Palmyra Area School District

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Palmyra Area School District
Map of Lebanon County Pennsylvania School Districts.png
Address
1125 Park Drive
Palmyra, Pennsylvania, Lebanon County, 17078-3447
United States
Information
TypePublic
School board9 locally elected members
SuperintendentMrs. Lisa A Brown, $136,000 (7/2013-6/2018) [1]
SpecialistLinda Bare, Supervisor of Special Education
Administrator

Dr. Bernard C Kepler, Asst Super (7/2013-6/2016)

Ms. Darcy Brenner-Smith, Business Manager
PrincipalBenjamin Ruby, HS
PrincipalAnne Hoover, MS
PrincipalPatricia Bachman, PSE
PrincipalDr. Jacy Clugston-Hess, FRES
PrincipalJames Hale, NES
Vice principalPaul Steigerwald, HS
Vice principalDaryl Reisinger, HS
Vice principalWalter Popejoy, MS
Staff185 non teaching staff members
Faculty210 teachers (2011) [2]
GradesK-12
Age5 years old to 21 years old special education
Pupils3,328 pupils (2013-14),[3] 3,178 pupils (2009-10)[4]
 • Kindergarten240 (50 full day/190 half day)
 • Grade 1260
 • Grade 2273
 • Grade 3258
 • Grade 4245
 • Grade 5277
 • Grade 6266
 • Grade 7271
 • Grade 8278
 • Grade 9277
 • Grade 10242
 • Grade 11201
 • Grade 12237
 • Grade 13241
Budget

$41.8 million 2013-14 [5]
$40 million (2012-13)[6]

$38.1 million (2010-11)[7]
Per pupil spending$10,483 (2008)
Per pupil spending$11,344.76 (2011)
Website
 
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Palmyra Area School District
Map of Lebanon County Pennsylvania School Districts.png
Address
1125 Park Drive
Palmyra, Pennsylvania, Lebanon County, 17078-3447
United States
Information
TypePublic
School board9 locally elected members
SuperintendentMrs. Lisa A Brown, $136,000 (7/2013-6/2018) [1]
SpecialistLinda Bare, Supervisor of Special Education
Administrator

Dr. Bernard C Kepler, Asst Super (7/2013-6/2016)

Ms. Darcy Brenner-Smith, Business Manager
PrincipalBenjamin Ruby, HS
PrincipalAnne Hoover, MS
PrincipalPatricia Bachman, PSE
PrincipalDr. Jacy Clugston-Hess, FRES
PrincipalJames Hale, NES
Vice principalPaul Steigerwald, HS
Vice principalDaryl Reisinger, HS
Vice principalWalter Popejoy, MS
Staff185 non teaching staff members
Faculty210 teachers (2011) [2]
GradesK-12
Age5 years old to 21 years old special education
Pupils3,328 pupils (2013-14),[3] 3,178 pupils (2009-10)[4]
 • Kindergarten240 (50 full day/190 half day)
 • Grade 1260
 • Grade 2273
 • Grade 3258
 • Grade 4245
 • Grade 5277
 • Grade 6266
 • Grade 7271
 • Grade 8278
 • Grade 9277
 • Grade 10242
 • Grade 11201
 • Grade 12237
 • Grade 13241
Budget

$41.8 million 2013-14 [5]
$40 million (2012-13)[6]

$38.1 million (2010-11)[7]
Per pupil spending$10,483 (2008)
Per pupil spending$11,344.76 (2011)
Website

The Palmyra Area School District is the public school system in southwest Lebanon County, Pennsylvania.

The District serves the residents of Palmyra Borough, North Londonderry Township, South Londonderry Township, Campbelltown, Lawn, and Mount Gretna. This suburban district encompasses approximately 40 square miles (100 km2). According to 2008 local census data, it serves a resident population of 20,487. By 2010, the District's population increased to 22,399 people.[8] In 2009, the Palmyra Area School District residents’ per capita income was $24,082, while the median family income was $58,016.[9] In the Commonwealth, the median family income was $49,501[10] and the United States median family income was $49,445, in 2010.[11]

According to District officials, in school year 2007-08 the Palmyra Area School District provided basic educational services to 3,247 pupils. It employed of 235 teachers, 155 full-time and part-time support personnel, and 15 administrators.[12] Palmyra Area School District received more than $9.8 million in state funding in school year 2007-08.

Palmyra Area School District consists of:

Governance[edit]

The Palmyra Area School District is governed by 9 individually elected board members (serve four-year terms), the Pennsylvania State Board of Education, the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Pennsylvania General Assembly.[13] The federal government controls programs it funds like Title I funding for low-income children in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the No Child Left Behind Act, which mandates the district focus resources on student success in acquiring reading and math skills.

The Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy Alternatives Sunshine Review gave the school board and district administration a "D-" for transparency based on a review of "What information can people find on their school district's website". It examined the school district's website for information regarding; taxes, the current budget, meetings, school board members names and terms, contracts, audits, public records information and more.[14]

Academic achievement[edit]

Palmyra Area School District was ranked 143rd out of 498 Pennsylvania school districts in 2013 by the Pittsburgh Business Times.[15] The ranking was based on student academic achievement based on the last three years of results on the PSSAs for: reading, writing, math and science. The PSSAs are given to all children in grades 3rd through 8th and the 11th grade in high school. Adapted examinations are given to children in the special education programs.

