced his intention to retire in January.

In June, parents again expressed concerns relating to Keystone Test scores. The parents objected strenuously to a letter received just after the May meeting notifying them that, “Crestwood High School is on the list of the bottom 15 percent for combined performance on the math/ algebra1 and reading/literature tests.”

Assistant Superintendent Brian Waite explained in June that the tests were administered to 8th graders and –unlike other districts –Crestwood did not re-test its students in order to produce better results. He emphasized that curriculum changes were introduced to address the deficit.

At that session former Math Department head Barry Boone, supported the administration stating, “The curriculum is aimed at the SAT tests.” He said that the SAT results show the success of the district’s Math program. He warned that major changes to the math instruction could negatively impact the normally excellent SAT results for the district.

Skipping the month of July, the board returned tanned and rested to convene the August meeting helmed by Vice President Ken Malkemes.

The directors heard the results of new standardized tests, the PSSA explained by Waite. He identified the evolution of the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment calling for Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics. The assessments