Superintendent's Corner

February / March 2021

Having passed the 100th day of the school year, I am writing to share some updates on happenings in our school district. This winter has certainly presented its challenges. As we continue to live and work in a pandemic, everything seems just a little more difficult, especially when you add one winter storm after another. While I know there are many who enjoy the winter season and all of its varied activities, as superintendent I much prefer days where weather is a non-issue. However, I have been very pleased with the implementation of our Flexible Instructional Days (FID) and the resourcefulness of our families and staff. I expect that we will revise and refine these flexible days moving forward in order to make them even more effective for students.

Throughout the month of February, our District has been proud to join schools across the nation in honoring Black History Month. Souderton Area School District values our diversity of culture, language, and race, and February has been a time to honor the countless and enduring contributions of Black men and women throughout history. Black History Month gives all our students the opportunity to engage in authentic learning to help celebrate the achievements of Black Americans and recognize their central role in the story of the United States of America. As a District, we are committed to addressing and promoting diversity through our Equity Team, curriculum, book discussions, podcasts, and speaker series. As educators and school leaders, we acknowledge an ongoing need to support and promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in all aspects of our work.

I am gratified to report that the number of COVID-19 cases in our District is showing a significant decline. This is consistent with the case data being reported by Montgomery County. These results are a testament to our community and your diligent efforts to slow the spread of the virus. I am also pleased to report that approximately 300 members of our faculty and staff have already received the vaccine and, as a result, our schools become safer every day. Your continued cooperation in adhering to guidelines and recommendations is just one of the tools that our school district is using to maintain a safe and healthy learning environment.

I have spent a lot of time in our schools this year and am consistently impressed with how our students and staff are persevering in these challenging times. Our school communities both in-person and online have been tremendously resilient. The Souderton Area Online Academy (SAOA) continues to serve about 20% of our student population, although many students have returned to in-person learning. With the approach of the third trimester in our elementary schools, we are expecting even more students to return. We have also begun planning for next school year, and while we will be prepared for any eventuality, we are optimistic that all students will be in-person and we can return to a sense of normalcy.

During this time of the school year, the school district budget is being developed and refined. We have certainly had some unexpected expenses with the pandemic, but remain hopeful about our own local economy. As always, one item that consistently impacts our budget development is the exorbitant amounts we must allocate to fund charter and cyber charter schools.

As a long-time advocate of charter school funding reform and the recent advent of our own Online Academy, I am convinced that a comprehensive and robust virtual program can be delivered successfully without the inflated tuitions currently being passed along to our taxpayers, particularly by cyber charter schools. Our advocacy group, L.E.A.R.N. (Leaders for Educational Accountability and Reform Network), continues to work with local and state legislators advocating for urgent reform of charter school funding. An op-ed on this subject recently appeared in The Inquirer (read the article)

It is my hope this last snowstorm is the final one of the season and spring will turn all of our thoughts to end-of-year activities. We are always excited to celebrate our accomplishments and are working very carefully with each building faculty and staff to hold as many activities as we can safely and appropriately. Please stay tuned as additional information will be forthcoming on end-of-year events.

Sincerely,

Frank Gallagher

Frank T. Gallagher, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools