Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Hugh rocks!

Parents ask Mt. Lebanon School Board for smaller elementary class sizes

“I think class size is key as well,” board member Hugh Beal said. “I would be willing to vote to fund that. If we have to reopen the budget, I’d be willing to do that. I think we can find money and I think it’s something the administration should strongly consider.”

67 comments:

Anonymous said...

Stop by MLHS where 25 students per class is SOP.

Anonymous said...

Maybe cutting out bonuses for administrators and putting the money where it belongs - for the kids - would cover at least one starting teacher, doncha think?

Jason Margolis said...

This does not surprise me. I have a child at Lincoln. Lincoln is the MTL school that is least "bubbled" ... With its diversity in SES, and comparatively even race, it is more like a "city" school than a wealthy suburban school. There are many rental apartments and rental homes in the area. Overall, the area is more lower-middle and middle class.

And because of this, there is probably less sway than in the "gardening" districts. The resources go to the deer killers. We already know that.

Lincoln neighbors, do you know we could add one teacher/year for what we spend on killing deer in Twin Hills to please those in Mission Hills?

Anonymous said...

It's always been know in the education system that smaller class sizes benefit all students. More BS from the school district on why they won't hire more teachers. They need the money to keep paying more bonuses to Timmy.

Anonymous said...

Municipal $ and school district $ are separate. Saving money on the deer cull would add no money to the school district.

E. T. Gillen said...

That is true, 10:06 PM. How about this? Eliminate the Century of Excellence campaign person, use what little money that collected for education, and hire some teachers. The Century of Excellence Campaign web page makes the following statement: The next campaign allocation will be in the summer 2016 and it will be directed towards elementary education followed by future allocations to the middle schools. Wasn't that last year?
Elaine

Anonymous said...

Are there any more Cappucci's who need jobs ?

Jason Margolis said...

In a way, 10:06pm, yes; in a way, not. The municipality and the SD play rock-paper-scissors to see which residents and businesses they will take to court to get more property taxes out of... in the end, it's all our money, intended for the benefit of the larger community. But too often, it benefits the few and most connected.

To think there is no connection between these "separate" budgets or and entities is naïve.

Anonymous said...

The inflated administrative overhead and wasteful capital spending by the district are appalling!

Anonymous said...

Parents: do not believe a word from Mary Beth Irvin. Clearly, she is trying to suggest research studies illustrating the benefits of small class sizes are rigged. How low can she go. Then she goes on to say that everyone believes what she thinks and insinuates the parents just don't know how To evaluate research like the genius administrators. Everybody, these days, has to meet with Mary Beth so she can basically silence the opposition. She's a wolf in sheep's clothing.

-Mary E

Anonymous said...

10:06, while it is true that education $ and municipal $ are separate, it is also true that they both come out of one walllet... the taxpayers. Doesn't matter if it comes from corp. taxes, sales taxes and fees, goes thru the state or Feds before arriving back here.
This taxpayer would prefer that their money go towards the kids education before killing deer or doling out lavish bonuses.

Jason Margolis said...

12:42am, good points. Not to whip out my Education doctoral degree...... but... I know much of the research on this topic. Here is what it says, if you synthesize via a meta-analysis:

1) The direct correlation between smaller class sizes and increased student achievement as measured by standardized test scores is minimal.

2) Relationships are a mediating variable for a number of other student outcomes of schools, including increased student engagement, motivation, attendance, and graduation rates.

3) Smaller teacher:student ratios allow teachers to form more meaningful and impactful learning relationships with individual students.

4) Smaller class sizes have minimal impact on student test scores, but significant impact on a number of other outcomes we want for our kids when they go to school.

Anonymous said...

What's the research on larger class sizes when there's tracking?

Anonymous said...

Studies, schmugies... who cares.
The bottom line is we pay a premium for an outstanding school district that promises "To Provide the Best Education Possible for Each and Every Student."

The question is what the taxpayers believe (and want to pay for) is the optimum size.

Of course the district is probably best equipped to determine that optimum, but once establishing that benchmark needs to fulfill it for "each and every student."

If elementary class sizes are 22-24 in Markham, Foster, Hoover and Jefferson they should be 22-24 in Howe and Lincoln.

Having said all that, there are some other things that need to be considered.

• are students "more difficult" "less tuned in" in one school opposed to the others and so require more personalized instruction?

• are there stellar teachers that are engaging and perfectly capable teaching to a class of more than 24 students. Are there teachers that can barely cope with 22?

I think this would be a great investigative report for our public information office.

