26 February 2008

Study reviews efficiency, effectiveness of York County public school districts

A consultant’s independent study on York County’s 16 public school districts reviews their efficiency of operations and their effectiveness as measured by student test scores. The study – undertaken for the Center for Community Engagement at York College of Pennsylvania by Denver, Colorado-based Augenblick, Palaich and Associates, Inc. (APA) – remarks favorably on many conditions, but also issues some recommendations for continued improvement.

The full study is online:


“The Center for Community Engagement agreed to head a study process based on interest in the issue among the county’s legislative delegation,” said Suzanne McConkey, the Center’s consulting services coordinator. “The report adds to the body of independent, objective research on York County schools that can help policymakers reach decisions about our children’s future.”

In the study, “Examining Resource Use and Areas for Enhanced Cooperation in York County’s School Districts,” APA evaluates efficiency based on teachers, aides, administrative staff and support staff per 1000 weighted students; regular and special instructional spending per weighted student, adjusted for cost of living; teacher salaries and benefits, adjusted for cost of living; and maintenance and operation costs.

York County’s districts are not necessarily compared to each other; rather, they are compared to “peer” districts in Pennsylvania according to size and need. For example, Hanover Public, the smallest district in the county by more than 1000 students, is measured not against South Western or Spring Grove Area, but against such systems as Antietam schools in Berks County and Newport schools in Perry County.

The report lists more than a dozen existing positive conditions, including:

  • Districts are making improvements in using assessment data to drive instruction.
  • Districts have devoted significant effort to differentiated instruction to address specific needs.
  • Research-based strategies are improving performance.
  • Most districts offer some form of full-day kindergarten.
  • Joint purchasing programs and an insurance trust are saving money.

The consultant’s recommendations are that the schools:

  • Create an inter-district cyber charter school;
  • Create a best practices clearinghouse;
  • Expand preschool;
  • Address new school building construction issues;
  • Expand efforts to attract and retain quality teachers and leaders; and
  • Improve district calendar alignment.

Funding came from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development via the York County state legislative delegation; RAYAC, the REALTORS Association of York and Adams Counties; the Manufacturers’ Association of South Central Pennsylvania; the York County Builders Association; and the County of York.

For more information, contact Suzanne McConkey at the Center for Community Engagement at York College of Pennsylvania, 717/815-6434.

20 February 2008

YorkCounts E-Newsletter - February 2008

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

In this issue:

  • Updating progress on Metro-York

  • Metro-York volunteer ranks swell

  • Summit will feature speakers with amazing stories

  • Our schools and the governor’s 2008 budget

Updating progress on Metro-York

Progress has exceeded expectations for volunteers advancing the Metro-York recommendations, a short three months after the presentation of the agenda to the community.

The Metro-York recommendations are eight forward-thinking ideas for improving municipal prosperity and education in the heart of York County. The recommendations are (Municipal, #1) to establish a consolidated Metro-York police department, (#2) to engage in additional meaningful regional planning, (#3) to reform taxation through a local tax study commission and (#4) to study ideas for modernizing York County’s form of government; and (Education #1) to establish a York County Schools Consortium, (#2) to attack the root problem that a school district can’t succeed when poverty and its related problems are concentrated the way they are in the York City schools, (#3) to invest $3 million per year in each of the next ten years in “intensive care” for at-risk students and (#4) to use the soon-to-be-established Office of Workforce Development as a catalyst to strengthen relationships between employers and the Metro-York workforce.

Snapshots of activity:

  • Addressing Education recommendation #1, a task force to establish a York County Schools Consortium formed (December) and is meeting regularly (next meeting in March). York College of Pennsylvania agreed to host the Consortium (December).
    YCP President Dr. George Waldner agreed to co-chair the task force (December) along with Glenn Caufman, who heads the York County Alliance for Learning; and YCP assistant professor and Dr. Michael McGough agreed to serve as one of its experts (December).

  • Addressing Education recommendation #2, an Educational Opportunities committee formed (December) and is meeting regularly (next meetings in February and March).
    The committee’s members include the superintendents of Central York, Dallastown Area, West York Area, York City and York Suburban schools and members of each district’s school board, as well as community leaders and several recent area high school graduates. The committee, co-chaired by Sue Krebs and Denny Baughman, is receiving presentations by current York County high schoolers about their experiences in the classroom (February). State Education Secretary Dr. Gerald Zahorchak agreed to address and meet with the group (scheduled for March).

  • Addressing Education recommendation #4, the Office of Workforce Development (OWD) has been created (February) under the umbrella of the York County Economic Development Corporation (YCEDC).
    An advisory committee has been formed with key partners from economic development, workforce development, education and business being actively recruited. Darrell Auterson, who heads the YCEDC, is chairing this committee. Community leader Leo Cooper has agreed to co-chair the advisory committee. YCEDC is currently negotiating with a candidate to assume the role of Vice President of Workforce Development to lead the OWD; OWD will be operational in March.

  • Addressing Municipal recommendation #1, Dave Meckley and Carl Anderson, who are co-chairing a task force on regional police consolidation, are meeting with area police chiefs (ongoing); met with officials with the state Department of Community and Economic Development (February); and are working to identify a national-level consulting firm that can determine the feasibility of a combined metropolitan York force (ongoing). DCED officials said state funding is available to support such a study.

  • Addressing Municipal recommendation #2, YorkCounts accepted an invitation to present information to the York County Planning Commission and made a presentation during a public meeting (February). Members of the Planning Commission indicated their willingness to involve YorkCounts volunteers in various activities.

  • Addressing Municipal recommendation #4, the YorkCounts Board of Directors – aware of the ongoing discussion in Lancaster County about Home Rule government – voted (January) to watch that process carefully and decide how to proceed in York County only after Lancaster County’s process has concluded.

“Nobody said this would be easy, and we predicted back in the fall that some ideas might advance more quickly than the others. I’m not sure anybody expected movement in so many areas right away, and that’s a testament to the enthusiasm of the community and to the dedication of YorkCounts volunteers,” said Eric Menzer, the co-chair of the Metro-York project.

“Especially considering that the holidays made getting together difficult in late November, December and early January, we’re very pleased with progress so far,” said YorkCounts Director James DeBord. The Metro-York recommendations were announced at a press conference November 15.

YorkCounts launched Metro-York in 2006 to address core concerns in the heart of the county, including a concentration of poverty, rising crime, tax burdens and inequities, a lack of job opportunities and challenges within our schools. The full text of the recommendations, background documents on each, lists of Metro-York participants and more information can be found at yorkcounts.org/metro.

Metro-York volunteer ranks swell

YorkCounts has a problem – but it’s one of those “good problems” that organizations like ours develop from time to time when they are succeeding. We are currently exceeding our capacity for volunteers!

In the days and weeks after the November 15 presentation of the Metro-York recommendations, dozens of individuals – some familiar faces, some new potential contributors – contacted YorkCounts with an interest in helping to make York County better and stronger.

No doubt, some of these eager citizens will read of the progress that has been made on the Metro-York recommendations so far and wonder when they will have their chance to join in the process. For those folks, and for others who are looking to become involved, several points:

  • Volunteers-in-waiting are expected to be placed in still-forming committees.

  • In the cases of Education #1 and Municipal #1, the committees have been populated by experts in the particular field, and in the case of Municipal #4, no committee will form immediately.

  • Finally, in the case of Education #2, a committee has formed and is meeting; each of the five Metro-York school superintendents, a school board member from each district, educators and numerous recent area high school graduates form the core of that committee. The group also includes as many other volunteers, including new volunteers, as reasonably possible and now numbers more than 30 people.

So you might be asking – if not serving on a committee, what can I be doing right now to support and “champion” YorkCounts and the Metro-York agenda?

YorkCounts staff currently are working to establish a “volunteer advocacy network” (VAN), and more information will soon be distributed to all YorkCounts volunteers, old and new. A kit will contain tools for carrying forward the Metro-York message.

In the meantime, you can visit the YorkCounts website – specifically, the “Act” section at yorkcounts.org/act. This page lists numerous activities for both individuals and organizations interested in boosting the Metro-York effort by spreading the word.

As a reminder, some committees are still forming, and others have a natural cycling of membership, so committee placement will still be happening. But we’re excited to be introducing a new way to contribute to the Metro-York cause! Stay tuned.

Summit will feature speakers with amazing stories

by James DeBord
YorkCounts Director

I wanted to share some wonderful news regarding the YorkCounts Summit to be held April 17 at the Yorktowne Hotel from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. (A separate e-mail invitation to the Summit will arrive in your inboxes soon, to which you will be able to reply and RSVP.)
The theme of this year's summit is Educational Opportunities for All. While we will be acknowledging all areas of accomplishment for YorkCounts over the past year, we wanted to place a special emphasis on the work YorkCounts has been doing to enhance educational opportunities for every child in York County.

As part of this year's summit, YorkCounts has invited every superintendent in York County to send three of their most community volunteer-oriented students to the summit so that we may recognize them and help provide a supportive foundation as they become the community leaders of tomorrow. These students will be recipients of the YorkCounts Citizen-Student Award. I am delighted to say that we have two amazing speakers lined up.

The speakers are Dr. Terrence Roberts and Midshipman Zerbin Singleton. While these may not be household names to you, their stories and life experiences are beyond moving and incredibly inspirational.

Dr. Terrence Roberts was a member of the Little Rock 9 – the first African American students to integrate Little Rock High School in 1957. As a 15 year old high school junior, Dr. Roberts was assaulted, spat upon and threatened with death because he dared to seek new and different educational opportunities for himself in place where they had never been offered before.

Today, Dr. Roberts holds a Ph.D. in psychology and works on the issues of diversity in education and the need to address the re-segregation of schools in America. His is a message of the need for communities to come together to bring benefits to every child regardless of where they may live or the color of their skin.

Zerbin Singleton is currently the Brigade Commander of the senior class at the United States Naval Academy. He was raised by a single mother who was arrested and sent to jail on various charges including drug possession. Never having met his father, Zerbin was sent to live with cousins in Georgia who were barely older than him. Despite these challenges, Zerbin was a national merit scholar and his senior class president.

During his time in high school, Zerbin met his father for the first time and the two built a relationship. Meanwhile, as a result of his academic efforts, Zerbin received a commission to the Naval Academy. Before he was to report to Annapolis for Plebe Summer, Zerbin was hit head on by a drunk driver and sustained life threatening injuries. Unable to attend the Academy due to his injuries, he accepted an academic scholarship to Georgia Tech. A year later Zerbin received a second appointment to the Academy. But during his first year at the Academy, Zerbin's father committed suicide.

Despite this unbelievable set of life challenges, Zerbin endured as an aerospace engineering major at one of the most rigorous institutions of higher learning in the world and will graduate in May. Soon after, he will report to flight school, and he aspires to become an astronaut.

I hope you will be able to join us for the 2008 YorkCounts Summit!

Our schools and the governor’s 2008 budget

by Alison Murawski
Good Schools Pennsylvania

[Governor Rendell unveiled ambitious plans to change the way the Commonwealth’s public schools are funded during his 2008 budget address February 5. We asked our friends at Good Schools Pennsylvania to provide some perspective. –ed.]

When Governor Rendell introduced his plan for education in the 2008-09 budget proposal, it was anything but business-as-usual.

His plan outlines a new school funding formula that incorporates the principles of accountability, adequacy, equity, efficiency and predictability. The new funding formula would be part of a six-year, $2.6 billion investment designed to implement the results of the costing-out study by helping all school districts to reach their adequacy levels.

The governor's proposal begins by calculating each school district's adequacy level, as identified in the costing-out study and taking into account factors like enrollment numbers, numbers of students in poverty or who are learning English, a district's size and regional cost differences. The formula then calculates the gap between what is currently being spent and what must be spent to reach adequacy, and finally assesses local wealth
and existing tax burden to determine state share.

The proposal also includes measures to ensure that new resources are used in ways that best lead to improvements for students, such as extended school day, smaller classes, pre-k and full-day kindergarten, and qualified teachers and principals. School districts that are struggling to meet Adequate Yearly Progress under the federal No Child Left Behind Act would be further required to submit their plan for school improvement to the Department of Education.

As the governor said during his address to the General Assembly, "I have incorporated the study's findings and recommendations into the budget because they help protect the historic progress we have made thus far, and because they offer what may be our best chance in a generation to adequately fund public education in Pennsylvania." At Good Schools Pennsylvania, we couldn't agree more.

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.

18 February 2008

Public event will highlight study reviewing efficiency, effectiveness of York County school districts

A consultant's independent study reviewing the efficiency of
operations of York County's 16 public school districts will be
released at a public event Tuesday, February 26, 2008 at 7 p.m. at
Alumni Hall inside the Iosue Student Union Building on the York
College of Pennsylvania campus, Country Club Road, York.

The study, "Identifying Areas for Enhanced Cooperation and Efficiency
in York County's school districts," looks at teachers, aides,
administrative staff and support staff per student; regular and
special instructional spending per student, adjusted for cost of
living; teacher salaries and benefits, adjusted for cost of living;
and maintenance and operation costs. It identifies positive
conditions and makes some recommendations for continued improvement.

Representatives of the consulting firm that prepared the study will be
on hand to present it to the community.

01 February 2008

YorkClips 2/1/2008...

Today's news of interest, compiled by YorkCounts
Susquehanna Pfaltzgraff gone, but imprint remains.
Planners examine Aberdeen effects.
After a debate, the York City School Board Thursday moved ahead with plans for a new Arthur W. Ferguson Elementary School.
More than a year after talks began, there's still no agreement between Springfield Township and Dallastown Area School District on a proposed plan to build a new school.
Analyst: York County dodged a bullet on housing.
Rabbit Transit vans aim for flexible, cheaper commute.
Council of Churches loses another director.
Evening Sun: Cleaning up Bay... at whose expense?
Incinerator expansion set for York County.
Budgets and taxes: