The transition between the end of summer and the start of school can be quite abrupt and unsettling. To help ease parents and students into the new school year, the Messenger compiled some of the changes to the curriculum, infrastructure, teaching and staff in the county’s five school districts.
Superintendent Fred Morecraft said the district is focusing this year on giving its high school students more career-driven opportunities.
“To enhance our students’ life-ready experiences, we surveyed our teachers and asked them to come up with ideas for classes,” he said. “As a result, we’ve come up with 40 electives our students can take - everything from public speaking to rocket modeling and robotics.”
To prep students for the “real world” the district introduced new curriculum like home and car maintenance and personal finance classes. As to the latter, librarian Cassie Menhart applied for a grant for a personal finance lab to be located in the school’s media center.
The district is also implementing a social-emotional program for K-12 students. Part of the program involves seven mind sets of successful people around the world.
“The program is designed to give our students emotional as well as academic skills,” Morecraft said. “No matter where students come from, they still have the opportunity to be successful.”
Countywide, all five school districts are partnering with Penn Commercial in Washington for a program at the Career and Technology Center in Waynesburg where students will be trained in oil and gas industry and CDL safety. Morecraft said the training will make the students highly employable after graduation.
Another goal this year is to develop partnerships with local businesses to provide students with internships, externships and apprenticeships.
New teacher hires this year include biology teacher, Bryan Edwards, who is helping develop a healthcare pathway; two special ed teachers, Chelsey Schultz and Lindsey White; and two elementary teachers, Ashley Kapp and one not-yet-appointed. Robert Toth, former Waynesburg Borough Chief, said he was hired as the district’s school resource officer on Aug. 8.
According to Morecraft, the district is continually making updates to its security programs and recently installed new security cameras from money awarded the school districts by the county commissioners. The district upgraded its communications between teachers and the security officers, and is continuing to focus on STEM and STEAM programs.
The first day of class is Wednesday, August 28.
Superintendent Helen McCracken, Ph.D., said, as a result of a grant, the district will train its teachers in grades K-2 to teach computer coding.
“We are looking forward to this endeavor as technology continues to expand as an important STEM subject, and the job market is growing exponentially in this area,” she said. “We want our students of today to feel at ease facing the job, college and career challenges of tomorrow.”
In addition, $2,000 from the Community Foundation of Greene County (CFGC) for a K-2 Computer Science and Technology Program will supplement the K-2 Coding Grant. With the CFGC grant, the district will purchase seven iPads and cases to use in the kindergarten classrooms and learning support classrooms for primary grades.
Margaret Bell Miller Middle School will be instituting a new character building initiative through the Positive Action Program. Also added is an Advisory Class to improve academics and to strengthen students’ age-appropriate emotional reactions and behaviors.
“Under the leadership of their new principal, Mr. Justin Stephenson, they are looking forward to a great year at Margaret Bell Miller,” McCracken said.
The elementary school implemented a new K-5 math curriculum, Ready Math, which helps teachers foster a meaningful classroom environment where students become active, real-world problem solvers. A pilot committee of teachers and administrators worked on this project during the second semester of the 2018-2019 school year and together chose a new series that is aligned with the Pennsylvania Common Core standards and much more parent friendly than the previous curriculum.
“Through teacher-led instruction, students develop mathematical reasoning, engage in discourse, and build strong mathematical habits,” McCracken said. “The students will also have access to the iReady interactive online learning environment where students’ individual instructional needs are reinforced.”
Starting this fall, high schoolers, because of the newly created partnership with Waynesburg University, can now take dual enrollment courses at Waynesburg University through the new Achievement Academy, allowing high schoolers to take college level courses and receive both college and high school credit at no cost to the student or district.
The high school will also offer an Intro to Computer Science course through Carnegie Mellon University starting this fall.
For the second year, the district will have a presenter for the start of the school year recommended by Harry and Rosemary Wong, the authors of many books and articles on effective teaching. This year the district will also welcome nationally known motivational speaker, William Martinez, so that it can also start this school year as a united team, focused on the needs of all students in a manner based on a foundation steeped in research.
As to staff changes, John Lipscomb has retired as Margaret Bell Miller Middle School’s principal. replaced by Stephenson, former Assistant Principal and Athletic Director at Waynesburg Central High School. Stephenson’s role was not replaced at the high school. As a result, the following duties were reassigned: Bob Stephenson, high school principal, is now also athletic director. Justin Stephenson is now also the Athletic Director at Margaret Bell Miller Middle School.
The first day of school is Wednesday, August 28.
The district has added a Maker-Space to enhance problem solving and discovery learning activities for its elementary students and expanded its Engineering Initiative into earlier elementary school grades to enhance and build connectivity with a focus on problem solving and hands-on learning with a focus on coding and computational learning.
The elementary school has continued to develop its partnership with Waynesburg University for after school reading and math assistance. It has also established a Life Skills Autistic Support Classroom.
The middle school schedule has been modified for elective classes to move to a trimester system to allow for more time in Computer Coding, Spanish, Engineering and Public Speaking classes.
The middle and high schools expanded their Computer Science and Project Lead the Way Engineering Programs.
High school Health Sciences curriculum now includes Medical Terminology, Health Careers and Forensic Science. The Music Department added an Audio Engineering course.
There’s been an addition to the graphics print shop in association with Entrepreneurship Course, Life Skills and Engineering students. A cafeteria face-lift includes new furniture, charging stations and more.
The district made safety upgrades and added a new school district police officer position. It also participates in the Shared Services Agreement with other Greene County schools. The first day of school is Wednesday, August 28.
‘We are very proud of what we’ve been able to do here at Jefferson-Morgan in regard to expanding opportunities for all our students,” said superintendent, Joseph Orr. “Through actively pursuing grant funding, innovative programming and establishing partnerships with other school districts and local businesses, students from small, rural school districts like Jefferson-Morgan can get many of the same opportunities and advantages that big school districts can offer their students.”
In Southeastern Greene, Superintendent Rich Pekar said an EQT STEM grant provided a 4-day workshop for Bobtown Elementary students grades 3 to 6. Each workshop will be divided into three stations: Coding/Robotics, Marker-Space/Computer Science and a discussion of STEM careers conducted by an EQT representative. The grant is a partnership between EQT and the EdVenture Group.
Mapletown’s new art teacher, Audrey Mlay, will teach a 3-D design and craft class that includes ceramics, vinyl and woodworking (in partnership with the wood shop).
Construction continues for a new sports storage and practice facility on campus. The district had been using Penn Pitt Elementary for practice and storage for wrestling, baseball and volleyball, but the building, in need of repair, was sold in June of 2017 because it no longer met district needs and wasn’t located on campus. Proceeds from the sale are being used to build the new facility which should be completed by the end of August. The first day of school is Monday, September 9.
“The Southeastern Greene School District is committed to excellence, and its stakeholders believe that our students deserve the very best,” Pekar said. “Our goal is to have students change the world for the better one person at a time. We encourage every student to be a difference maker and positively impact the lives of those around them.”
In West Greene, a renovation project is now in the planning phase and the district is working with Eckels Engineering to get the design laid out for the project.
“One of the best pieces of working with Eckels is its willingness to work with teachers to get them exactly what they want out of their space,” said Superintendent Brian Jackson. “We are currently looking for sponsors for each room in the STEM, Agricultural Education and Art Education wings of the building.”
According to Jackson, each sponsor would get to name the room after themselves once the deposit has been made. The donations would help fund the project from equipment, to renovation costs. Sponsorship is open to anyone.
The district is completing a paving project involves the widening and lowering of the roadway behind the school for the purpose of loading and unloading the buses behind the school for safety and efficiency. The busy nature of Hargus Creek Road sometimes creates dangerous situation that can be avoided by using the back of the school for loading buses. The district has also experienced trouble with water running into the school during heavy rains. Lowering the road will eliminate that problem.
The West Greene Drone Academy will start up at the beginning of the school year, and the district is transitioning from just the bots IQ competition to now building flight control robotic drones. It purchased two DJI Mavic Pro and Zoom drones through a grant received from the Community Foundation of Greene County, which was supported by First Federal Bank.
The district received the competitive Part B school safety and security grant through the Pennsylvania Center for Crime and Delinquency and has made numerous purchases of safety equipment throughout the summer for installation throughout both the elementary and high schools. It now has Raptor ID scanning systems that run background checks on all school visitors who will be leaving the office. IDs must be provided to run the background checks or parents or visitors will not gain access to the building.
New safety additions include security window film, locking devices for each classroom, new cameras, monitoring, intrusion detection and access control systems for exterior doors, trauma kits for each hallway to cover all of the student population, two-way radios, metal detectors and roll down security doors to be able to section off parts of the building after instructional hours to secure segmented areas of the school.
The district’s school police officer Jared Edgreen completed his National Association of School Resource Officers certification this summer. The school visitor policy has changed due to the security upgrades.
“The West Greene School District is focused toward ongoing improvement efforts as we seek to maximize opportunities, appropriate conditions and effective facilities to increase potential of every student,” Jackson said.
The first day of school is Tuesday, August 27.
“Our focus on each child drives our emphasis on student centered and personalized learning,” Jackson said. “We believe that each student has the ability to learn, grow, and succeed and that it is our job to engage students in authentic and meaningful learning experiences.”