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Vaping
April 11, 2018

According to a recent report from the U.S. Surgeon General, there was a 900 percent increase in e-cigarette use by high school students nationwide between 2011-2016. We are seeing this increase in Donegal, as well. As I speak with my superintendent colleagues from around the county, we all see an increase in the number of students who are vaping.

Many believe vaping is a safe alternative to tobacco use. The fruity flavors are appealing to students, but they still contain nicotine and other chemicals which can cause addiction and health problems. Vaping is now serving as a gateway to traditional tobacco use. According to one study at Columbia University, the vapor contains toxic metals, including lead. In addition, students are able to use vape pens to smoke illegal drugs.

The most popular vaping tool is a Juul. It is designed to look like a flash drive, so it is easily concealed. This has led to students becoming very bold with their vaping. It occurs, at times, in class when a teacher looks away or is working with someone, then blown into a shirt or backpack.

I ask that you please speak to your child about the dangers of vaping and also about the fact that vaping/vape products are not permitted in school. If your child is caught vaping or with vape products at school, he/she is subject to suspension and future random searches. I appreciate your support in keeping vaping and vape products out of our schools.

Dr. Lausch
Donegal School District Response to the Community Forum on Safety and Security
March 20, 2018

On Tuesday, March 6, 2018, the District sponsored a community forum. At the forum, information was shared related to current safety practices, items under consideration, methods our community can use to help with safety and security, suggestions for talking with your children and information related to the March 14 student walkout event. Following the information session, parents/guardians in attendance were invited to share thoughts, questions and concerns.

As promised in the invitation to the event, the District is now posting a response to the information gathered on the evening of the event. The District is considering all of the suggestions made that evening, including possible physical alterations to the buildings. However, specific plans as to what may or may not occur will not be detailed in this response as doing so may compromise the potential safety benefits of the changes.

A question was asked about the meaning of a vulnerability study. A vulnerability study is when a safety professional carefully examines the safety and security aspects of a building. The individual spends several hours talking to staff, investigating the physical aspects of the building and examining safety plans. When conducted, it was found that the safety of the building and the plans that are in place are excellent.

Two primary themes emerged from the feedback that was received. A bulleted list of items and information from the District is below.

Theme 1 – Training
1. The Donegal School District is an ALICE trained district. ALICE stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate.

2. ALICE training will now be included as a part of the induction program for all district employees.

3. Refresher trainings for all employees will be occurring in the coming months, with full implementation in the 2018-2019 school year.

4. Student trainings, for a variety of developmental levels, will be occurring in the coming months, with full implementation in the 2018-2019 school year.

5. Donegal School District conducts drills every month. Included in these drills are fire, severe weather and intruder.

6. Donegal School District reviews and updates the All Hazards Plan on an annual basis.

Theme 2 – Resources
1. The purchase and use of an anonymous text-a-tip line is being explored.

2. The Board of School Directors has requested more information on the addition of a second school resource officer.

3. Current staff and programs to support the mental health of our students includes:

a. 8 school counselors
b. 3 school psychologists
c. 1 school social worker
d. 3 certified school nurses
e. 6 licensed practitioner nurses
f. 4 outside mental health providers that provide service in the schools
g. Mentoring program
h. Access to outside services through IU13 in the event of a crisis
i. An employee to student ratio of 1:6.4 (Employees includes all coaches, cafeteria workers, custodians, maintenance, aides, teachers and administrators). Research shows that the primary indicator to reducing school violence is a student feeling connected to an adult in the building.

School Safety
March 12, 2018

Recently, we invited our parents/guardians to a forum on safety and security. That forum occurred on Tuesday, March 6. I was pleased with the turnout from our community and wanted to share a little about it in this space in the event you were not able to attend.

The forum consisted of six parts: an overview of what we currently do as a district, an overview of additional items we are considering, tips on what you can do to help, information on talking to your child about safety, information on the upcoming walkout events and break out sessions for the sharing of ideas/questions/comments. A response document from the district to the suggestions of the community will be posted on our website in the coming weeks.

When it comes to school safety, everyone in our community can help. We would ask that if you see something that doesn't look right, say something. If you hear something that concerns you, say something. You can call any one of our buildings or your local police department to report safety concerns. Together, we can make a difference in keeping Donegal safe.

Dr. Lausch
The Arts in Donegal
January 30, 2018

I am always amazed at the talents of our students when it comes to the arts. Whether it be works of art, singing, instrumentals or the performing arts, Donegal programming is second to none! If you have ever seen one of the shows put on by our students, you understand what I am saying.

Coming up in March, our students will be performing, Beauty and the Beast. The performances will occur on March 9 (7:30p.m.), March 10 (7:30p.m.) and March 11 (2:00p.m.). The DHS box office is open for ticket sales on February 27, March 1, March 6 and March 8 from 6:00-8:00p.m. Student and Senior tickets are $8, Adult tickets are $10. You may also purchase tickets at the door, provided the shows are not sold out.

I hope you are able to join us for this show, it is sure to be awesome!

Dr. Lausch
Snow related delays and cancellations
January 4, 2018

I am often asked about the process for delaying or canceling school. Occasionally, the decision is an easy one due to the severity of the storm, but most times it is a difficult and involved process.

When it is not so obvious, the process begins several days before the storm with monitoring a variety of weather sites. On the actual day of a potential delay or cancellation, the process begins around 4:00 a.m. Phone calls, texts and emails are exchanged between township/borough road masters, the bus company, other district employees and other local superintendents. As the forecast becomes clearer and I attain more information about road conditions, I make the decision to either hold school as normal, delay school by two hours or cancel school altogether.

I hope this gives some insight into the delay and cancellation process. Please stay safe and bundle up!

Dr. Lausch
Changes coming to state testing...
December 5, 2017

Recently, several changes to state testing were passed by the legislature. In relation to the Keystone Exams, the requirement to pass all three exams (Algebra 1, Biology and Literature) in order to graduate from high school was again delayed. As of now, the class of 2020 will need to pass all three exams in order to graduate. I encourage everyone to contact your legislators and speak with them about eliminating this graduation requirement.

There were also changes made to the PSSA. In both English/Language Arts and Math, a section has been eliminated from the test. This will result in two less days of testing and is a very positive change for our students.

The School Performance Profile (SPP) scores were recently released to the public. The state is informing us that this will be the final year to have a SPP score assigned to our buildings. This, too, is a positive change as the SPP score is mostly based upon only the Keystone Exams and PSSA results. The new "scorecard" being issued by the state is called the Future Ready Index. As more information is released on what this may look like, we will provide it to you.

As always, thank you for the support you show our students and staff. We have an amazing district and it should never be measured by only looking at standardized test scores.

Dr. Lausch

PVAAS - What does it mean?
October 23, 2017

The Pennsylvania Value-Added Assessment System, or PVAAS, is a tool used by the state to measure a school or teacher's influence on the academic progress of students from year to year. The state uses the PSSA and Keystone Exams to measure the growth of students in a specific teacher's classroom by comparing the current year's assessment to prior year's assessments. Only teachers who teach PSSA or Keystone tested subjects will receive a PVAAS score.

Recently, the state released Donegal's PVAAS data from the 2016-2017 school year. The expected goal is to attain a minimum of one year's growth in one year's time, regardless of a student's actual achievement level.

I am happy to report that Donegal's classroom teachers exceeded the state average of meeting or exceeding the growth factor for students. In fact, Donegal was 9% above the state average. Perhaps the most impressive statistic is that 40% of Donegal teachers receiving a PVAAS score exceeded the standard of a year's growth in a year's time. Statewide, only 26% of teachers met that standard.

I am exceptionally proud of our students and staff for the hard work demonstrated on a daily basis. While I am very proud of the tremendous PVAAS scores, we also know that we still have work to do. We will continue to look for ways to improve student achievement in all of our buildings.
Immunizations
August 28, 2017

By now, everyone should be aware that there was a change in the state immunization requirements. These changes have been mailed/emailed/posted/called home about several times over the past year.

Now that school has begun, we have hit a critical point. Any student who has not received the required immunizations or has not provided the school with a physician's plan to receive the required immunizations, must be excluded from school after the 5th day. This means that any student without immunizations or the physician's plan may not come to school beginning Wednesday, September 6. If your child participates in athletics or extra-curricular groups, he/she may not participate in those either.

Even though we have communicated this numerous times in mass and with personal communications, the number of students who may be excluded is higher than we had hoped it would be. I am asking everyone to ask your friends and neighbors if their child has received the required immunizations. We want to avoid excluding any children as a result of these changes. Thank you so much for your help!
The start of school is almost here!
August 2017

The return of students is one of the most exciting times each year. Over the summer months, it tends to be a little too quiet. I always look forward to hearing the sounds of our students in the schools.

In preparation for student arrival at school, you should have received a notification to verify your information in our system. The electronic verification will take the place of the paper copies you used to receive at the start of the year. Please take the time to verify your information as soon as possible. In the event of a school or student emergency, it is critical that we are able to reach you. If you encounter any issues with the verification of your information, please contact the office of the school where your child(ren) attend.

We look forward to seeing the students on August 28th!

Dr. Lausch
Constitutional Amendment on Property Taxes
September 29, 2017

On November 7, Pennsylvania voters will be asked to consider an amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution regarding property tax reduction. This amendment could be confusing to some, so I wanted to share information I have related to it. The important thing to know is that this is not an amendment that eliminates property taxes. I hope the information below is helpful to you when you go to the polls.

What is the proposed constitutional amendment that will appear on the ballot?
The question on the ballot will ask voters if the state constitution should be amended to permit the General Assembly to enact legislation allowing local taxing authorities to exclude from taxation up to 100% of the assessed value of each homestead property within a taxing jurisdiction.

What is a homestead property exclusion?
A homestead exclusion lowers a property owner’s tax bill by reducing the assessed value of the home before property taxes are levied. For example, if a home is assessed at $50,000 and the homestead exclusion is $5,000, then the homeowner only pays taxes on an assessed value of $45,000.

What does the ballot question mean, and how is the proposed change different from what is permitted now?
The state constitution was amended in 1997 to allow up to one-half (50%) of the median assessed value of all homestead property within a local taxing jurisdiction. The question now before voters is to allow current law to be expanded to raise the cap from 50% to a maximum of 100%.

What impact would this change have on my property taxes? Does this mean my property taxes will be eliminated?
Voter approval of the ballot question would not eliminate property taxes, or have any immediate impact on your property tax bill. The amendment to the constitution cannot by itself impact your tax bill, or direct your local school board to make changes in setting tax rates. It simply allows the General Assembly to adopt legislation in the future expanding current law regarding homestead exemptions. Changes can be provided only if enabling legislation is signed into law, and if the state can provide revenue to fund the increased homestead exclusion. It is important to keep in mind that as a practical matter, even with legislative authorization, homestead exclusions are only possible if there is some source of new revenue to fund them.