“What kind of school district do you want Greencastle-Antrim to be in 20 years?” asked Dan Barrett, Greencastle-Antrim Elementary guidance counselor, at the start of a “Teacher Talk” coffee klatch Tuesday night.
Sponsored by the Greencastle-Antrim Education Association, the event gave the 35 people in attendance a chance to hear from teachers in each of the buildings, ask questions and learn the latest news about contract negotiations. The meeting was not open to the media, but the teachers union provided a news release with an overview of the evening.
Barrett explained that the focus of the school district’s current negotiations is to equalize the pay of Greencastle teachers, who he acknowledged earn the most money compared to other school teachers in Franklin County. He believes that those great salaries have attracted quality teachers to the district and as a result, have helped provide an excellent education for its students.
“I believe this community values education and that’s how we got to where our district is today,” Barrett said.
As a local resident and father of four young children, Barrett notes that he pays taxes. too.
“I am glad to pay those taxes because I believe that a good education is an investment in this community,” he said. He worries that if salaries were more equal, good teachers would no longer want to teach in the Greencastle-Antrim School District. As the elementary guidance counselor, Barrett said he provides tours for new students throughout the school year. A lot of the new students are from neighboring school districts such as Waynesboro, Chambersburg and James Buchanan.
“They come to our district because they want a great educational experience, “he said.
Several teachers shared what they love about their jobs, including STEAM instructor Tara Clopper who said she enjoys collaborating with other teachers on projects, such as those at the school’s environmental center. She spoke highly of the high school’s STEAM program which helps students to become career ready.
Greencastle-Antrim Middle School wellness teacher Megan Barkdoll spoke about how middle school is a pivotal age in a student’s development.
“The building is structured in such as a way that we gradually build their social, emotional and academic skills,” she said. G-AMS teachers work hard to ensure that every student learns, even those whose primary language is not English. She said they currently have a student who speaks Russian and another who speaks Chinese. “Teachers figured out a way to help those kids learn using the resources of the ESL teacher and sometimes, technology. They met the kids where they were and helped them along to where they needed to be,” she said.
Greencastle-Antrim Primary teacher Hillary Keeney spoke about the benefits of looping. Teachers who loop, or who have the same kids for two years, develop relationships with them which foster learning.
“I love my job and I love the primary school. We are the first experience our kids have with school, so it is important that that experience be a positive on.
Parents and community members asked several questions about school funding, including the “Hold Harmless” funding formula that has not provided as much money for the Greencastle-Antrim School District as compared to other districts. Parents also asked about the district’s obligations to pay the state’s retirement program called, PSERS and about a strike.
Barrett noted that none of the teachers want to strike but he acknowledged it is a possibility should negotiations break down.
Becky Shubert, who is a parent to three children in the school district, was glad she attended the coffee klatch. “It was informational and helpful and the fact that the dialogue was so respectful, speaks volumes for our community,” she said, noting that there were two board members and the G-ASD business manager in attendance with parents, teachers and community members. There were no arguments and no heated debates, she said.
Barrett was also pleased with how the event went. “I love the fact that we started an open dialogue tonight where people felt comfortable asking us questions,” he said. “Everyday we do great things at Greencastle. We need to be a community that keeps attracting the best teachers,” he said.
G-AEA plans to sponsor more coffee klatches in the future. Check Facebook and local newspapers for meeting announcements. GAEA’s Facebook page is www.facebook.com/greencastleantrimea/.