By MARCELLA PEYRE-FERRY
For 21st Century Media
PENN - During the School Board meeting Feb 27, Avon Grove Superintendent Christopher Marchese took time to address an incident at the High School the previous day, where two students discovered a dismantled fire arm in an open gym locker.
While Marchese sees this as an unfortunate incident, he is pleased with the response by the students and administration. “I want to applaud these students for doing the right thing by reporting this immediately to the teachers,” he said. “The administration handled this situation extremely well, we involved the state police immediately.”
Marchese reported that the police worked with the district, and the building was swept by canine units that evening with no further items found. He also wished to address parents concerns about getting information quickly. “It’s important to communicate factual information to families at times like this. We have to rely on the state police to provide that information to us,” he said. “The first communication to parents was sent before dismissal.”
School Board President Brian Gaerity thanked the administration and everyone at the High School for the way they handled the situation, and noted that student communications are faster than the district’s. “With the technology that students have today, they are going to be instantly communicating whatever they think is going on.” he said.
Marchese stressed that the issue is not closed. “We are continuing to investigate this matter,” he said. “It is not closed.”
Dr. Lisa Sharp opened the February Board meeting with a presentation on Strategic Planning. The state department of education requires school districts to have a stratigic plan, that Avon Grove is now on track to submit by the end of November.
The plan being called Creating Our Future Together has already begun the initial discovery phase with team meetings, principals meetings and a board retreat already completed. The discovery process will continue with school climate surveys, data analysis, a series of community forum and key stakeholder interviews. A white paper will be prepared and presented to the board at the end of this phase in June.
Doing much of the planning work will be Demosophia LLC. Later in the meeting, the board approved a service agreement contract with the firm for consultation and facilitation for the preplanning and discovery phases of strategic planning in the amount of $10,000 during the 2013-14 school year. Funding for the work will come from the Curriculum and Instruction section of the budget.
Following the discovery phase will be a series of co-labs to identify issues where change is needed identify the barriers to progress and develop stratagies to address them. The community forums and the co-labs are opportunities for the community to be involved in the strategic planning process.
“We believe the process we intend to use will focus heavily on engaging the community,” Sharp said.
The forums will be open to all, while the co-labs will be composed of selected individuals who represent a cross section of stakeholders from the community. They will be selected based on referrals, plus there will be a link on the District Web site for anyone who would like to be considered.
“We expect more people to express an interest in participating than we can accomidate,” Sharp said.
The Strategic Plan required by the state is intended to be a comprehensive plan that includes district goals, and the strategies for meeting them. The time line targets a presentation to the school board on Oct. 9 followed by a public comment period. After that the Strategic Plan will come back to the board for approval vote on Nov. 13, and submission to the PA Department of Education on Nov. 30.
Gaerity is enthusiastic about the plan. “I think this is a great process,” he said. “I think there is a lot to like about this. I think there is a lot of opportunity for the community to be involved.”