Southern administrators get time with Gov's aide
CATAWISSA RR - Southern Columbia Area Superintendent Paul Caputo and Business Manager Mike Sokoloski will meet with Gov. Tom Corbett's northeast regional office director Harry Forbes Tuesday to discuss details and concerns about the proposed state budget.
"There's a general feeling of unhappiness and uneasiness in the education community," Caputo said Wednesday. "I think it will be productive. I believe they'll listen to our concerns."
The state needs to better support schools and make sure they're properly funded, the superintendent said.
"Any time you have an opportunity to meet with the governor or his representatives, it has the potential to be productive," he said. The meeting will take place at the school district office.
The governor has four regional directors throughout the state. Caputo said Forbes' office contacted the district to set up the meeting, and was told other districts would be contacted as well.
Corbett announced last week that the proposed 2014-15 educational budget would remain flat for basic subsidies, but would include a new grant program and additional funding for special education, as well as possible short-term pension relief.
Basic subsidies are the same as this fiscal year under Corbett's $29.4 billion
budget plan. Southern Columbia is slated to receive $4,378,580, Line Mountain, $5,999,529, Mount Carmel Area, $7,847,249 and Shamokin Area $11,866,034.
Local school officials have questions about the restrictions and guidelines of the new Ready to Learn Grant, which is slated to replace the PA Accountability Block Grant, the allocation for which would boost funding for Southern Columbia Area from $68,555 this fiscal year to $270,566 in 2014-15; Line Mountain from $78,245 to $283,647, Mount Carmel Area from $124,089 to $441,654 and Shamokin Area from $203,878 to $694,841.
Upon the numbers being revealed last week, Caputo was cautiously optimistic.
What does it all mean?
The superintendent expects Forbes to explain what the governor's proposal means for local school districts and to answer some of the questions Southern and other districts across the state are asking.
The meeting will also present an opportunity for Caputo and Sokoloski to present what they view as "shortcomings" in the budget, and needs specific to Southern.
Across the board, Caputo said state funding needs to be more equitable and pension reform must happen.
He also wants to express his concerns about different mandates, such as new teacher evaluations and Common Core standards that have created additional paperwork in a time when districts are cutting back on staff. Less staff but more paperwork puts a strain on existing employees, he said.
"We're hearing a lot of frustration from building administrators and staff about these mandates," Caputo said. "Class sizes are increasing, but there's less prep time being allotted to the teachers."
The meeting should be "enlightening," Caputo said.
"It's been a rough three years for overall education, so this is an opportunity to explain some of the difficulties school officials have been managing in their districts," he said.
Shamokin Area Superintendent James Zack, Mount Carmel Area Superintendant Bernie Stellar and Line Mountain Superintendant Dave Campbell said no meetings with the governor's representatives have been scheduled in the district as of Wednesday.