No News is Good News for WSSD Board

Wallingford-Swarthmore School Board
By Katie Crawford

“No findings,” were the sweet words spoken to the school board from Carl Hogan, manager of Not-For-Profit and Government Groups with BBD, Inc., in his summary of the 2015-2016 audit of the Wallingford-Swarthmore School District.

Hogan praised the business office for running “a tight ship” and for promoting ongoing dialogue between the business office and the auditors throughout the year to ensure accountability. Hogan also highlighted the smooth transition this year from Dr. Lisa Palmer as business manager to school superintendent, and the installation of Martha Kew as her replacement.

The projected revenue for the district was $71.2 million; actual revenue was $71.6 million. Projected costs were $73.2 million, while actual costs were $72.4 million. While the board had projected using $2.8 million of the fund balance, only $850,000 was needed to meet expenses. The sale of the Summit School contributed to this positive outcome.

Board member Paul Schregel praised everyone involved in the creation and implementation of the budget in difficult times, commending district leaders for “another year of outstanding administration to bring expenses in like this.”

One perpetual cloud on the horizon is the net pension liability, the district’s state-ordered responsibility to pay into the pension fund. Board president Dr. Sonntag clarified that while the district is required to pay into the state fund, it has no control over how the funds are managed. Given the history of poor management of the state fund, school districts’ payments to the pension fund continue to balloon, leaving our district to “tread water.” Dr. Sonntag noted that staff and teachers have earned these pensions and are entitled to receive them. He encouraged the community to press our state representatives to find better, more responsible ways of managing these monies.

Dr. Lisa Palmer highlighted in her report to the board that the two final parts of Nether Providence Elementary School’s Additions/Alterations Project were finally approved. PlanCon, Pennsylvania’s system for public school construction and reimbursement, has been backlogged for years with many schools waiting for reimbursement for state-approved projects. Dr. Palmer praised business manager Martha Kew for taking part in a public hearing this month about ways to streamline the PlanCon process in the future.

Bullying Policy Considered

The board approved the second reading of multiple policies including the policy on bullying. Board member Dr. Robert Reiger asked about the school district’s jurisdiction regarding cyber-bullying that might take place off school grounds during a weekend or vacation, voicing his concern that the school district might be put in the position of being a “nanny” state.

Solicitor Kyle Berman assured the board that the school district isn’t looking to extend jurisdiction and that the administration would act only if there was, “a substantial disruption in school or likely to be a disruption” as a result of cyber-bullying off school grounds, after school hours. Board member Chapin Cimino commented that if bullying “makes its way into the school setting so that it impacts instruction — that’s the test.”

In other school news, WES donated 60 frozen turkeys to Cityteam in Chester.

STEM night at SRS featured opportunities to suture raw chicken, play with interactive robots, and extract DNA from strawberries.

At NPE, courtesy of a grant provided by the Foundation for Wallingford Swarthmore Schools, students in Mr. Rosenberg’s 5th grade class had the opportunity to attend their own parent-teacher conferences to present their learning goals.

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