June 2018

Posted Posted in 2017-2018 School Year

Making Today Count: Reflections of 2017-18

While watching our students crossing the stage for their diplomas during the graduation ceremony on Wednesday, June 6, my heart was filled with feelings of both excitement and anticipation. I sensed the eagerness of the students for their movement into this next phase of their life. What a wonderful time for each of our 448 graduates – their future is filled with many unknowns … and possibilities.

MTHS 2018 graduates spend time together before the ceremony.

The worthy achievement of the long-awaited (and well-earned) diploma holds great value. During my graduation speech that evening, I had shared a profound statement offered by Nelson Mandela, political leader and former President of South Africa: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Education is crucial to creating a sustainable planet, reducing poverty, eliminating gender inequality, and promoting peace both within our communities and in the world. The achievement of a high school diploma is the result of a significant amount of academic work over the past 12+ years. Students were reminded that education, combined with their voice and actions, are powerful tools to bringing change – to making a difference in the local community and in the world.

And the dedication of our teachers in meeting the individual needs of our students, K-12, helping them master the established grade level/course content each school year, is commendable. Parents and community members repeatedly share with me their pleasure with the teachers at Manheim Township, acknowledging the impact they have had on their student’s learning, and life. Students have also shared similar appreciative statements with me.  As noted by a significant amount of research, the role of a teacher is the most influential variable in students’ academic performance.

Opening Kick-Off for Comprehensive Planning
Our teachers and other district staff have also contributed greatly to our achievement of the district goals this past school year:

  • Comprehensive Plan development
  • Mobile Learning Initiative (1:1)
  • STEAM Labs
  • Year 1 of our K-6 Multi-tiered System of Support (MTSS) planning
  • Communication Plan
  • Cyber Seniors program
  • Community partnerships
  • Several other key projects!

Cyber Seniors Program

The following district staff members were honored publicly by their school and/or department colleagues this year during monthly School Board Work Sessions:

  • September: Wendy Pfautz, MT High School Classroom Assistant
  • October: David Cooper, MT Middle School Teacher
  • November: Josh Stehman, Brecht Elementary School Teacher
  • December: Lonna Hoffman, Schaeffer Elementary School Library Assistant
  • February: Heidi Marshall, Landis Run Intermediate School Teacher
  • March: Natalie Mundorf, Bucher Elementary School Teacher
  • April: Nicole Wingert, Reidenbaugh Elementary School Teacher
    Patricia Roscoe, Nitrauer Elementary School Classroom Assistant
  • May: Taylor Good, Neff Elementary School Teacher
  • June: Jason Hoffman, Curriculum and Instruction Supervisor

In many ways these staff members have contributed to the betterment of our school district, and were “Champions for our Children”!

May you enjoy the peace and relaxation of the summer months.

April 2018

Posted Posted in 2017-2018 School Year

Making Today Count: School Safety Planning

School: a place where every child should have access to a safe, healthy, and supportive learning environment.The voice of children is powerful, and offers insightful feedback on the topic du jour. They provide fresh ideas, meaningful perspectives, and candid thoughts. They are often the quiet voice of reason… and their words resonate with my soul. Thus, in discussion with both of our secondary principals, Mr. Dave Rilatt (Manheim Township High School) and Mrs. Karen Evans (Manheim Township Middle School), we decided to facilitate “Open Student Safety Forums” for interested students. Designated times during the day were offered to our high school Student Government leaders, middle school Student Council members, and any other interested students. The goal of the forum was to elicit open student discussion about topics related to school safety. Specifically, students were told that the purpose of the forum was “to provide students with an opportunity to share their thoughts, feelings, and ideas relating to safety at the high school/middle school.” We had a series of questions to promote student discussion, but not all questions were covered since students enthusiastically continued the discussion on only several of the presented questions.

In general, students shared that they felt safe in their schools. They know we have procedures in place to address emergencies, such as intruders or other hazards. Students acknowledged the safety trainings that occur throughout the school year, and some noted that their teachers have offered specific ideas for addressing safety in their classrooms in the event of an emergency. They were honest in their comments, and some challenged our thinking about areas to improve for overall safety. Students also offered ideas for how to prevent or decrease student-posed threats, and discussion focused on the steps to follow if someone sees or hears about a threat. In some of the student groups we discussed the challenges of social media, and the unfortunate ease by which a threat can be posted on certain sites (ex. Snapchat); after a short period of time the message/image often becomes inaccessible. We discussed the need to be alert and vigilant about safety. In other words, “If you see or hear something, say something.” We were pleased with the openness of our students’ responses, and the number of students who chose to speak with us. Safety will always be our #1 responsibility, our top priority.

Shortly after the tragic events that occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, we sent home a letter to all families about our school safety measures. As much as possible, we wanted to assure everyone about the depth of our safety planning. In the letter we shared that prior to these recent incidents of violence in the nation’s schools, a select team of elementary, intermediate, and secondary level administrators attended an intensive hands-on training to prepare for an active shooter situation. This training program focused on specific safety behaviors designed to teach skills and strategies that bridge the gap between the times a violent event begins and law enforcement arrives. We have currently implemented a professional development plan for this active shooter training for staff and students throughout the district, in addition to our other regular monthly safety drills.

Ongoing reviews of our operations, facilities, and safety and security measures continuously occur, and are often discussed during monthly Safety Committee Meetings involving school and district administrators and staff, and members of the Manheim Township Police, Manheim Township Fire Department, and Emergency Medical Services (EMS).

All of our Manheim Township schools have a safety and security plan, with evacuation and parent reunification procedures in the event of an emergency. For safety reasons, we are unable to make the safety plan and evacuation procedures public in order to keep the protocols confidential. As shared in the letter, we will continue to promote safety and security in all of our schools and campuses, maintaining a close, positive working relationship with the Manheim Township Police Department.

We encourage you to have conversations at home as well regarding safety at school and other locations. As a community, it is imperative that we work together to ensure the well-being and safety of everyone. And in Manheim Township, we are all one family – the community and the school district are naturally intertwined.

March 2018

Posted Posted in 2017-2018 School Year

Making Today Count: Students Serving Others & Making a Difference

During my last Blog I spoke about the positive impact of early learning initiatives on preparing students for school-age learning expectations. These initiatives provide instruction and supports to our families as they work with the school system to acquire important skills and concepts that become stepping-stones to future learning. They also help our school district continue to be a welcoming, responsive organization, and one that values the unique and special relationship between parent/guardian, child, and the school.

Your Story Matters!
Motivational statements written by students and posted on the sidewalk for other incoming students to see

The influence of those early stepping-stones for later success in school becomes apparent as students begin to develop and flourish as active learners, and establish themselves as more advanced and/or mature learners within and outside of the school setting. Many of our students begin their schooling in our district and remain with us until graduation. This allows for meaningful relationships to be built between the students, their teachers and other school staff, parents, and the local community. Students also strive to build meaningful relationships with each other. We can gauge their academic and social-emotional progress through the various grade levels, looking at the strengths and areas of need within our curriculum and overall educational programs. Furthermore, we can find alignment between the trusting relationships that were built between students, their families, and our school staff.

Given that many of our students spend much of their educational career in our district, it is essential that we offer experiences to students both in the academic programs and through extracurricular activities that build powerful relationships. Beyond the teacher-student relationship is the coach-student, advisor-student relationship, and the student-community relationship. These interactions help develop character, positive identity and self-esteem, resiliency, and an understanding that everyone’s voice matters. This latter skill is further enhanced in adolescence and adulthood as they share their perspective on important topics with others. The relationships students build from their early years until graduation impact how they view themselves and others, and promote service and leadership mindsets. Students will feel like they can make a difference with their skills, their voice, and a willingness to lead in service to others.

