York Country Day students sing for new citizens

Judge John S. Kennedy stands with fifth-graders from York Country Day School. (submitted)

Judge John S. Kennedy stands with fifth-graders from York Country Day School. (submitted)

On Thursday, fifth-grade students from York Country Day School honored new U.S. citizens with a song at the naturalization ceremony that took place at the York County Administrative Center.

Meet the new citizens: Click here for a photo gallery and story from the day.

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York City School District audit coming

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York City situation draws attention in national media

Margie Orr watches a rally outside a York City schools meeting. (Jeff Lautenberger photo)

Margie Orr watches a rally outside a York City schools meeting. (Jeff Lautenberger photo)

The possible conversion of York City School District buildings to charter schools run by outside operators has drawn the attention of some national news outlets and bloggers lately.

The attention has been coming from sources opposed to the idea of charter operators, and that view comes through loud and clear in these pieces.

The Education Voters piece includes a list of questions, some of which you can find answers to in our coverage.

Click here to find a complete list of all of our coverage of this issue from the past two years. This story looked more closely at “turnaround” experience with Mosaica and Charter Schools USA.

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Pennsylvania School Boards Association asks candidates about education

Signs dotted the landscape outside a polling place in the May primary. (file photo)

Signs dotted the landscape outside a polling place in the May primary. (File photo)

The Pennsylvania School Boards Association sent six education-related questions to every state House and Senate candidate.

Their answers have been compiled on this website, where you can search for the candidates in your area.

It looks like only one candidate in York County, Kristin Phillips-Hill, answered the questions, most of which required only a yes or no.

But you can browse around and see what other candidates have to say. The questions included the candidates’ education priorities and their views on legislation related to charter schools, taxes and other issues.

 

 

 

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York City teachers cite fraud report in fighting charters

Community members rallied before a recent meeting about charter schools last night.

Community members rallied before a recent meeting about charter schools last night.

York City teachers, who continue to fight the possibility that charter operators could be brought in to run district buildings next year, this week pointed to a report detailing fraud by charter school officials in the state.

The Center for Popular Democracy issued the report, which says there has been $30 million in fraud by charter school officials since 1997. The report suggests there’s a need for improving oversight, saying general audit techniques don’t uncover fraud and that charter oversight agencies are understaffed.

Read more from the Philadelphia Inquirer about the report.

The York City Education Association, the union that represents teachers, on Wednesday followed up with a news release, citing the report as another reason the York City School District shouldn’t bring in charter operators to run schools.

York City is currently considering either bringing in Mosaica Education or Charter Schools USA to run district buildings next year or continuing with an internal reform plan.

The teachers’ union has been urging the school board not to go for charters.

“In light of the latest research, the last thing York City’s students need is to be forced into charter schools run by for-profit firms with their own track records of poor performance and accountability,” Clovis Gallon, a city teacher, said in the news release. He said there are better solutions, “starting with adequate funding of locally controlled traditional community schools.”

He added that an internal plan in place needs to be given an opportunity to work.

Also of interest: If charters are recommended, what happens if board says no?

 

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How do you quiet your noisy classroom?

This Buzzfeed story appeared in my Facebook feed courtesy of a teacher friend.

Teacher Meredith Yakelis told me some tricks she uses to get kids' attention include yelling "macaroni and cheese" to which the kids respond "everybody freeze!" (File photo)

Teacher Meredith Yakelis told me some tricks she uses to get kids’ attention include yelling “macaroni and cheese” to which the kids respond “everybody freeze!” (File photo)

“27 Attention Getters for Quieting A Noisy Classroom”

The list is mostly call and response chants teachers use when students are getting chatty or antsy.

I’ve heard some of these. This summer, a Red Lion teacher filled me in on “Macaroni and cheese” “everybody freeze.” And we’ve all by now heard “criss cross applesauce” to get students sitting nice and still.

But Buzzfeed had some new ones; in a pirate-themed classroom teachers would say “Crew” and the class would respond “Aye, aye captain!”

What do you do to get your students’ attention in a noisy classroom?

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Read more about charter meeting, rally in York City

Community members rallied before a meeting about charter schools last night.

