27 April 2011

EDC’s Workforce Development Summit back for second year

 By Caitlyn Meyer

The second annual Workforce Development Summit will be May 4 at the White Rose Room of the York Fairgrounds. One new wrinkle this year: It’s happening at the same time as the York County Chamber Business & Technology Expo. The York County Economic Development Corp.’s Office of Workforce Development presents the summit to inform and engage employers in the county’s workforce development system, so it made sense to link it to the Chamber Expo. Also, such forums are one of the strategies identified in the county’s economic development plan.

The 2011 Keynote Speaker is Daniel Kuba, acting director of Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, Bureau of Workforce Development Partnership. The Summit will highlight state programs available to employers for their existing workforce and resources to assist in the hiring process. These presentations will provide businesses with information on how to increase their bottom line through their employees, get the most efficiency from their training processes, and improve the effectiveness of their training dollars.

There is no charge to attend the Summit, however registration is required. Participants should register at www.ycedc.org. Workforce Summit attendees are invited to visit the Chamber Expo free of charge.

YCEDC’s OWD arose from a YorkCounts call to develop a unified, countywide system of workforce development. The office was launched in 2008 with the mission to engage employers, educators and community partners to create a lifelong learning environment that will attract and retain strong businesses and a diverse and talented workforce critical for sustaining a vibrant community and a growing, innovative economy. The OWD affiliated with the York County Alliance for Learning (YCAL) in 2010 and implements YCAL youth programs with business community partners. Since 2008, OWD has become the facilitator for workforce development in York County by encouraging collaboration between businesses and training providers to better prepare our future workforce.



What: Workforce Development Summit
When: Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Where: The White Rose Room of the York Fairgrounds, 334 Carlisle Avenue, York
To register: Go to www.ycedc.org.
For details: Contact Katie Knepp, Workforce Development Coordinator, at cknepp@ycedc.org or 717-846-8879.
The day’s sechedule:
7:30-8 a.m.Registration
8-10:15 a.m.Program
10:15-11 a.m. VIP Reception
11 a.m.-5 p.m. Chamber Expo

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. She can be reached at cmeyer@ycedc.org or 717-846-8879, ext. 3053.

20 April 2011

York County shows some gains in health care measures

The health care picture of York County is improving,
according to a new report from the Robert Wood Johnson
Foundation. A local initiative, Aligning Forces for Quality
in South Central Pennsylvania, is working to improve
the quality of health care in the region.
The 2011 County Health Rankings report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute puts York County in the top 20 of all Pennsylvania counties in the report's broad health ratings categories - health outcomes and health factors.

York County ranked 14th in health factors, mainly due to ranking fourth in the state in access to clinical care. The county ranked 19th in health outcomes. Both positions are higher than the rankings in the 2010 data.

An York Dispatch article about the report published April 18 took a closer look at the numbers and what they say about the strength and weaknesses of the local health care system.

Ranking fourth in the clinical care category is probably the best number in the report. From the article, which featured comments from Chris Amy, project director of Aligning Forces for Quality in South Central Pennsylvania, a local initiative organized to improve the quality of health care in the region.:
(The category) measured York County's percentage of uninsured adults, primary care providers, preventable hospital stays, diabetic screening and mammography screenings. The high ranking indicates that patients have access to high-quality health care in York County.
The data also showed fewer people are dying before age 75 and fewer people are experiencing poor physical or mental health. The report also found the ratio of patients to primary care providers is 981 to 1, which is among the best in the state.

On the downside, the county has higher rates of obese people, smokers and teen mothers than the corresponding state rates. The challenge is to show adults and teens how to make better decisions about their bodies. Again from the article:
York could have the best health care system in the world, but if a person doesn't want to take his or her medicine or eat healthy and exercise, that will keep the county from achieving the best rankings across the board, said Amy.

Overall, the numbers are encouraging and show the local Aligning Forces for Quality group is on the right track in measuring to identify trends and using the data to develop appropriate responses.

