Three of the seven elementary schools in the Carlisle Area School District met or exceeded the target score of 70 points on 2017 School Performance Profiles.
With 85.2 points, Mooreland Elementary School topped every other building in the district including the Lamberton and Wilson middle schools and Carlisle High School.
Crestview and Bellaire elementary schools scored 79.8 and 76.5 points respectively compared to 76.1 points scored by the high school, 72.2 points by Wilson and 71.2 points by Lamberton. The four other elementary schools, from highest to lowest, were Mount Holly Springs (65.4 points), North Dickinson (65), LeTort (60.2) and Hamilton (59.2).
The main reason for the low profile scores is a slight drop in recent years in the percentage of students scoring either proficient or advanced in math and English-language arts as measured by the annual Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests, said Karen Quinn, director of curriculum and instruction for the district.
Fifty percent of the profile score is based on achievement levels measured by PSSA tests administered to students in grades 3-8 and by Keystone Exams administered mostly to high school aged students, Quinn said.
She said another 40 percent of the score is based on measuring growth by comparing actual test results with where the state believes the students should be from one year to the next. The remaining 10 percent of the score is based on other academic indicators such as student promotion and graduation rates.
Quinn briefed the school board education committee last week on the results of state assessments. District administrators plan to examine the data to determine if any adjustments need to be made to instruction that could impact the budget for 2018-19.
In 2017, Carlisle area students scored slightly above the state average at every level and category of the PSSA tests and on the Keystone exams in Algebra I and literature. Carlisle students scored slightly below the state average on the biology Keystone exam.
In math, 51.2 percent of Carlisle students in grades 4-8 scored proficient or advanced compared to 42.6 percent of students across Pennsylvania. That was a difference of almost 9 percentage points.
Meanwhile, 68 percent of Carlisle students scored proficient or advanced in English-language arts compared to an average of 61.2 percent of students statewide for a difference of almost 7 percentage points.
The science PSSA test is only administered to fourth and eighth grade students. In that category, 71.5 percent of the Carlisle test-takers scored proficient or advanced compared to a state average of 63.7 percent or a difference of plus 7.8 percent, according to test results.
While Carlisle students have a track record of scoring above the statewide average, that average has been coming down in recent years, and school districts across Pennsylvania have been struggling to bring the scores back up, Quinn said. She said the main reason for the drop has been a “skyrocket” increase in the rigor of the test in recent years.
Adjustments brought on by the Common Core standards, for example, mean that curriculum once taught in the third grade has been moved to the second grade and curriculum once taught in eighth grade is now taught in sixth grade.
“We are asking students to do things earlier in their school career,” said Quinn, adding that this calls to question whether students are cognitively ready to learn the tasks they are being called on to do during the PSSA exam.
Prior to the change in the rigor of the test, Carlisle Area School District was seeing marked growth in the number of students scoring proficient or advanced in the year-to-year PSSA test results, Quinn said.
In math in 2017, there was a spread of 39 percentage points between the lowest scoring elementary school — Mount Holly Springs at 30.7 percent — and the highest scoring elementary school — Mooreland at 69 percent.
Meanwhile in English-language arts, a 29 percentage-point spread existed between the lowest scoring school — Hamilton at 50 percent — and the highest scoring elementary school — Mooreland at 79.7 percent.
Carlisle School District has three Title I elementary schools — Hamilton, LeTort and Mount Holly Springs. Title I schools have a high percentage of students qualifying for free or reduced lunches, a key government indicator of poverty.
Taken individually, all three Title I schools have scored below the statewide average in math and in English-language arts. In math, LeTort was 40.6 percent, Hamilton was 39.4 percent and Mount Holly Springs was 30.7 percent. In ELA, LeTort was 56.2 percent, Mount Holly was 54.4 percent and Hamilton was 50 percent.
Students from economically disadvantaged families tend to come to school with less vocabulary and less literacy at home in the form of reading material, Quinn said. She said lack of money and resources can put a strain on these families to the point where having adequate food and shelter becomes more of a priority than a focus on education.
