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Slide Show: GVSD Administration Lays Out Proposed Cuts for 2012-13

The Great Valley School Board's regular work session was moved to the high school auditorium to accommodate the increased public attendance.

At a three-hour Great Valley School Board work session held at the Monday night, superintendent Alan Lonoconus laid out a list of proposed cuts for the 2012-13 school year. The far-reaching reductions, selected by the administration with the board's guidance, totaled $1.8 million. The superintendent's presentation also touched briefly on major changes in 2013-14 and beyond.

Click through the slide show above to see where the proposed cuts currently fall.

The deep reductions, aimed at narrowing a $5.6 budget gap for the year, were crafted to preserve the district's stated core education programs: math, reading and science.

Lonoconus said, "We've cut $11 million over the last three years. That was all everything else. Now we're getting to programs, personnel, and it's going to be directly affecting students. That's where we are."

There was strong resistance from board members and the public to some items being included on the chopping block, most notably:

  • 7th and 9th grade sports
  • winter track and swimming
  • social workers
  • elementary school music lessons

Several members of the swim and indoor track teams voiced support for their sport during the public comments portion, including Ned Willig, who was recently named state champion in the indoor mile. Senior Aidan Cunniffe, also a runner, presented the board with 40 pages of testimony from students and alumni in support of the track program.

Lonoconus said the proposed removal of music lessons in the elementary school bothered him the most of all the reductions.

Board member Andrew Daga said he favored making bold, creative changes over what he deemed the task of "managing the decline of our school district." His sentiments echoed those of board member Bruce Chambers, who later suggested that a proposal to reorganize the middle school academic day in 2013-2014 be implemented one year earlier. The change would eliminate one period per day for middle school students, for a projected savings of $600,000. Administrators warned that too sudden a change could be disruptive and difficult to implement.    

At its January meeting, the school board passed a preliminary budget of $79,175,000 for 2012-13, which included a 2.4 percent tax increase over the previous year. The resultant revenue shortfall was reduced to $1,478,767 by drawing on $3.8 million in reserve funds. In February, 2012-13 budget projection to an even $79.5 million.

The board will vote on a final budget June 4. The next school board meeting will be held March 19.