• What class size do parents expect in MTLSD?

• What size classes did those parents have and did it positively or negatively impact their student careers?

Jason Margolis said...

Tracking is generally bad for students' socio-emotional development, regardless of class size.

Anonymous said...

Not tracking, just looking for experiences and personal onservations, as in baby boomers probably went thru classes with 30 or more students. Did they feel ignored or lacking in education as they progress thru college and work.
Millennials probably had classes of around 25 classmates, etc.

Anonymous said...

Just because class size is smaller in other schools, it doesn't mean kids are being any better served by those who teach them. I think in elementary being in the middle is a better learning experience and being in high school being one or 2 +standard deviations away is better.

Anonymous said...

A fiend of mine spoke at the meeting. While I admire her passion and tenacity, I told her not to hold her breath. That said, years ago, one elementary school decided that they needed to add a Kindergarten class due to increased enrollment and parents didn't find out until the third week of August. I guess there may still be hope.

Anonymous said...

Maybe if MTLSD collected all the delinquent Tax and penalties more teachers could be hired. I believe if you have kids in the district they should be DENIED access until the MTLSD school taxes are paid. If any of the delinquent residents works for MTLSD they should be suspended until the taxes and penalties are paid.

Anonymous said...

The biggest tax offenders in Mt. Lebanon are those who own seemingly robust businesses.

Anonymous said...

Yes 11:23 and they may or may not be residents of MTL so denying their kids access to the schools may not be a threat.
Also, why punish the kids for their parents delinquency?

Anonymous said...

In the case of the Stevenson Co, perhaps the school district should withhold our contributions to Outreach until they move their offices out of the Stevenson building.

Anonymous said...

"I believe if you have kids in the district they should be DENIED access until the MTLSD school taxes are paid. If any of the delinquent residents works for MTLSD they should be suspended until the taxes and penalties are paid."

Great idea! The kids who would suffer certainly deserve it. And the school district would definitely get their money faster if the delinquent taxpayer's income dried up. Also, we should reinstitute debtors prisons, because this is MURICA!

"[P]erhaps the school district should withhold our contributions to Outreach until they move their offices out of the Stevenson building."

Perhaps! That'll show those troubled kids to pick a charity whose landlord pays their bills! Stick 'em where it hurts!

You guys should run things. No more of this bleeding heart stuff that's ruined this country. You ever think that people on food stamps frequently pay less in taxes than people who don't get food stamps? How the hell is that fair? Last time I checked this was a Christian nation.

Anonymous said...

Good point, 5:16.

Anonymous said...

To 5:09 A.M.
The parents are getting a service (education) they are not paying for. That is not fair to all of the parents in Lebo that actually pay their MTLSD taxes and pay them on time. It is the parents choice that they are not paying the school taxes. If those same delinquent parents went shopping at Giant Eagle and could not pay for their basket of items, GE would not say
"oh your kids need that pay me later." It would not be MTLSD punishing the kids it would be the parents of the kids punishing the kids. Buck up and collect the damn Delinquent taxes or let all of the residents off the hook! I find it ironic that many of the Delinquent parents take NUMEROUS VACATIONS, and drive NEW EXPENSIVE CARS! Get your priorities straight.

Anonymous said...

8:18, I could agree with you, especially regarding those parents that are driving expensive cars and taking luxury vacations except that we've taken public support to almost extreme levels in this country and that is a bigger debate.
Take for instance I believe Harrisburg has just past a bill that states school district's can't withhold lunches from kids because their lunch money isn't being paid.

To 6:25 no one suggested withholding Outreach support for the kids that need it. That support doesn't have to be administered in a building that doesn't pay it's school taxes. Their are other landlords that pay their taxes when due and would probably love to have Outreach as tenants! Try thinking just a little bit for once.

Anonymous said...

6:25, are you seriously suggesting that Stevenson Williams Co. is a charity case and should be on the government dole?

Anonymous said...

Smaller class sizes enable warmer teacher-child relationships, which, in turn, dramatically improve student outcomes. Just say in'.

-Mary E

Anonymous said...

With the addition of the 710 municipal breaking news/info webpage why couldn't the school district drop their PIO employee and let the "official" community magazine distribute school news and used the savings for more classroom teacher students?

USC combines the two public info duties.

Anonymous said...

"[Outreach] doesn't have to be administered in a building that doesn't pay it's school taxes. Their [sic] are other landlords that pay their taxes when due and would probably love to have Outreach as tenants! Try thinking just a little bit for once."

