A discussion of the Fox Chapel Area School District’s 2017 Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) and Keystone Exam results drew an audience of 85 parents, community members, school administrators and school board members to the Fox Chapel Area District Forum’s first public meeting of the 2017-2018 school year on September 19 at Dorseyville Middle School.
The first topic addressed at the forum was PSSA and Keystone scores by the district’s new Director of Student Achievement & Instructional Verification, Dr. G. Daniel DiDesiderio. He reported PSSA scores continued to rise across all school buildings in the district, since the tests were realigned to course standards in 2014. “Our district is closing the achievement gap and is surpassing other districts in the state,” DiDesiderio said. “Keystone scores have increased in the last three years in all three areas: math, English language arts and literature and science and biology.”
FCASD Superintendent Dr. Gene Freeman attributed the positive incremental increase in the scores to the district’s approach. “We are ensuring we are meeting the needs of all our children,” he said. The district’s rankings in national and state rating communities were reviewed by DiDesiderio. (A full listing of rankings discussed available in the minutes attached below.) According to Freeman, the Pennsylvania School Performance Profile scores will be released by the state at the end of October.
A brief summary of the status of construction in all buildings in the district was given by Freeman. He also addressed the issue of changing school start times. Freeman will continue to study school start times and will consider the needs and opinions of all stakeholders including teachers, staff, school site based teams and families.
Michael Hower, lead high school principal, and Dr. John McGee, program principal at the high school discussed updates to the sex education programs at the middle and high school levels. There are currently two types of educational programs: Sex Risk Avoidance (SRA) and Sex Risk Reduction (SRR). Pennsylvania state mandates SRA for some aspects of sex education, but does not ban SRR from being taught. The two principals have met with teachers and an outside consultant and program developer. “We will continually work to make our curriculum better meet the needs of today’s students,” explained Hower.
Deputy Superintendent Dr. David McCommons addressed FCASD’s drug education and prevention program. Without discontinuing the longstanding D.A.R.E. program, McCommons explained that they are in the process of researching additional options or program updates to their other drug awareness curriculum, “anything that would be beneficial to the student body.” In addition, the district is educating staff to be able to be first responders in the use of naloxone. McCommons added, “The ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) training is also being utilized by the district.”
A brief legislative update was provided by Forum Vice President Susan Buchman. While Senate Bill 76 is not currently being considered, there is a ballot measure slated for the November elections that could potentially increase the Homestead Exemption as a means to lower property taxes thus impacting school revenue.
Before attendees toured the recently renovated DMS, Megan Cicconi, director of instructional & innovative leadership, showed a video of the mobile Fab Lab and how it operates within our school district. This was followed by a tour of the mobile Fab Lab as well as the tour of DMS that showcased the new maker space, media center (library) and the modern updates to walls, lockers and floors.
Attendees returned to the auditorium for a moderated Q & A session. The questions and answers can be viewed in the full meeting minutes attached below. Questions received during the event but answered later are also included in the minutes.
The next public meeting will be held Tuesday, November 14 at 6 pm in the high school LGI room.