We’ve moved to a new site!

Cram Session has moved to another platform on the York Daily Record’s new website, WWW.YDR.COM.

Our new address is  http://www.ydr.com/blog/cramsession/. So please bookmark it to see new stories and photos.

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Teachers turn to onlind fundraising for classroom items

Books, musical instruments and just run-of-the-mill classroom supplies are among the things teachers in the area need and are turning to online fundraising to get.

Some local teachers have had luck getting needed classroom items through online fundraising. (File photo)

Some local teachers have had luck getting needed classroom items through online fundraising. (File photo)

Those items are among the requests made on DonorsChoose.org, a website that allows teachers to make requests for items they need. Community members can then make donations to support the projects.

During a York City School Board meeting Wednesday, Davis K-8 School Principal Mindy Sweitzer reported that a few of her teachers had requests fulfilled through the website. The items received included technology and a number of xylophones for the music room.

I quickly typed “York, PA” into the DonorsChoose search bar and found a few requests from teachers in York City and the surrounding area.

In “Squirming Towards Learning,” Hannah Penn K-8 teacher Mrs. Zercher explains a need for balance disks to help the emotionally disturbed children in her classroom get their “wiggles” out.

The cost is about $270.

In another request, North Salem Elementary School teacher Mrs. Rinaldo says she needs three microscopes plus batteries to help her third-grade students in the Dover Area School District learn more about plants and animals. The cost: $465.

A few hundred dollars might not seem like a huge cost, but in the current climate, schools are making the most of every penny.

The projects usually include notes saying that DonorsChoose volunteers have reviewed the requests to verify things like the cost.

Have you turned to online fundraising to meet any classroom needs? Did it work?

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York City School Board: Just enough candidates on Nov. 3 ballot

What will the ballot for York City School Board look like Nov. 3?

Election Day is Nov. 3. (file photo)

Election Day is Nov. 3. (file photo)

Technically, the race is not contested (there are just enough people on the ballot to fill all the seats). But there’s at least one write-in candidate trying to make things interesting.

There are five four-year seats available and five people on the ballot:

  • incumbent Michael Breeland, Democrat
  • incumbent Diane Glover Brown, Democrat
  • incumbent Lois Garnett, Democrat
  • incumbent Michael Miller, Democrat
  • incumbent James Sawor, Democrat

There are also two, two-year seats available and two names on the ballot:

  • Juanita Kirkland, Democrat
  • Dave Moser, Libertarian

I’ve heard various names swirling as potential write-in efforts, but I only know of one for certain: James A. Harris wants voters to write him in for a two-year seat, according to a flier.

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Auditor General: Poorly performing schools should have gotten help

Several York County schools are among those that state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale says should have received help from the education department based on their School Performance Profile scores.

According to 2013-14 SPP scores, around 800 schools scored lower than a 70, the score the state has generally deemed as acceptable.

DePasquale’s report says that of those, 561 schools received no “substantial assistance” from the department to try to improve. That list includes:

  • Helen Thackston Charter School, York
  • Lincoln Charter School, York
  • Newberry Elementary, West Shore School District
  • Lincolnway Elementary, West York Area School District
  • Davis and Devers K-8 schools, York City School District
  • Dover Area Intermediate School, Dover Area School District
  • South Eastern Middle School-East, South Eastern School District.

Schools that did receive assistance were those the state was required to by the federal government, according to Depasquale. The federal government requires assistance to those schools receiving Title I funding, aimed at schools with large low-income populations, that are among the lowest-performing in the state

The auditor general believes it shouldn’t only be those federally designated schools receiving help. Any school that the department believes is academically challenged should be getting some kind of help, he said.

“Designating a school as not successful and leaving them out on their own doesn’t make any sense to me,” he said.

The report notes that the department, when asked, pointed to online resources that are available to all schools. The auditor’s office questions whether those are effective.

The report includes suggestions for how the department should work to address those schools moving forward.

Education department spokeswoman Nicole Reigelman provided the following statement on the report:

“Every child deserves access to a quality education in a safe and healthy environment—that is a goal the department strives for each day Department of Education leadership has reviewed the auditor general’s findings and recommendations, and is addressing any necessary corrective action to ensure equitable access to a quality education for students across the commonwealth.”

Read the report or see the full list of schools. Get more information on the audit here.

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Lincoln Charter School to mark International Walk to School Day

Students walked around the Lincoln Charter School neighborhood last year on Walk to School Day. (File photo)

Students walked around the Lincoln Charter School neighborhood last year on Walk to School Day. (File photo)

Wednesday is International Walk to School Day, and Lincoln Charter School is ready as usual.

If you’re nearby, around 9 a.m., you’ll see students walking around the charter school’s neighborhood with parents, teachers and community leaders. The Lion Drum Line will be out, and there will be guest speakers.

The event aims to draw attention to the need for safe routes for students to walk to school.

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Starbucks helps York City students start the year off right

Starbucks teamed up with Communities in Schools to help make sure York City students have the supplies they need this school year.

Starbucks and its customers helped provide supplies to York City students this year.

Starbucks and its customers helped provide supplies to York City students this year.

