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Fort Cherry School District

 

Fort Cherry School District

Fort Cherry School District
Location
110 Fort Cherry Road
McDonald, Pennsylvania 15057

United States
District information
Type Public
"…learning is for life"
Grades K-12
Established 1959
Superintendent Dr. Jill Jacoby
Students and staff
Students 1,243 (as of 2015-16)[1]
Teachers 95 (as of 2015-16)[1]
District mascot Ranger
Colors Red and White
Other information
Website Fort Cherry School District
Fort Cherry School District region in Washington County
Fort Cherry School District region in Allegheny County

Fort Cherry School District is a small, rural public school district located in southwestern Pennsylvania. It covers a portion of suburban Pittsburgh and some outlying rural areas. The district serves students in a 58-square-mile (150 km2) area that includes the towns of McDonald and Midway and the village of Hickory, as well as the townships of Robinson and Mount Pleasant. According to a 2008 local census, it serves a resident population of 8,878. The residents' per capita income was $17,963, while median family income was $45,688. According to District officials, in school year 2007-08 the Fort Cherry School District provided basic educational services to 1,236 pupils through the employment of 95 teachers, 16 full-time and part-time support personnel, and 9 administrators. Fort Cherry School District received more than $8.9 million in state funding in school year 2007-08.

Contents

  • History 1
  • Schools 2
  • Governance 3
  • Academic achievement 4
    • Graduation rate 4.1
  • High school 5
    • Graduation requirements 5.1
  • Languages 6
    • Dual enrollment 6.1
    • Junior high school 6.2
  • Elementary Center 7
  • Bullying policy 8
  • Wellness policy 9
  • Special education 10
    • Gifted education 10.1
  • Enrollment and Consolidation 11
  • Budget 12
    • State basic education funding 12.1
      • Accountability Block Grants 12.1.1
      • Classrooms for the Future grant 12.1.2
      • Education Assistance Program 12.1.3
    • Federal Stimulus funding 12.2
      • Race to the Top grant 12.2.1
    • Common Cents state initiative 12.3
  • Real estate taxes 13
    • Act 1 Adjusted index 13.1
    • Property tax relief 13.2
  • Extracurricular 14
  • Notable alumni 15
  • References 16
  • External links 17

History

Established in 1959, this area was previously a fort created and inhabited by Tom Cherry and his family. This fort was eventually torn down to create Fort Cherry High School, with Fort Cherry Elementary Center eventually being added next to the high school.

Schools

  • Fort Cherry Elementary Center
  • Fort Cherry Junior-Senior High School

Governance

The school district is governed by 9 individually elected board members (serve four-year terms), the Pennsylvania State Board of Education, the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Pennsylvania General Assembly.[2] The federal government controls programs it funds like Title I funding for low-income children in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the No Child Left Behind Act, which mandates the district focus resources on student success in acquiring reading and math skills.

The Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy Alternatives Sunshine Review gave the school board and district administration a "D-" for transparency based on a review of "What information can people find on their school district's website". It examined the school district's website for information regarding; taxes, the current budget, meetings, school board members names and terms, contracts, audits, public records information and more.[3]

Academic achievement

In 2011, the school district ranked 230th of 498 Pennsylvania school district. The ranking was based on five years of student academic performance on the PSSAs for math, reading, writing and three years of science.[4]

  • 2010 - 259th[5]
  • 2009 - 268th
  • 2008 - 306th
  • 2007 - 337th out of 501 school district for student academic achievement.[6]

In 2009, the academic achievement of the students of the Fort Cherry School District was in the bottom 51st percentile among 500 Pennsylvania school districts. Scale - (0-99; 100 is state best)[7]

Graduation rate

In 2011, the Fort Cherry School District's graduation rate was 95%.[8] In 2010, the Pennsylvania Department of Education issued a new, 4-year cohort graduation rate. Fort Cherry High School's rate was 81% for 2010.[9]

  • 2010 - 89% [10]
  • 2009 - 90%[11]
  • 2008 - 87%
  • 2007 - 87%[12]

High school

In 2011, Fort Cherry Senior High School declined to Warning AYP status due to lagging student achievement.[13] In 2009 and 2010, the school achieved AYP status under the federal No Child Left Behind law.[14]

