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February 2020 School Board Meetings

 Podmaster Notebook  Permalink2020-02-23Live Recording

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Regular Legislative Meeting: CEA Counter-Message

Last Month the Cheltenham School District issued a document regarding bargaining with the Cheltenham Educators’ Association (CEA).

In the document, the district stated,

"Because of their longevity, 42 percent of district teachers are at or nearing their maximum tier salary, with 56 percent (222 teachers) expected to be at the maximum tier salary within three years. Of that 56 percent, 59 percent (130 teachers) are more than a decade from retirement. Many of our teachers are earning more than most teachers in other local school districts."

At this month's regular meeting, the members of the CEA packed the room. Most members had signs. However only one person spoke and made a statement. Regarding the question of salary, the spokesperson said:

"The district says that 42% of teachers are at or nearing their maximum tier salary. Regarding the claim that the district pays competitive salaries, the district then compares only one of those tiers to other districts, the highest possible tier: those that have a doctoral degree or national board certification. The fact is that in 2018-2019, only six teachers in a bargaining unit of nearly 400 were eligible for that salary."

So what is the story: Do "only six teachers" in Cheltenham make the top grade or is it forty-two percent of all Cheltenham teachers ?

Fortunately in Pennsylvania it is possible to find out: the state issues a large spreadsheet every year with all public teacher salaries called the Professional Personnel Individual Staff Report. The latest report (for 2018-19) is available at this link.

Your podmaster filtered the statewide spreadsheet with the following criteria:

  • Include only entries for "Cheltenham SD."
  • Include only job titles that include the word "teacher."
  • Include only the "full time" job type.
  • Eliminate duplicate records using the employee ID field.

The filtered spreadsheet is available (with teacher names removed) at this link.

I then plotted the data in a salary histogram format (in $10K increments) from $40,000 to $130,000. The result was that of 344 total listed teachers, 157 of them (45.6%) make between $110,000 and $120,000. Over 50% (179) make over $100,000.

Cheltenham SD 2018-19 salary data: of 344 total listed teachers, 157 of them (45.6PCT) make between $110,000 and $120,000. Over 50 PCT (179) make over $100,000.

February 2020February 2020 School Board Meeting MP3s

TrackWeb Link
1February 2020 School Board Meeting Part 1 of 3
2February 2020 School Board Meeting Part 2 of 3
3February 2020 School Board Meeting Part 3 of 3

February 2020February 2020 Meetings Posted Documents

Web Link
Facilities Jan 7, 2020.pdf (75 KB)
January 7 Financial Meeting.pdf (68 KB)
February 2020 Draft Facilities Presentation.pdf (3,220 KB)
02.05.20 Financial Affairs Presentation.pdf (5,804 KB)
Feb. 11, 2020 - Volunteers.pdf (31 KB)
2020-2021 Academic Calendar - RATIFICATION (3).pdf (134 KB)
Budget Transfers Jan.pdf (91 KB)
Revenue.pdf (114 KB)
Exp Summary (1).pdf (45 KB)
EDEP Agenda 2 11 2020 Final.pdf (45 KB)
Mentee Mentor List Feb 2020.pdf (36 KB)
AR 208 Withdrawal from Schoool.pdf (66 KB)
P 110 Instructional Supplies.pdf (85 KB)
P 116 Tutorial Instruction.pdf (162 KB)
P 124 Alternative Instruction Opportunities.pdf (137 KB)
P 201 Admissions of Beginners.pdf (99 KB)
P 255 No Child Left Behind Compliance.pdf (264 KB)
P 321_421 Political Activities (Repeal).pdf (98 KB)
P320 Freedom of Speech in Non-School Settings.pdf (120 KB)
P320_420 Freedom of Speech in Non-School Settings (Repeal).pdf (85 KB)
P321 Political Activities.pdf (135 KB)
P - 119.pdf (255 KB)
P - 229 AR.pdf (126 KB)
P - 229.pdf (220 KB)
P - 331.pdf (366 KB)
P - 601 AR.pdf (349 KB)
P - 601.pdf (149 KB)
P - 616.pdf (234 KB)
P - 811.pdf (55 KB)
P - 819.pdf (49 KB)

January 2020 School Board Meetings

 Podmaster Notebook  Permalink2020-01-19Live Recording

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20200118 Podmaster Notebook

Next Year Budget (2020-21): A 3.7% Tax Increase to fill $3.2 million gap ?

Cheltenham School District is reporting a 2020-21 budget deficit of $3.2 Million (link). Using the school district's published "value of a mill" of $1,800,185, the district would have to raise taxes by 1.7948 mills to plug the gap. This increase– to a school tax rate of 50.0721 mills– equals a 3.72% increase over the present rate of 48.2773 mills.

While the tenor of discussions regarding the 2020-21 budget has centered around the need for expenditure cuts, it must be noted that unlike previous years, the district has not decided to adopt an Act 1 "opt-out" resolution. This would commit the district to an increase at (or less) than the state-allowed Act 1 maximum increase. For 2020 that maximum increase would be 2.6%.

So while there is much TALK about cutting expenditures, the board's actual ACTION (i.e. no "opt-out" resolution) leaves the door open for the much-abused Cheltenham Taxpayer to pay for the $3.2 million budget hole.

As a reminder, Act 1 is the Pennsylvania Law that limits the rate at which PA school districts can jack up property taxes. The Pennsylvania Department of Education publishes these rates every year (link). The Act 1 rates are based on state-wide school district costs: the "employment cost index for elementary/secondary schools". They are NOT based on taxpayer ability to pay.

While Cheltenham Senior Citizens are faced with a potential 3.7% school tax increase, their Social Security Cost of Living Adjustment is 1.6% for 2020.

Social Security 2020 COLA is 1.6 percent.

The present plan to deal with the 2020 deficit appears to be:

  • Implement the Act 1 increase of 2.6%.
  • Find ways to cut $971,366 out of the budget (the difference between the amount the tax increase brings in and the $3.2 million deficit).

To the district's credit, they are not proposing to pay the $971,366 using the funds set aside for capital projects (fund balance)…yet. Presently they are looking at relatively pain-free expenditure cuts.

Most of the proposed savings come from the elimination of three climate and culture administrator slots.