Regina Fried March 13, 2012 at 11:26 AM
Eliminating elementary school music lessons effectively guts the music program. It will mean far fewer students in elementary band/orchestra which will mean far fewer students moving up in to the middle school music program. And by the time they reach 9th grade, how many will be left to move up into the high school music program? I don't have time to write a long comment citing all the reasons that music is so important and how many students have benefited over the years from our up-to-now strong music programs. I am sick over this. A quality education is more than the core education programs.
John Q Public March 13, 2012 at 01:14 PM
If you want your little darling to learn music, you are free to send her to a private tutor hired with your own money. Or is that asking too much in the Age of Entitlement?
guest12 March 13, 2012 at 01:52 PM
Where are the Central Office cuts? $100,000 plus Public Relations mouthpiece stays but classroom gets cut. The plan seems to protect useless administrators above anything else. Moxieman is right on target with his comment as well
Kathie Brown March 13, 2012 at 02:49 PM
It has always been and hopefully will continue to be, that a public education teaches, enriches and nourishes the whole child. We are not all cut out to be mathematicians, scientists and writers. It's great that many people excel in these areas, helping our world solve many of its problems. But what a boring, unfilled world it would be for everyone, including the "core" curriculum students, if there was no development of music and other creative arts for our children, all starting in elementary school. There are many of us, not a few, who put the "non-core" subjects at an equal level to the "core"subjects. They are so important that I cannot describe the fulfillment that a rounded education gives a student. There are many parents who don't have the money to send their child for private music lessons. This is public education we're talking about. It's for all the people.
Lindsay March 13, 2012 at 03:15 PM
Thank you Kathie. I 100% agree with you. As a former GV student I was blessed to have been a part of quite a few of the many items that are being sliced and diced. I am only saddened that "John Q. Public" is too much of a weenie to divulge his or her actual name. My guess is that you don't have any students in the GV school district and you are not actually experienced on the kind of quality, COMPLETE education that Great Valley used to be known for. I find this entire thing to be very sad and I can only hope that a better middle ground can be reached.
John Q Public March 13, 2012 at 03:31 PM
Oh and by the way, and speaking as a rather well (privately) trained musician myself, I've heard your junior high school band perform. Let me speak plainly: every dime spent on them has been wasted. It is a frivolous pretense, pure and simple, that ought never have been permitted. Now that you've bankrupted the good people of Chester county through that long paroxysm of indulgence, its elimination is a natural first step toward sanity. Oh and my family was hardly wealthy. Quite the contrary, very middle class despite our long history. Yet my parents "put their money where their mouth was" and sacrificed such that their children might master music which is, after all, intensely personal and only tangentially if at all of the public good. Demanding as much of your fellow citizens is not only unamerican, it is the act of a criminal mind exploiting the goodwill of his neighbors.
Kristin Thomas March 13, 2012 at 03:36 PM
Many may not like my response. It's sad to see music, art and sports programs being cut, but those are not things I expect our public schools to always provide. We are lucky to live in an area where opportunities to participate in such activities privately is an option so that we can raise well rounded children in addition to providing them with a good "core" public education. It was not until middle school that I had an opportunity to learn specific music/instrument education, participate in sports, or elect specific art instruction. I grew up in the neighboring Owen J Roberts district in the 1980's. At the time they had one of the largest and most successful marching bands in the state - and we all started in middle school! My point is, the success and popularity of that program obviously did not depend on elementary school instruction, because it did not exist. We need to be realistic about the budget and I think we've come to expect many things over the past few decades as a necessity of public education rather than a luxury. Again, I hate to see these things cut, but it doesn't mean we have to let it ruin our high school music program and it definitely doesn't mean our kids will be any less successful in college, a trade, or life. It is what it is and I hope we can all make the best of it.
Shannon March 13, 2012 at 03:39 PM
John Q Public, since you're such a well trained musician who has deemed the Middle School music program as a waste of money, why don't you volunteer your time to direct the Middle School band? That would save the district some money, and you obviously think that you can do a better job than those who have been trained and certified by the state to teach music. (PS:the term Junior High went out several decades ago)
Lindsay March 13, 2012 at 03:42 PM
You are now going to be rude to children?? Let me guess, do you kick puppies also?
Shannon March 13, 2012 at 03:48 PM
It's not just music and sports that are being cut! They are proposing larger class sizes, closing one elementary school, eliminating classroom aides, social workers and psychologists. It's not just "the extras" that will be cut, but those positions that DIRECTLY IMPACT STUDENT LEARNING.
