Superintendents get letter on spending Wolf’s proposed education increase

A letter to Pennsylvania superintendents from acting education Secretary Pedro Rivera describes how the state wants school districts to use proposed additional funds in classrooms.

Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed budget would increase basic education funding by $400 million, the letter says, and Wolf’s proposal includes two accountability measures for using it.

All districts will be required to use “a portion of their basic education funding increase that exceeds the inflation-based index” for evidence based programs such as: early childhood education programs like pre-kindergarten, summer learning programs, additional instructional time, smaller early elementary classes, hybrid learning options, and more.

Wolf also wants to see the effectiveness of the additional investments, the letter says, so districts will choose benchmarks for that purpose. Those could include looking at the percentage of additional students able to read on grade level by the end of third grade, progress in closing the achievement gap, improvements in high school graduation and dropout rates and more.

The letter says they should submit plans mid-May.

Read the full letter below.

Update: Senate Republicans issued a news release late today saying it is premature to mandate districts submit plans for the proposed funding.

“This latest political stunt by the Wolf Administration completely disregards the need for the legislative process,” Sen. Joe Scarnati said in the release.  “Governor Wolf and his Administration are placing a significant burden on our school officials by mandating that they complete these reports for funding, which has not been vetted by the Legislature.”

Read that news release here.

Letter to Superintendents by Governor Tom Wolf

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Are mini-horses coming to school? Probably not, but just in case …

This tweet first drew my attention.

 

That’s when I learned York Suburban School District was looking at updating its service animal policy (among a host of other policies). It includes the addition of a section on when a miniature horse can be used as a service animal. (See the draft here.)

I asked Steve Whiteley, a teacher at York Suburban, if someone was actually seeking to use miniature horse as a service animal, and he said he didn’t think so, but found it odd.

As did a few other people who emailed us.

So I sent an email to Supt. Shelly Merkle, who wrote back “Believe me, we also had a little bit of fun with the idea of miniature horses in the buildings.”

"Chipper", a minature horse from EquiTeam support services, appeared at the Autism Walk in 2014. (I don't think Chipper is a service animal as defined by the proposed York Suburban policy, but Chipper helps therapists working with children who have communication or sensory issues.) (File photo)

“Chipper,” a minature horse from EquiTeam support services, appeared at the Autism Walk in 2014. (I don’t think Chipper is a service animal as defined by the proposed York Suburban policy, but Chipper helps therapists working with children who have communication or sensory issues.) (File photo)

But apparently, recent court appeals have ruled in favor of the use of miniature horses as service animals. The Pennsylvania School Boards Association recommends policy revisions that incorporate the latest court decisions so that districts are prepared, she said.

“So, no, we have not had a request for use of a miniature horse as a service animal but at least one other district has … and we will now be prepared,” she said.

Often, if you see one district making a change like this, you’ll see it in others, too. The York Suburban update will go before the board March 16, according to board documents.

This 2011 Associated Press story says that updates to the Americans with Disabilities Act added miniature horses as service animals. At that point, not many people used mini horses, the story says.

Here’s more info from the ADA on miniature horses as service animals.

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Mentors take York boys to Temple University

Mentors took a group of York City School district students on a trip to Temple University recently. (submitted photo)

Mentors took a group of York City School district students on a trip to Temple University recently. (submitted photo)

A group of third- and fourth-grade boys from York City School District recently spent a day at Temple University, thanks to a group of mentors.

Jeff Kirkland, one of the trip’s organizers, said it was arranged through BT Express, a program Kirkland’s brother Kerry Kirkland founded, that works with students at the high school level. Jeff Kirkland said organizers thought it would be beneficial to reach students at a younger age.

The boys started their day with breakfast at Shady Maple, then headed to Philadelphia for a tour of the Temple University campus. Then they watched Temple win over University of Connecticut in basketball. Kirkland said conversations centered around character, leadership and responsibility.

About 30 students and 15 mentors participated, he said. The students were chosen by their school principals to participate.

