Board praises demonstration

By on March 21, 2018

A statewide school safety task force is in the works, authorized by Pennsylvania’s Gov. Tom Wolf and Auditor General Eugene Depasquale, according to a state school board association liaison.

The task force will be comprised of parents, students, government officials, teachers, and school administrators, Ephrata School Board Director Glenn R. Martin told members of the board and school administration Monday evening at the monthly board meeting of the Ephrata Area School District.

Martin is the liaison for the Pennsylvania School Board Association Region Nine.

“The task force will take steps to address school safety and will make recommendations to the general assembly,” Martin said.

No deadline has been issued for the task force to be assembled or to begin to gather information.

“It’s just being formulated now to make sure they have good representation across the state,” said Superintendent Brian Troop.

The state’s task force initiative is in response to the Feb. 14 shooting death of 17 people, students and faculty, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

Ephrata Area School District students also participated in the nationwide school walkout on Wed., March 14, one month after the shooting, from 10 a.m. to 10:17 a.m.

“We wanted to follow the students’ lead; we didn’t want to force anyone to get involved,” Troop said.

The national movement by students was a way to remember each of the people killed that day, as well as to draw attention to gun control issues, with the goal of changing a number of laws pertaining to gun ownership and accessibility.

Options were provided to local high school students on that day, including participation in a walk out to War Memorial Field, where students observed 17 minutes of silence to honor each person killed in the Parkland shooting.

Students who did not want to leave the building, but wanted to observe the 17 minutes of silence in school were also given that option.

At Ephrata Middle School, students also participated in the walk-out.

“As a school we were prepared to provide a safe environment for students if they asked to participate in the 17 minutes of silence,” said Kevin Deemer, Ephrata Middle School Principal, in a prepared statement. “We did not encourage or discourage any student involvement but made sure all efforts were done in the safest way possible.”

About 100 high school students also led a prayer vigil near what will be the new student media center.

Keeping everybody safe was the district’s main focus of the day, said Troop.

“Safety was our number one objective,” Troop said. “We wanted to allow students to show respect for the 17 lives in Florida and we wanted to make sure our students were safe. Publicized details about events happening at schools throughout our region makes maintaining students’ safety all the more challenging… the Parkland tragedy and the events that have followed serve as a reminder that school safety is a collective effort among all members of a school community.”

Board President Timothy Stayer commented on the students’ behavior during the walk-out.

“I was impressed with how well our students conducted themselves,” Stayer said. “I want to thank all the administrators for their guidance and leadership; it put Ephrata School District in a good light.”

Board member Chris Weber said he was also impressed with the level of maturity shown by the students.

“The middle school and high school students are taking on a very complex issue,” Weber said. “They’re asking ‘what should we do with someone with real problems’ and wondering how they can talk to a kid who keeps to himself – or tell a school official – before it gets to a level of violence.”

Board member Tim Stauffer said he was glad to hear a large group of students took some spiritual time, praying for the murdered students and teachers, and asking for help.

In another matter, Middle School Associate Principal Russ Garman told the Board about a new program in the intermediate school this year, called the “Positive Behavior and Intervention System” or PBIS.

The program looks to reinforce positive behavior in students instead of using a punishment-based behavior modification program.

“If we can teach positive behavior; socially, academically…if we do a better job of teaching better behavior (they won’t have to rely on punishment),” Garman said. “Our first year of PBIS has been an attempt to increase positives in the school climate. We’re talking about character traits, leading into the Life Ready Graduate goals.”

Putting more attention on good behavior, or keeping good behavior “on the front burner” is the key to success of the program, Garman said.

Teachers and Intermediate Unit 13 staff helped to formulate the program.

Part of the strategy is reflected in positive messages posted throughout the school, such as “Think Positive and Positive Things Will Happen.”

At the meeting, several fifth and sixth grade students spoke with the Board members, explaining the PBIS program and telling the Board what the program means to them.

“I like it; I think it helps,” said Quinn Watson, 12, a sixth grader and a son of David and Rebecca Watson.

“It encourages doing the right thing,” said Tristan Hart, a sixth grader and son of Troy and Maureen Minnich.

Tristan appreciates the motivational signs on the school walls, he said.

A part of the PBIS program is the “Mount” slip incentive. Students receive a Mount slip (short for Mountaineer) if they are seen portraying the character trait of the month.

All Mount slips are put into a drawing that occurs every other Friday, and names pulled by Associate Principal Russ Garman receive a prize, usually of some type of school supplies.

Character traits to emulate throughout the year include responsibility, respect, gratitude, empathy, integrity, acceptance, resilience, and perseverance, said Lexi Campbell, 11, a sixth grader and daughter of Richard and Cheyenne Castle.

“We have assemblies with music that has inspiring lyrics and we’ve had a speaker talk about anti-bullying,” Lexi said. “He spoke about stuff in his life that represented perseverance and resilience.”

The speaker was Josh Drean of YouTube fame.

As a deterrent, there’s also a “check’ system and if a student receives eight or more checks in a two-week period, he is not able to participate in some of the activities used as a reward for good behavior, like watching a movie or going outside, Quinn explained.

In other matters, school district leaders recently took part in the annual “Shadow A Student Challenge,” a national initiative.

Participants partner with a student, taking classes, riding the bus, and even taking tests.

“The purpose is to see what it’s like to be a student,” explained Troop. “As we make decisions that affect students, we want to know what their day is like – like going to seven different classes, what’s the impact of that – so we can make better decisions.”

The third year that the national program has been in existence, Troop said he is proud of the Ephrata District to be one of the first to participate.

In another matter, eighth grader James Ellis placed second in the Lancaster County “You Be The Chemist” competition held earlier this month in Manheim Central High School.

The competition is an interactive question-and-answer challenge in science. Ellis’ win qualifies him to compete in the state competition, to be held in April at Penn State University.

Ellis was presented with a school board resolution for his achievement.

The district has received notice of the cost of furniture for the high school’s media center, which is being rebuilt and refurbished. Coming from Tanner Furniture, the total cost is $299,187.67.

“We completed the project just under $2 million, and it’s a much better, more efficient use of that space,” Troop said. “We did use some student ideas and a lot of student input went into the design.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *