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Emotions run high at Ram Community Centre meeting

December 21, 2011 Leave a comment

Caption: A crowd listens as Allan Darr talks about the proposed Ram Community Centre on Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at the Penns Valley High School auditorium. Christopher Weddle

BY ED MAHON

PUBLISHED IN THE CENTRE DAILY TIMES

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 15, 2011

PENN TOWNSHIP — About 300 Penns Valley Area residents turned out for an informational meeting Wednesday night about the proposed $4.5 million Ram Community Centre.

The issue’s become controversial in recent weeks, and the moderator ended the meeting after some audience members started shouting questions and objections to the project and after two men in the crowd got into an argument.

“I don’t think anybody in this room says we don’t want a YMCA. We just don’t want it on the school property,” Johnathan Gillan shouted to the moderator, so he could be heard in the almost packed auditorium at Penns Valley Area High School.

One person greeted his comment with an “Amen” and some applauded. But a few sitting next to him objected.

“Why not?” shouted another man in the crowd. When Gillan responded that he had safety concerns, the other man — who later declined to give his name a reporter — mocked that argument.

“Do you actually think there’s going to be boogeymen hiding behind every bush, reaching out to grab a kid? Do you actually believe that?” the man shouted. “Come on. Jerry Sandusky is over there. He’s not here. He’s one guy. You’ve got to be kidding me.”

Then Russ Brooks, the moderator and supporter of the proposed projected, tapped on the microphone and told the audience he was wrapping things up.

“As I said at the outset, every question would be treated with respect even if we could not answer it tonight. Pardon me,” Brooks, who’s both a former Penns Valley Area school board member and a former Centre Hall mayor, said as one person yelled another comment. “The second point I made was we needed to be civil. And clearly there are levels of frustration among individuals that don’t permit that. And I’m genuinely sorry about that. But please stay and talk with any person here after we close the meeting, and look for other opportunities to learn more, and get more facts, and express yourself.”

The ending came shortly after 9 p.m., a little more than two hours into the meeting which had been highly anticipated in the region with about 9,000 residents. For the past several weeks, dueling road signs have been set up on Penns Valley Area lawns and farms.

At issue is whether the school district should lease land to a nonprofit organization that will build a community center. That all-volunteer nonprofit, known as the Ram Community Centre, has agreements to lease space inside the facility for a YMCA branch, medical offices and a senior center.

Leaders of the Ram Community Centre have listed answers to more than 60 questions at their website, http://www.pvramcentre.org, and they said Wednesday evening they planned to answer every question that audience members wrote down. Susan Dawson criticized the format of the meeting.

“There was an hour and a half given to their views, and no time giving to the opposing views,” she said. “The question and answer session was very controlled. And that was disappointing.”

From 7 to about 8:30 p.m., about 10 speakers and supporters of the project presented information. Then they fielded questions, but the questions had to be written down on index cards.

Brooks said he understood Dawson’s frustration. But he said the large meeting was a good setup for providing information, not debating an issue.

“The intention is to have small group meetings, with seven, eight, 10 people, have some coffee and talk,” Brooks said, “and really, really, deeply dive into some of those questions.” Ed Mahon can be reached at 231-4619.

Read more here: Emotions run high at Ram Community Centre discussion.

Ram Centre plan stirs division in Penns Valley community

December 21, 2011 Leave a comment

A sign opposing the Penns Valley Ram Centre being built on school property sits in along Route 45 in front of the Penns Valley High School. Abby Drey 

 

PUBLISHED IN THE CENTRE DAILY TIMES

MONDAY, DECEMBER 12, 2011

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BY ED MAHON

PENN TOWNSHIP — Dueling signs sit on farms and lawns in Penns and Brush valleys. “No Ram Center on school property,” read the yellow opposition signs that have black and red lettering.

The white signs with blue lettering and an image of a ram have a different message.

“Please Support the Ram Community Centre,” they read. “Strengthening Family, Friends and Community.”

The creators of the two signs don’t just differ on whether “center” should be spelled like the county where it’s located. They and their supporters disagree about the role of a publicly funded school district — and whether Penns Valley Area school leaders should be working to establish a nonprofit that will rent space for a YMCA, a senior center and medical offices.

The conflict threatens to delay or derail the construction of the $4.5 Ram Community Centre — an idea that dates back to 2007, but which has been modified twice.

“The goals are noble of this group, but it doesn’t belong on school property,” said Richard Steinberger, a Penn State research scientist who has one of the yellow, black and red signs on his Penns Valley home. “And the school needs to concentrate on academics, not on business ventures.”