On May 8 2017, your podmaster recorded the Community Meeting on High School Climate which occurred after the release of a viral youtube video which showed a Cheltenham High School slugfest. The incident resulted in teachers being sent to the hospital. The May 2017 meeting was held in the High School auditorium– which unlike most board meetings– was packed.

The School Board and Administration "faced the music" that night. Unfortunately, it was the Cheltenham taxpayer that "paid the piper." Your podmaster used the phrase "deer in the headlights" to describe the facial expressions of the school board members.

What the tax payer was forced to buy as a result of the fight was:

  • Eight Additional Climate and Culture Instruction/Curriculum Staff
  • Three Additional Climate and Culture Administrative Staff

In June of 2017, your podmaster reported that the district was canceling the plan to have a mild 1.7% tax increase– The increase for the year would be the Act 1 maximum for 2018: 2.5%. Later this plan was rescinded to limit the increase to 1.9%.

Now in 2020, the district has decided that it no longer needs the three additional Climate and Culture administrative staff members and is proposing to eliminate the positions. One of these staff members will most likely become a newly added assistant principal at Elkins Park school, so the net reduction is in fact two positions.

According to information presented this month, there has been a steep drop in student assaults, weapons offenses and other problem behavior.

The district credits this success with their "Climate and Culture" initiatives. However, another change occurred in late 2017 that probably had more to do with straightening things out: four months after the high school fiasco, the then District Security Manager just happened– by sheer coincidence– to submit his resignation. In December of 2017, the district hired a former State Trooper, Mr. Jonathan White, as the new Security Chief.

So was hiring district administrators the key to improving the situation at the schools or hiring a competent security chief ?

January 2020January 2020 School Board Meeting MP3s

TrackWeb Link
1January 2020 School Board Meeting Part 1 of 3
2January 2020 School Board Meeting Part 2 of 3
3January 2020 School Board Meeting Part 3 of 3

January 2020January 2020 Meetings Posted Documents

Web Link
January 2020 Draft Facilities Presentation (1).pdf (3,249 KB)
Dec 3, 2019 Financial Affairs Committee Minutes.pdf (100 KB)
Facilities Committee Minutes 120319.pdf (26 KB)
01.07.20 Presentation.pdf (6,772 KB)
2020-2021 Academic Calendar - DRAFT.pdf (141 KB)
Jan 14, 2020 Volunteers.pdf (34 KB)
Revenue.pdf (30 KB)
Summary.pdf (44 KB)
Budget Transfers (29).pdf (264 KB)
AR 201 Admission of Beginners.pdf (117 KB)
AR 208 Withdrawal from Schoool.pdf (66 KB)
AR 238 Child Custody.pdf (126 KB)
AR 240 Foreign Exchange Students.pdf (140 KB)
P 110 Instructional Supplies.pdf (85 KB)
P 116 Tutorial Instruction.pdf (162 KB)
P 124 Alternative Instruction Opportunities.pdf (137 KB)
P 201 Admissions of Beginners.pdf (99 KB)
P 208 Withdrawal From School.pdf (72 KB)
P 238 Child Custody.pdf (122 KB)
P 240 Foreign Exchange Students.pdf (141 KB)
P 255 No Child Left Behind Compliance.pdf (264 KB)
P 321_421 Political Activities (Repeal).pdf (98 KB)
P 614 Payroll Authorization.pdf (84 KB)
P 904 Publlic Attendance in School Facilities.pdf (91 KB)
P320 Freedom of Speech in Non-School Settings.pdf (120 KB)
P320_420 Freedom of Speech in Non-School Settings (Repeal).pdf (85 KB)
P321 Political Activities.pdf (135 KB)

December 2019 School Board Meetings

 Podmaster Notebook  Permalink2019-12-21Live Recording

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December 2019December 2019 School Board Meeting MP3s

TrackWeb Link
1December 2019 School Board Meeting Part 1 of 2
2December 2019 School Board Meeting Part 2 of 2

December 2019December 2019 Meetings Posted Documents

Web Link
12.03.19 Financial Affairs.pdf (6,853 KB)
Financial Affairs Minutes November 2019.pdf (28 KB)
December 10, 2019 Cheltenham School District FCA v2.pdf (6,395 KB)
December Draft Facilities Presentation.pdf (4,639 KB)
Facilities Minutes November 2019.pdf (34 KB)
Leadership Stipend list December 2019.pdf (23 KB)
EDEP Agenda 12 10 19 final.pdf (39 KB)
Mentee_Mentor List Dec 2019.pdf (22 KB)
Dec. 10, 2019 Volunteers for Board Approval.pdf (49 KB)
Budget Transfer.pdf (391 KB)
Summary.pdf (46 KB)
Revenue.pdf (32 KB)
Policy 301 New.pdf (60 KB)
P904 Public Attendance in School Facilities.pdf (90 KB)
P614 Payroll Authorization.pdf (85 KB)
P240 Foreign Exchange Students.pdf (142 KB)
P238 Child Custody.pdf (89 KB)
P201 Admission of Beginniners.pdf (114 KB)
P 314_ 414_ 514 Physical Examination (1993).pdf (127 KB)
P 314 Medical Examination.pdf (79 KB)
P 301 Creating a Position (1992).pdf (122 KB)
P 107Adoption of Planned Instruction.pdf (42 KB)
P 106 Course Guides and Planned Instruction 10.23.19.pdf (98 KB)
AR240 Foreign Exchange Students.pdf (142 KB)
AR 922.pdf (228 KB)
AR 238 Child Custody.pdf (120 KB)

November 2019 School Board Meetings

 Podmaster Notebook  Permalink2019-11-17Live Recording

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2019-2020 Current Year Budget: Deficit Whac-A-Mole

Whac-A-Mole-Dog

The current year (2019-2020) Cheltenham School District Budget has a $2.72 million deficit hole baked-in. Budgeted expenses are set at over $122 million while budgeted local, state and federal revenues are estimated at $119.5 million.

One of the major deficit hole-fillers was planned to be a multi-series bond refinancing deal which would provide a total of over $2 million in savings.

At the September 3rd Finance Committee meeting, Mr Brad Remig of PFM Financial Advisers outlined the refinance plan. The plan was to refinance 3 out of the 14 school district bond series.

The main refinancing activity was described as a "taxable advanced refunding" which involves refinancing two bond series that are callable in 2023/2024. This component of the refinancing deal was expected to provide about $1.6 million in savings.

Unfortunately, It was announced at the 11/6/2019 meeting that there were no bidders for Cheltenham School District bonds. The reason given was that the national municipal bond market had an abnormally high total supply of $12.5 billion issues on the market nationwide. Of that $12.5 billion, $5 billion was taxable issues (of the same type Cheltenham was trying to sell).

The cause of the very high supply of bonds on the market was said to be issues from the NY Thruway Authority and the State of California. The large supply from these issuers were said to have crowded the Cheltenham bond issue out.

Not all the bond refinancing activity was for naught: there is some hope that savings of $300,000 to $400,000 savings for this year will be generated by the reissuance of a 2013 tax exempt series.

In the meantime, other budget areas are set to be squeezed to make up the loss of refinancing savings including:

  • Reduction of salary/benefit expense through attrition: savings of approximately $500K has been achieved as of 10/31/19. April 15th is the retirement application deadline. It is not possible to know the exact number of retirees prior to that time or whether more savings will occur.
  • Lower cost copier lease renewal: Savings of approximately $12K.
  • Revised MCIU transportation costs: estimated $200K in savings.

Presently, the teachers (CEA members) are working without a contract and they are in negotiations with administration. Budgeting has assumed any new contract would be "status quo."

2020-2021 Next Year Budget

Next year there is another labor contract that is set to expire: The Business Employees Council (BEC) contract expires on 6/30/2020. All budgeting has been made with both the CEA and BEC contracts being "status quo."

As a reminder, next year's tax increase will be AT LEAST 2.6%. The district has decided it will not approve an "Opt Out" resolution which would "lock in" a 2.6% increase cap. This means that the increase may be greater than 2.6%.

Another factor that might push up the tax increase is an obscure state calculation called the MPVI ratio. If this calculation for Cheltenham falls below the magic number of 0.400, than the Act 1 index cap is increased over the nominal 2.6%.

School Dude: Stone Soup Software

Your Podmaster is on his 3rd facilities director. Each one seems to be a kind of Ponce de León looking for the fountain of building maintenance software. The software in question is a package called "School Dude." From what I have heard in meeting after meeting is that School Dude seems to be the proverbial bowl of stone soup: a great package that needs just a little something to make it special.

Several years ago I heard a Cheltenham facilities director say that "School Dude" is up and running and was worth the money, while the next director says that the present implementation of "School Dude" resembles an unshineable soft substance.

So the latest School Dude installment is related to expenditure on a Capital Improvement Plan which is expected to cost $114,622. The company that will be doing the legwork for the Capital Improvement Plan has a "relationship" with School Dude and can import the data they generate for the plan into the program. The additional cost of the Dude-related work was not broken out.

November 2019November 2019 School Board Meeting MP3s

TrackWeb Link
1November 2019 School Board Meeting Part 1 of 4
2November 2019 School Board Meeting Part 2 of 4
3November 2019 School Board Meeting Part 3 of 4
4November 2019 School Board Meeting Part 4 of 4

November 2019November 2019 Meetings Posted Documents

Web Link
Leadership Stipend List November 19 - 20 SY.pdf (27 KB)
2019-2020 Mentee-Mentor List Nov.pdf (28 KB)
EDEP Agenda 11 12 19 final.pdf (45 KB)
Budget Transfers.pdf (324 KB)
2019 Volunteers.pdf (47 KB)
Summary.pdf (48 KB)
Revenue.pdf (31 KB)
P 713 Commercial Advertising.pdf (105 KB)
P 314_ 414_ 514 Physical Examination (1993).pdf (127 KB)
P 314 Physical Examination (1993).pdf (127 KB)
P 308- 408- 508 Employment Contract (1992).pdf (138 KB)
P 308 Employment Contract_Board Resolution 10.23.19.pdf (81 KB)
P 301_ 401_ 501 Creating a Position (1992).pdf (122 KB)
P 301 Creating a Position (1992).pdf (122 KB)
P 213 Assessment of Student Progress (1999).pdf (87 KB)
P 212 Assessment and Reporting of Student Progress 10.23.19.pdf (86 KB)
P 211 Student Accident Insurance.pdf (139 KB)
P 107 Adoption of Planned Instruction.pdf (49 KB)
P 106 Guides for Planned Instruction.pdf (37 KB)
P 106 Course Guides and Planned Instruction 10.23.19.pdf (98 KB)
Attachment A - Insurance Policy (01946857xAED82).pdf (2,359 KB)
AR 713 Commercial Advertising 10.23.19.pdf (253 KB)
AR 212 Assessment and Reporting of Student Progress 10.24.19.pdf (89 KB)
AR 211 Student Accident Insurance 10.23.19.pdf (35 KB)
11.06.19.pdf (11,007 KB)
October 2019 Minutes.pdf (26 KB)
September 2019 Minutes.pdf (34 KB)
October 2019 Minutes.pdf (41 KB)
September 2019 Minutes.pdf (32 KB)
November 2019 Facilities Presentation.pdf (1,285 KB)

October 2019 School Board Meetings

 Podmaster Notebook  Permalink2019-10-20Live Recording

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20191020 Podmaster Notebook

Finance Committee Meeting
Present Year Budget (2019-20):

This year's budget is in the hole. Part of the hole will be filled with a debt refinancing plan that will provide $1.9 million one-time savings.

The cause of the budget hole was assigned to all the usual suspects:

  • Transportation
  • Special Education Costs
  • Additional Student Services Costs

There is never mention of the big-picture factor that caused the budget to be so Swiss-cheese like in the first place: The 2016 CEA Employment Contract.

Presently, this contract has expired. It is possible that a strike can occur later this year.

Once again, the Superintendent mentioned a problem that last year about 100 students moved into the district and were added after the school year started. The district is now tracking this phenomenon.

These additional students have unique transportation needs.

The early projections are total expenditures will be $122,290,352. Revenue is short, so the district will use $1,259,441 from the fund balance to match expenditures.

It is generally considered bad practice to balance the operating budget with accumulated fund balance. The fund balance is accumulated for future capital expenditure such as the 1920's era Elkins Park School– a building with no central air conditioning.

At a recent meeting, the Elkins Park School was declared to have "good bones"– so not to worry that the district is using fund balance to plug operating budget holes and that district debt (with a yearly payment of $10.786 Million for 2019-20) is approaching the limit.

