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.


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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Corbett wants review of state standards; Rep. Grove expresses frustration

Gov. Tom Corbett announced Monday that he wants continued review of the state’s academic standards in order to “ensure that any final influence of the national Common Core State Standards is eradicated from Pennsylvania.”

A news release from the state education department says Corbett wants “continued public review” of the state’s academic standards. The release says it’s “the final phase in his nearly three-year effort to permanently roll back the national Common Core plan implemented by his predecessor, Gov. Ed Rendell.”

Corbett says in the release that Common Core has become “nothing more than a top-down takeover of the education system” and calls it “Obamacare for education.”

The release says he will send acting education Secretary Carolyn Dumaresq to the state Board of Education to ask for immediate statewide hearings to continue to review improvements in the standards.

Last year, the state House of Representatives held hearings to address concerns over the state’s academic standards, which became known as the Pennsylvania Core Standards. At the time, officials said the state had adopted the Common Core and later added to those standards to make them Pennsylvania-specific.

Some expressed confusion at the announcement.




State Reps. Seth Grove (R-Dover Township) and Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster) issued a statement Monday afternoon saying as “strong advocates” for the standards put in place, they were puzzled and frustrated by the governor’s announcement.

We are extremely disappointed the Corbett administration is considering reversing its own policy and opting to further convolute public understanding of our statewide academic standards. As a result, we have lost total confidence in this administration’s ability to manage implementation of these state-specific academic standards,” the statement says.

The legislators’ news release says they will ask for House hearings on the subject. In a letter sent to House Education Committee Chair Paul Clymer, they suggest the governor’s actions have political motives.

Read the state’s news release here.

Read the legislators’ news release and letters they sent to Corbett and Clymer here.

Many schools have been working for years to adjust their curriculum to meet the new standards.

Read here about how some local teachers said they’ve been changing their classrooms.

From the Morning Call: Is Corbett doing an about-face on Common Core?

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Did a charter operator submit an Allentown proposal in York?

I’m sorting through all of the questions that community members asked of the seven charter operators that expressed an interest in taking over one or more York City schools one day.

And it looks like someone was wondering the same thing I was, about the proposal that came from Executive Education Schools.

Did the operator submit its Allentown charter school application after using “find and replace” to change every Allentown reference to York?

Executive Education Schools just opened its first charter school in Allentown. In its York proposal, there are some references to the “York School District” followed by the abbreviation “ASD.” There are references to people from York that are incorrect. (The proposal noted former state Rep. Jennifer Mann being elected to serve her hometown of York, when she was a representative for her hometown of Allentown.)

So, a community member asked Executive Education Schools why they used the same application and just changed the references using Microsoft Word.

“Our model has had proven success in urban areas and various academic settings. We apologize for the oversight on the WORD errors,” the operator responded.


Executive Education Summary (Text)

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‘Baby Got Class’ video celebrates start of school

Parents, are you secretly celebrating the return of your kids to school?

Well, here’s a family so happy they’re rapping about it.

The Holderness family is known on the Internet for a “Xmas Jammies” video that I somehow missed but 14 million other people watched. And now they’re back, with “Baby Got Class,” set to the tune of the Sir Mix A Lot song.

My fave part: “Make it! Make it! Make that healthy lunch!”

It’s pretty fun.

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Welcome back for 2014-15

Well, summer’s pretty much over.

First graders Tessa Rishel, left, and Kaylyn Rosengrant, both 6, hold hands as they arrive on the first day of school at Conewago Elementary School Tuesday. (Photo by Kate Penn)

First graders Tessa Rishel, left, and Kaylyn Rosengrant, both 6, hold hands as they arrive on the first day of school at Conewago Elementary School Tuesday. (Photo by Kate Penn)

School buses began rolling this week, and students are heading back to their classrooms around York County. (A few districts don’t have to return until next week.)

As your kids head back to school, be sure to share any photos you take in our online gallery!

Find back-to-school information, including what’s new in your districts, here.

As always, feel free to get in touch with news from your districts. You can reach me at amason@ydr.com

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