Overachiever statewide ranking

In 2013, the Pittsburgh Business Times also reported an Overachievers Ranking for 498 Pennsylvania school districts. Palmyra Area School District ranked 468th.[20] The editor describes the ranking as: "a ranking answers the question - which school districts do better than expectations based upon economics? This rank takes the Honor Roll rank and adds the percentage of students in the district eligible for free and reduced-price lunch into the formula. A district finishing high on this rank is smashing expectations, and any district above the median point is exceeding expectations."[21]

In 2009, the district ranked in the 67th percentile for student academic achievement among Pennsylvania's 500 school districts.[22]

District AYP status history[edit]

From 2006 to 2012 inclusive, Palmyra Area School District achieved Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). In 2011, 94 percent of the 500 Pennsylvania public school districts achieved the No Child Left Behind Act progress level of 72% of students reading on grade level and 67% of students demonstrating on grade level math. In 2011, 46.9 percent of Pennsylvania school districts achieved Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) based on student performance. An additional 37.8 percent of school districts made AYP based on a calculated method called safe harbor, 8.2 percent on the growth model and 0.8 percent on a two-year average performance.[23] Palmyra School District was in School Improvement in 2004 and 2005, while in 2003 the District was in Warning status due to lagging student achievement.[24]

Graduation rate[edit]

In 2013, Palmyra Area School District's graduation rate was 93%.[25] In 2012, Palmyra Area School District graduation rate was 88%. In 2011, the graduation rate was 93%.[26] In 2010, the Pennsylvania Department of Education issued a new, 4-year cohort graduation rate. Palmyra Area Senior High School's rate was 88% for 2010.[27]

According to traditional graduation rate calculations

High school[edit]

Palmyra Area Senior High School is located at 1125 Park Drive, Palmyra. In 2010 the school had 1,015 students grades 9th through 12th with 133 students receiving the federal free lunch due to family poverty. In 2011-12 enrollment declined to 932 pupils. The school reported employing 63 teachers yielding a student-teacher ratio of 14:1.[32] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 100% of its teachers were rated "Highly Qualified" under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.[33]

2013 School Performance Profile

Palmyra Area Senior High School achieved 90.8 out of 100. Reflects on grade level reading, mathematics and science achievement. In reading/literature - 83% were on grade level. In Algebra 1 80% showed on grade level skills. In Biology, 67% showed on grade level science understanding.[34]

AYP History

In 2012, the Palmyra Area Senior High School improved to achieving AYP status. In 2011, the Palmyra Area Senior High School declined to Warning status due to lagging student achievement in both math and reading. In 2010, the School achieved AYP status.[35]

PSSA Results
11th Grade Reading:
11th Grade Math:
11th Grade Science:

Science in Motion Palmyra Area Senior High School did not take advantage of a state program called Science in Motion which brought college professors and sophisticated science equipment to the school to raise science awareness and to provide inquiry-based experiences for the students. The Science in Motion program was funded by a state appropriation and cost the school nothing to participate.[48] Elizabethtown College provided the science enrichment experiences to schools in the region.

College remediation[edit]

According to a Pennsylvania Department of Education study released in January 2009, 31% of Palmyra Area School District graduates required remediation in mathematics and or reading before they were prepared to take college level courses in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education or community colleges.[49] Less than 66% of Pennsylvania high school graduates, who enroll in a four-year college in Pennsylvania, will earn a bachelor's degree within six years. Among Pennsylvania high school graduates pursuing an associate degree, only one in three graduate in three years.[50] Per the Pennsylvania Department of Education, one in three recent high school graduates who attend Pennsylvania's public universities and community colleges takes at least one remedial course in math, reading or English.

Dual enrollment[edit]

The Palmyra Area Senior High School offers a dual enrollment program. This state program permits high school students to take courses, at local higher education institutions, to earn college credits. Students remain enrolled at their high school. The courses count towards high school graduation requirements and towards earning a college degree. The students continue to have full access to activities and programs at their high school. The college credits are offered at a deeply discounted rate. The state offers a small grant to assist students in costs for tuition, fees and books.[51] Under the Pennsylvania Transfer and Articulation Agreement, many Pennsylvania colleges and universities accept these credits for students who transfer to their institutions.[52] For the 2009-10 funding year, the school district received a state grant of $9,016 for the program.[53]

SAT scores[edit]

In 2013, Palmyra Area School District students took the SAT exams. The District's Verbal Average Score was 503. The Math average score was 524. The Writing average score was 493. The College Board reported that statewide scores were: 494 in reading, 504 in math and 482 in writing. The nation-wide SAT results were the same as in 2012.[54]

In 2012, 154 Palmyra Area School District students took the SAT exams. The District's Verbal Average Score was 497. The Math average score was 532. The Writing average score was 505. The statewide Verbal SAT exams results were: Verbal 491, Math 501, Writing 480. In the USA, 1.65 million students took the exams achieving scores: Verbal 496, Math 514, Writing 488. According to the College Board the maximum score on each section was 800, and 360 students nationwide scored a perfect 2,400.

In 2011, 155 Palmyra Area High School students took the SAT exams. The district's Verbal Average Score was 493. The Math average score was 514. The Writing average score was 469.[55] Pennsylvania ranked 40th among state with SAT scores: Verbal - 493, Math - 501, Writing - 479.[56] In the United States 1.65 million students took the exam in 2011. They averaged 497 (out of 800) verbal, 514 math and 489 in writing.[57]

Graduation requirements[edit]

The Palmyra Area School Board has determined that beginning in 2012, 35 credits will be required for graduation in 2015.[58]

By law, all Pennsylvania secondary school students must complete a project as a part of their eligibility to graduate from high school. The type of project, its rigor and its expectations are set by the individual school district.[59]

Beginning with the class of 2015, students must take the Keystone Exams in Literature and Algebra 1.[60]

Middle school[edit]

Palmyra Area Middle School is located at 50 W Cherry Street, Palmyra, Pennsylvania. In 2010, there were 705 students grades 6th through 8th grade. One hundred eight pupils received a federal free lunch due to family poverty. The school had 49 teachers. In 2012, Palmyra Area Middle School enrollment was 777 pupils. The school employed 47 teachers, yielding a student teacher ratio of 16:1.[61] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 100% of its teachers were rated "Highly Qualified" under No Child Left Behind.[62]