Ok, I'll try thinking. Just a little bit. For once.

Ignoring the obvious Equal Protection legal issues, how does forcing Outreach to move incentivize Stevenson to pay their bill? Wouldn't Stevenson be less likely to pay taxes with no tenant paying them? What's to stop Stevenson from taking on another tenant? Would Outreach funding cease until the end of their lease with Stevenson? Or would Outreach have to pay a penalty to break their lease? Wouldn't these costs plus the cost of relocation negatively impact Outreach's ability to provide services? Would Outreach be able to relocate so centrally?

Who wins in the scheme you've outlined? I obviously can't keep up with your 4D chess.

E. T. Gillen said...

This is another conundrum for our school board president. On one hand, one of the largest liened properties, Stevenson Williams continues to avoid paying their school taxes. On the other hand, the executive director of Outreach is paying rent to one of the largest liened properties in Mt. Lebanon. What to do, what to do, Mary?
Elaine

Anonymous said...

Interesting, Elaine. Has Ms. Birks cut a deal with her landlord ?

Anonymous said...

6:48, seriously?
You'd rather have Outreach pay rent to a landlord that is delinquent on their school taxes than to another MTL landlord that manages their property like most of us do by paying our taxes on time!

I'm sorry, but if Stevenson Williams Co., can't manage their business affairs so they can pay their taxes when they're due, I have no wish to subsidize their property ownership with public money.

I guess you 6:48 believe we all should be able to delay or pay our taxes whenever we feel like it. It appears to me 6:48 you are the one with the scheme. I'll stick with the majority of taxpayers that know the rules of the game and pay what we owe when it is due.

I will allow that Stevenson Williams believes they can't get by because their taxes are so oppressive that they can't pay them, they should get their ass up to the SB and commission meetings and protest the ever increasing taxes these entities levie on us all.

E. T. Gillen said...

Anything is possible, 9:53 AM. It will be interesting to see how Mary votes, if Hugh Beal can get the school board to reopen the budget. Does she wear her school board director hat or does she wear her executive director for Outreach hat?
Elaine

E. T. Gillen said...

6:48 AM, 9:53 AM, and all, these are all excellent points. I hope this isn't another conflict of interest for Mary Birks.
Elaine

Anonymous said...

6:48, please tell me what are the Equal Protection issues.
Are you going to argue that tenant is forced to lease from a specific landlord?
The suggestion was and is that Outreach should put Stevenson Williams on notice that there is a real possibilty they will not be renewing their lease when it is time to renew and they can certainly voice their concerns they won't be renewing because of the apparent tax problems.

As for the school district losing money if Outreach doesn't rent from Stevenson, how do you figure that? Whether Outreach is their tenant or not, the taxes are still due and will be styled one way or the other with the next building owner should Stevenson be forced to sell. In fact the municipality, SD will see a windfall through the property transfer tax.

Elaine, please tell us that 6:48 (Mary) isn't the SB President and Outreach Executive Director because paying obligations when due seems to be above their comprehension.

E. T. Gillen said...

11:13 AM, I sent this to the school board. I think I might need to send it several times, in order to get a response.

"A question has come up on my blog, Lebo Citizens. With Mary Birks being executive director of Outreach, should she be voting on any issues that involves Outreach's landlord?
Elaine Gillen"

Anonymous said...

Interesting question, Elaine.

Gee, with the municipality increasing parking fees all the time, maybe Outreach moving to a space with free parking would be cutting families that use the service of Outreach a break.

Anonymous said...

A question for Madame SB President.
What is the purpose of publishing the list of delinquent taxpayers? To embarrassing them into paying up perhaps?

So what is wrong with you, Executive Outreach Director mentioning to your chronically late taxpaying landlord that Outreach may not renew its lease at some point?

Anonymous said...

Birks should resign because of a conflict of interest & then run for her seat on the Board. Déjà Vu !

E. T. Gillen said...

Yeah! Just like Elaine Cappucci. Why not, right?
Elaine

Anonymous said...

Posting the list of delinquent properties in some dusty corner isn't encouraging any local resident to pay up. Hit social media for a bigger reaction or send it out via email to the District newsletter list. They have to think bigger.

Anonymous said...

Yeah 8:02, let's drag that damn delinquent that owes 1¢ (page 4) through the same social media mud as those people/companies that owe thousands and thousands of dollars and are getting taxpayer rent money.
Seems equitable to me!

Better yet, the school district or maybe the official municipal magazine should publish a top ten list of scofflaws every month? Then we could see if public humiliation has any effect.

Hmmm, wonder if any of those people that didn't pay their parking fines a few years back are on the list?

Anonymous said...

Sorry 9:01, delinquency is delinquency. Pay your $0.01 or your kids shouldn't be permitted to attend school.

I also think we should boycott all of the tenants in the Stevenson Williams building (ie, Betsy's) until they get right. No more kid gloves for the Lebo elitists!

Anonymous said...

Sorry 10:58, I won't go that far.
Those delinquents owing 1¢ or even a full years taxes may have fallen on hard times and I feel for them. There but for the grace of God and all that.
And I have no anger at the tenants that choose to risk their own hard-earned money locating their business in a prime location.

On the other hand I have no respect for a business that is consistently delinquent in paying their taxes. Perhaps they're on hard-times as well, then perhaps they shouldn't be a landlord in prime Lebo property that is partially supported by rent that is proved by public tax dollars.

E. T. Gillen said...

There is no incentive for those owing minimal amounts of taxes since the board also votes to authorize the Tax Collector to remove all delinquent
properties with assessments of $4,000 or less from the properties to be liened for the 2016 tax year and approves the filing of liens on all remaining properties.
Also, I do not reommend boycotting businesses because their landlords aren't paying their taxes.
Elaine

Anonymous said...

Elaine, when they "remove" those under $4,000 properties are they just remove from the list or are their delinquent taxes just written off?

I suspect the delinquent amount stays with the property and will be paid at some point perhaps by a new buyer to get clear title at some point. Can't say that for sure, but hate to think the taxes are just written off as a loss. That's not fair either.

E. T. Gillen said...

From the agenda:

We ask the Board to approve
removing delinquencies with assessments under $4,000 from the list of properties to be
liened because the cost to lien them exceeds the benefit. The delinquency remains on
the property in case it is ever sold. The District and Municipality share the cost to file
liens. The Superintendent recommends approval of this action.

Elaine

Anonymous said...

That's what I thought!

So once again someone didn't do their job before releasing the list of 2016 liened properties.

Wonder where the buck stops on that little oversight?

E. T. Gillen said...

No, this is the procedure every year. The school board approves publishing the list and then they approve removing the properties from the list of delinquent properties. The resolutions are on the agenda. Every year.
Elaine

E. T. Gillen said...

Now that we have fully exhausted the liened properties discussion, I hope the school board reopens the budget and finds the money to hire the needed teachers.

Still no response from the school board concerning my email.
Elaine

Anonymous said...

Almost $80,000 in delinquent school taxes from two property owners would cover the costs of at least one elementary teacher and that's the original point of list discussion.

Anonymous said...

What the point of striking the under $4,000 properties after the list is made public?

Anonymous said...

On 2016 page one, I think it's about $55k+ (of the $177k page total) in just taxes that will be written off if the District votes to write-off taxes owed under $4k. I have no idea where the $4k threshold comes from. If it's arbitrary, it should certainly be lowered to try to recoup these monies. The first page alone covers a newbie teacher plus some benefits. Folks should demand the school board not write most of these amounts off.

Anonymous said...

It's hard to tell from the provided list just how many properties with delinquent taxes have less than $4,000 assessments. When the list is published it's likely just a data dump for entry of said records into public records. Everything is included and then voted as written-off. Not much is likely lost from not having these properties pay. I'd like to know how many of the 293 in 20116 do eventually pay. What does the district do with the approx $750,000 ($800+ with collected interest and penalty) that looks to be due *and not written off)? I assume this is all factored into the budget as revenue already? Or does the budget and millage calculation assume some percent of non-collectible (beyond the small amount from less than $4,000 assessments) and if it is collected it goes where?

E. T. Gillen said...

3:20 PM, please reread what I wrote at 1:04 PM. Assessments, not taxes owed!
Elaine

Anonymous said...

The point is being lost.
Between delinquent taxes, administration bonuses and extravagant sports facilities there should be in a school district budget approaching $100,000,000 enough to keep class size fairly small if that is what the community desires.

After all it's for the kids.

Jason Margolis said...

I see larger questions at play, 8:11pm. MTL needs to confront its poor bond rating and shrinking tax base and make some choices. The days of $135M high schools are over. Even so, there is still the opportunity for a very good life -- just not one where you get everything you want.

... So, if it's really about the kids. Do you want to invest in teacher:student ratios or expensive and ugly deer culls, expensive and toxic artificial turf, and expensive and toxic public information offices and magazines?

Anonymous said...

