Centennial School District Newsletter February 2016
In This Edition
District Updates & Happenings
Inside Schools & Programs
The Starfish Paradox: Saving Schools One Child at a Time
There is a story that is often shared in educational circles and is meant to inspire teachers. It goes something like this:
A young man is walking along the ocean and sees a beach on which thousands and thousands of starfish have washed ashore. Further along, he sees an old man, walking slowly and stooping often, picking up one starfish after another, and tossing each one gently into the ocean.
“Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” the young man asks.
“Because the sun is up and the tide is receding. If I don’t throw them further in, they will die.”
“But old man,” the young man responds. “Don’t you realize there are miles of beach and thousands of starfish?” He paused for a breath. “Even if you work all day, you won’t save them all. You can’t even save a small fraction of them. In fact, your efforts won’t make any difference at all.”
The old man shrugs, smiles, bends down, and picks up another starfish. He throws it gently back into the ocean. “It made a difference to that one.”
This tale by an unknown author is often used to demonstrate the difference a teacher makes in the life of a child. Supported by years of research on good teaching and mentoring, the notion that we can make a difference in the lives of children, or even one child, is inarguable. The problem is that children, by their very nature, are hugely different from one another. Yet, we insist on weighing them as if they were identical blocks of clay!
The challenge, of course, is that after years and years of massive standardized testing, “one size fits all” accountability remains the law of the land. Sure, there are some variations across the nation regarding the types of tests. But by and large, regardless of size, shape or color, all children take the same tests and fill in the same bubbles. We cannot divest ourselves of the notion that we should be able to improve schools through testing. That is a shame.
Across the nation, states continue to use companies pushing standardized tests. These monies could have completely changed the evaluation process of school districts across the nation. Think about teams of evaluators “dip sticking” in schools and districts while providing insights and suggestions, or possibly, the random sampling of schools similar to NAEP testing. Or, consider the proposition of iterative testing that supports teaching and learning in real time, just as good teachers make a difference in the lives of children one child at a time. That said, realize that we still have more Garbage In, Garbage Out. A wise farmer once said, “You don’t improve your hogs by weighing them over and over. They only grow if you feed them.” Disappointingly, the educational diet out of Washington remains startlingly lean and bleak, devoid of real support for education improvements, even with the end of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). There has been huge fanfare and trumpeting from Washington about the new Elementary and Secondary Act, perhaps not seen since both sides of the aisle passed the No Child Left Behind Act. Yet, there remains a firm commitment to annual high stakes testing of some sort. Given this commitment, I am skeptical as to how much real change in education we will see.
The authorization of the new Elementary and Secondary Education Act supports the financial interests of corporations who are empowered to dictate to us how we can excel by diverting funding from teaching and learning to testing. By pulling tax returns on April 15, we could get the same information.
It’s time for a change.
What is truly disheartening is that our starfish are continuing to wither in the sun. Even during the years of NCLB, American education has done well for our elementary students who are competitive with the best countries in the world. American elementary schools are, for the most part, doing fine. Sure poor schools struggle and wealthy schools excel, but you can’t cure that problem with a test.
But there is a huge problem that transcends economics. By eighth grade, our students slip into the middle of the industrialized nation pack. When they exit high school, most of our students are distant competitors with other industrialized nations, despite record numbers of students graduating at the highest levels of proficiency in the history of the nation. What is really happening?
Increasingly, the pressure to do well on “one size fits all” testing measures is shrinking the curriculum and crushing student and teacher engagement. The need to pass high stakes tests is tied to teacher evaluations, despite the extremely dubious mathematical underpinnings of those processes. Our students and families are crying foul.
It’s about time.
A growing opt-out movement is reflected by more and more parents refusing to let their children, many of whom are doing fine in school, participate in lengthy, grueling exams of suspect educational value. Many parents are realizing these so called accountability exams are little more than a reflection of the income of the parents (the so called zip code indicator) and little use to the schools or students.
