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Fairfield schools’ Parent-Teacher Organization’s (PTO) president, Erica Bollinger, left, was among honorees who received a United Way “With Heart in Hand” award last month. Monday night, the award was celebrated by the Fairfield School Board, which heard a tribute to Bollinger from the PTO’s faculty liaison, Linda McMullen.

To close a gap in its proposed budget for the coming year, the Fairfield Area School District (FASD) board unanimously approved a 2.7 percent tax hike.

With the increased real estate tax cost for a median taxpayer estimated at $63, the millage rate of 10.7421 will bring an additional $225,000 into district coffers, officials said.

The board Monday also gave a unanimous preliminary nod to the budget developed by the administration, with total revenue projected at $18,578,267 and expenses of $18,617,739. The deficit of $39,472 will be funded from the general fund balance.

Final adoption of the budget is expected at the June 10, meeting. All interested parties may review the proposed budget at school offices, the Fairfield library and on the district’s website, www.fairfieldpaschools.org.

The school board heard a report from one of its student representatives, senior Maya Callenbach, who commented on year-end activities, field trips and achievement tests.

Given special recognition at the outset of the 45-minute meeting was Erica Bollinger, current president of Fairfield’s Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO). Bollinger was recently presented with one of the 2019 United Way of Adams County’s “With Heart in Hand” awards, and the board wanted to celebrate the recognition.

Kindergarten teacher and Fairfield’s faculty liaison to the PTO, Linda McMullen, joined Superintendent Michael Adamek in acknowledging Bollinger’s and the PTO’s many contributions to the schools.

Under Bollinger’s leadership, the PTO has raised over $105,000 for projects to “support academic and social/emotional needs” of students, McMullen wrote in a tribute. The funds have supported playground improvements, electronic tablets for students, field trips, the Artist in Residence programs and other projects not provided for in the district budget.

Board Chairman Ian Strahler told Bollinger, “I don’t know what we’d do without your commitment and your time.”

Three parents met with the board in a closed session prior to the official meeting to express concerns about curriculum and the movement to curtail or shut down the Pennsylvania-wide charter cyber schools.

Cady Anderson said the specific concerns about the lack of opportunities for their children had to be shared in private to honor the schools’ commitment to student confidentiality.

In the open meeting, Anderson, who has taught elementary education in Maryland and is a former FASD board member, voiced concerns that Fairfield’s current curriculum is not meeting the needs of all children.

She challenged the growing opposition to the charter cyber schools, which she described as “phenomenal.” “Rather than get rid of them,” she said, “let’s utilize them as a resource.”

Anderson and the other two parents feel their children are well-served by the cyber schools and are convinced Fairfield’s and other districts’ local online efforts are woefully inadequate, especially for students with special needs. They indicated they felt Fairfield’s presentation at the recent county-wide forum on cyber schools did not accurately reflect the actual state of online resources offered locally.

Following the meeting, Adamek affirmed the need for curriculum revision, which he has signaled is a priority.

“The entire curriculum needs to be reviewed every three or four years to ensure we’re providing our kids with a well-rounded education,” he said.

Adamek reiterated his commitment to receive input from parents and all who can help “give our kids extra opportunities” in order to be well-prepared for their life journeys.

The superintendent also confirmed that the administration has responded to concerns raised by parents at the board’s April 22 meeting about the schools’ band programs.

“We always take parents’ concerns seriously, and are working through a process” to foster positive student-teacher relationships, he said.

Adamek indicated he believes attitudes of some parents may have changed following the recent band concert at which many felt performances have risen to new levels.

The board’s next meeting will be held on Tuesday, May 28, at 7 p.m., with the deviation from its usual Monday schedule due to the Memorial Day holiday.

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