In The Q

Published March 29, 2018

Quakertown HS students after the walkout

Students honor Florida shooting victims

Quakertown students exhibited dignity and decorum as they demonstrated in support of Florida's 17 shooting victims and against school violence on March 14.

Hundreds of high school solemnly walked on the track outside of the football field as the names were read by fellow students -- Olivia Burke, Ally Gunning, Kalli Hildebrandt, Shayna Kelly and Kasie Bloss -- over the loudspeakers.

Pictures of the victims were held by students along the walking path. Red ribbons were handed out to those who requested one. Some students strolled holding signs with hashtags: #ParklandStrong … #BeKind … #SupportEachOther … #NeverAgain.

For 17 minutes, students moved along the walking path inside the football stadium. After each minute, another name was read. It was not hard to find emotion welling in the eyes of the walkers.

Quakertown students were among thousands who walked out of school nationwide on March 14 to pay their respects to those who died for nothing more than going to class or working in a school.

“Today we wear black in mourning of the dead and ribbons in their school colors,” Olivia announced at the stadium. “Today’s non- partisan walkout serves as a memorial and an opportunity to raise our voices in support of school safety.”

For student coverage of the event and other news in Panther Ink, please click here.

For more coverage of the Student Walkout, please click here.

School security issues take center stage

With school security of paramount importance following the February attack at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, it's worth noting the steps taken by the School Board and Administration to protect students and school employees.

A story on the district website -- -- details the systems in place to prevent school entry, and provide quick response to a threat. The first line of defense is School Resource Officer Bob Lee, at left.

Another story points out the thoughts of Harner and several area superintendents, who met with state Sen. Bob Mensch on the topic of school safety. The education leaders said mental health services for students and communications systems infrastructure between emergency services and schools are two areas that need beefing up to improve school security.

In the video below, created by TV Production students Bailey Roman, Danielle Causerano and Marissa Barr, in classes taught by Lincoln Kaar and Ricki Stein, Quakertown Police Chief Scott McElree talks about the work going on behind the scenes for the prevention and protection of our students, faculty and staff.

Harner, local officials, inform Realtors on area’s real estate value

Superintendent Dr. Bill Harner and several municipal officials spoke to about 50 Realtors on March 29 about the reasons their clients should be moving into homes and starting businesses in the towns contained within the Quakertown Community School District.

“We are very proud of what we are accomplishing here,” said Harner, who hosted the meeting at the high school. “We’ve had great support by the School Board and families in the community.”

The event was put together by Shelby Miller and Vickie Landis of Keller Williams Realty, which funded the high school’s new bowling teams.

“This was a great opportunity to get local Realtors in the area to learn all about the great things happening in Quakertown,” Miller said. “The support that the municipalities provide not only to the people in their communities but also with each other is unlike other areas. Dr. Harner does a fantastic job ensuring people are aware of all that is happening in our community and Realtors now know how to assist their clients in buying, selling and investing in homes in Quakertown.”

Besides Harner, speakers included Doug Wilhelm, Quakertown’s director of community development; Naomi Naylor, executive director and Main Street Manager for Quakertown Alive!; John Roth, Milford’s assistant manager; John Butler, chief operating officer of the Bucks County Water and Sewer Authority; and Paul Stepanoff, Richland’s manager and a former School Board member.

The common themes from speakers was the description of the area as “up and coming … safe” and “affordable” with lots of history, a great parks system, and “collaboration” between the communities and district.

Stepanoff, in photo above, praised Quakertown and Richland police for their accreditation and keeping the communities secure. He also gave a shout out to district students.

“We have great kids,” he said. “If our kids travel anywhere, you speak to people in the hotels, you speak to bus drivers, the one common theme is they are the best behaved kids anyone outside of this area has ever seen.”

Harner, in photo below, later gave tours to Realtors who haven’t seen the newly renovated high school. He highlighted the district’s academic excellence, attained through the hard work of students and teachers.