- Dan Fink

Housing summit puts housing issues in spotlight

by Shanna Wiest

courtesy woodleywonderworks
The York County Housing Summit is April 27 at the Holiday
Inn Conference Center of York, 2000 Loucks Road, York.
A home, whether you own or rent, is not just a roof over your head. It's the place where you live your life, where you raise your children and enjoy the company of friends and neighbors as a community. It’s where your dreams come to fruition. Most people take housing for granted. For many others owning a home or having a safe and affordable place to live is a dream.

Just as a place to call home is the bedrock of the family, it is also a core ingredient in a strong and prosperous community. Neighborhoods with a range of quality housing options have lower crime rates, better performing schools, stronger local economies, and a better overall quality of life.

Most people would agree with the statement that everyone should have access to safe, decent, affordable homes. It’s a great goal for a community but how we get there is a challenge.

Let’s take a look at a few of the challenges we are facing in York County.

Homeless: York’s Helping Hands estimates upwards of 500 people a day are homeless in York County, meaning there are that many people or families each day who don’t have a home or space to call their own. The numbers have increased from last year, according to a York County survey conducted in January.

Senior Housing: About 60,000 York Countians are over the age of 65, and it is expected that the largest number of baby boomers will retire in 2015. How can we prepare for older adults to live comfortably throughout their golden years?

Planning for growth/infrastructure: Despite the downturn in the economy and the decrease in the number of new homes being constructed, York County is still one of the fastest-growing communities in the Northeast. All signs lead to continued growth in the future. As a community, we need to develop opportunities for creative land use planning and revitalization of urban communities today.

Financing Affordable Housing: Both federal and state funding programs have been cut for affordable housing rehab and housing services, but the number of people on waiting lists in York County for affordable housing programs has grown. How can we create partnerships with the private sector and use existing tools and programs to meet our current and future housing needs?

Foreclosures, Mortgages and Appraisal Issues: The recession started as a housing crisis and York continues to be affected. The Realtors Association of York and Adams Counties reports that in the first two months of this year more than 30 percent of the homes sold were distressed sales, such as bank-owned or government-owned properties and short sales.

These issues and other challenges will be discussed at the York County Housing Summit on Wednesday, April 27. I encourage you to attend this event and become actively engaged with housing issues in our community.

Shanna Wiest is the government affairs director for the Realtors Association of York & Adams Counties and has been with the association since 2005. In her position, she advocates for homeownership, economic development and smart growth planning. Shanna also serves as the secretary/treasurer for the York/Adams Regional Smart Growth Coalition and the president elect of the Economics Club for the York County Chamber of Commerce. Shanna earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Dickinson College and her Master’s of Public Administration from Penn State University. Shanna lives in Springettsbury Township with her fiancé Joe.

18 April 2011

Tax reform key to saving cities, but where's the leadership?

By Eric Menzer

So here we are. Our city government is in the news regularly, faced with difficult decisions about facilities, overtime, taxes, infrastructure and goodness knows how many other vexing decisions on a daily basis. All local governments, including the city, continue to be beset by declining property values that are now being translated into assessment appeals and reductions. The economy is clearly brightening, but the state revenue picture is challenging, and it is pretty clear nobody in Harrisburg is in any mood to provide any new direct financial assistance to any local government. Even counting on past levels of economic development funding appears risky.

Courtesy Downtown Inc.
The first block of North Beaver Street in
York is one reason for optimisim about the
future of downtown York. But the state
needs tax reform that reduces the burden
of property taxes and allows cities
to thrive in today's climate of economic
This grinding governmental fiscal crisis plays on like a weary symphony with different aspects coming periodically to the forefront against what is actually a pretty optimistic outlook for the city of York as a geographic place with a wonderful, authentic walkable urban environment. It is frustrating, to say the least, that 15 years (that’s right – 15 years!) after David Rusk presented some pretty obvious ideas about how to lift the oppressive financial burden that’s preventing the real estate market in the city from responding to this opportunity, we continue to ignore the elephant in the room. We continue to debate what amount to pennies when we need dollars, and the frustrating thing is that the dollars are there for the taking.

