January Message to Community

Greetings to Parents, Students, and the PRSD Community,

As a school community, it is important that we take time to pause and celebrate moments in the year. This concept of a “Spotlight on Learning” is designed to bring attention to a wide variety of learning goals and activities. Here are a few examples:

A One Book / One School event recently “kicked-off” at Eden Hall Upper Elementary School last week. Every student and staff member received a copy of The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. The purpose of the program is to build a community of readers through a shared experience. Students, parents and staff will have the opportunity to read over the next month and engage in a series of discussion and project activities.  Special thanks to the EHUE PTO for purchasing copies of the book. This was possible through proceeds from the book fair. We would also like to recognize the staff committee responsible for designing the program. More information can be found on the Eden Hall website.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Division of Federal Programs is honoring Richland Elementary School for being named a Title I Federal Programs Distinguished School for 2015-2016.  This marks the fourth consecutive year that Richland Elementary School has earned this prestigious recognition.  Richland Elementary received the honor because it ranked in the top five percent of Title I Schools in Pennsylvania based on aggregate math and English Language Arts scores on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessments (PSSAs). The continued success can be attributed to a dedicated staff, supportive families in the community, and hard-working students. To receive this honor, schools had to show high achievement on the PSSAs, while qualifying for financial assistance through the Federal Title I program.

On January 16th, the PRHS Forensic Team hosted a tournament that featured 400+ participants, many judges, and 31 school districts. There were eleven categories of competition including public forum debate, poetry, prose and oratory. Mr. Jeff Byko (HS English Teacher), Mrs. Barbara Bastianini and former student Ms. Cara Bastianini are responsible for leading our program. They are supported by 10 student officers. The benefits of participation in forensics include: preparation; analysis; evaluation; performance under pressure; respectful competition; and interpreting literature. The effort spent in organizing this event was incredible.

As a final highlight in this update, I want to mention the evening of January 26th on the high school campus. The choral department led an annual concert program titled “We are the Music Makers.” The band and orchestra programs hold similar events that allow the entire progression of music performance to be heard on one stage. Of particular note, the vocal finale featuring 5th through 12th grade students was a new piece created by composer Neil Ginsberg. Mr. Lee Rickard (HS/MS Music Teacher) approached the Pine-Richland Opportunities Fund (PROF) last year through their grants program to offset the cost of this original work. It was outstanding! At the same time on this busy evening, the PR Rams were competing in boys’ basketball and in swimming/diving. The district was alive with activity.

On a different note, the district is actively engaged in the implementation of the strategic plan. We have shared information about the plan over the past eight months. Throughout the development of the plan, we kept a strong focus on implementation. In the next month or so, we will publish a new section of the PRSD website to ensure a shared understanding of our focus and progress over time. Thanks again to the many parents, staff, board members, community members, and students who participated in the strategic plan design.

Within the Finance and Operations category of the strategic plan, one of the long-term goals is to conduct a demographic study to guide future-focused facilities and capital funding plans. As you know, both Richland Township and the Township of Pine have seen a significant growth in overall population in the past two decades. Residential neighborhoods and developments continue to be constructed. Despite this increase in population, our student enrollment has remained stable/flat. Thomas & Williamson will conduct the demographic study over the next few months. In addition, Mr. Dan Engen from VEBH Architects will also conduct a review of athletic facilities and fields. Information from both studies will be considered within the capital funding plan of the district.

It is also the time of year that the school board and administration turn attention to the 2016 – 2017 budget. A series of Finance Committee meetings are scheduled on this topic. In addition, the Budget Communications Center of the PRSD website is updated frequently with presentations and information. We encourage each of you to be aware of this process and to stay up-to-date on the information.

It is also the time of year when cold temperatures and inclement weather can impact the school schedule. While this information is available on our website, I wanted to share the thought process and factors that guide our decisions. For cold weather, we utilize the threshold of -10° to call a delay. We monitor the posted wind chill values to make this determination and usually wait until early morning to make a final decision since a few degrees can affect the choice. This temperature is also associated with wind chill advisories. When snow is forecasted or falling, we work directly with our transportation provider, PennDOT representatives, and members of the Northern Regional Police Department to evaluate road conditions and determine whether a delay or cancellation is warranted.

Thank you again for your dedication to the students and families of Pine-Richland. As a final note this month, please be aware that the middle school will present Annie, Jr. during the first week of February. The students, directors, and many volunteers have been working hard to prepare.

Brian Miller