Chris Hosterman has a different view of the partnership between the Penns Valley Area School District and the nonprofit Ram Community Centre.

“The reality is that’s the strength of the plan,” said Hosterman, a former Penns Valley Area school board member and leader of the community center project. “We’re taking taxpayer assets and leveraging those for the community.”

Read more here: Ram Centre plan stirs division in Penns Valley community.

Centre County educator named Teacher of the Year

December 21, 2011 Leave a comment

Caption: Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis is pictured with Tricia Miller, a literacy coach in Penns Valley Area School District, Centre County, who was named the 2012 Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year. Pictured from left are Secretary Tomalis, Miller and John Anthony Ventura III, a former student in Miller s English class. 

PUBLISHED IN THE CENTRE DAILY TIMES

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 7, 2001

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BY ED MAHON

In third-grade, Tricia Miller’s seat ended up right next to the teacher’s desk.

The teacher didn’t set up her classroom that way because Miller was a troublemaker who needed to be kept under a watchful eye. She did it because, even before the age of 10, those around Miller recognized she’d be a good teacher.

On Monday evening, the state recognized that, too.

Miller, a secondary English teacher at Penns Valley Area High School, was named the 2012 Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year, becoming the first Centre County educator to receive the award in its 54-year history.

“The experience has just been phenomenal,” said Miller, who was honored with 12 other finalists at a conference in Hershey this week. “I was with many, many, many fine teachers. …We all do what we can for kids, and that’s what’s so exciting.”

She will now serve as a spokesperson for teachers from across the state at events and conferences throughout the year, and she will represent the state in the national teacher of the year competition. Penns Valley Area High School plans to honor her and other teachers with a pep rally this afternoon.

“She cares about achievement, she cares about the teaching profession, as well as the community that she works in,” said Jacque Martin, the high school principal who nominated her for the honor. “So I am just so proud of her.”

Miller graduated from Bellefonte Area High School in 1990, and now lives in Lock Haven with her husband, two daughters, and stepdaughter. She has worked for Penns Valley since 1994, teaching English classes for most of that time.

In February 2009, she became the district’s literacy coach for grades 7 through 12, and helped introduce new instructional strategies in classrooms. Martin asked her to take on that role, which meant less time with students, and more time coaching her fellow teachers.

“I knew her colleagues respected her,” Martin said. Miller returned to the classroom full-time this year. John Ventura, 20, is one of her former students. He walked into her 12th-grade English classroom the second half of his senior year, after he’d already been accepted into Penn State.

“The first line out of her mouth was … ‘If you have senioritis, go see a doctor,’ ” recalled Ventura, who gave a speech honoring Miller at the Hershey conference. One of the lasting images he remembers from that semester in spring 2009 is the stare she could give, one that would send the message: You’re going to do the work, even if you fight it.

“She may come off as somebody who’s tough and hard, but she’s somebody who knew you had the ability to do great things as long as you put your mind to it,” said Ventura, who’s now a hotel and restaurant management major at Penn State. “She instilled some things that I’ll carry with me forever.”

Two other Penns Valley teachers, Jacqui Wagner and Mary Conner-Righter, were semifinalists in the state Teacher of the Year program. Erich May, who taught journalism and English at Bellefonte Area High School before taking an administrator job in the Allentown School District earlier this school year, was also one of the 12 finalists for the Teacher of the Year award.

In one of her many application essays, Miller wrote about the third-grade teacher who she ended up sitting near. She also wrote about the first-grade teacher who gave her a “beautiful, green, rubber bouncy ball for jumping rope longer than anyone else in the class,” the second-grade teacher who gently removed a pin that Miller had accidentally jabbed into her own finger instead of into a Christmas decoration, and the high school teachers who helped her play alto saxophone “without screeching,” and who taught her who “to love American literature, as well as analyze it, critique it, summarize it, and reflect on it through writing.”

“These are the greatest influences on my decision to become a teacher,” Miller wrote in her application, “and these teachers are behind my accomplishments, not only in education but personally as well, whether they realize it or not.” Ed Mahon can be reached at 231-4619.

Read more here: Centre County educator named Teacher of the Year.

Second Mile, PSU had land deal in 2002

November 21, 2011 Leave a comment

 

Caption: There is no construction Monday, November 14, 2011 at the site of the new Second Mile learning center in Patton Township. Nabil K. Mark 

PUBLISHED IN THE CENTRE DAILY TIMES

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 2011

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BY ED MAHON

STATE COLLEGE — Penn State sold about 40.7 acres of undeveloped land to The Second Mile for $168,500 in April 2002.

