Living in Hanover

Living in Hanover

'Apparently a blog about living in Hanover'

HPSD

All of the posts under the "HPSD" category.

Beyond the Surface

I have this really cool app on my phone which helps me remember things I need to do. I fill it up with important things like necessary errands and trivial long-term projects like hooking up a newer DVD player to our television set.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. The good thing is that when you fail to complete a task, it merely pushes that item to the next day so you see it every time you open up the thing. I’m taking this day off from work to complete a few of those, including one which has lingered for a couple of months – blog about JA Biztown.

Biztown is a program run by Junior Achievement in York which helps middle school students learn about the many facets which help a community succeed. At Hanover Middle School, sixth-graders take part in this project. I clearly remember my daughter’s experience. That’s why i was honored when a member of the sixth-grade team contacted me to ask if I would help them this year.

Students have to apply and interview for the jobs they want, ranging from DJ to CEO of certain businesses and even members of the media horde. Teachers ask a few members of the community to help with the interview process. I was honored to get that call this year.

Anyone who knows me understands my passion for HPSD. I’ll certainly call it out for its flaws, but I really get fired up when people try to paint the district with e broad negative brush. It’s easy to cast aspersions for selfish reasons. I don’t think the people who choose to do so could handle the experience I had interviewing 10 sixth-graders in late September.

I could not believe the poise and maturity these kids showed in such a tough situation. The teachers make sure they know they have to take this very seriously, but they also encourage us to make the students as comfortable as possible. I tried to do so, relating stories of my daughter’s experience or something funny that has happened to me in my professional career. I thought I had succeeded, but didn’t really know for sure.

Then the letters showed up in the mail.

Part of the process included sending the interviewer a thank you note, like any good job prospect should. The teachers sent the whole batch for the students I interviewed to my house. I’m not afraid to admit that I teared up while reading them. The stories of how they felt comfortable talking to me and realized that they just needed to let their personality show really hit me hard.

These were’t form letters either. Sure, they had been given instructions on some things (mention the job they interviewed for and the date of their trip to Biztown and a few other little things), but the variety in how the students described the experience showed that they really put thought into what they wanted to say. They truly appreciated a parent taking time off from their job to help them with a project.

This is why I get mad when people jump on the “Ugh, Hanover schools suck” bandwagon because they seem to take a look at one test score without any context or one incident without any details and immediately turn everyone into a villain. When we examine schools, we need to remember that these are kids and teachers and life lessons that mean much more than numbers. Step away from your selfish perspective before you criticize.

The sixth-grade team has a special place in my heart for many reasons, and this just adds to that feeling. I hope I can come back and do this again and encourage everyone to get involved in as many ways as possible to see beyond the surface and make a difference.

 

Brian December 6, 2013 Leave A Comment Permalink

HPSD to Make Superintendent Permanent

The agenda for the Hanover Public School District board meeting Monday is out (well, it was a couple of days ago and I looked at it Saturday, but forgot to post this until now), and it looks like the district will hire Dr. John Scola as its permanent superintendent.

It is recommended that, pursuant to the provisions  of Section 10­1071 et.
seq. of the Public School Code,  the Board approve the election of Dr.
John Scola as Superintendent for a term beginning November 12, 2013, to
June 30, 2018, at an initial salary of $157,000 and with other terms and
conditions as set forth in the Superintendent  Employment Agreement
which the President of the Board is hereby authorized to sign (enclosure).

That’s a bump from the $129,000 that Al Moyer would have received in the first year of the contract he signed before leaving for South Middleton schools, but  it sounds like a great investment. My personal view (not that of an incoming school board member, but just me as a parent and taxpayer) is that Hanover found the right guy. From board members to teachers, I have heard great things about his dealings in many areas.

I met John briefly when I volunteered at an middle school event, and he seemed engaging and very curious about life in hanover. I have seen many good changes recently in the district and think this continues that trend.

Brian November 10, 2013 3 Comments Permalink

HPSD Agenda Excitement

I shouldn’t be this giddy about seeing the Hanover school agenda appear online the Friday before a meeting. But it is cool to get a peek into what’s coming up at the next meeting. Three things jumped out at me today:

  • The paper had a great story this week on the boys’ soccer team as it worked its way back after not having a squad last year. The article quoted coach Gary Singer about how it all happened. Well, that is now ex-coach Gary Singer. He is resigning, effective today. I wonder what that means for the squad.
  • There is a new job description which will be voted on, Assistant to the Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction. No real details, but this sounds like a lower-level position to fill some of the work which Pam Smith was doing last year. I’ll be interested in seeing if that’s the case.
  • The last one geeks me up specifically because of my interests. Hanover will hire Kurt Brenner as the new high school wrestling coach after Dave Cataldo took the early retirement package after last school year. In wrestling terms, this is HUGE. Well, unless there is another Kurt Brenner, and this isn’t the former three-time PIAA champ. If that is the guy, Hanover will get a young coach with an outstanding pedigree. Brenner started for four years at West Virginia, wrestling at the same time as Hanover alum Thomas Slaugh. Brenner was nationally ranked most of his time at WVU, but just could not get onto the All-American podium. He has continued to wrestling, hitting the mats at the freestyle US Open earlier this year. I could keep going, but this is a tremendous hire or it’s a cruel joke that someone with the same name as a great wrestler who has a small connection to the Hanover area got the job. I’m hoping for the former.

Brian September 6, 2013 Leave A Comment Permalink

School News

As I rail about a lack of communication from one side of our local government, I should praise someone who manages to get the word out in a clear and effective manner.

Mark Hershner, the principal at Hanover Middle School, has a blog with pretty-much daily updates on what’s happening in the school. This includes the video announcements (created by students) which the students see each day.

So if you have one of those middle schoolers who tells you that nothing is new and nothing is going on, but you don’t quite believe it, make sure to sign up to get updates from Mark. He has a handy signup form that will shoot you an e-mail when he posts an update. We have, on more than one occasion, been able to know about an event that may have slipped the mind of a certain student.

Stuff like this is why I get so frustrated with the lack of communication from the borough. Instead of saying, “you should know all the information without us telling you any of it,” the school district says, “we have some news we think might make your life a little easier and help you make more informed decisions.”

Imagine that concept from public officials.

Brian September 5, 2013 Leave A Comment Permalink

Another HPSD Personnel Change

Well, a potential one. A week and a half ago or so, I blogged about the Deans of Students jobs being open at the district. Well, I rescind that news because a nosey peek at the district site today indicates that the dean positions are out and the assistant principal model is back. With one catch.

They are advertising for one assistant principal who will float between the middle and high schools.

I know this is a summer of upheaval – the paper reported on Twitter yesterday that the superintendent search will be pushed back because school starts early this year (Aug. 22) and the board wants to focus on that – but this is interesting news three weeks before school starts. Sharing this responsibility will be hard even though the two schools are so close.

The optimistic part of me hopes that the board already has someone on staff in mind, and they will be able to step into this position seamlessly. The cynic wonders if this will have as many hiccups as last year’s two principals for three elementary schools strategy. Only time will tell.

One other nugget I gleaned from this little fishing expedition: the district has posted the copies of the contracts it has with the unions for teachers and support staff. I love this openness and wish someone, perhaps Hanover Boro could learn a lesson from this.

 

Hanover Schools Need New Deans

Yeah, I know I haven’t blogged in a while – life gets in the way like I warned when I started this.

Last year when the Hanover schools announced the new Dean of Students positions, the school board said they would re-evaluate the program after the initial year. I had heard that meetings like this took place after school closed six weeks or so ago, but never heard anything concrete.

Well, I discovered today by accident that the positions will remain, but they apparently will be looking for new people to fill them. Cori Robinson was dean at the high school and Michael Terwilliger handled the middle school. I really had no dealings with either so don’t have an opinion either way, but the job listing at the HPSD site indicates there will be new people in those roles for 2013-14.

