Group makes accusations against CASD’s Taschner

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Hits admin over test scores; Taschner cites lack of prep, years of previous mismanagement

By Lauren Parker- Gill, News Editor, The Times 

CASDBoardMeeting

Dr. Cathy Taschner and the board of directors for the Coatesville Area School District held a school board meeting Tuesday night, in which their practices were again called into question by parents and tax payers in Coatesville.

CALN – Another contentious school board meeting of the Coatesville Area School District was held last week, where a group called “The Movement” hurled accusations of cover-ups, violations according to the state’s Act 85 and presented the school board with a petition calling for the resignation of top administrators.

Public comment opened with Fonz Newsuan, leader of The Movement, speaking about test scores through out the district that show negative growth for the Keystones and PSSAs. Newsuan also accused the administration of withholding information regarding these test scores and Act 85, specifically at Caln Elementary and Scott Middle School.

According to the Pennsylvania State Education Association, Act 85 is an “Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Program.” It gives corporations tax credits for contributing to this program, as it provides grants to students who reside within the attendance boundaries of a low achieving school.

The opportunity scholarship can be used to pay for a student from a low achieving school to attend a participating private school or a participating public school outside of the student’s home district. When a school is labeled low achieving, the district will receive a letter from the Pennsylvania Department of Education and within 15 days, must notify (via the district website) all parents of school-age students living within the school’s attendance boundary that they may qualify for an opportunity scholarship.

In addition to living within the attendance boundaries of a low achieving school, students must also have a household income that does not exceed $60,000, plus $12,000 for each dependent member of the household through June 30, 2013. After June 13, 2013 the household income must not exceed $75,000 plus $15,000 for each dependent. For students with disabilities, additional adjustments apply.

Newsuan then presented school board members and Taschner with packets of information that included over 1,600 signatures on a petition for calling for the resignation of Taschner and top administrators.

“We’ve lost 249 children to Charter Schools at our cost of $3.1 million. We’ve also lost 54 teachers and 16 administrators in two years.” Newsuan stated.

Taschner believes the information shared during the meeting was inaccurate. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education website, schools that are italicized are being removed from the list.

“We have not received the official letter from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, but understand from preliminary information that Scott Middle School will be on the list. Of course, once we receive the letter the District will comply with the directions in the letter.” Taschner said in an email.

Taschner explained that the CASD had been plagued by mismanagement for many years and upon her arrival nearly two years ago, it was discovered that the district had limited and outdated resources. The district had not invested in training or resources to prepare the teachers or students for the changes in state standards for 2014-2015, though they had been publicized for years.

“Not surprisingly, because our teachers and students were not given the materials, training or resources to master the standards, student performance on the assessment was not demonstrative of what our students know and are able to do.” Taschner explained in an email. “It was demonstrative of the fact that they had not been privy to the new standards and had not received training and instruction in those specific state tested items.”

Taschner also pointed out that other school districts that did have the advantage of preparing for the new standards over several years, still received lower than historically normal scores.

“At Governor Wolf’s direction and under Secretary Rivera’s leadership, the Department of Education is currently engaging stakeholders around the state in discussion about how to expand the way Pennsylvania measures students and school success,” said Nicole Reigelman, press secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Education in an email.

Regarding the student turnover rates, Taschner emailed the following list of numbers of students who have left the district since the 2008-2009 school year: 2008 – 2009: 27, 2009 -2010: 78, 2010 – 2011: 72, 2011 – 2012: 36, 2012 – 2013: 25, 2013 – 2014: 24, 2014 – 2015: 32, 2015 – 2016: 8 (through November 2015) totaling 302.

When asked to comment about the petition calling for her and fellow top administrators’ resignation, Taschner had this to say:

“In a district where mismanagement and corruption were the norm in many different departments, it is not surprising that some of the changes we’ve had to make would cause discomfort and upset to those impacted.” Taschner said. “Our children deserve the very best and it will take time, courage and energy to continue to rebuild the district. We will continue to forge ahead to ensure this district is the best it can possibly be.”

Taschner maintains that the district is still recovering from years of corruption, stating individuals were hired for positions without proper certifications, and others were given positions and/or salaries without school board approval. Facilities were deteriorating, textbooks and resources were outdated, literacy and math texts had not been replaced in a number of years. Technology was outdated and did not work; teachers did not have laptops or other materials needed to work efficiently. The district was operating in a budget deficit of more than $1 million. Federal funds were misappropriated, the safe schools reporting was incorrect.

“These are just some of the many challenges that we faced. Each of these items (and many more) have been rectified, said Taschner. “We will continue to work with our students, families and community to restore our district to greatness. I am so grateful for the multitude of people who have sent encouraging emails, calls and who have encouraged us to keep moving forward.”

Various presentations were also held during the board meeting, including students showcasing music, art and poetry, and administrators presenting new options for discipline code. A representative from Insight Workforce Solutions also gave a presentation regarding providing substitute teaching services to the district.

Items approved on the agenda included allowing Taschner to sign all required forms and documents to receive financial assistance under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act for Winter Storm Jonas.

The school board also voted to approve the contract, pending approval by general counsel, with Insight Workforce Solutions for substitute teacher services.

Also approved were the human resources report, financial statements and the first readings of several new policies in the 200 series, as voted upon under the consent agenda.

For the complete list of low-achieving schools throughout the Commonwealth, please click here.

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One Comment

  1. SamLV says:

    I graduated from cash in 81. In 78 a choice was made to make the district safe for those who wanted to learn. Truants were not chased just expelled by mail. They suspended fast and expelled faster. Start there. All this corruption and infighting is s distraction and a waste of time so long as your kids don’t feel safe in school. You lose teachers, some of whom I know, because they actually think they’re in a daycare for future inmates at times. And they can’t save those kids from their whack job families and they absolutely won’t raise their kids there if they can avoid it. So cut the crao and ditch the kids wrecking the environment. Then get your technology and no child left untested things done. Good luck.

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