S. Anonymous March 14, 2012 at 12:18 AM
i agree that the Middle School music program is more worthless than the elementary school programs. Elementary school should be used to open the minds of kids and let them explore different areas. Its upsets me greatly that elementary music classes are being cut. If one did have an interest in music in elementary school, then he/she should get the parents to pay for lessons while in middle school. Plus with elementary music gone, it puts a great strain on middle school music teachers to teach new musicians how to play their instrument. This not only wastes the teacher's time, but the other members of orchestra that are ready to practice in order to prepare for a concert.
Sharon Moran March 14, 2012 at 01:47 AM
What, are you one of those people who don't have any children so you don't care if our children are over weight because all of the sports have been cut and dumb because the music and art programs are cut too. BTW im sure she pays her taxes she IS paying for her child's music lessons.
David Acker March 14, 2012 at 02:15 PM
They raised taxes and even went with the higher amount for bonus rainy day funds after threatening to drop Friday school. Now those taxes still are not enough? How did they not know then? Where are the cuts to administration? Where is the explanation of why costs are rising out of control and revenue is dropping even though taxes are up? This sickens me. My wife and I moved out here because GV was a good school district. How does a district next to tons of new development (wegmans, target, etc.) not have money to fund its schools after a large tax increase? Mismanagement is the only answer.
jack March 14, 2012 at 03:55 PM
As a parent of two students and a tax payer, I have mixed feelings about this budget issue. First, I do not want to pay more tax. Second, some of the proposed cuts are discomforting. I have a feeling that the school board or admin is trying to shock the parents with some of the ridiculous proposal to generate a negative feedback, then come back with tax increase, then the objections will be much less. This is a typical political maneuver. It has been tried before, and unfortunately, it works every time. Many of these proposed cuts are reasonable, but the proposal did not touch the most expensive thing: pension and benefit and healthcare costs of union members. How could these are not in the discussion? If SD can’t get rid of job guarantee now, at least, the union members should chip in more to cover the cost of their benefits. To be honest, everyone in the private world is suffering, paying more for their healthcare, getting less or no pension, and 100% no job guarantee.
jack March 14, 2012 at 03:56 PM
On to the cuts, why do we have to cut the programs, rather than let the parents to pay a fee to have their kids to participate? I support “pay to play”. Again, the argument is some parents can’t. Sure, if they qualify for free lunch program, their fees can be waivered. Some parents may complaint “I don’t qualify for free lunch, but I still can’t afford it”. Really? They have to straight out their priority. If you can’t sacrifice your daily mojo to have your kids to be in the school musical program, why do other tax payers have to pay for it? On to school music program, especially MS music, I don’t know how many of you have first hand experience, the GVMS has the best music staff and program I ever know. Mr. Search and Mrs. Weaver are not only fantastic musicians, they are also great teachers as well. Mr. Search is a great leader, and Mrs. Weaver is in the class of her own: fabulous, energetic, talented, and caring to all students. Have you seen performance of the MS choir? Jazz band? Or musicals? If you are not impressed by the performance (especially musicals), I don’t know what world you are from. I understand people don’t want to pay more (me neither), but belittle the accomplishment of a great musical program of MS is not the right thing to do.
Shannon March 14, 2012 at 04:03 PM
I support "pay to play" 100%. Cutting programs is going to cause parents to look at private or parochial schools for their kids. Numbers will drop in the district, which will mean less money from the state. When someone is moving to the area and are given the choice between GV with no extra curricular activities and T/E with the extras, they're going to buy a home in T/E! Property values will drop. That's a no-win for everyone. The current pay to play is, I believe $50 per season per child-with a max of $250 per family per school year. I say raise the price to at least $100 per kid per program (and prorate it base on the number of kids in a program and the expenses of that program....ie: swim team with 30 kids and pool rental fees, long bus trips to meets and expensive meet entry fees would be more expensive than soccer with 50 kids and all of their games in Chester County). Remove the "per family cap". You knew when you were having multiple kids that it would be more expensive. If GV removes all of their extra curriculars you'll be paying that much for private lessons and sports leagues anyway.
Kristin Thomas March 14, 2012 at 05:17 PM
Jack and Shannon, I agree. I have multiple kids and I agree, it's something we knew would cost more when we made the decision to have the kids close in age and we are willing to pay per child without a family cap. I hate to see these programs go without an plan or attempt to keep them. Just making cuts doesn't seem like a comprehensive solution that was formed by the administration and board with consideration and ideas from others in the community. Jack I would also love to see more discussion about union benefits and a reasonable plan that mimics that of other professions.
