Senate Education Committee Senator Jeffrey E. Piccola Chairman

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1 Senate Education Committee Senator Jeffrey E. Piccola Chairman Dave Transue Diane McNaughton Karen Seivard Executive Director Deputy Executive Director Committee Counsel Room 173 Capitol Building, Senate Box , Harrisburg, Pennsylvania TOUR AND PUBLIC HEARING ON SCHOOL SUCCESS AND THE NON-TRADITIONAL STUDENT Friday, October 8, 2010 At the York Adams Academy 11:00 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. Agenda 12:00 PM 12:05 PM Opening Remarks The Honorable Jeffrey E. Piccola, Chairman 15 th Senatorial District th The Honorable Andrew Dinniman, Minority Chairman 19 Senatorial District The Honorable Michael Waugh 28 th Senatorial District 12:05 PM 12:25 PM Robert L. Krantz, Ed.D., Superintendent Dave Detzel, Director Ellen Freireich, Board Member Richard Zepp, Board Member 12:25 PM 12:45 PM Diane Tyson, Program Director Dr. Donald Stewart, former Superintendent of Record York Adams Academy York Adams Academy York Adams Academy York Adams Academy Lancaster County Academy Lancaster County Academy 12:45 PM 1:05 PM Dr. Michael Thew, Executive Director Lincoln Intermediate Unit 12 Dr. Robert Lombardo, Superintendent Spring Grove School District Dr. Emilie Lonardi, Superintendent West York School District Dr. Michael Snell, Superintendent Central York School District 1:05 PM 1:25 PM Ryan Kline, current student Mary B. Pietrusza, student Beth Bucher, York site lead teacher Launa Groft, Adams site lead teacher Vicki Rutledge, York site teacher York Adams Academy York Adams Academy York Adams Academy York Adams Academy York Adams Academy 1:25 PM 1:45 PM Amy Morton, Deputy Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education Pennsylvania Department of Education

2 Testimony on Behalf of the York/Adams Academy (Previously know as the York County High School) October 8, 2010 I appreciate the time and opportunity to speak with the Senators and Pennsylvania Department of Education regarding the programs, education, and benefits of the York Adams Acacemy. My name is Dr. Robert L. Krantz and I am the superitendent of Record for the Academy and have been in that position for two years. In addition, I am also the superintendent for Dover Area School District in York County and have been part of the public education system in Pennsylvania for over 30 years. The information I am presenting will fall in several categories starting with the articles of agreement that involves, as participants, 18 school districts in York and Adams Counties. ARTICLES OF AGREEMENT FOR ESTABLISHMENT AND OPERATION OF THE YORK ADAMS ACADEMY THESE ARTICLES OF AGREEMENT made and entered into this 1 st day of July, 2009, by and between the following School Districts of York County, Pennsylvania, and Adams County, Pennsylvania, which are parties signatory hereto: Central York School District, the Dallastown Area School District, the Dover Area School District, the Eastern York School District, the Northeastern York School District, the Red Lion Area School District, the Spring Grove Area School District, the West York Area School District, the York City School District, and the York Suburban School District, (hereinafter Full-Time Member Districts ), and Bermudian Springs School District, Conewago Valley School District, Gettysburg Area School District, Hanover Public School District, Littlestown Area School District, South Eastern School District, South Western School District, and the Upper Adams School District (hereinafter Part-Time Member Districts ) each of which has caused these Articles of Agreement to be executed by the President or Vice-President and to be attested by the Secretary of its Board of School Directors, and the seal of such School District affixed hereunto; Testimony of Dr. Robert L. Krantz Page 1