Many economists will tell you that over long distances, tax rates are a consideration but not a definitive factor in business location or investment decisions. But that’s not what the city faces. We all know that one can go less than a mile from Continental Square and enjoy most of the benefits of living or working downtown or in a city neighborhood at a lower cost. We all know that trying to draw increasing revenue from the city’s geographically-limited tax base is like trying to draw blood from the proverbial stone. And we all profess to agree that a healthy core city with amenities that can be enjoyed by all is good for the region as a whole.

So, why can’t we talk about tax reform – both in terms of how they tax burden is spread, and where we derive local government revenue? Why are none of our elected officials willing to say that we should have a regional sales tax add-on to fund public-safety services that truly transcend municipal boundaries? Why can’t we have a county-level local income tax redistributed to municipalities to fund the tax-exempt property they host (including all those wonderful county and state parks in suburban and rural areas)? Why won’t a single leader say that property taxes levied at the local municipal level should be replaced by a system that would remove the oppressive yoke of fiscal doom from around the city’s neck?

Until we can go back and re-read the Rusk Report and find some courageous leaders who will come up out of the fox holes and lead on this issue, I fear that we’ll continue with the Titanic deck-chair arranging exercise we’re currently in. It would be a damn shame.

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.

13 April 2011

Tomorrow is summit day

Our education summit is finally here. YorkCounts will be at the Pullo Center all day Thursday hearing four morning presentations and an afternoon panel discussion talk about the current state of public education. The panel discussion will focus on fiscal matters, with particular attention to the looming pension crisis.

I wanted to take a minute today to review some of the great education posts we've had on the blog over the past six weeks. We had a chance to talk to Elaine Weiss, who will be our keynote speaker. Elaine's big thing is we can't fix schools in isolation from the surrounding community. Where there's poverty and crime and drugs and family issues at home, the community and the school have to work together.

We heard from Brian Jensen of the Pennsylvania Economy League, who made it plain that the pension obligations that school districts are facing will overwhelm many districts and be a burden on taxpayers for decades unless we figure something out quickly.

We heard from Dayna Laur, who said that districts should be doing more to collaborate and share costs on professional development - and, presumably, in other areas - in ways that would improve training and student outcomes AND save money.

And we heard several people argue for the need to reduce our reliance on property taxes as part of a fix to the way we fund education.

If you didn't register, don't worry. You will still be welcome tomorrow. And if you can't make it, read these posts to get caught up on some of the issues. And if you did register, thank you, and we hope the conversations are the beginning of a process for making York County schools the best they can be.

- Dan Fink

Momentum builds around sustainability

Several different local organizations are working to expand
consumer access to locally grown produce, an effort
that should help central Pennsylvania farmers and put more
local fruit and vegetables on dinner tables.
 By Deron Schriver

There’s a movement across the country based on the concept of sustainability. It is in response to our overly-consumptive and wasteful ways as a society. Sustainability can be applied to many aspects of life, with one of the most common being food sustainability. The American Public Health Association defines a sustainable food system as “one that provides healthy food to meet current food needs while maintaining healthy ecosystems that can also provide food for generations to come with minimal negative impact to the environment. A sustainable food system also encourages local production and distribution infrastructures and makes nutritious food available, accessible, and affordable to all. Further, it is humane and just, protecting farmers and other workers, consumers, and communities."

Momentum around food sustainability is starting to build in York County. Several organizations and initiatives have come together to share ideas and resources to make a bigger impact on food practices in this area. The Food Availability Task Force includes a diverse group of people with a goal “to increase consumption of fresh local produce through innovative partnerships with growers and distribution points.”

