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A Message from the Superintendent -- Jan. 2, 2022

A Message from the Superintendent

Dear BASD Families,

Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday break. As I reflect on last school year and this fall, I can’t express how thankful and grateful I am that our students are back in school. Not merely for being allowed back in school, but also for the extraordinary work of students, teachers, parents and a large cast of other employees and community members who have made it possible to return and stay open.

We, like many organizations, have been operating without being fully staffed. This means that many employees are doing a lot of extra work. It also means that we have been reliant on volunteers to help our students and our schools. Thank you to all who have helped.

I would like to take an opportunity to update you on a number of items. I respect that not everyone has time to read long emails. Therefore, I broke the information into sections, so you can decide which areas you would like to read. Below is a list of the topics discussed in this message.

  • COVID-19
  • Student Behavior
  • Senior High School Construction Project Update
  • Employment
  • High School Renewal

 

COVID-19

I was hoping that the need to provide updates regarding Covid would diminish. Unfortunately, that is not the case. The mask mandate for schools in Pennsylvania ended on December 10. On that date, we had 30 reported positive cases among students and employees. On December 21st, we had 9. We report the cases daily on our website. I know some of you watch it daily and I want to be upfront and transparent that I do not believe this is an accurate reflection of the positive Covid cases among those affiliated with the school district. My guess is the shift to at home Covid tests, along with people only experiencing minor symptoms and thus choosing not to get tested, really diminishes the accuracy of our dashboard data. 

I have been asked what will happen if we have a significant number of positive Covid cases in one of our schools.

The reality is that it depends. The recommendations and advice from the medical community is very different from last year. Full school closures are not a preferred strategy. There is no longer a set number of cases that would require us to temporarily close a school. At this point, targeted mitigation strategies are recommended. This may include moving a classroom with a cluster of positive cases into a larger room where everyone can be socially distanced. It may also include moving a specific class to remote instruction or temporarily closing a specific program or activity.

I recognize the incredible disruption not having school has on our students and families. Thus, our goal is to operate if we can. My greatest concern for a disruption to the normal operation of our schools is a staffing shortage. If too many employees are out at the same time, we may not be able to operate in a normal manner. Since this is compounded by staffing shortages, I will discuss this in more detail later in this communication.

If you have questions regarding Covid or other health related concerns, I encourage you to speak to your healthcare provider.

 

Student Behavior

This year, we have experienced a lot of behavioral issues. Some of these can be attributed to mental health needs. However, I believe many are the result of children not developing appropriate interpersonal skills as a result of the isolation caused by the pandemic restrictions.

Some of the behavioral issues are minor and are quickly addressed by redirection or reinforcement through the PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports) program. Unfortunately, some other behavioral issues are more complicated and more intense. In some cases, we have had injuries as a result of trying to manage student behavior. We cannot accept or normalize disruptive behavior. However, it is not always as simple as addressing behavior with consequences, particularly with students who have been identified as a special education student and their behavior is a manifestation of their disability.

Therefore, we are going to have to be deliberate, purposeful and committed to prioritizing our approach to handling behavior issues across the district. This includes defining what acceptable behavior looks like, being consistent in our responses to unwanted behaviors and consistently engaging resources when needed.

To help lead this effort, we have created and are interviewing for a new position. For this role, we are seeking an individual who is a Board Certified Behavioral Analyst with expertise and background in this area to help lead and guide our efforts to address behavioral issues and create an environment that is conducive to educating all children. 

In addition, we are making arrangements to offer training to our paraprofessional employees, so they can become registered behavioral technicians.

I envision a variety of programs that are specific to individual students as well as targeted groups of students. I also envision a framework for managing behavior across the district. In addition, I anticipate parent information sessions and informational materials explaining the detailed framework. 

 

Senior High School Construction Project Update

The Senior High School construction project is underway. This project includes a classroom addition and an auxiliary gym.

Classroom Addition:

The Butler Area School District is proposing a new classroom wing addition and renovation of the existing Athletic Department on the Senior High School campus. The total project consists of nearly 34,000sq. ft. of new and renovated space. The classroom addition wing will feature 11 new classrooms, a Large Group Instruction (LGI) space, a JROTC learning center, a musical technology classroom, and a STEM Instruction Center. The renovation portion of the project will include new varsity and physical education locker rooms, fitness center, training room and an athletic department suite. Situated between the existing cafeteria and existing gym facility, this project will help create a new front door image for the campus.
 