2013 School Performance Profile

Palmyra Area Middle School achieved 89.3 out of 100. Reflects on grade level reading, writing, mathematics and science achievement. In reading, 76% of the students were on grade level. In Mathematics, 83% of the students showed on grade level skills. In Science, 78% of the 8th graders demonstrated n grade level understanding. In writing, 87.8% of the 8th grade students were on grade level.[63]

Palmyra Area Middle School AYP History

In 2010 through 2012, Palmyra Area Middle School achieved AYP status each year.[64]

PSSA Results
8th Grade Science:

Palmyra Area Middle School Report Card 2005 [1]

Forge Road Elementary School[edit]

Forge Road Elementary School is located at 400 South Forge Road, Palmyra, Pennsylvania. In 2010, there were 403 students grades kindergarten through 5th grade. Thirty eight pupils received a federal free lunch due to family poverty. The school is not a federally designated Title I school. Forge Road Elementary School had 26 teachers.[73] In 2012, Forge Road Elementary School enrollment was 406 students providing 1st through 5th grades. The school reported that 21% of its pupils qualified for a free lunch. The School employed 24 teachers yielding a student teacher ratio of 16 to 1.[74] According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 100% of its teachers were rated "Highly Qualified" under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.[75]

2013 School Performance Profile

Forge Road Elementary School achieved a score of 84.4 out of 100. The score reflects on grade level: reading, science, writing and mathematics achievement. In 2012-13, only 76.5% of the students were reading on grade level in grades 3rd through 5th. In 3rd grade, 81% of the pupils were reading on grade level. In math, 79.5% were on grade level (3rd-5th grades). In 4th grade science, 79% of the pupils demonstrated on grade level understanding. In writing only 71.6% of 5th grade pupils demonstrated on grade level skills.[76]

AYP History

Forge Road Elementary School achieved Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) status in 2010 through 2012.[77]

PSSA Results

4th Grade Science:

Pine Street Elementary School[edit]

Pine Street Elementary School is located at 50 W Pine Street, Palmyra. In 2010, there were 509 students grades kindergarten through 5th grade. Eighty one pupils received a federal free lunch due to family poverty. The school has 32 teachers.[81]

AYP History

In 2011 and 2010, Pine Street Elementary School achieved AYP status.[82]

PSSA history

4th Grade Science:

Northside Elementary School[edit]

Northside Elementary School is located at 301 E Spruce Street, Palmyra. In 2010, there were 613 students grades kindergarten through 5th grade. One hundred five pupils received a federal free or reduced-price lunch due to family poverty. The school has 42 teachers.[86] In 2010 and 2011, the school achieved AYP status.[87]

4th Grade Science:

Special education[edit]

In December 2010, the District reported that 466 pupils or 14% were receiving Special Education services, with 51% of identified students having a specific learning disability. In December 2008, the District reported that 428 pupils or 13.5% were receiving special education services.[92] Palmyra Area School District provides a broad spectrum of special education services. Services and programs available within the District include learning support, speech/language support, secondary life skills support, occupational therapy, physical therapy, vision, adaptive physical education, ESL/LEP, job training, and alternative education programs at the secondary level. The District contracts with Intermediate Unit 13 to provide classes at various schools in Lebanon County to meet the educational needs of students requiring: life skills support, emotional support, sensory support, physical/MDS support, autistic support, basic occupational skills and transition/school-to-work support. Developmental delays are screened for beginning as early as age 3 by IU13 Early Intervention services.Parents request an evaluation for services in writing. The district is required to conduct child find activities for children who may be eligible for services via Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.[93]

The IDEA 2004 requires each school entity to publish a notice to parents, in newspapers or other media, including the student handbook and website regarding the availability of screening and intervention services and how to access them. When screening results suggest that the student may be eligible, the District seeks parental consent to conduct a multidisciplinary evaluation. Parents who suspect their child is eligible may verbally request a multidisciplinary evaluation from a professional employee of the District or contact the Department of Special Education.

In 2010, the state of Pennsylvania provided $1,026,815,000 for special education services. The funds were distributed to districts based on a state policy which estimates that 16% of the district's pupils are receiving special education services. This funding is in addition to the state's basic education per pupil funding, as well as, all other state and federal funding.[94] The state requires each public school district and charter school to have a three-year special education plan to meet the unique needs of its special education students.[95] Over identification of students, in order to increase state funding, has been an issue in the Commonwealth. Some districts have more than 20% of its students receiving special education services while others have 10% supported through special education.[96]

Palmyra Area School District received a $1,282,613 supplement for special education services in 2010.[97] For the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years, all Pennsylvania public school districts received the same level of funding for special education that they received in 2010-11. This level funding is provided regardless of changes in the number of pupils who need special education services and regardless of the level of services the respective students required.[98][99]

Gifted education[edit]

The District Administration reported that 131 or 4.04% of its students were gifted in 2009.[100] By law, the district must provide mentally gifted programs at all grade levels. The primary emphasis is on enrichment and acceleration of the regular education curriculum through a push in model with the gifted instructor in the classroom with the regular instructor. This approach permits such specialized instructional strategies as tiered assignments, curriculum compacting, flexible grouping, learning stations, independent projects and independent contracts. Students identified as gifted attending the High School have access to honors and advanced placement courses, and dual enrollment with local colleges. The referral process for a gifted evaluation can be initiated by teachers or parents by contacting the student’s building principal and requesting an evaluation. All requests must be made in writing. To be eligible for mentally gifted programs in Pennsylvania, a student must have a cognitive ability of at least 130 as measured on a standardized ability test by a certified school psychologist. Other factors that indicate giftedness will also be considered for eligibility.[101]

Bullying policy[edit]

