Keystone Central School Board Director Wayne Koch now appears to want to be seen as the "champion" for the efforts of others in fighting to save first, the Sugar Valley High School, and finally the Sugar Valley Elementary School. He wants to blame at least in part, the "ramifications" of closing the Sugar Valley High School on the Sugar Valley Rural Charter School and the many Sugar Valley concerned citizens, parents and students that fought so hard for three decades to save their school.
Where was director Koch during those decades? Nowhere was he seen or heard from in support of those living in Sugar Valley who wanted to stop the district from closing their school.
It's true that Keystone Central targeted out-lying schools for closure at least two decades ago. But where was director Koch when the citizens of Sugar Valley joined with other groups to oppose the district's closing of the elementary schools in Woolrich, Beech Creek, Porter and Lamar townships?
There was no vigorous opposition on the part of director Koch against any of those closures.
The Pennsylvania Legislature permitted the creation of charter schools with its 1997 enactment of Act 22, commonly known as the Charter School Law. This Act gave concerned citizens in Sugar Valley the right to charter their own school and open it to all parents and students who, by choice, wish to attend the Sugar Valley Rural Charter School.
In a recent update printed in the "SVRCS Essence," the charter school's administration wrote the following:
"It is nothing new that charter schools provide that needed scapegoat for derisive comments, media attacks and on-going criticism. It is easy to forget that the student populations in charter schools are students who have chosen to be educated away from their home school district. It is appalling to think that among our chosen profession there are those who find it acceptable to diminish the feeling of the young students who are simply trying to find their way in a confusing and difficult world.
"It is true that SVRCS continues to struggle with the one-shot, high-stakes testing that all students must pass. Studying and reflecting upon our test results using common sense thinking will explain well our situation.
"Doing the same with other local district scores, it is likely that patterns of success and failure over time are apparent there as well. Despite the use of "standardized" systems for testing, the variables involved are as multifaceted as are the students who test. We continually seek to improve our performance in testing, in accurate reporting and meeting the mandates set before us through self reflection and evaluation. We comply with any corrective action plans that we are required to fulfill. We do not look to place blame, but instead focus upon providing all students the best possible environment to learn from teachers and administrators who are willing to risk acting upon their passion and courage to teach and to lead.
"It is true also that because of the teachers who care passionately about education, their school and its learners, SVRCS students go on to colleges and universities, nursing and technical schools. They return as student teachers and substitutes. They enter the workforce in well-paying jobs, create art and illustrate books. They earn awards and trophies in various competitions. They enter the military to protect the nation that has afforded the right to receive the education outside of their district schools. They work hard to change their negative histories toward schooling to one of reconciliation and hope."
As we have said before, we believe the Sugar Valley Elementary School provides a quality education for its "high achievers" and that the district should not close it.
We also believe that the charter school is a choice that, apparently, many parents want for their children. We also believe that the SVRCS staff agrees with us.
Ivan and Carla McElwain are residents of Loganton and both are former Keystone Central School Board members.