“This was the beginning,” Kirkland said, adding that it took a while to gather donations for the trip, and he hopes mentors will be checking in on students periodically. A spring fishing trip is being planned.

Anyone interested in helping with the mentoring efforts can call Kirkland at 434-8504 or Barry Freeland at 848-6700.

Kirkland provided this list of mentors: Continue reading “Mentors take York boys to Temple University” »

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Miss White Rose City to promote early reading around York

Caroline Jones, Miss White Rose City (submitted)

Caroline Jones, Miss White Rose City (submitted)

Caroline Jones, Miss White Rose City, will visit area schools next week to highlight the importance of reading early and often to children, according to a news release.

Through the United Way of York County, Jones will visit the following schools: York Academy Regional Charter School, York Day Nursery, McKinley K-8 School, and Crispus Attucks’ preschool and after-school programs, Conewago Elementary School, Mount Wolf Elementary School and Otterbein Learning Center.

As Miss White Rose City, Jones, from Mountain Top, Pa.,  represents York in the Miss America Organization.

A freshman at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Jones is an advocate for education and childhood literacy and author/illustrator of “One More Book, Please!”

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Scholarships available for York City students

Attention York City seniors: York City Dollars for Scholars wants to give you a scholarship!

Well, they’d like to consider it anyway. But you have to apply.

The organization needs more students to apply for its scholarships, school board member James Sawor told the board on Wednesday night. Seniors who live in the city school district can apply.

Sawor said about 50 students initially expressed interest in the scholarships, but as of last week only 12 had finished and submitted their applications. Scoring starts March 8, so there’s still time to get those applications in.

There are 48 scholarships available typically in amount of about $1,000 to $1,500, Sawor said.

Additionally, there’s a scholarship available for students who are going to be music majors in college that Sawor said sometimes goes unawarded. (One of those many passionate music students we hear from in York City must be planning to major in it, right?)

So the opportunities are out there. Seek information at the school (try your guidance counselor or ask in the office) if you are interested in applying or pass the word along!

Update: I tweeted this blog entry and learned that the York County Hispanic Coalition has scholarship opportunities, too. It looks like you have until March 27 on those, so get moving!

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York County superintendents weigh in on state issues

Three York County superintendents testified before the state House education committee last week on issues including Keystone exams and ever-changing state standards.

Red Lion Area School District Supt. Scott Deisley, Northern York County Supt. Eric Eshbach and Central York Supt. Michael Snell all appeared before the committee on behalf of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators.

According to copies of their testimony, Deisley testified with a Delaware County superintendent, Lee Ann Wentzel, on House Bill 177, which would establish a commission to study and make recommendations on the Pennsylvania Core Standards.

They offered support for the bill but cautioned that schools and families are feeling “a bad case of state policy whiplash” from the frequently changing standards, according to a copy of their testimony. Districts face difficulty in adjusting curriculum to meet standards when they change so frequently. For example, Red Lion has had to adjust its five year curriculum review cycle and instead make changes nearly every year in some curriculum areas, the testimony says.

Eshbach and Snell spoke on House Bill 168, which would keep the state from using the Keystone exams as a graduation requirement, among other things.

The superintendents supported the bill, saying that in York County there’s been significant work to analyze Keystone scores and adjust instruction to try to ensure all students can pass. But while all students are expected to pass, schools are also required to differentiate instruction for each child’s needs.

The superintendents also raised concern that the exams don’t look at critical 21st Century skills and could end up taking away from the time students at vocational technical schools are spending on their career skills, measured by another exam.

Read the testimony below. Click here to see who else testified.

 

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Northeastern Middle students receive Chromebooks

About 100 students at Northeastern Middle School recently received Chromebooks as part of a 1:1 pilot program. (Submitted photos)

About 100 students at Northeastern Middle School recently received Chromebooks as part of a 1:1 pilot program. (Submitted photos)

Northeastern Middle School recently placed Chromebooks into the hands of about 100 seventh- and eighth-grade students.