In 2012, the District reported there were 7 assaults on students and 1 incident of bullying.[102] In 2009, the Ddministration reported there was one incident of bullying in the District.[103][104]

The Palmyra Area School Board adopted a policy on December 11, 2008 which prohibits bullying by District students and the faculty. The policy defines bullying and cyberbullying.[105] The Board directs that complaints of bullying shall be investigated promptly, and corrective action shall be taken when allegations are verified. No reprisals or retaliation shall occur as a result of good faith reports of bullying. The board expects staff members to be responsible to maintain an educational environment free from all forms of bullying. All Pennsylvania schools are required to have an anti-bullying policy incorporated into their Code of Student Conduct. The policy must identify disciplinary actions for bullying and designate a school staff person to receive complaints of bullying. The policy must be available on the school's website and posted in every classroom. All Pennsylvania public schools must provide a copy of its anti-bullying policy to the Office for Safe Schools every year, and shall review their policy every three years. Additionally, the district must conduct an annual review of that policy with students.[106] The Center for Schools and Communities works in partnership with the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime & Delinquency and the Pennsylvania Department of Education to assist schools and communities as they research, select and implement bullying prevention programs and initiatives.[107]

Education standards relating to student safety and antiharassment programs are described in the 10.3. Safety and Injury Prevention in the Pennsylvania Academic Standards for Health, Safety and Physical Education.[108]

Budget[edit]

Pennsylvania public school districts budget and expend funds according to procedures mandated by the General Assembly and the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE). An annual operating budget is prepared by school district administrative officials. A uniform form is furnished by the PDE and submitted to the board of school directors for approval prior to the beginning of each fiscal year on July 1.

Under Pennsylvania’s Taxpayer Relief Act, Act 1 of the Special Session of 2006, all school districts of the first class A, second class, third class and fourth class must adopt a preliminary budget proposal. The proposal must include estimated revenues and expenditures and the proposed tax rates. This proposed budget must be considered by the Board no later than 90 days prior to the date of the election immediately preceding the fiscal year. The preliminary budget proposal must also be printed and made available for public inspection at least 20 days prior to its adoption. The board of school directors may hold a public hearing on the budget, but are not required to do so. The board must give at least 10 days’ public notice of its intent to adopt the final budget according to Act 1 of 2006.[109]

In 2012, the average teacher salary in Palmyra Area School District was $52,792 a year, while the cost of the benefits teachers received was $15,163 per employee, for a total annual average teacher compensation of $67,955.[110] The District employed 254 teachers with an average salary of $55,289 and a top salary of $138,690.[111]

In 2009, the Palmyra Area School District reported employing 253 teachers and administrators with a salary range of $38,835 to $133,903.[112] The median teacher salary was $53,741.

In 2007, the Palmyra Area School District employed 196 teachers. The average teacher salary in the district was $48,932 for 180 days worked.[113] As of 2007, Pennsylvania ranked in the top 10 states in average teacher salaries. When adjusted for cost of living Pennsylvania ranked fourth in the nation for teacher compensation.[114] Additionally, the teachers receive a defined benefit pension, health insurance, professional development reimbursement, paid personal days, 10 paid sick days, a retirement bonus and other benefits.[115] According to Rep. Glen Grell, a trustee of the state teacher retirement fund, a 40-year educator can retire with a pension equal to 100 percent of their final salary.[116]

Per pupil spending Palmyra Area School District administrative costs per pupil were $556.07 in 2008. The administrative spending totaled $1,787,218.66. The lowest administrative cost per pupil in Pennsylvania was $398 per pupil.[117] The Pennsylvania School Boards Association collects and maintains statistics on salaries of public school district employees in Pennsylvania. According to the association's report, the average salary for a superintendent, for the 2007-08 school year, was $122,165. Superintendents and administrators receive a benefit package commensurate with that offered to the district's teachers' union.[118] According to PSBA, the median Superintendent salary rose to over $130,000 in 2011.[119]

The Palmyra Area School District administration reported that per pupil spending in 2008 was $10,483 which ranked 440th in the state's 501 school districts.[120] In 2010, the District’s per pupil spending had increased to $11,344.76.[121] In 2011, Pennsylvania’s per pupil spending was $13,467, ranking 6th in the United States.[122] In 2007, the Pennsylvania per pupil total e xpenditures was reported as $12,759.[123]

Reserves - In 2008, the district reported $1,968,992.00 in an unreserved-undesignated fund balance. The designated fund balance was reported as $19,747.00.[124] In 2010, Palmyra Area School District Administration reported an increase to $2,587,862 in the unreserved-undesignated fund balance and $666,747.00 in the designated fund. By 2013, the District's reserves were $4,022,300. Pennsylvania public school district reserve funds are divided into two categories – designated and undesignated. The undesignated funds are not committed to any planned project. Designated funds and any other funds, such as capital reserves, are allocated to specific projects. School districts are required by state law to keep 5 percent of their annual spending in the undesignated reserve funds to preserve bond ratings. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, from 2003 to 2010, as a whole, Pennsylvania school districts amassed nearly $3 billion in reserved funds.[125]

Tuition Students who live in Palmyra Area School District's attendance area may choose to attend one of Pennsylvania's 157 public charter schools. Or a student living in a neighboring public school district may seek admission to Palmyra Area School District. For these cases, the Pennsylvania Department of Education sets an annual tuition rate for each public school district. It is the amount the public school district pays to a charter school for each resident student that attends the charter school and it is the amount a nonresident student's parents must pay to attend Palmyra Area School District. The 2012 tuition rates are Elementary School - $7,393, High School - $8,592.[126]

In 2008, the District reported Total Expenditures of $34,462,806.58. Of that $21,830,221.90 was in Actual Instructional Expense.[127] The District is funded by a combination of local taxes coupled with substantial funding from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the federal government. The Pennsylvania Auditor General regularly audits the school district. The reports are public information and are posted online at the Auditor General's website.[128]

