Report: Senate votes on rewrite of No Child Left Behind

From the Associated Press:

“The Senate has voted to roll back significant parts of the much-criticized No Child Left Behind education law.

The overhaul was approved by a 81-17 vote Thursday and now sets the stage for what could be contentious negotiations with the House over the federal government’s influence over education policy.

A week ago, the House passed its own update of the 2002 law that President George W. Bush pushed.

The Senate bill would leave in place the law’s annual testing schedule. But senators voted to give states and districts more control over whether and how to use tests to assess the performance of schools, teachers and students.

It’s a more moderate approach than the House bill.

The chambers will have to negotiate and approve a compromise.”

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Leadership York program helps foster diversity in schools

More than two dozen York County educators were part of the Leadership for Diverse Schools Class of 2015.

Leadership for Diverse Schools is a program run by Leadership York that helps those working in schools learn to interact more effectively with diverse populations of students, parents and colleagues, a news release says.

The program, a partnership with the York Jewish Community Center, fosters understanding, acceptance and tolerance so educators can lead the way in building culturally proficient communities in their districts, the release says.

Did educators from your district participate? Check out the photo below to find out.

Read about a past Leadership for Diverse Schools class here.

The Leadership for Diverse Schools class of 2015: Emily Frey, Holly Rishel, and Lorna Brenneman, Central York School District; Heather Lyons, Karin Rimer, Catherine Roberto, Kristen Cooper, and Sherry Hetrick, Dallastown Area School District; Randall Seely, Eastern York School District; Anne Clark, Lincoln Charter School; Amy Nohe and Stacey Sidle, Northeastern School District; Evangeline Unti and Shelly Thomas, Northern York County School District; Diane Velez, Red Lion Area School District; George Fitch, Jr., Edwin Hernandez, and Jessica Reyes, School District of the City of York; Joyce Marburger and Joel Logan, South Eastern School District; Jon Zimmerman, South Western School District; Maurene Leary and Kelly Bortner, Spring Grove Area School District; and Krista Wolfenberger, Jennifer Andrews, Amy Kendrick, Alicia Kowitz, and Dana Kitting, York Suburban School District. (Submitted photo)

The Leadership for Diverse Schools class of 2015: Emily Frey, Holly Rishel, and Lorna Brenneman, Central York School District; Heather Lyons, Karin Rimer, Catherine Roberto, Kristen Cooper, and Sherry Hetrick, Dallastown Area School District; Randall Seely, Eastern York School District; Anne Clark, Lincoln Charter School; Amy Nohe and Stacey Sidle, Northeastern School District; Evangeline Unti and Shelly Thomas, Northern York County School District; Diane Velez, Red Lion Area School District; George Fitch, Jr., Edwin Hernandez, and Jessica Reyes, School District of the City of York; Joyce Marburger and Joel Logan, South Eastern School District; Jon Zimmerman, South Western School District; Maurene Leary and Kelly Bortner, Spring Grove Area School District; and Krista Wolfenberger, Jennifer Andrews, Amy Kendrick, Alicia Kowitz, and Dana Kitting, York Suburban School District. (Submitted photo)

 

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York City School District’s community action committee takes shape

Carol Saylor, chief recovery officer for the York City School District, said about 50 people have been tapped for the community action committee she and York Mayor Kim Bracey are to lead.

Here’s a look at who’s on the list. Keep in mind that the committee is less formal than a typical committee that meets regularly.

Annette Anderson

Elodia Barajas, a parent liaison in the school district

Kim Bracey, York mayor

Sara Bradley

Michael Breeland, school board member

Jeanne Buckingham

Warren Bulette, leads the York County Taxpayers Council

Carla Christopher

Jane Conover, York County Community Foundation Continue reading

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School construction reimbursement part of budget battle

Districts around York County are among those awaiting reimbursement from the state for construction costs. Just how those costs should be covered by the state is one of the many issues associated with the state budget.

Dillsburg Elementary is undergoing renovations. (File photo)

Dillsburg Elementary is undergoing renovations. (File photo)

Here’s a look at what’s being considered.

What’s PlanCon? 

It’s the system by which the state reimburses school districts for some school construction costs.

What’s wrong with it? 