About 100 students at Northeastern Middle School recently received Chromebooks as part of a 1:1 pilot program. (Submitted photos)

Northeastern Middle School hopes a pilot program will expand to the entire school next year. (Submitted photos)

The school’s GOLD team is participating in a 1:1 pilot program for the rest of the school year. Many school districts around the county have been working to try out or expand such programs, which typically give students a laptop or table to use for their use at school and home.

The idea is to expand the program later, reaching about 1,600 students over two years. Read more about Northeastern’s technology initiatives here.

Northeastern Middle Principal Michael Alessandroni said the hope is to roll out Chromebooks to all middle schoolers next year, pending school board approval. He provided these photos of students receiving their new laptops.

The project is known as “Anytime Anywhere Learning.”

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West York students tackle future city design

West York seventh-graders Kohen Stover, Keyana McGuire, Jonathan Soyke presented their team's project at the Central Pennsylvania Future City Competition.

West York seventh-graders Jonathan Soyke, Kohen Stover and Keyana McGuire presented their team’s project at the Central Pennsylvania Future City Competition. (Submitted)

Seventh-graders at West York Area Middle School recently imagined a city of the future and brought it to life for the Future City Competition.

The Central Pennsylvania regional finals of the competition were held Jan. 24, at the State Museum of Pennsylvania, with the theme “Feeding Future Cities: Create a Futuristic Solution to Growing Crops in Urban Settings.”

Penny Shearer, a West York teacher who worked with the team, said in an email that the competition gives students an engineering problem to solve in the future. This year, they had to choose a protein and a vegetable and determine how to grow enough to sustian the population for one growing season.

“This is a huge endeavor,” she said. The students created a city using SimCity, wrote a 500-word essay about their city and its innovations,  and built a scale model of part of that city. A York College engineering student acted as mentor, and the students answered questions from judges at the competition.

West York students who competed in the Future City Competition created a future city in SimCity and then made a scale model of part of it. (Submitted)

West York students who competed in the Future City Competition created a future city in SimCity and then made a scale model of part of it. (Submitted)

Shearer said the West York team took an award home for designing the “most renewable water source” for its city.

Team members were: Keyana McGuire, Jonathan Soyke, Kohen Stover, Augie Citrone, Jack Citrone, Griffin Conaway, Reilly Dearolf, Anira Glacken, Jackson Suter and Ayla Wallace.

Learn more about the competition here.

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Read Lincoln Charter renewal documents

Last week, the York City School Board voted to approve a renewal agreement that allows Lincoln Charter School to remain open for another five years.

The charter school’s board had previously renewed the agreement, which contains performance goals and other elements, many of which were part of a renewal agreement for its sister school, Helen Thackston Charter School.

Read the renewal agreement below.

 


Lincoln Charter renewal agreement (Text)

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Students put their view of York into a mural

From the left, Alexander Vargas, 13, Diego Feliciano, age 13, Jada Carr, age 14, and Zoe Falzone, age 13 look over a mural they created with others to be hun in the cafeteria. at Ferguson school January 21, 2015 (Photo by Paul Kuehnel)

From the left, Alexander Vargas, 13, Diego Feliciano, age 13, Jada Carr, age 14, and Zoe Falzone, age 13 look over a mural they created with others to be hung in the cafeteria. at Ferguson school January 21, 2015 (Photo by Paul Kuehnel)

In the cafeteria at Ferguson K-8 School, panels of a mural rested against the wall recently, waiting to be hung.

Students in the school’s STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) program created the mural with help from artist Ophelia Chambliss. The students first toured the murals of York, then began thinking about what they could paint to represent their city and school, students said.

The resulting panels feature representations of York symbols, like a White Rose, and school images, like the Ferguson Fox. It includes the Penn Park monument and some fun elements like the York Revolution logo, a basketball and a soccer ball.

The project was one of the ways the school has been tying art into the program.

“We thought about the cool parts of York,” said eighth-grader DeJuan Gibbs, adding that to the students, “this is York.”

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