Whitehall-Coplay Press

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Communities That Care identifies priorities from PAYS data

Tuesday, November 20, 2018 by Samantha Anderson sanderson@tnonline.com in School

The Communities That Care (CTC) group continued analyzing the Pennsylvania Youth Survey (PAYS) data at a well- attended meeting Oct. 26 at Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church, 3355 MacArthur Road, Whitehall.

The survey is taken every two years by middle school students in sixth and eighth grades and high school sophomores and seniors. The data collected allows the community group and school district to see different risk and protective factors for the students and to identify priorities for the future.

Denise Continenza, CTC coordinator, identified some of the group’s previous priorities and recommended continuing to focus on those areas moving forward.

One priority Continenza wants to continue focusing on is the perceived favorable attitude of parents toward anti-social behaviors. More than half of the students surveyed reported their parents do not discourage certain behaviors. One example is social hosting. It was noted in the PAYS data that most of the students who reported drinking alcohol got it from their parents.

“We need to keep working on this parent thing,” Continenza said.

She reported the group has had trouble reaching parents in the past to educate them on the dangers of social hosting.

One of the priorities noted by Continenza is that students reported having a low connection to the community. According to the data, students do not feel the community values their accomplishments. CTC members discussed ways to involve the students with the larger community, including possibly connecting students and community members with similar interests.

Mayor Michael Harakal Jr. said he would like to see a connection made between youths in the township and senior citizens. It was noted such an intergenerational partnership could be beneficial. Laura Long, vice president of independent living at Fellowship Community, reported she also was looking to do more to connect these groups. She wants to work to create more of a bond between students and senior citizens.

CTC members discussed the juvenile crime report presented by Matthew Christman, school resource officer in the Whitehall-Coplay School District, at the Sept. 21 meeting. The report noted juvenile crime is not a significant problem in Whitehall. Christman also mentioned office referral numbers were down during the 2017-18 school year.

Christopher Schiffert, assistant superintendent of WCSD, reported the district has been shifting the focus away from simply punishing bad behavior. Now the district will connect the student with additional programs. The district will seize the opportunity to teach instead of punish and will seek to learn why the behavior is happening.

“It’s all about connection. That’s what we’re working on,” Schiffert said.

In the survey, some students reported not feeling connected to their education. Glenn Noack, principal at Whitehall-Coplay Middle School, mentioned that schooling, in general, is slower to change and update, but administrators are working on shifting classes and curriculum to meet the future needs of the students.

Noack shared with the group about the school’s new I.D.E.A. lab that combines computer applications and business technology with technical education. I.D.E.A. stands for Innovation, Design, Engineering and Activity. Noack mentioned the teachers and students are enjoying exploring this new curriculum. The students get to work with their hands and learn classic skills modernized to fit today’s world.

Schiffert also mentioned some students traveled recently to Lehigh Career and Technical Institute (LCTI) to see the facility and programs available. The need for skilled workers and tradesmen in the future remains a concern for employers, so the district is making sure to educate the students on those opportunities as well.

The Nov. 16 meeting was canceled due to snow. The next CTC meeting is tentatively set for 8:30 a.m. Dec. 21 at Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church.