What's new at Berks County districts for the 2019-20 school year

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A new school year is on the horizon.

The first two Berks County school districts to welcome back students — Oley Valley and Hamburg — will do so Thursday, Aug. 22. Fifteen districts will kick things off the week of Aug. 26, and Reading School District will begin classes on Sept. 5.

As kids head back to the classroom, the 18 districts share what's new for the 2019-20 school year. Here's what they said:

Antietam

Veteran elementary Principal Shirley Feyers has retired and elementary Assistant principal Aaron Kopetsky has accepted a principal position at another school district.

Michele Bleacher has been hired as the new principal at Mount Penn Primary Center.

Kelly Landherr will serve as the new principal at Mount Penn Elementary School.

The district will be focused on “restorative practices” and “instructional practices” for the 2019-20 school year. The Berks County Intermediate Unit will be providing professional development in these areas.

Boyertown

The school district did not respond.

Brandywine Heights

The district will continue its strategic planning process. Last school year a team of board members, staff, parents and community members collected information and worked to developed a long range, multiyear plan focused on continuous improvement for all aspects of the district.

Using a $587,775 school safety and security grant from the state, a new secure entrance and reconfigured office layout were developed at Brandywine Heights Elementary School.

The district is continuing collaboration with Kutztown University by supporting college students looking to become educators by providing rich experiences in the district. As a reciprocal relation, Kutztown will allow district high school students the opportunity to take college courses at a reduced tuition rate and gain college credits while still in high school.

The district is introducing a new computer science learning pathway. The goal of the project is to open new learning challenges and expose students to the numerous career opportunities available in this market space.

Conrad Weiser

The district will be piloting new math programs in grades kindergarten through fifth. During the school year, teachers in those grade levels will be looking at the current math program and two other possible programs to compare strengths and weaknesses. During the spring of 2020, teachers and administrators will make a final recommendation to the board for a new math program to begin in the 2020-2021 school year.

The district will begin using a new online curriculum writing, development and alignment tool. The Atlas Platform by Rubicon is an online curriculum writing warehouse that will allow teachers to develop their curriculum maps and align their course objectives and lessons to state and national standards.

The district will kick off the school year with an opening day event for teachers, administrators and support staff on Aug. 21. The keynote speaker will be Baruti Kafele, a highly-regarded urban educator from New Jersey.

Daniel Boone

The district has reorganized the administrative team to best support its faculty and staff in meeting the needs of the students and families of the community.

As part of its comprehensive planning process, the district has established a new district mission, vision, core values/beliefs, priority focus areas and profile of a district graduate. The comprehensive plan is current up for review on the district website.

All district faculty and staff took part in diversity, inclusion and equity training through the Anti-Defamation League prior to the start of the school year.

Exeter

Renee Mosser will be the new principal at Jacksonwald Elementary School.

Ted Issleman will be the new principal at Lorane Elementary School, as former Lorane Principal Christy Haller becomes the principal at Owatin Creek Elementary School.

The district will be hiring a new supervisor of literacy and English as a second language.

The district will be hiring a new supervisor of math and STEM.

A new curriculum in the areas of science and social studies at the secondary level that includes digital textbooks has been purchased.

The district administration team has committed to a mutual learning style of leadership based on a book by Roger Schwarz.

The district is planning to pilot a flexible snow instruction day program this school year.

Fleetwood

With the closure of Richmond Elementary School, both Willow Creek Elementary School and Andrew Maier Elementary School will be welcoming former Richmond students to their buildings.

The district will be implementing an iPad initiative at the elementary level. It will start small this year with nine classrooms involved, but is expected to grow over the next few years.

The elementary school are implementing the responsive classroom model, which focuses on the importance of relationships, and the middle and high schools will have teams being trained in the restorative practice model, which focuses on strengthen relationships between individuals as well as social connections within communities.

At the middle school and high school, the district is continuing its roll out of its one-to-one program. This year the district will be one-to-one in grades seventh, eighth and ninth, with implementation training occurring in grades sixth and 10th.

The district will welcome a new middle school administration, which includes Dr. Natalie Lytle, principal and Kevin Handerhan, assistant principal.

Gov. Mifflin

At the Gov. Mifflin High School, alumnus Melissa Yoch is starting her first full year as an associate principal. She joined the district in March.

Coleen Davenport will be the new principal at Gov. Mifflin Middle School. Davenport had previously served as the associate principal at the middle school.