The real challenge is, and should be, to use all these accountability resources for good measure. NCLB allowed us to learn significant things. It prompted a real conversation about race and achievement. NCLB also revealed that there are huge ranges and massive gaps in the quality of education in the national public school system. Because of NCLB, we know that Massachusetts’ educational system is comparable to the best nations in the world. And, conversely, we know Arkansas is not.
But did it allow us to make a difference in the lives of individual children? Most of us in the field think not. Why not put more than a few starfish back in the ocean?
Why don’t we customize education and assessment for students where they are? What would that look like? A good question to frame this investigation is: how can we make a year’s growth for each and every student? Children mature and develop at widely varying rates over time. Standards are an artificial construct- good to have, tough to argue against, but ultimately conceptual group-think about what we hope children can achieve. As for all children moving through the same material at the same rate, that would be funny, if it weren’t ridiculous. However, that is what the current system is designed to support. A customized education means it looks different for every child and consequently, giving the same high stakes test, is pointless.
It is no wonder that parents are pulling their children out of the tests. Why subject your child to something that is developmentally inappropriate and of dubious educational value to your child?
Testing has always been with us. And it always will be. Forty-five years ago students were taking a wide array of tests as tools for the teachers to make a difference in children’s lives. That makes sense. If you really need a national test, then use existing national tests to support schools and students. Use the PSAT, a nationally normed test that allows us to see how students are doing. If you want to know how schools are doing for report cards or comparison purposes, or more importantly in supporting their students, pull existing data that is readily available and not dependent on zip codes. Simply check attendance data, graduation cohort data, and composition of the Advanced Placement classes versus the remedial or basic courses if you want to see how children of color are faring.
In short, use testing that already exists. Stop reinventing the wheel. Allow every student to take the PSAT, regardless of parental income. Pull data that most states already have access to and synthesize it so that school report cards make sense and provide schools and districts with improvement suggestions and funding formulas that make a difference in students’ lives. But above all, stop the current charade of accountability. We know testing is important and has a place. But a single high stakes test to evaluate students, and in turn teachers, schools and school districts, is not only ineffectual it is very arguably morally and ethically wrong. It is simply impossible to place millions of starfish back in the oceans where they can thrive through high stakes testing.
And the good news is- we don’t have to.
By David E. Baugh, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools
District Updates & Happenings
January 2016 School Board Director Recognition Month
The Centennial School District recognized its school board directors at the January 26, 2016 School Board meeting. Students from each of the six schools honored the nine school board directors in their own way. From posters to a video message from William Tennent High School students, the students thanked the school board directors for their hard work and devotion to the programs and opportunities that enrich their education. To view the January 26, 2016 School Board meeting, follow this link:
School board directors are elected officials who are the governing body of the school district. These nine directors form a school board, which as a whole, is responsible for the overall oversight of the school district. The school board has the authority to develop and adopt policy, levy school district tax, and employ staff. The superintendent is appointed by the school board. He/she is a non-voting member of the school board and serves as the chief executive officer for the school district. The superintendent is responsible for the administration of the school district's policies.
School board directors run for office, like other elected officials. School board directors serve a four-year term in this office. School board directors are not paid for their service to the school district, but they have the ability to shape the mission for their school district. As community leaders, school board directors represent the values, priorities, and concerns of the community.
Each school board is slightly unique. In the Centennial School District, three of its school board directors have been elected to and served for at least two terms. Four of its school board directors are beginning their second term. The newest member of the Centennial School District School Board is Ms. Dana Morgan. Ms. Morgan competed with four other applicants, and she was appointed to the School Board in October 2015 after the retirement of Ms. Betty Huf.
School Board President Charles Kleinschmidt remarked, "The stability in the Board's membership will enable us to do great things. Because eight of the nine school board directors know each other and have worked alongside one another for some time, we understand the District. We can work together to do great things for our students."
