Apr 30, 2011

School District on Front Burner

Although six days have passed, comments are still being sent to Zimmerman Speaks Out. I have decided to put our troubled school system back on the front burner. Today Steve Esack, at The Morning Call, reported on the bloated district administration. This past Wednesday, I received some comments doubting whether newspaper reporters harvest idea's from blogs and the value of board members speaking out here. Actually, a comment placed previously on this blog revealed that administrative titles were being changed to affect funding. Both the reporter and editor confirmed that this blog was the genesis for their earlier Joyce Marin article. The school administration has warned teachers about publicly criticizing the district; This blog provides an opportunity to speak out.
As a teacher at WAHS, I welcome Mr Zimmerman's attempt to understand the safety issues at the high school.There are many assaults on teachers which bring about minimum consequences to students. Very few suspensions, needed approval by the district office, and failure to follow most points of the code of conduct have led to chaos in the high school.Until there is discipline and control in the high school, test scores will not go up. (comment on Zimmerman Speaks Out, received April 30.)
Along with looming teacher layoffs, we have an administration which seems to cater to administrators. We have an attempt to suppress the right of teachers to speak out, and we have discipline issues being swept under the rug.
UPDATE: Click on letter to enlarge
You have selected a very important profession at a time when great teachers in America are needed now more than ever. In the Allentown School District, opportunities continue for all who are reaching higher to improve our system and who share with us the practices, values and beliefs that make a real difference........Gerald Zahorchak

Dr. Zahorchak, If I was a teacher facing layoff, I would find this letter very ironic. I see a pattern of disconnect between your constant stream of Z Letters and the realities facing teachers, students and parents.

35 comments:

gary ledebur said...

MM: Stay on these issues, they are important. I want to study them further before I comment, but it really makes no difference how administrative positions are funded. What counts is the bottom line of how many, doing what and at what salary. In all school districts there are shifts every year between federal grants and local funds. I read the Esack article in yesterday's Morning Call and found it most confusing.

Anonymous said...

Retired ASD teacher here.

What you must NOT find confusing is this, students base their behavior, their performance, their zest for education, on their classroom teacher(s).

This IS all about the kids, right?

Anonymous said...

All about the kids.

(cough, hack, cough)

Absolutely.

Rest assured.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for putting the school district on the front burner. Why hasn't the board demanded Joyce Marin be let go! If she was hired under less than appropriate methods, why doesn't the board demand she be fired. What is really troubling and doesn't seem to get much attention is her conduct and willingness to be a party to a disgusting display of deceit. That she allowed her employment to be manipulated seems to indicate she's less than a stellar individual.

Anonymous said...

Someone needs to add all the administrative staff salaries and make it public! Taxpayers will be shocked.

michael molovinsky said...

i request that the comment by 10:18 about joyce marin be the last speculating on her personally. the tactics used by zahorchak in the hire is fair subject, but not her character or ability. the zimmerman speaks out post received repetitive comments praising her personally, those too will likewise not be hosted on this post.

Anonymous said...

MM. Maybe you should delete that one comment that troubles you. That way it's not being read.

Anonymous said...

As a teacher in the district, I see no effect that any of these new positions have had on the education program. When and if the PSSA scores do not go up, Dr Z will point the finger at the teachers, and want other changes ( removal of 50% of staff}. The Program of Studies will not work because there are no consequences for lack of effort by some students, poor attendance, and the effect of years of social promotion

Anonymous said...

Mike, thanks as well for keeping this out there.

Gary I disagree with your thought on the funding source not mattering. It's bad enough that the ASD is whoring itself for grants for this crap, it's even worse that taxpayer funds are being used in this fashion.

Anonymous said...

MM:As state previously,all the grants dry up and then, the local taxpayer will need to pick up the tab for ALL of these administrative salaries. Right now with the three principals in the admin building that is a least $350,000 in salaries and then, add the cost of benefits.

Anonymous said...

Someone already posted the Allentown School District Salaries on Valley 610. It was posted by Steve Essack at 12:00am on March 30, 2011. It is a complete list, and why he posted it was because Zahorchak in a news conference announced that he was asking the ASD administrators to give up their scheduled 3.9 percent raises next school year. Essack posted an Excel file that you are able to download. Go to Steve Essack blog and download for yourselves. Esack wanted his readers to see how much money 3.9% of a price freeze would mean in real dollars. He also wanted his readers to see that Zahorchak was asking everyone to tighten their belts including the administrators. Check it out.

http://blogs.mcall.com/valley610/2011/03/allentown-school-district-salaries.html

Hey Mr. Molovinsky, I thought you said in the Zimmerman Speaks Out post that you didn't block peoples comments on your blog? Do you only block comments that don't agree with all of your readers? That doesn't seem fair minded!?