3 WITNESSETH: WHEREAS, the said School Districts have agreed to establish a comprehensive Joint Secondary Educational Program designed to meet the needs of students unable to effectively function in the traditional school setting; and WHEREAS, it is contemplated that said Joint Secondary Educational Program will be housed in facilities provided by one or more of the Member Districts, and / or other appropriate facilities to be leased; and WHEREAS, it is contemplated that all Member Districts will share in the cost of establishing such a Joint Secondary Educational Program and that, thereafter, the expense of operating and maintaining the Program will be financed by tuition charges paid by Member Districts based on the number of school-aged students in attendance from each such Member District and by tuition charges paid by or otherwise funded with respect to adult students twenty-one (21) years of age or older; and WHEREAS, the said School Districts have agreed to issue a Dual Diploma to all students in attendance from each such Member District who successfully complete the credit requirements established by the Joint Authority Committee. NOW THEREFORE, it is agreed between and among the respective Member Districts which are parties signatory hereto, as follows: ARTICLE Establishment, Name, and Purpose. The Member Districts, parties hereto, acting in concert, do hereby establish a joint secondary educational program to be known as YORK ADAMS ACADEMY, to be operated for the benefit of secondary school pupils and other school-aged students ( greater than age sixteen (16) and less than twenty-one (21) years of age ) who are residents of one of the Member Districts. Additionally, adult residents of York and Adams Counties who are twenty-one (21) years of age or older may be enrolled to the extent space is available; in the event space is limited, preference shall be given to residents of the Member Districts. It is agreed that the York Adams Academy shall be operated on a full-time basis and shall provide the necessary related academic and general education program. 1.2 Definitions. For the purpose of this Agreement, the following definitions shall be used in the interpretation of this Agreement: Testimony of Dr. Robert L. Krantz Page 2

4 (a) Joint School Board shall mean the boards of school directors of all the Member Districts acting jointly. (b) Joint Authority Committee shall mean the committee contemplated under Section 1707 of the Public School Code of 1949, as amended. (c) Member Board shall mean the Board of School Directors of a respective member school district which is party to this agreement. (d) Member District shall mean a participating school district, a party to this agreement, and may be any additional school district which may subsequently be admitted to this agreement. (e) Academy shall mean a joint secondary educational program, to be designated as the York Adams Academy. (f) School-aged students shall mean students greater than the age of sixteen (16) and less than the age of twenty-one (21). (g) Dual Diploma shall mean a diploma that is issued by the Member District and inscribed by seal or print with the words York Adams Academy Effective Date and Term. This Agreement shall become effective as of July 1, 2009 and shall remain in effect until terminated by action of a majority of the Member Districts. ARTICLE Member Districts. The districts which are parties to this Agreement shall be members of the York Adams Academy Attendance Area and shall be entitled to the benefits and privileges and subject to the responsibilities and liabilities herein set forth. 2.2 Addition of New Members. Any school district, being part of York or Adams Counties and not participating in the original establishment of this Joint Academy, which later elects to become a full-time or part-time participant, shall contribute to the cost of the Academy an amount agreed on with the then Member Districts and shall make such further annual payments on account of other obligations as shall be agreed upon at the time of admission. Testimony of Dr. Robert L. Krantz Page 3

5 2.3 Withdrawal of Members. Any Member District may withdraw from participation in this Agreement as of June 30 of any year, provided that written notice is given to the Joint Authority Board no later than the preceding December 1; providing further, that no Member District may withdraw unless it has participated as a member for at least ( 2 ) years. Any withdrawing member shall be responsible for its pro rata share of: ( a ) leasehold expenses for physical space and / or computer equipment with respect to obligations incurred during its term of membership; and ( b ) capital expenditures, if any, incurred during its term of membership. Withdrawing members shall not be responsible for any operational costs incurred subsequent to withdrawal. Withdrawing members shall not be entitled to funds accumulated in the Fund Balance during their participation. ARTICLE Joint Board. The Joint School Board is hereby charged with the ultimate responsibility for establishing and operating the York Adams Academy and is hereby vested with all the powers and responsibilities granted to Joint School Boards by the applicable provisions of the Public School Code of 1949, as amended. 3.2 Approval of Annual Budget. The Joint Board shall, by joint meeting or mail ballot conducted by May of each year, adopt the York Adams Academy annual operating budget. 3.3 Delegation of Authority. The several Member Districts acting jointly as the Joint School Board do hereby delegate to a Committee hereby created and to be known as the Joint Authority Committee the operation, administration and management of the Academy within the limits of the Budget adopted by the Joint School Board to the extent permitted by law. It is intended by this paragraph to delegate to the Joint Authority Committee, all powers granted to the Joint School Board. The composition of the Joint Authority Committee shall be set forth in Article 4 hereof. ARTICLE Joint Authority Committee. There is hereby established a Joint School Committee as provided by Section 1707 of the Public School Code of 1949, as amended. It shall be the function of this Committee to operate, administer and manage the Academy within the limits of the Budget adopted by the Joint School Board to the extent permitted by law. It shall be the further duty of this committee to keep the Joint School Board advised as said Testimony of Dr. Robert L. Krantz Page 4