11th Grade Reading
  • 2011 - 72% on grade level, (14% below basic). State - 69.1% of 11th graders are on grade level.[15]
  • 2010 - 81%, (11% below basic). State - 66% [16]
  • 2009 - 71%, (14% below basic). State - 65%[17]
  • 2008 - 76%, (12% below basic). State - 65%[18]
  • 2007 - 65% (17% below basic). State - 65%[19]
11th Grade Math
  • 2011 - 64%, on grade level (20% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 60.3% of 11th graders are on grade level.[20]
  • 2010 - 61%, (19% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 59% of 11th graders are on grade level.[21]
  • 2009 - 53% (23% below basic). State - 56%.
  • 2008 - 57% (21% below basic). State - 56%
  • 2007 - 44% (39% below basic). State - 53%
11th Grade Science
  • 2011 - 49% on grade level (14% below basic). State - 40% of 11th graders were on grade level. .[22]
  • 2010 - 42%, (10% below basic). State - 39%
  • 2009 - 38%, (12% below basic). State - 40%[23]
  • 2008 - 29%, State - 39%

College remediation: According to a Pennsylvania Department of Education study released in January 2009, 38% of the Fort Cherry Junior Senior High School graduates required remediation in mathematics and or reading before they were prepared to take college level courses in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education or community colleges.[24] Less than 66% of Pennsylvania high school graduates, who enroll in a four-year college in Pennsylvania, will earn a bachelor's degree within six years. Among Pennsylvania high school graduates pursuing an associate degree, only one in three graduate in three years.[25] Per the Pennsylvania Department of Education, one in three recent high school graduates who attend Pennsylvania's public universities and community colleges takes at least one remedial course in math, reading or English.

Graduation requirements

The Fort Cherry School Board requires that students earn 4 credits to graduate, including: English .5 credits, Social Studies .5 credits, Mathematics .5 credits, Science .5 credits, Arts/Humanities .5 credits, Drivers’ Education 0.5 credit, and Senior Project 0.25 credit.[26]

By law, all Pennsylvania secondary school students must complete a project as a part of their eligibility to graduate from high school. The type of project, its rigor and its expectations are set by the individual school district.[27]

By Pennsylvania State School Board regulations, beginning with the graduating class in 2016, students must demonstrate successful completion of secondary level course work in Algebra I, Biology, English Composition, and Literature for which the Keystone Exams serve as the final course exams. Students’ Keystone Exam scores must count for at least one-third of the final course grade.[28]

Languages

Fort Cherry High School offers foreign languages through an online program offered by Keystone National High School. The work is done on an independent basis. World Language courses offered include: German I-IV; French I, II; Mandarin I, II; Japanese I, II; and Latin I, II. Spanish is offered in a traditional classroom setting.

Dual enrollment

The high school offers a dual enrollment program. This state program permits high school students to take courses, at local higher education institutions, to earn college credits. Students remain enrolled at their high school. The courses count towards high school graduation requirements and towards earning a college degree. The students continue to have full access to activities and programs at their high school, including the graduation ceremony. The college credits are offered at a deeply discounted rate. At Fort Cherry Calculus and Statistics are offered for college and high school credit through University of Pittsburgh. Students must earn a C to get reimbursement for the costs. The state offers a small grant to assist students in costs for tuition, fees and books.[29] Under the Pennsylvania Transfer and Articulation Agreement, many Pennsylvania colleges and universities accept these credits for students who transfer to their institutions.[30]

For the 2009-10 funding year, the school district received a state grant of $2,439 for the program.

