Strategy Solutions' Deb Thompson explains the results of the rankings to school board members on May 22, 2023. Photo by Brian Hagberg.

School Board Narrows MFP Options Down to Three

May 23, 2023

RUSSELL, Pa. – The Warren County School District Board of Directors narrowed its Master Facilities Plan options down to three during Monday’s work session.

The board came into the work session with seven options, and through ranking each option against four criteria trimmed the list to three.

“We’d like you to get to two options, maybe three, tonight,” Strategy Solutions’ Deb Thompson said. “I just want to reiterate that the purpose of this is to get to a smaller number of options for a team to continue to do a further deep dive analysis.”

Thompson read each criterion and asked the board, via a scale of 1-5, to weigh how much they agreed that the option met the criteria. The option that the board most agreed met all the criteria was the newest option the board discussed, a hybrid movement of Sheffield 9 -12 students to Warren Area High School.

The final board rankings were:
1. Hybrid option – Sheffield 9 – 12 take core classes at Warren (scored 18.4)
2. All Sheffield 9 – 12 students to Warren (scored 15.3)
3. Create a K – 12 School in Youngsville (scored 14.8)
4. Youngsville 9 – 12 students to Eisenhower and Warren (scored 12.2)
5. Eisenhower 9 – 12 students to Youngsville and Warren (scored 11.2)
6. No change to current configuration (scored 5.8)
7. Adjust attendance boundaries to disperse Warren 9 – 12 students to Eisenhower, Sheffield, and Youngsville (scored 4.8)

Based on ranking scores, the board agreed to draw a line between the top three options and the bottom four.

“We need to look away from doing business as usual, that option that says do nothing,” board member Arthur Stewart said. “We’re just not addressing student needs or not addressing efficiency, not addressing teacher needs. And we’ve seen this locomotive coming down the track for years. We’ve been talking about it for years. Certainly, I’m ready to do something that is other than the status quo.”

The criteria each the board considered was:
1. Offers a positive impact on the learning environment by providing more informed person courses and more levels of courses.
2. Has a positive impact on student well being
3. Offers the opportunity for current class size procedures to continue to be maintained, extra teacher time will enhance student learning experience and not result in eliminating teacher jobs.
4. Offers a positive impact on teacher workload and helps enhance effectiveness of the classroom instruction

Superintendent Amy Stewart and other administrators can now prepare a “deep dive” analysis for the board to consider at its June 12 meeting, where the board will decide on a preferred option.

If the board were to decide on the hybrid option at its June 12 meeting, there are some additional decisions they would need to make to implement the option (e.g. whether to bring all 9 – 12 at once or begin with specific cohorts). The main objective is to have all Sheffield 9 – 12 students take their core classes at Warren and spend the rest of their day at Sheffield.

This would allow Sheffield students to maintain their academic rankings and athletic eligibility at Sheffield while reducing preps for some teachers at Sheffield. The annual increase in transportation costs would be $24,900.

Arthur Stewart said prior to the ranking that the hybrid option addresses, in some way, all of the issues the board set out to fix with this MFP.

“We’ve got to fix the problem and let’s just recap what the problems are that we’re interested in fixing,” Stewart said. “We see it on these Course Request sheets, where you have six and eight students who want something as fundamental as physics. It’s unacceptable for us not to provide easy access to a physics class and decent physics labs to every student in the district and physics is not the only example. So the key idea that you came up with option seven speaks to that concern.

“Another concern is teacher preps. We can’t keep asking our teachers to do to six preps so your new option in moving students solves that. We also have the problem we’ve talked about of non-certificated teachers and the teacher shortage. If the option does what Amy predicts it does, it reduces the number of required teachers and addresses that problem.”

A number of board members also expressed interest in finding a way to keep students in Youngsville, understanding that it will involve a multi-million dollar price tag.

“For every reason that the parents of the Youngsville community stated, and more importantly, I think the borough team from Youngsville was much more prepared to answer the questions that we asked,” board member Joe Colosimo said. “And they came to the meeting with what I think is great information. And so proximity to not just the local police department but the state police department, the fire department being right there. Public Utilities is huge because we do have that septic system of an Eisenhower. And to me moving students farther north doesn’t make any sense to me. Based on again, some of the conversations that they were having they are the geographic center. They’re not the population center, but they are the geographic center being Youngsville it would make more sense to bring students south than the north.”

Colosimo’s vision is that creating the K-12 school in Youngsville would also eventually lead to a scenario in which Eisenhower students go to Youngsville. Possibly in a similar way as the hybrid Sheffield to Warren option.

He added that the “fly in the ointment” of bringing Eisenhower students to Youngsville is the multi-million dollar investment the district already has in Eisenhower.

“We’re not talking about closing schools under the hybrid and we can still utilize that facility,” Colosimo said. “And yes, it will lead somebody down the road to have to invest in Youngsville.”

Board member Jeff Daugherty suggested the board should view the MFP as a “living document” that can, and should, be modified throughout its lifespan.

“As I’m looking at it, we’re talking about a Master Facility Plan and framing it as a living document,” Daugherty said. “Not only are we making a decision now, we’re talking in the future and future boards to make that decision. I’m very much in favor of a Youngsville K – 12. It doesn’t have to be done right now. So keeping it as a living document and having that option available down the road, in my opinion, is a good option.”

The board is set to select a preferred option during its next regular meeting on June 12.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel

Subscribe to our newsletter

White Cane Coffee presents Coffee & a Conversation

Don't Miss