The Palmyra Area School Board levies the following local taxes: a property tax, a local earned income tax of 1% and a real estate transfer tax 0,50%. By Pennsylvania law, pension income and social security income are exempted from both state personal income tax and local earned income regardless of the level of wealth.[129]

State basic education funding[edit]

For the 2013-14 school year, the Palmyra Area School District received a 2.9 increase or $5,925,654 in Pennsylvania Basic Education Funding. This is $166,406 more than its 2012-13 state BEF to the District. Additionally, Palmyra Area School District received $115,826 in Accountability Block Grant funding to focus on academic achievement and level funding for special education services. Among the public school districts in Allegheny County, South Fayette Township School District received the highest percentage increase in BEF at 5.5%. The District has the option of applying for several other state and federal grants to increase revenues. The Commonwealth’s budget increased Basic Education Funding statewide by $123 million to over $5.5 billion. Most of Pennsylvania’s 500 public school districts received an increase of Basic Education Funding in a range of 0.9% to 4%. Eight public school districts received exceptionally high funding increases of 10% to 16%. The highest increase in state funding was awarded to Austin Area School District which received a 22.5% increase in Basic Education Funding.[130] The state funded the PSERS (Pennsylvania school employee pension fund) with $1,017,000,000 and Social Security payments for school employees of $495 million.[131]

For the 2012-13 school year, the Palmyra Area School District received $5,875,074.[132] The Governor's Executive Budget for 2012-2013 included $9.34 billion for kindergarten through 12th grade public education, including $5.4 billion in basic education funding, which was an increase of $49 million over the 2011-12 budget. The state also provides $100 million for the Accountability Block grant. Palmyra Area School District received $115,826 in Accountability Block Grant funding. The state also provided a $544.4 million payment for School Employees’ Social Security and $856 million for School Employees’ Retirement fund called PSERS.[133] This amount is a $21,823,000 increase (0.34%) over the 2011-2012 appropriations for Basic Education Funding, School Employees' Social Security, Pupil Transportation, Nonpublic and Charter School Pupil Transportation. Since taking office, Corbett’s first two budgets have restored more than $918 million in support of public schools, compensating for the $1 billion in federal stimulus dollars lost at the end of the 2010-11 school year.

In 2011-12, Palmyra Area School District received a $5,757,714, allocation, of state Basic Education Funding.[134][135] Additionally, the School District received $115,826 in Accountability Block Grant funding. The enacted Pennsylvania state Education budget includes $5,354,629,000 for the 2011-2012 Basic Education Funding appropriation. This amount is a $233,290,000 increase (4.6%) over the enacted State appropriation for 2010-2011.[136] The highest increase in state basic education funding was awarded to Duquesne City School District, which got a 49% increase in state funding for 2011-12.[137] In 2010, the district reported that 443 students received free or reduced-price lunches, due to the family meeting the federal poverty level.[138]

For the 2010-11 budget year, Palmyra Area School District was allotted a 5.30% increase in Basic Education Funding for a total of $6,327,236. Of the six school districts in Lebanon County, Lebanon School District received the highest a 14.46% increase. One hundred fifty Pennsylvania school districts received the base 2% increase. The highest increase in 2010-11 went to Kennett Consolidated School District in Chester County which received a 23.65% increase in state funding.[139] The state's hold harmless policy regarding state basic education funding continued where each district received at least the same amount as it received the prior school year, even when enrollment had significantly declined. The amount of increase each school district received was set by Governor Edward Rendell and then Secretary of Education Gerald Zahorchak, as a part of the state budget proposal given each February. This was the second year of Governor Rendell’s policy to fund some public school districts at a far greater rate than others.[140]

In the 2009-2010 budget year, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania provided a 6.67% increase in Basic Education funding for a total of $6,008,988 to Palmyra Area School District. This was a higher increase, in Basic Education Funding, than most other public school districts in Lebanon County received, with the exception of Lebanon School District which got an 11.28% increase in BEF. In Pennsylvania, 15 school districts received BEF increases that exceeded 10%. Muhlenberg School District in Berks County received the highest with a 22.31% increase in funding.[141] The amount of increase each school district received was set by Governor Edward G. Rendell and the Secretary of Education Gerald Zahorchak, as a part of the state budget proposal.[142]

The state Basic Education funding to the Palmyra Area School District in 2008-09 was $5,633,274.05. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, 311 Palmyra Area School District students qualified for free or reduced-price lunch due to low family income in 2008.[143]

Accountability Block Grants[edit]

Beginning in 2004-2005, the state launched the Accountability Block Grant school funding. This program has provided $1.5 billion to Pennsylvania’s school districts. The Accountability Block Grant program requires that its taxpayer dollars are focused on specific interventions that are most likely to increase student academic achievement. These interventions include: teacher training, all-day kindergarten, lower class size K-3rd grade, literacy and math coaching programs that provide teachers with individualized job-embedded professional development to improve their instruction, before or after school tutoring assistance to struggling students. For 2010-11 the Palmyra Area School District applied for and received $314,380, in addition to all other state and federal funding. The district used the funding to provide full-day kindergarten for the 7th year, to provide lower class sizes K-3rd grade, and to pay for teacher trainings.[144][145]

Classrooms for the Future grant[edit]

The Classroom for the Future state program provided districts with hundreds of thousands of extra state funding to buy laptop computers for each core curriculum high school class (English, Science, History, Math) and paid for teacher training to optimize the computers use. The program was funded from 2006-2009. Palmyra Area School District did not apply for funding in 2006-07. In 2007-08 the district received $247,966. For the 2008-09, school year the district received $45,413. Of the 501 public school districts in Pennsylvania, 447 of them received Classrooms for the Future grant awards.[146]