The next School Board meeting will be held at 7:00 p.m. on February 9, 2016 at the District Administration Building. The public is invited to attend the School Board meetings. School Board meetings will broadcast live on Comcast channel 28 and Verizon channel 36 as well as stream on the District website.
William Tennent High School Hosts the Business-Education Partnerships of Bucks and Montgomery Counties Steering Committee Meeting
The Steering Committee heard a brief presentation from Dr. Albert Catarro, Centennial School District business education teacher and partnerships liaison. Dr. Catarro highlighted eight partnerships underway at William Tennent High School. These partnerships are in the areas of science and business education where students have opportunities for internships. William Tennent High School has a partnership with Eli Lilly for a summer incubator challenge where students developed social media applications to promote education and awareness about cancer trials. Students presented their products at the Medicine X Conference in San Francisco, California this past September 2015. William Tennent High School also has partnership programs with Fox Chase Cancer Center where students learn about cutting-edge research in DNA replication and the genetics of cancer. Students who take Mr. Ignacio Jayo's anatomy class have the opportunity to visit a cadaver lab at Drexel University and have on-going dialogue with medical students about their experiences. In a partnership with St. Joseph's University, students expand their learning about brain research, both physiological and psychological. William Tennent High School is currently exploring partnership opportunities with NextFab to manufacture prototypes so that students interested in STEM and STEAM can gain valuable experiences in the entrepreneurial avenues they may one day pursue.
Dr. Dennis Best, William Tennent High School principal, advocates "in-sourcing" as a means of preparing students for the college and career readiness skills they will need in the future. "We have had many partnership in the past," Dr. Best said. "But these were largely once-and-done. The key to a successful partnership is finding a way for the school district and the business partner to both get something from the experience."
William Tennent High School currently has two successful partnerships with outside businesses. William Tennent High School has a TruMark Financial bank branch in the school. It is operated by both employees of the bank and students. William Tennent High School also has a ShopRite store where students and staff can purchase convenience items. Through a partnership with the Warminster Wakefern/ShopRite, the ShopRite store was opened by students and has been operated by students.
Marisol Lezcano, executive director of Montco Works, shared that local businesses can be great advocates by connecting to their area schools. These partnerships let students and parents know about job and career opportunities. They also form a dialogue between industry and school districts so both sides are informed about what students need to be successful.
Partnering with a school district can take time. Partnerships do require local school boards to review contract language to protect the interests of the district and the students. "It is crucial to have a supportive administration that can help navigate the red tape that can get frustrating," said Dr. Catarro.
Checking Balances and Checking Purchases- A Message from the Food Services Department
The Centennial School District's Food Service Department knows that parents/guardians rely on their services to provide healthy meals for their children. There are two programs that allow parents/guardians to monitor their child's purchases and check food service account balances.
The Food Service Department uses Skyward, the same program parents/guardians can use to check their child’s grades and progress. Once logged into Skyward through the Family Portal, parents/guardians can click on the “Food Service” tab to see student balances along with daily purchases.
A parent/guardian can make deposits to their child's account in the following ways:
- Check, cash, or money orders can be given directly to the cafeteria.
- Use E-funds for Schools to make an online payment.
E-Funds for Schools is an easy way to make a one-time deposit, set up reoccurring payments, and/or receive balance notifications.
To open an E-Funds for Schools account, follow this link: https://eps.mvpbanking.com/cgi-bin/efs/login.pl?access=55703
Inside Schools & Programs
Course Selection for 2016-17 is Underway
Course selection can be an exciting, and yet, daunting process for students. Here are some helpful tips for helping your child make decisions about which courses to take next year:
- Read through the course selection handbook. The handbook lists descriptions of the courses as well as any prerequisites needed to take the specific course.
- Students attending William Tennent High School are required to take a certain number of credits in each subject and elective credits fulfill requirements for graduation.
- When considering electives, students often take courses in their areas of interest. Elective courses are also a good way to explore a subject, or combination of subjects, to see if they do have an interest and aptitude in the area.
- Students should opt for the most rigorous courses where they can be successful. Honors courses do move at a faster pace, and in many cases, go into greater depth in the subject area.
- Advanced placement (AP) courses follow a curriculum from the College Board. These courses are taught at the same level as a college freshman course. Students are encouraged to take the AP exams in May, and students may earn college credit.
- Have a plan. If a student is planning on attending college, be familiar with the college's or university's admission requirements. If a student is planning on entering the workforce or military service after graduation, take a range of courses that will help prepare the student for job skills as well as communications skills.
- Parents/guardians should discuss the course selection options with their child. If parents/guardians have any questions about courses for their child, they can contact the school counselors or current teachers.
- Parents/guardians and students are welcome to attend the two Course Fairs to learn more about the course selection process. The William Tennent High School Course Fair is February 11 from 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. The Klinger Middle School and Log College Middle School Course Program Planning Night is March 1 from 7:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. at William Tennent High School.
Here are some important dates for students currently in grades 9 through 11:
- January 19-February 8- Advance Placement teachers hold informational meetings about AP courses.
- February 11- William Tennent High School Course Fair will be held during the school day and from 6:00 p.m.- 8:00 p.m. for parents/guardians and students.
- February 12-February 19- Teachers make course recommendations.
- March 2-March 15- Students meet with counselors and complete the course selection process.
Here are some importation dates for students currently in grade 8:
- February 11- The William Tennent High School Course Fair is from 6:00 p.m.- 8:00 p.m. for students and parents.
- February 16- Students receive their course selection drag sheet forms to select courses for the high school.
- February 19- Students return their course selection drag sheets to teachers at their middle schools.
Here are some importation dates for students in grades 6 and 7:
- March 1- The Klinger Middle School and Log College Middle School Course Program Planning Night is from 7:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. at William Tennent High School for parents/guardians and students.
- Course selection dates for students in grade 6 and 7 will be advertised through aAlerts at the two middle schools.
William Tennent High School's STEAM Team Is Full Speed Ahead
William Tennent High School has taken STEM and STEAM to an entirely new level. Interdisciplinary programs such as STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics) are more than just the latest buzz words in education. STEM and STEAM programs combine traditional subjects in a way that students can experience how they can apply their knowledge in these disciplines while developing their 21st century skills through real-world experiences. The William Tennent High School STEAM Team consists of teachers Mr. Steve Beal, Dr. Albert Catarro, Ms. Rena Friedant and Mr. Ignacio Jayo.
The STEAM Team has been very active the first half of the school year. Beginning in September with a trip to Stanford University for the Medicine X Conference, William Tennent High School students presented their solutions from the William Tennent High School Eli Lilly Summer Camp Challenge. This successful and innovative venture has fueled the STEAM Team’s passion for developing more authentic educational opportunities.
The STEAM Team has partnerships that directly relate to the courses students take at William Tennent High School. Through a partnership with Dr. Rakestraw, from the Branta Group, eighteen William Tennent High School students attended entrepreneurship seminars with Derek Lidow’s Entrepreneurial Leadership course (Engineering 497) at Princeton University. Dr. Rakestraw was instrumental in the purchasing of a PCR (DNA replicator) machine for the high school's genetics program. In a partnership with Fox Chase Cancer Center, Dr. Amanda Purdy is conducting Teen Research Internship Program (TRIP) at William Tennent High School. Additionally, William Tennent High School students have been traveling to Drexel University Medical School to work with medical student Harun Thimmiah in the cadaver dissection lab. Anatomy and AP Psychology students have been working with Dr. Becker at St Joseph’s University to learn more about brain research. The STEAM team also organized student trips to the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Penn State Great Valley Engineering, Gwenydd Mercy University, and the Blumberg Biotechnology Center in Doylestown, PA. Finally, a grant proposal has been submitted to Eli Lilly for a second year to develop a more robust summer partnership.
