Beth Farnham joins CVSD school board

The Conewago Valley school board filled its vacant position on Monday evening following a 7-0 vote.

Beth Farnham was sworn in prior to the meeting, pending approval of the school board.

Farnham’s term will expire this year. Farnham replaces Tara Bolton, who resigned.

Safety and communications

Matthew Muller, director of district safety and communications, said risk and vulnerability assessments conducted with the Pennsylvania State Police recently concluded.

“I’m excited to get those back and look at the things we’re doing well and the things we need to grow upon and we’ll be fixing here for the future,” Muller said.

Muller said the district is still working with the Center for State Schools (CSS) to survey behavioral health and school climate. The district is working with Michelle Kern, a coordinator for CSS. Three buildings have been surveyed and the elementary schools will be completed soon, according to Muller.

Along with information about potential security options, Muller said he plans to provide the data to the board once it is available. He will likely prepare a presentation for the study session in April.

Muller said he is also tackling safety from a digital angle. He is working with the state attorney general’s office to prepare cyber safety presentations geared to both children and their parents or guardians.

Budget, building plans

Superintendent Sharon Perry said the district is working to address issues identified both internally and by members of the public.

“Two of the major issues that our community showed us, that came out loud and clear, was our communication – that was our number one challenge that we needed to address as a school community – and safety,” Perry said. “So I really appreciate Mr. Muller’s step in that direction to help move us in the right direction to be collecting the data that we all need in order to come up with the very best plan as part of our communications and our safety endeavors.”

Concerns about the district’s buildings have also come up during the comprehensive planning process. These led to the board’s search for solutions. The feasibility has lasted a year and a half and is ongoing as the board compares options for renovating or rebuilding facilities.

Perry reminded the community that the board is working to examine all data and feedback before making a decision.

“This is not without the input of our community,” Perry said. “It’s not without the input from our administrative team. All of the things that we’re doing as part of this comprehensive plan are collaborative. That’s the theme here. So we all must work together in order for us to achieve our goals.”

As the district eyes facility updates, Perry said she has also been forced to consider staffing needs. While the district cannot create all of the necessary positions immediately, Perry said her administrative team is examining its options. It will take time.

“What it’s going to take for us to gradually have the staff that we need to be able to serve our students the very best that we can takes a lot of planning and patience,” Perry said. “That’s exactly what we’re working on right now.”

All of these concerns relate directly to the district’s budget as it considers the cost of adding staff, renovating or rebuilding schools and making other improvements.

Lori Duncan, the district’s business manager, gave the board copies of a “high-level snapshot” of the board’s finances and needs.

Those snapshots contained summaries of what the board could expect with 100%, 75%, 50%, 25% and 0% tax increases, as well as how increases would affect taxpayers, according to Duncan.

Duncan said that while there is a lot to consider for the immediate budget development, assessing the district’s needs and budget options is a never-ending process. Decisions made for the next budget year will affect future budgets and decisions.

“Our view is always, ‘Where do we want to be next year? Five years? Ten years?’” Duncan said.

Dr. Brad Sterner, assistant superintendent and Title IX coordinator, is in his fifth week in his position. Perry praised his efforts.

“He is so amazed by the leadership of our administrative team and also the instruction he’s observing as he’s made his way into the classrooms and always comes back with little nuggets of success that he has observed,” Perry said. “We’re really lucky to have him. He’s been a lot of fun to work with thus far.”

The board held a closed session prior to the public meeting.

A special meeting for the district’s feasibility study will be held at 6 p.m. Monday, April 3 in the district auditorium. The board’s study session will follow at 7 p.m.

A regular public meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. Monday, April 10 in the district board room.

Click here to learn more about Conewago Valley’s 2022-2025 comprehensive plan.

Click here to learn more about the district’s feasibility study, with links dating back to June 2021.

Featured image: Beth Farnham

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Imari Scarbrough is a freelance journalist. She was a staff newspaper reporter for five years before becoming a freelancer in 2017. She has written on crime, environmental issues, severe weather events, local and regional government and more.

You can visit her website at

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