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Community's input sought on how to push Moon's schools into state's top 1 percent

| Wednesday, April 30, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

The Moon Area School District's standing is good, but it could be better, officials said.

The district said it ranks in the top 10 percent among 500 school districts in Pennsylvania, but it wants to move into the top 1 percent.

As a step toward that goal, 18 community sessions will be held with parents, teachers, business owners and others to collect suggestions for doing so, Superintendent Curt Baker said.

“My belief is that great ideas are going to emerge from that,” he said.

Every six years, school districts are required to submit to the Pennsylvania Department of Education strategic plans that include educational and organizational goals related to student achievement, as well as professional development goals.

When Baker interviewed for the superintendent's position last year, he told the school board his goal of moving Moon Area to the top 1 percent was a priority, board President A. Michael Olszewski said.

“I think he's a true visionary. He knows where he wants to go and how he wants to get there,” Olszewski said.

Moon Area High School ranked 17th out of 688 high schools in the state based on Pennsylvania School Performance Profile results released this year, board member Jerry Testa said.

Among U.S. News & World Report's 2014 ranking of the top 56 high schools in Pennsylvania, Upper St. Clair's was ranked sixth, Hampton's was 11th and North Allegheny's was 12th. Moon Area's high school was not ranked.

Moon Area's administrative staff crafted nine questions around which the strategic plan will be built. Topics include:

• Determining what it will take for Moon Area schools to become the No. 1 reason people to move to Moon and Crescent.

• The role technology should play.

• Steps to take to ensure Moon Area students and graduates are sought by colleges, the military and employers.

• Attracting and retaining high-caliber teachers.

Each of the nine questions will discussed during two of the 18 community sessions this month in the district's administrative offices. The plan must be completed by June 30.

The level of community involvement in the planning process will be more extensive than in previous years, and the process will allow more of a cross section of ideas, board Treasurer Laura Schisler said.

The Moon Area district enrolls 3,681 students who live in Moon and Crescent.

Because the district's goal is ambitious, it will require buy-in from the community, not just parents and teachers, Baker said. How long it will take to achieve that goal has not been decided, he said, but the district needs to show aggressive progress.

“I think a year is too short, and I think that a decade is too long,” he said.

Part of the shift will include getting the right staff members in the right places, zeroing in on good lesson plans and making sure that students develop mastery and critical thinking skills in every course, Baker said. Fiscal responsibility, safe and appropriate learning environments and capital structures also will factor into the plans.

One issue that might come up is a controversial proposal to close Brooks Elementary School and spend an estimated $25 million to expand Hyde and renovate Allard elementary schools.

Melissa Connelly, 39, president of the Allard Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization, said she wants the district to keep its five elementary schools.

“I am satisfied with the education my kids are getting here because they have beautiful schools, they have beautiful facilities and they have a top-of-the-line education,” said Connelly, who has two daughters, 7 and 9 years old, attending Allard and a 5-year-old daughter in preschool.

Sherri Perfett, 52, vice president of the Moon Area Middle School Parent Teacher Group and mother of two middle and high school sons, ages 12 and 15, also likes the five-elementary-school model, but said the district might find a change to be beneficial in five to 10 years.

The board is scheduled to vote on the elementary school construction on June 23.

In addition to the strategic planning meetings, the district will hold roundtable discussions about the elementary school plan between Thursday and June 2 at the elementary schools.

Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or

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