STEAM Team at Medicine X Conference at Stanford Univeristy
The WTHS STEAM Team, along with Mr. Joe Kim of Eli Lilly, attended the Medicine X Conference at Stanford University in September 2015. The students presented their solutions to the William Tennent High School Eli Lilly Summer Camp Challenge
Genetics of Cancer Class Visits Biotechnology Center in Doylestown, PA
Mr. Jayo's Genetics of Cancer class spent the day with John L. Kulp, PhD, Assistant Professor/Academic Director and Timothy M. Block, Ph.D, President and Director to learn about how science and technology are working together.
CSD Administrators and STEAM Team visit NextFab Lab
Centennial School District administrators and STEAM Team members visit the NextFab Lab in Philadelphia, PA where the team learned about potential manufacturing partnerships for William Tennent High School.
STEAM Team at Medicine X Conference at Stanford Univeristy
Genetics of Cancer Class Visits Biotechnology Center in Doylestown, PA
William Tennent High School's Black and White Competition
This is the 51st annual Black and White Competition. The school is divided alphabetically for the competition events. The Black Team includes students whose last names begin with A-K. The White Team includes students whose last names begin with L-Z. The teams compete over three days in Academic, Swimming, and Gym competitions.
Academic Day is Wednesday, February 24 from 12:00 p.m. -2:17 p.m. in the William Tennent High School auditorium. This event It is open to parents, but they will need to go through the normal visitor checks. Contact Mr. Matt Tomlinson for more information at email@example.com
Pool Night is Thursday, February 25 starting promptly at 6:15 p.m in the William Tennent High School natatorium/pool. Limited tickets are being sold during school lunches. Tickets are $3 each.
Gym Night is Friday, February 25, starting promptly at 6:15 p.m William Tennent High School gymnasium. Tickets are being sold during school lunches. Tickets are $3 each.
The Black Team's name is Black Mischief. The generals are Maggie Hatala and Matt Kistner. The White Team's name is White Olympians. The generals are Emily Wasserleben and Hunter Reid.
Academic Events include: Jeopardy, Panther Feud, Name That Tune, Guess Who, Speed Chess, Tennent Taboo, and a Musical Performance by each team.
Pool Night include: Pack-A-Canoe, Inner tube Relay, Kingfisher, Water Polo, Duet, Synchronized Swimming, and King/Queen of the Inner tubes, to name a few.
Gym Night includes: Obstacle Course, Arm Wrestling, Ultimate Football, Volleyball, Speed Pyramids, Simon Says, Dance, Tire Pull, & Tug-O-War, to name a few.
This year’s advisors are Ms. Nicole O’Brien, Mr. Matthew Tomlinson, and Mr. Mike Wasserleben.
Klinger Middle School Presents Disney's Mulan
Kindergarten registration is scheduled for Wednesday, March 9, 2016, at 7:00 p.m. at each elementary school. Children who will be turning five (5) years old by August 31 of 2016, can be registered for Kindergarten for the 2016-17 school year. Principals and staff will conduct a brief presentation about the Kindergarten program, and staff will be on hand to help parents/guardians complete the registration process.
In order to register your child for Kindergarten, please bring the following items:
- Child's birth certificate
- Child's social security number
- Child's immunizations records
- Four proofs of residency (required: a lease, deed, or mortgage statement and e.g., telephone bill, driver's license, utility bill, etc.)
This is the only opportunity to register a child for Kindergarten at the elementary school building. All registrations after March 9, 2016, will need to be scheduled at the District Administration Building at 433 Centennial Road, Warminster, Pennsylvania. For more information, contact Ms. Carolyn Cabello at 215-441-6000, Ext. 11046 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
File Your Tax Returns by April 18, 2016
It’s that time of year again! The 2015 tax return deadline is Monday, April, 18, 2016. The due date is extended from the typical April 15 deadline because Washington, D.C. is commemorating Emancipation Day on Friday, April 15, 2016.