The York County chapter of Buy Fresh Buy Local formed to make it easier for county consumers to “find, choose, and appreciate great local foods while supporting the farmers and lands that produce them.” Area businesses with a Buy Fresh Buy Local label demonstrate their commitment to featuring local foods and supporting local producers.

Healthy World Café, a restaurant coming soon to downtown York, is based on the concept of sustainability and has plans to serve meals made from only locally-grown or raised foods. Members of the Café’s Guiding Committee have ties with the Food Availability Task Force and other sustainability initiatives. The Café has plans to utilize a database such as the one provided by Local Harvest to identify food sources as part of its procurement efforts.

The bottom line is this: We waste a lot of food in this country, while many go hungry, more and more become obese, and increasing stress is put on our planet’s limited resources. It makes sense to look for ways to localize our food distribution system. In addition to preserving our future, it will enhance our economic development efforts by keeping more money in the local economy. And on top of all that, wouldn’t it be nice to know where your food came from?

Deron Schriver is the executive administrator for The Women's Healthcare Group and a member of the Guiding Committee for Healthy World Café. He has a particular interest in studying and participating in solutions to address health issues affecting our society. Deron earned a bachelor's degree in accounting and a master's in business administration, both from York College. He lives in West Manchester Township with his wife, Lisa.

11 April 2011

Education Summit preview: James Testerman

We asked participants in "State of the Schools: A Countywide Education Summit" to respond to three questions about our schools, and we've been sharing their responses on Mondays for the past six weeks. These are the questions we posed:
  • What’s the biggest challenge confronting public education in York County today?
  • What can the community in York County realistically expect to achieve to deal with that challenge?
  • What would your first priority for action be?

 Today, in the final installment, we hear from James Testerman, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association.


York County is a wonderful, diverse region with strong rural, suburban and urban communities. These communities support schools that are performing very well. For instance, in my school district, Central York, 87 percent of the students who took the PSSA in math in 2010 scored proficient or above on the test. Only 4.6 percent scored below basic. Students had similar results in reading—over 82 percent scored proficient or advanced.

Southern York, York Suburban and other York County districts had similar results. Students in these districts also successfully completed college credits while in high school; performed in music programs and competed in sports; learned world languages; earned certificates to pursue a technical career; and were admitted to college.

For the past decade, Pennsylvania has invested in programs that have proven to work for our students. The results are clear: No states have statistically significant higher 8th grade reading scores than Pennsylvania on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Only six states have significantly higher 4th grade reading scores. On the NAEP math tests, only seven states have significantly higher 8th grade math scores than Pennsylvania and only four are significantly higher on 4th grade math scores.

The Center for Education Policy cited Pennsylvania in 2010 for recording gains in all academic categories from 2002-2008.

Pennsylvania’s performance ranks above the U.S. average and the averages of 36 of 48 countries in math. It ranked below only that of five Asian jurisdictions (Singapore, Hong Kong, Korea, Chinese Taipei, and Japan). More Pennsylvania students than ever (7 out of 10) are going on to higher education.

Translating this locally, even our most challenged schools have shown remarkable improvements in student achievement over the past seven years. In York City, the percent of students scoring advanced or proficient on state tests increased from 31.5 percent in 2003 to 51.1 percent in 2010 in math, and from 33.2 percent to 41.9 percent in reading. The number of students in York County schools that score below basic in math and reading has dropped significantly. This will make a remarkable difference in these young people’s lives, and in the life of this community.

However, Gov. Corbett recently unveiled his 2011-12 state budget, and it proposes an unprecedented $1.2 billion in funding cuts to public school classrooms. Public education funding cuts for York County school districts total $33.7 million in the governor’s budget proposal.

The proposed cuts would reverse years of significant academic gains, and local property taxpayers and students will be the ones who suffer the consequences. School boards will be forced to raise property taxes, eliminate programs that have contributed to our students’ outstanding academic achievements, and slash teaching jobs. That means that students will ultimately pay the price.

