Lebanon Daily News (ldnews.com)
By BRAD RHEN, Staff Writer
Online learning appears to be the way of the future.
Rather than sitting in classrooms and listening to teachers, more and more students are choosing to sit in front of computers in the comfort of their own homes and work at their own pace.
Since 2007, the number of students in Lebanon and Lancaster counties who are enrolled full-time in outside cyber-charter schools has more than doubled to more than 1,500.
But as those students defect to privately run cyber schools, they are taking money with them.
Under state law, for each student attending a cyber-charter school, the student's home district must pay that school an amount equal to its per-pupil state funding. That amount varies from district to district, but it is usually between $8,000 and $12,000.
With most public school districts already in dire financial straits, that adds up.
So last year, Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit 13 did something about it: It created its own cyber school.
Known as Virtual Solutions, the initiative offers all the benefits of a cyber-charter school at a portion of the cost to the districts.
Eleven districts in Lebanon and Lancaster counties - including three in Lebanon County - took part last year.
"We really had a good year," said Pam McCartney, IU-13's director of instructional services. "It was very well received by our districts, students, and the parents. It was far beyond what we anticipated."
The program is available on a full- or part-time basis for students in grades seven through 12. Planners hope to eventually expand to kindergarten through sixth grade as well.
In addition to regular courses like English, math and social studies, students can take advanced placement courses and courses that their schools might not offer, such as foreign languages.
It can be also used by students who have unique personal situations that prevents them from attending a brick-and-mortar school full-time, such as pregnancy, parenthood or a physical disability, or by students who miss significant school time due to athletics or music studies.
All courses are taught by state-certified teachers, and all courses meet state academic standards.
Unlike enrolling in privately run cyber-charter schools, students taking courses through Virtual Solutions will continue to be enrolled in their home school district. That means they will be required to meet their district's graduation requirements.
It also means they can also take part in their home district's extracurricular activities, and they will receive diplomas from their high schools when they graduate rather than from a cyber school.
"We have hands-on now, and I like that," said Cornwall-Lebanon Superintendent Joe Kristobak. "We now have a connection with these students and their families, and that's wonderful in my book."
The students and parents appear to like it, as well.
Colette Cairns, IU-13's coordinator of online and hybrid learning, said a survey of students and parents who participated in Virtual Solutions last year indicated that all involved liked it.
"Overall the results came back showing that the parents as well as the students felt they were successful in the online courses and liked them better than traditional classrooms," she said.
In addition to the educational benefits Virtual Solutions offers students, it also provides financial benefits for school districts. In fact, one of the main catalysts behind establishing the program last year was the growing number of tax dollars being diverted from public schools to cyber-charter schools.
In Virtual Solutions, the districts pay $4,800 for full-time students, significantly lower than the price they pay to private cyber schools. That cost will rise to $4,850 this year.
In addition to the costs for full-time students, the districts also have to pay a membership fee. Those are based on size and range from $12,000 to $24,000 a year. There are also per-course and per-semester fees for part-time students.
Despite the costs, it is still cheaper than sending a student to a private cyber school, McCartney said. And, she added, by pooling resources with the other districts in the IU, it is cheaper than if individual districts would try to do something like this on their own.
"If you try to do it individually at the level we're doing it, it would be very expensive," she said.
Kristobak said there were many reasons Cornwall-Lebanon participated in the initiative last year. To save money was definitely one of them, he said, but it was not the only one.
"A lot of people think we're doing this just to save money," he said. "That's part of it. But if it's not successful for the student, then we wouldn't be doing it. That's the key, if it's successful for the student."
Kristobak said is costs Cornwall-Lebanon between $10,000 and $11,000 for each district student who attends a cyber-charter school.
"We saw that working with the IU, we could do it cheaper," he said.
IU-13 officials hoped to have 50 full-time students last year. They ended up with nearly 200, as well as part-time students, McCartney said.
The number of full-time students for this year is not yet finalized. However, McCartney said, several districts have indicated they will have an increase. The School District of Lancaster said it might have around 200 itself, she said.
The program is adding another district - Donegal - bringing the total number of participating districts to 12.
"We'd love to see it keep growing," McCartney said. "It's open to any district that wants to join it."
The program is adding more courses, as well.
"The big push was elective courses - forensic science, phys ed, things like that," McCartney said.
She noted that many districts have started their own version of cyber schools. Northern Lebanon has one, and Lebanon is launching one this year. The IU wants Virtual Solutions to grow, but it is also starting to work with districts to do a hybrid model as well, she said.
"That will bring the best of both worlds," she said.
Kristobak said he believes things went very well last year, and the district is going to stay with the program. He said at its high point last year, Cornwall-Lebanon had about 20 students in the program, and most were full-time.
"Some of those students, even though they were in the virtual program, they came to our school to participate in programs like orchestra and other activities," he added.
About 13 students have signed up to participate next year, but that number will probably fluctuate, Kristobak said.
See how local educators are changing teacher practice through the Gates Foundation-funded Lancaster-Lebanon Literacy Design Collaborative.
In July 2010, the Gates Foundation provided funding to IU 13, Elizabethtown Area School District, and Lebanon School District, to form the Lancaster-Lebanon Literacy Design Collaborative, designed specifically to increase the effectiveness of secondary content by infusing literacy into content instruction. It is a literacy framework that connects common core standards with secondary English language arts, social studies, and science classrooms. It offers a new way of thinking about and preparing students with the literacy skills they need to be college/career ready.
Following a successful year-one implementation of the Lancaster-Lebanon Literacy Design Collaborative, a framework designed to infuse literacy into content instruction and increase the rigor of student work, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation approached IU 13 with an opportunity to expand the project to all public school districts in Lancaster and Lebanon counties.
Learn more about the project here.
6/18/12 - Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era
By JEFF HAWKES, Staff Writer
If there's one thing 59-year-old Marlene Thomas does not want you to know about her, it's …
Well, hold on. That's jumping ahead. Let me start over.
If there's one thing you should know about Marlene Thomas, it's that she gets up and goes to work.
It's a lifelong habit.
