Conewago Valley says goodbye to elementary school principal

The Conewago Valley school board said farewell to one of its elementary school principals during the board meeting on Monday evening. The board also approved a list of field trips and professional development experiences for students and staff, and while the list ultimately passed, one board member had a religious concern.

One of the field trips on the list for approval was for high school world religion students to visit the Harrisburg Sai Seva Samithi Hindu temple in Dillsburg in the spring.

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When the board first prepared to vote on the ways and means section, which includes the trips, board member April Swope spoke up.

“I don’t have a problem with the world religion trip to Dillsburg as long as they understand that this is a idol and it’s not a god,” Swope said, but Swope ultimately voted yes.

Another board member, William Getz, voted to approve each item with the exception of any that cost money.

“(I don’t approve) anything that would cost the school district money to attend,” Getz said. “Any with the cost to the district being $0 I would accept.”

The items otherwise received favorable votes, passing.

Renovation update

Dr. Sharon Perry, superintendent of the district, provided a brief building update.

Perry said the board has struggled with the decision of whether to renovate or rebuild the elementary school buildings due to concerns about cost, time and disruptions for students.

Ultimately, the board decided to add on to the kindergarten wing at New Oxford Elementary School.

“This was a difficult decision, but it was grounded in the fact that in order to only renovate NOE and provide the additions, it would cost our community a ridiculous amount of money for construction trailers that would be home to our youngest learners for approximately two years,” Perry said. “So with that direction, we are going back to our internal leadership team to work through the designs for both NOE’s new vision as well as the continued vision for the additions and renovations at (Conewago Township Elementary School) at this time.”

In addition to the building updates, Perry said she and others in administration have been busy preparing for the next comprehensive planning cycle. Board member Melanie Sauter will represent the board and will join about 60 community members to assist with the work.

Developing the 2025-28 comprehensive plan will take several months, factoring in breaks over the summer, according to Perry.

“We did conclude with some survey results from the midpoint of our previous comprehensive plan, so it is nice to see that many within our school community indicate that they are seeing progress in all of the areas that we’ve identified, and of course there are always areas for growth,” Perry said. “We are taking those comments to heart and we appreciate the feedback that our school district community has provided to us throughout this entire process.”

Zaminksy resigns

The board accepted the resignation of Autumn Zaminsky, principal of Conewago Township Elementary School.

“I just wanted to say thank you to the district,” Zaminsky said. “It’s been an amazing ride. You guys have helped me grow as a professional.”

Perry said Zaminsky will be missed.

“I’d like to recognize Mrs. Autumn Zaminsky and her years of service in her role as principal, as colleague and friend,” Perry said. “We’re really missing a creative force in our leadership team. Always positive, always willing to support and be a thought partner to each of us. Thank you, Mrs. Zaminsky, for all your love and care for the children at CTE as well as for us in our entire school district community.”

Jeffrey Kindschuh, president of the board, extended his thanks to Zaminsky.

“We want to thank you for all of your service,” Kindschuh said. “It has made a difference and certainly we wish you the best in your next opportunity.”

C.H.A.R.G.E.

During the time for building reports, Christopher Cobb, principal of New Oxford Elementary School, showed a video with students enjoying various activities, including Mario Kart, ice cream, indoor and outdoor games, and more as rewards for the C.H.A.R.G.E program the district participates in.

C.H.A.R.G.E. is a token-based behavioral rewards system. Along with Cobb, two staff members and four elementary school students spoke during the presentation.

The children took turns reading the words and district definitions of the words that make up the acronym: “Committed, Honest, Adaptable, Respectful, Generous, and Engaged.”

The program was introduced last August and has been praised by administration members in previous meetings. The program includes lessons as well as incentives.

The young students explained how they earned tokens, including being “cooperative during a fire drill,” being “truthful,” helping “clean up a friend’s pencil box when it fell,” and being “kind to another kid.”

The tokens can be used to purchase items or experiences, and since September, more than 50,000 tokens have been awarded. A total of 1,266 experiences have been purchased, according to the staff presenting. Students can also be recognized as a C.H.A.R.G.E. student of the month.

Safety and communication

Matthew Muller, the district’s director of safety and communication, said the district has been working on improving its communication and a new newsletter is being released this month.

Muller also briefly addressed district safety.

As part of risk and vulnerability assessments conducted in the district last year, Muller has been working down a list of improvements highlighted for attention in the assessments. Muller said that one change students might notice is the absence of multiple trees on district property.

The trees were identified as being large enough for someone to climb and access the roof or hide behind, according to Muller. He is collaborating with the horticulture department to replace them with a safer alternative.

Curriculum, STEELS standards

Dr. Charlie Trovato, the director of curriculum, said the district is working hard to prepare for new STEELS standards in Pennsylvania.

Trovato said the K-12 science leadership team went to a meeting at the Lincoln Intermediate Unit along with others from Franklin, Adams and York counties in order to learn more about incorporating the new standards, finding quality resources, and more.

K-12 ELA curriculum leaders have also been busy working through Joan Sedita’s model in, “The Writing Rope: The Strands that are Woven into Skilled Reading.” Trovato said the work is “heavily steeped in the research around the science of reading.”

Trovato said the work is quite involved.

“’The Writing Rope’ seeks to offer an explicit and systematic approach to writing instruction across our curriculum,” Trovato said. “The first three months of the deep dive will be looking at our current writing processes alongside the different strands of writing instruction that’s offered through her work and her research. Our culminating work in May before the end of the school year is going to be our team working to develop a multi-year professional development plan that will offer our classroom teachers and our ELA content experts a structure to support all of our Colonials K-12 and research-based writing instruction across all levels.”

Grades 6-12 math curriculum leaders have also recently worked at the LIU to learn from Dr. Paul Riccomini from Penn State University.

“Dr. Riccomini offers his background and expertise in implementing the work solution, which is a research-based high-impact instructional technique that offers all of our secondary math teachers an approach to scaffolding algebraic reasoning in their instruction,” Trovato said.

The instruction for the curriculum team went so well that the district quickly scheduled another session with the LIU for next school year.

In other business, the board voted 7-2 to replace K-12 students’ iPads through a four-year lease for nearly $500,000 beginning in the next school year, with Swope and board member Lindsay Krug voting against it.

The board also approved adding and/or upgrading security cameras for multiple locations within the district.

The board accepted a resignation from Tonya Lardarello, the head coach for field hockey at the high school, effective earlier this year on Jan. 22.

The board voted 7-2 to approve multiple extracurricular contracts for head and assistant coaches for baseball, softball, lacrosse, tennis, track, volleyball, and soccer, as well as a unified sports head coach, with Krug and Getz voting against it.

Getz also voted against three paid extracurricular musical pit band member assignments.

During the time for public comment, one individual voiced complaints she said she had heard from others about a coach.

Prior to the open meeting, the board held a closed session to discuss personnel and confidential matters.

The board will hold a study session at 7 p.m. Monday, March 4 and a board meeting at 7:30 p.m. Monday, March 11. Meetings are open to the public in person and are available to watch live on the district’s YouTube channel.

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Imari Scarbrough is a freelance journalist. She was a staff newspaper reporter for five years before becoming a freelancer in 2017. She has written on crime, environmental issues, severe weather events, local and regional government and more.

You can visit her website at ImariJournal.com.

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