18 March 2011

New charter school could be a game-changer for York

When the York Academy Regional Charter School opens
in August, it will make living in downtown a more appealing
residential choice for families with children. The school sits
between Central Market and Sovereign Bank Stadium in the
heart of the Northwest Triangle redevelopment project. 
By Eric Menzer

Last week the news hit the City of York like a ton of bricks – Governor Corbett’s proposed education cuts could add another $10 million on top of the $15 million deficit that the York City School District was already facing. And while every school district in York County faces financial challenges to one degree or another, there is no question that the city district is in the deepest hole. Whether your perspective is one of taxpayer, parent or simply concerned citizen, it is hard to fathom what we do next when it seemed the situation was already so dire both financially and in terms of outcomes for city kids.

We also heard news recently that only three candidates had filed for five city school board seats. These used to be hotly-contested races – campaigns got almost bitter at times. Do three candidates for five seats mean that city residents are so dispirited when it comes to our school district that they can’t even fight anymore? There’s an old saying – “the night is always darkest just before the dawn.” Let’s hope that dawn is around the corner on this one, because it’s hard to imagine a darker night.

In my last few posts I have been hopeful. I have written about the cultural and demographic forces that are creating the best market and most positive outlook for cities in 50 years. So how do we square that hopefulness with the grim outlook for our school district?

In the short run, it seems hard. But there are a couple things we need to keep in mind that are more subtle than a simple “gloom versus optimism” formula.

First, there are enormous numbers of potential city residents at any given time who are not consumers of our school system – both singles and couples without kids, and those whose children are done with their primary school years. At any given time, something along the lines of 75 percent of the U.S. population does not have kids in school.

Second, the charter school movement – regardless of your political philosophy or issues of funding or achievement – has matured enough in our city to offer real alternatives for those who do have kids in school. And while many of the charter schools we’ve seen open to this point draw most of their population from their local service area, a new one will open next fall that could be a real game-changer for the city in the long run.

The York Academy Regional Charter School will offer the International Baccalaureate curriculum not only to city residents, but to those of York Suburban and Central York school districts and possibly other suburban districts. Enough has been written about how remarkable it is that these three districts came together to create this school. Less has been written about how this school can take the experience of “walkable urbanity” to a whole new level.

Imagine that you are already attracted to the lifestyle provided by downtown or city neighborhood living. Now imagine from that home, you can walk or ride a bicycle to the most unique school in all of York County – one that offers not only the social, economic and racial diversity that many of us value in our city, but a world-class education, as well. Game on for competitiveness for the city of York as a viable residential option for parents with choices about where to live.

Eric Menzer is president of the York Revolution professional baseball team and manages the Codo Development Group, a real estate development company working in downtown York. Eric is active in community affairs and civic leadership at both the local and state level. He chairs the York County Community Foundation and serves on the boards of Downtown Inc, Better York, YorkCounts and the Crispus Attucks Association. He just concluded several years as Chairman of 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania, a statewide policy-research and advocacy organization that promotes smart growth and urban revitalization, and he remains active on that board. Eric was previously the senior vice president of Wagman Construction in York. Prior to that, he served for eight years as York’s director of economic development and previously as the executive director of the York County Transportation Authority. He is a passionate baseball fan and lives in York with his wife and daughter.



Part of the program for the YorkCounts 2011 countywide education summit will include an update on the York Academy Regional Charter School. Here's more information on the summit.

What: "State of the Schools: A Countywide Education Summit"
When: 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. April 14
Where: Pullo Center at Penn State York, 1031 Edgecomb Ave., York
How much: Admission is free, but advance registration is requested and box lunches will be available for $5. With your registration, please indicate your preference from the lunch wrap choices: turkey, ham, chicken salad, tuna salad or veggie.
The morning session: Elaine Weiss, the national coordinator for Broader, Bolder Approach to Education, will provide the national context, and Brian Jensen from the Pennsylvania Economy League will discuss the state’s looming pension crisis. Other morning speakers include Dennis Baughman, who will provide an update on the York Academy Regional Charter School; and Dayna Laur, an award-winning and nationally recognized Central York teacher, who will talk about new ways districts can collaborate and share resources.
The afternoon session: A panel discussion will focus on school district budgets and the looming pension crisis. Panelists include:
  • Thomas Gentzel, executive director for the Pennsylvania School Boards Association
  • James Testerman, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association
  • Republican State Sen. Lloyd Smucker, who represents parts of York and Lancaster counties and serves on the Senate Education and Appropriations committees
  • Republican State Rep. Ron Miller, who represents southwestern York County, including York, Springfield, Shrewsbury, Codorus, Manheim and West Manheim townships
  • Democratic State Rep. Eugene DePasquale, who represents York and parts of Spring Garden and West Manchester townships
  • Robert Krantz, superintendent from Dover Area School District
  • George Ioannidis, business manager from Spring Grove Area School District
  • Judith Higgins, school board member from Eastern York School District and board president of Lincoln Intermediate Unit 12
  • Joel Sears, president of the York County Taxpayers Council
  • Stephen Herzenberg, executive director of the Keystone Research Center

To register: Send an e-mail with your name, school district and phone number to events@yorkcounts.org, and if you plan to purchase one of the $5 box lunches, please indicate your lunch preference from these wrap choices: turkey, ham, chicken salad, tuna salad or veggie.

For details: Contact Dan Fink at YorkCounts at 717-650-1460 or at dfink@yorkcounts.org.


Nat Coffman said...

As a city resident with school-age children I am excited about the new charter school, but your description of it as “the most unique school in York County” is inaccurate. York Country Day is a nationally recognized and accredited college preparatory school that is socially, economically, and ethnically diverse. York Country Day has:

• an average SAT score of 1833,
• 100% of graduates accepted into four-year colleges and universities,
• 26% students of color,
• a $555,000 need-based financial aid budget with 49% of the students receiving some form of tuition assistance, and
• students from York City, Dover, Gettysburg, Suburban, Dallastown, Eastern, Central, West York and Hanover who gather every day to pursue excellence.

The Corbet budget sets aside more resources for students from York City to attend independent and parochial schools, and York Country Day is looking forward to creating more opportunities for promising students from York City.

Margaret L. Hughes said...

As fine a school as York Country Day School may be, it is not drawing residents from the suburbs into the possibilty of living in the city in significant numbers, as parents of children who may attend the Bacculaurate School scheduled to open Sept. 2011, may be.

Both schools most likely have or will have many merits to their credit.

Country Day relies heavily on wealthy parents to pay for the scholarships of other students, while the Baccalauriate School will be free of tuition to all who qualify.

Margaret Hughes

Nat Coffman said...

York Country Day scholarships are not funded by tuition - they are funded by endowment and tax dollars through the EITC program. Country Day scholarships are available to anyone who qualifies.