BUSINESS

Hoover touts current ‘State of the District’

JOYCE F. NOWELL, Echo Pilot

Compared to other school districts in Pennsylvania, Greencastle-Antrim is fairing pretty well, both educationally and financially, according to the State of the District presented by Dr. C. Greg Hoover, district superintendent, to the school board last week.

After Hoover pointed out a slew of statistics from data compiled by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, board member Tracy Baer summed it up, “So what you are saying is we have less teachers educating more students and our scores are still going up?” “And we’re doing it for less money,” Hoover confirmed.

Population

There were 2,119 students enrolled in G-A in the 1989-90 school year. The student population has only grown from there, according to Hoover. Enrollment has grown by nearly 15 percent in the past decade and nearly 40 percent over the last 20 years.

“In 2010-11 we had a drop of 14 students and everyone thought at that time, oh here’s the trend, housing and construction have slowed down and we’re going to lose kids and it’s going to start going that way,” related Hoover. “Well, it didn’t. There were 47 new students the next year and 52 this year. And that’s one of the bigger numbers we’ve had in recent  years, so we are continuing to grow.”

Hoover pointed out that the largest kindergarten class ever in the district came in at 230 two years ago. The previous high was 220.

Last year 220 were expected and just 190 enrolled, however four years ago only 160 enrolled in kindergarten and that class was up to 199 by third-grade and now stands at 207 as fifth-graders.

“They just keep growing and coming in,” said the superintendent, “and there’s not much we can do to slow it down.”

That largest kindergarten class ever is now at 238 from the 230.

The current kindergarten class is at 235.

“Growth continues. It doesn’t matter how you look at it. They are still coming,” Hoover said.

Size and funding

Using state education numbers for enrollment and expenditures, Hoover figured where G-A stands in per student expenditures.

Two years ago G-A was the 177th largest of the 500 Pennsylvania school districts and is now the 151th largest. Meanwhile the per pupil expenditure was $10,468.35 two years ago and has dropped slightly to $10,458.73. Those numbers put G-A at the 10th lowest per pupil spending in the state two years ago and now at the fourth lowest.

“To be honest with you, it’s not something that we want to be number one in. It sounds really good, but I don’t think it’s something we want to cheer about...spending less money than all others. I think we do a good job with our expenditures,” Hoover said.

Hoover noted that the state average from per pupil expenditures two years ago was $14,455.10 and is now $15,258.15.

“If we were at the state average, we would spend $4,800 more per student and times that by our 3,048 students our budget would climb $15 million, or adding 78.7 mills to our budget,” Hoover postulated.

“Needless to say, we are keeping expenditures under control.”

Local taxes

Under the state’s aid ratio based on personal income and market value, G-A ranks as the 158th richest school district in the state. That is up from the 181st ranking two years ago.

“The state says that we have the ability to pay locally better than most school districts, so our support from the state and federal governments aren’t as high as most,” the superintendent said.

“We’re up there in the ability to pay locally. A lot of times people don’t want to hear that in Greencastle and I understand that, but these are the facts.”

The percentage of the district budget covered by local taxes was at 63.97 percent two years ago and has now grown to 66.40 percent.

Hoover related, “All things equal we have to generate $5 million more locally (or 24.5 mills) than a school district with the same budget that only has to produce half of its funding locally. Two years ago that was 28.8 more mills.

“Think about what it would mean if we had $5 million more sitting in our budget.”

Hoover explained that the state had at one point given funding based on population, however that has changed to a 2 to 3 percent increase each year.

“Our population went on the increase, but we didn’t get any more increase from the state. However, you’ll never get it changed because the only ones that it’s killing are the ones sitting along the borders of Maryland and New York because they are the only ones growing. If we went back to that formula again they would lose money, so we will never we able to change that.”

Staff comparisons

G-A’s student to professional staff ratio is 16.7, up from 16.07 two years ago. Hoover said that current ratio puts G-A among the top five in the state. The state average is 13.7.

“To be at the state average, we’d have to add 67 teachers,” he said, “We’re not overstaffed in teachers and professional employees.”

The ratio for student to administrative staff for G-A is at 227.00, compared to a state average of 162.50.

“To be at the state average, we’d have to add six administrative positions,” Hoover added.

“We’re not overstaffed. You always hear, let’s cut administrators.

That’s an easy thing to say, but the truth of the matter is we’re not overstaffed.”

Test scores

In the past decade the state assessment test (PSSA) scores for G-A students have dropped just once, showing a climb of 20.5 percent during that time period. In the past five years the scores have elevated by 13.1 percent.

During the past seven years, G-A has at times been above the state average in SAT scores and close or above the national average. In 2011 it dropped below the state and is now one point below the state average.

“We keep getting better on the PSSA test,” related Hoover. “And we’re still doing very well on the SATs. A big factor there is the number of kids who are taking it.

“The top 11 states in SAT scores did not even have double digit participation. Pennsylvania was ranked 40th in SAT scores, but we are at 73 percent participation. Again the top 11 didn’t even have 10 percent taking it. If we took our 9 percent best students, we would probably be ranked fairly high on that.”

Officials pointed out that participation in the SAT by G-A students is growing with 61 more students taking the test last year. They added that 70 percent of G-A students go on to post secondary education.