At 18, Thomas started at a lawyer's office. Two years later, she became an insurance clerk. By 30 she had found happiness as a secretary for patent attorneys.
Thomas did step off the 9-to-5 circuit for six years to do the mommy thing. Her husband, David, a postal worker, wanted her to be home when the kids were little. But soon after their youngest entered first grade, Thomas jumped back into the workforce.
"I'm a career woman," she explained.
A career woman, by the way, without a high school diploma. (Shhhh!)
Not being a graduate is the one thing Thomas didn't want people to know. She let her work history, office skills and references do the talking when she went for a job.
"I've always been able to get a job," said Thomas, whose immaculate home on a cul-de-sac in East Petersburg features what she calls a "wall of fame" for her husband and children.
Diplomas. Commendations. Graduation photos. Honorable discharge papers. They cover acres of wall space in the living room and dining room. While members of her family were working on hall-of-fame-worthy accomplishments, Thomas was simply working.
She worked at a doctor's office, medical billing companies, a photography business, a marketing firm and so on. In 2005, she started at WITF, handling membership renewals for the public broadcaster.
Has anyone spoken as rhapsodically about a workplace as Thomas does about WITF?
"I couldn't wait to get to work," she said. "It was like a second family. Everybody cared about each other. There was no backbiting."
Thomas was expected to be at work at 7. She was there by 6, putting on the coffee.
Then a dark day arrived. Last June 30, Thomas walked out of WITF carrying a box filled with her things. She was one of 18 employees let go because of funding cuts.
But as that door closed, another opened.
Last Oct. 3, Thomas did something she hadn't done since LBJ was president. She entered a classroom as a full-time student.
To earn a high school equivalency diploma, she needed to pass five exams: social studies, science, reading, writing, math. She set about the task with a work ethic she had perfected during all those years when she had kept quiet about being a dropout.
She was the first to arrive for class at CareerLink. She absorbed everything her teacher, Margaret Giordano, had to offer. She never missed the three-hour, five-days-a-week class.
One by one, she passed each test, saving math for last. On test day, May 7, she got up at 4 for one last review. Later that afternoon, Thomas went online to see if she had passed. When she saw her score, she fell to her knees and screamed, "Thank you, Lord!"
She says she screamed for five minutes. You probably heard her.
Thomas showed me she now has her own wall of fame. It features a mortarboard tassel, the GED diploma, a certificate of achievement all grads get and the Outstanding Achievement award IU 13 bestows upon just one graduate.
She also showed me the box she carried out of WITF her last day. She keeps it in her dining room. She never emptied it. Why should she?
Someday soon, she's sure, she'll be carrying that box into a new workplace.
She'll be early. She'll be beaming. She'll be back where she belongs.
Back at work.
5/15/12 - Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era
By KAREN SHUEY, Staff Writer
Lancaster - Nearly 100 students sat in complete silence watching the action unfold on the big screens in the front of the room.
Every few seconds, one of the four finalists seated at a table in the center of the room began to rattle off a sequence of numbers.
While each sequence was different, all of the students ended up with the same answer — 24.
The students, a group of sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders from schools in Lancaster and Lebanon counties, were gathered at the Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit 13 headquarters on New Holland Avenue to compete in the prestigious Challenge 24 mathematics tournament.
The 24 game is designed to improve skills in mental computation, pattern recognition and deductive reasoning, said IU 13 math consultant Amy Houck.
Each card presents four numbers that can be combined to 24. The challenge is to determine what combination of addition, subtraction, multiplication and/or division of numbers will yield that solution. The first student to successfully solve the card wins that round.
"This is something you have to train your brain to do well," Houck said. "Since there is no paper and pencil, students who do well are the ones that have strong mental math skills."
Connor Martin, the champion of the seventh- and eighth-grade competition, agreed.
"I practice about four times a week for about half an hour," the Cocalico student said. "When I look at the cards, I can kinda see the equations in my head."
Holly Konopka, the first-place winner of the sixth-grade competition, said the pressure of trying to be the fastest can sometimes be hard to handle.
"Everyone is looking at you and you have to explain to people what you were able to see in your head right away," the Elizabethtown student said. "I don't really like the competition, but it was fun to win."
Martin and Konopka, in addition to being named champion in their respective age groups, saw many of their classmates do well at the competition.
Martin was one of three Cocalico students to make the final round, while Konopka was one of three from Elizabethtown.
The other sixth-grade finalists were Lily Stewart of Elizabethtown, who finished second; Grant Gaumer of Elizabethtown, who came in third; and Daryn Ebersol of Cocalico, who finished fourth.
The other seventh- and eighth-grade finalists were Dan Turner of Cocalico, who got second place; Ethan Moyer of Warwick, who finished third; and Kavan Patel of Donegal, who finished fourth.
Read more and view photos and a video: http://lancasteronline.com/article/local/649065_Area-students-meet-the--challenge--at-math-competition-held-at-IU-13.html#ixzz1v2RyIzF05/2/12 - Willow Street Advertiser
By Dayna M. Reidenouer
Salome Thomas El will be the keynote speaker for the 19th annual Lancaster-Lebanon IU 13 Education Conference. The event will be held on Tuesday, June 19, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Lampeter-Strasburg High School, 1600 Book Road, Lampeter.
El received national acclaim as a teacher/principal and chess coach at Philadelphia’s Vaux Middle School, where his students have gone on to win world recognition as eight-time national chess champions. His work with students in the inner city and the book he wrote about his experiences, “I Choose to Stay,” brought him recognition.
His keynote address is titled “Cultivating Excellence Through Planting Seeds of Resiliency.” El will make the point that self-efficacy is not about teaching students to be successful; rather, it is about teaching them how to be resilient when they are not successful.
“His message is both practical and inspiring, for teachers, administrators, and parents,” said IU 13 staff development and training specialist Laura Lent. “Principal El talks the talk and walks the walk.”
El will also be a speaker during one of the breakout sessions that will follow his keynote address. The session will give participants the opportunity to ask El questions about his “lessons learned” in the process of establishing school improvement practices in high-needs schools.