This connection became quite evident when learning about the accomplishments of our secondary level students this month in their fundraising efforts for the Four Diamonds, whose mission is to conquer childhood cancer by assisting children and their families through care, support, and continued research for treatments and cures. Our middle school and high school mini-THONs contributed approximately $151,060.00 to the Four Diamonds! They knew their hard work could make a difference for others. Similarly, our MT High School Key Club students were recently awarded a series of honors for their achievements in service, leadership, and fundraising that greatly impacted the larger community. The accomplishments are as follows:

  • Our students had the second highest number of community service hours by any Key Club in PA (specifically, they performed 4,029 hours); students averaged 39.89 hours per person (5th highest hours per member).
  • We are one of seven distinguished clubs in the state, nominated for our overall achievement in service, fundraising, and leadership.
  • Our students raised the most funds ($3,502.00) to be given to the PA Youth Serving Youth Project, with the focus this year on “Early Childhood Education.” The fundraising helps provide much-needed funds to initiatives at the local and larger community levels.
  • Our students also raised funds ($625.00) for the Eliminate Project, a project that brings together the Kiwanis International and UNICEF with the goal to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus in third world countries.
  • They were honored with the Bill Brandamore Kiwanis Family Award for their work with the local Lititz Area Kiwanis Club.
  • Several students were individually honored for their leadership in a variety of ways.

MT High School Key Club at their PA Convention
Front Row L-R: Elyse Gallagher, Tiernan Barber, Lauren Poff, Nicole Honrade, Lauren Martin, Emma Dieterle, Shruti Nair, Katie Bowe
Back Row L-R: Summer Szymanski, Veronica Reisinger, Lauren Campbell, Dan Aiello, Jackson Hilbert, Sam Westphal, Lauren Kaufman
Mini-THON Students: $117,732.20 For The Kids
Mini-THON Students: $33,323,84 For The Kids
MT High School Key Club at their PA Convention Mini-THONS for the MT Middle School and High School

We also have individual fundraising and community service projects occurring at our intermediate and elementary school levels, for the purpose of helping others in our local and greater communities. These projects are a testament to the positive relationships between the schools, students, and their families. I’ve spoken about several of these community service projects in past Blogs; in many ways our students continue to share their time, energy, and resources with the local and greater communities. They know their voices matter, and recognize the power of having meaningful, positive relationships with those around them.

Most recently at our Landis Run Intermediate School, we concluded several weeks of a leadership development program for a group of students, sponsored and facilitated by our highly supportive local Compass Mark organization. Students worked with mentors from Compass Mark to develop leadership skills and make a difference in their community. As a result, they built positive relationships with their adult mentors, with each other, and with the larger student body. The culminating activity was the creation of a “Kindness Day” where students (a.k.a. “Kindness Agents”) performed activities and distributed special uplifting messages to others. We even had a special visit by Anne Shannon, reporter from the WGAL News, who provided a highlight of our special leadership program on the local news!

We applaud all of our students for continuing to make a difference, for creating a positive footprint in their local community and beyond.

Anne Shannon with our Kindness Agents
WGAL’s Anne Shannon with our Kindness Agents

January/February 2018

Posted Posted in 2017-2018 School Year

Making Today Count: The Positive Impact of Early Learning Initiatives

The winter months of January and February brought challenges to our daily and monthly schedule due to delayed starts or cancellation of school due to inclement weather. Our staff endured the craziness of the schedules and continued to make our schools a safe, warm, and productive environment for our students.

Sprouting Learners
Pictures from our January 25, 2018 Sprouting Learners (ages 3-5) event at Bucher Elementary School.

The activities and accomplishments of January and February kept us focused on our mission as a district, to nurture and challenge our students. The nurturing and challenging is quite evident in our early childhood initiatives – we are striving to reach our youngest learners! Quality early learning opportunities are essential components of a successful, comprehensive school district – the foundation of the educational continuum that continues through adulthood. I am proud that at Manheim Township we begin our educational efforts in working with families shortly after the birth of their children, offering programs and resources through our early learning initiatives. Through the awarding of the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s 2017 Prenatal to Grade 3 (P-3) Grant: Collaboration-Working Together for Student Success, our district has been able to make the vital connections and collaborations with community organizations to provide our families with important resources for early learning.