Junior high school

8th Grade Reading:

  • 2011 - 89% on grade level (4% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 81.8% of 8th graders on grade level.
  • 2010 - 84%, (8% below basic). State - 81% [31]
  • 2009 - 84% (3% below basic). State - 80%
  • 2008 - 80% (9% below basic). State - 78% [32]
  • 2007 - 76% (9% below basic). State - 75%

8th Grade Math:

  • 2011 - 73% on grade level (8% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 76.9% of 8th graders are on grade level
  • 2010 - 66%, (10% below basic). State - 75% [33]
  • 2009 - 55% (19% below basic). State - 71%[34]
  • 2008 - 67% (17% below basic), State - 70%
  • 2007 - 57% (20% below basic), State - 68%

8th Grade Science:

  • 2011 - 59% on grade level (16% below basic). State – 58.3% of 8th graders were on grade level.
  • 2010 - 62%, (27% below basic). State - 57%
  • 2009 - 64%, (22% below basic), State - 55% [35]
  • 2008 - 53%, State - 52%[36]

7th Grade Reading

  • 2011 - 73% on grade level (11% below basic). State – 76%
  • 2010 - 78% (4% below basic). State - 73%
  • 2009 - 73% (12% below basic). State - 71%
  • 2008 - 77% (7% below basic). State - 70%
  • 2007 - 59% (17% below basic). State - 67%

7th Grade Math:

  • 2011 - 72% on grade level (13% below basic). State - 78.6%
  • 2010 - 74% (3% below basic). State - 77%.
  • 2009 - 67% (13% below basic). State - 75%
  • 2008 - 72% (13% below basic). State - 71%
  • 2007 - 56% (17% below basic). State - 67%

Elementary Center

In 2011, the Fort Cherry Elementary Center achieved AYP status.[37] In 2009 and 2010, the school achieved AYP status. In 2010 and 2011, the attendance rate was 95% while in 2009 the rate was 94%.[38]

6th Grade Reading:

  • 2011 - 85% on grade level (4% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 69.9% of 6th graders are on grade level.[39]
  • 2010 - 75% (8% below basic). State - 68% [40]
  • 2009 - 80% (7% below basic), State - 67%
  • 2008 - 76% (9% below basic), State - 67%
  • 2007 - 73% (6% below basic), State - 63%

6th Grade Math:

  • 2011 - 94% on grade level (3% below basic). State - 78.8%
  • 2010 - 90% (1% below basic). State - 78%
  • 2009 - 91% (2% below basic), State - 75%
  • 2008 - 85% (6% below basic), State - 72%
  • 2007 - 89% (3% below basic), State - 69%

5th Grade Reading:

  • 2011 - 81% on grade level (8% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 67.3% of 5th graders are on grade level.
  • 2010 - 80% (11% below basic). State - 64%
  • 2009 - 76% (10% below basic). State - 64%
  • 2008 - 80% (4% below basic). State - 62%
  • 2007 - 77% (8% below basic). State - 60%

5th Grade Math:

  • 2011 - 93% on grade level (1% below basic). State - 74%
  • 2010 - 87% on grade level (3% below basic). State - 74%
  • 2009 - 78% (6% below basic), State - 73%
  • 2008 - 78% (2% below basic), State - 73%
  • 2007 - 75% (9% below basic), State - 71%
4th Grade Reading
  • 2011 - 78% (9% below basic), State – 73.3%
  • 2010 - 75% (12% below basic), State - 73%
  • 2009 - 74% (13% below basic), State - 72%
  • 2008 - 68% (10% below basic), State - 70%
  • 2007 - 77% (8% below basic), State - 60%
4th Grade Math
  • 2011 - 87% (3% below basic). State – 85.3%
  • 2010 - 95% (1% below basic). State - 84%
  • 2009 - 92% (1% below basic). State - 81%
  • 2008 - 82% (7% below basic). State - 80%
  • 2007 - 85% (9% below basic). State - 78%
4th Grade Science
  • 2011 - 89%, (3% below basic), State – 82.9%
  • 2010 - 92%, (4% below basic), State - 81%
  • 2009 - 93%, (0% below basic), State - 83%
  • 2008 - 94%, State - 81%
3rd Grade Reading
  • 2011 - 80%, (12% below basic), State – 77.2%
  • 2010 - 77%, (11% below basic), State - 75%
  • 2009 - 86%, (11% below basic), State - 77%
  • 2008 - 73%, (11% below basic), State - 70%
  • 2007 - 66%, (16% below basic), State - 72%
3rd Grade Math
  • 2011 - 87%, (5% below basic), State – 83.5%
  • 2010 - 83%, (4% below basic), State - 84%
  • 2009 - 82%, (1% below basic), State - 81%
  • 2008 - 76%, (2% below basic), State - 80%
  • 2007 - 76%, (3% below basic), State - 78%

Bullying policy

In 2009, the administrative reported there were zero incidents of bullying in the district.[41][42]

The Fort Cherry School Board has provided the district's antibully policy online.[43] All Pennsylvania schools are required to have an anti-bullying policy incorporated into their Code of Student Conduct. The policy must identify disciplinary actions for bullying and designate a school staff person to receive complaints of bullying. The policy must be available on the school's website and posted in every classroom. All Pennsylvania public schools must provide a copy of its anti-bullying policy to the Office for Safe Schools every year, and shall review their policy every three years. Additionally, the district must conduct an annual review of that policy with students.[44] The Center for Schools and Communities works in partnership with the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime & Delinquency and the Pennsylvania Department of Education to assist schools and communities as they research, select and implement bullying prevention programs and initiatives.[45]

Education standards relating to student safety and antiharassment programs are described in the 10.3. Safety and Injury Prevention in the Pennsylvania Academic Standards for Health, Safety and Physical Education.[46]

Wellness policy

In cmpliance with state law, Fort Cherry School Board established a district wellness policy in June 2006 Student Wellness Policy 246.[47] The policy deals with nutritious meals served at school, the control of access to some foods and beverages during school hours, age appropriate nutrition education for all students, and physical education for students K-12. The policy is in response to state mandates and federal legislation (P.L. 108 - 265). The law dictates that each school district participating in a program authorized by the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (42 U.S.C. 1751 et seq) or the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 (42 U.S.C. 1771 et seq) "shall establish a local school wellness policy by School Year 2006."

The legislation placed the responsibility of developing a wellness policy at the local level so the individual needs of each district can be addressed. According to the requirements for the Local Wellness Policy, school districts must set goals for nutrition education and physical education that are aligned with the Pennsylvania State Academic Standards for Health, Safety and Physical Education, campus food provision, and other school-based activities designed to promote student wellness. Additionally, districts were required to involve a broad group of individuals in policy development and to have a plan for measuring policy implementation. Districts were offered a choice of levels of implementation for limiting or prohibiting low nutrition foods on the school campus. In final implementation these regulations prohibit some foods and beverages on the school campus.[48] The policy requires that the Superintendent or designee shall report to the Board on the district’s compliance with law and policies related to student wellness. The Pennsylvania Department of Education required the district to submit a copy of the policy for approval.

Special education

In December 2009, the district administration reported that 190 pupils or 16% of the district's pupils received Special Education services.[49]

In order to comply with state and federal laws, the school district engages in identification procedures to ensure that eligible students receive an appropriate educational program consisting of special education and related services, individualized to meet student needs. At no cost to the parents, these services are provided in compliance with state and federal law; and are reasonably calculated to yield meaningful educational benefit and student progress.[50] To identify students who may be eligible for special education, various screening activities are conducted on an ongoing basis. These screening activities include: review of group-based data (cumulative records, enrollment records, health records, report cards, ability and achievement test scores); hearing, vision, motor, and speech/language screening; and review by the Special Education administration. When screening results suggest that the student may be eligible, the District seeks parental consent to conduct a multidisciplinary evaluation. Parents who suspect their child is eligible may verbally request a multidisciplinary evaluation from a professional employee of the District or contact the Special Education Department.[51]

In 2010, the state of Pennsylvania provided $1,026,815,000 for Special Education services. The funds were distributed to districts based on a state policy which estimates that 16% of the district's pupils are receiving special education services. This funding is in addition to the state's basic education per pupil funding, as well as, all other state and federal funding.[52]

Fort Cherry School District received a $745,726 supplement for special education services in 2010.[53]

For the 2011-12 school year, all Pennsylvania public school districts received the same level of funding for special education that they received in 2010. This level funding is provided regardless of changes in the number of pupils who need special education services and regardless of the level of services the respective students required.[54]

Gifted education

The District Administration reported that 55 or 3.31% of its students were gifted in 2009.[55] By law, the district must provide mentally gifted programs at all grade levels. The referral process for a gifted evaluation can be initiated by teachers or parents by contacting the student’s building principal and requesting an evaluation. All requests must be made in writing. To be eligible for mentally gifted programs in Pennsylvania, a student must have a cognitive ability of at least 130 as measured on a standardized ability test by a certified school psychologist. Other factors that indicate giftedness will also be considered for eligibility.[56]