As in past years, the conference will offer morning and afternoon breakout sessions. The sessions will cover hot topics like bullying, as well as offer innovative methods of teaching fundamentals. Session topics will also pertain to the parents and teachers of students with Down syndrome, autism, and other developmental delays.
Concussions is another item on the list of session topics.
“There has been a lot in the news lately about school sports and brain injuries,” said early childhood education director Kathy Rose, as she explained the reason for a session on this topic. During the session, participants will be introduced to the origin and mission of the BrainSTEPS Team, a regional task force with which the IU is involved and which collaborates across school district lines to bring the best advice about brain injuries to parents, teachers, and students. Members of the team will present a beginning understanding of students who have acquired brain injury with a focus on concussions, which is a form of mild traumatic brain injury.
“(‘Concussions’) would be a great session for parents to attend,” Rose suggested.
Parents are also encouraged to attend the bullying session, “Word Wars: Online and Real Time Relational Aggression,” which will be presented twice by Cheryl Dellasega, Ph.D. An expert on relational aggression, a form of bullying used by females, Dellasega will look at how bullying by boys and girls plays out across the ages and stages of development.
In addition to the keynote address and the two breakout sessions, registered participants will have access to a continental breakfast, lunch, and Agency Row. Rather than providing printed resources, the conference planners decided to invite representatives of local organizations who can help students and their parents achieve success. Approximately 20 agencies will be present, including the Boys and Girls Club of Lancaster, the BrainSTEPS Team, Parent to Parent, the Special Kids Network, Celebrate Down Syndrome, Special Olympics, and the Truancy Task Force.
There is a cost to attend the conference, but rates will vary depending on status as a student, teacher, administrator, or parent. Up to 600 people may attend. Registration is due by Friday, June 8, and may only be submitted online at www.iu13.org.
For more information about the conference, readers may call 717-606-1878 or email firstname.lastname@example.org .
4/30/12 - Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era
By KARA NEWHOUSE, Correspondent
When the Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit 13 launched the Virtual Solutions online learning program in the fall of 2011, no one knew whether it would take off.
"(The IU 13) expected a few kids in each district," said Pam Williams, Columbia Borough School District's technology integration specialist.
But that didn't happen.
"Enrollment exploded," Williams said.
And because Virtual Solutions is school district based, students are able to stay enrolled at their local school. They are able to take part in extra-curricular activities and earn a diploma from the district.
IU 13 adopted Virtual Solutions to give students innovative, high-tech education options and to stem the growing stream of district students and tax dollars to the state's dozen independent cyber charter schools.
Columbia became the 11th school district in the IU 13 to offer the program when they unveiled the program to students this past fall.
The district currently has six full-time students and two part-time students enrolled in the program. Five other students are enrolled in an online physics course only.
Williams said the program provides an alternative option for students who function better on different schedules or have significant time commitments.
However, the main motivation to adopt the program was financial — student tuition at Virtual Solutions is much less than at cyber charter schools not affiliated with the IU 13.
Under state law, districts must pay tuition for students who choose to attend charter schools.
Columbia school district first saw students enroll at cyber charter schools in 2005, according to district business manager Laura Cowburn.
Cowburn said this year the district has 36 students attending cyber schools at a cost of nearly $9,700 per pupil. Last year, the district paid about $485,000 to cyber schools.
"Thirty-six students go to charter or cyber charter schools from various grade levels. The classroom expenses we are left with do not change," said Cowburn.
The district's partnership with the IU 13 program still comes with a cost, but cuts the price nearly in half. The district pays about $5,000 per pupil to enroll in Virtual Solutions.
Cowburn said that when district officials held an informational meeting about the virtual academy last spring, they reached out to families with children enrolled in cyber charter schools. About six switched to Columbia's program.
Williams plans to continue reaching out to families for 2012-13 enrollment. The district has a two-year contract with the IU 13.
Williams said she expects the second year to be smoother than the first.
"At the beginning we were all new," she said.
At the end of the first marking period almost none of Columbia's students had completed their units, Williams said. She quickly discovered the need for "vigorous monitoring" and communication.
"Some students can languish between the sections and really get behind," she said.
Williams now sends a weekly email to each student about their academic progress. Students need to complete 11 percent of each subject per week to be on track, she said.
Over the course of the school year, several cyber school students have also returned to the traditional learning experience. Williams said that social students, especially middle schoolers, found the experience isolating. She also said some learning support students have difficulties because the primary instruction is reading.
And some students have been able to use the program to take courses the district does not offer in the classroom.
Derek Zercher is one of five students who takes a physics course through the virtual academy. The rest of the day, he is enrolled in regular classes.
Zercher and classmate Kamal Narouz said they took the class because they plan to major in electrical engineering in college.
While Zercher said he prefers classes taught by teachers, he doesn't have an option because Columbia doesn't have a certified physics instructor.
Williams said that to succeed in the virtual academy, students must be self-motivated, organized. If any of those elements are missing, the student will struggle.
To enroll this year, students met with a guidance counselor, the building principal and the director of special education, if needed. Next year, students will be required to take an online assessment of reading comprehension, typing skills and learning style to determine whether they're a good candidate.
Williams said she believes the virtual academy is a step toward a more hybrid education system.
"(In the future), you won't see a regular school schedule," she said. "It'll be more of an open campus tailored to individual student needs."
View full article here.
4/6/12 - WGAL
See how public school districts in Lancaster and Lebanon county (PA) are working together via the IU 13 Collaborative Services program to save money on everyday items. Watch the coverage from WGAL here.
3/26/12 - WGAL
WGAL's Anne Shannon interviewed Drs. Cybil Knight Burney, Don Bell, and Cynthia Burkhart about the education funding crisis in Pennsylvania. The Learning Matters Special aired in March. This video clip shows Dr. Don Bell explaining the changes in education funding and why people should pay attention. Watch the coverage from WGAL here.
3/29/12 - Blue Ridge Cable - News 11
View coverage of the student spring bazaar at IU 13, Lancaster County.
3/29/12 - Fox 43 - WPMT
View coverage of the student spring bazaar at IU 13, Lancaster County.
3/21/12 – LDNews (the website of Lebanon Daily News)
Highmark recently awarded an $82,000 grant to the Lancaster-Lebanon Education Foundation that will support young adults in Lebanon County with an interest in health careers and manufacturing.
The grant, made through the Highmark Local Workforce Initiative, will support the IU-13 Adult Education Program. Classes will be taught between July 1, 2012, and June 30, 2013, providing students between the ages of 16 and 25 with the training and certifications they need to obtain permanent and self-sustaining employment.
Thirty students will participate in two 80-hour courses designed to enhance their reading comprehension and math skills; prepare them for the Test of Essential Academic Skills, the entrance test for Lebanon County Career and Technology Center's licensed practical nursing program or for certified nursing assistant training; learn medical terminology; and complete CPR/AED and first aid certification training.
The manufacturing classes will be developed in partnership with the Manufacturers' Association of South Central Pennsylvania. The course will run for 80 hours over a 10-week period and will be offered to 15 students. Participants will learn essential manufacturing skills, such as working safely and productively in a manufacturing setting, performing safety and environmental inspections, participating on emergency teams, training personnel to use equipment safely, and fulfilling safety and health requirements for maintenance, installation and equipment repairs.
For more information about the classes, contact the IU 13 at 717-450-1525.
2/24/12 - WGAL-8
A high school student with cerebral palsy received a special recognition for his essay that touched war veterans. Watch the video here.
2/9/12 - Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era
By DEAN LEE EVANS, Correspondent
Donegal School District met Monday with officials from the Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit 13 to discuss offering students cyber courses that would give them more academic choices and keep more money in the district.
No official action occurred at Monday's informational meeting, superintendent Susan Ursprung said in an email Wednesday.
"I will take the question of Donegal's participation to our board in the near future," Ursprung wrote.
In an email Thursday, district business manager Amy Swartz said this year the district has 54 students attending cyber schools at a cost of nearly $9,700 for each. Last year, the district paid about $990,000 to cyber schools.
In an effort to help schools keep students in the district, IU13 developed Virtual Solutions to stem the growing stream of tax dollars flowing to the state's independent cyber charter schools.
If the district decides to partner with the IU13 to offer the program, it will pay an annual fee and the tuition of each student that enrolls, said Janet Dubble, Virtual Solutions' supervisor of online learning.
Dubble said students would be able to enroll as full-time virtual students —at a cost of about $5,000 — and earn Donegal diplomas upon graduation.
"Eleven school districts within the IU13 have already joined in the first year of this endeavor," Ursprung said Wednesday, adding that parental feedback about the program was "positive."
Ursprung told the board last week that she, along with Director of Curriculum and Instruction Cheryl Champion, sent letters, made phone calls and met with parents individually to discuss possible participation with the joint cyber school program. She said the parents of at least five Donegal students informed the district they would attend Monday's meeting.
Read the complete article here.
Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era 1/18/12 -
By ELAINE J. JONES, Correspondent
The Pennsylvania School Boards Association recently awarded its highest honor to Richard Frerichs, president of the Penn Manor school board.
Frerichs was one of five school board members, out of 4,500, to earn the accreditation of master school board director in 2011. According to a PSBA news release, the distinction is reserved for members who demonstrate "exceptional accomplishments in attaining the goals of effective governance" and meet the needs of students through "educational excellence and equity of students."
"I really do feel humbled," said Frerichs, who previously dismissed the suggestions of his colleagues to apply. "For me, it validated everything I've been doing for years."
For more than 40 years, Frerichs has built a life around public education, and his 15 years of service on the Penn Manor school board are just a drop in the bucket.
Frerichs began his teaching career as a high school biology teacher in Neshaminy, after graduating from Millersville University. He later earned a doctoral degree from the University of Delaware and eventually returned to Millersville in 1968 as a professor in the education department.
Frerichs has worn many hats at the university, serving as dean of men (later known as dean of resident life), assistant director of financial aid and eventually department chair of educational foundations.
Frerichs retired as a full professor in 2004, hastened by his late wife Marsha's breast cancer diagnosis. He described her as a devoted stay-at-home mom and superb golfer.
"I told her 'you' are not fighting cancer, 'we' are fighting cancer," Frerichs recalled of his decision to retire and be with Marsha, who died in 2008.
Their daughters, Melissa and Kim, are Penn Manor graduates. Following in Frerichs' footsteps, Melissa is now a high school English teacher, while Kim works as a financial analyst in Wilmington, Del.
Frerichs is perhaps now busier than ever. Aside from being school board president, Frerichs serves as PSBA liaison for the district, president of the Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit 13 and PSBA legislative chair for Lancaster County.
It doesn't stop there, though.
Frerichs maintains close ties with the university. He has been the voice behind Marauder football for more than 40 years and was the first PA announcer in Biemesderfer Stadium. And more recently, he has been the announcer for the women's basketball team and chair of the athletic fundraising council.
Since becoming superintendent of the school district in 2009, Michael Leichliter said Frerichs "has been an invaluable asset to me," and is "informed and active" in guiding the board.
"This is a tough balancing act for an effective board president but one that he successfully manages," said Leichliter.
Board vice president Johnna Friedman said Frerichs is "a dedicated and driven individual" and a "life-long supporter of public education."
Frerichs does not hesitate to share the spotlight with his eight fellow directors at Penn Manor.
"We have an excellent school board," he said. "It is a delight to work with those folks."
Read more: http://lancasteronline.com/article/local/570530_Frerichs-honored-for-service-on-Penn-Manor-board.html#ixzz1qFa5tcZc
12/1/11 - Fox 43 - WPMT
View coverage of the holiday student bazaar at IU 13, Lancaster County.
10/17/11 - WJRT-TV - ABC 12 Mid-Michigan
LANCASTER, Pa., Oct. 17, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- An innovative partnership between Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit 13 (IU 13) and Direct Energy has proven successful for local school districts with over $2 million in savings.*
In January 2009, the rate caps for electricity were removed and the cost for securing energy increased substantially. A few months prior to the change, IU 13 began researching options to help districts manage the rate increase. Following much research and discussion with member school districts, IU 13 established the Electricity Procurement Program, which strategically purchases electricity in bulk for the participating school districts in the area. The program is designed to: reduce costs by procuring electricity on the wholesale market thereby eliminating additional retail fees and charges, and reduce the cost of operating the program by securing a qualified supplier and utilizing a professional team to manage the process.
After careful review and consideration, IU 13 selected Direct Energy, one of North America's largest commercial retail energy suppliers, as the electricity supplier and has been using the company's PowerPortfolio™ product to oversee the program. The decision was based on Direct Energy's stability, innovative product offerings, and extensive experience in working with schools. PowerPortfolio™ allows members to capitalize on schools' favorable usage profiles. In general, electricity pricing favors schools, since they tend to use less power during the summer, peak during morning and early afternoon hours, and avoid the most expensive late afternoon/early evening hourly rates. PowerPortfolio™ further enables IU 13 to control energy costs by making forward purchases when market conditions are optimal, and satisfying the balance of their usage requirements by prudent use of the hourly market.
Since 2009, the program has resulted in $2 million in total savings for participants. "Districts are continually searching for ways to minimize expenses through collaborative programs, consortium services, bulk purchasing, etc.," commented Gina Brillhart, Chief Financial Officer for IU 13. "Maximizing our buying power and purchasing strategies, and partnering with a reputable supplier to secure electricity, was an innovate solution to the rising cost of electricity. The program has proven successful and continues to strengthen."
"An organization's bottom line can be positively impacted by implementing a customized energy strategy, as seen with IU 13," said Mike Senff, Vice-President North American Sales and Marketing for Direct Energy Business. "By switching to PowerPortfolio™, IU 13 offered its members an efficient, cost-effective energy solution that matched their usage profiles."
To date, 17 districts in Lancaster County along with the Lancaster County Tax Collection Bureau have joined the IU 13 Electricity Procurement Program and have benefited from the savings. Programs of a similar nature have been established in neighboring counties and through area Intermediate Units across the state.
*In comparison to Pennsylvania Power and Light utility rates.
10/11/11 - Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era
By SUSAN JURGELSKI, Staff Writer
Every once in a while they solve equations by tossing around a beach ball — covered not by sand but with basic addition problems — and the kids do the math based on where the ball bounces, thumbs being the goal posts.
"These exercises (also including multiplication cube toss, robot rap and shark attack) keep the students engaged and help them focus on what they are learning," Denlinger said.
Activity plus academics equals better education, according to studies concluding that integrating physical activity throughout the school curriculum can improve achievement — even test scores.
And teachers such as Denlinger aren't sitting still to prove it.
In 2001, Cindy Hess, then a teacher at Highland Elementary and now retired, initiated a whole program built around the concept that movement helps reinforce academics. Close to five years later, after Hess had partnered with fellow educator Jean Madigan, the Action Based Learning Lab for grades kindergarten through second grade was providing materials and instruction to schools nationwide.
The ABL program — or components or offshoots of it — now exist in many county schools serving younger children, according to Hess, who has provided information about her program and its goals throughout the area.
In the continuing fight against obesity, and with budget cuts in physical education and greater educational demands, in-classroom exercise — of both body and brain — is more germane than ever, said Cindy Burkhart, executive director of Lancaster-Lebanon IU 13. The former Ephrata School District teacher, principal and assistant superintendent worked closely with Hess during the inception of her program.
"I think the whole concept goes beyond the old notion of PE that ... takes place once or twice a week for 30 minutes...," Burkhart said. "There's a need for children to move."
And, she added, they're doing less and less of it outside of school.
On the elementary level, particularly, where students generally don't engage in school-based extracurricular sports, adding exercise to the classroom seems like a natural fit.
Hess had that in mind when she began to formulate her plan at Highland, which had no PE classes for the early grades. She came up with stations incorporating both academic and physical activities. One current lab, for instance, utilizes a specialty ladder — the original designed by a New Holland man — placed on the floor with copies of words between the steps, requiring students to read and say the words while they navigate the rungs.
After receiving grant money two years ago, Smoketown Elementary teacher Dana Balonis added ABL labs into the extended kindergarten program, and she said she has been pleased with the results, and that the children seem to enjoy it.
Combining body movement and cognitive skills also helps with spatial awareness, she said, referring to one station with a "pathways" floor mat where children walk in a figure-eight shape, and which leads into walking every letter of the alphabet.
Highland Elementary is part of a grant program called Classroom Activities/Centers based on the the ABL program, which will officially be put into place in the next month or two.
Highland kindergarten teacher Nancy Murphy believes the program will be especially beneficial to kids with attention deficits and also help teachers gauge which children may need additional reinforcement in various academic areas.
Steve Fink, a PE teacher at Doe Run Elementary, has utilized forms of ABL before school, and believes it does help kids focus on the day ahead of them.
More and more, teachers count on many forms of exercise during class, whether the activity reinforces academics or not. For instance, at Denver Elementary, teachers say they have included yoga, stretching, Simon Says and an assortment of other games.
For kids, sitting for extended periods of time can be difficult.
"Exercising helps them reactivate and recharge," said Denver Elementary second-grade teacher Gail Witwer.
Denver first-grade teacher Vicki Kreider said movement gives kids a chance to expend physical energy and get the "silly wiggles" out.
And, when movement is connected with reviewing or reinforcing skills or concepts, she said, the benefits are "icing on the cake."
Hess believes layering activity with learning — challenging both sides of the brain — isn't just for kids.
The whole idea is beneficial to anyone of any age, "from cradle to crypt."
But kids may be the ones who need the layers the most.
Burkhart remembers one saying she saw, posted on a seasoned teacher's door, a phrase she has never forgotten.
"Children are like clocks. They need to run."
Lancaster-Lebanon IU 13, an education agency serving Lancaster and Lebanon counties, received a $200,000 grant earlier this week to expand programs created under the Citizenship and Integration Grant Program last year.
IU 13 will partner with Harrisburg Area Community College and Church World Service of Lancaster to ensure that a minimum of 306 permanent residents attend citizenship education classes and at least 513 permanent residents receive naturalization application services.