High poverty students also tend to be more transient and could move several times during the course of the school year, Quinn said. Each time they may have to start at a different point in the curriculum.
“When kids jump schools, it can be very disjointed,” Quinn said.
School board member Bruce Clash asked what the district could do about the disparity in test results among the seven elementary schools. “What should we be thinking about when it comes to the distribution of resources?” Clash asked, referring to the availability of tutors and classroom aides.
With the release of the results, district administrators have started internal conversations with building-level administrators and staff to see what adjustments are needed to programs to improve student achievement, acting Superintendent Christina Spielbauer said. This may include changes in professional development opportunities.
Long-time board member Fred Baldwin has seen frustration over the years over the frequent changes in the testing protocols. He asked how the administration can get good longitudinal data measuring year-to-year progress of students moving through the system.
“We have internal measures we can look at,” Quinn said. “We know exactly where the students are.” Quinn said the PSSA test scores are just “a snapshot in time” that may not show the real impact of 180 days of learning.
Board member Deborah Sweaney said there can be an unhealthy level of stress among the students taking the test. “These numbers do not really show how our schools are really functioning,” she said.
As for the Keystone exams, about 71.1 percent of Carlisle area students scored in the high range on the Algebra I test compared to 65.6 percent of students statewide for a difference of 5.5 percentage points.
Meanwhile 79 percent of Carlisle area students scored in the high range on the literature exam compared to 72.7 percent of students statewide for a difference of 5.5 percentage points.
The biology exam was the only state assessment where Carlisle area students, at 59.8 percent, scored below the statewide average, which was 63.4 percent.
Every stereotype in the book says Emily Burt-Hedrick and Sehija Becirovic shouldn’t be friends.
Yet the two women are forging a sisterhood to break down those stereotypes and bring Jewish women like Burt-Hedrick and Muslim women like Becirovic together for conversation, learning opportunities and community service.
“There’s a lot of misconceptions between Muslims and Jews, and we want to break that barrier,” Becirovic said.
The Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom takes its name from the Arabic and Hebrew words, respectively, for peace. According to the website for the national organization, women in their “sisterhood chapters” participate in dialogue, socialization, social action projects and activities designed to expand knowledge of each other’s practices and beliefs.
It’s the sort of undertaking Burt-Hedrick sought after the 2016 election, which left her “absolutely devastated” and fearful about what might happen. She discovered the Sisterhood on Facebook and decided to start a chapter.
“I felt so hopeless and helpless after the election. I felt that maybe one thing I can do positive is get this chapter started,” she said.
She started by sending letters of inquiry to local mosques. Out of those letters, Becirovic responded.
From there, the local chapter held its first meeting in April, and has held about five or six meetings since then, Burt-Hedrick said. At the meetings, the group engages in activities that are designed to help them learn more about each other as women and as members of their faith.
“The more you know someone, the less likely you are to dislike them. The closer we get together, we appreciate each other, each other’s backgrounds,” Becirovic said.
Initially, women from as far away as York attended the meetings, so the group held meetings in different locations. They met at the YWCA in Carlisle, the Islamic Center in Harrisburg and Temple Israel in York, among other places. After consulting with the national organization, the group split into two chapters with the Carlisle chapter now planning to hold its meetings at the YWCA.
“It was just getting to the point that we needed to split it if we wanted to have that personal connection with each other,” Becirovic said.
Becirovic said she wants to know more about the Jewish faith so she can be an advocate and correct misconceptions about Jewish people in her community. Similarly, Burt-Hedrick said she has learned much about Islam and its ways of practicing the faith, making her more able to confront bigotry when she encounters it.
During Ramadan, for example, Becirovic invited the women from the group to the iftar meal that signifies the end of the day’s fast. Burt-Hedrick said the women were permitted to attend the evening prayers that are part of the observances, and found a warm and generous welcome from their Muslim hosts.
The group is planning a program for Feb. 1, which is World Hijab Day, in which women can learn the proper way to put on a hijab. Some Muslim women, like Becirovic, do not wear them outside of their religious services. The day becomes one in which nonhijab wearing Muslims and women of other faiths can experience what it is like to visibly be a member of a religious community.
Right now, the group is largely inward-focused as its members continue to get to know each other. Once the chapter has a more regular group that meets, they will decide what projects they would like to do, Burt-Hedrick said.
“We’re still trying to organize the group. We want to get to the point where we have a group of maybe 10-12 women, half Muslim and half Jewish, who meet on a regular basis and get to know each other very well,” Burt-Hedrick said.
That’s not to say the group hasn’t started its effort to make a difference in the community.
The national Sisterhood asked chapters to perform an act of charity — sadaqa in Arabic and tzedakah in Hebrew — around Christmas, Burt-Hedrick said. Though the chapter did not have a lot of time to coordinate its effort, they chose to collect toys to donate to Toys for Tots in what both women deemed a successful effort.
“We also want to strengthen our own communities. We want to do things in the community,” Becirovic said.
Though politics had a role in motivating the creation of the group, it is one of the topics the national organization advises new chapters to avoid, Burt-Hedrick said. Such topics are only to be discussed once the members get to know each other, and if the members of the group are comfortable with such discussions.
Such precautions are important as the women in the group come from different backgrounds. Becirovic described her own background as a Bosnian immigrant who came to the United States due to the war in her home country, and said women with similar backgrounds sometimes have difficulty talking about their experiences.
At the same time, Becirovic’s background fuels her love for the group.
“I love our country, and I don’t want whatever is happening in a negative way to reflect what the United States is. This country is great, and we need to appreciate that. I think we forget that sometimes with all the stuff that’s going on now. We are great because we do things different and we stand out,” she said.
The sisterhood stands out because they choose to be together, she said.
“The sisterhood is saying that we won’t be divided. We’ll be waging peace,” Burt-Hedrick agreed.
The former Fire Mountain Restaurant on the Carlisle Pike in Silver Spring Township will be developed into an Aldi grocery store.
Jeff Baehr, Aldi Frederick Division vice president, said the company is in the “very beginning” stages of the project to open its first Mechanicsburg store in 2019. Specific dates and details about the store are not available, nor are construction plans.
“At this time, our plans for the site are not solidified,” Baehr said.
The Fire Mountain Restaurant closed in March 2016 after its owner, Ovation Brands Inc., filed for bankruptcy.
When choosing store locations, Aldi looks at factors including population density, proximity to competition, cost of property and traffic patterns.
“Our top priority is being conveniently located for our customers. We look forward to introducing the Mechanicsburg community to the Aldi shopping experience,” Baehr said.
Baehr said details on hiring events for the store are yet available, but local residents are encouraged to check out aldiuscareers.com and the Careers At Aldi Facebook page for upcoming hiring events.
“Aldi streamlines its approach to staffing, creating cost-saving efficiencies that are passed on to customers. Each store, including our upcoming Mechanicsburg store, employs about 15 to 20 people,” he said.
The Mechanicsburg location is part of a growth plan at Aldi, which is investing $3.4 billion to expand to 2,500 stores nationwide by the end of 2022. The added stores will make Aldi the third largest grocery store by count in the country, and serve 100 million customers per month.
Aldi recently renovated its Carlisle store on Westminster Drive. Other Aldi stores in Cumberland County are at the Shippensburg Shopping Center and in Lower Allen Township at 3437 Simpson Ferry Road.
Momentum is building in Mount Holly Springs to launch a rental property inspection program as early as April.
The borough council Monday voted 6-1 in favor of a resolution that would charge landlords $65 per rental unit to cover the borough costs of each inspection.
Fees associated with the inspection program were rolled into a general resolution that set all the fees for borough services for 2018. This includes such things as building permits and park pavilion rentals.
Under the resolution, a $50 fee will be charged if a property that failed an initial inspection needs an extensive re-inspection, said Tom Day, borough manager and police chief.
Also, the borough will charge a $50 fee if a landlord wants to appeal the results of an inspection such as the denial of a license to allow the rental of the property.