So this year's budget will be balanced one-time tricks and reserve funds. Next year will be different– so they say….

Next Year Budget (2020-21)

The September 2019 Pennsylvania Bulletin announced that the FY 2020-2021 Act 1 index will be 2.6%. Tax increases above this amount will require a waiver from the department of Education or Voter Referendum.

The district will not be committing to limit themselves to a 2.6% tax increase.

If there is a strike with one of the bargaining units– and the district signs a bad deal– the waiver for special education funding will be used to increase taxes above Act 1. The real cause, a bad contract, will be obscured.

October 2019October 2019 School Board Meeting MP3s

TrackWeb Link
1October 2019 School Board Meeting Part 1 of 2
2October 2019 School Board Meeting Part 2 of 2

October 2019October 2019 Meetings Posted Documents

Web Link
Stipend List 19 - 20 SY.pdf (39 KB)
Agenda 10 07 19 EDEP Final.pdf (55 KB)
2019-2020 Tenure List.pdf (32 KB)
Finance Committee Sep 2019
October 2019 Facilities Presentation
P713 Commercial Advertising.pdf (101 KB)
P508 Employment Contract.pdf (46 KB)
P408 Employment Contract.pdf (66 KB)
P308.pdf (39 KB)
P308 Employee Contract NEW.pdf (77 KB)
P213 Assessment of Student Progress.pdf (86 KB)
P212 Assessment and Reporting of Student Progress.pdf (80 KB)
P211 Student Accident Insurance.pdf (133 KB)
P105 Curriculum Development.pdf (239 KB)
Attachment A - Insurance Policy (01946857xAED82).pdf (2,359 KB)
AR 713 Commercial Advertising.pdf (235 KB)
AR 212 Assessment and Reporting of Student Progress.pdf (85 KB)
Budget Transfers.pdf (101 KB)
Summary.pdf (45 KB)
Revenue.pdf (30 KB)

September 2019 School Board Meetings

 Podmaster Notebook  Permalink2019-09-21Live Recording

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Next Year 2020-2021 Tax Increases

Unlike previous years, the administration will not be adopting an Act 1 Index "Opt Out" resolution. The "Opt Out" resolution commits the district to keep any tax increase below the state Act 1 Limit. The estimated state allowed Act 1 tax increase limit for 2020-21 is 2.6%.

Increasing taxes above the Act 1 Index can be accomplished by either:

  1. Applying to the state for a waiver to cover costs in certain budget areas such as special education or transportation spending.
  2. Going to the voters to approve a tax increase referendum.

There is a snowball's chance in death valley that the district would put forward a tax increase referendum to the voters, so most likely they will be applying for state waivers to cover special education spending.

The superintendent mentioned that 18.5% of the Cheltenham student population is in special education.

The superintendent also mentioned that there are a large number of multiple occupancy in Cheltenham Township single-family houses which may be a factor in the special education population "ballooning." There were no numbers as to the numbers of illegal multi-family residences in the township; however, the superintendent did mention that, "we see 60 kids show up in October."

Since Cheltenham is on the border with Philadelphia, residency issues are a tender topic.

The township defines a single family as:

"Any number of individuals living and cooking together as a single housekeeping unit, provided that not more than two of such number are unrelated to all of the others by blood, marriage or legal adoption."

Any information regarding illegal multi-family residences that send students to the district can be reported to the school district residency information line at 215-881-6336.

This Year's Budget (2019-20): A One-Time Refinance Budget Boost

The district will be refinancing three of its outstanding series of bonds to provide a two million dollar savings for next year's budget. This will provide some breathing room for next year's budget, but is a one-time fix.

Regular Meeting: Dead Zone Groundhog Day

One of the occupational hazards of monitoring school board meetings is the increasing suspicion that most meetings consist of many Greg Stillson/Dead Zone moments where adults use children to act as shields for their agendas.

This month's regular meeting combined movie memories of The Dead Zone along with Groundhog Day.

Over one year ago, your Podmaster reported that the district changed its its facility rental policy to ensure that costs were being fully recovered. The new policy charged groups different rates– the highest rate being charged to for-profit entities using district facilities as part of their business.

In January of this year, this website reported that a group called Lifeseeds filled the regular meeting with protesters— many of whom were Lifeseeds tee-shirt clad kids— who objected to additional costs being imposed upon them for their summer camp program.

At the time I reported that Lifeseeds was Pennsylvania Limited Liability Company which was not listed as a non-profit with the IRS. Under the revised facility leasing policy Lifeseeds would be paying a much higher rate and they were not happy about it.

To the board's credit, they did not waver, and the new policy was adopted and no further protests were performed at the regular meeting.

Until this month.

This month a group called the Cheltenham Aquatic Club was protesting the new facility lease rates. While the IRS Non-Profit search tool does not a Cheltenham Aquatic Club, the Pennsylvania Department of State lists the Cheltenham Aquatic Club as "Non-Profit/Non-Stock" (Entity 2720401). However, during the meeting the group acknowledged that they were not a non-profit 501c3 organization. The reason given was "because of a lack of paperwork."

The club protested that the new fee is "seven times the old rate." There were also complaints that this new rate hike was a surprise and that there was "no transparency on the rate hike until a month ago."

The finance director countered that the club was paying $30 per day for 3 hours use of the pool for 5 days per week. The rate of $30 dollars per day is not fair to the district. Also, allowing the club use the pool for 5 days per week did not give district crews time to properly maintain the pool. So the district will be cutting them back to 3 days per week.

According to the present year CAC Registration Form the club charges the following fees:

Level Fee
Elite 1st Child $575.00 / Additional Children $560.00/$540.00
Gold 1st Child $525.00 / Additional Children $510.00/$490.00
Bronze and Silver 1st Child $430.00 / Additional Children $415.00/$395.0
High School pre-season (Sept4th.-Nov15th.) $275 /post-season (end of Feb -start April) \(90\) 10 per meet during Nov.-Feb.

There is also "a $100.00 fee per swimmer" for pool costs and that, "this fee will be going to pay the school district for use of the pool."

One woman countered the Cheltenham Aquatic Club testimony with the observation that she pays "89 dollars per week" for her kids to swim in Fort Washington and that she lives in Cheltenham and never heard of the Cheltenham Swim Club.

