In order to step up its efforts on behalf of both the school district and the community, the Upper Perkiomen School Board announced some sweeping changes last Thursday.
The moves come on the heels of the abrupt departure of former Superintendent Dr. Beth Yonson, who resigned last month due to unidentified medical issues, the swearing in of three new school board members and the parting of high school principal Dr. Bill Shirk, among other changes.
The board said it held a special conference last month, facilitated by former Superintendent Dr. Timothy Kirby, with the purpose of bettering the way it does business. Board members said at least two more conferences will be held in the coming weeks, with the next one scheduled for Feb. 16.
The objective of the conferences is to bring board members together to identify issues and obstacles facing the district, said Board President Bill Scott, developing a strategy to overcome those obstacles and delving into the importance of academic success.
Scott also announced a new format for the board’s committees and committee meetings. Four new committees were announced: curriculum, technology, accountability and healthcare. The committee meeting structure is being changed from individual meetings on the fourth Thursday of each month to a single, informational meeting on that date, starting at 6:30 p.m. and ending at 8:30 p.m., Scott said.
The board promised to look at specific issues on a month-to-month basis, such as changes to the curriculum, and asked the public to participate.
“We want to make sure we have the best school district we can have,” Scott said. “We believe these meetings will provide more information not only for the school board, but for the public. We want the public to come out and give their input.”
Scott said the board is also bringing back individual budget meetings this school year, with dates to be announced.
In other news, the board approved the appointment of Robert Carpenter as the new principal at Upper Perkiomen High School, effective Monday. Carpenter, a former assistant principal at the school, will receive $125,000 a year. Ted Mucellin, a 27-year veteran of the district before retiring as principal at Hereford Elementary School last year, was appointed as the interim assistant high school principal at $345 a day to replace Carpenter.
The board unanimously adopted a resolution stating the district would not increase the real estate tax rate by more than the allowable Act 1 index, which changes annually. When asked by Green Lane resident Kim Wheeler why the board was adopting the resolution before really beginning budget talks, Scott said the district didn’t believe they would qualify for the exclusions as they did in previous years.
Upper Perk’s Act 1 index for last year was 2 percent.
The board hired High Swartz Attorneys of Norristown to represent the district in an assessment appeal filed by Highway Materials in Marlborough Township. School officials said the company, located at 1128 Crusher Road and 2140 Perkiomenville Road, is seeking a lower real estate tax rate. High Swartz will be paid $185 per hour.
The board also approved the refinancing of a series of 2008 bonds which were sold through a competitive internet auction last week. The district is pegged to save in excess of $879,900.
Parents and a Marlborough Elementary teacher thanked the board during a public comment period for adding a fourth fourth-grade classroom at the school to alleviate crowding. All the classes at that level had 30 students or more, officials said.
“The positive effects have already been seen,” noted teacher Melissa Dietrich.
The Upper Perkiomen Education Foundation announced a “Vegas in the Valley” casino night fundraiser for April 26 at Butter Valley Golf Port and is seeking sponsors. For more information, visit upef.net.