Tuscarora School District

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Tuscarora School District
118 East Seminary Street
Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, Franklin, 17236
United States
School board9 elected members
SuperintendentDr. Rebecca Erb
Grade 1164
Grade 2179
Grade 3193
Grade 4195
Grade 5251
Grade 6199
Grade 7216
Grade 8232
Grade 9195
Grade 10194
Grade 11201
Grade 12177
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Tuscarora School District
118 East Seminary Street
Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, Franklin, 17236
United States
School board9 elected members
SuperintendentDr. Rebecca Erb
Grade 1164
Grade 2179
Grade 3193
Grade 4195
Grade 5251
Grade 6199
Grade 7216
Grade 8232
Grade 9195
Grade 10194
Grade 11201
Grade 12177

The Tuscarora School District is a misdized, rural, public school district located in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. It encompasses the borough of Mercersburg, as well as St. Thomas Township, Peters Township, Montgomery Township, and Warren Township. The District consists of four K-5 elementary schools (Saint Thomas, Mountain View, Mercersburg, Montgomery), a grade 6-8 James Buchanan Middle School and James Buchanan Senior High School (grades 9-12).

The Tuscarora School District covers an area of 201 square miles (520 km2), stretching north-south from just south of 40 degrees north latitude to the Maryland border and from east of the 78 degree west longitude line to just west of Chambersburg, PA. The District is primarily a rural agricultural area with a total population of approximately 17,000 people. [2] Tuscarora, the name of the mountain on the western boundary, is derived from the Tuscarora Tribe of the Iroquois Confederation. The Tribe came north from the Carolinas about 1713 and settled for a time along the mountains. The name Tuscarora comes from the Indian name Skaruron or hemp gatherers. Conococheague, the name of the creek that flows through the District on its way from the Path Valley south to the Potomac River, is an Indian name from the Delaware Tribe meaning clear water.



The 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.[3] The federal government, through the US Department of Education, 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 federal resources on student success in acquiring adequate 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.[4]

Board of Education


District Mission

We make sure every child is known by name. We explicitly teach our kids to be resilient. We praise student effort. We make sure each child makes standard-based academic progress. We emphasize the development of 21st century skills in our daily work with students. We are positive role models for our students.

District Vision

Tuscarora School District is a place where every child is known by name. Staff in the District use teaching strategies to enhance resilience in our students. This means our kids know how to bounce back from the bad days we all have from time to time. We find ways everyday to praise student effort. Although we respect student ability, we know student effort is more important in the long run. We find ways to reinforce and reward our students' hard work. As administrators and teachers, we work as collaborative teams to ensure each student is making academic progress. We do this by using a variety of assessment data and teaching strategies to move our students to the next level, whatever that level may be. We acknowledge that our students will be citizens of a world that is characterized by constant change and that they will need 21st century skill sets to thrive in the future. By our words and actions each day, our students will know we intend to make this vision a reality in our school district.


Academic Achievement

Tuscarora School District was ranked 388th out of the 498 ranked Pennsylvania school districts in 2011, by the Pittsburgh Business Times. The ranking was based on student academic achievement as demonstrated by 3 years of PSSA results in: reading, writing, math, and three years of science.[5]

Graduation Rate

In 2011, the graduation rate was 90%. [8] In 2010, the Pennsylvania Department of Education issued a new, 4 year cohort graduation rate. Tuscarora School District's rate was 81% for 2010. [9]

Former calculation graduation rate

Tuscarora School District student achievement is in the bottom 11th percentile of Pennsylvania's 500 school district. Scale (0-99; 100 is state best)[14]

James Buchanan Senior High School

In 2011, James Buchanan Senior HIgh School is in Making Progress: in School Improvement II status due to lagging student achievement. [15] In 2010, the high school was in 'School Improvement II due to chronically low student achievement.[16]

11th Grade Reading

11th Grade Math:

11th Grade Science:

College Remediation

According to a Pennsylvania Department of Education study released in January 2009, 11% of Tuscarora 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.[25] 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.[26] 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. [27] [28]

Dual enrollment

The James Buchanan 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, including the graduation ceremony. 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 offered a small grant to assist students in costs for tuition, fees and books.[29] Under the Pennsylvania Transfer and Articulation Agreement, many Pennsylvania colleges and universities accept these credits for students who transfer to their institutions.[30] The Pennsylvania College Credit Transfer System reported in 2009, that students saved nearly $35.4 million by having their transferred credits count towards a degree under the new system.[31]

For the 2009-10 funding year, the school district received a state grant of $7,968 for the program.[32]

