Thursday, February 11, 2010

Are We Premier?

There have been two articles in the past week about other school districts -- one about a new director on the Plum School Board and another about nepotism in school district hiring -- that have referenced the Mt. Lebanon School District.

Both times, the MLSD has been complimented. In the Plum article, new school director Loretta White states "I'd like to see our district go from good to great," she said. "The way people talk about Upper St. Clair and Mt. Lebanon, there is no reason they can't talk about Plum that way."

In the nepotism article, Moon school director Rosemarie Varsanik suggested "that the board 'look at the premier school districts we keep comparing ourselves to, places like Upper St. Clair and Mt. Lebanon.'"

So what makes us (and Upper St. Clair) "premier"? What are we doing better than other school districts? And what do we need to do to stay that way?

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9 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mt Lebanon, perceived as a premier school system despite a HS in disrepair and RENOVATED elementary and middle school buildings.
Which by the way are acclaimed by the PA Dept. of Ed.
Could it be teachers and curriculum are more important than steel and glass?
Dean Spahr

February 12, 2010 12:26 AM  
Blogger James Fraasch said...

Hmm, Dean, you might be on to something there.

James

February 12, 2010 8:08 AM  
Anonymous David Huston said...

I just posted a comment on Real Lebo:
Ms. Labalme,
Ms. Gillen simply requested the information.
I did not attend the meeting on 08-FEB-2010 because the same school district closed the buildings for the day.

Why do you continue to question the motives of folks who ask legitimate questions?
I would like to see the same approved preliminary budget forecast.

Do you think it will pass muster?

February 12, 2010 9:24 AM  
Anonymous Bill Lewis said...

Yes, James...Dean does have something there, but it is beyond the recognition of the SB majority so far until they get their Taj Mahal. But just you wait...they will suddenly acknowledge this during the teachers contract negotiations about to get underway and want (maybe *demand* would be a more accurate word in their case)a budget-busting settlement.

February 12, 2010 10:40 AM  
Blogger Dave Franklin said...

As I see it, the teachers have a ridiculous amount of leverage right now. I would love to be negotiating for them.

February 12, 2010 10:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess this is the venue to get my question answered. I work evenings and cannot attend school board meetings. When I look at spreadsheets, I get overwhelmed. Math is certainly not my strong point. I am not an accountant and rely on him to do my taxes, so I am asking again here. Would you be able to show your calculations as to how you came up with 45.3% using the published forecast? I have a hard time interpretting charts. On Real Lebo, I tried not to be confrontational, intimidating, off topic, challenging, Perry Mason-ish - and I am sure there are readers asking who the heck is Perry Mason, and now my motives are being questioned. The only math I am good at is when there is a 40% off sale at JoAnn Fabrics. Help, please.
Elaine Gillen

February 12, 2010 10:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll admit, I haven't seen the latest budget projections, but in the previous release, book and material budegts were stagnant or declined over the 5 year projection!
Ms. Posti on her blog suggest that the budget numbers are a work in progress. She suggest the HS project could come in under estimates, PSERs too might not be as high as forecast and her third point... the teachers contract has yet to be negotiated. Is she inferring that to keep taxes low, we'll cut the very people that educate of kids and cut back the materials and technology they need to do their jobs?
Yes, the HS is in disrepair, but what good does it do to build say... a new library... then cut the book budget to stock it?
My perceptions of course could be all wrong, so I'm willing to hear opposing points of view or explanations.
Dean Spahr

February 12, 2010 11:44 AM  
Blogger Tom Moertel said...

Elaine,

I didn't see your comment here until after I started on a response at Real Lebo. I'll repost my response here, just in case you don't check back there.

Here it is:

Absolutely, I'd be delighted to work through the math. I suspect you're not the only person curious about the calculations. Ready? Let's go!

First, grab the school district's approved preliminary budget forecast. You may want to print it out.

Take a look at the REVENUES section of the forecast, the Real Estate Tax line, in particular. This line shows the real-estate taxes the district has collected (for past years) or forecasts to collect (for coming years). What we want to do is compare the taxes in this line for different years to see how much they go up or down. To recreate Mr. Ewing's analysis, for example, we want to compare the 2008–09 taxes to the forecasted 2015–06 taxes. Let's do that next.

Look up the 2008–09 real-estate taxes. It's on the Real Estate Tax line under the 2008–09 heading: $48,291,589. For simplicity, let's just round it to $48.3 million.

Now look up the forecasted 2015–16 real-estate taxes: $70,172,709. Again, for simplicity, let's round it to $70.2 million.

Here's the fun part! Now we get to calculate how many times the 2008–09 figure goes into the 2015–16 figure. That will tell us how big the latter is compared to the former. Just divide the 2015–16 figure by the 2008–09 figure:

$70.2 million / $48.3 million = 1.453

That means the 2015–16 figure is 1.453 times the 2008–09 figure: it's 0.453 times larger. Expressed as a percentage, 0.453 is 45.3%.

And that's where the 45.3% figure comes from. :-)

Cheers,
Tom

February 12, 2010 11:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, Tom, for taking the time to explain it to me. Loved your triple/double latte analogy at the school board meeting. Thanks for keeping it simple for people like me.
Elaine Gillen

February 12, 2010 12:04 PM  

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