Science It’s Elementary grant[edit]

Northside Elementary School successfully applied to participate and received a Science It’s Elementary grant in 2008-09. For the 2008-09 school year, the program was offered in 143 schools reaching 66,973 students across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.[147] In 2007, the Pennsylvania Department of Education initiated an effort to improve science instruction in the Commonwealth’s public elementary schools. Called Science: It’s Elementary, the program was a hands on instruction approach for elementary science classes that develops problem-solving and critical thinking skills.[148] To encourage schools to adopt the program’s standards aligned curriculum, the state provided a grant to cover the costs of materials and extensive mandatory teacher training.[149] The district was required to develop a three-year implementation plan for the participating school. The school district administration was required to appoint a district liaison who was paid $3,000 by PDE to serve as the conduit of all information between the district and the Department and its agents along with submitting orders and distributing supplies to implementing teachers. For the 2006-07 state education budget, $10 million was allocated for the program. The grant program was expanded to $14.5 million in the 2008-09 budget. The grant was discontinued in the state’s 2011 budget by Governor Edward G. Rendell.

Other grants[edit]

The Palmyra Area School District did not participate in: Education Assistance Grants, 2012 Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy grant, 2012 and 2013 Pennsylvania Hybrid Learning Grants,[150] nor the federal 21st Century Learning grants.

Federal Stimulus funding[edit]

The Palmyra Area School District received an extra $1,424,329 in ARRA - Federal Stimulus money to be used in specific programs like special education and meeting the academic needs of low-income students.[151]

Race to the Top grant[edit]

School district officials did not apply for the Race to the Top federal grant which would have brought the district up to one million additional federal dollars for improving student academic achievement.[152] Participation required the administration, the school board and the local teachers' union to sign an agreement to prioritize improving student academic success. In Pennsylvania, 120 public school districts and 56 charter schools agreed to participate.[153] Pennsylvania was not approved in the first round of the grant. The failure of districts to agree to participate was cited as one reason that Pennsylvania was not approved. A second round of state Race to the Top application judging will occur in June 2010.[154]

Environmental Education Grant[edit]

The Environmental Education Grant Program was established by the Environmental Education Act of 1993, which mandates that 5 percent of all pollution fines and penalties collected annually by the Department of Environmental Protection be set aside for environmental education. In 2010, Palmyra Area School District was awarded $3000 to coordinate Watershed Awareness Day for fourth grade students with hands-on water-related activities.[155]

Common Cents state initiative[edit]

The Palmyra Area School Board did not participate in the Pennsylvania Department of Education Common Cents program. The program called for the state to audit the district, at no cost to local taxpayers, to identify ways the district could save tax dollars.[156] After the review of the information, the district was not required to implement the recommended cost savings changes.

Real estate taxes[edit]

Property tax rates in 2013-14 were set at 13.0110 mills. A mill is $1 of tax for every $1,000 of a property's assessed value. Irregular property reassessments have become a serious issue in the commonwealth as it creates a significant disparity in taxation within a community and across regions. Property taxes, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, apply only to real estate - land and buildings. The property tax is not levied on cars, business inventory, or other personal property. Certain types of property are exempt from property taxes, including: places of worship, places of burial, private social clubs, charitable and educational institutions and government property. Additionally, service related, disabled US military veterans may seek an exemption from paying property taxes. Pennsylvania school district revenues are dominated by two main sources: 1) Property tax collections, which account for the vast majority (between 75-85%) of local revenues; and 2) Act 511 tax collections, which are around 15% of revenues for school districts.[157] When the school district includes municipalities in two counties, each of which has different rates of property tax assessment, a state board equalizes the tax rates between the counties.[158] In 2010, miscalculations by the State Tax Equalization Board (STEB) were widespread in the Commonwealth and adversely impacted funding for many school districts, including those that did not cross county borders.[159]

The school board is weighing spending $650,000 to add artificial turf to Buck Swank Athletic Field. The community's reaction is mixed. The project would require costly borrowing.[167] Several board members suggest raising the necessary funds through donation. There have also been calls to institute pay to play for all district athletics and extracurriculars, in order to ease the burden these programs create on local taxpayers.[168]

The average yearly property tax paid by Lebanon County residents amounts to about 3.2% of their yearly income. Lebanon County is ranked 501st of the 3143 United States counties for property taxes as a percentage of median income.[169] According to a report prepared by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, the total real estate taxes collected by all school districts in Pennsylvania rose from $6,474,133,936 in 1999-00 to $10,438,463,356 in 2008-09 and to $11,153,412,490 in 2011.[170]

Act 1 Adjusted Index[edit]

The Act 1 of 2006 Index regulates the rates at which each school district can raise property taxes in Pennsylvania. Districts are not allowed to raise taxes above that index unless they allow voters to vote by referendum, or they seek an exception from the state Department of Education. The base index for the 2011-2012 school year is 1.4 percent, but the Act 1 Index can be adjusted higher, depending on a number of factors, such as property values and the personal income of district residents. Act 1 included 10 exceptions, including: increasing pension costs, increases in special education costs, a catastrophe like a fire or flood, increase in health insurance costs for contracts in effect in 2006 or dwindling tax bases. The base index is the average of the percentage increase in the statewide average weekly wage, as determined by the PA Department of Labor and Industry, for the preceding calendar year and the percentage increase in the Employment Cost Index for Elementary and Secondary Schools, as determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the U.S. Department of Labor, for the previous 12-month period ending June 30. For a school district with a market value/personal income aid ratio (MV/PI AR) greater than 0.4000, its index equals the base index multiplied by the sum of .75 and its MV/PI AR for the current year.[171] In June 2011, the Pennsylvania General Assembly eliminated six of the ten the exceptions to the Act 1 Index.[172] The following exceptions were maintained: 1) costs to pay interest and principal on indebtedness incurred prior to September 4, 2004 for Act 72 schools and prior to June 27, 2006 for non-Act 72 schools; 2) costs to pay interest and principal on electoral debt; 3) costs incurred in providing special education programs and services (beyond what is already paid by the State); and 4) costs due to increases of more than the Index in the school’s share of payments to PSERS (PA school employees pension fund) taking into account the state mandated PSERS contribution rate.[173][174]

