News Bulletin: School Board Prez Admits Problems!!!

The Free Press    September 18, 2008

Can you believe it? The president of the school board publicly admitting problems! Yep. It's right there in the August 28 Free Press: "Inexplicably, we get our students to surpass the (PSSA minimum) standards until they enter the maturity of high school, at which time test scores fall through the floor. If these 11th grade test scores are a true measure of the effectiveness of our curriculum and instruction, we will not solve this problem with talk. Maybe it is finally time to look at increasing the intensity of our academics for all students".

No, it wasn't the president of our school board who offered this frank evaluation. QCSD's Kelly Van Valkenburgh would sooner have her tongue turn to fire than acknowledge disturbing shortcomings in our schools. Such thoughts might further tarnish her fading legacy, which she so desperately seeks to preserve. So our skittles-and-rainbows administration, and board majority, happily chirp about how QCSD is making "Adequate Yearly Progress", which is akin to a doctor boasting that his patient isn't dead. And our bottom-of-the-barrel SAT scores are off-limits entirely.

Ralph Puerta is the president of the Saucon Valley School Board, a few miles away in neighboring Northampton County. He has a PhD in Public School Finance, and is described as extremely intelligent, calm, and no-nonsense. His district's educational issues, and distressing PSSA trend, are quite similar to ours. Elementary schools are very good. Middle schools are OK. High school is a disaster. Puerta confronts the problems head-on by writing openly about the need to improve the overall quality of SVSD education. Saucon parents should be very happy that their board president isn't hesitant to publicly acknowledge his schools' needs. At least there is honesty and communication.

Compare that to our Quite Commonly Secret District. If you haven't heard our most recent high school PSSA results, it's because no one in our district is talking about them. There are no Ralph Puertas admitting that 23 percent of last year's QCSD 11th graders failed the math test. Or that 25 percent - a full quarter of the class - was unable to even meet the ridiculously-low state minimum in reading. And those results were after the state announced months ahead what would be on the tests, and our teachers taught a curriculum focused on passing the PSSA's!!!

A study in the September issue of Philadelphia Magazine, using a complicated formula, reinforces the bad news. Of the 105 school districts in the eight-county Philadelphia/New Jersey area, our high school performance ranked a dismal 66th, which places us ninth out of 13 in Bucks County, and dead last in Upper and Central Bucks. Meanwhile, our elementary schools ranked 17th, and our middle schools 14th. There obviously is a major dropoff that must be addressed immediately. And that starts with acknowledging the problem. But, apparently, not on Van Valkenburgh's watch...

QCSD's happytalk website praises our elementary and middle school achievements. It also has the bold notation "All QCSD schools earned AYP status for 6 straight years". But the district disguises the bad news by lumping all of the grades - elementary, middle, and high school - together, and bragging that the combined scores show a slight overall improvement in both math and reading. In reality, our excellent elementary schools prop up the continued dreadful performance of our high-schoolers. Puerta saw this same trend in Saucon Valley, and called for increasing the intensity of academics for all students. And what is QCSD doing? It would be comforting for our concerned families to hear that our administration actually has a plan, aside from hiring one reading specialist for the entire district. Since August 17, I have emailed Superintendent Dr Lisa Andrejko three times asking for details. On September 12 she responded that she refuses to provide any information.

High school parents - it is now YOUR responsibility to hold the district accountable. The Superintendent is again circling the secrecy wagons. YOU must be the Ralph Puertas of QCSD. One in four of YOUR children can't read. Almost that many can't do basic math. If you continue to accept the same-old same-old hollow excuses, it is YOUR kids who will leave QCHS poorly prepared - or unprepared - for college, and life. The PA Dept of Ed reported "The PSSA will predict how a student will do in their first year's college performance with the same accuracy as either the SAT or the university's placement exam".

Despite the upsetting high school performance, QCSD will soon pay out more than $365,000 in bonuses to all teachers. On top of the $74,375 average salary, which, according to the Dept of Ed, ranks seventh highest of any school district in PA. Why the generosity? Because our free-spending board majority gave away the store in the 2005 midnight teacher contract. As long as the district achieves the absolute minimum - Adequate Yearly Progress - the teachers get a huge reward. Even if scores go down - like they just did. Even if 23 percent of our 11th graders can't do simple math, and 25 percent can't read. What a country!!!

Peterson's Problems

Tom Peterson, the latest Democratic challenger for Paul Clymer's State Rep seat, has pretty much walked away from his campaign. With the election less than two months off, Peterson has returned to his job as a teacher in Philadelphia after receiving little support from the state Dem committee. He has no official campaign chairman, and scant funding.

A disappointed Peterson supporter found plenty to blame, starting with the House Democratic Campaign Committee, which is focusing its time and resources on fighting the fallout of the Bonusgate scandal. "The HDCC needs to keep the incumbents' seats in order to retain a majority, so we are not getting much help from Harrisburg. Tom worked very hard all summer, and I am convinced that he would have given Clymer his biggest challenge. I think the divide caused by Brian Kline, Shirley Andres, and the Murphys (Richland's Patrick and Jackie, not the Congressman) have put such a strain on things, that it hurts the party."