IU 13 will serve permanent residents primarily from the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Mexico, Honduras, Cuba, Russia, Ukraine, Vietnam, Laos, Bhutan, Burma, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Iraq. The grant is designed to expand the program implemented by these organizations last year, and continue it 2012.
“Receiving this grant again is an honor for IU 13 and will support our continued efforts to enrich the lives of adult learners,” commented Tim Shenk, Adult Education Director for IU 13. “With these funds, IU 13 will be able to support hundreds of local individuals on their journey of becoming a United States citizen. This is a powerful and rewarding program for the individual participants, the local community, and the United States.”
The program was designed to stem the flow of tax dollars to privately run cyber-charter schools
8/26/11 – LDNews (the website of Lebanon Daily News)
By BRAD RHEN, Staff Writer
Three Lebanon County school districts are among the 11 districts that will take part in an online initiative similar to a cyber school that is being launched this year by Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit 13.
Annville-Cleona, Cornwall-Lebanon and Lebanon school districts will join eight school districts from Lancaster County in IU 13's Virtual Solutions. About 40 students overall will participate this year.
"This is our first round, but we hope to eventually serve any district that needs this type of service," said Janet Dubble, IU 13's supervisor of online learning.
The program is available on a full- or part-time basis for students in grades seven through 12. In addition to regular courses like English, math and social studies, students can take advanced placement courses and courses that their schools might not offer, such as foreign languages.
It can be used by students who have a personal situation that prevents them from attending a brick-and-mortar school full-time, such as a pregnancy or a physical disability, or by students who miss significant school time due to athletics or music studies.
"There's just unique situations everywhere for kids who need that flexibility in their scheduling," Dubble said.
All courses are taught by state-certified teachers, and all courses meet state academic standards.
Unlike enrolling in privately run cyber-charter schools, students taking courses through Virtual Solutions will continue to be enrolled in their home school district. That means they will be required to meet their district's graduation requirements will receive diplomas from their high schools. They can also take part in the schools' extracurricular activities.
The program is the result of a task force of superintendents and assistant superintendents that was convened to "address the ability to offer cyber options for their students," Dubble said.
"We put together options and put together ideas and investigated vendors and content providers," she said. "This year is the first year for it, and it's going very well."
Virtual Solutions is similar to an online venture developed several years ago by the Capital Area Intermediate Unit, Dubble said. The Capital Area Online Learning Association was started about three years ago, and today almost every district in the CAIU is involved, she said.
"We are modeling our program on theirs," she said. "They are sort of mentoring us through this process, and that has been a tremendous help."
Eventually, Dubble said, Virtual Solutions could be expanded to summer school and elementary schools.
"Our ultimate goal is to provide whatever virtual services students need, whether that's full-time or part-time," she said. "It's totally up to them (the districts). We hope that our success will attract other districts."
Cornwall-Lebanon Superintendent Joe Kristobak said he is very optimistic about the program. Five C-L students - all in high school - will participate this year, and all will be full-time students, he said.
"We realize this is the future," he said. "We want to be on board, but we want to do it the right way. We want to take it slow and evaluate it. We want to provide whatever we can for students and their families."
One of the things Kristobak said he likes best about Virtual Solutions is that it offers courses that are not provided at the district's schools.
"Some courses, I can't offer," he said. "I can't offer Japanese or Chinese. We have to think about the value of it. If I have 10 kids that want to do that, can I hire one teacher?"
Additionally, Kristobak said he hopes Virtual Solutions will provide an alternative to students who want to attend cyber schools but maybe not any of the ones currently out there, particularly if they can still get a diploma from their home school district.
"We're hoping to have a connection with them," he said. "And you can't have that at a cyber-charter school."
Lebanon Superintendent Marianne Bartley said she likes the idea that Virtual Solutions offers students an online education yet the opportunity to remain a part of the district.
"It offers a greater degree of flexibility," she said. "It's not going to be for every student because the students who are involved in that are going to have to operate on a time schedule they devise on their own."
Virtual Solutions, Bartley said, is about embracing the technology that's out there and delivering education in a variety of ways.
"This is the beginning stage for us," she said. "It's not full-blown. We expect to grow with the program."
In Annville-Cleona, 14 students are enrolled in Virtual Solutions courses, seven on a full-time basis, said Assistant Superintendent Andrea Flocken.
"We are looking to offer students opportunities that they otherwise wouldn't have," she said. "We're looking to expand our curricular choices and enhance student opportunities."
Flocken said the district is also hoping to offer students a more expansive schedule.
"We have some highly energetic students who wish to take advantage of the academic opportunities," she said. "And those students are looking to enrich themselves outside of the school day."
Flocken, who in her previous position in another district was involved in virtual school, said online learning is the way of the future.
"Students outside of our walls use many types of virtual communication," she said. "We certainly want to enhance those opportunities for our kids. We don't want to stop that when they walk through the doors."
'A big money saver'
In addition to the educational benefits Virtual Solutions could provide for students, it may also provide significant financial benefits for districts.
In fact, Dubble said, one of the main catalysts behind establishing the program is the growing number of tax dollars being diverted from public schools to privately run cyber-charter schools.
In IU 13, full-time enrollment in outside cyber-charter schools has more than doubled since 2007, from about 700 to 1,500 students, according to a news release. Under state law, for each student attending a cyber-charter school, the student's home district must pay that school an amount equal to its per-pupil state funding.
That amount varies from district to district, but it is usually between $8,000 and $10,000.
In Virtual Solutions, the districts also pays a fee for full-time students, but it is significantly lower - about $4,800.
"Now, the money stays with the district, (and) the student stays a district student and graduates with a district diploma," Dubble said.
There are also per-course and per-semester fees for part-time students.
Kristobak said money was a major issue when deciding to take part in the program.
"We wanted to address the students that are attending cyber-charter schools," he said. "That has been impacting our district for a number of years, and we felt this would be a good way to begin addressing that issue."
Last year, 71 Cornwall-Lebanon students attended cyber-charter schools, Kristobak said. At a cost of about $9,000 per student, that cost the district about $639,000.