The challenge is whether we can hold the ground we have gained and to accelerate the pace of student progress in York City and throughout the county.

This requires concentrating what funding we have in those areas with the greatest education need. It requires a shared commitment from families and the public and private agencies that support young people’s growth, including parents and school professionals; school boards and state agencies; employers and taxpayers.

If we continue our funding commitment to public education and implement proven programs that work, like small class size, full-day kindergarten and pre-kindergarten, students in York will continue to progress.

James P. Testerman is president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association. He taught science and biology in the Central York School District for 16 before taking leave to work for PSEA. He lives in York County.

07 April 2011

An obituary for public education

Robert Frick delivered the following remarks Jan. 12 at "Public Schools in Crisis," a community forum in Lancaster presented by the Hourglass Foundation.


I have been asked to share my perspective on the condition of public education in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Frankly, I was asked by the Hourglass Foundation to share my views primarily because I am retiring as Superintendent of the Lampeter-Strasburg School District on June 30, 2011, and it was felt by some that I would be able to speak my mind without fear of reprisals from my Board, legislators, PSEA, PSBA, or any other interested parties. Little did they know that I would have been willing to speak my mind even if I had 10 more years in the profession of education. Over my 45 years in the field I have been blessed to work for and with persons who encouraged me to share my beliefs and opinions.

It is my belief that, progressing the way that we are, public education as we know it will cease to exist in the near future; thus, today I present to you an obituary for public education.



January 12, 2020

Dearly beloved, we gather today to celebrate the life of our dear departed friend, Public Education. Born in 1834 with the passage of the Free School Act of Pennsylvania, Public Education was created and sustained through the combined parenting efforts of Thomas Henry Burrowes and Thaddeus Stevens. Those who knew him in his early years were inspired by the opportunities that Public Education provided to all persons, regardless of their wealth or social class. Countless immigrants from many nations benefited from his egalitarian influences. At that time, of course, America was viewed as the “Great Melting Pot,” and Public Education was the vehicle that could enable the person of the most humble means to achieve the loftiest of dreams. In his later years, America was viewed more as a “salad bowl,” where each human ingredient wished to maintain its distinct and ethnically diverse identity.

Originally, Public Education drew its instructors from a similar pool as the clergy—people who saw themselves as being “called” to their respective professions. At that time even though wages were meager and accompanying fringe benefits were non-existent, those who delivered instruction were respected and looked up to by those in the community in which they served. Their dedication to the children that they served was beyond question.

First housed in basic brick structures, Public Education in rural America functioned in one-room buildings including all eight grades, while his citified cousin operated in multi-room, egg-crate style edifices, most often having one room per grade level. Whether in the rural or urban format, Public Education, as believed and touted by Thomas Jefferson, was a fundamental requirement for the establishment and the maintenance of a democracy. The mainstays of the curriculum were to be reading, writing, arithmetic, and history. Unfortunately for Public Education, reformers such as Horace Mann moved to use schools for a system of social control, an effort that is still in effect today. Schools changed from an organization to promote learning to one that was assigned to repair all social maladies.

Public Education’s demise is attributable to a number of causes, and in his later years would have been unrecognizable to his parents. He actually died in increments. The first affliction that he suffered was Change in Focus: Following World War II and the economic recovery that the United States experienced following the Great Depression of the previous decade, the states began to make major upgrades to their respective educational systems. Consolidations were required, and new buildings were built. Hot lunch programs, student transportation systems, and extracurricular programs were incorporated into almost all school systems. Moreover, schools became a place where physical examinations and dental examinations were given and polio and other vaccinations were administered. Like Horace Mann’s hopes, the main directive of school morphed from the educating of children to focusing on molding and improving society. Reformers viewed it as an excellent place to inculcate socially desirable practices like giving to the Red Cross, starting a savings account, buying/selling Christmas seals, or contributing to find a cure for tuberculosis. Since the young people of the American Society were a captive audience and since a very high percentage of our citizens of tomorrow attended public schools, it seemed a great plan. Public Education, however, was now unable to focus totally on his initial directive, the education of children.

The second affliction that he suffered was the Involvement of the Federal Government. In 1957, an event occurred which caused the federal government to get involved with Public Education for the first time in our nation’s history. According to the 10th Amendment to the United States Constitution, adopted in 1791, “all powers not granted to the federal government nor prohibited to the states by the Constitution of the United States are reserved to the states or the people.” Historically, this meant that Public Education was the sole responsibility of the individual states, giving the federal government no role in the process.

On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the first man-made satellite, into orbit, and America panicked. The National Defense Education Act was passed less than a year later, and money was made available to the schools for the improvement of the teaching of mathematics and science. Just as form follows function in the world of art, control follows money in just about everything else. Seven years later in 1965, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was passed during President Lyndon Johnson’s Administration, and with it the federal government became fully involved in what was formerly a responsibility of the states. This was the equivalent of assigning Public Education’s power of attorney to the federal government.

The third affliction that he suffered was Turning Public Education into a Business. In 1969, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed Act 195, which granted collective bargaining rights to educators in the Commonwealth, and over the next 10 to 15 years, the pendulum of control swung from Boards of Education to teachers’ unions. Strikes for higher salaries, better benefits, and the very control of school systems ensued. Under Act 195, Boards were and are required to sit down with representatives from teachers’ unions and negotiate salaries, fringe benefits, and working conditions, a process that is confrontational at best and hostile at its most aggressive degree.

As a result, teachers have become very well paid and have benefits that make many in the private sector envious. The pension program provided for public school educators in Pennsylvania is one of the best in the nation, but that benefit does not come without a significant cost, which has been mentioned as one of the problems we face today. With Act 195, the welfare of Public Education became dependent upon the degree of cooperation between PSEA and over 500 local school boards, and entering the teaching profession as “a calling” gradually disappeared.

The fourth affliction he suffered was the Rise of Special Education. In 1975, the 94th Congress passed its 142nd piece of legislation that became known as the Individuals with Disability Education Act (IDEA). Originally passed with the stipulation that any district wishing to receive federal funding needed to provide a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE), the accompanying mandates made adherence to the requirements of IDEA far from voluntary.

The portion of a school district’s budget that goes toward meeting the requirements of IDEA continues to grow. At one time, the General Assembly of Pennsylvania reimbursed districts for all additional costs to serve special education students, but that has long since ceased. So in addition to being ill, Public Education was having difficulty meeting financial obligations for his own care.

The fifth affliction that he suffered was Pandering to the Vocal. In recent years, Public Education has been expected to be everything to everyone. If a small, vocal group of parents want a sport or an activity that their district does not provide, pressure, accompanied by the reminder that they are “taxpayers,” is placed on the Board to initiate it. Bowing to political pressure from their constituents or wishing to do what is politically correct, state legislators pass new laws that significantly hinder the abilities of districts to carry out their primary mission — the educating of their respective students. The federal government, in its attempt to fix the social problems in urban areas, pass laws that negatively affect even the most rural districts. Transporting private school students 10 miles beyond the district border, attempting to implement non-funded mandates, requiring prevailing wage regulations in school construction, and the recently launched provisions around Race to the Top are but four examples.

The sixth affliction that he suffered was the Politicizing of Public Education. How Public Education has been politicized is most demonstratively illustrated by the regulations surrounding cyber charter education. Since the passage of the Free School Act of 1834, parents in the Commonwealth have always had the right to choose to send their children to private school. Obviously, this was at the parents’ expense. Some parents choose to home school their children — also at their own expense. Public schools exist to educate the children whose parents choose that option.