6 Board may require on all matters affecting the operation, administration and management of the Academy including, but not limited to, personnel policies and employment, curriculum, graduation requirements, student activities, physical plant conditions and requirements, budgetary requirements, and such other matters respecting the Academy as may be requested by the Board from time to time. Generally, said Committee shall follow the procedures normally assumed by the boards of school directors of a school district. 4.2 Membership of the Committee. Each full-time Member Board of school directors shall elect one of its members to serve on the Joint Authority Committee. The Committee member, so elected, shall serve for a three-year term commencing on December 31 of the year of election. Subsequent election of members to replace the members whose terms are about to expire shall be held in the month of December. 4.3 Organization of the Committee. The initial organizational meeting of the members of the Committee shall be held within thirty ( 30 ) days after the ratification of this agreement. Subsequent organizational meetings of the Committee shall be held annually in the month of January. At such organizational meetings, the Committee shall choose from its members a president, vice-president, and treasurer, each to serve until the next annual organizational meeting. The Committee shall elect a secretary, who may or may not be a member of the Joint Authority Committee, to serve a term of four ( 4 ) years. 4.4 Vacancies of the Committee. Vacancies in membership on this Committee shall be filed by the electing Member District for the unexpired term of any member who no longer desires to serve on the Committee, or who for any reason has ceased to be a school director of the electing district. The electing district may replace its member of the Committee if said member shall fail or neglect to attend two successive meetings of the Committee without valid excuse. 4.5 Meetings of the Committee. The Committee shall meet monthly. The regular meetings of the Committee shall be public meetings, subject to the right to conduct executive sessions when appropriate, pursuant to the provisions of the Public Meeting (Sunshine) Law. Public notice of all meetings shall be given as provided by the Public School Code and other applicable law. The agenda, minutes and proceedings of all meetings shall be mailed to all members of the Joint Authority Committee. A quorum shall consist of a majority of the members of the Committee and affirmative action of the Committee shall require a majority vote of those in attendance. Affirmative vote of a majority of all members of the Committee, duly recorded, showing how each member voted, shall be required in order to take action on those subjects set forth in Section 508 of the Public School Code of 1949, as amended. Testimony of Dr. Robert L. Krantz Page 5

7 ARTICLE Capital Expenditures. Capital Expenditures, if any, made in connection with the establishment and operation of the York Adams Academy shall be borne by the Member Districts on an equal basis (prorated based on the number of Member Districts). 5.2 Depositories. The Joint Authority Committee shall meet the responsibilities imposed upon boards of school directors of school districts with reference to school depositories and school funds as found in Sections 621, 622, 623, 624 and 625 of the Public School Code, as amended. ARTICLE Current Expenses. Current expenses and costs of operation of the York Adams Academy shall be borne: (a) by the Member Districts on the basis of the number of school-aged pupils in average daily membership from the respective Member Districts; and (b) by adult students (twenty - one (21) years of age or older) through tuition charges or grants in such amounts as shall be established by the Joint Operating Committee. ARTICLE Financing and Leases. The Member Districts do hereby authorize the Joint Authority Committee, to enter into agreements on behalf of the Member Districts to lease, equip and operate facilities for the York Adams Academy. ARTICLE Employment of Personnel. The Committee shall employ a Director and other needed professional and non-professional staff to administer, supervise, direct and coordinate such programs as the Committee may institute lawfully, and to care for and maintain the facilities and equipment of the Academy. The Director shall attend the meetings of the Committee and shall advise the members thereof on matters pertaining to the operations, administration and management of the York Adams Academy. 8.2 Superintendent of the School. The Committee shall appoint as the Superintendent of the York Adams Academy for such terms and at such compensation as the Committee may determine, the chief school administrator of the participating district. Testimony of Dr. Robert L. Krantz Page 6

8 8.3 Solicitor. The Committee may appoint a solicitor and shall fix the terms of compensation for such Solicitor. ARTICLE Voting Procedure. All actions of the Joint Authority Committee shall be by a majority of the members of the Authority either in convention or by mail ballot, provided, that the approval of each operating budget and any amendment of these Articles of Agreement shall require the affirmative vote of two-thirds (2/3) of the member school districts and a majority vote of all school directors of all member districts, and provided further, for the purpose of this requirement only, the vote of any member school district shall be determined by a majority vote of all school directors comprising such member boards. All votes shall be duly recorded and shall show how each member voted. IN WITNESS WHEREOF, the parties hereto intending to be legally bound hereby, have caused the Articles of Agreement to be signed by the respective Presidents or Vice-Presidents and attested by the respective Secretaries or Assistant Secretaries and their corporate seals affixed, as of the day and year first hereinabove written. Testimony of Dr. Robert L. Krantz Page 7