After the woman returned to her seat, an argument ensued in the audience. The school board called a recess. The district security director, Mr. Jonathan White calmed the situation down. The board then returned and the meeting resumed.

The board appears again to have stood its ground. Next year's Groundhog day is February 2nd. We will see if any other groups protest in the meantime.

September 2019September 2019 School Board Meeting MP3s

TrackWeb Link
1September 2019 School Board Meeting Part 1 of 5
2September 2019 School Board Meeting Part 2 of 5
3September 2019 School Board Meeting Part 3 of 5
4September 2019 School Board Meeting Part 4 of 5
5September 2019 School Board Meeting Part 5 of 5

September 2019September 2019 Meetings Posted Documents

Web Link
Financial Affairs 9-3-19
Facilities Commitee 9-3-19
Volunteers_ 2019-2020 - Sept 10.pdf (11 KB)
Event Staff Fees for CHS 2019.pdf (71 KB)
Summary Expense.pdf (51 KB)
Revenue.pdf (29 KB)
P 922 Civility Policy (01846959xAED82) (5).pdf (53 KB)
P813 Other Insurance 4.20.19 (01838854xAED82) (1).pdf (128 KB)
P812 Property Insurance 4.20.19 (01838853xAED82) (1).pdf (126 KB)
P804 School Day 4.20.19 (01838856xAED82) (2).pdf (126 KB)
P803 School Calendar 6 27 19 (01879685xAED82) (2).pdf (127 KB)
P710 Use of Equipment and Facilities by Staff 5.29.19 (01861715xAED82) (4).pdf (124 KB)
P708 Lending of District Owned Equipment and Books 4.21.19 (01838857xAED82) (1).pdf (127 KB)
P619 District Audit 5.29.19 (01861721xAED82) (3).pdf (128 KB)
P211 Student Accident Insurance 4.21.19 (01838858xAED82) (1) (1).pdf (134 KB)
P 323-423-523 Use of Tobacco and Electronic Smoking Products 5.29.19 (01861764xAED82) (5).pdf (129 KB)
P 105 Curriculum Development 8 28 19 (01879636xAED82) (1).pdf (144 KB)

August 2019 School Board Meetings

 Podmaster Notebook  Permalink2019-08-18Live Recording

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20190818 Podmaster Notebook

Cheltenham Ends FY 2018-19 over budget by > $3 Million

The final audited figures for FY 2018-19 were presented at the August Financial Affairs Meeting. The results show that while revenues came in $3,384,735 over budget, expenses were over budget by $6,595,308 for a total budget variance of $3,210,573.

2018-19 CTSD Final Audit Budget Variance

August 2019August 2019 School Board Meeting MP3s

TrackWeb Link
1August 2019 School Board Meeting Part 1 of 3
2August 2019 School Board Meeting Part 2 of 3
3August 2019 School Board Meeting Part 3 of 3

August 2019August 2019 Meetings Posted Documents

Web Link
Final 2018-19 District Audit: Financial Affairs Committee Presentation August 2019
SPECIAL PUBLIC BOARD MEETING Saturday, August 10, 2019
SPECIAL PUBLIC BOARD MEETING Saturday, August 17, 2019
Budget Transfers.pdf (743 KB)
July 2019 - Summary Expense.pdf (42 KB)
July 2019 Revenue.pdf (28 KB)
June 2019 Revenue.pdf (33 KB)
June 2019 - Summary Expenses.pdf (58 KB)
AR 262 Access to Recess Guidelines 6 26 19 (01879241xAED82).pdf (140 KB)
P 707 Use of District Facilities 6 27 19 (01880004xAED82) (1).pdf (142 KB)
AR 707 Attachment A (Application for Use of District Facilities) 5.29.19 (01861769xAED82) (1).pdf (161 KB)
AR 707 Attachment B (Rules for Use of Facilities) 5.29.19 (01861770xAED82) (1).pdf (156 KB)
AR 707 Use of District Facilities 6 27 19 (01880076xAED82).pdf (135 KB)
AR 707 Attachment C (Fee Schedule) 5.29.19 (01861771xAED82) (2).pdf (100 KB)
AR 803 School Calendar 6 27 19 (01879697xAED82).pdf (121 KB)
P 323-423-523 Use of Tobacco and Electronic Smoking Products 5.29.19 (01861764xAED82).pdf (55 KB)
P113 Special Education 6.6.19 (01866111xAED82) (1).pdf (142 KB)
P211 Student Accident Insurance 4.21.19 (01838858xAED82) (1).pdf (67 KB)
P262 Access to Recess Guidelines 5.29.19 (01861692xAED82) (1) (1).pdf (123 KB)
P619 District Audit 5.29.19 (01861721xAED82).pdf (52 KB)

2019-20 Cheltenham School Tax Counterpoint Slides (updated)

Permalink2019-06-08Update

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For Eight Years your Podmaster has been irradiated with school district budget slide presentations. This year, we present our 2019-20 Cheltenham School Tax Counterpoint to those slides. Click on the icon below to view the PDF.

2019-20 Cheltenham School Tax Counterpoint Slides

2019-06-082019-20 Cheltenham School Tax Counterpoint Slides

DateWeb Link
2019-06-082019-20 Cheltenham School Tax Infographic

May and June 2019 School Board Meetings

 Podmaster Notebook  Permalink2019-06-08Live Recording

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20190608 Podmaster Notebook

Current Year Budget: End of Year Projections

The total end of year projection is for a deficit of over $2.8 Million: Total expenditures projected to be $120.2 Million. The Budget was $117 Million.

The deficit was offset by an additional $1.3 Million in revenues.

Real estate transfer taxes are averaging $76,000 per month. This is presented as a "healthy" real estate market (not as Cheltenham residents getting out of Dodge).

The largest categories that were over budget were special education and transportation.

The finance director stated that there is only one month left in this year, and there should be no more surprises.

Next Year (2019-20) Budget: 2.6% Tax Increase Still On Track

Next year's budget has a $2.8 Million deficit baked in, despite a tax increase of 2.6% (An additional $122.34 per $100,000 assessed). This tax increase will raise a projected $2.2 Million.

The budget hole will be plugged with yet another transfer from the fund balance. At the end of the year, the fund balance will be below $9 Million. It was stated that the only reason the district has not suffered a bond rating downgrade is that no major construction projects are planned for the next four years.

