WSSD Board Says Goodbyes, Reviews a Successful Year; and Sets Goals for 2016-17

Pictured from left to right: Dr. Richard Sonntag, Dr. Michael Pladus and student rep Charlotte Brake. Photo by Katie Crawford

Pictured from left to right: Dr. Richard Sonntag, Dr. Michael Pladus and student rep Charlotte Brake. Photo by Katie Crawford

Wallingford-Swarthmore School Board
By Katie Crawford

The Wallingford-Swarthmore School Board bade two farewells at its June 27th meeting.

The board praised student representative Charlotte Brake for her timely, comprehensive, and interesting reports. Board president Dr. Richard Sonntag noted how rare it is, “to find a young person held in such high esteem by peers and faculty.” The board presented Ms. Brake with a plaque, wished her luck, and invited her to return someday after her studies at the University of Virginia. “We’ll hold a chair for you,” noted Dr. Sonntag. Ms. Brake thanked the board for welcoming her and helping her see what happens “behind the scenes” on a community board.

Prior to delivering his portion of the night’s focus topic report, Interim Superintendent Dr. Michael Pladus thanked the board for an outstanding year. He spoke of the privilege of serving in a community that highly values public education, noting that WSSD is “as good as its reputation — maybe even better.” Dr. Pladus also gave special thanks to his personal assistant Darlene Klingerman.

The focus topic of the meeting was a review of the district’s 2015-2016 goals and an outline of its 2016-2017 goals. The six goals laid out at this time last year were or likely will be achieved, in the estimation of Dr. Pladus:

1.) The Summit School property was successfully sold.

2.) The continuing review of curriculum to increase academic rigor, and improved professional development to support evolving standards have borne fruit: Strath Haven High School had the second highest student performance profile in Pennsylvania and was nominated for consideration for the national Blue Ribbon Schools Award.

3.) Support and implementation of the district’s revised model of teacher supervision and evaluation has continued; Dr. Pladus applauded WSSD’s head of human resources Ferguson Abbott for his work in this area.

4.) A 4-year collective bargaining agreement with the support staff was resolved in the fall, and the board is cautiously optimistic that an agreement with faculty will be forthcoming.

5.) Although there is still much work to be done in managing the district’s financial resources without sacrificing the quality of education, Dr. Pladus noted that the picture looks brighter than it did six months ago when there was still no 2015-2016 budget from the state.

6.) The board hired a highly qualified superintendent — outgoing WSSD business manager Dr. Lisa Palmer — to replace Dr. Pladus. She takes the helm July 1.

New Goals for 2016-2017

Dr. Palmer presented the district’s four goals for 2016-2017:

1.) Increasing achievement for all students and high quality teacher development.

2.) Reimagining how the district functions, and continuing “to implement the vision and strategies that have been developed so they confront the financial realities the district is facing.”

3.) Continuing efforts to close the structural deficit that exists in the general budget with an emphasis on long range planning.

4.) Improving community outreach and conversation.

Palmer stated that, “It takes three boroughs and a township to support our students,” but also stressed that the district must speak and listen to state and federal elected representatives as well as community members and regarding the financial issues facing it. She also emphasized the need for transparency in all district decision-making processes.

The meeting closed with Dr. Sonntag’s parting words for Dr. Pladus, thanking him for leaving retirement to take on the task of guiding the district. He praised Dr. Pladus’s ability to speak his mind in a way that keeps the discussion flowing and for consistently showing compassion for all sides. Board member Dr. Robert Reiger thanked Dr. Pladus for his support of the wrestling team, and board member Chapin Cimino thanked him for his attendance at the district’s many theatrical productions, noting the clever reference in his graduation speech to this year’s musical Rent by asking, “525,600 minutes, how do we measure a year?”

Dr. Pladus presented each board member with a strawberry cheesecake as a parting gift, saying, “What’s summer without one?”

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