Currently, school districts are responsible to pay the tuition for parents who choose to enroll their children in charter or cyber charter schools, costing even small districts a substantial piece of their budget for a private education. Charter schools and cyber charter schools are nothing more than a thinly veiled voucher plan or public choice plan that some legislators have attempted to initiate for the last 20years. Each time in the past, common sense won the day, and the effort was defeated. This time, the attempt was better choreographed, better cloaked, and more insidious.

In 2010, Public Education was put on life support. The only question that remained was whether he would pass away before his detractors, those responsible for his care, pulled the plug. Unfortunately, over the next few years with the Commonwealth’s paying a decreasing percentage of the cost of Public Education’s care, he was forced to slip away peacefully. Rest in peace, faithful friend. You will be missed by all, even by those whose actions—or lack of actions—have led to your demise.

Robert Frick is superintendent of schools for Lampeter-Strasburg School District.

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.



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.

01 April 2011

Leadership for Diverse Schools celebrates fifth anniversary

Janifer Nolte, left, Tom Nesbitt, and Kristi Miller work together
during their Leadership for Diverse Schools fall retreat. The
three are part of the program's Class of 2011.
 by Randy Freedman

The Central Penn Business Journal recently reported on the discussions that could produce a merger between the York County Economic Development Corp. and the York County Chamber of Commerce. In another issue of the Business Journal, Bill Hartman from the York County Community Foundation, writing in an op-ed, applauded the merger talks and said the foundation had stepped up its efforts to encourage nonprofits with similar missions to seek alliances or collaborations.

Everywhere you turn in the York community, particularly among nonprofits, merger is the message. Thomas McLaughlin, a guru on nonprofit mergers and alliances, spoke this past year in York. Agencies are meeting to discuss varied opportunities. And Leadership York is conducting a March “Lunch on Board” on the subject of successful alliances and partnerships. Some of these discussions and opportunities are more “public” than others. All of them are necessary to assure York County resources are used effectively.

The York JCC can claim part of a successful nonprofit collaboration. In response to a YorkCounts call for more tolerance and cultural sensitivity, the York JCC and Leadership York formed a partnership to develop Leadership for Diverse Schools.

This Leadership York program celebrates its fifth anniversary this year as it graduates the 2011 class. More than 150 educators from across York County have been through the program, and they are working to make York County schools a more accepting and bias-free environment thanks to the vision created by Leadership York and the York JCC.

Through the years, participants have gained knowledge and the leadership skills to bring an increased acceptance of differences back to their school through this interactive and experiential course. They have initiated and implemented action plans that are helping transform our county’s classrooms, schools and districts into a more culturally competent community.

Leadership York staff wrote the leadership content, and the York JCC staff wrote the diversity education content, allowing each agency to contribute content in an exciting and wonderfully effective way. Neither agency needed to reinvent the wheel. Each brought to the project what it knows so well how to do and magically (OK, not so magically as it was hard work) LDS was born. The two agencies continue to collaborate on leading the program and working with the participants to assure the highest level of content and experience.

How perfect is it that a leadership and diversity program can serve as a model for our community? Discussions regarding mergers, alliances and collaborations require exactly those special qualities: leadership and acceptance of difference. As the Maya Angelou quote on Leadership York’s Web site puts it: "We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value..."

York County is a better place thanks to Leadership for Diverse Schools. Participants continue to let us know the impact they are having in their schools. York County can be a better place also as others in the community follow the model to come together and provide programs and services in a more collaborative and effective way.

Randy Freedman is executive director of the York Jewish Community Center. She joined the JCC staff in 1991 and founded the Diversity Education department in 1994. She was a member of the original YorkCounts Commission currently serves on the YorkCounts board. As a member of one of the YorkCounts education/diversity focused committees, she was one of several who were instrumental in creating the vision and design of what is now the Leadership for Diverse Schools program that Leadership York offers in collaboration with the JCC. Randy holds a bachelor’s degree in anthropology/archaeology from Cornell University and an MBA in Human Resource Management from University of Colorado. She has two grown sons, both now living out of the area, and resides with her husband, Howard, in Spring Garden Township.