Anonymous said...

MM:

I would love for more of your readers to come to the school board meeting. In fact I invite them. They can come up and introduce themselves to me after the meeting.

This Thursday there is a Eduction Committee of The Whole Meeting in The Administration Board Room at 7:00 PM.

The Administration will discuss a new resiliency program that is tied to a new Code of Conduct and the Pathways Program.

I was told this is based on best practices. Best practices is the current academic buzz word.

Why implement a new code of conduct when ASD has been unable to enforce the old one? - Was my question this past Friday afternoon to Dr.Z.

I was told this is a much more finely defined code of conduct enabling the enforcement of a more workable set of rules and regulations, equally to all students on a consistent basis.

Personally I fear they will not be raising the bar, but lowering it.

I have asked for a preview of the code of conduct and the citations for the best practices articles underscoring the basis of Thursday evening's presentation. This is part of a grant program that will be referred to shortly and a precursor to The Pathways Program.

I have been told it was not necessary and all will be explained by Mrs. Lozado on Thursday evening.

In other words my request to have the material to prepare my questions beforehand was denied, my interpretation.

During the board meeting this past Thursday four new grant applications were presented for board approval.

I asked if any of these grant applications involved any new positions.

I was told there were a number of positions embedded in these upcoming proposals. I asked how many and what the salary structures were. Dr. Z said he did not know and would get back to me. I'll be waiting.

I ABSTAINED from voting on the approval of these grants.

I can not vote on this issue if I do not fully understand the implication of these grants in the context of the overall financial condition of the ASD and the implementation of Pathways plan.

This was the first time I was aware this was being presented to the board.

To the commenter who stated:

"I wasn't involved in the board meetings but it is hard for me to understand how you didn't know about the new position and the hiring because it takes months of planning and procedures to hire someone into a school district position. And the school board is involved in every step of the process."

Please let me know what school board you are referring to? Is that Parkland, East Penn or Saucon Valley?

Because it sure is not the school board I sit on. If you know something I don't please let me know.

David Fehr Zimmerman

Anonymous said...

MM
Re: Permission to Continue Vistor Center Discussion Did you see this comment posted under that entry? On Target.

"Oh, and after visiting the museum that day, my family really DID drive straight into Bethlehem for lunch!!! And during the drive to and from the auto museum, all my dad could talk about was how cruddy Allentown looked the farther east we headed. He though downtown at 9th and Hamilton looked pretty good (it IS a good area of town), but Front Street seriously depressed all of us. I realize the price on the rent is probably right, but this visitor's center could not possibly encourage folks to see MORE of
Allentown - just getting to this location will probably sway people to hurry up and leave.

April 28, 2011 4:41 PM

Anonymous said...

Retired ASD teacher here.

Mr. Zimmerman,

Downplaying actual discipline problems throughout ASD has been common for years. The state created a means to label districts as "dangerous" based on the number of incidents reported BY THE DISTRICT.

Because no district, no administrator, no principal, no mayor, nor any real estate agent would want to deal with such a tag, you have what you see now.

I again caution you, increased class sizes will work against your efforts to bring discipline under control. Add in a demoralized remaining staff with no faith in their leader and you have a real uphill battle ahead.

Realistic enrollment numbers, per class, SHOULD be understood well before September. There are still areas to cut that can reduce the total number of teachers lost.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Zimmerman, it was the Allentown School Board I was talking about. There was even a comment made by a retired teacher indicating how clearly any hire of the school district is listed on the ASD boards agenda (copied from the Zimmerman Speaks Out post) as stated below:

Retired ASD teacher here.

Every and ANY hire of the school district is listed on the board's agenda of proposals with the salary amount CLEARLY posted with the new employee's name. A salary amount of that size would be VERY outstanding, even to someone who casually pages through.

I'm thinking the justification given by Zahorchak was deceptive, especially given his propensity for loading up on an already bloated administrative support staff.

April 30, 2011 2:15 PM

Anonymous said...