9 The York/Adams Academy was originally established in the early 1990 s as an alternative public school for students in grades 11 and 12. The students accepted in the program were not disruptive youth, but students that needed an alternative education approach. These students needed support for career education planning and workplace skills, did not want the issues and drama that surrounded local high schools, had medical or other health related problems, had a family or child of their own, did not have a home or place to live, developed attendance issues, personal issues, were working to support parents and/or other family members, did not get along with students in their local high school, could not meet class requirements in a regular high school setting, classroom setting did not move as quickly for their educational needs, and possibly just needed a change or alternative educational program. Regardless, York/Adams Academy has graduated thousands of students over the past years with a 20 year record of quality. A student is enrolled in York/Adams Academy by taking an assessment to determine needs and placement. Students are responsible for attending class, but are truly responsible for their own direction and making appropriate decisions regarding their future. With almost 20 school districts participating in the program and a range of graduation credits from 21 to 29 across the counties, each sending school has accepted the 23 credits needed to graduate from the academy. The York/Adams Academy meets all criteria for credits, hours of operation, 180 plus days of service, highly qualified teacher status, and a certified principal as the director. York/Adams Academy operates three programs per day with students being able to take advantage of all three or how it may fit into their home, work, and family schedule. The program is quite efficient with students choosing a direction, time, and plan while being guided by a competent and caring staff. The actual cost per year per student is $ and is less than half of the average across the counties. Students arrive with a multitude of needs and academic progress. Some students may need 3 credits or less to graduate while other may need in excess of 10 credits. Since students move at their own pace they can finish classes and courses in a short period of time or take longer if needed. One of the benefits of the program is that when a student finishes another can utilize that slot. This process permits a sending school to utilize more than their allotted slots for the school year. The school/academy is located around a central location for the school districts across York County. It is situated in a building off an intersection or connection of route 30 and route 83. This allows for easy access to the school. There is also a satellite school located near New Oxford, Pennsylvania for Adams County students. Both of these facilities are open very similar hours to make sure there are consistent hours for student use. The staff at both facilities are dedicated and most have been part of the program for many years. I have talked with students during class hours and the time of graduation and they Testimony of Dr. Robert L. Krantz Page 8

10 have informed me that their teachers are caring, push for results, expect success, and truly hold high expectations for now and the future. This group is highly qualified and prepared to help any student. The York/Adams Academy Board of Education is made up of a representation of the sending schools. The group has been meeting virtually every month over the past two years to help provide direction, support the school, help with decisions, vote on budgets and curriculum, and provide support. Prior to two years ago they met less frequently. They are truly a dedicated group who support the efforts of the director, teachers, and students. Over the past two years, beginning in the Fall of 2008 the York/Adams Academy has been struggling to maintain an existence. Prior to that time period the school had operated as a unique entity providing outstanding services to the youth of the county and offering an independent diploma to students. It is not a GED program, but allowed countless students to pursue post secondary education, service oriented direction, and employment to help the community. The students graduated with a sense of pride for York and the county areas for almost 20 years. Last year, changes were made to permit the school to operate. These changes included sending schools providing their own diplomas while the school was constantly being threatened with a total closure of the program. This school offers an alternative to regular high school. It should be classified or held as a model to be replicated across the state of Pennsylvania, not in jeopardy of closing. Pennsylvania Department of Education should be examining methods to include this school or academy as part of normal educational offerings or as a special program or designation. It was explained to the representatives of the school that it does not fit a Niche or in a sense any terminology from the State Department. I would urge the State Department of Education to find a niche or special exemption to make this program and school part of the regulations, legislation, or existing documentation for continued operation. If this requires legislation it needs to happen to replicate this across the State. It needs to be thought of as a true success that offers a complete and legitimate high school diploma in an alternative setting at a bargain cost. Senators Piccola, Waugh, and Dinniman and Pennsylvania Department of Education Deputy Morton I would urge you to keep in mind that we are in a crisis for positive alternative education programs to keep our students in school and not have a drop-out every 26 seconds in our nation. No Child Left Behind is alive and well in the York/Adams Academy and places an emphasis on academics and the total child belonging to a bright future. This school or program is highly accountable and allowing students to turn their lives around. Their future is our future and allows avenues and pathways to careers, family, and future education. These students are on a road to success and productive members of society. Both York/Adams Academy and Testimony of Dr. Robert L. Krantz Page 9