I won’t be able to make tonight’s meeting, but my corrspondent/school board candidate might head on out.

BREAKING NEWS: Moyer finalist for new job

In what may be one of the worst-kept secrets around town, it’s official that Hanover school superintendent Al Moyer is a finalist for the South Middleton School School District top job.

The Carlisle Sentinel reported last week that Moyer was one of the final two in the running for the job. He faced public questions last week as part of the interview process.

I had heard from several people Al was interviewing for other jobs but this was the first specific news I heard. South Middleton – that’s the district with Boiling Springs High School – is about 600 students bigger than Hanover (2200ish to 1600ish).

SMSD says they want to have a choice by the time the current superintendent retires on June 30 but aren’t tied to that. This certainly makes the summer more interesting in Hanover, especially the already-advertised assistant superintendent job.

HPSD Looking at Small Tax Hike

All this considered, with the way things are going in public education these days, the notion of a .38 mill tax hike is not that hard to swallow for Hanover schools, in my opinion. That’s what the board will begin to consider at Monday’s meeting, according to the agenda posted on the district website. The hike – 2 percent – will take the rate up to 19.83 mills. That’s another $38 for every $100,000 of assessed value (if my millage math did not fail me).

I don’t like new taxes, but given the horrific state support for schools everywhere, schools bumping up against the 2 percent hike they are somewhat restricted to is almost all you can ask for. South Western could have raised more than that, but is right around 2 percent as well. I don’t like that it’s 2 percent again, but I also realize a lot if out of the hands of individual district’s. You can’t say this is a Hanover problem when it’s happening everywhere.

This is just the preliminary approval. They have another step before they finalize things in June. Hanover will have a budget of $28,758,077 for 2013-14. That’s an increase of  $1,171,920, about 4 percent higher, than the current budget (again, hoping I did the math right).

Now I’m interested to see how they got there. The retirement incentive hopefully helped some. We still haven’t heard details on the potential outsourcing of janitorial services although I did hear a rumor that a company that does that sort of thing nationwide is in line to get the contract. Like so many things, I have read some really bad things about the company and see some that seem acceptable. I want to learn more before first, but I have a feeling I won’t like the outcome. This is not on the agenda for Monday although that doesn’t mean it won’t be discussed.

Either way, that’s the budget situation for the schools. The details will always come out over time so we’ll have to wait.

The agenda also has an item for a “Cell Phone Tower Income Opportunity.” That also intrigues me.

 

 

Cleaning Up Hanover Schools

Living in Hanover has grown so large that I have needed to go out and hire a team of correspondents to update people on the latest news.

Either that or I have been really busy with play practice so my wife – who is just as interested in these things as I am – provided the report below on last night’s Hanover school board meeting. She couldn’t stay for the whole thing because of her work for Mom’s Taxi Service Co. Inc. LLC, but got the meat of an important issue. The hour-long meeting covered a few topics, but did not get into overall budget issues. The solicitor is not named because he did not identify himself when he spoke at the meeting. I’ll add my comments after.

It was standing room only at the Hanover school board planning meeting Wednesday as the board solicitor addressed the topic of outsourcing custodial services for the district. The solicitor said outsourcing the custodians would save the district $220,000 in the 2013-14 school year. He was quick to point out, “No decision has been made by the board.” He cited the rising costs of health care and increasing employer contributions to the retirement system as the driving factors behind the decision to investigate contracting janitorial services. He said the action is not a reflection on the quality or quantity of work by employees, but a cost saving measure.

Joe Mahone, head custodian at Washington Elementary, read a prepared statement to the board and suggested the loss of these jobs would be detrimental to the district and the local economy. Mahone said employees were willing to accept a pay freeze and pay more for benefits. The solicitor said the district is still in talks with the union, as there are two years left in their collective bargaining agreement. He also said the loss of jobs was “not our intention,” and that the contractor would offer jobs to current employees, although they may see cuts to pay and benefits.

