04 April 2011

YorkCounts makes education focus of April summit

By James DeBord

Entering my sixth year of having the pleasure of serving as the director of YorkCounts, I have heard my fair share of opinions about YorkCounts and our broad portfolio of work across York County. Needless to say, those opinions vary depending on the issue and with whom I’m speaking. Sometimes people are convinced that what YorkCounts volunteers are doing is the right thing and sometimes there are those who believe that what we are doing is the wrong thing. That’s never surprising, as many of our YorkCounts volunteers are fond of saying, “If we’re not taking on the tough issues that draw a strong response from the community, then we’re not doing our job.”

James DeBord
Since 2002, when the York County Commissioners first convened the YorkCounts Commission, YorkCounts has been dedicated to measuring the quality of life across York County through our Community Indicators reports. But more importantly, in the years since, YorkCounts has been dedicated to improving the quality of life for every person who lives, works or comes to York County to enjoy its great beauty and remarkable people.

In my time with YorkCounts few issues have elicited a greater response than when we have taken on education-related matters and its many complex facets. Those issues include student outcomes in terms of test scores, graduation rates, workforce readiness and of course perhaps none more controversial than how we pay for our educational system in our 16 public school districts.

On April 14th, the YorkCounts Board of Directors would like to invite the community to join us at the Pullo Family Performing Arts Center on the campus of Penn State York for the YorkCounts Annual Community Summit. This year, YorkCounts has decided to turn our annual summit into an education event that we are calling: "State of the Schools - A Countywide Education Summit."

Right after the first of the year when YorkCounts made the decision to hold this education-focused event, we began reaching out to the community - to educators, business people, national experts and various interest groups to a play a role in this important dialogue about how we might work to improve our schools in York County. Almost immediately we began hearing the good, the bad and the ugly in reply not only from within York County, but from across Pennsylvania and beyond. Of course there were those who asked, “Who are you to be talking about education?” There were others who said, “If you invite that group to participate, we won’t come!” But, just like with so many of the tough issues that YorkCounts has addressed over the years, the vast majority of people have said, “We think it’s great that you are doing this. Thank you for fostering a dialogue on such an important issue.”

I was reminded again of that voice of reason and hope for a better educational future for all of our children, when someone had asked for my opinion about the York Academy Regional Charter School which grew out of the work of YorkCounts’ Metro-York Project going back to 2007. With the school slated to open its doors in downtown York this coming August, many people have asked me if I think it will be a panacea for curing some of the educational ills in our community.

I am not naive enough to believe that one school alone, no matter how spectacular, will change the face of our educational landscape in York County. Nor am I naive enough to believe that by holding an education summit on April 14 will we solve the many challenges faced by our public school systems. But I do believe that people in this community want the best possible public education system for the collective good of the community. I believe that most people – from parents, educators and employers to the vast majority of students – have a strong desire to see our schools be the best they can be.

If you have that same desire and you’re willing to hear and discuss a wide array of opinions from local and national experts who we hope can work together to make our schools and our children’s futures even stronger – then please join us April 14 at the YorkCounts Education Summit. To learn more and register for this important community event, please visit YorkCounts.org or send an email directly to events@yorkcounts.org.

James DeBord has served as the Director of YorkCounts since 2006.

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IF YOU GO

What: "State of the Schools: A Countywide Education Summit"
When: 9 a.m. to 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.
More information: In the morning, there will be presentations on national, state and local issues. In the afternoon, we'll have a panel discussion on the current fiscal environment and the pension crisis, featuring local school officials, members of the General Assembly in Harrisburg, and state education policy experts.
For details: Contact Dan Fink at YorkCounts at 717-650-1460 or at dfink@yorkcounts.org. To register, send an e-mail with your name, school district and phone number to events@yorkcounts.org.

2 comments:

Suzanne said...

Is there a reason this summit is taking place on a weekday, instead of a weekend day, when educators could participate? Just curious. ~Suzi

YorkCounts said...

Suzanne, we wrestle with this every time we plan an event. We have done evening events and weekend events in the past, with varying success. Over time, we have generally found that daytime events are the most convenient time for the most people. We understand that some people can't get away from work - obviously, I understand your situation - but we have found that people are less likely to attend on evenings and, especially, weekends, because there's other things going on. For what it's worth, there will be a fair number of educators in the audience, and we'll have a teacher as one of the presenters in the morning and the state PSEA president in the afternoon panel.