11 Lancaster Academy is a beacon to success for students that need a second chance. Supporting these efforts will genuinely provide a way to break molds of generations and set new challenges for high school graduates to be productive members of society. We need to stay the path and keep the dreams alive. Robert L. Krantz Superintendent of Dover Area School District Superintendent of Record for York/Adams Academy Testimony of Dr. Robert L. Krantz Page 10

12 On behalf of the staff and students of York Adams Academy (YAA), let me express our sincere gratitude for the opportunity to speak on behalf of YAA. My name is Dave Detzel, and I have been the director of YAA since August 16, My educational background includes sixteen years as a teacher, coach, and administrator in the Spring Grove Area School District, two years as the assistant principal at La Academia: Partnership Charter School in Lancaster City, and three years as the high school principal for the Avon Grove Charter School located in Chester County. At this time York Adams Academy is serving 147 students from eighteen different school districts located in York and Adams counties. Our York site offers three sessions per day: morning (8:00 to 11:00 am), midday (11:15 am to 2:15 pm), and evening (5:00 pm to 8:45 pm). The evening session is offered only Monday through Thursday; morning and midday sessions are Monday through Friday. This flexibility in attendance is important as our students often wrestle with the challenges of transportation, work schedules, inconsistent living arrangements, and child care arrangements for their children. Students are expected to attend one session per day, but they may attend more than one session if needed and/or desired. I realize that I have only been the director of York Adams Academy for two months, but it hasn t taken long for me to see the value of the program. The words choice and opportunity come quickly to mind. In my previous work in two different charter schools I saw how educational choice was very effective for those students and their families. They all had some reason(s) why things weren t working out well at their home district. The different educational slant and the new environment that the charter schools offered were very beneficial for most of the students. Those schools were not perfect, of course, but they gave the students and their families a new opportunity and hope for completing their education. York Adams Academy gives eligible students a viable choice for completing their high school diploma requirements. Often YAA is a last resort, and more often than not the students earn their diploma. Since the school s inception in 1990, 2905 students have received their high school diploma through the York County High School/York Adams Academy. To date this year ten students have already completed their graduation requirements and we anticipate over 150 students graduating this year. As society becomes more complex and the task of educating our children becomes more demanding, programs like York Adams Academy, which offers flexibility, opportunity and hope (at a very reasonable cost, I might add) to students who are not succeeding in the traditional public school environment, are nothing short of essential. Sincerely, Dave Detzel, Director, York Adams Academy Testimony of Mr. David Detzel Page 1

13 Good afternoon. I am Ellen Freireich, President of the York Adams Academy Joint Board of Directors. I have represented York Suburban School District for 13 years on the Board and I have been Board President for 10 years. I consider myself the Academy s biggest cheerleader! The value of a high school diploma is well documented. National studies show high school dropouts earn on average $18,900 per year while high school graduates earn on average $25,900 per year. The question then is: How best to provide opportunities for high school students who do not or cannot work within the structure of a traditional high school to complete their education? The answer is a non-traditional high school -- such as the York Adams Academy, formerly the York County High School where students attend classes and study independently at their own pace. In reality, the forerunner of York Adams Academy was developed by a coalition of concerned educators and others thinking outside of the box. The problem with developing a program outside of the box is that it then does not fall into a neat, pre-conceived niche. What needs to happen is that the parameters and definition of how a student earns a high school diploma has to expand. Over the past 20 years, York Adams County Academy has 3,200 success stories. You ll hear two of those stories in a few minutes. The obvious economic impact of high school graduates on the local and state economies is well documented. One of the main reasons people turn to us is for financial reasons to get a better paying job to support their parents, their own family, or both. Students are never too old to attend York Adams Academy; we have had several students in their 40s enter our program to obtain their high school diplomas. Over 20 years ago, several school districts in York County saw the need for an alternative high school where students could continue their education in a nontraditional setting no peer pressure, no marching band, no sports, no yearbook, no bullying just studying and earning their diplomas. The Academy offers Testimony of Mrs. Ellen Freireich Page 1