Council member Edgar Kendall cast the only vote against the resolution. He said he wanted to be consistent with his prior opposition to the borough ordinance that established the inspection program.
In related news, Troy Russell was sworn in Monday by Mayor P. Scott Boise as the borough’s part-time zoning and codes enforcement officer. Russell will receive no benefits and will be paid $18 an hour for a weekly maximum not to exceed 32 hours, Day said.
A large part of Russell’s job will be the inspection of all rental properties within the first of three zones Day mapped out as part of the inspection program ordinance.
Zone 1 inspections will cover units on either side of Baltimore Avenue from the borough line south to Butler Street. This zone would also include all streets between the western border of the borough and Mountain Creek.
Zone 1 also includes any units along Mill Street from where it intersects with Baltimore north and east to the borough line and on streets adjoining Mill including Fairfield, Center, East, South, Peach and Orange.
Under the ordinance, a landlord would only be able to rent a unit if it passes inspection and is issued an occupancy license. The $65 per unit fee is what the borough calculated would be needed to cover the overhead of each inspection, Day said. He said Mount Holly will be at the low end of what local municipalities charge for rental property inspections. Some communities charge $85 to $100, he said.
“It’s what we believe to be the fee,” Day said. “That is why it was done by resolution. Council could adjust the fee up or down.” He said an adjustment doesn’t have to wait until the start of the calendar year.
Landlady Cathy Nell is a new member of borough council. She asked if the borough was going to charge the $50 re-inspection fee each time there’s a simple fix such as a battery missing from a smoke detector.
To give the inspection program ordinance “teeth,” borough council in December adopted the International Property Maintenance Code, which details standards for rental units.
A draft inspection checklist presented in August included items related to security, fire safety, adequate lighting, adequate ventilation, a check for chipped or peeling paint and a check for rodent infestation.
Under the ordinance, each item will be marked either pass or fail with directions given in the comment section of the checklist on what needs to be done to correct the deficiencies.
Day said, Troy Russell will decide whether a landlord should be charged the $50 re-inspection fee or whether the fee should be waived for a quick review of minor deficiencies.
On Jan. 2, borough council decided to hire an in-house person to conduct the rental property inspections rather than out-source the inspections to a third-party contractor.
By going with an in-house person, the borough is cutting out a middleman that may try to rack up as much money in fees as possible, Day said. He said an in-house person would be more likely to exercise discretion and only apply the $50 re-inspection fee to situations involving major deficiencies instead of to every case.
Posted earlier on Cumberlink:
Mount Holly Springs Borough Council Monday set the fees for a rental property inspection program that could be underway as early as April.
Council voted 6-1 in favor of a resolution that would charge landlords $65 per rental unit to cover the borough costs of each inspection.
A $50 fee will be charged if a property that failed an initial inspection needs an extensive re-inspection, said Tom Day, borough manager and police chief.
Lastly, the borough will charge a $50 fee if a landlord wants to appeal the results of an inspection such as the denial of a permit to allow the rental of the property.
The fees associated with the inspection program were rolled into a general resolution that set all the fees for borough services for 2018. This includes such things as building permits and park pavilion rentals.
Council member Edgar Kendall cast the only vote against the resolution. When asked, he said he wanted to be consistent with his prior opposition to the borough ordinance that established the inspection program.
In related news, Troy Russell was sworn in Monday by Mayor P. Scott Boise as the borough’s zoning and codes enforcement officer. Russell will be paid $18 an hour for a maximum of 32 hours a week, Day said.
A large part of Russell’s job would be the inspection of rental properties within the first of three zones Day mapped out as part of the inspection program ordinance.
Council Monday also authorized Day to purchase a new Ford Explorer police vehicle to replace an aging Crown Victoria cruiser that is costing the borough thousands of dollars in repair bills every year.
Estimated at around $47,000, the new vehicle will be acquired through the state cooperative purchasing program. The borough will pay for the SUV using about $13,000 drawn from reserves and $34,000 in the general fund budget.