09 December 2013

Time for City Teachers to Commit

‘Give us a chance!’ That was the cry of teachers in the York City School District during deliberations on options for a financial recovery plan that took place earlier this year. They tried to convince everyone that even though there have been years of failed attempts to improve the district’s performance, they deserved another chance. They argued that the new internal reform plan presented by their union, the York City Education Association, in collaboration with the administration, would make the district financially solvent and dramatically improve student performance.

Based on the teachers’ commitments to salary and benefit reductions (which included a vote by the Teachers’ Union membership to accept the Recovery Plan), the Recovery Plan was approved in the spring by: the Recovery Advisory Committee, the York City School Board, and the Pennsylvania Department of Education. York County Community Foundation and its YorkCounts committee endorsed the plan and agreed to help make it a success. Better educating our city’s children is of the utmost importance to us.

Progress is being made. Students were invited back to the district and many came back, resulting in a net gain of students for the 2013-2014 school year. Parents, teachers and administrators have invested their time to organize school advisory councils to develop building improvement plans. A district-wide Community Education Council has been established and is meeting its milestones to establish performance standards for the district and move the financial recovery process forward.

Now, just as positive momentum is building, the teachers refuse to honor their commitment to sign a collective bargaining agreement that includes the terms that they agreed to by voting to accept the financial recovery plan. Without a commitment in writing that the union will operate under the newly agreed-upon salary and benefit terms, the district cannot ensure that the new improvement plans for each school will be financially feasible. The District would be foolish to move plans forward and spend money on new initiatives without a guarantee that the salary agreements will be honored.

We applaud the Community Education Council’s decision to hold off on approving specific building plans until the teacher’s contract is signed. As stated in the financial recovery plan, the Council cannot act in a way that would increase the financial burden on the district. They would be violating their obligation to adhere to the plan if they move forward individual school plans without the teachers’ union contract secured. Without a written commitment from the teachers now, the only logical course of action for the Council to follow is to begin the process of identifying outside operators and engaging them to educate the district’s students.

Teachers, this IS your chance. If you are willing to commit to internal reform, honor your agreement and sign the contract.

Bill Hartman, President and CEO
Jane Conover, Vice President of Community Investment

08 July 2013

Community Foundation and YorkCounts support YCSD Recovery Plan

YorkCounts and York County Community Foundation compliment the Chief Recovery Officer and the School District Recovery Advisory Committee for their diligence in evaluating options for the School District of the City of York. 

After months of research and evaluation, the Community Foundation submitted a report in February to the Committee called A NewEducation Model for the City of York.  The report recommended that the school reform option with the best chance to successfully transform the district would be the creation of a district-wide system of community charter schools consisting of privately-run, high-performing nonprofits that any child in the district could attend for free.  The report recognized that keys to successful reform were visionary leadership, commitment to evidence-based and collaborative educational approaches, family and community engagement, rigorous performance standards followed by accountability and rewards for results.

Last week, the Community Foundation’s Board of Directors and its YorkCounts committee voted unanimously to support the approved financial recovery plan for the School District of the City of York because it recommends bold, comprehensive reform, stronger and broader governance, rigorous performance measurements, increased accountability and consequences for non-performance.  Most importantly, the plan gives children a much better chance at a higher quality of life. 

Because of the strong commitment of the union membership, the plan has the potential to achieve financial stability and academic improvement that could not have been envisioned six months ago.  We encourage the union leadership to support its membership’s commitment to children by finalizing a written agreement to enable the plan to become a reality.

The new plan for the School District also gives York an exciting opportunity to re-engage the community in supporting students.  The plan has a greater chance of success because it will be spearheaded by Chief Recovery Officer David Meckley, a trusted leader who is strongly committed to academic and financial improvement.  Superintendent Eric Holmes strengthens the leadership team by bringing years of experience and commitment to students.  The proposed Community Education Council offers expanded oversight and engagement by parents, teachers and community leaders working together to make the city schools strong again.  We believe this new leadership will have the discipline needed to ensure academic progress and hold schools accountable or make the decision to convert non-performing schools to external education providers. 