Community members rallied before a meeting about charter schools last night. (Photo by Jeff Lautenberger)

Last night, two charter operators interested in running district schools appeared before York City’s Community Education Council meeting, and community members opposed to the idea rallied beforehand.

You can read the story I filed last night here. But when meetings run for hours (the rally started at 5:30 p.m., and I left the Hannah Penn K-8 School auditorium close to 10:30 p.m.), there are always a lot of points that don’t make it in print. So here are some more comments heard at the rally and meeting.

And if you haven’t been following, there’s still time. Mosaica Education will appear at a public meeting tonight at 6:30 p.m. at Hannah Penn.

♦♦♦

Some audience members seemed to indicate they just don’t feel charter operators are needed. Representatives from the charter operators emphasized that they are in York because there was a request.

There’s good stuff happening in York, but it could be better, said Jon Hage, CEO of Charter Schools USA. Hage has said multiple times that the organization had 200 requests to open charter schools last year and opened 12.

“You guys are ripe for systemic change,” he said. “You’re at that place.”

♦♦♦

In response to criticism of charter schools in general, Michael Connelly, CEO of Mosaica Education, said that there are certainly charter schools that get shut down.

“At least what it demonstrates is charter schools are accountable,” he said.

♦♦♦

Some audience members raised concern about losing teachers students know and love if buildings are converted to charters.

Connelly said “great teachers will have the opportunity to be great teachers in the charter school.”

But Clovis Gallon, a York City teacher and parent, said he didn’t think charter schools would be able offer a competitive salary and families like his would have a hard time making thousands of dollars less.

♦♦♦

Parent Natisha Preston, who has three kids at Jackson K-8 School, said she agreed with some who felt the operators presented a “Disney version” of their schools. But she also said York City schools are open to change and have already made some good changes.

“We aren’t against change when it works,” she said.

♦♦♦

State Rep. Kevin Schreiber attended the rally and said he was “incredibly hesitant” about the idea of charters. He said it was important to ask as many questions as possible.

Charters aren’t a panacea, he said, but the status quo needs to change as well. He traced the city district’s problems to decisions under Gov. Tom Corbett, such as the elimination of charter school reimbursement.

Subjecting York City students to a different type of education than other students would be “fundamentally wrong,” he told the crowd at the rally.

♦♦♦

Margie Orr, York City School Board president, watched the rally before the meeting. She carried a “stop corporate takeover” sign, but said someone just put it in her hand. She said it was good to see the community out.

“This is what I told them we needed to see,” she said. “It’s a good thing. They want to protect their district.”

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Former city administrator returns as William Penn assistant principal

There’s a familiar face back in York City schools.

Brandon Hufnagel was an assistant superintendent when he left the York City School District in 2011 to become superintendent of the Warren County School District. He resigned there in early 2013, and just this week, he was appointed acting assistant principal at William Penn Senior High School.

The Warren Times Observer reported in February 2013 that Hufnagel resigned there, citing a need to return to the York area to be with his family.

A month later, the paper reported that shortly before he left, Hufnagel mistakenly used his district credit card for $5,875 in charges at a casino. The story said he repaid the money once the mistake was discovered, and the school board there said he wasn’t forced to leave.

Hufnagel declined to comment on that. He still does consulting work for the Warren County School District, he said, and left on good terms.

He said he does not have a district credit card in York.

He loves being back in the city district, he said, adding that while in Warren County he sometimes helped teachers or principals here.

“I never really left York,” he said.

Supt. Eric Holmes confirmed Hufnagel is working at the high school but declined to comment on anything personnel-related.

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York City schedules meetings with charter operators

The York City School District has three public meetings scheduled with charter operators interested in taking over district schools starting next year, an option being considered by the school board.

On Tuesday, a meeting will be held with Charter Schools USA. On Wednesday, the Community Education Council meeting will include presentations with both Charter Schools USA and Mosaica Education.

On Thursday, a meeting will be held with Mosaica Education.

All of the meetings are at 6:30 p.m. at Hannah Penn K-8 School, 415 E. Boundary Ave., York. There will be time for questions from the public at all of the meetings.

Background:

Read about charter operators’ experience with turnaround

Crowd urges “say no” to charter operators

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ALS ice bucket challenge hits York County schools

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