Enrollment and Consolidation

In a budget presentation in June 2010, the school administration noted a 300 student enrollment decline in 2000.[57] According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, there are fewer than 1155 students enrolled in Fort Cherry School District, K-12, in 2010. There were 97 students in the Class of 2010. The district's class of 2009 had 102 students while the Class of 2005 had 97 students. Enrollment in Fort Cherry School District has been projected, by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, to continue to decline to 1000 pupils K-12 total enrollment, by 2020.[58]

Pennsylvania is experiencing a decline in population. Deaths have outnumbered births for a decade in many counties.[59] More than 40 percent of elementary schools and more than 60 percent of secondary schools in western Pennsylvania have been experiencing significant enrollment decreases (15 percent or greater).[60]

Pennsylvania has one of the highest numbers of school districts in the nation. In Pennsylvania, 80% of the school districts serve student populations under 5,000, and 40% serve less than 2,000. This results in excessive school administration bureaucracy and not enough course diversity.[61] Reynolds School District administrative costs per pupil in 2008 was $905.90 per pupil. This is ranked 102nd among in the 500 school districts in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The lowest administrative cost per pupil in Pennsylvania was $398 per pupil.[62] In a survey of superintendents of the small districts, 42% stated that they thought consolidation would save money without closing any schools.[63]

A Standard and Poors study found that an optimal school district size, to conserve administrative costs, was at least 3000 pupils.[64] The study examined consolidation of Fort Cherry School District with Chartiers-Houston School District. It found significant savings were achievable, including the elimination of redundant administration salaries.[65][66] According to a proposal made in 2009, by Governor Edward G. Rendell, the excessive administrative overhead dollars could be redirected to improve lagging academic achievement, to enrich the academic programs or to substantially reduce property taxes.[67] Consolidation of two districts' central administrations into one would not require the closing of any local schools.

In March 2011, the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants Fiscal Responsibility Task Force released a report which found that consolidating school district administrations with one neighboring district would save the Commonwealth $1.2 billion without forcing the consolidation of any school buildings.[68] The study noted that while the best school districts spent 4% of the annual budget on administration, others spend over 15% on administration.[69]

Budget

In 2007, the district employed 90 teachers. The average teacher salary in the district was $46,792 for 180 days worked.[70]

Fort Cherry School District administrative costs per pupil in 2008 was $781.19 per pupil. The administrative spending ranks 220th out of 500 school districts in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The lowest administrative cost per pupil in Pennsylvania was $398 per pupil.[71]

In 2008, the district administration reported spending $12,880 per pupil which ranked 268th among Pennsylvania's 501 school districts.[71]

In 2009, the district employed 103 teachers. The average teacher salary in the district was $49,951 for 187 days worked. The beginning salary was $28,500, while the highest salary was $124,035.[72] Teachers work an 7 hour 30 minutes day, with one planning period and a paid 30 minute lunch included. Hours worked may not exceed 37.5 per week. Additionally, the teachers receive: a defined benefit pension, health insurance, dental insurance, life insurance, professional development reimbursement, 2 paid personal days, 10 paid sick days which accumulate, 4 paid days bereavement leave and many other benefits. Early retirees receive paid health insurance benefits for the employee and spouse for up to 120 months. The district offers an extensive retirement/longevity package which includes payment for unused sick days accumulated and a payment of $13,000. The union received 3 paid days to conduct union business. The union pays for the substitute for the first 5 days.[73] According to Rep. Glen Grell, a trustee of the Pennsylvania Public School Employees’ Retirement System Board of Trustees, a 40-year educator can retire with a pension equal to 100 percent of their final salary.[74][75] In October 2009 the district and union ratified a contract with annual raises of 3% to 45 and a small employee contribution to their health insurance premium.