The new associate principal at the middle school is Chris Killinger, who previously spent 14 years teaching biology at the high school.

Cory Crider is the new associate principal at Gov. Mifflin Intermediate School. He had served as the interim associate principal in the second semester of last school year and was officially named to the position in May.

Chad Curry is taking over as principal at Cumru Elementary.

Brecknock Elementary School will welcome new principal Aaron Kopetsky. He previously worked in the Antietam School District.

The district will continue its roll-out of its Readers Workshop practice into the Middle School. Readers Workshop was implemented in grades kindergarten through sixth last year and is part of a partnership between the district and Columbia Teachers College. The practice is built around providing more designated time for reading during the school day.

The 2019-2020 school year will mark the completion of the district's 1:World technology initiative. As of last school year, the district had 1:1 devices for students in grades fifth through 12th. This school year, the district will have device sets in every kindergarten through fourth grade classroom as well.

Hamburg

Several classrooms around the district have been designed as active learning spaces. These areas contain independent as well as collaborative work places allowing students to select the environment that is conducive to his/her learning preference.

A new partnership is being formed with Special Olympics Pennsylvania to offer Interscholastic Unified Sports. These opportunities will bring regular and special education students together to participate in meaningful athletic opportunities and engage in the high school community.

Customized learning continues to grow across the district including a Customized Learning Community at Tilden Elementary.

Kutztown

The district will introduce its Literacy Framework program. The purpose of the framework is to identify best practices in curriculum, instruction, assessment and organization that support all students developing the literacy skills and dispositions essential for college, career, and citizenship.

Students at both the high school and middle school will see scheduling changes that increase instructional time per course for the year. Along with the time schedule changes, students will have access to new courses including introduction to agricultural sciences in eighth grade and courses in both buildings focused on research and design that are rooted in the design thinking process where students will develop a passion-driven action research project in order to design solutions through civic engagement to solve real world problems.

The district and the Berks County Intermediate Unit launched the Eastern Pennsylvania Innovation Catalyst (EPIC) Network. The EPIC Network is designed to be a hub of educational innovation in Berks County and Eastern Pennsylvania. Anchored in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and computer science education, the network aims to enhance instructional practice, increase opportunities, and develop a network of educational transformation.

The district will also have a new superintendent with Christian Temchatin taking over for Dr. George Fiore, who has taken a job as executive director of the Chester County Intermediate Unit. Temchatin joined the district in January as assistant superintendent.

Muhlenberg

The district will continue to follow its Blueprint for Success and Action Plan, with a focus on 21st Century Teaching and Learning that is focused on teachers and the skills they bring to the classroom.

Teachers in the district will participate in several professional development courses provided by Reading Area Community College and Alvernia University.

With a focus on mental and behavioral health, the district will pilot four social-emotional learning programs across all grades. More than 50 teachers will take part in the pilot programs.

All high school students will be provided a Google Chromebook, and kindergarten classrooms will be equipped with Apple iPads. Those steps will complete the district-wide 1:1 initiative.

Oley Valley

Gina Finnerty has been named the new principal at Oley Valley High School.

The high school will also welcome eight other new teachers and staff members.

The high school will be using an Anatomage Table, which is a 3D anatomy visualization system. It will be used for the school's anatomy and physiology curriculum and eventually be used across the curriculum to enhance and transform instruction.

Reading

The district will welcome two new school principals. Andrew Kidd, who served as acting principal at Southern Middle School last school year, has been named as the school's new permanent principal, and Jasmin Sanchez-Lopez, who most recently served as the assistant principal at 13th and Green Elementary School, has been selected as the new principal of Lauer's Park Elementary School, following the retirement of Gordon Hoodak.

The district's new grade configuration begins this school year. Students in pre-kindergarten through fourth grade will attend one of the district's 13 elementary schools, students in fifth through eighth grades will attend one of the district's middle schools and students in ninth through 12th grades will attend Reading High School. As part of the new configuration, Reading Intermediate High School is now the district's fifth middle school, and last winter, was renamed Central Middle School.

The district will also continue its virtual academy program for students in fifth through 12th grades who prefer online and blended learning.

The district is relaunching its award-winning mobile app with a new, updated look. The mobile app, which is one component of the district's Blackboard Mass Notification System, is free and available for download on Google Play and Apple iTunes. Students, families, staff members and community members can all download the app, which includes access to lunch menus, event calendars and district news. In addition, those who download the app will receive push notifications for emergencies and inclement weather delays. The mobile app also provides a translation option, and families can search for school contact information, as well as staff information, including e-mail addresses, in the staff directory.