Graduation requirements

The Tuscarora School Board has determined that, in order to graduate, a student must earn 23.5 credits including: 4 Credits of English; 3 Credits of Math; 3.5 Credits of Social Science; 3 Credits of Science; 2 Credits of Physical Education; Tech Exploration 0.5 credits;; 0.5 Credit Units of Driver’s Education; 0.5 Credits Of Family Economics and Development. [33]

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.[34]

By Pennsylvania School Board regulations, for the graduating classes of 2015 and 2016, students must demonstrate successful completion of secondary level course work in Algebra I, Biology, English Composition, and Literature for which the Keystone Exams serve as the final course exams. Students’ Keystone Exam scores shall count for at least one-third of the final course grade.[35] [36]

Middle School

In 2011 and 2010, James Buchanan Middle School achieved AYP status. [37] For the 2010 and 2011 school years, the attendance rate at the school was reported at 94%. [38]

PSSA Results

8th Grade Reading

  • 2011 - 82% on grade level (8% below basic). In Pennsylvania, 81.8% of 8th graders on grade level.
  • 2010 - 74% (10% below basic). State - 81%
  • 2009 - 81% (10% below basic), State - 80% [39]
  • 2008 - 78% (10% below basic), State - 78% [40]
  • 2007 - 77% (6% below basic), State - 75%

8th Grade Math:

  • 2011 - 73% on grade level (13% below basic). State - 76.9% [41]
  • 2010 - 67% (19% below basic), State - 75% [42]
  • 2009 - 73% (14% below basic), State - 71% [43]
  • 2008 - 71% (16% below basic), State - 70%
  • 2007 - 70% (15% below basic), State - 68%

8th Grade Science:

7th Grade Reading

  • 2011 - 80% on grade level (6% below basic). State – 76%
  • 2010 - 74% (10% below basic). State - 73%
  • 2009 - 65% (13% below basic), State - 71%
  • 2008 - 74% (12% below basic), State - 70%
  • 2007 - 75% (12% below basic), State - 67%

7th Grade Math:

  • 2011 - 77% on grade level (13% below basic). State - 78.6%
  • 2010 - 73% (13% below basic). State - 77%
  • 2009 - 67% (18% below basic), State - 75%
  • 2008 - 73% (15% below basic), State - 71%
  • 2007 - 66% (17% below basic), State - 67%

6th Grade Reading:

  • 2011 - 66% on grade level (19% below basic). State - 69.9%
  • 2010 - 65% (17% below basic). State - 68%
  • 2009 - 65% (13% below basic), State - 67%
  • 2008 - 63% (16% below basic), State - 67%
  • 2007 - 63% (13% below basic), State - 63%

6th Grade Math:

  • 2011 - 67% on grade level (19% below basic). State - 78.8%
  • 2010 - 77% (11% below basic). State - 78%
  • 2009 - 58% (15% below basic), State - 75%
  • 2008 - 59% (21% below basic), State - 72%
  • 2007 - 63% (16% below basic), State - 69%

Special Education

In December 2009, the district administration reported that 387 pupils or 14.9% of the district's pupils received Special Education services. [47]

In order to comply with state and federal laws, the school district engages in identification procedures to ensure that eligible students receive an appropriate educational program consisting of special education and related services, individualized to meet student needs. At no cost to the parents, these services are provided in compliance with state and federal law; and are reasonably calculated to yield meaningful educational benefit and student progress.[48] To identify students who may be eligible for special education, various screening activities are conducted on an ongoing basis. These screening activities include: review of group-based data (cumulative records, enrollment records, health records, report cards, ability and achievement test scores); hearing, vision, motor, and speech/language screening; and review by the Special Education administration. 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 Special Education Department. [49] [50]

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. [51]

Tuscarora School District received a $1,590,739 supplement for special education services in 2010.[52] For the 2011-12 school year, all Pennsylvania public school districts received the same level of funding for special education that they received in 2010. 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.[53]

Gifted Education

The District Administration reported that 31 or 1.14% of its students were gifted in 2009.[54] By law, the district must provide mentally gifted programs at all grade levels. 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.[55]


In 2007, the district employed 180 teachers. The average teacher salary in the district was $50,704 for 187 days worked (180 pupil days). [56] 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.[57] Additionally, the teachers receive a defined benefit pension (PSERS), health insurance, professional development reimbursement, paid personal days, 10 paid sick days, life insurance, retirement bonus and other benefits. Two union representatives receive t paid days to attend the teacher union convention each year. The Union President is allotted one paid day per month to conduct union business during the school day. [58] According to Rep. Glen Grell, a trustee of the state teacher retirement fund, a 40-year Pennsylvania public school educator can retire with a pension equal to 100 percent of their final salary.[59]

