Pennridge School District’s Comprehensive Plan: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Pennridge's School Board will vote on the plan at a special meeting Wednesday night.
Pennridge School District (Google maps) via WHYY

I hope all in the community, especially the parents, have taken the time to read through the forthcoming Comprehensive Plan 2022-2025. I would also recommend reading through the previous Comprehensive Plan 2019-2022 so you can see the process, improvements, needs, and how it affects the potential plan we are assessing. Per the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Comprehensive Planning:

“Every 3 years, a school entity must submit to the Secretary for approval a professional education plan. The professional education plan must be made available for public inspection and comment for 28 days, and then it can be approved by the board and then submitted to the PDE.” 

READ: Pennridge School District Must Acknowledge Creationism Is Not Science

In previous years, the board sent out a message to start gathering individuals to be a part of the steering committee, however this did not happen this year and thus ended with a singular parent as our representation. Further, this parent is part of a right-wing organization called Pennridge for Educational Liberty (P4EL), which has been at the forefront of many of the changes that will be discussed here. In this writing, I will discuss both the current plan, previous plan, and how they compare to our neighboring school districts.

The Good

The goal for the Elementary Curriculum and Progress Report is a solid plan that should help the school, students, and parents. Full Day Kindergarten is something our community has wanted for some time and will be significant for both students and parents. I continue to be a big fan of the work being done at the Upper Bucks Technical School and I am excited to see how the board and administration look to expand this and the options for dual registration for college. My hope is that they also work on expanding the career section of Pathways. We need more connections and options for trade schools and local internships. A program for the high school to educate students and parents on these options should be looked at as well. COVID brought many new challenges, but how the school district pushed our technology so quickly was impressive to say the least. Finally, I am eager to see how the new Pennridge Wellness Academy works to help our students achieve the Least Restrictive Environment. This type of progress will always be positive and I hope this opens the door to other programs to address the mental, emotional, and behavioral needs of our students that we had in our previous plan for Social Emotional Learning (SEL).

The Bad

We are in Year 4 of our 5-year Curriculum Renewal that started in the previous plan. Although years 1-3 looked to have gone as planned, this past school year saw changes influenced by P4EL through the current and previous school boards. The lack of transparency in changes to recommended reading, library book reviews on LGBTQ+ related books, and a severe lack of transparency

The overall structure of this new plan versus our surrounding districts, which are currently outperforming us in metrics and rankings, is underwhelming at best. One of the priorities of this plan states, “If we more fully support the wellbeing of our staff and students then they will be happier, healthier, and more capable of achieving their potential.” 

First, I agree with this statement and that it absolutely should be a priority. In fact, this was in the previous plan and is in every neighboring school district’s plan. Unfortunately, this is not a goal in this plan and none of their recent acts prove that this will be a real priority. Finally, the plan feels very copy and paste. For example, “Every individual has worth and deserves dignity.” This statement is in every line of our values and like the previous statement I just detailed, there’s nothing in the plan that would showcase this. If there is no goal or emphasis, how are we supposed to believe there will be programs, policies, or actions in general taken in this regard?

Here are some neighboring districts’ plans:

A Vision for Our Schools / Central Bucks School District Comprehensive Plan (cbsd.org)

Comprehensive Plan – North Penn School District (npenn.org)

Comprehensive Plan – Council Rock School District (crsd.org)

Comprehensive Plan – Souderton Area School District (soudertonsd.org)

Comprehensive Plan – Pennsbury School District (pennsburysd.org)

The Ugly

I spoke about this in the previous section briefly, but the removal of SEL, the goal of making life and learning better in our schools, and the argument against DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) will have lasting effects on our school district. The school board removed DEI twice in a single school year and then wants us to believe that they are doing something about bullying, discrimination, lack of representation, and proper supports for mental, emotional, and behavioral needs. 

The lack of transparency for this plan is in line with nearly everything this school board does. We had a single parent to represent all of us? Really, just one. Every other school district had multiple parents involved and had a selection process to ensure diversity. How can you expect to “provide all students with a well-rounded educational experience where the acquire the 21st century skills,” when you do not bring people in to reflect the various groups, cultures, and schools of thought to the table? This doesn’t reflect 21st century thinking.

This is specifically why there is a viewing period for the public. We cannot expect to get better at anything if we do not plan to accomplish it. This plan is supposed to help us understand the path forward and this is lacking some crucial elements that other school districts already include. The previous plan shows that we once did this, but because of the lack of transparency and inclusion by the school board, this did not happen again. As a result, everyone loses.

A Special Board meeting has been scheduled for Wednesday, June 22, at 6:30 p.m. in Pennridge High School Room LGI 3.3 to approve the 2022-2025 Pennridge School District Comprehensive Plan, among other business. Attend to give feedback about the plan.

David O'Donnell

David O'Donnell

David O'Donnell recently ran for School Board Director in Pennridge SD. He has been a manager in Retail and Hospitality for over 20 years. He works within the community through organizations such as Pennridge Democrats. He is also a coach in the Pennridge Little League.

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