New EHS asst. principal named Parents also pack board meeting to discuss librarian situation

By on April 24, 2013

By: GARY P. KLINGER Review Correspondent, Staff Writer



Scott Galen

An honored assistant principal from the Warwick School District has been named to the same position at Ephrata Senior High School.

Monday night, Assistant Superintendent Dr. Brian Troop introduced the school board to Scott Galen, who earlier was named the new assistant principal at EHS.

"When (current assistant principal) Ken Grove announced his retirement effective at the end of the school year, we discussed a number to interview," stated Troop. "Tonight the school board just approved the employment of Mr. Grove’s replacement, Mr. Scott Galen."

Galen has been an associate/assistant principal for five years at Warwick High School. Previous to that, he spent 15 years teaching biology at the same school.

Recently, Galen was named the Assistant Principal of the Year by the Pennsylvania Association of Elementary and Secondary School Principals. Galen earned a bachelor of science degree in biology from Messiah College, a master of science degree in Education Development Strategies from Wilkes University, and his principal certification from Penn State University –Great Valley. He lives in Ephrata with his wife and two children who are already district students.

"It is an honor and privilege to be named to this position," stated Galen. "I’ve been at Warwick for 20 years, five as an administrator and 15 as a teacher. My wife is an EHS graduate. I am excited to get to know everyone from scratch. I know there will be a tremendous learning curve but I’m very excited to be joining the Ephrata Mountaineers."

Grove has served 24 years in the district.

Librarians still on

the mind of parents

In other news, parents packed Monday night’s meeting to share concerns about the districts library program.

Concerns were raised recently when the district did not immediately move to hire a replacement after Mary Ann Hagen announced that she would be retiring as an elementary school librarian effective at the end of the 2012-13 school year.

But the fact that the district did not immediately move to hire a replacement was not an indication the district did not intend to hire but instead was reflective of a long-held district policy to constantly review district wide programs for any possible savings which could be achieved. Throughout the past several years, the district, facing challenging fiscal budgets, looked at ways in which positions, opened either through resignations or retirements, might be filled internally without the need to hire additional staff. Through attrition, the district has been able to keep costs in check, and even reduce them. To date, the district has not had to furlough any staff members as a result of a shrinking revenue stream.

Yet, after careful examination, the district did conclude that in the case of the Hagen retirement, additional staff cuts through attrition were not prudent. At Monday night’s meeting, the board voted unanimously to transfer Sally Perry from librarian at both the Akron and Clay elementary schools to being the librarian at the Highland and Fulton school libraries. Meanwhile, the board approved of transferring Jane Donahue from her position as a second grade teacher at Akron Elementary School, to being the librarian at the Akron and Clay school libraries.

As is the case at all school board meetings, parents and members of the community are invited to address the board on agenda items prior to any formal action being taken by the board.

Parent Kim Buehler was one of several concerned parents that came to the meeting with prepared comments and a positive message for the district. Throughout her message, Buehler was supportive in her tone, stating repeatedly that she understands the significant financial challenges faced by the district. Yet, her comments were well-directed at the importance of a strong library program.

"Librarians are instrumental in teaching many reading and writing skills addressed in the Common Core Standards, in which all students are expected to be proficient," stated Buehler. "With library time cut in half, these skills are not being adequately addressed. Classroom teachers often have neither the time nor expertise to properly teach alone the skills that were formerly taught during library instruction."

Buehler also cited a direct correlation between the library program and standardized test scores.

"Recent research shows a direct correlation between librarians and standardized test scores, finding that students in a school with a library fully-staffed by a certified librarian scored higher on both reading and writing PSSA tests," Buehler added. (SOURCE: Lance, Keith Curry, and Bill Schwarz. How Pennsylvania School Libraries Pay Off: Investments in Student Achievement and Academic Standards. PA School Library Project. Oct.2012. Web. 16 April 2013.

In addition, Buehler said that a vital school library program provides students with training on library access skill and technology and Internet skills. Librarians also provide vital collaboration with classroom teachers while helping to build a love of and proficiency in reading.

"The librarian is the one teacher in a building who sees all students and is able to expose them to digital tools as well as provide consistent lessons that impart technology and digital resource skills," stated Buehler. "Librarians are also involved in teaching Common Core Standards related to technology, including Digital Citizenship and Technology Research."