Crystal Mayers, manager of the Arsenal Road Starbucks, is in charge of community giving for the York region and brought the three Starbucks locations in the York area together for the supply drive, according to information provided by Communities in Schools.

Customers left supplies in baskets in each stores, donating enough to fill four car trunks. But in addition to that, Apple Subaru donated 50 backpacks, Office Max gave a pallet filled with spiral notebooks, and Target gave $50 for Mayers to buy things the Communities in Schools site coordinators said they need, according to the program.

Students at Goode,  Jackson and McKinley K-8 schools and William Penn Senior High School will receive the supplies, according to CIS.

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What do you know about the Constitution?

At Northern Middle School, kids have been hearing Constitutional trivia on the announcements each day this week, courtesy of teacher Ray Kunkel.

At Red Lion Area High school, Garrett Bull gets his students using the Constitution as they play Constitutional Power Grab or try a Constitutional Scavenger hunt.

And Stuart Krise, at William Penn High School, who gives a citizenship test at the beginning and end of each year, gets students thinking about their rights, giving them a scenario about aliens invading earth and wanting them to give up some of their rights.

Today is Constitution Day, and around York County, many teachers find unique ways to help students think about the founding U.S. document.

We asked those teachers to help us put you to the test, too. Here’s a quiz, compiled with help from teachers around York County.

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Keep up with back-to-school news

It’s non-stop back-to-school madness these days.

Patrick Williams takes a first day photo of his daughter Evie, age 8, outside Wallace Elementary School. The new bus circle is used for a bus transfer to Lincolnway Elementary School. The first day of school at Wallace Elementary School in West Manchester Township Wednesday. (Photo by Paul Kuehnel)

Patrick Williams takes a first day photo of his daughter Evie, age 8, outside Wallace Elementary School. The new bus circle is used for a bus transfer to Lincolnway Elementary School. The first day of school at Wallace Elementary School in West Manchester Township Wednesday. (Photo by Paul Kuehnel)

Keep up with all of our stories here! More to come in the next few days.

When does school start, and what’s new in districts?

New and improved Wallace Elementary School opens

Teen computer programmers find coding opportunities in school and out

Getting kids back into school routines (Suggestion: start now even if the kids haven’t!)

Ready for kindergarten? Here are 8 tips for parents

Back-to-school shopping: What are families spending?

Going to college? Check out these helpful apps

Opening of York City’s Hannah Penn delayed by mold; air quality OK, district says

5 things to know about local colleges starting the semester

Restored garden was a focus at Goode K-8 Back-to-School night

William Penn Senior High School opens with a focus on freshmen

More stories are coming, so check back for more in the next few days.

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Moody’s: Financial stresses cause districts, including York City, to see bond rating downgrades

A report from a credit rating agency outlines troubles faced by school districts around Pennsylvania, noting that York City is among those to have its bond rating downgraded in recent months.

Here’s a look at what’s happened.

‘Unlikely to recovery soon’: A July report from Moody’s says a small group of “troubled” Pennsylvania schools are dealing with severe financial stress and are unlikely to recovery soon.

The reasons? A “fiscal cocktail” of rising pension obligations, delayed construction reimbursement from the state, charter school pressures and a failure to raise property taxes, the report says. It notes that four school districts in the state are now “speculative grade,” which means there is a substantial amount of credit risk, according to a Moody’s spokesperson.

The report also notes that Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed budget would be favorable to districts, but that growing pension and charter costs are competing with debt for state funding.

York City downgraded: The report notes that in June, York City School District’s credit rating was downgraded from Baa2 negative to Baa3 negative.

The report for that downgrade lists what we already know about the district as reasons: it has high debt burden, a stagnant tax base, high poverty levels and low wealth. The report does note that the district’s condition has improved in recent years, but says one-time revenues helped achieve positive operating results in 2012-13 and 2013-14.

York City’s rating is still investment grade, according to Moody’s.  It could be improved if it continues balanced operations and increases reserves and cash on hand, if its tax base improves, its debt decreases or tax collections improve, Moody’s says.

See that report below.

Auditor general weighs in:  Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said the report shows the need for reform of Pennsylvania’s education system.

“This is troubling news for school districts and for residents because when bond ratings are downgraded it drives up the costs when schools need to borrow money or repair or upgrade their facilities,” he said in a news release. “Simply increasing funding is not enough. We need to stem the hemorrhaging of school district finances and look for long-term, systemic changes.”



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Back-to-school shopping: What are you spending?

Last year, Adam Coomes, left, of Stewartstown, shopped with his mom Kristin Coomes and his brother, Kyle Coomes at Target in Springettsbury Township. (File photo)

Last year, Adam Coomes, left, of Stewartstown, shopped with his mom Kristin Coomes and his brother, Kyle Coomes at Target in Springettsbury Township. (File photo)

In most districts around York County, students will head back to school in less than a month. Have you started your shopping?

Check out what the annual survey from the National Retail Federation has to say about the annual rite of back-to-school shopping.

$630.36

That’s the average amount a K-12 family spends on electronics, apparel and other school supplies. It’s nearly $39 less than a family expected to spend last year.

Here’s how it breaks down:

$217.82 – clothing and accessories

$117.56 – shoes

$97.74 – school supplies

$197.24 – electronics or computer-related equipment Continue reading

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