In December 2010, the Pennsylvania Auditor General conducted a performance audit of the district. The findings were reported to the administration and the school board by state officials. It found that the Fort Cherry School District inaccurately reported payments made to a transportation contractor, resulting in a $115,424 underpayment to the Fort Cherry School District.[76]

Reserves In 2008, the district reported a $1,335,476 in an unreserved-undesignated fund balance. The designated fund balance was reported as zero.[77]

The district is funded by a combination of: an income tax, a property tax, a real estate transfer tax 0.5%, coupled with substantial funding from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the federal government. Grants can provide an opportunity to supplement school funding without raising local taxes. In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, pension and Social Security income are exempted from state personal income tax and local earned income tax, regardless the of income level.[78]

State basic education funding

In 2011-12, the district will receive $6,265,884 in state Basic Education Funding.[79] Additionally, the district will receive $83,782 in Accountability Block Grant funding. The enacted Pennsylvania state Education budget includes $5,354,629,000 for the 2011-2012 Basic Education Funding appropriation. This amount is a $233,290,000 increase (4.6%) over the enacted State appropriation for 2010-2011.[80] The highest increase in state basic education funding was awarded to Duquesne City School District, which got a 49% increase in state funding for 2011-12.[81]

For the 2010-11 budget year, the Fort Cherry School District was allotted a 2.00% increase in Basic Education Funding for a total of $6,525,220. The highest increase in Washington County was provided to Charleroi School District which received a 9.90% increase. One hundred fifty Pennsylvania school districts received the base 2% increase. The highest increase in 2010-11 went to Kennett Consolidated School District in Chester County which received a 23.65% increase in state funding.[82] The amount of increase each school district receives is set by the Governor and the Secretary of Education as a part of the state budget proposal given each February.[83]

In the 2009-2010 budget year the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania provided a 2.16% increase in Basic Education funding for a total of $6,401,196. The state Basic Education funding to the Fort Cherry School District in 2008-09 was $6,265,884.46. The highest increase in Washington County went to Burgettstown Area School District which received a 6.45% increase. Eleven Washington County school districts received an increase of less than 5% in 2009-10. Muhlenberg School District of Berks County received an increase of 22.31 percent. Sixteen school districts received an increase in funding of over 10 percent in 2009.[84]

In 2008, the administration reported that 400 students received a free or reduced-price lunch based on the federal poverty levels.

Accountability Block Grants

Beginning in 2004-2005, the state launched the Accountability Block Grant school funding. This program has provided $1.5 billion to Pennsylvania’s school districts. The Accountability Block Grant program requires that its taxpayer dollars are focused on specific interventions that are most likely to increase student academic achievement. These interventions include: teacher training, all-day kindergarten, lower class size K-3rd grade, literacy and math coaching programs that provide teachers with individualized job-embedded professional development to improve their instruction, before or after school tutoring assistance to struggling students, For 2010-11 the district applied for and received $227,406 in addition to all other state and federal funding. The Fort Cherry School District uses the funding to increase instructional time for struggling students, to pay teacher to write new curriculum and revise current classes and to make research based changes in the curriculum and instruction.[85][86]

Classrooms for the Future grant

The Classroom for the Future state program provided districts with hundreds of thousands of extra state funding to buy laptop computers for each core curriculum high school class (English, Science, History, Math) and paid for teacher training to optimize the computers use. The program was funded from 2006-2009. Fort Cherry School District applied, but was denied funding in 2006-07. In 2007-08, the district received $148,013. In 2008-09, the district received 45,413 for a total funding of $193,426.[87]

Education Assistance Program

The EAP initiative provides extended learning opportunities and is designed to boost student achievement and help all students succeed by utilizing evidenced-based instructional models. The funding provides tutoring in Math and Reading for students in grades 7-12. Tutoring is mandatory for all students who do not score Proficient or Advanced on the PSSA Reading Assessment and/or PSSA Mathematics Assessment AND/OR do not meet proficiency standards on the Performance Series Reading and/or Mathematics Assessment. Students are required to participate in a minimum of 45 hours of tutoring in each subject in which they do not meet the proficiency requirement. Tutoring is provided during the school day, during study halls and after school. In 2010-11 the Fort Cherry School District received $26,345.[88]

Federal Stimulus funding

The district received an extra $750,000 in ARRA - Federal Stimulus money to be used in specific programs like special education and meeting the academic needs of low-income students. The grant was for the 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years.[89]