Auxiliary Gym:

The Butler Area School District is proposing the construction of a new auxiliary gym adjacent to the existing gym and athletic facility on the Senior High School campus. The new 20,000sq. ft. auxiliary gym will include a new playing surface/court with seating for 350 spectators. The project will also consist of additional locker rooms and office space for the athletic department. A new connecting lobby will be constructed between the new auxiliary gym and existing gym facility.

Butler Auxiliary Gym - Exterior Butler Auxiliary Gym - Interior Butler Classroom - Corridor at Garage Butler Classroom - Corridor at STEM Butler Classroom - STEM Butler Senior High School Classroom Addition - Gym Entry Butler Senior High School Classroom Addition - Student Entry

At this point, the contractors are reporting difficulty in getting materials and supplies. The construction management team is working with the contractors to try and help secure materials for our project. We have not yet been officially informed of any delays to the construction schedule, but we are making plans in case the project is not completed on schedule. 

It is our intent to move the ninth grade to the Senior High School starting next year (2022-2023 school year) even if the construction project is not completed. We also intend to move the sixth grade to the Intermediate High School and the fifth grade to the elementary schools in the 2022-2023 school year.

 

Employment

We continue to have numerous positions available. Employment opportunities for the school district can be found on our website: https://www.basdk12.org/Employment. If you are looking for work, I encourage you to take a look at our vacant positions and apply.

In addition, Valley Lines is still in need of bus drivers and monitors. To apply, please contact 724-287-0003.

Currently 43.95% of Butler Area School District students qualify for free and reduced lunch.  Many of these students and families receive support through the generosity of our community, including backpacks of food, Christmas presents and clothing.  We are blessed to have generous community members and businesses that are committed to helping those in need. 

While I’m grateful for everything our community provides to those in need, I am really concerned that many of these families living below the poverty line will never get above it. Some of these families have parents who work multiple jobs that don’t have family sustaining wages, some have no work and others have disabilities that prevent them from working.

When I arrived at Butler in 2017, it struck me how community members and employees spoke nostalgically about what Butler once was. They often reference that when the mills were fully operational, times were better for everyone and the city prospered. That may or not be accurate, but it is the perception of many.

Today we find ourselves in a truly unique economic situation. Almost all of the manufacturing operations are hiring. Employers can’t find workers, yet almost half of our student body resides in a home that qualifies for free or reduced lunch. I recognize that there are many jobs open that don’t pay enough to change the economic dynamics for a family.  However, we do have employers with jobs that are offering family sustaining wages with little or no prequalifications.

As a school district, we interact with many of these employers. We also interact with many of our families that are struggling to make ends meet. If you would like us to connect you to employment opportunities as we become aware of them, please complete this quick online form (https://forms.gle/GRbnR9wP5thC1HYr6) or let your child’s building principal know.  We will pass employment opportunities along to you as we become aware of them.

 

High School Renewal

As I shared this summer, we are taking this year to engage in a high school renewal project. The intent of this is to both reflect on our current practices and dream about the future. The goal for this year's work is to culminate our thoughts in a framework that will be called our BASD Portrait of the Graduate. 

The insights, thoughts and ideas provided by community members, students, parents, teachers and staff has been outstanding. I am very excited with what we’ve accomplished and what’s still to come. One of the next steps in our process is to ask students (grades 9-12), parents and teachers what they believe is the purpose of school and their perceptions about what other students, teachers and parents believe is the purpose of school.

We will be surveying each of these three groups separately and anonymously. We will be sharing the results publicly. As with any student survey, the questions are available for parents. If you would like to review the survey and your student is grades 10-12, please contact Dr. Wyllie, Senior High School Principal. If your student is in 9th grade, please contact Mr. Stephen Dobransky, Intermediate High School Principal.

 

Thank You!

We want your child to be successful. If you think we can better serve your child or assist you for the benefit of your child, please contact us. You are welcome to reach out to any administrator, including me for help.

I know this is a lot of information and I appreciate you taking the time to read it. I hope you and your family have a great 2022!  

Sincerely, 

Brian J. White, Jr., Ed.D.
Superintendent
Butler Area School District





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