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Article published February 22, 2013
Jennifer Walters Slippery Rock Township
As I read the Feb. 15 letter “No haste on Har-Mer,” my blood began to boil because there are some serious accusations in the letter that are not backed by research. I am a parent of two children enrolled at Slippery Rock Elementary School, and I attended and spoke at the Feb. 4 public hearing on Har-Mer Elementary’s proposed closing. One of the comments made in the Feb. 15 letter was that, of the five schools in the Slippery Rock School District, Har-Mer is the only one that passed the mandated state testing. That is a very misleading comment. Yes, Har-Mer was the only one to pass the testing, but what wasn’t taken into account was that Har-Mer does not have enough special education children to have their test scores included. Slippery Rock and Moraine elementary schools do have enough special education students for their numbers to be captured in the overall scores. The person who wrote the Feb. 15 letter said he had “serious issues with the numbers that were included in Superintendent Kathleen Nogay’s presentation at the hearing.” Every school district is required to submit enrollment numbers to the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The Education Department lists enrollment figures on its Web page, but those are Oct. 1 numbers. If there are more or fewer students the day prior to or the day after Oct. 1, those numbers aren’t accounted for on the Education Department’s Web page. Thus, Nogay didn’t misrepresent enrollment numbers at the public hearing by presenting up-to-date numbers that deviated from the Education Department’s Oct. 1 numbers. The Feb. 15 letter said there also are issues regarding loss of federal Title I money for Har-Mer for the current year. “Some insiders believe that funding loss was due to a lack of foresight by the administration,” the writer said. Those grants are issued to schools based upon the number of children from lower-income families. The grant numbers reflect the number of children who receive free or reduced-price meals. If Title I money was not available to Har-Mer this year, it is because it did not qualify, based on Department of Education standards. The basics of Title I should be examined before anyone relies on some “insider’s” beliefs. I too believe that the board’s school-closing decision must be based on correct data. As parents, we also need to make sure we are obtaining correct information. I can understand why parents want Har-Mer to stay open, it is a great local school with low enrollment; the children receive individualized instruction due to small class sizes. Har-Mer has 99 children this year; next year the enrollment is projected to drop. Our district has a deficit of more than $850,000 for next year. We cannot keep operating a building with such a small enrollment number. We have empty space at the other two elementary schools.