By all accounts, it’s an antiquated (think large binders and microfilm), paperwork-heavy, multi-step process that’s a pain to navigate.  And in recent years, a number of districts have become stuck at steps G and H – right before money actually starts flowing. There was a moratorium on new applications, money stopped flowing for those applications already in, and many districts are still waiting for funds they expected to receive.

What’s happening now? Continue reading

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She helped a garden grow at Windsor Manor Elementary

A garden at Windsor Manor Elementary will be removed this month, according to Melanie Markowski. She's helped students tend it for 15 years.

A garden at Windsor Manor Elementary will be removed this month, according to Melanie Markowski. She’s helped students tend it for 15 years. (Submitted)

For 15 years, Melanie Markowski has helped the Junior Garden at Windsor Manor Elementary School blossom. But all good things, it seems, eventually come to an end.

Markowski, of Windsor, said the garden will be removed in July because of renovations the Red Lion Area School District plans to make. She started the garden with a grant and since has advised the Junior Garden Club at Windsor Manor and Mazie Gable elementary schools.

Students have been tending the garden for 15 years, and Markowski estimates that thousands of children have toured it during that time. The 1,200 square feet of beds include are gardens certified as a Monarch Waystation and a National Wildlife Schoolyard Habitat Site, she said.

Markowski – a volunteer – reached out because she wanted to thank those who have helped with the effort during that time.

Here’s what Markowski wrote:

Students have worked in a garden at Windsor Manor Elementary School for years.

Students have worked in a garden at Windsor Manor Elementary School for years. (Submitted)

“For the past fifteen years the elementary students of Windsor Manor and Mazie Gable have created a garden oasis for wildlife at the Windsor Manor Elementary.  Due to renovations by the school district the gardens will be removed in July and permanently closed.  I would like to reach out to the many students who have both contributed to, and toured the gardens, to say thank you for your efforts on behalf of wildlife and to beautify your community.

Though the Junior Garden program at Windsor Manor has ended, students and other gardeners are encouraged to continuing to garden at your own homes and with your families; and plant flowers and trees to attract wildlife like butterflies, bees, birds, small mammals and amphibians to your homes.

Melanie Markowski started a garden at Windsor Manor Elementary School 15 years ago. (Submitted)

Melanie Markowski started a garden at Windsor Manor Elementary School 15 years ago. (Submitted)

Students as Windsor Manor Junior Garden Club members and in general people who garden, learn the basics of gardening, such as tool safety, planting, trimming, composting, mulching, and weeding as well as enhance their abilities to work in a group, work together on tasks, make decisions, problem solve, and accept their different ways of doing a task all while reaching common end goals.  Gardeners enjoy mild exercise and  learn patience waiting for the garden to develop.  Discovering nature and learning to care more about the environment are bonuses.”

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York City schools see principal changes

Melanie Still - who was assistant principal at Hannah Penn K-8 School in this photo - has been named principal at Ferguson K-8 School in York.

Melanie Still – who was assistant principal at Hannah Penn K-8 School in this photo – has been named principal at Ferguson K-8 School in York. (File photo)

Principals in York City are shuffling around for the 2015-16 school year.

A large school board agenda Wednesday night contained a lot of personnel related items, including the rearranging of some principals in the district.

Here’s a look at the new lineup:

Devers K-8 School: Denise Blackwell (previously at Ferguson)

Jackson K-8 School: Philip Livelsberger (previously at Hannah Penn K-8 School)

Hannah Penn K-8 School: Brandon Hufnagel (most recently assistant principal at William Penn)

Ferguson K-8 School: Melanie Still (previously assistant principal at Hannah Penn)

Davis K-8 School: Mindy Sweitzer (most recently at Devers K-8 School, previously led Cornerstone)

Brandon Carter was named principal at William Penn – a role he was already filling in an “acting” capacity. It appears that Randy James, at Goode K-8 School, and Danielle Brown, at McKinley K-8 School, are staying put.

Lulu Thomas, who was principal at Davis, has moved to the administration building as director of pupil personnel services.

Asked about the changes, Supt. Eric Holmes said the district takes a look at each administrator’s strengths and tries to match them with the various schools. He added that last year, there were about 11 administrators in “acting” roles around the district, so some appointments were officially filling positions.

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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

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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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