The price is what Penn State says it paid for the land in August 1999 — and about $151,500 less than what a Pittsburgh man paid for it in 1990.

Penn State originally purchased the 40.7 acres of land as part of a much larger purchase.

“The property was acquired by the university to provide the opportunity for university use, but if the property was considered not of strategic importance to the university, other community uses were definite possibilities,” Daniel Sieminski, Penn State’s associate vice president for finance and business, said in an email Tuesday.

The land sale is another example of the close relationship between the two organizations, which are both embroiled in a child sex abuse scandal because of allegations against former Penn State assistant football coach and The Second Mile founder Jerry Sandusky.

Athletes and coaches with ties to Penn State were frequently the featured players at the annual Second Mile Celebrity Golf Classic. The event was the largest annual fundraiser for The Second Mile, and it raised $240,000 in 2009, according to IRS tax forms.

In the nonprofit’s 2009 annual report, the Penn State Altoona campus and the Penn State Professional Management Association donated between $2,000 and $4,999 to The Second Mile.

The Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center donated between $1,000 and $1,999.

Several of the nonprofit’s major individual donors have ties to the university. For example, Lloyd Huck, a Penn State trustee emeritus, and his wife, Dorothy, are listed as members of the Arthur C. and Evelyn M. Sandusky Society, a designation for honored Second Mile donors.

The Second Mile, a charity in crisis, may not recover

November 21, 2011 Leave a comment

Caption: The Second Mile charity offices are located at 1402 S. Atherton St., December 2, 2011. Nabil K. Mark 

PUBLISHED IN THE CENTRE DAILY TIMES

FRIDAY NOVEMBER 11, 2011

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BY ED MAHON

Guidance counselors in the State College Area schools have stopped referring students to The Second Mile’s early intervention youth programs.

Educators in the Bald Eagle Area, for now at least, don’t plan to hand out trading cards, with positive messages and the images of Penn State football players, that the organization distributes.

And whether a significant number of schools will continue to participate in the nonprofit’s leadership conferences is one of many uncertainties.

“We don’t know the status of that organization going forward,” said Dena Cipriano, spokeswoman for the Philipsburg- Osceola Area School District.

The future of The Second Mile has come into question since the Attorney General’s Office released a grand jury report Saturday, alleging that the organization’s founder,

Jerry Sandusky, sexually abused eight boys over 15 years. The report said he was introduced to the boys through The Second Mile programs.

Some educators said they felt betrayed by the news.

“I have been a public school teacher for 23 years. During that time I have referred many children to The Second Mile,” Bellefonte resident Susan Munnell wrote in a letter to the Centre Daily Times. “It makes me sick to now know that I could have been throwing them to the wolves — wolves that prey on innocent, at-risk children seeking acceptance and positive role models.”

Others cautioned against punishing an entire organization because of accusations against one person.

“We’re not going to paint everyone with the same brush,” said Penns Valley Area School District Superintendent Brian Griffith.

“For the Record” features information on State College Area School Board candidates

November 21, 2011 Leave a comment

PUBLISHED AT CENTREDAILY.COM

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 2, 2011

Eight candidates are competing for five seats on the State College Area school board.

In “For the Record” blog posts, CDT reporter Ed Mahon offers some more information on who each of the candidates are, where they stand on some key issues, and what their priorities are.

Linked are the eight stories, along with an introduction and this week’s story on the status of a high school building project.

For more information the CDT Voters Guide, which was published in Saturday’s paper, will be available later this week on the website.

Read more: “For the Record” features information on State College Area School Board candidates.

Taking personal out of personnel

November 21, 2011 Leave a comment

Caption: Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis speaks to the Pennsylvania Association of Elementary and Secondary School Principals at a statewide conference October 25, 2011. CDT/Nabil K. Mark

PUBLISHED IN THE CENTRE DAILY TIMES

BY ED MAHON

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WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 26, 2011

UNIVERSITY PARK — Ken Pruitt, a former English teacher and current middle school assistant school principal, told the state education secretary he wanted some advice.

“What you just said to us, we can all agree. There is a systemic problem. My concern is the tone of the argument constantly goes to personnel problems,” Pruitt, from the Burrell School District in Westmoreland County, told Ron Tomalis at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel on Tuesday. “And I was wondering what we could all do to talk about that systemic problem without attacking people and making it personal.”

“I hear that a lot,” Tomalis replied.