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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.

Bellefonte, State College schools to pilot teacher evaluation plan

October 3, 2011 Leave a comment

BY ED MAHON

PUBLISHED IN THE CENTRE DAILY TIMES

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2011

Educators in the Bellefonte and State College area school districts have signed up to pilot a new teacher-evaluation program being pushed by the Corbett administration.

“We want to see what they look like and smell like,” said Bellefonte Area School District Superintendent Cheryl Potteiger, “to see what they actually want us to evaluate.”

The state Department of Education said a little more than 100 kindergarten through 12th-grade school entities, including career and technical centers and charter schools, volunteered to pilot the program, which won’t judge teachers solely on classroom observation. Student performance on tests will be a large factor.

In arguing that the overhaul is necessary, the administration of Gov. Tom Corbett has pointed to the fact that 99.4 percent of all teachers and 99.2 percent of principals received a satisfactory rating on reviews in the 2009-10 school year.

“How can virtually 100 percent of educators be evaluated as satisfactory, yet, based on statewide assessments, 1 in 4 students are scoring below proficient in reading and 1 in 3 are scoring below proficient in math?” Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis said in a written statement last week. “It just does not add up.”

Read more: Bellefonte, State College schools to pilot new teacher evaluation plan.

Philipsburg-Osceola students real-world compost lessons

October 3, 2011 Leave a comment

Caption: Ed Holmes, right, talks with students about composting and recycling. Philipsburg-Osceola Elementary School second graders took a tour of the State College Borough composting facility, September 20, 2011. CDT/Nabil K. Mark

BY ED MAHON

PUBLISHED IN THE CENTRE DAILY TIMES

SEPTEMBER 21, 2011

FERGUSON TOWNSHIP — A few of the 7-year-olds pulled their shirts to their noses, and one raised his hand.

“Why does it smell so bad?” Brian Wallace asked his tour guide.

Ed Holmes pointed to a pile of dirt and debris at the four-acre compost facility.

“Because the greens that are in that pile up there are starting to rot,” Holmes, the public services manager for State College, told about 25 students from Philipsburg Elementary School. “So we have to get them mixed in with the browns, so they don’t smell anymore.”

The students have been trying to create their own compost system as part of a partnership with CarbonEARTH, which teams Penn State graduate students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics with elementary and middle school science teachers in Philipsburg-Osceola and Harrisburg.

Read more: Philipsburg-Osceola students get real-world compost lesson.

Philipsburg-Osceola students get new looks during first day

September 9, 2011 Leave a comment

Music teacher Valerie Stiner teaches the students the macarena dance during an all-school assembly at North Lincoln Hill Elementary. Wednesday, August 31, 2011 is the first day of school for the Philipsburg-Osceola School District. CDT/Nabil K. Mark

PUBLISHED IN THE CENTRE DAILY TIMES

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 1, 2011

BY ED MAHON

CHESTER HILL, Clearfield County — More than 300 fifth-and-sixth-grade students would be streaming into the auditorium within the next 10 minutes, and Valerie Stiner and Sarah Sarvey had work to do.

The two teachers — one in her 30th year with the district, the other in her first— reviewed how to do the “Chicken Dance,” wondered whether you should hop to the right or to the left during the “Macarena,” and made plans for the future.

“The next time we do one of these big assemblies, we’re going to do the electric slide,” Stiner said to Sarvey shortly before the 7:45 morning announcement at North Lincoln Hill Elementary School.

The duo’s job was to welcome fifth-and-sixth-grade students to North Lincoln Hill — which, like other elementary schools in the district, began its first day with a new setup.

In past years, the district had three kindergarten through sixth-grade elementary schools. But now Osceola Mills and Philipsburg elementary schools each have kindergarten through fourth-grade students and North Lincoln has fifth-and sixth-grades. The move is one step in a multiyear plan at Philipsburg- Osceola to close the junior high school building and convert the North Lincoln Hill building into a fifth-through eighth-grade middle school.

On Wednesday, it meant more new faces for fifth-and sixth-grade students than in the previous year.

“Nervous,” is how 10- year-old Lydia Ralston described how she felt about the first day. Last year, she attended fourth grade at Osceola Mills.

Read more: Philipsburg-Osceola students get new looks during first day.

Sidebars from charter school series

August 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Making the grade? Part 6: Need for high school debated

August 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Wonderland Charter School teacher Addie Rockwell works with kindergarten students. The region’s charter schools have cautiously considered expansions, fearing growth could tarnish their small school charm. CDT PHOTO/NABIL K. MARK

PUBLISHED IN THE CENTRE DAILY TIMES

FRIDAY, JULY 22, 2011

BY ED MAHON

Rachel Eirmann didn’t want to leave Centre Learning Community Charter School.

“I will REALLY miss my friends next year (we are all going to different high schools), but I will keep in touch with them,” Eirmann, from Pleasant Gap, wrote in a goodbye message posted on the school’s blog.

“I already have half of their phone numbers. … I will be calling them so that my group of friends and I don’t split up. I will miss CLC so much … it was the best school ever!”

To be clear, lots of students in district-run schools say they love their schools, too. But the appreciation that students like Eirmann have for Centre Learning Community Charter or other schools often leads to a question from parents: Why doesn’t Centre County have a charter school for high school students?

Although about half of the state’s charter schools serve students in grades nine or beyond, none of the county’s four charters go beyond eighth grade.

“High school is a totally different ball game,” said Levent Kaya, CEO of Young Scholars of Central

Pennsylvania Charter School.

There are several logistical challenges to opening a high school charter. It would have to attract teachers qualified to teach, say, high school physics; compete with the comprehensive

programs of district-run schools such as State College, which offers classes from engineering to Latin as well as its own alternative education program; and otherwise wade into uncharted territory.

“We’ve surveyed the parents on a regular basis to ask what they think. And there’s always a couple who want us to add kindergarten. And there’s always a couple who want us to add high school,” said Carolyn Maroncelli, CEO Nittany Valley Charter School, which has 48 students in first through eighth grades. “In general, I’m very leery about getting bigger, because what we do best is be small.”

Read more: Need for high school debated.

Making the grade? Part 5: Parents of charter school students praise alternatives to districts

August 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Teacher Mark Toci shows Veronika Vovchenko, center, and other students how to work on a bike chain while teaching a unit on building a recumbent bicycle. Centre Learning Community Charter School is located at 2643 W. College Ave. in State College. CDT/Nabil K. Mark

PUBLISHED IN THE CENTRE DAILY TIMES

THURSDAY, JULY 21, 2011

BY ED MAHON

The bullying started after elementary school for Davia Dorman. Her mother, Laura Dorman, worked with school leaders to address the issues, and said the teacher went above and beyond the call of duty to try to help. But still the bullying continued.

“She was really overwhelmed and intimidated,” Laura Dorman said.

So Dorman pulled her daughter out of the Penns Valley Area School District and started looking at alternatives.

In interviews, parents and children offer a variety of reasons for leaving Centre County’s district-run schools — which perform above average or better on state tests — for charter schools.

Some leave because they have specific problems with a school. Others are drawn to the charter schools because of what they offer academically, whether it is more foreign languages, a laptop for every student or a smaller community.

Geography can play a role, too. In 2003, when the Penns Valley Area school board considered closing Miles Township Elementary School, some parents said they’d send their children to Sugar Valley Rural Charter School if the school closed.

“I feel that every parent, every student, has a plan in mind,” said Jeanne Knouse, a State College administrator who acts as a liaison between the district and local charter schools. “I think each charter school has something different and has something we don’t, just as we have something that they don’t.”

Read more: Parents of charter school students praise alternatives to districts.