"When you multiply 9,000 by 71, that's a chunk of change that concerns us and concerns the taxpayers," he said, noting that the number of students attending cyber-charter schools has increased each of the last few years, and he doesn't expect that trend to change.
Bartley said the financial aspect is important because it has the potential to save the district a lot of money.
Lebanon pays about $8,000 for regular cyber-charter school students and more than $14,000 for students with special needs, Bartley said. In 2009-10, the district paid about $884,000 to cyber-charter schools.
"If all the students in cyber-charters would come to our cyber-charter, it would cut that in half approximately," she said. "It could be a big money-saver for our district in the future."
Annville-Cleona has about 29 students enrolled in outside cyber-charter schools for the coming school year, Flocken said. The district's cost per student for cyber-charters in 2010-11 was $8,343, meaning the district paid cyber-charter schools nearly $242,000.
While the district expects to save some money by participating in Virtual Solutions, Flocken said, that was not one of the driving factors behind the district's involvement.
"That, of course, will save us money, but that's not the initial reason we went in this direction," she said. "Kids are digitally oriented in this day and age, and we hope to maximize those opportunities."
8/21/11 - Sunday News
By JON RUTTER, Staff Writer
Seventeen-year-old Alyson Young was thrilled when she heard about the Virtual Solutions online learning program being launched by Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit 13.
Young, of Narvon, became pregnant last October.
She wanted to stay close to her infant son, Darren, but she also wanted to complete her education at Pequea Valley High School.
Even before Darren was born this summer, she had been interested in cyber classes.
Now, she said, during her senior year, "I'll be home with my son."
And because Virtual Solutions is school district based, she'll be able to stay enrolled at PV, playing tennis and earning her diploma from the school next June.
Up to 40 more full-time cyber students from eight districts in Lancaster and three in Lebanon are expected to join Young during the program's inaugural year.
IU 13 adopted Virtual Solutions to give students innovative, high-tech education options and to stem the growing stream of district students and tax dollars to the state's dozen independent cyber charter schools.
The program is funded by management fees assessed to the schools, individual course fees and $20,000 in dedicated earned income tax credit from the Lancaster-Lebanon Education Foundation.
The Lancaster County Community Foundation is providing a $30,000 grant to spread word of the program to students and their families.
Virtual Solutions is exactly the kind of community betterment initiative the foundation seeks to support, said its spokeswoman, Tracy Cutler.
"The investment will benefit all of Lancaster County" ultimately, Cutler added.
Giving students and schools new educational tools "is something that's very needed, very relevant and very exciting."
'Best of both worlds'
Virtual Solutions courses are being offered to high school, middle school and advanced placement students in grades seven through 12.
Enrollees are assigned a flesh-and-blood district mentor who regularly keeps tab on their performance.
Kids get to keep their emotional connections to their school, said Pamela McCartney, IU 13 director of instructional services.
Sports. Band. Prom. After-school clubs.
It's the best of both worlds," McCartney said.
As of last week, Virtual Solutions had given out about 20 cyber equipment kits to students, including computers, printers, labs and curriculum materials that have been approved by the school boards and aligned to state academic standards.
More kits are waiting to be distributed.
Enrollment has varied widely, from zero in Lampeter-Strasburg to about 15 in the School District of Lancaster.
Penn Manor has five Virtual Solutions students, District Superintendent Mike Leichliter said. The district is aiming for an enrollment of 10 or fewer, he added.
"We want to start small and stay small for the first year so we can learn about it."
This is not the first public school foray into virtual learning.
The Solanco School District introduced its Solanco Virtual Academy in 2006, for example.
But school officials say Virtual Solutions is the first broad-based, collaborative project.
The program has been under development for a year, Leichliter said.
Janet Dubble, IU 13 instructional media specialist, briefed school district administrators about the program last week.
"It's not a cyber school" per se, Dubble said.
"The reason it's called Virtual Solutions is because it is not limited to full-time students," she added. "It opens up options" for students to take one or more online courses and blend them with traditional instruction.
Choices vary by district, however.
Pequea Valley, for example, is offering only the full-time option at the outset, Assistant Principal Jared Erb said.
The schools that have signed Virtual Solutions contracts under what IU 13 calls a "strategic alliance" include Lancaster, Columbia, Hempfield, Manheim Central, Lampeter-Strasburg, Penn Manor, Pequea Valley and Elizabethtown.
The Lebanon County partners are Annville Cleona, Cornwall-Lebanon and Lebanon.
Advocates say it's high time for public schools to augment their traditional bricks-and-mortar offerings with virtual alternatives, including on demand tutoring, streaming videos, flash-drive activities, podcasts, blog writing and text and voice discussion forums.
Virtual Solutions will help schools offer more courses at a time when education budgets are being slashed, backers add.
Dubble said EdisonLearning, a public school management group in New York, is providing the high school courses for the program.
Educators from Intermediate Unit 15's Capital Area Online Learning Association, the IU 13 virtual school counterpart in Harrisburg, are serving as mentors.
Virtual Solutions and CAOLA are among many online programs started recently by public schools nationwide, said Holly Brzycki, CAOLA supervisor of online learning.
"It took a while for public schools to understand the competition" posed by outside cyber schools, she said.
In IU 13, full-time enrollment in outside cyber charter schools more than doubled since 2007, from about 700 to 1,500 students.
The figure is not huge compared to the total public school enrollment of 89,627, Dubble acknowledged.
Virtual learning "is not for everybody," she explained. "It takes a different kind of capability for learning independently."
But Pennsylvania public education spending is high, approaching around $10,000 per pupil, Dubble said.
When students do leave to enroll in an outside cyber charter school, those tax dollars go with them.
Districts in the county paid $9.7 million in charter school tuition last year, according to the state.
So far, Dubble added, most of the interest in Virtual Solutions is from kids who already have cyber charter school experience.
But students and their parents are describing all kinds of incentives to enroll, she added.
One youth is a gymnast who needs a flexible travel schedule. Another is beginning bone marrow transplants.
Dubble said one mother told her that "her daughter really doesn't want to be in school [because] she can't take the drama."