QCSD has 28 Advanced Placement courses, World Languages in grades 6 to 12, Spanish and coding in kindergarten to fifth grades, and outstanding STEM programs.

“It’s really cool and getting robust,” Harner said of the technological achievements. “We could only imagine that years ago, and our youngest students are doing it now.”

A year ago, Quakertown finished first in Bucks County and 12th in the state in the Pennsylvania School Performance Profile.

With a 34 percent poverty index, Harner said “no one with anywhere near 34 percent outperforms us. The value of what we’re doing here is excellent.”

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Strayer Bus Summit for safer transportation

About 50 Strayer Middle School students and two dozen drivers from Levy School Bus Co. met to discuss ways to improve bus safety.

“The purpose of the bus summit is improve communication and student-driver relationships, increase empathy, and show appreciation for one another,” said Kim Finnerty, an administrative intern who facilitated the March 27 event. “Ultimately, this will lead to a safe, comfortable bus ride for all.”

All participants were asked these three questions and follow-up up with a discussion:

“I would like my students/driver to know …”

“It’s been a positive bus ride when … “

“I would have a better bus ride if …”

Len Pawlowski, a manager for Levy, said “Brainstorming to find ways to make bus rides better is always a good thing. Meetings like this puts a human face on the driver for the kids. Hopefully it leads to working hand-in-hand for a more positive experience.”

The 75-minute session fits in with the “Strayer Stronger Matrix,” which calls on students to be safe, responsible, respectful and courageous.

“It’s a starting point,” Finnerty said. “We want to work together to build relationships and make this an awesome experience for everyone.”

Educational opportunities abroad for world language students

Several students in the district's ever-expanding world language program are enjoying a tremendous educational opportunity, as World Language Department trips to China and Peru are currently underway.

Superintendent Dr. Bill Harner wrote about the success of the program in his latest Blog.

QCHS student jumps for joy during China trip.

Helping QCSD Students 'ASPIRE' to greatness

Elizabeth Alvino spoke to the School Board on March 22 about the ASPIRE program that she created for the start of this school year. ASPIRE stands for Acquiring, Skills, Professionalism, Independence and Responsibility, for Education/Employment.

ASPIRE is a transitional special education program for students ages 18 to 21. It began in September with five students, has nine now, and is scheduled to have 11 in 2018-19. Its mission is to prepare students to be competent, confident and caring in managing their personal, family and public lives.

In the photo, Alvino and one of her top students, Laini Ferrell, address the School Board.

Record-breaking voices: 7 QCHS singers make All-State

A record-breaking seven high school singers will be representing QCSD at the 2018 Pennsylvania Music Educators Association State Conference in April. This breaks our previous record of six All-State Singers set back in 2004, according to band director Jonathan Lechner.

Congratulations to this year's all-star, All-State team:

Soprano - Lauren Kaseman

Alto - Jennifer Calhoun, Mikayla Fuentes, and Courtney Schreier

Tenor - Reid Clymer

Bass - Christian Holman, Eddie Schmidt

AP teacher 'spectacularly proud' of student presentations

Students give their AP Seminar presentations.

Advanced Placement Seminar students presented their group projects in the high school’s Performing Arts Center on March 1 and 2.

The students spent the last month researching and writing on the topics they selected.

“This is a unique course where they learn to research intensively,” said Rachel Girman, the AP Seminar teacher. “It’s a course that undoubtedly prepares them for college, and makes their experience in college easier.”

The topics the students chose were wide-ranging.

Jenna Blair, Abby Schwartz, Sarah Stofik and Morgan Thrush spoke about standardized testing, and whether it was an accurate means for measuring student achievement.

Jollyfisher Ekpe, Zachary Pint and Taylor Puccella originally were going to report on the death penalty. During their research, however, they decided judicial bias was a more worthy topic.

On Friday, Joseph Lock, Katerina Petrouna Hernandez and Olivia Williams presented on the Impact of climate change in North America.

Also Friday, Samuel Barndt, Zachary Pernia, Katherine McCarthy and Megan Woods discussed their findings on the cost benefit of countries having nuclear weapons.