Tuscarora School District administrative costs per pupil was $537.71 in 2008. The lowest administrative cost per pupil in Pennsylvania was $398 per pupil. [60] In 2008, the district reported spending $11,242 per pupil which ranked 372nd in the Commonwealth. [61]

The district is funded by a combination of: a local earned income tax, a local real property tax, a real estate transfer tax 0.5%, and a per capita tax, coupled with substantial funding from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the federal government.[62] Grants provide an opportunity to supplement school funding without raising local taxes. In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, pension income and Social Security income are exempted from state personal income tax and local earned income tax regardless of the income level.[63]

Unreserved Funds

In 2008, the district reported a $2,614,993 in a unreserved-undesignated fund balance and $1,846,064.00 in a unreserved-designated fund[64]

State basic education funding

In 2011-12, the district received a $7,705,749 allocation, of state Basic Education Funding.[65] Additionally, the district will receive $138,330 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. [66] 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.[67] In 2010, the district reported that 782 students received free or reduced price lunches, due to the family meeting the federal poverty level.[68]

For the 2010-11 budget year, Tucarora School District was allotted a 4.25% increase in Basic Education Funding for a total of $8,129,373. The highest increase, in Franklin County, was provided to Chambersburg Area School District which received a 7.08% 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. [69] The amount of increase each school district receives is set by the Governor and the Secretary of Education as a part of the state budget proposal given each February. [70]

In 2009–2010, Tuscarora School District received an 5.50% increase in Basic Education Funding for a total of $8,129,374. The highest increase in among Franklin County public school districts, went to Tuscarora School District In Pennsylvania, over 15 school districts received Basic Education Funding increases in excess of 10% in 2009. Muhlenberg School District in Berks County received the highest with a 22.31% increase in funding. The state's Basic Education Funding to Tuscarora School District in 2008–09 was $7,705,748.90.[71] The amount of increase each school district receives is determined by the Governor and the Secretary of Education through the allocation set in the state budget proposal made in February each year.[72] In 2008, the district reported that 776 students received free or reduced price lunches due to low family income.[73]

Accountability Block Grants

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 district applied for and received $375,464 in addition to all other state and federal funding. Tuscarora School District used the funding to provide all day kindergarten; to provide teachers with training to improve instruction and to make research based changes in the curriculum and instruction.[74][75]

Classrooms for the Future grant

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. Tuscarora School District Administration did not apply for funding in any of the three years of the program.[76]

Education Assistance Program

The EAP initiative provides extended learning opportunities and is designed to boost student achievement and help all students succeed by utilizing evidenced-based instructional models. The funding provides tutoring in Math and Reading for students in grades 7-12. Tutoring is provided during the school day, during study halls and after school. In 2010-11, the Tuscarora School District received $61,355.[77]

Federal Stimulus Grant

The district received an extra $2,672,668 in ARRA – Federal Stimulus money to be used in specific programs like special education and meeting the academic needs of low income students. This was in addition to all regular state and federal funding. [78] This funding is for 2009-10 and 2010–2011 school years.

Race to the Top grant

School district officials did not apply for the Race to the Top federal grant which would have brought the district millions of additional federal dollars for improving student academic achievement.[79] Participation required the administration, the school board and the local teachers' union to sign an agreement to prioritize improving student academic success. [80] In Pennsylvania, 120 public school districts and 56 charter schools agreed to participate.[81] Pennsylvania was not approved for the grant. The failure of school districts to agree to participate was cited as one reason that Pennsylvania was not approved. [82]

Real estate taxes

Property tax rates in 2011 were set at 107.9100 mills by the Tuscarora School Board. 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 a region. [83] 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.[84]

Act 1 Adjusted index

The Act 1 of 2006 Index regulates the rates at which each school district can raise property taxes in Pennsylvania. Districts are not permitted to raise taxes above that index, unless they allow voters to vote by referendum, or they seek an exception from the Pennsylvania 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.[89] With the 2011 state education budget, the General Assembly voted to end most of the Act 1 exceptions leaving only special education costs and pension costs. The cost of construction projects will go to the voters for approval via ballot referendum.[90]

The School District Adjusted Index for Tuscarora School District 2006-2007 through 2011-2012.[91]

For the 2011-12 school year, Tuscarora School Board did not apply for an exception to exceed the Act 1 Index. Each year, Tuscarora 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.[93]

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.[94]

Tuscarora School Board did not apply for any exceptions to exceed the Act 1 index for the budget in 2010-11. [95] For 2009-10, the board did not apply for exceptions.[96] 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.[97]

Property tax relief

In 2009, the Homestead/Farmstead Property Tax Relief from gambling for the Tuscarora School District was set per approved permanent primary residence and farmstead. 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.


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