Schuylkill Valley

Schuylkill Valley Elementary School will have its first full-year implementation of a Global Classroom, a technology-based room for teachers to use for special projects and outside collaboration. Some of the technology in the room includes: a new short-throw projector and interactive SmartBoard, a Skype station, 3D printers and podcast/video and audio recording equipment with a green screen.

A team from the elementary school and a community team from pre-kindergarten schools attended a Governor's Institute this summer and developed a plan to implement this year that will have elementary teachers collaborating with the community team in order to establish a closer relationship with nearby early learning centers.

Due to increased enrollment, the elementary school has added another first grade classroom, brining the total number to eight.

Tulpehocken

The district will feature a host of new administrators. Rebecca Marmas is the new assistant director of pupil services, Chris Hamrick is the new principal at Tulpehocken High School, Andrew Guers is the new principal at Bethel Elementary School and Jena Damiani is the new principal at Penn-Bernville Elementary School.

The district will introduce a new student management system and parent/student portal called Sapphire K12 Systems.

Elementary schools in the district will be continuing with its second year of a new English language arts program.

The district is adding a new support position, K-12 career specialist, who will work with students in the areas of college and career readiness. This position will be an advocate for students for post secondary life.

The junior/senior high school will be adding a student internship program.

Twin Valley

The district is putting the finishing touches on its 1:1 initiative. Students in grades fifth through eighth will receive Google Chromebook devices from Aug. 12-15. Students in third and fourth grades will also have access to a classroom Chromebook at the beginning of the school year, and kindergarten through second grade students will have additional Apple iPads to work with in their classrooms.

Workshops held over the summer and during the opening days of the school year will focus on professional development in the area of using technology effectively to support student learning. The professional development calendar this year will also provide additional opportunities for staff to train on technology skills.

Facility upgrades include the completion of the third and final high school roof replacement project, new turf for turf field two located behind the middle school and new TRANE energy management software for all five buildings that will improve the efficiency of our HVAC systems. There are vestibule enhancements at Twin Valley High School, Honey Brook Elementary Center and Robeson Elementary Center, which include updated main entry doors that will lead visitors directly into the office area instead of directly into the building.

Second graders will be taking part in the new Lucy Calkins Phonics program, which was introduced to kindergarten and first grade students last year.

For the second year, all elementary schools will be offering SAP (student support services) to support the social and emotional needs of all students. Elementary teachers will also take part in professional development on the use of Chromebooks and iPads with their students.

Twin Valley Middle School is continuing to place emphasis on community building through the Raider Pride program, which offers students a feeling of belonging and opportunities for leadership development among their peers.

Twin Valley High School's program of studies is organized around a pathways system that includes five career clusters designed to prepare students for post-secondary education and the workforce. Additional opportunities include career and technical education at regional schools, a pre-engineering program through Project Lead the Way, dual enrollment opportunities, internships with local businesses and a new career capstone course.

Wilson

Dr. Stacey Stoudt has been named assistant superintendent for elementary education. She has been with the district since 1988, most recently as principal of Whitfield Elementary School.

Christopher Trickett has been appointed assistant superintendent for secondary education. He has been with the district since 2003, most recently as principal of Wilson High School.

Jennifer L. Joiner was named principal at Whitfield, and Daniel Weber has been named principal at the high school.

The district has embarked on a "continuous school improvement" process focused on using data to identify critical areas for improvement. The process involves representatives from all areas of the district and is designed to ensure that individual buildings are empowered to determine goals and outcomes that best meet the needs of their student population.

The district is introducing a new math curriculum for students in grades kindergarten through fifth. Called Eureka Math, it is designed to connect to the real world in a way that wakes the fear out of math and builds student confidence.

Wyomissing

Expanded internal and external internship opportunities for 11th and 12th grade students.

Increased guidance counselor support at the elementary level.

New engineering courses offered to students at the secondary level.

Improvements to district communications and social media presence, supported by student interns and a supervising teacher.

District received $236,000 through competitive Act 44 grant to establish a school police officer position and support additional improvements recommended by our Safe Schools Advisory Committee.

Renovations to Flannery Field, including a new all-weather track, bleachers and renovated field event areas.

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