While the recovery process has been challenging, it has generated out-of-the-box ideas that otherwise may not have been debated.  It has also highlighted the fundamental flaws of the urban education system and expanded awareness that profound change is needed.  While the financial recovery plan merits our investment of time and resources, long term solutions must include new structures to generate revenue for schools in communities with a limited tax base.  

The Community Foundation and its YorkCounts committee are committed to help by advocating for changes to charter legislation that ensures accountability and stable funding for York City schools.  We will also help organize support from community institutions to assist in making the financial recovery plan and the students of York successful.  We will support efforts to develop a system of coordinated support services for students, similar to the Communities in Schools approach that was outlined in our report.

We encourage city residents who are passionate about public education and willing to commit time and energy to making it great to submit their name for consideration for the Community Education Council that will oversee the financial recovery plan.  If interested, contact the Chief Recovery Officer at croyork@outlook.com.  We also strongly encourage education and business professionals to run for the York City School Board.  It will take a community effort to set the school district on the road to recovery.  Please join the effort.




William R. Hartman                                        Jane M. Conover
President                                                       Vice-President, Community Investment

16 April 2013

Charter Schools FAQ's

Converting the School District of the City of York to 100% Charter Schools
Frequently Asked Questions and Answers
Based on YorkCounts research and understanding of the laws and regulations under which charter schools operate in Pennsylvania

What’s the difference between charter schools and other public schools?

Ø  Charter schools are public schools of choice.  Parents or guardians choose to send their child to a charter school in place of their district-assigned school.
Ø  Like traditional public schools, charter schools are free to all students.
Ø  Charter schools must meet educational achievement goals and basic education requirements set by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
Ø  Typically, charters offer innovative teaching methods or specialized education that distinguish them from traditional schools.
Ø  Currently, charter schools do not have to accept every student that lives in the district but in a 100% charter school model, every student will be accepted.
Ø  Special education students must also be served by the charter schools, which have the option to contract with the local Intermediate Unit to provide those services.
Ø  At least 75% of the professional staff members of a charter school must hold appropriate State certification.  
Ø  All charter school employees are enrolled in the Public Employees Retirement System and must be provided the same health care benefits as employees of the school district.  Each charter school board of advisors determines salary levels of teachers and staff.
Ø  Charter school students take the same state standardized tests as traditional public school students and are required to report the results to the School District and Pennsylvania Department of Education.

How are charter schools funded?

Ø  Charter schools are paid a per pupil rate that is calculated by a funding formula established by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.  These funds come from local real estate taxes, State basic education funding and Federal funding.
Ø  Charter schools can be non-profit or for-profit organizations.  The York County Community Foundation recommends non-profit charters are selected so any earnings are invested back into the school. 

How are charter schools performing?

Ø  While local charters are not performing as well as others around the country, there are many examples of high-performing nonprofit charter schools operating throughout Pennsylvania and in other states. These charters have demonstrated that students with economic challenges equal to York City students can outperform their peers on state test scores.

 How would the 100% charter model work in the York County Community Foundation’s YorkCounts proposal?

Ø  The School District develops standards for charters and issues a request for proposals that attracts the best charter operators to York to serve students.  Up to this point, the School District has only responded to applications for charters from local educators. 
Ø  The same charter operator could be selected for one or more of the 7 schools in the district.
Ø  Our recommendation is that students could choose to attend any school in the City and not be restricted by neighborhood boundaries.  Parents would be responsible for transportation or public transportation could be used if they chose to attend a school in a different neighborhood.
Ø  Charter operators would be selected based on their ability to adhere to the best practices for successful schools including those described in our report A New EducationModel for York.

What happens to the Teachers, Administration and School Board in the 100% Charter model?
Ø  All teachers, principals and administrative staff could apply for positions in the charter schools or submit an application to operate a charter school.
Ø  There would be a need for district administrative staff to develop the district’s budget, guide the district in establishing the requirements for charters, evaluating and selecting charter schools and monitoring their performance, and reporting results to the Department of Education.
Ø  By law, the elected School Board for the district would continue to exist and be responsible for governance of the district including establishing the requirements for charters, evaluating and selecting charter schools and monitoring their performance.  It would also have the authority to levy and collect school taxes and approve the district’s budget.
Ø  Each charter school would have its own Board of Advisors that can consist of parents and community volunteers from within or outside of the district.  This Board would oversee all of the operations of the school.    
Ø  Each charter school would have a head of school or principal who is responsible for operations, implementing curriculum, recruiting students and hiring and firing of staff.  The head of school reports to the charter school’s board of advisors.

