Another Proposal — from CDT

There was a very thoughtful letter to the Centre Daily Times this past week. It suggested another way to use time in the extended elementary day:

Teaching civics, economics, ethics will make better citizens

While I don’t think the national debt is growing exponentially, if we had some basic economics classes, our elementary students might find out why.

Thanks for some good suggestions.

 

Changes to the Elementary Day

The other night (4/24/2017), the State College School Board agreed to an amendment (technically a Memo of Understanding) to our contract with the teachers (the State College Area Education Association) to examine the feasibility of extending the elementary day. There are several reasons for doing this. The first was to provide more overall learning for our K-5 students, but also more overall time in the core learning subjects (i.e., English/Language Arts, math, social studies, and science). In addition, it will provide a fifth “special” or special learning opportunity (currently library, art, music, and physical education).

From the teacher and administrator point of view, this provides much more planning and professional development time during the school day. As we refine our curriculum in a more deliberate way, our teachers will have — and need — more planning time within the day to incorporate new curricula, new tools, and new techniques into their teaching and learning.

At this time, we have the outline of a proposal for how this would work, given the constraints of our size (for transportation purposes), our staff, and our existing day. We don’t know all the answers yet (if this goes into effect, it will be for the 2018-2019 school year), but we’ll be talking to you at PTO meetings and parent forums in the coming month. The full schedule will be on the SCASD Web site and available in the SCASD Web app.

What’s been going on?

People who only see a School Board member when we’re in a regular board meeting often ask me what goes on between meetings. The last few weeks, my answer has been, “Quite a lot.” In fact what goes on between board meetings is often the best part of being on the School Board. I’ve been:

Reading…

On March 2 — Dr. Seuss’s birthday as any elementary school student can tell you — I was invited to read to Mrs. Donna Bryan’s first grade class at Lemont Elementary School. I brought my own copy of Green Eggs and Ham, and I wore my Seuss hat and Green Eggs and Ham tie.  When I was finished the children asked me why I think reading is important and how I used it in my work.  I had a very enjoyable time and I’d like to thank Mrs. Bryan and her class for the invitation.

Amazed…

On March 4, I attended the Challenging Science Investigations (CSI) Showcase put on by the State College Branch of the American Association of University Women and the State College Area School District Community Education and Secondary Science Department at Park Forest Middle School.  The theme this year was Rube Goldberg contraptions.  I really wanted my daughter to see these young ladies construct complicated “machines” which do very simple things.  There were popping balloons and burning strings and great fun was had by all.  It was very well done.  Thanks to Dr. Donna Ricketts and the Community Education team and to all the science teachers who helped out.

Proud…

Our State College Ice Hockey Team finished the regular season with Senior Night on March 4.  Dr. Mextorf came along to recognize our five seniors and enjoy a very good game.  Unfortunately, we lost to Plum Township 3-2 in overtime, but we still managed to finish third in the top division of the PIHL.  This is the best finish for a State College team since we moved to the AAA (top) division.  We received a first round bye and host a home play-off game on Wednesday, March 17 at 8pm at the Penn State Ice Pavilion.

Practicing, practicing, practicing…

As a result of the first round bye, we had three practices last week and we’ll have two more before Wednesday’s game.  Guest Coach Joe Battista made an appearance last week and went over the penalty kill.  It would be nice not to need that skill, but in reality successful high school hockey teams have successful “special teams.”  Thanks JoeBa!

I’d like to thank all of the folks who have made the last two weeks so enjoyable.  We’ve got a busy, but enjoyable week ahead.

Remembering Rick

School Board President Dr. Rick Madore died on January 18th at the age of 51.  Those of you who know us, knew that Rick and I didn’t start off well.  Because of Rick that didn’t last long. Rick had a way of drawing people back in; engaging folks who didn’t agree with him.  I was one of those folks.  Our relationship thawed over the Summer of 2008, because his wonderful daughter McKenzie was my children’s swim coach.  I got to know Rick and Patty in a way that you can’t during the heat of a campaign.

Over the next year, Rick pulled me in on the District Wide Facilities Master Plan.  At the first meeting, I told him that I thought engaging me was a magnanimous move on his part.  He told me that despite the fact that we might not agree on everything, he thought I was a reasonable person and I had much to contribute to the process.  That as I came to learn “was Rick.”

After the election, no one made me feel more welcome on the board than Rick did.  Rick took the time to explain things to Penni and me, suggested some reading material, and encouraged me to enroll in the PSBA Quick Start program.  In his last note to me he quoted St. Francis, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

My heart goes out to his wife Patty and his children. I will remember Rick for his kindness, his understanding, and his forgiveness.  I will miss his smile and the, “Hey, Boss!” greeting.  Most of all, I will remember him by trying to follow his example.

What’s in a Name?