Sprouting LearnersWe also offer the Plant the Seed of Learning program that involves a collective impact grant offered by the United Way of Lancaster County. In partnering with other local school districts, the program offers meaningful classes that help our children (Birth to age 2) get off to the great start. These classes provide helpful strategies for early childhood education and wellbeing, and are facilitated by school district and medical professionals, as well as other community agency staff.

These early learning initiatives create excellent outcomes for students. The potential benefits of supporting early childhood development include improved growth and development, enhanced academic outcomes, and increased productivity in life. Even more, these opportunities help to instill a love of learning in children.

All of our learning initiatives, combined with dedicated school and district staff and administrators, contribute to making our district a high performing organization. We are proud of the accomplishments of our students, which led to the district’s achievement of several national and statewide rankings and awards that focused on our academic programs, STEM-related programs, athletic programs, and overall student performance. Our district-wide attention on addressing the “whole child” – their cognitive development, social-emotional and physical growth, and community awareness and engagement helps promote their overall academic learning.

Our community and parent support continue to be hallmarks of our district as we remain dedicated to partnering with our youngest of learners and their families, in a continuum of services that last through their educational years and beyond.

December 2017

Posted Posted in 2017-2018 School Year

Making Today Count:
Honoring The Whole Child

It’s hard to believe that 2017 has come to a close and the New Year is upon us. The holidays of December offer a kind break from the busy school schedule, allowing time with family and friends along with the opportunity to reflect on the highs and lows of the passing year.

As I reflect on the things at Manheim Township that have brought me great joy during 2017, my mind centers on one primary thing – seeing how our students flourish both academically and holistically through the work of a highly dedicated staff. My observations and interactions with students each month when visiting schools, and meeting with them during scheduled times, reinforce the belief that these students have so much to offer us as a school community and as a larger “global” community. They are truly our future, and I love knowing that our investment of time, money, and resources into the educational programs at MTSD bring them full circle as they develop into strong, skilled young adults.

“Winter is Fun”
Schaeffer Elementary School

Addressing the “whole child” in an educational system that puts significant weight on high stakes testing and accountability can be a challenge. However, at MT, I’m proud that we collectively strive to have a balanced, holistic perspective on education. The whole child is valued in many ways as we address their social, physical, and academic needs. Our vision statement offers testament to our commitment to addressing the whole child – “We are committed to the achievement of each individual’s potential by providing a nurturing learning community that … stimulates curiosity and creativity, promotes personal integrity, and encourages good citizenship ….”.  These skills are modeled and often taught by various individuals throughout the school day. Some educational specialists refer to them as “soft skills,” the skills employers desire for employees – positive attitude, creative thinking, work ethic, intrinsic motivation, ability to get along with others, collaborative communication, honesty, and strong social and emotional intelligence.

“Student Recognition Ceremony”
MT High School

At the elementary level, we recognize students’ bucket filling” — filling other’s “buckets” with positive words, recognizing and reinforcing positive behaviors, and offering unexpected kind and meaningful words. At the high school level we honor the demonstration of the soft skills by having teachers nominate students who regularly exhibit character traits that are noteworthy. The most recent recognition ceremony on December 21 honored twelve students for consistently demonstrating a positive attitude, compassion, respect, honesty and integrity, gratitude, courage, and responsibility.

Through extra-curricular clubs, athletic teams, and other venues our students continue to give back to their community and those in need. This holiday season many of our students spent time providing food and other items to local organizations and individual families. At times, we partnered with students from other school districts, such as Donegal High School, to give holiday dinners to families at the Clipper Stadium.

Students bringing holiday
dinners to families at the Clipper Stadium

The desire to give back to the community is such an important behavior, and one that many of our students embody both individually and collectively.  This behavior, along with the other soft skills that students need to possess, cannot be measured by any high-stakes assessment in reading or mathematics. Therefore, we need to continue balancing our focus on academic growth and achievement of the soft skills that promote lifelong success for students.

So in this time of gratitude and reflection of the past year, a special thank you goes to our school staff, parents/guardians, and community members for helping our students grow in such meaningful ways.  Blessings in the New Year, and I hope it brings renewed spirit and energy for the important work to be done for our students.

November 2017

Posted Posted in 2017-2018 School Year

Making Today Count: Student Achievements Come with Perseverance

The month of November brought unusual weather – warm, spring-like temperatures partnered with cold, frosty temperatures.  One day I watched our elementary students comfortably wearing shorts as they played outside at recess. The next two days brought cold weather necessitating hats and long pants during outside recess. The following day it was warm again, with students wearing shorts – or sweating in their long pants as they ran around the playground. My 11-year old son repeatedly asked to wear shorts to school since he was anticipating warmer temperatures, even during the 30-degree days!

During the month of November our students experienced many great successes worthy of recounting in this November blog. I continue to feel pride each time a teacher shares a particular student success with me, or a group of students achieve a certain established goal. Several weeks ago I attended the high school performance of 12 Angry Jurors. I was completely astounded at the talent of our students, who performed their roles exceptionally well during the performance.  On stage they truly appeared to be adults, with remarkable skill sets for acting; I needed to continually remind myself that they were indeed students!

Along these lines, our students also demonstrated success outside of the school setting through numerous Boy Scout achievements (I’m privileged to hear about them from our parents), group community projects conducted through clubs and other extracurricular areas, and our fall athletic teams.  In November, Mr. Roger Czerwinski, our Athletic Director, highlighted at a Board Meeting the many athletic accomplishments of our students this fall, ranging from titles and awards earned in soccer, field hockey, cross country, golf, tennis, football, and volleyball. The list could go on if we were listing individual student and team accomplishments.  It was exciting to witness our students showing incredible strength and perseverance by playing strong throughout the entire season. As demonstrated by all of our athletic award-winning teams, our students consistently modeled perseverance, resiliency, and a growth mindset. In general, the ability of our students to push themselves through using a growth mindset is noteworthy, a testament to the numerous individuals who continually contribute to the development of our students – parents, teachers, coaches, advisors, and community members.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with a student about her success in school, both with academics and on the athletic field.  She provided a comment that reflected positively on her implementation of a growth mindset for achieving success: “I believe that success is not final, and failure is not the end … It’s the courage to continue that counts.” She noted that her grandfather repeatedly offers reminders that success comes from never giving up, and having the courage to continue moving forward even in the midst of failure. I responded that her grandfather was indeed a wise man who has clearly experienced success. Carol Dweck, author of the well-known book, Growth Mindset: The Psychology of Success, notes, “If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning.” This is such good advice – for use not only with my two sons, but also within the larger community.

I encourage you to apply this advice to your children, to your students.  As noted by Thomas Edison, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”  These are meaningful words for all of us.

October 2017

Posted Posted in 2017-2018 School Year

Making Today Count: The Arts are Thriving & Well at our District!

During my visits at two more elementary schools this past month, I was again feeling appreciative with a warm heart for how our enthusiastic, talented teachers bring the arts to life for our students. In one classroom, the art teacher was working with kindergarten students as they recognized and specified the defining attributes of given shapes. With smiling faces, the students were eagerly participating in the learning of the rules about shapes, making comparisons between shapes and real life objects within the room.

In another art classroom, third grade students were engaged in a project that brought together collaboration and individual creativity. The teacher shared how the art project supported content taught to students in a different subject area, demonstrating the success of cross-curriculum planning. Students excitedly showed me their designs, along with an explanation of how their artwork related to content from another subject.

