Greencastle-Antrim to pilot college application program

PAT FRIDGEN, Echo Pilot

Greecastle-Antrim School District is a select site for a new statewide initiative.

School board members Melinda Cordell, Ken Haines, Lura Hanks, Tracy Baer, Linda Farley, Jim Winslow and Mike Still learned about a debut program at the Oct. 16 worksession. Eric Holtzman was absent.

Greencastle-Antrim High School is one of 10 Pennsylvania schools chosen to pilot a College Application Day on Nov. 14. It is promoted by the American College Application Campaign, with the goal to increase the number of first-generation and low-income students pursuing a college degree or higher education. G-AHS guidance counselors Diane Reed and Jenniffer Everetts, and college adviser Dionna Wright will spend the day with seniors, as will admissions counselors from Shippensburg University, Millersville University, Hagerstown Community College, Gettysburg College, Harrisburg Area Community College, Messiah College, Penn State Mont Alto and Shepherd University.

High school principal Ed Rife joined a Pennsylvania Department of Education steering committee last March to plan for this day. It will be dedicated to helping the students navigate the admissions process as they apply to at least one institution.

The school sent letters to the families on what to do in advance of Nov. 14.

Then the representatives will assist the students in uploading documents, submitting transcripts and letters of recommendation, applying on a Common Application site, and reviewing essays.

“The students have to be prepared,” said Reed.

Rife stressed that the college representatives would help the students apply to any school they desired, not just their own or the eight participating in the local event.

Wright saw the college application process as overwhelming for some.

“It’s such a stressful time,” she said. “Sometimes the students miss the fun of it.”

Everetts noted that the day was a perfect time to help students who did not have the confidence or wherewithal to go it alone.

For College Application Day, Shepherd and Shippensburg will waive the application fee and give an “instant decision” on admission. Messiah will also waive the application fee.

James Buchanan and Biglerville high schools are also participating in the program.

PSSA review

Director of Education Dr. Bob Crider presented reading and math results for the 2014 PSSA testing. Students in the elementary and middle schools were evaluated.

The reading scores of each grade, showing the percent of students at or above proficiency, are followed by the 2013 score.

Grade 3 - 81.2, 80.2. Grade 4 - 80.8, 64.0. Grade 5 - 71.7, 70.1. Grade 6 - 78.9, 70.0. Grade 7 - 77.5, 78.9. Grade 8 - 86.2, 82.3.

The math scores of each grade, showing the percent of students at or above proficiency, are followed by the 2013 score.

Grade 3 - 80.3, 81.5. Grade 4 - 83.4, 79.3. Grade 5 - 67.3, 77.0. Grade 6 - 82.3, 77.1. Grade 7 - 80.3, 88.8. Grade 8 - 75.9, 79.7.

With the scores both up and down, Crider said part of the reason was the “very rigorous expectations” of PA Common Core. In particular, eighth-grade math was at the algebra level, so the district would look at that curriculum more closely.

The Pennsylvania Value Added Assessment System (PVAAS) analyzed the PSSA data, Crider said, and showed growth of groups of students as well as individuals, and that was positive. The School Performance Profile was the best indicator, and while administrators knew the results, the information could not yet be released publicly. They were excited about that score.

Superintendent Greg Hoover said about PSSA, “We did well. We knew the test would be more difficult because it would incorporate Common Core. With PVAAS we are doing really well. That’s more important.”

At the high school level, the results of the Keystone Exams were also shared. The scores shown are 2014 followed by 2013. Algebra 71.9, 70.9. Literature 77.6, 89.6. Biology 64.9, 55.7. Administrators were “thrilled” with the biology scores, since it was a new testing field.

The SAT scores were reading 505, math 514, writing 484, compared to the respective state average scores of 497, 504, and 480.

Maintenance issues

At the invitation of the board, Director of Facilities Carl Androkitis shared recent activities and plans for the school district.

Some of the infrastructure was being updated. The sidewalks in front of the middle school did not meet borough code, so would be brought up to standards in a week.

The campus had a crushed sewer line, with the composition terra cotta, and “the only person in Franklin County who can fix it is Troy Byers,” Androkitis said. Byers was scheduled to come in, hampered only by the rain.

The maintenance department was also examining HVAC issues in the high school, looking for a fix that would last long term. Androkitis had one item for his wish list, to replace the 1959 fire alarm system in the high school. He tagged the project at $100,000.

The high school had also experienced flooding, he said. Water had come up through floor drains in the technology wing in the middle of the night Oct. 15. Since no one was in the building, he said the cause had to come from the outside. He attributed it to a sewer blockage on Ridge Avenue, that perhaps lasted only a brief time.

“It was not fresh water, you can trust me on that,” Androkitis told the board.