Mr. Zimmerman I also went to the ASD website to find out what the school districts procedures and policies are for new positions and new hires and found policy no. 401 "Creating a Position", and policy no. 404 "Employment of Professional Employees". And these I listed on The Zimmerman Speaks Out post in full context. And those procedures indicate that the board is involved initially and finally in all aspects of hiring new personnel for the Allentown District.

So, I guess what I am really asking is how were you blindsided and in what way could have Dr. Z informed you better?

Anonymous said...

With Dr. Z laying off teachers and changing curriculum don't you think that eventually he will also be trimming the fat from the Allentown School District administration departments? I am not an authority on such matters but I am speculating from a novice point of view that this is what may happen next.

michael molovinsky said...

anon 10:45, until which time mr. zimmerman has an opportunity to read your question and decides to answer, let me say: what you read on the websites, and what actually happens, are often different. we have learned since, that positions created under grants can then be converted to direct local taxpayer funding. zahorchak is apparently quite adept at shifting positions around. zimmerman is revealing the smoke and mirrors used by the administration, and you're blaming him. you have been told that the new hire was inserted in page after page of existing personnel shifts. why are you bringing up rule # 401 and 404; as an apologist for zahorchak? why don't you contact the other school board members and ask them their rationale for the hire. they are listed on the same website that you're so familiar with....

michael molovinsky said...

anon 10:55, zahorchak has announced that he will be laying off administrators, but ONLY because of intense adverse community outrage. in the meantime, he has shifted job funding sources so that these administrators will become teachers again, bumping other teachers into layoff.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Zimmerman asked me which school district I was talking about and I answered his direct question addressed to me...look at the bottom of the post he made on May 1, 2011 10:07 PM. He posed a question and I reiterated and restated my concern.

No I am not an apologist for zahorchak. I am not blaming Zimmerman about anything other than questioning why he feels blindsided and I am giving him reasons why I am questioning him.

I don't mean to offend you or anyone else but I am entitled to voice my opinion or ask relative questions right?

It seems that Dr. Z, the District and the School Board is in a very difficult position and their bottom line is to change a failing system and to pull money out of thin air to make these changes...a very tough situation to be in for all. Communication and working together seems to be imperative to solving this very tough situation.

Perhaps this is a simplistic solution, but it is being made difficult by all of the intense emotion involved in the layoffs.

Anonymous said...

Retired ASD teacher here.

BEFORE approving Zahorchak's plan, a plan that includes cutting so many classroom teachers, one question MUST be answered. That was,

"Did we explore every other savings option that does not involve instructional employees?"

Areas included would be administration, consultants, lobbyists, public relations people,
clerical workers, custodial and maintenance workers, cafeteria operations, etc. Some of these duties can be outsourced.

Eliminate all conference attendance. No more highly-paid speakers at In-Service meetings.

How much thought was given to eliminating most afterschool sports? A smaller program might permit elimination of one athletic director.

Reducing instructional staff with direct student contact is necessary, but only AFTER serious measures are taken elsewhere.

Expecting many teacher retirements soon, as a result of the new plan, the salary savings there, plus savings from the non-instructional areas mentioned, the amount of actual teacher layoffs might well be a number under 100.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe that Dr. Z is using smoke screen tactics at all. He is trying to make his plans public and fighting a very powerful teachers union and uncooperative people who are stagnating the system. It seems like he is fighting every step of the way to make needed changes. Maybe the parents should be asked if they are happy with their "Johnny's" failing grades. Maybe the parents should be asked if they want to continue with the same old programs that made Johnny fail in the first place or if they want new initiatives, a new focus and a better and more promising outlook. Dr. Z is trying to change a failing school system and he needs your help!

michael molovinsky said...

anon 3:35, i will be expanding the following in a future post: the children of the parents who are engaged and involved are doing fine. some students require more time and effort by parents than others, but the concerned parents make sure that their children succeed, whatever is required. on the other hand, unfortunately, we have parents who are not concerned with the children's success in school. many of these kids do poorly on the standardized tests and drop out. changing the curriculum will not change that reality, it will just deprive the motivated students of desired electives and a more holistic education.

Anonymous said...

Public schools are nothing less than a cancer on the rest of society and can not be cured unless the responsibility to educate is turned over to the private sector. Those are the cold hard facts and all the bickering and blaming others will not cure the problem. Remove the political correctness, the unions and replace that with discipline and a competitive curriculum approved by the parents and the problem will go away in time. We all know it!

Anonymous said...

