Nation’s school leaders converge on Ephrata

By on March 6, 2019

Photos by Missi Mortimer
Ephrata Area School District AASA Life Ready Graduate Community Partners Panel pictured (left to right) EASD Board President Tim Stayer, Wellspan Ephrata Community Hospital President Carrie Willetts, Haller Enterprises Senior Projet Manager Matthew Caplinger, Astro Machine Works President Eric Blow, Ephrata National Bank President, CEO & Chairman Aaron Groff, Woodstream Vice President Brad Murphy and Mainspring of Ephrata Executive Director Kelly Withum.

On March 4, the Ephrata Area School District hosted 40 superintendents from across the U.S. The leaders — representing a number of states, such as North Dakota, Arizona, and Washington — converged upon Ephrata High School on Monday to join local superintendents for a digital consortium.

This was the third digital consortium of the school year and hosted by AASA (American Associate of School Administrators) and The School Superintendents Association, in partnership with Microsoft.

“The purpose of this event is to show innovations in technology and what is happening in the district,” said Sarah McBee, media and community relations director for the school district. “This one is also focused on the Life Ready Graduate program.”

These consortiums support the country’s superintendents as they pursue innovating learning experiences for their public school students.

During the day, superintendents heard from students on the impacts of relevant learning, toured Innovative Spotlight classes (German, Computer Sciences, American History, and Language Arts), and experienced the MakerBus.

Before lunch, the superintendents had the opportunity to interact with a panel of community members: Eric Blow, Astro Machine Works president; Matthew Caplinger, Haller Enterprises senior project manager; Aaron Groff, Ephrata National Bank president, CEO and chairman; Brad Murphy, Woodstream vice president; Tim Stayer, School Board president; Carrie Willetts, WellSpan Ephrata Community Hospital president, and Kelly Withum, Mainspring of Ephrata executive director.

Superintendents gathered to listen to the community panel discussion during the digital consortium at Ephrata High School.

The panel members shared about their personal high school experiences, the Life Ready Graduate program, the impact of technological advancements in their businesses, and how they see the need for tech savviness and interpersonal skills playing out daily.

“Technology gives us information we didn’t have before,” said Willetts. “But we have to utilize problem-solving and interpersonal skills.”

“A machine on its own is nothing without that human element,” said Blow.

The panelists praised Ephrata’s Life Ready Graduate program as a valuable asset for students in the district. Its approach of applying knowledge through skill helps students become more prepared for functioning in society and in their future careers.

Groff explained the necessity of having employees who are articulate when conversing in emails or texts, but are also able to clearly communicate in face-to-face interactions.

“It is imperative to understand technology,” agreed Withum. “But it is imperative to put the technology down and interact with others.”
Blow commented on the mindset change that schools need to have in terms of preparing students for future life. Something has needed to change in schools for a while, he said.

“This district sees that, and I think good things will come out of this,” he said.

Attending superintendents had the opportunity to ask questions at the end of the panel discussion before concluding the afternoon with lunch and a trip to the middle school.

For additional information about the Digital Consortium, visit aasa.org/DigitalConsortium.aspx.
Aubree Fahringer is the Cocalico editor for The Ephrata Review.

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