Mars Area evaluates its buildings

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Mars Area school directors hired a consultant Tuesday night to evaluate its aging buildings and the placement of administrators who are scattered among four locations.

Thomas & Williamson, a Ross firm, will receive $12,724 for the facilities study and cost analysis. board President J. Dayle Ferguson said the study will analyze "all the nuts and bolts of a building," similar to a home inspection.

“We so desperately need [it],” said board member Bonnie Weaver. “This study is going to take a good four to five months and we need it done in time to look at it for ... budgeting issues that we need to address.”

The board also opted to pay an additional $3,248 for Thomas & Williamson to study an expansion of district administrative offices.

While most administrators are housed in the administration building, which is attached to the primary center, seven are in four classrooms in a primary center hallway. Those classrooms may be needed for students as enrollment increases, Ms. Ferguson said.

The special education department is in the former Middlesex Elementary School, while the technology staff is in a farmhouse that came with property the district purchased for a new access road to the elementary school.

Board members did not accept Thomas & Williamson’s proposal for a demographic study.

“We have been hitting the numbers pretty good based on the last study that hasn’t run out yet,” said Mrs. Weaver. “We are such a small district. Someone just needs to go to the Adams and Middlesex buildings and pull building permits.”

In other action, the board voted to rejoin the Pennsylvania School Boards Association and its policy services development. Mars Area pulled out of PSBA several years ago.

The cost is $11,924.68 for one year for association dues, plus $2,300 a year for three years for the policy development program.

That program will provide “a comprehensive review of policies … to make sure they are current, relevant and applicable,” Mrs. Ferguson said.

Mars Area last did a comprehensive policy review in 2002-03.

Also, four teachers presented suggestions for the new state-mandated differentiated supervision.

Under state guidelines, tenured teachers will receive a formal evaluation based on an administrator observing his or her class once every three years. The new rubric is more intense than the previous versions, and could take up to eight hours per teacher, making it impossible to evaluate all 205 teachers each year, said superintendent James Budzilek.

“It is a matter of efficiency and effectiveness,” he said.

Teachers have different options for evaluation during the other two years, and the 11-member committee put forth several suggestions. They included a journal, videotape and audiotape analysis of lessons, peer coaching, portfolios or doing internships with businesses, said Jessica Semler, a member of the committee.

“The whole point of this is to provide a framework for professional growth,” said Kim Schuelke.

Sandy Trozzo, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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