There will be a decrease of 6 positions through attrition. This will save over $1 Million.

June 2019June 2019 School Board Meeting MP3s

TrackWeb Link
1May/June 2019 School Board Meeting Part 1 of 6
2May/June 2019 School Board Meeting Part 2 of 6
3May/June 2019 School Board Meeting Part 3 of 6
4May/June 2019 School Board Meeting Part 4 of 6
5May/June 2019 School Board Meeting Part 5 of 6
6May/June 2019 School Board Meeting Part 6 of 6

June 2019June 2019 Meetings Posted Documents

Web Link
Financial Affairs June 2019
Financial Affairs May 2019
P120.pdf (29 KB)
P121.1 Other Student Travel 5.2.19.pdf (147 KB)
P136 Home Education Program 5.2.19 (01796427xAED82).pdf (45 KB)
P137 Home Schooling and EC Activities.pdf (64 KB)
P203 Communicable Diseases and Immunization 3 27 19 (01824533xAED82) (1) (4).pdf (81 KB)
P203.1 Management of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) (2).pdf (168 KB)
P223 Smoking and Tobacco Use 2.10.19 (01795662xAED82) (1) (2) (1) (1).pdf (58 KB)
P324-424-524 Personnel Files 3.28.19 (01824857xAED82) (2).pdf (97 KB)
P358-458-558 Required Certifications 3.18.19 (01818477xAED82) (3) (1).pdf (96 KB)
P362-462-562 Outside Employment and Outside Business Interests 3 27 19 (01824558xAED82).pdf (58 KB)
P814 - 2015.pdf (49 KB)
P817.pdf (42 KB)
Volunteers for May 2019.pdf (51 KB)
Revenue.pdf (33 KB)
Summary.pdf (50 KB)
Budget Transfers.pdf (574 KB)
Agenda 5 14 19 EDEP final.pdf (33 KB)

April 2019 School Board Meetings

 Podmaster Notebook  Permalink2019-04-20Live Recording

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20190420 Podmaster Notebook

Regular Monthly Meeting

The main discussion during public comments revolved around the 7th grade math placement criteria and tiered instruction in 5th and 6th grade. One parents complained that their children were not sufficiently challenged in math and that they were bored. The kids play games during math.

Another parent complained of disruption in the classrooms. His 3rd grader, "does not like school anymore because of the disruption in the classroom." This parent reported on a fight involving thirteen Wyncote students that occurred during recess. The parent stated that a solution needs to be found to manage certain violent students to provide for a classroom with no disruptions.

Finance Committee
2018-19 Present Year Budget Notes
  • End of year projections indicate an additional $782K budget deficit on top of the anticipated $1.67 Million deficit.
  • This brings the total deficit to $2,459,889.
  • This is despite having by far the highest school tax millage in Montgomery County.
  •  MONTCO School Tax Millage Rates for 2005/06 through 2018/19 shows that Cheltenham has by far the highest school tax rate.

  • It is anticipated that the $2.46 Million deficit will be covered by fund balance.
  • Most of the over-budget $782K spending is related to special education.
  • It was mentioned that the present fund balance is $14 Million.
  • The superintendent mentioned that at a meeting of Montgomery County superintendents there was much talk about efficiency with a fixed number of staff. One superintendent said that it is at a point in his district where they are "tripping over staff members."
2019-20 Next Year Budget Notes
  • As it presently stands, next year's budget has a deficit baked in: $3,800,721 in the red with expenditures at $121,989,575 with revenues of $118,188,854.
  • Expenses are being analyzed. In particular the current staffing structure is being studied to reduce headcount through attrition. It was mentioned that April 15th is the retirement deadline.
  • Overtime expenditures and substitute teacher expenditure will also be under the microscope.
  • The Superintendent mentioned that there is an attendance issue that creates a substitute teacher issue. It is not a substitute shortage…it is an attendance shortage. He gave the example that last Friday at Elkins Park the percentage of staff absence was so high that he did not know how we ran the school.
Facilities
High School Media Center Project

With the departure of the facilities director, the district has hired the firm Fidevia to manage some projects. One of those projects is the High School Media Center Project. The total project cost is $3,232,347. The previous cost reported in February was approximately $2.6 Million.

Fidevia is functioning as an "Owner's Representative." There was no word on the cost of Fidevia's services. The project is expected to be complete by mid-August.

Building Maintenance Issues around the District
  • High School Hot Water Feed line Leak
    • A large trash can in the middle of a hallway is collecting water from an overhead pipe leak.
    • The problem cannot be fixed now. The system has to be drained first. This will happen over the spring break.
  • Elkins Park School Cafeteria Air Conditioning
    • The Elkins Park School predates the invention of central air conditioning.
    • To provide some relief, a large air conditioning unit has been purchased for the Elkins park school cafeteria.
    • The cost is going to be roughly $10,000.
    • The Superintendent mentioned that the issue of no air conditioning has been raised in labor negotiations. He mentioned the financial condition of the district and how it is impossible to undertake a major construction project at this time. The superintendent pointed out that the district has constructed five buildings over the last ten years. The superintendent mentioned that a recent study of Elkins Park concluded that it has "the strongest bones," and is not in need of immediate renovation. The shelf life of Elkins Park was extended because of the quality of its construction. He concluded that the community cannot afford another multi-million dollar project. Some classrooms are hotter than others and the district is trying to remedy that.
  • Myers Elementary
    • The building automation system will be upgraded at a cost of approximately $22,000.
  • Preventative Maintenance Management Software
    • The district has been using the "School Dude" software package for managing maintenance of buildings.
    • During the Dr. Bavi era- School Dude was described as fully functional and being used to manage building maintenance.
    • Now School Dude is described as substandard with bad data being entered into the system producing poor results.
    • The transition from Facilities directors was blamed for the problems.
Facility Use Policy
  • The policy for outside groups to use district facilities is still in progress.
  • The district is working with a real estate consultant for market information to formulate a new rate schedule.
  • It was mentioned that some groups are using facilities for 7 days a week. This is too much. It does not allow athletic fields to rest. In future, black out days will be built into the schedule to provide this recovery time.
  • The revised policy should be released to committee in May.