Exactly Jason!
This isn't your father's or grandfather's Mt. Lebanon anymore. There are plenty of very nice communities with competitive school district's for families to chose from so we must prioritize what things are most important and judiciously spend tax revenue.

If allocating big bonuses for a few administrators is deemed more important than reasonable class sizes so be it. Remember though we've been through 4(?) superintendents since Marge Sable and MTLSD's reputation and performance benchmarks have barely changed up or down so how important are the top people as opposed to the teachers that do the heavy lifting. I vote that hiring compitent teachers and maintaining smaller class sizes trump expensive administrators every time.

On the municipality side, I'd rather see a smaller PIO or a school district/muni PIO so that my available tax money could be shifted to the schools or to basic infrastructure. Also eliminate costly deer culling that approaches $100,000.

If culling is a must, why don't we use free service like other communities and the county do and use the savings where it'll do the most good.

Anonymous said...

Mt Lebanon, PA has a rating of Aa1 (one step below AAA) https://emma.msrb.org/IssueView/IssueDetails.aspx?id=ER378437

Mt Lebanon School District has Aa2 (two steps below AAA)
https://emma.msrb.org/IssueView/IssueDetails.aspx?id=ES378678

Our tax base is quite stable. Not sure I see the problem with the ratings of our two institutions that engage the capital markets.

Anonymous said...

11:01 we're not talking about bond ratings.

We are talking about parents ' concern that their kids may not be getting "the Best Education Possible for EACH and EVERY Student"

To do that we may have to make decisions as to where the money comes from to do that.

With a falling population and the fact that MTLSD continually poor mouths things maybe need adjusting.

If our tax base is so stable 11:01 why does the district run a panhandling Capital Campaign when for almost 100 years they didn't.

Anonymous said...

11:01 we have yet to correct the red ink on PSERS account!

Anonymous said...

I believe Dr. Margolis specifically referred to bond ratings (see July 24 6:52 AM) to which I wanted to provide clarification.

Regarding our tax base vs a capital campaign they are different matters. Our tax base is very stable as can be seen here:

https://mtlebanonpa.opengov.com/transparency#/4839/accountType=revenues&breakdown=types&currentYearAmount=cumulative&currentYearPeriod=years&graph=stacked&legendSort=coa&proration=true&saved_view=null&selection=7AC68F30BBE0137E1918CAEB0C07DA6E&year=NaN&fiscal_start=earliest&fiscal_end=latest

The desire to promote a capital campaign as a method to raise capital for projects outside of raising taxes is something that occurs when there is a desire to fund projects without adversely impacting all citizens. Obviously this campaign has been less than successful but is not directly related to our tax base.

Population levels are within a normal fluctuation band and would not impact our tax base at this time as population is not the primary determining factor for property taxes, assessed value is. That information can be found here:

https://mtlebanonpa.opengov.com/data#/6916/query=26E70A03D40E547DB0D5735B15459C88

I'm not taking sides. Just trying to provide some information to make the discussion a bit more informed.

Anonymous said...

Understand 1:48 and your information makes for good discussions - which in my opinion is the primary purpose of this blog rather than the playing gotcha or insulting people game.

Regarding your point on the purpose of the Capital Campaign. There was a time that the school district had no problem funding projects or initiatives thru taxes. Residents were more than eager to pay for the best coaches, best turf, best music programs, best advance curriculum. That willingness to provide the best education experience is what made the district's reputation.
Maybe that quest for more and more has lead to tax hike after tax hike that the populace can no longer afford and to keep it going they're resorting to essentially panhandling.

Some of the problem is due to middle class wages stagnating for the last 10 years or so.

As for the population decline being within normal fluctuations, not sure I'd agree. Greater Pittsburgh as a whole has lost population and everything I've read suggest cause for concern.

If your tax base isn't expanding and wages aren't outpacing the cost-of-living you can't keep expanding budgets and programs.

Anonymous said...

"What’s Driving Population Declines in More States?"

http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2017/02/03/whats-driving-population-declines-in-more-states

Applies to municipalities too!

Jason Margolis said...

Please see my April Behind the Bubble for facts related to MTL bond ratings, and how this compared with at least one local municipality:

https://lebocitizens.blogspot.com/search?q=green+tree+mayor

The drop in ratings and the phrase "declining fund balance" came from Moody's - not from me.

Anonymous said...

I found the Green Tree Mayor's comment insightful, "We want to keep the businesses happy too.”

Wonder if those properties that delinquent consistently on their school taxes are happy?