Following Thursday’s presentations, Girman said “You guys were awesome today. I’m spectacularly proud of you.”

In his most recent Blog, Superintendent Dr. Bill Harner detailed the importance of AP classes in college readiness.

"Expanding our AP course offerings and preparing our students years before they take these courses is the cornerstone of meeting our mission to ensure our graduates are college ready," Harner stated. "Last year, 54 percent of our graduates went on to a four-year college, and 42 percent of them had taken at least one AP course while in QCHS. Our teachers have done a remarkable job raising the rigor in their classrooms, and getting students ready for college level work and their exams. The Class of 2018 will be the best prepared class for college in Quakertown history!"

Pushing STEM, Strayer Middle School Launches 'Career Cafe'

 Dr. Deborah W. Sundlof, a cardiologist with the Lehigh Valley Health Network Heart Institute, speak to Strayer students.

The Quakertown Community School District has launched a speaker series to pique the interest of seventh and eighth graders in potential careers.

The Career Cafe initiative for Strayer Middle School students will have one guest speaker every two weeks. At least one session a month will be led by a female professional in a STEM field, as the district seeks to increase the number of girls taking pre-engineering courses.

“Our goal is to have our students be exposed to role models in various careers,” said Kim Finnerty, an administrative intern at Strayer. “We do want to get more girls in Project Lead The Way classes, but we want to expose all kids to many careers. If we could ignite, spark excitement about a field early on, I think that would be wonderful.”

Student Resource Officer Bob Lee was the first speaker, followed by Dr. Deborah W. Sundlof, a cardiologist with the Lehigh Valley Health Network Heart Institute. Anyone interested in becoming a Career Cafe speaker should contact Finnerty at

Peace Center teaches tolerance to 4th graders

All fourth graders in the Quakertown Community School District have completed a program designed to develop tolerance and empathy among students while building a more inclusive classroom community.

The students took part in five, 45-minute sessions of the program titled “Celebrating Me, Celebrating You.” It was developed by the Peace Center, a social justice organization hired by the district’s administration and School Board.

Kate Whitman, the Peace Center’s assistant director, said studies show that if children don’t learn of tolerance by the fourth grade, “it gets more difficult for them to see prejudice and know what to do” as they get older.

The organization’s work in QCSD, she said “was an exceptionally positive experience for us. All of the principals were in the classroom. That’s really rare. That sends such a powerful message to the kids.

“When you have such a commitment from leadership, that does filter down and make a difference.”

Work of student artists on display in Allentown

Quakertown Community High School's talented students have their inspiring artwork on display at the 8th Annual Hope & Healing Juried Art Show at the Baum School of Art in Allentown.

The students -- Marena Harwick, Ericka Hollaway, Kenzie Sawadski, Tess Steinberg, Jakub Weiss and Shayna Wishwanick -- are taking Laurie Stoudt’s Visual Arts and AP Art History classes. Their talent is evident by their work below.

The philosophy of the show is to communicate a message of peace, calm, comfort, and inspiration.

'True student-athletes' choose their college destinations

Four Quakertown Community High School seniors who will be playing varsity sports at the college level next year were recognized as “true student-athletes” during a College Signing Ceremony on March 1.

Athletic director Sylvia Kalazs said the students have combined to take 16 Advancement Placement, honors and college courses this year.

The students are Nathaniel Barnes, Chris Brady, Morgan Small and Nikki Vanelli. Nat plans to play baseball at Elizabethtown College; Chris, lacrosse at Cabrini University; Morgan, soccer at Clark University; and Nikki, softball at Salve Regina University.

student athletes

District says thank you to bus drivers

The Quakertown Community School District held a “Thank You Breakfast” on March 6 for Levy School Bus drivers for their outstanding efforts during the March 2 snowstorm in getting our students home safely.

Quakertown Community School District

Gary Weckselblatt, QCSD Director of Communications, writes about the people and the programs that impact the Quakertown Community School District. Find more District topics of interest on the website by clicking here.