Race to the Top grant

School district officials did not apply for the Race to the Top federal grant which would have brought the district up to million additional federal dollars for improving student academic achievement.[90] Participation required the administration, the school board and the local teachers' union to sign an agreement to prioritize improving student academic success.[91] In Pennsylvania, 120 public school districts and 56 charter schools agreed to participate.[92] Pennsylvania was not approved for the grant. The failure of districts to agree to participate was cited as one reason that Pennsylvania was not approved.[93]

Common Cents state initiative

The Fort Cherry School District School Board chose to not participate in the Pennsylvania Department of Education Common Cents program. The program called for the state to audit the district, at no cost to local taxpayers, to identify ways the district could save tax dollars.[94] After the review of the information, the district was not required to implement the recommended cost savings changes.

Real estate taxes

In 2011, the Fort Cherry School Board set the property taxes rate at 118.5000 mills (both Allegheny County and Washington County residents) for the 2011-12 school year.[95] A mill is $1 of tax for every $1,000 of a property's assessed value. Property taxes, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, apply only to real estate - land and buildings. The property tax is not levied on cars, business inventory, or other personal property. Certain types of property are exempt from property taxes, including: places of worship, places of burial, private social clubs, charitable and educational institutions and government property. Irregular property reassessments have become a serious issue in the commonwealth as it creates a significant disparity in taxation within a community and across a region. Additionally, service related, disabled US military veterans may seek an exemption from paying property taxes. Pennsylvania school district revenues are dominated by two main sources: 1) Property tax collections, which account for the vast majority (between 75-85%) of local revenues; and 2) Act 511 tax collections, which are around 15% of revenues for school districts.[96]

  • 2010-11 - 118.5000 mills (both Allegheny County and Washington County residents) for the 2010-11 school year.[97]
  • 2009-10 - 118.5000 mills for both Allegheny County and Washington County residents.[98]
  • 2008-09 - 118.5000 mills for both Allegheny County and Washington County residents.[99]
  • 2007-08 - 118.5000 mills Allegheny County and Washington County residents.[100]

Act 1 Adjusted index

The Act 1 of 2006 Index regulates the rates at which each school district can raise property taxes in Pennsylvania. Districts are not permitted to raise taxes above that index, unless they allow voters to vote by referendum, or they seek an exception from the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The base index for the 2011-2012 school year is 1.4 percent, but the Act 1 Index can be adjusted higher, depending on a number of factors, such as property values and the personal income of district residents. Act 1 included 10 exceptions, including: increasing pension costs, increases in special education costs, a catastrophe like a fire or flood, increase in health insurance costs for contracts in effect in 2006 or dwindling tax bases. The base index is the average of the percentage increase in the statewide average weekly wage, as determined by the PA Department of Labor and Industry, for the preceding calendar year and the percentage increase in the Employment Cost Index for Elementary and Secondary Schools, as determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the U.S. Department of Labor, for the previous 12-month period ending June 30. For a school district with a market value/personal income aid ratio (MV/PI AR) greater than 0.4000, its index equals the base index multiplied by the sum of .75 and its MV/PI AR for the current year.[101] With the 2011 state education budget, the General Assembly voted to end most of the Act 1 exceptions leaving only special education costs and pension costs. The cost of construction projects will go to the voters for approval via ballot referendum.[102]

The School District Adjusted Index for the Fort Cherry School District 2006-2007 through 2011-2012.[103]

  • 2006-07 - 5.5%, Base 3.9%
  • 2007-08 - 4.8%, Base 3.4%
  • 2008-09 - 6.1%, Base 4.4%
  • 2009-10 - 5.6%, Base 4.1%
  • 2010-11 - 3.9%, Base 2.9%
  • 2011-12 - 1.9%, Base 1.4%
  • 2012-13 - 2.3%, Base 1.7% [104]

For the 2011-12 school year, the Fort Cherry School Board did not apply for exceptions to exceed the Act 1 Index. Each year, Fort Cherry School Board has the option of adopting either 1) a resolution in January certifying they will not increase taxes above their index or 2) a preliminary budget in February. A school district adopting the resolution may not apply for referendum exceptions or ask voters for a tax increase above the inflation index. A specific timeline for these decisions is published annually, by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.[105]