Thomas Gorman March 14, 2012 at 05:18 PM
Yes, "John," the good people of Chester County are "bankrupt." And the school music program is to blame. While a good vocabulary and proper grammar can be a sign of intelligence, they are obviously, not a guarantee. Sorry to hear that your family has not been able to get ahead despite your long history, but I know it's tough when you're surrounded by "greedy wretches" who want to burn your house down while they demand more, more, more.
jack March 14, 2012 at 11:27 PM
Kristin, I have been laid off three time over the past few years. Many of my neighbors have to work in NJ, NY, and even MA to raise a family while maintain a home at GV. Our healthcare expense has increased 50% this year alone. My effective income has been decreasing over the past three years even the figure on paper did not. Pension is not in my vocabulary. So, Bottom line, I hate to pay one cent more tax. Everyone including teachers has to sacrifice. How many of you would rather have a 10% reduction of salary to exchange for a true permanent job and a guaranteed pension? I would. I would hate to see too many cuts. That would jeopardize the reputation of GVSD. “Pay to play” is the only right solution. Ski club, hockey, etc are all parents-paid programs. Why can’t we do the same for football, music, orchestra, etc? You really have to plan for these costs when you have more kids.
Kristin Thomas March 15, 2012 at 03:04 AM
I hear you and I agree. I think many of us are in the same boat.
Nicole Sakowitz March 15, 2012 at 02:09 PM
I agree completely. The middle school teachers are doing amazing things with their students.
Dama March 16, 2012 at 07:57 PM
Well, first of all, there are many benefits to music programs beyond producing musicians. Music aids in brain development, math skills, etc. It can also be a refuge for a child who learns differently and finds him or herself struggling in the classroom. As far as exposing a child to music privately, where is the camaraderie? The performance opportunities? Maybe we don't need three different choral performances each year, but I can't imagine a school not offering any performance opportunities for elementary school kids. There is also the problem of the exorbitant amount of homework that is assigned, which has been shown to have little to no effect in enhancing children's understanding. Families these days are left with precious little time to allow their children to be children and explore the world and their abilities through play, sports, dance, music lessons, etc. We seem to be on a path towards discouraging kids from living well-rounded lives. I wonder - how much could be saved by decreasing the number of worksheets that are sent home every day?
Dama March 16, 2012 at 08:00 PM
Very well said!
Dama March 16, 2012 at 08:05 PM
I believe the board did know that we would be facing a difficult time again this year, but chose not to proactively explore ways in which to balance the budget. I admit I'm not up on the budget discussions, but I do know that the district is limited to a specific tax rate. And the state has also cut funding? If we were at the maximum tax rate last year, that puts us in a really bad place this year.
jack March 17, 2012 at 03:41 AM
I forgot mention Mrs. Seaton. Though she is relatively new to MS, she is a great asset to the MS music program. Cutting music is not wise choice. Music education is very good to the development of children's brain. Have you noticed that, musically advanced kids are usually the best students in other academic areas as well. On the other hand, sorry to say this, athletically advanced are usually not.
Shannon March 17, 2012 at 12:16 PM
Athletically advanced kids are not good in academic areas? Really? Want to explain that to the many GV student athletes that have signed to play with colleges such as: Brown, Stanford, Cornell, Villanova, Colgate, Princeton, Georgetown, UConn? Athletics teaches team work, problem solving, decision making under pressure and perseverance. As parents we should not be throwing one program under the bus for the sake of another. I happen to have a child who is involved in both the music program and athletics. He loves both programs equally and we would hate to see either cut. This is about saving as much as we can for our children.
John Laumer July 31, 2012 at 11:57 PM
Well, you could take the viewpoint that algebra and calculus are luxuries, and no longer useful in Libertarian World and therefore can be eliminated from the curriculum to save money...or, alternatively, you could wonder why Chinese families continue to climb over each other to get their kids in US universities where good mathematics can be learned. There is a reason why Liberal Arts is called Liberal Arts. The American diaspora is partly to blame for this situational ethic. Every Grandparent assumes that his or her grandchildren, who very likely live at distance, are in a School District in which education is well funded by somebody else....failing to consider that any chance at a prosperous and joyful future will disappear entirely if every grandparent carries this attitude to it's ultimate conclusion. Life is not about riches only, but also about pleasure and joy.
Kristin Thomas August 01, 2012 at 12:33 AM
Speaking of which...here is an interesting article. Not saying I agree or disagree. Is Algebra Necessary? New York Times July 28, 2012 http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/29/opinion/sunday/is-algebra-necessary.html?pagewanted=all

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