May 2, 2011 4:25 PM
"Public schools are nothing less than a cancer on the rest of society and can not be cured unless the responsibility to educate is turned over to the private sector."
Privatising the school system?
Those are not cold hard facts at all. Merely your baseless opinion.
There ARE available private schools in the area.
This is a confusing situation likely made more so by insiders.

Anonymous said...

Whoa, 4:25pm!

It's not that easy. Unless the state removes many mandates, the legal profession turns it head on various "rights" issues, etc., the private enterprises will have no more success than today's schools.

Then, the big question. Who shall pay the tuition? It will STILL be you, and I, as many families can't afford to do what you suggest.

And, what will we do when the private enterprises refuse certain students and decide to drop others?
Shall there be no education available then?

Anonymous said...

Retired ASD teacher here.

Sorry, I didn't identify the 4:39pm post as mine.

To continue the thought, will the private enterprises also deal with all the disabled kids, the mental health troubled kids who once were housed at the Allentown State Hospital, etc.?

If the conditions are equal, it will be difficult for any private group to make a profit, and without the prospect of profit, who else would provide the service?

In any event, the dialogue opportunity Mr. Molivinsky provides here is a true public service and I appreciate anyone who takes time to contribute.

michael molovinsky said...

the following comment was submitted by zimmerman, but did not appear:

Many good points have come out in this thread. My thanks to those who have contributed. This is very valuable information.
I hope the blog can continue to be an open source of dialog.
This is a highly complex issue with many perspectives. It is not an easy task to implement the agenda underscoring the Pathways plan.
That is why comments from different varied points of view are so important.
I support the pathways plan and understand significant changes and sacrifices need to be made.
I also realize this is an effort that requires the support not only of the board but also the community, the city, local business, teachers administration and most of all the students.
While administration, the teachers and some of the students are stepping up to the plate, in the process of working through a resolution to these issues, I have not seen any evidence of commitment from some of the other players.
My personal opinion is from a financial perspective, after the teachers looking at impending furlough, the tax payers of Allentown are taking the greatest $ hit.
If there is not a concerted effort on the part of all of these parties this initative will have a difficult time in it's implementation and execution.
I have serious concerns the code of conduct has not been enforced in the past and a culture has evolved that has little respect for authority in the ASD.
While this may be a small segment of the student body, it can be an extremely disruptive and potentially violent part of the middle school and high school environments.
I see this issue as a direct threat to the success of the Pathways program.
This is and area I am currently researching and will discuss at a later time.
Again, many thanks for your input.

David Fehr Zimmerman

Anonymous said...

"Whoa, 4:25pm"
I didn't say all public schools should be closed, but parents should be able to choose the schools more appropriate for their children. "Then, the big question. Who shall pay the tuition? It will STILL be you, and I, as many families can't afford to do what you suggest. And, what will we do when the private enterprises refuse certain students and decide to drop others? Shall there be no education available then?" Same old excuses! Maybe your priorities are where they should be!
Good grief, can we afford what we are paying now and then getting failure for results?
The funding can come in the form of local and state funded vouchers. Business can also get involved in helping to fund these schools. Weren't the casinos supposed to do that? Why is it the government can have a system as complicated as the IRS but can't set up a system to fund private education? That's because the left doesn't want to. Just let the children suffer, right? Our whole society suffers because of the greed of the teachers, their unions and the politicians. Part of the collapse of our job market is our inability to compete with other countries in education. That in turn produces a population that is less able to produce products and services we all need and want at a price we can afford. It's just as simple as that. We need to stop making excuses for our failures and man-up to our responsibilities as parents and U.S. citizens that care about where our country is headed.
"Those are not cold hard facts at all. Merely your baseless opinion."
Sounds like more excuses to me! Just take a walk through the crime infested streets of Allentown and see the "products" of government only schools. Over 50% of these inner city "failures" are high school dropouts. Education is NOT a high priority, but their entertainment is! When there is no discipline and political correctness runs rampant in the schools, the students will fail and society will pay the price! Democrats with their liberal and progressive ideology created this mess, not conservatives, but the conservatives are always demonized for not caring for the poor so they wimp out and do nothing. How the truth hurts, eh?

Anonymous said...

Correction to anon, May 3, 2011 11:07 AM:
"Maybe your priorities are where they should be!"
Change to: Maybe your priorities are not where they should be!

Anonymous said...

Relax...we have a super-duper multi-cultural playground now!

There is absolutely nothing to fear.