14 individual attention and guidance not only for academic subjects, but also for future planning. Many graduates continue their education. Others join the military. Others already have jobs. This intense one-on-one help is not always available at a traditional high school. Today, this educational opportunity is supported by 10 authority member districts cutting across the geographic school district boundaries of York and Adams counties: Central York School District, Dallastown Area School District, Dover Area School District, Eastern York School District, Northeastern School District, Red Lion School District, Spring Grove School District, West York School District, York City School District, and York Suburban School District in York county and another 8 affiliate districts from York and Adams counties: Bermudian Springs School District, Conewago Valley School District, Gettysburg Area School District, Hanover Public School District, Littlestown Area School District, South Eastern School District, South Western School District and Upper Adams School District. Our current enrollment is approximately 150 students from these participating districts- both high school-age and adult self-motivated learners at our two sites (here at the York Learning Center and in Adams County) with a waiting list at all times for both day and evening classes. York Adams Academy is truly a collaborative effort for these districts. It works despite the fact that each participating district has slightly different graduation requirements. Our students complete the core subjects and a senior project. Cost wise, York Adams Academy is the best deal in town. No individual district can offer this program for what we do in this cooperative effort. You have only to attend the graduation program in January or June to see and hear the enthusiasm of our graduates and their families. Family members constantly tell us how grateful they are that York Adams Academy offers this opportunity. Our speakers at graduation always thank the faculty and Board for supporting them in their efforts to obtain their high school diploma. What do we at York Adams Academy want from you? 1) Legislation that returns us to the diploma-granting high school status that we had for our first 19 years. 2) To be able to offer admission to high school students who are on the verge of dropping out the second chance they need to become productive citizens. Testimony of Mrs. Ellen Freireich Page 2

15 3) To be able to offer more mature people the opportunity to finish their education that perhaps was not available to them years ago--much like the woman who thought -- because she had participated in her high school commencement -- she was a high school graduate, only to find out years later when she requested her high school diploma she lacked her senior English credits. 4) To be able to offer an environment different from what students have known and not been able to deal with. To provide encouragement and support to those who need it most. 5) To be able to offer a very student-centered environment one not filled with state mandated testing, peer pressure, discipline and attendance issues and all the activities that fill a high school, --but to provide students with the opportunity to complete their educations, improve their self esteem and to see a brighter future. You, the Legislators, can make all this possible with sound, thinking outside the box legislation that will benefit non-traditional learners in Pennsylvania. Thank you. Testimony of Mrs. Ellen Freireich Page 3

16 Testimony for Public Hearing October 8, 2010 Good afternoon. My name is Diane Tyson and I am the Director for the Lancaster County Academy. The Lancaster County Academy was established as an Experimental/Alternative school in 1993 to give high school dropouts the opportunity to restart their education in a nontraditional setting. In 1990, Lancaster County had the second highest dropout rate in the state, and school administrators wanted to give those who had been out of school for 6 months or more the opportunity to restart their stalled education. We were unique then. Not only did the Academy give students the opportunity to earn the credits needed to graduate, it also required students to engage in career planning, and employment skill development. In addition, a Service Learning component further reinforced workplace skills and career exploration. This was long before the federal School-to-Work and Service Learning initiatives. The Academy now serves students from 12 school districts. Although our original mission was exclusive to recovering high school dropouts, we now primarily serve students who are at risk of dropping out. Up until this school year, adults who left high school in their senior year had the opportunity to earn a diploma instead of a GED. However, funding for the adult component of our program was eliminated this year. Over the past 17 years, the Lancaster County Academy processed over 2,500 applications. The PA Department of Education gives dropouts six options to list why they are leaving school. Those choices are: Academic Problems, Behavior Problems, Wanted to Work, Dislike School, Pregnancy/Childcare and Expelled/Runaway. Over 80% list academic problems, disliked school and wanted to work as the reason for leaving. The Lancaster County Academy application asks the reason for leaving traditional school. A sampling from applications list the following reasons: I felt I was not using my time wisely, personal problems, homeless, too much drama, dropped from the rolls because of attendance, having a baby, medical problems, moved, and depression. Only one of these reasons fit the PDE defined categories for dropping out. Once a student enrolls at the Lancaster County Academy, we give a short questionnaire that gives us an idea of the barriers to success. We also interview each student individually for about 45 minutes to discuss what brought him or her to seek an alternative to finish school. These questionnaires and interviews give a more accurate picture of why a student abandons traditional schooling. The intimate nature of the Academy also gives us the opportunity to learn more about our students in a more personal way and that helps to shed the light on the real reasons they were not successful in traditional school. These insights are antidotal, but are a true reflection of the why many students abandon regular education. A common trait of our students is that they have attended school in more than one school district over their academic lives. Many were enrolled in three or four school districts. This lack of stability increases the risk of dropping out of school. These students did not connect with a new school environment and therefore felt no personal loss at leaving a school to which they did not feel attached.