April 2019April 2019 School Board Meeting MP3s

TrackWeb Link
1April 2019 School Board Meeting (Facilities) Part 1 of 4
2April 2019 School Board Meeting (Finance) Part 2 of 4
3April 2019 School Board Meeting (Monthly) Part 3 of 4
4April 2019 School Board Meeting (Monthly) Part 4 of 4

April 2019April 2019 Meetings Posted Documents

Web Link
Volunteers forApril 2019 revised.pdf (42 KB)
Revised Revenue (5).pdf (39 KB)
Summary.pdf (50 KB)
Budget Transfers (27).pdf (331 KB)
Agenda 4 9 19 EDEP final.pdf (37 KB)
P121.1 Other Student Travel 2.14.19 (01798566xAED82) (2).pdf (67 KB)
P136 Home Education Program 2.11.19 (01796427xAED82) (2) (1).pdf (45 KB)
P137 Home Schooling and EC Activities.pdf (64 KB)
P203 Communicable Diseases and Immunization 3 27 19 (01824533xAED82) (1).pdf (82 KB)
P203.1 Management of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) (2).pdf (168 KB)
P209 Health and Dental Examinations 12.28.18 (01770836xAED82) (2) (2).pdf (48 KB)
P214 Computing Grade Point Average and Determining Class Rank 3.15.19 (01817174xAED82) (3).pdf (43 KB)
P217 Graduation Requirements 1.24.19 (01785747xAED82) (1) (1).pdf (61 KB)
P224 Care of School Property 1 28 18 (01771321xAED82) (1) (1).pdf (51 KB)
P324-424-524 Personnel Files 3.28.19 (01824857xAED82) (2).pdf (97 KB)
P358-458-558 Required Certifications 3.18.19 (01818477xAED82) (3) (1).pdf (96 KB)
P362-462-562 Outside Employment and Outside Business Interests 3 27 19 (01824558xAED82).pdf (58 KB)
P918 Parent-Family Member Engagement 1 24 19 (01785723xAED82) (3) (1).pdf (124 KB)

March and February 2019 School Board Meetings

 Podmaster Notebook  Permalink2019-03-17Live Recording

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Facilities Director Resigns after Seven Months on the Job: Is the Finance Director Next ?

Last July, Mark Brooks took over as director of facilities after Dr. Bavi retired. Last month it was announced that Mr. Brooks would be leaving Cheltenham for the Radnor Township School District.

When a top manager leaves after a short period, questions naturally arise: Why are they leaving ? Did they see something bad ?

In this case, the rumor is that Mr. Brooks was waiting for the job in Radnor to open. When it did not, he came to Cheltenham. When the job he really wanted finally opened up, he jumped ship. This scenario has not been confirmed by your podmaster.

The other top manager— Business Manager Cara Michaels— has been sounding the alarm about the state of district finances, specifically:

  • Last Year's Budget (2017-18)
    • Last year's budget was expected to be closed with a $963K deficit, a budgetary hole to be plugged with a transfer from the fund balance: Last year actually ended with the need for an additional $2 million from the fund balance.
    • While last year revenues came in higher than expected, the expenditures were even higher.
    • Expenditure budget variance was $6,067,345 (audited). The top three factors were:
      • Salaries were over $971,492.
      • Professional services were over $1,693,452.
      • Other purchased services were over $1,943,719 (mainly transportation).
  • This Year's Budget (2018-19)
    • The finance director froze spending on Feb 15th.
    • The present projected deficit is estimated to be $421,229 at the end of year (after use of fund balance).
  • Next Year's Budget (2019-20)
    • Next Year's tax increase is pegged at 2.6% which is the adjusted Act 1 maximum level.
    • The teacher's union contract expires 6/30/2019

Your podmaster has heard the finance director repeatedly warning the board that if they do not negotiate a contract with the teacher's union that the district can afford, there will be dire consequences to the long term financial future of the district.

The question is: why would she stay on the job if the board caves on the contract negotiations ? Her job would turn into a deck chair rearranger…. Stöwer Titanic (colourized)

March and February 2019March and February 2019 School Board Meeting MP3s

TrackWeb Link
1March and February 2019 School Board Meeting Part 1 of 7
2March and February 2019 School Board Meeting Part 2 of 7
3March and February 2019 School Board Meeting Part 3 of 7
4March and February 2019 School Board Meeting Part 4 of 7
5March and February 2019 School Board Meeting Part 5 of 7
6March and February 2019 School Board Meeting Part 6 of 7
7March and February 2019 School Board Meeting Part 7 of 7

March and February 2019March and February 2019 Meetings Posted Documents

Web Link
Feb 2019 Revenue(1).pdf (35 KB)
Feb 2019 Exp Summary(3).pdf (47 KB)
Agenda 3 12 19 EDEP final.pdf (35 KB)
Volunteers for March 2019.pdf (36 KB)
2019-2020 Academic Calendar (1).pdf (137 KB)
Budget Transfers.pdf (526 KB)
February 2019 Financial Final
March 2019 Financial Affairs
CSD_ProjectionsPresentation2018Update

January 2019 Regular Legislative, Finance and Facilities Meetings

 Podmaster Notebook  Permalink2019-01-26Live Recording

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January 2019 Podmaster Notebook

The two major stories for the month of January concerned efforts by the district to increase revenue:

  1. Revised Pricing for the use of District Facilities.
  2. Ratification of an agreement (TIF) between Landmark Developers and the district to forgo some tax revenue in exchange their investment in the Elkins Estate, converting the now empty property into a hotel and conference center.
Revised Pricing for the use of District Facilities

Back in March of 2018, your Podmaster reported that the district was revising the policy governing third-party use of district facilities to ensure that the district fully recovers costs.

It was mentioned at that time that part of the policy change may include a prohibition on teachers and administrators ability to sponsor outside organizations since that it has been observed that some teachers are using facilities making money on a side business.

One other issue mentioned last march was that a long term agreement made decades ago with Arcadia University is priced at $1 per year which basically amounts to subsidizing Arcadia at the expense of Cheltenham taxpayers.

This issue flared up at this month's Facilities Committee meeting. For many times in the past your Podmaster has been the sole audience member of the Facilities Committee meeting. This month, the meeting was in the regular auditorium and the room was packed.

