31 July 2008

YorkCounts E-Newsletter - July 2008

The YorkCounts E-Newsletter
found on the blog at yorkcounts.org
July 2008

In this issue:

  • Introducing the Stay in School Initiative
  • First municipality signs up for public safety study
  • “What is YorkCounts?”

* * *

Introducing the Stay in School Initiative
by Christy Renjilian
United Way of York County

The Stay in School Initiative Committee is addressing Metro York’s third Education recommendation – specifically, the high rate of high school dropouts in York County.

Approximately thirty community leaders are serving on the Committee, which is being chaired by two YorkCounts Board members: Don Gogniat, the former Penn State York Campus Executive Officer, and Robert Woods, Executive Director of the United Way of York County. Members include representatives from county school districts, human services, higher education, social service organizations, business leaders and legislators.

The purpose of the Stay in School Committee is to create a system that provides an infrastructure for ongoing implementation and sustainability of proven practices in reducing dropout rates at area high schools. The Committee will gather data, conduct a causal analysis, review relevant school policies, and research proven programs that will meet the various needs of students in York County.

To assist the Committee in its understanding of the data, Deborah Rodrigues, Educational Statistics Supervisor-Division of Data Services for the PA Department of Education, presented the group with information on the methods for calculation of high school dropout rates and graduation rates. The dropout rate calculates the number of students who no longer attend school and is a one year snapshot of a particular school. The graduation rate reflects the percentage of students at a given school that are enrolled in ninth grade and graduate four years later. It tracks a particular cohort over a four year time period. This data will be used by the committee to assess the severity of the problem in York County. The data will also be used to measure the effectiveness of the recommended strategies.

The Committee also reviewed a study – The Silent Epidemic: Perspectives of High School Dropouts – conducted for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The findings will be used to assist the Committee in determining what types of programs will be most effective in preventing students from dropping out of school. It will be used as a comparison to York County’s causal analysis.

As part of the causal analysis, the Committee will interview school personnel, including superintendents, principals, guidance counselors and teachers. It will also conduct focus groups with parents, students who have dropped out, students who have returned to school, and community leaders. The identified causes of dropping out of high school will guide the types of strategies selected to address the problem.

The final phase of the research will involve reviewing local, state and national programs that are proven to be effective in preventing high school dropouts.

The recommended strategies will be forwarded to YorkCounts in June, 2009 with expected implementation beginning in August 2009.

“YorkCounts, as an organization, is thrilled that Don Gogniat and Bob Woods have taken the lead to co-chair this group, and we’re grateful to the many volunteers who are beginning to undertake this serious work,” said Eric Menzer, Chairman of the YorkCounts Board. “I think this kind of approach is exactly what we were hoping for when we announced the eight Metro-York recommendations last year.”

* * *

First municipality signs up for public safety study

The Borough of West York voted in July to take part in a public safety feasibility study being proposed by YorkCounts. The decision was a highlight of the first month of a municipality-by-municipality presentation of the idea. York City Council is poised to opt in as well, having unanimously approved of taking part by way of an informal voice vote.

YorkCounts Public Safety Committee Co-Chairs Carl Anderson and Dave Meckley are visiting numerous municipalities this summer and fall, seeking local government participation in a study – conducted by an independent consultant – to evaluate the merits of a multi-municipal, regional police department.

Presentations were also made this month before boards in Spring Garden Township and Springettsbury Township and before the commission that oversees the Northeastern Regional Police Department (serving Manchester and Mount Wolf boroughs and East Manchester Township). In each case, the respective boards indicated that they and their staffs would discuss the study idea and make a decision soon.

“That’s the initial outcome we expect,” said Meckley. “We are definitely thrilled about West York and the City of York, but we also respect the interest on the part of other boards in coming to an informed decision.”

During the ten-minute presentations, Meckley, Anderson or both are outlining what YorkCounts is, what the study would consist of, who would conduct it (PERF – the Police Executive Research Forum), how much it would cost and what a timetable looks like.

The initiative continued in July to draw press attention. The York Dispatch noted that Spring Garden Township commissioners “said they will make a decision in the coming weeks about participating in a study.”

“It’s important to remember that we’re not asking these municipal boards and councils to endorse consolidation,” Anderson said. “The conclusions they reach after a study would and should be up to them. But a lot of folks agree with us that if we can do the study largely or entirely through state funding, we ought to.”

Public opinion data suggest that York countians are very interested in the idea of a study. About 81 percent of those responding to a late May poll expressed support for research into whether a regional approach might produce more efficient service or head off future cost increases.

Municipal elected officials or administrators with questions about the Public Safety Committee can reach DeBord at 717/815-6436 or jdebord@ycp.edu.

* * *

“What is YorkCounts?”

Frequently outside the YorkCounts family of volunteers – and sometimes inside it – the question is asked, “What is YorkCounts?” This spring and summer, the YorkCounts Communications Committee – led by Chairwoman Maria Royce – worked to review and improve the way we answer that question.

The result was a document approved by the YorkCounts Board in June that describes what YorkCounts is and what it does. The one-sentence description adopted by the Committee and the Board was, “YorkCounts is York County’s community-based, nonpartisan quality-of-life coalition.”

“Our hope is two-fold. First, we hope that Board members, committee members and others within YorkCounts will be well equipped to talk about the role of YorkCounts in our community. Second, we want those who are learning about YorkCounts for the first time to have a clear idea of the organization’s mission,” said YorkCounts Director James DeBord.

“Maria did a great job and so did the Communications Committee,” DeBord said. The Committee’s other members are Rick Ayers, Gordon Freireich, Louise Heine, Nadine Hubner and Carolyn Steinhauser.

The Committee identified eight characteristics of the organization. YorkCounts:

  • is a catalyst for change toward improving the quality of life in York County.
  • needs and wants community involvement in order to succeed.
  • spurs existing organizations into action and implements uniquely regional solutions.
  • fosters inquiry and ongoing dialogue to inform action and involvement.
  • uses planning, to be meaningful… and measuring of outcomes, to be accountable.
  • inspires community and individual participation via institutions, organizations and groups.
  • broadens the circle of activity through education.
  • acts with courage: no problem or issue is too complex or politically charged to address.

The Committee also described three primary organizational goals.

  • Shine a spotlight: YorkCounts seeks to draw attention to challenges and inspire the collaborators, solutions and resources needed to begin to address them.
  • Engage and act: Building alliances and introducing partners; taking the lead when a uniquely regional solution is called for.
  • Measure: As YorkCounts builds a clearinghouse of community information, we will review the goals we have set and trace the progress of our efforts.

Royce says the YorkCounts “tag line” – “Count me in!” – is reflective of all of these themes.

For a copy of this document, contact Beau Boughamer at 717/815-6430 or dbougham@ycp.edu.

* * *

The YorkCounts E-Newsletter is written by Beau Boughamer. Reach YorkCounts by mail c/o the Center for Community Engagement at York College of Pennsylvania, 605 South George Street, Suite 160, York, PA 17401, by telephone at 717/815-6430 or by e-mail at yorkcounts@gmail.com. Visit YorkCounts online at yorkcounts.org.

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