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South Butler board still fuzzy on state scoring system

| Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013, 7:27 a.m.

South Butler School District officials hope Friday's rollout of the state's new Performance School Profile shows positive scores for the district.

The new system, however, seemed to be in a state of flux during Wednesday night's board meeting, less than 48 hours before the ratings will become official.

The profile system replaces the Annual Yearly Progress measurement formerly used by the state.

As evidence of the confusion, Assistant Superintendent Michael Leitera said the state gave him three updated scores for Knoch High School on Wednesday.

Knoch had an 87.7 rating around lunchtime Wednesday. By 3:20 p.m., he said the rating was 83.5.

Officials noted that the figure could change again by the time the state releases Friday's official figures.

And South Butler administrators say the state plans to release revised figures in January once the bugs have been worked out of the system.

When asked by reporters what the ratings number meant, Leitera said that officials won't know until Friday when South Butler's scores can be compared to other districts.

“It's a complicated process,” Leitera said. “We don't know what the norm is. There is more data considered than before, and the goal is greater transparency and accountability for districts.”

Students who attend vocational/technical schools also will be considered.

Each school in each district will be rated. In South Butler's case, the primary, intermediate, middle school and senior high buildings will get their own numerical rating.

Starting on Friday, parents, community members, businesses and institutions, real estate agents and others can log onto the state Department of Education's website, www.pde.state.pa.us, and find the scores of districts in the School Performance Profile box in the lower-right corner of the department's home page.

In other business

• The district hired Lou Ann Ross as a part-time grant writer at a salary not to exceed $25,000.

Ross' duties will include seeking governmental and private industry grants available to the school district as what officials are calling “alternate revenue sources.”

Ross also will work as a liaison to the newly-formed Knights Foundation, a group designed to seek other forms of funding for school district activities aside from taxation and subsidies.

• Representatives of The Nutrition Group, responsible for the district's food service, talked about a new program called Farm to Fork.

The district is working with local produce farmers through Monteverde Produce to provide food items not often seen on school menus such as butternut squash and zucchini.

The goal is to get students to eat more healthy foods.

Cafeteria officials said a sample tasting area is available to students unfamiliar with local produce items.

Elementary students who bag their lunches also are getting heavy-duty lunch bags, courtesy of the nutrition group, that feature games and puzzles.

Officials say 50 to 60 students a day have become part of the new program.

George Guido is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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