So, when is the first ice hockey game at the Pawlowski Palace of Sport?

Anonymous said...

Retired ASD teacher here.

Once again, Mr. Zimmerman, thanks for reading and responding.

As for taxpayers taking a hit, I see NO problem with minimal annual tax increases, at least at the rate of inflation. In the past, the ASD board boasted about not raising taxes for 3-4 years, or so.
That's nothing to boast about.

Expenses of all shapes and sizes rise each year for every item the district purchases. All those boards were doing was kicking the can down the road. At some point, the taxes were paid in the end with higher increases than would have been necessary all at once.

On the matter of taxes. I do hope you understand, 60% of your students come from families who contribute NO, minimal, or unfairly low property taxes.

For years, the County and City have allowed their housing stock to be converted into multi-family units WITHOUT adjustment of assessment. There are hundreds of home in the center city area that now house 2 and 3 families with kids yet still pay at the single family rate.

I spent many hours with tax records and other sources to discover this situation to be true. Also, add in all the Keystone Opportunity tax waivers and you have a business segment that's not currently participating either.

The actual "real" taxpayers of Allentown no longer desire to keep the system going mostly on their backs. They are moving out as soon as they can.

As for sports, why not reduce ASD sports to just basketball and soccer? Two teams (girl and boy) per sport, open to kids from both schools. ASD really could go with just one athletic director, and have FAR less in other expenses to deal with. As you know, kids who want to participate in any of the eliminated sports CAN participate on teams provided by other districts who can still afford to offer them.

Eliminate formal middle school sports entirely. There are enough community organizations in place to provide those activities.

These are very difficult times for ASD. In my mind, the sports programs have to be heavily reduced, BEFORE eliminating so many classroom teachers. Check the state of Florida. Numerous districts there are taking this step.

As for business help, that's not likely to come in any great measure. Business is facing higher taxes and reduction in charitable donation benefits under our current administration.

Thanks again!

gary ledebur said...

MM: I find it amazing that none of your readers point a finger at the real problem facing ASD. The additional few administrators make up less than .1 % of the budget. Eliminating 50% of the central office as Philadelphia is doing will not balance the budget.

Allentown does not have the tax base to fund the school district at a level needed for student success.

Under the Pennsylvania constitution, public education is a state responsibility. The commonwealth is reneging on its obligation to Allentown. Pennsylvania has the second lowest personal income tax of states that have one. (yes I know several state do not have an income tax) Pennsylvania does not tax the Marcellus Shale motherload of profits. Pennsylvania does not tax all my purchases on Amazon. Governor Corbott's budget has increases for prisons but nothing for public schools. He will find millions to fund an experimental voucher plan to help the Catholic schools. Perhaps we should take his advice to colleges and start drilling for natural gas at the fifty yard line of J. Birney Crum.

Anonymous said...

Retired ASD teacher here.

Gary, there is no doubt the state has been shortchanging local school districts, to make itself look good, for about 15 years.

There was a time when the state funded more than 50% of public education. The school boards are forced to make up that shortfall. It's now down to about 35%. With a state funding emphasis, the burden is shared by MANY, MANY more taxpayers.

It's similar to what happened to make the PSERS fund balance less than it normally would be. For the past decade, the state and local districts opted NOT to pay-in the one third share each that is part of the original design. The teachers paid in their one third all along!

Using an income tax to help fund schools really won't help much either. Too many parents have no earned income. The best way to increase funding is to replace property school taxes with an increase in the state sales tax.

EVERYONE spends money!

But, we're getting ahead of ourselves. That solution is a few years off. Right now, ASD needs to cut out (or reduce) any, and all, non-instructional personnel.

The administrative reductions WILL be helpful. Your figure of one tenth of one percent savings seems rather low to me. One less administrator could mean the retention of two young teaching employees.

Look, ASD should be about providing a sufficient number of teachers for its kids, NOT about maintaining and growing clerical workers who function from a distance.

Anonymous said...

"He will find millions to fund an experimental voucher plan to help the Catholic schools."
So what is wrong with that? How about the education of the students whose parents choose to send them there? The schools that are failing need to be defunded, not the schools that are a success, regardless what school it is, even if that school is a public school. The students that are in most need of a good education are the ones least receiving a good education. Why is that? Because the public educational institutions are more concerned with being "fair". "Let them all fail instead of giving a good education to the few!" With that attitude, the lowest common denominator in education rules! Sick!