What are the critical components of the York County Community Foundation’s YorkCounts proposal?

Ø  The District would institute the Communities in School Model which provides a service coordinator at each school to bring in the highest quality services for students and links students with programs that best meet their needs.  The aim is to provide coordinated access to the services that children may need to help them meet their academic, social and developmental goals.  (http://www.cis-pa.org/)
Ø  The Pennsylvania Department of Education would strengthen the ability of the School District to revoke a charter if it was not meeting academic and financial performance standards.

For more information about the Pennsylvania Charter School Law go here.

20 February 2013

A New Education Model for York

Published in YDR's Sunday News, February 17, 2013

We have an opportunity before us to create a change that will have a dramatic effect on the children of York City. We promised bold and innovative ideas and we have delivered on that promise. The ideas that YorkCounts and the Community Foundation researched, debated and examined in minute detail during the past year are game-changing ideas. Our recommendation to create a 100% charter school district within York City has the potential for positive outcomes for our children, our families and our community. We believe that if implemented well, the concept of Community Charter Schools will become a model that other communities will seek out to emulate.

As Eric Menzer said in May, “It is time to be alarmed, and it is time to get engaged.” We believe that charter schools will give families choice, a powerful word that evokes engagement in its very definition. Charter schools empower educators to determine how best to educate the children. Charter schools empower the administration to hold those educators accountable for results. Charter schools encourage engagement by leaders and philanthropists who will support an innovative idea that they believe has merit.

Our Education Workgroup determined that a successful school reform must:

•          Produce systemic, sustainable improvement. 
•          Benefit 100% of the students attending public school in the 
               City of York.
•          Ensure ongoing, adequate and stable financial resources. 
•          Establish visionary and inspired leadership over an 
               extended period of time.
•          Institute evidence-based educational approaches that 
               sustain a focus on student achievement. 
•          Ensure that accountability and rewards are aligned with 
               effective implementation of the pedagogy.
•          Ensure effective and collaborative management on the front lines.
•          Obtain full engagement of families and community. 

Our process to arrive at the following conclusion was a year-long, researched-based evaluation of options.  The Community Charter School option is the unanimous choice by the Community Foundation’s Board of Directors and YorkCounts committee.  Consolidation of school districts and reform of the current system are not considered to be viable options to achieve the best results (please see the report “A New Model for Education” at www.yorkcounts.org/publications). A district-wide system of Community Charter Schools would be privately run, high-performing nonprofits that would educate 100% of the students in the district.  In addition, the Community Schools model should be implemented throughout the district to provide coordinated support for students and families at every school.  The Community Schools model is an evidence-based approach that focuses on students’ needs beyond academic development, such as being healthy, well-fed and having social support. 

It is our opinion that converting all of the city’s schools to charters will generate the kind of excitement and support needed for York City schools to succeed.  A district-wide charter system would create a new operating structure and culture that could attract students from other districts, potentially de-concentrating poverty.

In order for the transition to Community Charter Schools to succeed, the following is needed:

•          State funding to facilitate the transition to an all-charter model.
•          Changes to charter school legislation to strengthen accountability 
               for academic and financial results.
•          Adoption of shared responsibility for student learning 
               between the District and charters.
•          An improved long-term governance structure for the District.
•          Continued efforts within the School District of the City of York to improve 
               academic achievement until the charter school system can be fully implemented.

Economically disadvantaged students in well-led charter schools perform significantly better than the same demographic in traditional public schools. In New Orleans, 82% of students attend charter schools, with more charters planned.  In just five years, New Schools New Orleans reduced the city/state achievement gap by half, from 26 points behind average statewide test scores to only 10 points.  Propel Schools in Pittsburgh operates eight schools and serves 2400 children.  It also took Propel students only five years to exceed statewide averages for Pennsylvania students.

