March 2020 Newsletter

News from the Superintendent

On February 4, 2020, Governor Wolf gave his annual budget address. His address called for major reform to the funding of the failing commercial cyber charter schools operating in Pennsylvania. Additionally, he proposed a $100 million increase to the Basic Education Subsidy and a $25 million increase to the Special Education Subsidy. If Wolf’s cyber school reform becomes a reality, the school district will recoup approximately $140,000 of the $500,000 the district is spending on commercial cyber charter schools. The school district will receive a Basic Education Subsidy increase of $53,000 and a Special Education Subsidy increase of $14,000 if the governor’s budget proposal is adopted. These increased subsidy amounts are extremely low, but if coupled with true reform of the cyber charter system, then the district would reduce the amount of annual deficit spending.

During late January and early February, the Board of Education considered the future of the district’s four-year-old Kindergarten program. I’m happy to report that the program will operate for the 2020/2021 school year. However, one must remember that the program is entirely optional. In future years, the program could be terminated by the district as it responds to mandated expenses exceeding annual revenues. The Pennsylvania School Boards Association published a report entitled The State of Education 2019, accessible at www.psba.org or on the school district’s website (www.scschools.org), which details the economic struggles of the school district’s across the Commonwealth and how those struggles impacted four and five-year-old Kindergarten programs. Between 2007/08 and 2017/2018, many school districts reduced their five-year-old Kindergarten programs, and of the districts that had four-year-old Kindergarten programs, 24 districts reduced their programs. Hopefully, a better economic future is insight for Pennsylvania’s public school districts.

News from the High School Principal

One of the best indicators of a student’s chance at success is their daily attendance rate. Students who miss a minimal number of school days are at a distinct advantage to their absent peers. Students who have regular attendance at school develop their daily routines quicker and more effectively than those students who aren’t. For our students, developing a routine provides a sense of normalcy and safety. This routine also acts as a stress reducer as students know what to expect and when to expect it. Students with regular school attendance also find it easier to stay up-to-date with their studies and assignments. Missing just two days a month can create a challenging and stress-inducing situation for our students as their routine is broken, and the work begins to pile up.

For students at Susquehanna, the stakes are high when it comes to missing school. Per state law, students who have over ten absences must have a doctor’s note for each subsequent absence. This note from a medical provider does not cancel out a student’s absence. Instead, it labels the absence as an excused absence. However, it is essential to note that all absences (regardless of excused or unexcused) count towards a student’s overall attendance tally.

The overall attendance tally for a student matters as the state of Pennsylvania labels students as chronically absent once they have missed eighteen school days. Therefore, a student could have eighteen doctor’s excuses, but still, be given this label by the state. Additionally, the Susquehanna Community High School requires students to make up time once they have missed fifteen days of school (regardless of the reason why). School policy dictates that students must complete six hours of community service for each day they are absent past the fifteen-day mark. A student will not earn academic credit for the school year once a student misses twenty-five days of school. The stakes for chronic absenteeism are high for students in Pennsylvania.

As a parent, I understand that family emergencies and illnesses occur. I also understand that absences will happen throughout the course of the year. Ensuring your student makes up the work they miss is essential to ensure your student doesn’t fall behind. If you find yourself in a situation where your student will be missing consecutive days of school, reach out, and we work within state law and school policy to do what is best for your student.  

News from the Elementary Principal

According to the World Economic Forum, millions of jobs have and will be lost to automation. However, the good news is that new career opportunities exist, especially in the field of technology. Artificial Intelligence, machine learning, robotics, nanotechnology, biotechnology, and 3D printing is changing the workforce around the globe. Often called the fourth Industrial Revolution, this digital revolution is advancing rapidly, far quicker than the previous industrial revolution with no signs of letting up. Therefore, schools must change, and one step is focusing on careers early in a student's education.

At Susquehanna Community Elementary School, career learning starts early in first grade through the school counselor, Beth Davis. Lessons are implemented, and student artifacts and evidence are collected in four areas of careers. These four areas of focus are career awareness, career acquisition, career retention and advancement, and entrepreneurship. Career awareness standards include identifying personal interests, recognizing that roles of individuals are constantly changing, jobs that are available in the area, and how people prepare for careers. With career acquisition, students learn about how to communicate, research job opportunities properly, and identify the importance of developing a plan for the future. Within the standards for retention and advancement, students learn about work habits, how to cooperate with others through effective group interactions, and learn about the importance of lifelong learning. Students also learn about the traits of successful entrepreneurs, including creative thinking, ethical behavior, and leadership. These four career areas can be implemented through a computer program called ccSpark!.

Starting in third-grade students, use ccSpark! and continue with it through the fifth-grade. The program is a fun, educational role-playing game to help students learn about careers, life-planning, and social skills, bringing elements of the real world to the students. Through the program, students are exposed to 16 career clusters where they learn how personality, workplace environment, education, and skills training impact their decisions. When students enter the sixth-grade, they migrate to the next version of the platform called Career Cruising, where it is implemented in Library class. Also, grade-level teachers help contribute to career learning through the curriculum and guest speakers; Including career day essays, attending Vehicular Career Day at the Harford Fairgrounds, organized by the Northern Tier Industry and Education Consortium (NTIEC) for fifth-grade students, and in sixth-grade student's head to the high school for a career fair and tour the SCCTC at Elk Lake. This takes a total team effort to allow students to see different careers and collect evidence for their portfolio.

By the end of fifth-grade students must have six pieces of evidence collected, and each district in the state is held accountable through the federal ESSA indicator. Susquehanna Community Elementary is on the right track preparing students early for careers in 21st-century skills and will look to expand our options for career exploration as it is never too early to learn about different careers.

News from the Supervisor of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment

Spring is rapidly approaching, which also means that state testing will be occurring. It is essential that your students are well-rested and here to take those exams. Please do not schedule any appointments for your child on these dates. More information will be sent home to parents closer to the testing dates.

The PSSAs will be given to third through eighth grades in April

English Language Arts: Tuesday, April 21st; Wednesday, April 22nd; Thursday, April 23rd
Math: Tuesday, April 28th and Wednesday, April 29th
Science (4th & 8th): Thursday, April 30th

High school students will be taking the Keystones in May

Literature: Monday, May 11th and Tuesday, May 12th
Algebra: Wednesday, May 13th and Thursday, May 14th
Biology: Monday, May 18th and Tuesday, May 19th

Please contact me at jgallo@scschools.org or 570-853-4921 ext. 1257 with any questions or concerns.