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State Education secretary 'confident' in York plans

Written by Angie Mason/York Daily Record | Jan 26, 2016 9:33 AM
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Shaniece Holmes-Brown, an 11th grader at William Penn High School, asks a question of Pedro Rivera, state education secretary, during the education roundtable held at Goode K-8 School. Jason Plotkin,York Daily Record

(York) -- The state's education secretary said he's confident in the York City School District's plan for recovery, but there's one thing to make sure to avoid.

"Complacency," Pedro Rivera said Thursday. "You know how many folks get to this point and just get comfortable?"

There is no comfort level of school turnaround systems, he said.

Rivera held a roundtable discussion at Goode K-8 School in York on Thursday, talking with educators, parents and students about the district's plans, as well as statewide accountability issues.

In response to a question from York City School Board vice president Michael Miller, Rivera said he's "very confident" about the district's four-phased goals, which he keeps on his desk.

"First, you moved away from making quick fixes to education," Rivera said, and the district is now looking at the "true foundational means" of improving education.

He commended the work of teams rewriting curriculum and making sure it's aligned to state standards and work to improve communications. He said the state is monitoring the district's policy decisions, too.

Michael Thew, a former Lincoln Intermediate Unit 12 director who recently joined the city district as interim assistant superintendent, said that as the district works on reform, he's concerned about the pace of trying to implement everything after the cuts of the past five years.

"It seems like we have a lot of catching up to do because of all the cuts," he said, adding that he'd hate to see the district make a lot of changes rapidly only to have those changes have to be thrown out later. "We need to have some time and ... basically just time to get it done."

The district is working on a lot of initiatives -- rewriting curriculum, expanding pre-kindergarten, training teachers in a distributed leadership model, District Supt. Eric Holmes said.

He asked if there was a way the state could make a goal to support to districts in York's situation over a long period of time, so that they don't have to start all over in four years if there's an administration change.

Many of the district's plans require more resources, Rivera said, but that investments the district is making, like in curriculum, will pay dividends for years.

"We will continue to advocate for more resources for you and for all the schools," he said.

Jeanne Lippy, a Goode third-grade teacher, said that in 35 years as a teacher, she's felt more supported than ever this year.

"We are communicating," she said, adding that she knows what second grade is doing and what she needs to do to build toward for fourth grade. "I just feel the whole morale within the city, from a year ago at Christmas-time when we were told we were no longer a district, to now is just phenomenal."

At the table

Pennsylvania Education Secretary Pedro Rivera held a roundtable discussion with educators, parents and students on Thursday at Goode K-8 School. In addition to York City administrators, school board members and teachers, the group included three William Penn Senior High School students, administrators from York Suburban School District, Lincoln Intermediate Unit 12 and York County School of Technology, state Rep. Kevin Schreiber and Edquina Washington from the City of York.

 

*This article is part of a content-sharing partnership between WITF and the York Daily Record

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