York has the opportunity to make a bold, positive move that will tell our children that they deserve the best we can give them. Through empowering educators, engaging families and inspiring leaders, we will create an environment where York provides a premier education to 100% of our children.  We strongly encourage the Chief Recovery Officer for the School District of the City of York and his advisory committee to draft a recovery plan that incorporates these recommendations and helps re-create the district into one that is high-performing, with top quality and motivated educators, engaged parents and children who love learning. 

A report by the Education Policy and Leadership Center as well as the joint Foundation/YorkCounts report “A New Education Model for York” can be found online at www.yorkcounts.org/publications.

Michael Newsome, Board Chair, York County Community Foundation
William Hartman, President, York County Community Foundation

10 February 2012

New Identity Revealed for Downtown Arts Center

By Caitlyn Meyer

Many readers have heard about the current efforts to enhance the Market District in downtown York. The Market District, named for the hub of the Central Market House, has been identified as an area of focus and investment to help attract people to downtown York to spend time and money.

In 2009, the York County Industrial Development Authority (YCIDA) purchased the former Fraternal Order of Eagles building, located within the Market District, and has been working to transform the building into a downtown arts center. As construction nears completion, YCIDA has unveiled the name, tagline and logo of York City’s premier center for the visual arts at 37 West Philadelphia Street.

Marketview Arts – A studio for creativity” is a 2.9 million dollar facility that will contribute to the downtown Market District by providing gallery space, an arts orientation center and an enhancement to an underutilized property in the heart of York County. Some unique features of the building are the artist studios on the lower level. The studio spaces will allow the public to interact with the artists as well as the artists to interact with each other. The building will create a fortifying interaction between professional artists, York College students, tourists and the general public. Professional artist studios, available on the first floor of the building, will create a vibrant and exciting location for the arts.

Marketview Arts is currently accepting applications for studio space in the center from artists who are serious about pursuing their art in the professional setting of a community facility. A variety of studios are available, providing diverse space options including both natural and artificial lighting. Interested artists should contact Chris Seitz with Bennett Williams, at cseitz@bennettwilliams.com or (717) 843-5555.

Marketview Arts also offers a large unique event and multipurpose space as well as studio/educational space for York College art students, and two residential apartments for rent. In addition, the center has a commercial kitchen and food preparation area perfect for a caterer working events in the facility or catering outside events as the space offers an easy loading area.

The YCIDA is proud to work with the City of York to attract and retain creative businesses in downtown York, as it recognizes that a robust and creative downtown is crucial to economic development, not only for the City of York but also for the entire County. In addition, it is the Authority’s belief that enhancing the quality of place will also aid in attracting and retaining a young, creative workforce. The YCIDA is a governmental entity staffed by the York County Economic Development Corporation.

Marketview Arts is slated to open in February 2012. Questions about Marketview Arts? Contact Blanda Nace, Manager, Redevelopment for YCEDC at bnace@ycedc.org or (717) 846-8879.

Caitlyn Meyer is the business development coordinator for the York County Economic Development Corp. She coordinates YCEDC activities related to the York County Economic Development Plan, seeks to work with local governments through the Municipal Outreach Program and works on business retention. Caitlyn earned her bachelor’s degree in history from York College of Pennsylvania in 2009 and has been with YCEDC since that time. Caitlyn lives and works in York City. She can be reached at cmeyer@ycedc.org or 717-846-8879, ext. 3053.

12 October 2011

Getting Better Results in Education

By Bill Hartman and Jane Conover

A wise but unnamed person once said “Vision is Seeing the Opportunity Inside the Challenge”. It is a good reminder that today’s challenges actually create an opportunity to act boldly to achieve significant results. Public education is one of those challenges that is debated in movies, news articles, in books and in the halls of government. The public discourse over school improvement is complex but also incredibly valuable because it keeps the education of young people front and center. More people than ever are willing to consider new ways to resolve problems, making collaboration among educators, parents and policy makers more viable.