17 A sizeable number of students admit problems with truancy. Although some make a conscious decision to hang out with friends instead of going to school as their parents assumed, or they are up all night on their computers and can t get out of bed in the morning, there are other reasons for chronic absenteeism too. Young mothers who want to return to class are not prepared for colicky nights and 2AM feedings. Reliable and affordable childcare is not always available and this dilemma leaves the young mother with no option other than to stay home from school. Mental health issues interfere with regular school attendance. Students are diagnosed with depression, bi-polar disorder, and suffer anxiety and panic attacks. Sometimes families recognize the need for professional intervention and seek on-going treatment, but many times, they do not. Health insurance limits the coverage for mental health treatment and families that are using public health access have long waits for evaluation appointments. Students grappling with mental health issues enrolled in traditional school fall behind academically when dealing with these disorders because of erratic attendance. An in-patient stay of several weeks only adds to the stress of keeping up with academic responsibilities upon a return to class. Personal problems often are a frequent reason cited for dropping out. Many times these personal problems are really relationship issues. Students have poor relationships with their parents. They may not follow house rules, break curfew and be involved with law enforcement and the juvenile justice system. At some point, the parent, or student, makes a decision that living under the same roof is no longer possible. Sometimes the child leaves to move in with a boyfriend or girlfriend. Sometimes they move from house to house, staying with friends as long as they are welcomed. Sometimes they go to school, sometimes they don t. Sometimes they are staying outside of the school district and have no transportation to get to class. It is a homelessness occurs more often than we realize and is not necessarily reflected in statistics, as these families do not necessarily make this family business known to school authorities. Other personal problems disguise a victim of bullying who refuses to go to school to be subjected to the taunts of a peer. We also have worked with young women who are involved in abusive relationships and do not attend class when evidence of domestic violence would be obvious to teachers or peers. And personal problems can include a student who is taking care of a chronically sick or even terminally ill parent, or a student who must work to pay the rent while a parent is in jail. Drug and alcohol issues also interfere with regular school attendance. According to the 2007 Pennsylvania Youth Survey, binge drinking is at an all-time high for high school seniors, and 14.5% of 12 th graders report that they have been drunk or high at school. The Academy gives a student who returns from an extended drug or alcohol rehab stay a fresh start in a new place, with different people, which assists in the recovery process. The Lancaster County Academy works because it is a true alternative learning environment. We are located in a shopping mall, not a school building. A unique feature is the flexible scheduling that allows our students to meet family and work obligations. We are open from 8 am to 8 pm Monday through Thursday and 8-4 on Friday and in July and August.

18 Students are in charge of their learning. The self-paced curriculum requires students to develop time management and goal setting skills to succeed. A minimum 80% grade is required to pass all activities and tests. The opportunity to accelerate learning, or spend additional time to master competencies, gives a student control of their educational fate. In 17 years, not one student has been dropped from the Lancaster County Academy due to a discipline problem. We operate as an adult learning environment, and our students, for the most part, behave that way. School reform and school choice is currently a hot topic in education and political circles. About 20% of recent Lancaster County Academy students have tried a cyber-charter, or homeschool option but did not find success. Parents of our graduates have enrolled younger siblings to continue a positive school experience for the family. We are now serving a second generation, as the daughter of a 1996 graduate has enrolled this year. The Lancaster County Academy is back to basics public school option that offers a different approach, a more personalized approach, to meet the education needs of a specific niche of students. The home school districts have tried every option available to them to keep the student in the traditional system. These students need a different program and one that has the flexibility to help them overcome individual obstacles, many that are outside of the school domain. Because these students are different, we need to be different to meet their challenges to help them earn a high school diploma. Each student receives a customized plan that mitigates the barriers to success and has a focus on a future after high school. Our Academy does not plan a student day around a bus schedule, bell schedule and cafeteria schedule and costs are reasonable to the sponsoring school districts because we operate without a maintenance department, athletic department or tech department. Does it make sense to ask alternative programs, such as ours, to mirror the regular education programs that resulted in so little success? Does it make sense to impose the same standardization and rigid rules that will force our school to look more and more like conventional school? We offer a solid academic curriculum that meets our state standards and at a very affordable cost to the districts. By making our programs look more like traditional school we increase costs and may alienate those students we are trying to help. A special niche for alternative schools for non-disruptive students, that gives us flexibility in how we operate, will allow us to continue to provide the quality education the Lancaster County Academy has offered for the past 17 years. Diane F. Tyson Director, Lancaster County Academy 1202 Park City Center Lancaster, PA Phone:

