Gettysburg Area School District Wins Rural Education Award
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State’s Center on Rural Education and Communities (CREC), in collaboration with the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools (PARSS), has announced the winner of the ninth annual Building Community Through Rural Education Award — Gettysburg Area School District.
This award recognizes a rural school or rural school district in Pennsylvania that demonstrates innovative practices improving the educational experiences of their students while strengthening the bonds between the school and the community. In addition to the 2013 winner, Gettysburg, two additional school districts, Keystone Central School District and Fannett-Metal School District, received honorable mention recognition.
Gettysburg School District
Gettysburg is recognized for its All-Staff Opening Day, an event to identify and discuss issues important to the community and the school district. Guests of the event included members of the chamber of commerce, rotary, merchants association, local builders, fruit growers, realtors, local ministries and others important to the community. The event was broken up into two parts.
The first part of the day allowed participants to discuss several questions including the external and internal forces that undermine public support for public schools, and what those trends mean for schools and school policies. In the second half of the day, participants discussed how to hold productive conversations with community members about school change and developed an effective process to monitor and receive feedback from the community.
The information gathered from these discussions was shared with the Board Communication Committee and the district staff, and two additional meetings were held with local community groups. At these “key communicator” events, community members engaged in conversations about the school’s Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) programs being held in the school district. Teachers and students shared videos and projects as community members were invited to share their observations, thoughts and recommendations to help create innovative solutions and program adjustments.
Keystone Central School District (Central Mountain High School)
Keystone Central, which encompasses Lock Haven and some surrounding areas, received an honorable mention for their event, “Summit on the Mountain.” The idea for the Summit on the Mountain came from the Central Mountain High School student government, which hoped to bring together the eight surrounding rural districts to discuss problems and issues facing schools and students.
Students from Central Mountain, Penns Valley, Philipsburg-Osceola, Bald Eagle Area, Bellefonte, Clearfield, Glendale and Jersey Shore gathered to listen to presenters from the community lead them through discussions and activities that centered on the topics of drugs and alcohol, bullying and learning leadership skills. At the end of the day, superintendents and administrators from various school districts answered questions from the students.
Feedback that Central Mountain High School received showed that the event brought about a feeling of solidarity between students and communities; no longer did students feel that they were facing problems alone. Students left with an enhanced educational experience and leadership skills that can serve them in school and in their communities. Central Mountain High School students who attended the Summit on the Mountain also went into the Central Mountain Middle School to talk about leadership skills and to try to foster involvement in the student government for younger students.
Fannett-Metal School District
Fannett-Metal, located in rural Franklin and Perry counties, received an honorable mention for its exploration course offered in conjunction with the Institute for Caregivers Education. This program offers 11th and 12th graders an opportunity to gain practical, hands-on experience in the health care field.
The Institute for Caregivers Education offers students two sets of nine-week classes. The first nine weeks are spent in classrooms learning medical terminology, anatomy and physiology. After those first nine weeks, students are eligible to take their license exam and earn their Certified Nursing Assistant certification before graduating from high school. In the second nine weeks of the program, students are able to participate in the exploratory program that works in combination with the Fulton County Medical Center. Students shadow a variety of jobs, attend training sessions and complete community service working side by side with trained professionals.
The purpose of this health care program is to help fill the need for health care workers in the state of Pennsylvania, especially in the area of rural health care. Fannett-Metal School District hopes that this joint program will further strengthen the bonds between the school district and the community as well as provide increased opportunities for rural students to live and work within their home community as adults. By providing opportunities that allow students hands on experiences combined with theory, students experience a learning environment that is not found in school classrooms. Fannett-Metal School District believes that this partnership will provide opportunities for their students to learn valuable skills and fill much needed positions within the community.
-- by Kai Schafft (April 2013)