One of the first issues which we were asked to vote on at the December 7 meeting was the name for the new elementary school on the Panorama/Mt. Nittany site.  Several suggestions were made and the board consensus seemed to be Mt. Nittany Elementary which would make it similar to the Park Forest Middle School/Park Forest Elementary situation on that site.  Board member Dorothea Stahl came up with a great idea of letting the students from Panorama Village and Boalsburg Elementary vote on it.  We came up with three names for them to choose from: Mt. Nittany Elementary, Brandywine Elementary — named for Brandywine Drive, and Panorama Elementary.

The board was informed just before the December 21st meeting that the winner was Mt. Nittany Elementary (MNE).  Congratulation to the students and staff at both schools for turning this around so quickly.  Thanks also to Dorothea for being a strong advocate for this process.  What a great idea to get the students involved in the naming.  As a member of the District Wide Facilities Master Plan Steering Committee, I look forward to a brand new Mt. Nittany Elementary School.

Easterly Parkway Visit

On December 10, the board visited Easterly Parkway Elementary (EPE) School.  It was the first school visit which I attended.  The visit was well attended by board members and administrators.  Our host was EPE principal Brian Peters.  Mr. Peters gave us an overview of the thoughts on education and explained some of the changes he’s made in his short tenure there.  He told us he employs what I would call a peer learning team experience in his faculty meetings, where groups of faculty read articles and share information and best practices with each other.  My Penn State IT Leadership Program involved many of these type of activities and I’m a huge advocate for this style of learning.

Mr. Peters also uses the Penn State Professional Development School program extensively at EPE.  This program is much more involved than a standard student teaching assignment and creates College of Ed graduates who are very prepared for a teaching career.  One of the EPE teachers I spoke with was a PDS student at the school just last year.

All of the staff and students were welcoming.  We ate the cafeteria lunch (I owe David because I forgot my wallet) and had a very good lunch discussion with Mr. Peters and those teachers who happened to be eating their lunches at the same time.  I tried not to be too disruptive to instruction, but I did enjoy some of those candid classroom moments.

Thanks to Mr. Peters and his excellent staff and faculty.  So far, this is the best part of being on the school board.

And so it begins…

Monday, December 7, was the Board Reorganization Meeting.  Judge Thomas Kistler was on hand to hand to swear in Penni Fishbaine, Gowen Roper, David Hutchinson, Jim Pawelczyk, and me.  Judge Kistler did a wonderful job and gave the ceremony the pomp and circumstance accorded by his office.  His goal was to be respectful and brief and I think he accomplished both.

Thanks to Judge Kistler, and Dr. Mextorf for putting together this ceremony.  A special thanks to the old board for both your service and making Penni and me feel so welcome.  I’m still a little overwhelmed, but the old board, the superintendent, and his staff have really eased my transition to the school board.  Thank you!

School Board Fast Start Program

I attended the Pennsylvania School Boards Association‘s (PSBA) Ready, Set, Govern program this weekend in Mars, PA.  The program is intended as an orientation for new school board members and new superintendents.  The program was a tw0-day, four part program and I thought it was very well done.

The first day’s morning program focused on a general background and organization of school boards in Pennsylvania.  My big take-away from this was that the board functions as a unit — policies, decisions, and actions are by the board as a whole and not individual board members.  I knew this, but it’s helpful to be ever vigilant against acting as an individual board member.  That doesn’t mean that there’s no room for leadership, rather that it is our actions as an entire board which matter, not my individual actions.

The afternoon focused on budget.  This is by far the school district’s biggest challenge. This too, was very helpful, particularly with respect to budget time lines (unlike other bodies we must pass our budget by June 30!).

The second day focused on legal matters (Sunshine Law, School Code, etc.) and the board’s role in promoting student performance.  Again both were well done with knowledgeable presenters and I came away with many tidbits of knowledge.  The whole weekend was very helpful and I know that I’ll attend PSBA training sessions in the future.

Thanks Again

Thanks to all who helped out with the election and voted.  I appreciate all the support.  I think the mayor’s race helped get more people to the polls.  Turnout was a little better than four years ago.  I’m looking forward to the challenges of the next four years with new board member Penni Fishbaine and returning board members David Hutchinson, Gowen Roper, and Jim Pawelczyk.

A special thanks to those who helped out canvassing both in my precinct and others on my behalf.  Finally, a very special thanks to my guys for making those election day polling place signs.

Thanks to All

Thanks to everyone who voted on Tuesday.  I’m moving forward on the Democratic side of the ballot in the fall along with Penni Fishbaine, Gowen Roper, and Dave Hutchinson.

A special thanks to those who wrote letters and checks, and canvassed for me.  Your help was very much appreciated.

When I was out at polling sites yesterday, I received quite a few comments to the effect that I should have responded to the League of Women Voters Guide.  The League assured me that they have my proper e-mail now. I guess those who proclaim the death of newspapers have “greatly exaggerated” at least in Centre County. 

Please get in touch if you want to help in the fall.