The parents of a Penn Manor boy are interested in Virtual Solutions because the flexible class schedule would allow him to accompany his missionary grandparents to South America several weeks every year, Leichliter said.
"There's all kinds of various scenarios.”
LDNews (the website of Lebanon Daily News)8/15/11 –
By BRANDI POTTS, Staff Writer
There are community projects out there that need to be done, but not enough people to do them.
The Lancaster-Lebanon IU-13 can help. It hosts a summer program, sponsored by the Workforce Investment Act, where young adults can have paid work experience through the South Central Workforce Investment Board.
Dee Cook, job trainer for the IU, has a group of nine students with her every day, working on community projects and learning general employment skills. The program comes to a close on Friday.
"This has really proved to be a really great program," Cook said. "I try to make it so that they're being productive."
Cook evaluates students on a weekly basis, and deductions are made from paychecks if she notices any slacking off.
"I learned that you gotta take work seriously," Jess Adley, 19, of Lebanon said. "Work is fun, though - it's better than school for me."
The group has worked at four different sites this summer: Union Canal Tunnel Park, where they painted an old ticket booth; Lebanon County Career and Technology Center, focusing on maintenance work; IU in Lancaster, moving old desks out of the basement; and Fort Indiantown Gap, where they completed projects with the wildlife and forestry program.
"We can help others in many different ways," Adley said. "Any kind of work you do, people are very thankful."
Last week, Cook and the group cleared a fishermen's trail on Marquette Lake at the Gap and opened it up 3 extra feet. They've also done many projects involving animal habitat while working there.
"It's probably the most versatile and educational site we have," Cook said. "It's just so educational there. They're learning loads."
Cook pointed out Matt Stansfield, an 18-year-old Palmyra native.
"He breathes landscaping," she said, "This is such a good learning experience for him."
While outside with their cutters and rakes, learning about the outdoors and wildlife, those in the program were also developing employment skills.
"It's not like a regular job," Angelyz Franqui, 19, of West Lebanon said. "We can be more open and talk to other people around you."
"She's very versatile," Cook said of Franqui. "She's into anything we do."
Cook hopes that the young adults in her group leave the program with many new skills, such as maturity, responsibility and punctuality.
Amanda Messner, a 23-year-old from Lebanon, said the most important thing she has learned during her three years as a member of the program is how to work in a group.
"Teamwork is a real big thing I work on," Cook said, "and backing each other up."
But the students in the program also learn outside of their work sites. Every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon during the summer program, Kathy Davies, program coordinator, gives instructional academic lessons. Students work toward obtaining a work-readiness certificate that will help them find better employment.
To continue receiving funding, students in the program must show academic advancement. It has always been Cook's dream for the program to have the funding available to pay students, while an employer gives them work, without worrying about pay.
"It just means so much more to have them in a work immersion program," she said.
8/2/11 - WGAL-8
The State Department of Education is exploring a way to determine whether teachers are making the grade. Read more and view video ...
7/28/11 – The Patriot-News
BY JAN MURPHY
Learning about linear equations and other algebraic concepts was a day at the park for some area math teachers.
The teachers from more than a dozen school districts, nonpublic and charter schools spent Tuesday at Hersheypark figuring out ideas that they could employ in their Algebra I classrooms.
Finding ways to make math and science instruction come alive for students is the thrust of a teacher professional development program. (Its title: Project Achieving Rigor and Relevance in Math and Science). The Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit, in partnership with area colleges, is coordinating Project ARRMS, as it is called.
Working with their Lebanon Valley College instructors, the math teachers spent their day learning ways to teach students algebraic concepts involved in the design of amusement park rides; how high and fast a ride travels; and how much food is needed to feed the animals at ZooAmerica.
“These are not concepts that students would really have a hard time wrapping their minds around. Some of the formulas might be a little bit challenging, but at least on a conceptual level, they get it,” said Amanda Paveglio, the project coordinator.
The $587,000 three-year project is one of 10 teacher training programs underway in Pennsylvania with funding that comes through a Math-Science Partnership grant from the U.S. Department of Education.
Its primary purpose is to raise students’ math and science achievement and, in turn, nudge them to consider careers in the science, technology, engineering and math fields, where America has a crying need for workers, said Drue Feilmeier, project director.
“What we’re trying to engage the teachers in is just extra creative ways to these key concepts that we want our students to be able to master,” Feilmeier said.
But teachers see this training as aiding them in helping prepare students for the upcoming Keystone Exams as well. Those are state-developed exams that will count toward students’ graduation requirements starting in 2012-13.
Lebanon High School math teacher Devon Myer said the Algebra I Keystone exam delves far more deeply into mathematical concepts than the current Pennsylvania System of School Assessment math exam. So helping students gain a better understanding is key to their success on the exam, Myer said.
Altogether, 62 middle and high school math and science teachers from Lancaster and Lebanon counties, as well as Susquenita School District in Perry County, participated in the 80-hour summer institutes. They will receive 24 hours of mentoring with a math or science coach throughout the school year to make their classes more rigorous and relevant, Feilmeier said. During the science institute, which was held separately, teachers spent part of their time in classrooms and the rest in the field to see scientific concepts in real-life applications.
Science teachers headed to Chickies Rock, near Columbia, to explore rock strata and study fossils; to a coal mine in Ashland to learn about mine drainage, and to the Millport Conservancy in Warwick Twp. to examine the riparian buffers that had been restored in Lititz Run.
The time spent at the institutes left teachers anxious to get back to school.
“I am just excited to get back into the classroom and start incorporating the labs and activities we’ve been doing into my own lesson plans,” Myer said.
Eastern Lebanon County High School biology and ecology teacher Christopher Heft, who had a two-hour commute to and from Franklin & Marshall College for those 10 eight-hour days of teacher training, said it made for some long days, but he found it to be well worth it.
He said, “Not only did I get to collaborate with colleagues and network with some highly qualified individuals from other districts, I got recharged academically.”
“What we’re trying to engage the teachers in is just extra creative ways to these key concepts that we want our students to be able to master.” Drue Feilmeier, Project ARRMS director.
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