Equally pleasing was to see students thoroughly enjoying their music classes. One of my visits included an observation of an adapted music class for students with multiple disabilities.  Students were manipulating various musical tools in order to produce sound and work on tactile skills. The adapted activity fit the specific needs of the students, and undoubtedly, contributed in meaningful ways to their personal educational growth. Interacting with the students as they participated in music class truly warmed my heart.

In recent dialogue with a family about their student’s budding interest in the arts, we talked about the significant positive impact of exposing and instructing students in the arts throughout their formative educational years. When actively engaged in the arts with classroom peers, students gain ideas and perspectives that would not have occurred in individual art lessons. In group lessons, teachers are focused on delivering the arts curriculum to all students – children with varied abilities and background knowledge/experience. All students have access to equitable quality arts curriculum and teachers.

Of course, some families may decide to offer their students additional opportunities to experience the arts outside of the school day through individual private music classes and activities, camps, community art classes, etc. Not all families have the opportunity to provide such experiences, so we ensure that our passionate, dedicated teachers provide instruction in the arts and music in structured classroom settings during the school day. Supporting the mission of the District – to nurture and challenge [ALL students] for success, arts and music instruction during the school day demonstrates equitable learning at its finest.

We are proud that our students receive excellent art and music instruction at Manheim Township, and the end result is obvious when seeing the talent of our students at musical performances, art shows, etc. We are continually amazed at their talent!

September 2017

Posted Posted in 2017-2018 School Year

Superintendent's Blogs

Making Today Count: Welcome to the 2017-2018 School Year!

We are off to another great start to the school year. Students arrived to school on August 28 with a mixture of emotions – enthusiasm, nervousness, and the excitement that accompanies something unknown and new. What will my new schedule be like? Will my friends be in my classes? What will my new teacher(s) be like? Will the work be a lot harder? Will I do as well as last year? What if …??

With several members of our District Office administrative team, I spent the first day of school visiting classrooms and welcoming students and staff. The newness of that first day held unbridled excitement– a fresh start for students, parents, and all school staff.

A student setting up her new iPad
A student setting up her new iPad.

Over the past five weeks, we’ve already embarked upon some of our district initiatives. The iPads have been distributed to designated grade levels of students as part of our district-wide K-12 mobile learning initiative. And there are more iPads to be distributed in early October. Teachers spent many hours in professional development this summer preparing for the use of iPads in the classroom. This is the beginning of a multi-year plan for using technology to enable students with the skills necessary for effectively living and learning in the 21st century. In many ways, we are truly preparing students for jobs that have not yet been created.

Students at Schaeffer Elementary working together on a water filtration design challenge
Students at Schaeffer Elementary working together on a water filtration design challenge.

Another initiative for the 2017-2018 school year involves the development and implementation of science/STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, & Mathematics) labs and curriculum for students in grades K-6. With the establishment of STEAM labs in four of our six elementary schools (labs will be coming to the remaining two schools), our teachers and supervisors are working hard to create curricular resources and materials that are consistent among the schools and accessible to all students.

Some additional initiatives for the 2017-2018 school year include (but are not limited to) the creation of a Multi-tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) framework for grades K-6, and a new district Comprehensive (Strategic) Plan.  MTSS is a structured, multi-tiered system of support for students that uses specialized curriculum resources and interventions that are consistently implemented throughout all district elementary and intermediate schools. Our Comprehensive Planning process will integrate core elements of MTSS and identified priorities into the school level and district level plans.

We are also rolling out a new district-wide Communication Plan, the culmination of data gathered from an online survey provided to school staff, parents, and the larger community. The Communication Plan holds four (4) key goals to drive district communication efforts. An important part of those efforts involves obtaining student voice and perspective, grades 7-12, on educational programming, extra-curricular activities, and overall student life. I will be providing more information about these initiatives, and others, in upcoming blog posts this school year.

Our District Leadership Team embraces the hope and promise that the new school year brings!
Our District Leadership Team embraces the hope and promise that the new school year brings!