News from the Superintendent …
On Feb. 5, 2019, Governor Wolfe presented this annual budget address to the PA General Assembly. His budget calls for increased funding for the Commonwealth’s Basic Education and Special Education funding streams. When combined, these funding streams are our school district’s largest funding source. The governor’s proposed increase is more significant than he has been able to negotiate with the PA General Assembly in the past, but it is not as large as the media has portrayed the proposed increase to be. To make the increase in Basic Education Subsidy seem very large, the governor is putting the Ready to Learn Grant inside the Basic Education Subsidy. School districts have received the Ready to Learn Grant for the past 15 years and count on the grant as a regular source of revenue. By merely putting this grant into the Basic Education Subsidy, the net effect would be ZERO new dollars for any school district. However, the governor has asked for an additional increase of the Basic Education Subsidy for $200,000,000. If the legislature approved such an increase, Susquehanna Community would receive $117,000 in new funds, but NOT the $300,000 increase being stated by the governor’s office, the PA Dept. of Education and the media.
The state budget significantly impacts the school district’s budget as a majority of the school district’s revenue comes from the Commonwealth. As for SCSD’s budget, some of the expenditures for next year will include a new social studies curriculum, new flooring in six classrooms, upgraded public address systems in each building, sealing the brick finish on both schools, and other smaller upgrades to the school campus. Additionally, higher than average expenses are being estimated for students attending the Susquehanna County Career and Technology Center. The job-ready programs at the Susquehanna County CTC attract many Susquehanna Community seniors each year.
News from the High School Principal …
Throughout the 2018-2019 school year, students in the Jr./Sr. High School has been exposed to multiple messages on how to live a successful life. The word that has been a constant is that “Work is the cure for what ails us.” Students have been challenged to use their school work as a distraction from whatever obstacles and challenges they face. Recently, students were also reminded of their responsibility to watch out for their fellow students. The Guidance Department presented students with a message that has been drilled into students year after year. This message was that students must seek out help if they have a concern for themselves, a family member or a peer. The warning signs surrounding acts of violence and self-harm were reviewed. Students were also exposed to reasons why individuals sometimes keep information to themselves that should be shared with a trusted adult. On a daily basis, faculty, and staff of the Susquehanna Community Jr./Sr. High School is reminding our students of the keys to a successful life.
However, sometimes it takes an outside voice for a message to sink in with our students. On February 6th, students in grades 7-12 were treated to such an outside view with a presentation by Jerry Ackerman. Jerry grew up in Lancaster, PA and now spends his life traveling the United States presenting a host of topics to students. In the past, Jerry has been booked to speak at the FFA and FBLA National Conferences.
Susquehanna Community Jr./Sr. High School students took part in Jerry’s “5 Things Every Teenage Need to Hear” presentation. Through this presentation, Jerry discussed issues with students that they know to be true, but typically don’t want to discuss. For example, Jerry drove home the point that “the number of times you say, ‘I hate drama’, is a pretty good indication of how much you love it.” Jerry’s down to earth approach to his message seemed to resonate with our student body. One of the points that Jerry made crystal clear was that your social media accounts define you. Jerry provided our students with numerous examples of how future opportunities can be destroyed with a simple post. This piece of advice then dovetailed to the question of “What will you do with your bat?” Jerry bluntly stated that we only get one chance to live our life. He discussed that what we decide to do with this life is on us, but we need to be willing to accept the consequences of our choices. For example, Jerry stated “If you want to leave school and play Fortnite for 6 hours then great. But, be ready for the fallout from such a decision.” The fresh perspective that Jerry provided is just another example of the steps taken to ensure our students are ready to face any challenge that they are presented with.
News from the Elementary Principal…..
Recently, our K-4 program implemented Language for Learning into their daily routine and curriculum. Language for Learning is designed to teach young children the basics of vocabulary and sentence forms with a focus on oral expression. Students come into K-4 with varied backgrounds and oral language development, which can be correlated to the socioeconomic status of families. Research has concluded that the socioeconomic status of families can result in “spoken words heard gap” for age three children of upwards of 30 million words. The gap between children from professional and low-income families concerns but strong programming can help bridge that gap.
To combat the language gap, our teachers work with children on three types of language skills: expressive, receptive, and pragmatic. Expressive language skills are words a child uses to talk, receptive skills are words they can understand but don’t speak with, and pragmatic skills are language skills used in social settings (knowing what and how to say it). At school when children are engaged in play with peers, they use their expressive language as well as the pragmatic language. Often when talking with adults, they are being exposed to a greater variety of more complex words helping to develop receptive language. Before learning to read, children need to improve a strong ability to hear sounds in the spoken language. This phonological awareness includes recognizing rhyming words and matching sounds to letters. Dr. Seuss Week helps bring attention to rhythmic, repetitive words that help increase memory skill and demonstrate the structure of language. Celebrate Dr. Seuss Week by reading a few books, and if you don’t have any, Epic books online can certainly help, as they offer a plethora of books that help build reading and oral language skills.
Some ways to increase the number of spoken words heard at home include using books to build vocabulary and continuing to read the same book over and over again. When driving in the car or at the supermarket with your child, you can narrate what you are doing. This builds their expressive vocabulary. Use parallel talk connecting their actions to words in the form of complete sentences adding new vocabulary whenever possible. Finally, when a child asks for something and says “Juice,” follow up with a sentence like, “You would like some juice? I will get you some juice.” This builds connections of words and allows a child to learn to express more complex ideas.
During the implementation of the Language for the Learning program, our K-4 teachers have worked closely with our speech teachers to plan and implement this program correctly. They have observed each other and have given each other feedback. Through their collaboration, we are looking to close the spoken word gap and set up all for future success.
News from the Supervisor of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment….
Pennsylvania High School Graduation requirements updated as of January 2019:
There will be new High School Graduation requirements for the class of 2022 and beyond. Act 158 of the Public School Code has established alternative pathways to graduation. There are now four options for graduation if students are not proficient on all three Keystone exams. The four options are now referred to as Pathways. The Pathways eliminate the need for Project-Based Assessments. A summary of the four Pathways is listed below:
Option 1: Keystone Composite Pathway
The State Board of Education will approve a score no later than July 30, 2019, that students can meet when combining all three Keystone exam scores with the stipulation that at least one test score is proficient and the other two are at least basic.
Option 2: Alternate Assessment Pathway
Successful completion of locally established grade-based requirements for academic content areas associated with each Keystone Exam on which the student did not achieve proficiency and one of the following:
Attains a yet to be established score on the SAT, PSAT, ACT OR ASVAB. OR
Successful completion of concurrent enrollment courses in an academic content area associated with each Keystone exam in which the student did not achieve at least a proficient score OR
Successful completion of a pre-apprenticeship program. OR
Acceptance to an accredited 4-year nonprofit institution of higher education and evidence of the ability to enroll in college-level, or credit-bearing coursework.
Option 3: Evidence-Based Pathway
Successful completion of locally established grade-based requirements for academic content areas associated with each Keystone Exam on which the student did not achieve proficiency and demonstration of three pieces of evidence consistent with the student’s goals and career plans. Evidence may include the following: attainment of an established score on an SAT subject exam; acceptance to an accredited nonprofit institution of higher education and evidence of the ability to enroll in college-level coursework; attainment of an industry-recognized credential; or successful completion of a concurrent enrollment or postsecondary course.
Two additional pieces of evidence, including one or more of the options listed above, or any of the following: satisfactory completion of a service learning project, a letter guaranteeing full employment, a certificate of successful completion of an internship or cooperative education program, and/or satisfactory compliance with the NCAA’s core course for college-bound student-athletes with a minimum GPA of 2.0.
Option 4: CTE Pathway
Successful completion of locally established grade-based requirements for academic content areas associated with each Keystone Exam on which the student did not achieve proficiency and the attainment of an industry-based competency certification related to the CTE concentrator’s program of study or demonstration of a high likelihood of success on an approved industry-based competency assessment.