The board approved the advertisement of several anticipated positions: student achievement/intervention specialists (two positions), elementary teachers, art teacher, special education teacher and social studies teacher.

The board also discussed the need for a “supplemental position of public relations” to improve the district’s PR in the community and promote student achievement. This would be a stipend position for a current employee who would be expected to provide four or five articles per month to the newspaper.
  • I’m glad to hear a dollar figure on the custodial issue. I waffle back and forth on this whole thing. I can understand the board’s interest in saving close to a quarter of a million dollars, but I always wonder if there are unintended consequences that don’t show up in contract negotiations. And as a parent who often can’t get to pick up their child at the exact time an event ends at school, I like knowing that the people in the building during her wait time are district employees who are sometimes also parents of students in the district. It stinks that the custodial staff will have to take a financial hit, whether they renegotiate their deal or they end up working for someone else who contracts with the district (and almost certainly does not offer the same kind of benefits and security). I prefer that they work out a deal which will save money long-term, but keep them as district employees, but hope that can save the district a significant amount of money.
  • What the hell is a “student achievement/intervention specialist” and why do we need two of them. Maybe this was explained after my wife left, but it sounds like these are full-time PSSA/Keystone exam monitors. Isn’t that what Dr. Pam Smith is supposed to be focused on?
  • At least it seems like they are filling the vacant art position due to Sara Little taking the retirement package. I worried they would spread other employees thin to keep from filling that. The music and drama programs have had lots of parental support so I wouldn’t want art to fall by the wayside without a similar affinity group making waves.
  • Do not get me started on the whole PR thing. Save the money and handle it yourself or, better yet, write me a check, and I’ll come in to tell you to be more up front about things, worry less about whether people follow “chain of command” and include employees and parents in discussions before before rumors get out of control. The best public relations efforts come from leaders who simply equip their constituents with information without an agenda attached, not from stories in a newspaper. The employees should be developing life-long connections with students and parents, not pitching The Evening Sun.

Brian April 9, 2013 6 Comments Permalink

Who’s Running in Hanover?

Yesterday marked the filing deadline for local elections. I would understate things if I called the results disappointing. School boards here, municipalities here.

Only two people filed to run for five open seats on Hanover’s school board. Borough council also saw only two people file for five available seats. Ben Adams will run unopposed for mayor. Penn Township will have folks running unopposed for two commissioner seats. South Western schools will have five unopposed candidates for their board. Manheim Township has two people running for one seat while six folks will run for two seats in West Manheim, not surprising there given they have had plenty of citizen involvement.

When the borough raised taxes, plenty of people complained and threatened action. Yet three wards have no candidate. To be honest, I considered running in the first ward, but already feel I have spread myself thin with other activities. This news means incumbents Heidi Hormel (a good friend and too often the long voice of dissent on council), John Connor (who filled a vacancy a year ago), Sonny Eline and Tom Hufnagle, Jr., have decided not to run.

We’ll hear a call about the problems with the school district again soon as the budget gets closer. I will probably disagree with some decisions, but know that they fiscally have few choices because of state issues. I do know Jared Reck, one of the candidates, and liked seeing his name listed for a seat. This means Rick Engle, Darlene Funnk, Jim Watson and Steve Edwards have decided not to run again.

But what about everyone else? Are you volunteering too many places already? Do you have to work a second job? Do you just talk a good game? With so many people saying what’s wrong about our community, why aren’t more stepping up to lead the way?

Hanover School Board Candidates

Four Four-Year Terms

Jared Reck, Karen Daubert (Republican)

One Unexpired Two-Year Term

None

Hanover Borough Candidates

Mayor

Ben Adams (R)

Council, Ward 1

Gerald Funke (D)

Council, Ward 2

William Reichart (R)

Council, Ward 3

None

Council, Ward 4

None

Council, Ward 5

None

Brian March 13, 2013 2 Comments Permalink

get_footer() ?>