School board hears Jr. High struggles

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The Chester County School Board met Thursday, August 10, with all members in attendance.
The board first heard from Cortney Lott with a concern regarding a tryout exclusion for a junior high athletic team. According to Lott, a specific fifth grader was recently invited to tryout for a sixth-eighth grade team. Lott stated that it did not seem right to open the tryouts to a single student, excluding the remainder of the fifth-grade class, as the team is a public school team. She said she believes closed tryouts should not be opened for a single child, but should offer all children the opportunity to tryout. Lott said she was speaking to the board on behalf of other children and parents who were too timid to approach and/or concerned about repercussions. “Nobody else even got a chance to go try out,” she said. “If anything, I would think that would hurt the team in the long run.” She continued, stating that no coach can know the athletic abilities of every single student, noting new, unknown students move into the school system. “That’s the point of open tryouts.” Superintendent Troy Kilzer and the board thanked Lott for her concern and responded stating they have full confidence in the coach to make the right decision for the team, students and school.
Jr. High CTE teacher Beth Naylor addressed the board on behalf of the Jr. High with concerns about staffing and STEM certification requirements. The state-required training/certification must be completed by the end of September, Naylor said. She said the teachers are requesting assistance and representation before the state if necessary. Naylor said many of the Jr. High teachers have concerns about time and ability to have the training completed in time, and consequences if unable.
Math teacher Christy Swope added that math and ELA teachers had 90 minutes last year for math instruction and have only 52 minutes this year for the same class. She added many teachers have higher numbers in their classes, which makes it difficult to determine specific needs for individual students. “We feel like we’re drowning.”
Another concern addressed is the difficulty finding curriculum/lesson plans for STEM and career classes. Swope said they were previously told they would have lesson plans available for these courses, but that has not turned out to be the case. She stated that she feels children are falling through the cracks at the moment in a school system. “We have always, in Chester County, made the decision because of our students…students in Chester County drove our decisions. They were put first.” She said it does not bode well if students are falling through the cracks in the first weeks of school.
According to Kilzer, Dr. Jill Faulkner and members of the board, there is a system in place to provide compensation and time for the training – either a substitute to be provided during the school day or paid compensation to complete the training out of school hours. Dr. Faulkner also said she would visit the school to discuss available curriculum options with the teachers.
Teachers also conveyed the need for a dedicated STEM teacher, to take some of the pressure off the other teachers. Board members expressed a willingness to be available and a desire to meet the needs of the teachers and provide what was necessary for teachers and students to succeed.
Becky Hutcherson later asked Kilzer if any of the positions, which had been vacated at the Jr. High, had since been filled. Kilzer responded, “There’s no position that has caused us to not satisfy the requirements for the student-to-teacher ratio.” He added that they had moved classes around but had not filled the specific positions. He said positions in the school system are not filled unless there is a critical need. “We satisfy where the needs are, based on the student-to-teacher ratio.”
Kilzer reported student enrollment counts appear to be up, but totals will not be clear until around Labor Day.
Kilzer also gave an update on the superintendent evaluation/follow-up. He said he had created a spreadsheet showing indications ranked from highest to lowest. The two lowest indicators were Board Relations and the next up was Good Staff Morale/Loyalty to the System. Kilzer said he will be addressing these aspects at upcoming board meetings.
The board unanimously approved the Consolidated Application for IDEA/ESEA (title program federal funding), as well as revision to the Fixed Assets Policy for Chester County Schools, including the addition of three roads added this year.
The Aug. 15 CCBOE meeting can be viewed at

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