According to a state report, for the 2011-2012 school year budgets, 247 school districts adopted a resolution certifying that tax rates would not be increased above their index; 250 school districts adopted a preliminary budget. Of the 250 school districts that adopted a preliminary budget, 231 adopted real estate tax rates that exceeded their index. Tax rate increases in the other 19 school districts that adopted a preliminary budget did not exceed the school district’s index. Of the districts who sought exceptions: 221 used the pension costs exemption and 171 sought a Special Education costs exemption. Only 1 school district sought an exemption for Nonacademic School Construction Project, while 1 sought an exception for Electoral debt for school construction.[106]

Fort Cherry School Board did not apply for exceptions to exceed the Act 1 index for the budgets in 2009-10 or in 2010-11.[107][108] In the Spring of 2010, 135 Pennsylvania school boards asked to exceed their adjusted index. Approval was granted to 133 of them and 128 sought an exception for pension costs increases.[109]

Property tax relief

In 2011, property tax relief for 2,502 approved residents of Fort Cherry School District was set at $180.[110] In 2009, the Homestead/Farmstead Property Tax Relief from gambling for the Fort Cherry School District was $181 per approved permanent primary residence. In the district, 2,485 property owners applied for the tax relief.[111] The relief was subtracted from the total annual school property tax bill. Property owners apply for the relief through the county Treasurer's office. Farmers can qualify for a farmstead exemption on building used for agricultural purposes. The farm must be at least 10 contiguous acres (40,000 m2) and must be the primary residence of the owner. Farmers can qualify for both the homestead exemption and the farmstead exemption.[112] In Washington County, the highest tax relief went to Washington School District at $407 in 2009 and $414 in 2010. In Allegheny County, the highest property tax relief in 2009 was awarded to the approved property owners in Duquesne City School District at $346. The greatest tax relief in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania was given to Chester Upland School District of Delaware County set at $632 in 2009 and $641 in 2010.[113] In Washington County, 73% of eligible property owners applied for property tax relief in 2009.[114]

Additionally, the Pennsylvania Property Tax/Rent Rebate program is provided for low income Pennsylvanians aged 65 and older; widows and widowers aged 50 and older; and people with disabilities age 18 and older. The income limit is $35,000 for homeowners. The maximum rebate for both homeowners and renters is $650. Applicants can exclude one-half (1/2) of their Social Security income, consequently individuals who have income substantially more than $35,000, still qualify for a rebate. Individuals must apply annually for the rebate. This can be taken in addition to Homestead/Farmstead Property Tax Relief.[115]

Property taxes in Pennsylvania are relatively high on a national scale. According to the Tax Foundation, Pennsylvania ranked 11th in the U.S. in 2008 in terms of property taxes paid as a percentage of home value (1.34%) and 12th in the country in terms of property taxes as a percentage of income (3.55%).[116]

Extracurricular

This district is a single "A" school. The district offers a variety of clubs, activities and sports. Eligibility for participation is determined by school board policy.[117][118]

By Pennsylvania law, all K-12 students in the district, including those who attend a private nonpublic school, cyber charter school, charter school and those homeschooled, are eligible to participate in the extracurricular programs, including all athletics. They must meet the same eligibility rules as the students enrolled in the district's schools.[119][120]

Notable alumni

References

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  115. ^ Pennsylvania Department of Education. "Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program". 
  116. ^ Tax Foundation (September 22, 2009). "New Census Data on Property Taxes on Homeowners,". 
  117. ^ Fort Cherry School Board (July 22, 2002). "122-Co-Curricular Activities Policy 122". 
  118. ^ Fort Cherry School Board (July 22, 2002). "Interscholastic Athletics Policy 122". 
  119. ^ "Home-Schooled, Charter School Children Can Participate in School District Extracurricular Activities". Pennsylvania Office of the Governor Press Release. November 10, 2005. 
  120. ^ Fort Cherry School Board (September 27, 2004). "Participation of In-Home-Instruction Students Policy 137.1". 

External links

  • Fort Cherry School District
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