The School District Adjusted Index for the Palmyra Area School District 2006-2007 through 2011-2012.[175]

For the 2013-14 budget year, Palmyra Area School Board did not apply for exceptions to exceed their Act 1 Index limit. For the school budget year 2013-14, 311 Pennsylvania public school districts adopted a resolution certifying that tax rates would not be increased above their index. Another 171 school districts adopted a preliminary budget leaving open the option of exceeded the Index limit. For the exception for pension costs, 89 school districts received approval to exceed the Index in full while others received a partial approval of their request. For special education costs, 75 districts received approval to exceed their tax limit. For the pension costs exception, 169 school districts received approval to exceed the Index. Eleven Pennsylvania public school districts received an approval for grandfathered construction debts.[178]

For the 2012-13 budget year, Palmyra Area School Board apply for an exception to exceed the Act 1 Index due to sharply rising teacher pension costs. For 2012-2013, 274 school districts adopted a resolution certifying that tax rates would not be increased above their index; 223 school districts adopted a preliminary budget leaving open the option of exceeded the Index limit. For the exception for pension costs, 194 school districts received approval to exceed the Index. For special education costs, 129 districts received approval to exceed the tax limit.[179]

For the 2011-12 school year, Palmyra Area School Board applied for two exceptions to exceed the Act 1 Index: special education and pension costs. Each year, the Palmyra Area School Board has the option of adopting either 1) a resolution in January certifying they will not increase taxes above their index or 2) a preliminary budget in February. A school district adopting the resolution may not apply for referendum exceptions or ask voters for a tax increase above the inflation index. A specific timeline for these decisions is published annually, by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.[180]

According to a state report, for the 2011-2012 school year budgets, 247 school districts adopted a resolution certifying that tax rates would not be increased above their index; 250 school districts adopted a preliminary budget. Of the 250 school districts that adopted a preliminary budget, 231 adopted real estate tax rates that exceeded their index. Tax rate increases in the other 19 school districts that adopted a preliminary budget did not exceed the school district’s index. Of the districts who sought exceptions: 221 used the pension costs exemption and 171 sought a Special Education costs exemption. Only 1 school district sought an exemption for Nonacademic School Construction Project, while 1 sought an exception for Electoral debt for school construction.[181]

For 2010-11, Palmyra Area School Board applied for three exceptions to exceed the Act 1 index: maintenance of local revenue, special education costs and rising teacher pension costs.[182] For 2009-10 school budget, the Palmyra Area School Board applied for two exceptions to exceed the Index: grandfathered debt and special education costs.[183] In the Spring of 2010, 135 Pennsylvania school boards asked to exceed their adjusted index. Approval was granted to 133 of them and 128 sought an exception for pension costs increases.[184]

Property tax relief[edit]

In 2012, the Homestead/Farmstead Property Tax Relief was $52. In 2009, the Homestead/Farmstead Property Tax Relief from gambling for the Palmyra Area School District was $54 per approved permanent primary residence. This was among the lowest amounts in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. In the district, 6380 property owners applied for the tax relief. The relief was subtracted from the total annual school property tax bill. Property owners apply for the relief through the county Treasurer's office. Farmers can qualify for a farmstead exemption on building used for agricultural purposes. The farm must be at least 10 contiguous acres and must be the primary residence of the owner. Farmers can qualify for both the homestead exemption and the farmstead exemption.

Additionally, the Pennsylvania Property Tax/Rent Rebate program is provided for low income Pennsylvanians aged 65 and older; widows and widowers aged 50 and older; and people with disabilities age 18 and older. The income limit is $35,000 for homeowners. The maximum rebate for both homeowners and renters is $650. Applicants can exclude one-half (1/2) of their Social Security income, so people who make substantially more than $35,000 may still qualify for a rebate. Individuals must apply annually for the rebate.

Property taxes in Pennsylvania are relatively high on a national scale. According to the Tax Foundation, Pennsylvania ranked 11th in the U.S. in 2008 in terms of property taxes paid as a percentage of home value (1.34%) and 12th in the country in terms of property taxes as a percentage of income (3.55%).[185]

Wellness policy[edit]

Palmyra Area School Board established a district student wellness policy in 2006 - Policy 246.[186] The policy deals with nutritious meals served at school, the control of access to some foods and beverages during school hours, age appropriate nutrition education for all students, and physical education for students K-12. The policy is in response to state mandates and federal legislation (P.L. 108 - 265). The law dictates that each school district participating in a program authorized by the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (42 U.S.C. 1751 et seq) or the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 (42 U.S.C. 1771 et seq) "shall establish a local school wellness policy by School Year 2006."

The legislation placed the responsibility of developing a wellness policy at the local level so the individual needs of each district can be addressed. According to the requirements for the Local Wellness Policy, school districts must set goals for nutrition education and physical education that are aligned with the Pennsylvania State Academic Standards for Health, Safety and Physical Education, campus food provision, and other school-based activities designed to promote student wellness. Additionally, districts were required to involve a broad group of individuals in policy development and to have a plan for measuring policy implementation. Districts were offered a choice of levels of implementation for limiting or prohibiting low nutrition foods on the school campus. In final implementation these regulations prohibit some foods and beverages on the school campus.[187] The Pennsylvania Department of Education required the district to submit a copy of the policy for approval.

Palmyra Area District offers a free school breakfast and free or reduced-price lunch to children in low income families. All students attending the school can eat breakfast and lunch. Children from families with incomes at or below 130 percent of the federal poverty level are provided a breakfast and lunch at no cost to the family. Children from families with incomes between 130 and 185 percent of the federal poverty level can be charged no more than 30 cents per breakfast. A foster child whose care and placement is the responsibility of the State or who is placed by a court with a caretaker household is eligible for both a free breakfast and a free lunch. Runaway, homeless and Migrant Youth are also automatically eligible for free meals.[188] The meals are partially funded with federal dollars through the United States Department of Agriculture.[189]

In 2013, the USDA issued new restrictions to foods in public schools. The rules apply to foods and beverages sold on all public school district campuses during the day. They limit vending machine snacks to a maximum of 200 calories per item. Additionally, all snack foods sold at school must meet competitive nutrient standards, meaning they must have fruits, vegetables, dairy or protein in them or contain at least 10 percent of the daily value of fiber, calcium, potassium, and Vitamin D.[190] In order to comply with the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 all US public school districts are required to raise the price of their school lunches to $2.60 regardless of the actual cost of providing the lunch.[191]

Palmyra Area School District provides health services as mandated by the Commonwealth and the federal government. Nurses are available in each building to conduct annual health screenings (data reported to the PDE and state Department of Health) and to dispense prescribed medications to students during the school day. Students can be excluded from school unless they comply with all the State Department of Health’s extensive immunization mandates. School nurses monitor each pupil for this compliance.[192] Nurses also monitor each child's weight.

Intermediate Unit[edit]

Lancaster Lebanon Intermediate Unit (IU#13) region includes: Lebanon County and Lancaster County. The agency provides Palmyra Area School District, charter schools, the district's home schooled students and area private schools many services, including: Special education services, combined purchasing, and instructional technology services. It runs Sail Summer Academy which offers both art and academic strands designed to meet the individual needs of gifted, talented and high achieving students.[193] Additional services include: Curriculum Mapping, Professional Development for school employees, Adult Education, Nonpublic School Services, Business Services, Migrant & ESL (English as a Second Language), Instructional Services, Special Education, Management Services, and Technology Services. The IU 13 offers preemployment screening, including fingerprinting, for prospective public school employees.[194] It also provides a GED program to adults who want to earn a high school diploma and literacy programs. The Lancasert-Lebanon Intermediate Unit is governed by a 22-member Board of Directors, each a member of a local school board from the 22 school districts. Board members are elected by their fellow school directors for three-year terms that begin July 1. There are 29 intermediate units in Pennsylvania. They are funded by school districts, state and federal program specific funding and grants. IUs do not have the power to tax.[195]

Extracurriculars[edit]

The schools offers a variety of clubs, activities and an extensive, costly sports program. Eligibility for participation is determined by school board policy and the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association.[196] In accordance with Pennsylvania law, the Board has adopted a concussion management policy.[197]

By Pennsylvania law, all K-12 students in the district, including those who attend a private nonpublic school, cyber charter school, charter school and those homeschooled, are eligible to participate in the extracurricular programs, including all athletics. They must meet the same eligibility rules as the students enrolled in the district's schools.[198]

Sports[edit]

The District funds:

Junior high school sports

According to PIAA directory July 2012 [199]

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  179. ^ Pennsylvania Department of Education, Report on Referendum Exceptions For School Year 2012-2013, March 30, 2012
  180. ^ Pennsylvania Department of Education (2011). "Special Session Act 1 of 2006 the Taxpayer Relief Act information". 
  181. ^ Pennsylvania Department of Education (April 2011). "Report on Exceptions". 
  182. ^ Pennsylvania Department of Education (May 2010). "Report on Referendum Exceptions for 2010-2011". 
  183. ^ Pennsylvania Department of Education (May 2009). "Report on Referendum Exceptions for 2009-2010". 
  184. ^ Scarcella, Frank and Pursell, Tricia (May 25, 2010). "Local school tax assessments exceed state averages". The Daily Item. 
  185. ^ New Census Data on Property Taxes on Homeowners, Tax Foundation, September 22, 2009.
  186. ^ Palmyra Area School Board, Palmyra Area School Board Policy Manual, 2006
  187. ^ Nutrition Standards for Competitive Foods in Pennsylvania Schools for the School Nutrition Incentive, Pennsylvania Department of Education — Division of Food and Nutrition. July 2008
  188. ^ USDA, Child Nutrition Programs - Eligibility Manual for School Meals, 2012
  189. ^ Pennsylvania Hunger Action Center, The Pennsylvania School Breakfast Report Card, 2009
  190. ^ USDA, Child Nutrition Programs, June 27, 2013
  191. ^ United States Department of Agriculture (2011). "Food and Nutrition Service Equity in School Lunch Pricing Fact Sheet". 
  192. ^ Pennsylvania State Department of Health (2010). "Pennsylvania Bulletin Doc. No. 10-984 School Immunizations; Communicable and Noncommunicable Diseases". 
  193. ^ Project SAIL Summer Enrichment Camps
  194. ^ IU13 Clearances Information
  195. ^ Spotlight on Savings, IU13 publication. March 2010
  196. ^ Palmyra Area School Board Policy Manual (2005). "Extracurriculars Policy 122 and Interscholastic Athletics Policy 123". 
  197. ^ Palmyra Area School District (September 13, 2013). "Concussion Management Policy". 
  198. ^ Pennsylvania Office of the Governor Press Release, (November 10, 2005). "Home-Schooled, Charter School Children Can Participate in School District Extracurricular Activities,". 
  199. ^ Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletics Association (2012). "PIAA School Directory". 

Coordinates: 40°17′07″N 76°34′59″W / 40.28528°N 76.58294°W / 40.28528; -76.58294