19 TESTIMONY ON BEHALF OF LANCASTER ACADEMY 10/8/2010 I very much appreciate this opportunity to speak with the Senators on behalf of The Lancaster County Academy and The York-Adams Academy to emphasize the importance of the Academies continued service to youth who are searching for an alternate route to their high school diploma. I am familiar with the Lancaster Academy s operations, staff and students in three separate ways. For seven years I served as Superintendent of the Penn Manor School District. Penn Manor is a member district of the Academy. For two years from September 2007 to June 2009 I served as Superintendent of Record for the Academy. Most importantly, since retiring in June of 2009, I have served as a volunteer at the Academy. As I learned more about the Academy and its students through my professional responsibilities, I determined to spend time supporting the program in retirement. Through my volunteer service I have had the delightful opportunity to support exceptional young people who have discovered that their best chance for a successful future starts with a high school diploma. In 1990 eleven Lancaster County school districts collaboratively conceived the Lancaster County Academy. The member districts intent was to create a school that would meet the unique needs of a small segment of students. The districts recognized that they all had a small number of high school students who possessed the essential skills to achieve a high school diploma, but for a variety of reasons these students had been sidetracked along the way. While the individual consortium schools could not design appropriate programs for this small group of students in a fashion that was fiscally prudent, the Academy concept provided several advantages at a very reasonable cost. The Lancaster Academy is centrally located so that students from all participating districts can access its services. It is located in the Park City Mall and well lets just say getting teenagers to go to the mall has never been much of a challenge. The school s alternative methodology means students don t waste time in classes they don t need for graduation. The alternative methodology means students can continue to supplement their families income with part-time employment. Perhaps most importantly the

20 alternative methodology means students can self manage the pacing and the purpose of their learning. While the Lancaster County Academy is governed by its member districts, it is an independent school entity. It functions best in this arrangement. While it is located centrally to all districts, it is not located in a member district. Its location at the Mall is central to its success. Because the Academy stands on its own, it can create significant savings for its member districts. The Academy s performance as a stand-alone school is pivotal to its ability to effectively provide alternative approaches. It should be noted too that the Academy s alternative environment often works well for students who found themselves in an unending spiral of misconduct and punishment at their home school. In an alternative setting these same kids break that cycle and assume responsibility for both their conduct and for their school progress. The York-Adams and Lancaster Academies offer alternative routes to a high school diploma. By definition their programs are not the same as programs, operations and structures that exist in Pennsylvania s 500 school districts. It is logical and expected that the Department of Education s efforts to fit these alternative programs into the existing regulations designed for large public districts would result in discrepancies. PDE s requirements are not designed for the alternative approaches these schools offer. Just as the students we serve are round pegs that don t easily fit into the public school square holes, these alternative programs are in essence round pegs themselves. Thankfully they are round pegs that work well for these students they serve. I urge you to provide the Department of Education with the needed flexibility to insure the continued operation of the schools or to create legislation that creates a round hole into which these alternative programs can fit and thrive. Senators Dinniman, Waugh and Piccola, I would ask that you keep two primary concepts in mind as you deliberate an appropriate resolution to the existing conflicts between Department of Education regulations and the operations of the York-Adams Academy and the Lancaster Academy. Firstly, we can all acknowledge that the No Child Left Behind legislation has placed dramatic emphasis on assessment and accountability. The Academies acknowledge that their students should be assessed and their programs need to be held

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