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Advocate: Pottsgrove Centers ‘Best Access’ To Resources

POTTSTOWN PA – Using an educational centers model in the Pottsgrove School District to help level out class sizes and reduce overcrowding in one of its elementary schools could provide the “best education possible” for students “without raising taxes,” one advocate who is a member of Pottsgrove’s Elementary Redistricting Committee contends.

Danielle O’Brien, in comments made Monday (Dec. 5) on a Sanatoga Post article about the Board of School Directors‘ impending receipt of its committee’s report, said hours of independent research have led her to conclude that, while no “single grade configuration … will work for every school district,” she is convinced a proposal to create two Pottsgrove schools housing kindergarten through second grade, and a third school with grades 3-5, will offer “better access to educational resources” and avoid the under-utilization of teachers.

O’Brien expects to be among to be an audience of parents, teachers, other committee members, district administrators and the public when the board meets tonight (Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2011) at 7:30 p.m. in the cafeteria of the high school on Kauffman Road, Pottstown PA. Receiving the report of the committee, which has gathered four times to discuss matters related to redistricting, is on the directors’ busy agenda. Superintendent Dr. Bradley Landis has promised the meeting will be the first of several in which comment on the report will be encouraged.

At issue is how Pottsgrove can best relieve crowded conditions at West Pottsgrove Elementary, and make use of available classroom space in Ringing Rocks and Lower Pottsgrove elementaries.

The more-than-30 member volunteer committee so far has talked over two proposals. One involves what might be labeled as traditional redistricting, in which map lines are re-drawn to determine where children who live within those boundaries would attend school. A second opts to reconfigure the schools as centers to teach children only in specific grades but from all geographic areas. West and Ringing would be used for grades K-2; Lower, for grades 3-5.

Both solutions have been proposed by Superintendent Dr. Bradley Landis who, when pressed during committee grilling Nov. 29, acknowledged he favored the centers model as one that could efficiently accomplish the district’s educational goals.

To date, no other proposals have emerged. That doesn’t mean they’re not out there, O’Brien admitted. If others have solutions “that would be able to provide a better education than … using the current system and without raising taxes, I would be more than happy to hear it,” she said in her comments to The Post.

Some committee members who were vocal Nov. 29 have made it clear they doubt the centers model is better. They have opposed the approach as an overly complicated remedy to a simple problem, and argue that moving boundaries is an improvement with a lower impact on district families and students overall.

The conflicting views, strongly held on both sides, sets up what looms as at least two months of contention in coming board meetings. Directors have said they do not intend to rush their own study of the issue, although Landis reported he will ask board members for a decision by late January.

Action then, on either proposal, would give district residents’ eight months to prepare for coming changes, as Landis indicated he wanted to implement redistricting for the 2012-2013 school year.

Redistricting also coincides with the board’s deliberations over a budget for the coming school year, and whatever decision it renders may affect how district money is spent to put those changes in place. Directors tonight also are scheduled to hear a presentation on the district’s budget proposal.

Editor’s note: Post Managing Editor Joe Zlomek is out of town on assignment and will be unable to provide first-person coverage of tonight’s meeting. Evan Brandt, The Mercury reporter who regularly covers Pottsgrove, said Monday he will attend and write a story for newspaper publication. The Post also encourages readers who attend the meeting to play the role of reporter themselves! If you go, offer your impressions as comments to our stories, or make observations in an e-mail and send it to Zlomek at sanatoga@yahoo.com, or add your thoughts on The Post Publications’ Facebook page, here.

Related (to Pottsgrove School District redistricting):

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