Did you know that the quickest way to get your refund is to file online? If you live and work in Pennsylvania, you can e-file on the state's tax administrator’s secure website, which is available 24/7 at www.KeystoneCollects.com.
If you have questions regarding local tax filing, visit Keystone’s Frequently Asked Questions or call Keystone’s Taxpayer Helpline at 1-888-328-0565 to speak with a local, knowledgeable Taxpayer Service Agent. You can also email your questions 24/7 to Taxpayer Support. Taxpayer Service Agents try to respond to all online inquiries within three business days.
Current employment opportunities are posted regularly on the Centennial School District website. Follow this link to learn more about current administrative, teaching, and support staff positions: www.centennialsd.org/jobs
Centennial Education Foundation Announcements
Golf OutingThe Centennial Education Foundation is sponsoring a golf outing on June 20, 2016, at Spring Mill Country Club. Proceeds will be used to support grants to the District. For more information, please contact Mr. Robert Schrader at email@example.com or 215-441-6000, Ext. 11008.
It's Jackpot Calendar time! The Centennial Education Foundation is sponsoring its annual Jackpot Calendar. Help support CEF in their mission to provide educational grants to the Centennial schools. For more information, visit www.centennialef.org to learn more and/or download a calendar.
Dr. Lucy Carroll Memorial Scholarship Announcement
The criteria for this scholarship includes:
- Matriculation at a college, university, or conservatory accredited program leading to a degree in the field of performing and fine arts
- Academic achievement
- School and/or community service
Donations to support the Dr. Lucy Carroll Memorial Scholarship can be made directly to the WTHS Alumni Association. For more information, contact WTAA@centennialsd.org or contact Ms. Linda Bielawski at firstname.lastname@example.org or 215-441-6000, Ext. 12040.
Dr. Bucky Clark Memorial Scholarship Announcement
Friends of Dr. Bucky Clark, retired principal of Log College Middle School, have established a scholarship to commemorate Dr. Clark's life-long commitment to education and the Centennial community. Dr. Clark's educational career spanned 56 years, from 1959 until 2015. He joined Centennial School District in 1971 and served as principal of Log College Middle School until 2014. Dr. Clark retired from Centennial School District in March, 2015, with 43 years of service to the District. Dr. Clark died on September 29, 2015.
The criteria for this scholarship includes:
- Matriculation in a 2- or 4-year college/university with a music major
- Maintenance of at least B average
- Exemplary attendance and discipline record
- Demonstrated leadership and community service
- Attended Log College Middle School
Individuals wishing to support the Dr. Bucky Clark Memorial Scholarship should contact Ms. Linda Bielawski at email@example.com or 215-441-6000, Ext. 12040. Donations by check may be mailed to: Ms. Linda Bielawski, College and Career Secretary, William Tennent High School, Warminster, Pennsylvania 18974.
Centennial School District
Dr. David Baugh, Superintendent
Dr. Jennifer Polinchock, Assistant Superintendent
Ms. Katie Braun, Interim Business Manager
Ms. Judith Hengst, Director of Special Education
Mr. Raymond Kase, Director of Technology
Ms. Hannah Messner, Director of Human Resources
Ms. Catherine Perkins, Director of Teaching and Learning
Mr. Timothy Trzaska, Director of Operations
Board of School Directors
Mr. Charles Kleinschmidt, President
Mr. David Shafter, Vice President
Ms. Kati Driban, Assistant Secretary
Mr. Steven Adams
Mr. Michael Hartline
Mr. Mark B. Miller
Ms. Dana Morgan
Dr. Andrew Pollock
Ms. Jane Schrader Lynch
Dr. Dennis Best, William Tennent High School
Mr. Travis Bloom, Klinger Middle School
Mr. Michael Lecker, Log College Middle School (interim)
Ms. Shawanna Coles, Davis Elementary School
Mr. Michael VanBuren, McDonald Elementary School
Mr. Michael Donnelly, Willow Dale Elementary School