The revised board policy on outsider use of district property categorizes applicants into eight different groups:

  • Class 1: Scholastic Activities, Student Organizations and School District Sponsored Activities
  • Class 2: School PTO and Booster Groups
  • Class 3: Emergency Service Organizations and Voter Services
  • Class 4: Municipal Sponsored Recreation
  • Class 5: Non-Profit Continuing Education, Non-Profit Cultural Education, Scouting and Non-Profit Performance Groups
  • Class 6: Non- School-Related Non-Profit Community Groups and Activities
  • Class 7: Non-School Related Community For-Profit Organizations and Activities.
  • Class 8: All Others

While different user classes will be expected to pay at different rates, all classes will be affected by some of the proposed changes to the policy, including:

  • An updated hourly personnel rate that covers the district's costs.
  • A new rate for security personnel.
  • New restrictions on weapons, drones and motorized devices.
  • A requirement that stipulates an 80% Cheltenham resident participation rate in non-profit organization activities.
  • Audit of participation rosters to ensure compliance.

While I expected some push-back from Arcadia regarding the revised district facility policy, the group that filled the audience this month was a organization called, Lifeseeds. Lifeseeds runs a summer camp program that uses district facilities. The room was filled with adults and children with Lifeseeds summer camp tee shirts.

In other words, an out-of-the-blue spontaneous protest.

Lifeseeds is a Pennsylvania Limited Liability Company which is not listed as a non-profit on the IRS charity look up site. Under the new policy they will be a "Class 7" organization.

One issue mentioned was that the present rates for facilities use were set in 2010.

Members of the audience representing Lifeseeds complained that the proposals they sent into the district were "sitting on desks for four months." The Business Manager Cara Michaels denied this, stating that their proposals were responded to within 3 weeks.

A week later, at the Regular Legislative Meeting, the issue of Lifeseeds came up during public comments section. Superintendent Marseille complained that Lifeseeds was not negotiating in a straightforward manner. He characterized their approach as, "shifting proposals" and that, "what was submitted on Friday was changed on Monday at 5:11 PM."

Board Member Kate Thomson stated the following points:

  1. Our facility rental rates are fair…the market rate.
  2. Lifeseeds is a for-profit entity.
  3. For years Lifeseeds has been getting a significant discount— up to 50%. That is not fair to other renters.

Regarding Point 3 Thomson questioned, "Why this successive departure of policy ? No one knows. A for-profit entity has been for years receiving a significant discount. I don't appreciate getting a proposal the night before a meeting. The board is not delaying– A third version came to us last night. We are not going to be rushed into an agreement."

Superintendent Marseille stated: "I will not be bullied to make a decision. I don't play that game. Those tactics are unacceptable."

Your Podmaster thought that summer camp was all about fun. Live and learn….

Ratification of Elkins Estate TIF Agreement

In truly great news for the township, the board ratified the Elkins Estate TIF Agreement. As mentioned back in September, the estate will become a high-end hotel and event conference facility that includes a Conference/Wellness Center and Spa, a recording studio, a distillery, a restricted-use helipad. Several parts of the development will be open to the public including a community garden, a restaurant and a concert space with a band shell.

It is estimated that the increase in tax revenue over the 20 years of the agreement will approximately $1.76 million. It is also expected to create 120 permanent jobs.

Just as important as the positives that the development brings to the table, it prevents several negatives:

  • Sprawl Prevention: The developer will volunteer to sign a restrictive covenant to prohibit any future residential development to the property.
  • Building Decay Prevention: The property owner will agree to a preservation easement that will force them– or any subsequent owner– to preserve and maintain all buildings.
  • Crime Prevention: In exchange for the tax breaks, the developer agrees to be responsible for security and insurance in areas open to the public.

The cost of the agreement is front-loaded:

  • In Years 1-3: The district returns 100% of taxes paid.
  • In Years 4-10: The district returns all but $100K of taxes paid.
  • In Years 11-20: The amount the district returns is based on a sliding scale.

Board member Bill England voted against the TIF agreement, citing the length of the agreement: 20 years. He did not explain how an additional twenty years of having an empty one-of-a-kind property in danger of falling into disrepair is superior to preserving it and earning over $1.7 million. Fortunately all other board members voted in the affirmative.

Burglary at Elkins Park

Superintendent Marseille reported that there were two break-ins at the Elkins Park school. The first occurred on December 10th where the burglars made off with several items. The burglars broke in again the following week.

Cheltenham police increased patrols in the area. The burglars returned again, three weeks after the first incident. This time the township police where there waiting for them. The district had increased surveillance camera coverage, so that the capture of the burglars by Cheltenham police was covered on video.

It was reported that Cheltenham police reclaimed 98% of the stolen goods.

2019-01-26Regular Legislative, Finance and Facilities Meeting MP3s

TrackWeb Link
1January 2019 Board Meetings Part 1 of 6 (Facilities)
2January 2019 Board Meetings Part 2 of 6 (Facilities)
3January 2019 Board Meetings Part 3 of 6 (Finance)
4January 2019 Board Meetings Part 4 of 6 (Finance)
5January 2019 Board Meetings Part 5 of 6 (Regular)
6January 2019 Board Meetings Part 6 of 6 (Regular)

2019-01-26Regular Legislative, Finance and Facilities Meeting Selected Documents

Web Links
January 8 2019 Facilities Committee Presentation.pdf
P221 Dress and Appearance 11.29.18 (01755627xAED82) (1).pdf (75 KB)
P228 Student Government 12.26.18 (01770399xAED82).pdf (60 KB)
Superintendent Goals 2018-2019FINAL.pdf (99 KB)
Volunteers for January 2019.pdf (35 KB)
Budget Transfers (24).pdf (300 KB)
Dec 2018 Exp Summary.pdf (47 KB)
Dec 2018 Revenue.pdf (34 KB)
CSD TIF Resolution Final Draft 1-11-19 v2.pdf (78 KB)
P220 Student Expression 12.27.18 (01770574xAED82) (2).pdf (106 KB)
Agenda 1 15 19 EDEP Final (1).pdf (41 KB)
P205 Postgraduate Students 11.29.18 (01755624xAED82) (2) (2).pdf (10 KB)
P234 Pregnant Students 11.29.18 (01755630xAED82) (3).pdf (63 KB)
P138 English Language Development 12.16.18 (Previously Policy 252) (01765543xAED82).pdf (74 KB)
 
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