Joel Burkholder is an Instruction Librarian and Assistant Professor at York College of Pennsylvania.

He is also the parent of Ephrata School District students and a 1996 EHS alumni.

Like Buehler, he was concerned enough about the future of the districtwide library program to not only send a letter addressing those concerns to district leader, but he also was present to share his concerns in person at Monday night’s meeting.

"From 2004 to 2012, I taught a class that was designed to instruct students about the rigor and process of academic research. I can tell you — with the authority of experience — most freshmen were woefully unprepared for this activity," Burkholder told school board members. "They had little knowledge of scholarly, peer-reviewed research and its elevated expectations of accuracy. They relied on familiar search engines and websites, regardless of what the circumstances demand. Knowledge of and experience with the academic resources libraries typically provide was limited. Their evaluation of sources was inconsistent and they often selected evidence that was not accurate, compelling, or appropriate. Most of the research I’ve done over the last nine years has focused on ways to address and transform these habits. Unfortunately, most of them were ingrained from years and years of use. I needed much more instructional time for substantial change to occur."

Burkholder explained that this is why he was so troubled by the district’s considered cuts to the elementary school library programs. He feels systematic and sustained development of information literacy needs to begin early in a child’s academic career.

"In a district as large as Ephrata, that requires a coordinated and intentional effort," added Burkholder. "It also requires the ongoing collaboration of librarians — specifically educated to navigate an environment dominated by abundant information and ever-evolving information technology, and classroom teachers. With only one librarian between four schools, such a program seems extremely unlikely. Cutting these programs means grades two, three, and four will receive only 13.5 hours of library instruction per year. You will cede much of a child’s information literacy education to a teacher we cannot control: the Internet. If you plan to "fix" these issues in junior and senior high, it will be too little, too late."

In his letter to the district, Burkholder expressed his concern about the impact current decisions may have on future generations of Ephrata students.

"The proposed cuts allow the district to save money in the short-term," he said. "But will the future costs to student learning be worth it? Information literacy’s purpose is not simply to prepare students for college; it should also prepare them to participate in a democracy. Good citizens are critical thinkers, capable of making informed decisions which contribute to the well-being of society. Our children have access to endless amounts of information, but that does not mean they know what do to with it. Now, more than ever, citizenship requires the ability to effectively locate, evaluate, select, and use credible information. We need to invest in this kind of education, not eliminate it."

Both Buehler and Burkholder were relieved to hear that while the district had previously cut the number of school librarians from 8 to 5, no further cuts would be made as a result of the Hagen retirement. Yet, both urged district officials to consider increasing the number of librarians to earlier levels.

This is the time of year when the district budgeting process is in full swing and exactly the time of year when staffing decisions are being carefully considered.

District Superintendent Dr. Gerald Rosati, touched briefly on the financial situation facing the district. He said that with regard to the state budget, there seemed to be lots of discussion but very little action.

"We will continue to monitor the situation," said Rosati. "We anticipate a minimal increase for next year (from the state).

Rosati added that the district was carefully looking at elementary enrollment figures, citing a rising trend which could create challenges with regard to class size.

"At the heart of all board members is to keep class sizes down, especially at the kindergarten and first grade levels," added Rosati. "Maybe we have to employ more teachers."

But Rosati also expressed concerns about the district’s budgets in the years to come.

"We all know where we stand (with regard to state funding), but I’m not optimistic this will change based on past history. I know what the trend is with public education and that’s been discussed for a number of years now."

Board President Timothy Stayer also weighed in on the impact budgetary constraints would play going forward.

"With all of the unknowns of the budget, we face a lot of challenges ahead," stated Stayer. "No doubt schools are under attack from a budgeting concern from a whole host of areas. We will need to make the best and most informed decision.

Stayer also spoke to the general condition of the district in comparison to other local districts.

"We are in good shape (financially) especially compared to some local districts but the future does not look bright," added Stayer.

For additional information on Ephrata Area School District and its schools, visit easdpa.org. Gary P. Klinger welcomes your comments, questions and suggestions via e-mail at klingerglobal@gmail.com. More GALEN, page A15

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