SMITH: Methacton EXCEL Candidates Running to Improve District
My name is Sheila Smith, a 21-year Lower Providence resident, Methacton District parent and volunteer. I am currently running for Methacton School Board Director along with five other residents concerned about the district’s falling performance, increasing taxes, and emphasis on divisive cultural issues. The six Methacton EXCEL candidates are Deborah McGinley, Jim Beam, Kathy Muscarella, Sissy Hill, John Mack, and me, Sheila Smith.
We are parents, grandparents and community and student advocates who don’t believe our students’ education and well-being should be viewed through a political lens. We want our district to EXCEL and focus on current Methacton School District issues around academic performance, mental well-being, and wasteful spending not political rhetoric. The current board, including three incumbents running under the name Methacton Together, should be held accountable for the following results listed in this op-ed.
The district’s drastic drop in statewide rankings should be a concern of everyone. According to School Digger, Methacton’s ranking has plummeted. In 2022, Methacton School District’s ranking is 87, a 37- point decline from 2021.
Methacton high school state ranking dropped from 11 in 2014 to 85 in 2023. Methacton elementary schools saw proficiency decline by more than 25 percentage points in the math PSSAs. The Future Ready PA Index reported Methacton Does Not Meet State Assessment Measures for Language Arts and English Literature and Math / Algebra 1.
Several high school students who qualified to take regular geometry in 9th grade failed and retook the Algebra 1 Keystones in Dec 2022.
The $126.2 million 2023-24 budget to be adopted by June 30 would raise local property taxes again for the 8th consecutive year by 3.42 percent despite projecting $2.2 million budget surplus for this fiscal year and declining enrollment. The district’s total capacity is 6,307 but as of May 1st, current enrollment is 4,589.
Methacton has a 10 perccent student drop, the worst among 21 school districts in Montgomery County over the last decade. Go to Zillow.com to check the tax history on your property.
Methacton School District spends $27,487 per student, $10,345 more than the $17, 142 Pennsylvania Public K-12 spending per pupil. The national level is $13,185 per pupil. Students are leaving at an alarming rate and going to charter schools or private schools.
In 2023, charter school costs are $204,264 higher than budget, currently totaling $1.5M due to students transferring to charter schools. In 2017, there was no school for the first time since 1985 due to a teacher strike. According to the June 2021 Methacton Education Association (MEA) Survey, many Teachers do NOT have confidence in MSD Leadership, 320 Responses – Over 60 percent Disagree / Strongly Disagree to the Question: “I have confidence in MSD Leadership”. 80 percent response rate. Creating a legacy of strong teachers and student achievement means we must invest energy, time, and resources into programs directed at teacher support and retention.
The bottom line: Investing in teachers is investing in students. Raising taxes while sitting on a surplus is a practice of many districts in the state, according to a report from Auditor General Tim DeFoor and Methacton joins this practice. In 2023, the school board moved over $11 million from the general fund to a capital reserve. Part of the $11 million is a $7.2 million Shannondell settlement. Instead of refunding the $7.2 million previously held in escrow to taxpayers, the board transferred the funds to the capital reserve for more future spending. Moving this money to the capital reserve allows the district to increase taxes.
We have a plan to elevate Methacton School District to the top PA district by 2027. We will focus on improving academic learning and student physical and emotional safety leveraging best practices from top districts. We will increase teacher support. The district have spent two million on an empty building. We spent a half million on Arrowhead change orders and another half million on Right to Know requests to keep information away from the public which was given to each requestor through the courts. That is $3 million dollars we could have used to buy classroom resources rather than wasteful spending.
We will simplify the strategic plan and establish annual goal setting and report back to the public on a quarterly basis on how we are achieving those goals. We will elevate parent and community involvement by updating the policy to allow community members to participate in board meetings virtually; add community members and staff to actively participate in board committees; and most importantly engage in 2-way dialogue, seek and value diverse points of views, and treat all with respect and dignity. On May 16th , vote for EXCEL, say yes to change, and no to more of the same so our children and community can unite and thrive.