With the recent release of the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s System of School Assessment (PSSA) data from York County schools, we learned that in the 2010-2011 academic year, every school district had some students that failed to meet the goals set by the No Child Left Behind Act. While some progress is being made, student test scores in the School District of the City of York still lag behind their counterparts in other districts by almost 20 percentage points in math, reading and science.

There are signs of hope. First, PSSA test scores overall are improving slightly throughout the County, including in the School District of the City of York. Secondly, there are many committed and competent education professionals and community members who are eager to dramatically improve these results. Dr. Wortham, the new Superintendent of the School District of the City of York, is leading the charge for a transformation in culture that will create the environment where children and teachers thrive. The Community Foundation has met with Dr. Wortham and her leadership team several times and they are committed and eager to work hard for the children they serve every day. We endorse Dr. Wortham’s priorities to ensure adequate teacher/student ratios, create safe schools, and give educators the tools and skills they need to support the development of the whole child.

While it would be nice if there was one magic solution to fix all of the problems with public education, Elaine Weiss, National Coordinator for Broader, Bolder Approach to Education reminded us at the April YorkCounts Summit to give up that fantasy. The reality is that children, families and schools need many things to succeed. YorkCounts and York County Community Foundation seek to bring all the stakeholders together to identify, research, evaluate and advocate for solutions. Fortunately, the ingredients of success are here…public awareness, competent leadership and community commitment to do better for our students.

Bill Hartman is the President of York County Community Foundation.  Jane Conover is the Vice President of Community Investment at York County Community Foundation and is the lead staff for the YorkCounts Initiative. YorkCounts became an initiative of York County Community Foundation in May, 2011.  

14 September 2011

Business & Education Partner for a Strong Workforce

On October 7th, the York County Economic Development Corporation (YCEDC) will host the first annual Business & Education Partnership Roundtable. The event will bring together the business and education communities to discuss how to better work together to ensure student’s preparedness for the workforce. Positive business-education partnerships can provide students with relevant classroom and out of school experiences to help them step into the careers available within our community.

In 2009, YCEDC’s Office of Workforce Development (OWD) kicked off their Career Pathways/STEM initiative with Superintendents and business leaders. A list of recommendations was created and a leadership team was established with representation from the business and education communities to prioritize and oversee the implementation of the recommendations. The Business & Education Partnership Roundtable addresses the following recommendation:

     “The OWD will create a Business and School Collaboration Committee with a broad
     stakeholder group of business and education leaders (secondary and
     post secondary) to exchange information, establish needs, define expectations,
     set goals, determine the measures of accountability, and support the 
     CareerPathways/STEM Model. The model will be flexible, respect local
     control and allow for all levels of participation.”

The committee will meet annually in the fall for the Business & Education Partnership Roundtable. The information exchanged during the session will be tabulated and acted upon by the OWD and other relevant community partners. A mid-year status report will be presented at the Annual York County Workforce Development summit in May.

The 2011 Industry Cluster Analysis Update for York County will also be presented at the event. The analysis, updated every 5 years by YCEDC staff, identifies growth industries and is used as a planning tool. Context will be gained by framing the conversation of the Business & Education Partnership Roundtable around the cluster analysis, increasing the value of the discussions and its inevitable outcomes.

A highly skilled workforce is imperative for companies to remain competitive in today’s economy. This event will provide an opportunity for employers to work with educational leaders to impact the development of a high quality relevant workforce. We will be looking for creative ways for the employer community to support the schools and ultimately the students to build the future workforce for York County.

Those interested in attending the Business & Education Partnership Roundtable, on October 7, 2011 from 8:00AM-2:00PM at the Holiday Inn and Conference Center – York, should RSVP to Caitlyn Meyer at cmeyer@ycedc.org or (717) 846-8879 by September 23, 2011.

Caitlyn Meyer is the business development coordinator for the York County Economic Development Corp. She coordinates YCEDC activities related to the York County Economic Development Plan, seeks to work with local governments through the Municipal Outreach Program and works on business retention. Caitlyn earned her bachelor’s degree in history from York College of Pennsylvania in 2009 and has been with YCEDC since that time. Caitlyn lives and works in York City. She can be reached at cmeyer@ycedc.org or 717-846-8879, ext. 3053.