Wolfe: New program in district a success

PUNXSUTAWNEY — The new SchoolReach notifications system in the Punxsutawney Area School District has worked well in its first attempts to communicate important messages to the public.

District superintendent Dr. Keith Wolfe pointed out that thankfully, the district has only had to use the system once so far this year.

“We’ve had one (weather)delay, and it worked well. I think it had 98 percent accuracy,” Wolfe said. “For the most part, it has been good, and we’ve been fortunate that the snowstorms have been going around us to the south. There wasn’t that much change involved because people were able to receive those text messages through the Web site. I think when we can get everything switched over to the SchoolReach database, then we will be able to send text messages to individual parents when his or her child is absent from school.”

Wolfe noted that the computer program Skype is going to be utilized so an elementary student who is going to be absent from school over an extended period of time can have two-way visual communication to attend some of his classes.

“His parents wanted to home- school him, which takes a lot of time and patience,” Wolfe said. “This boy is going to be in and out of the hospital quite a bit, so I suggested that he Skype some of his classes. At certain times of the day, when the class is doing certain subjects, he can call in, and he will get to see his teacher and friends. He can see the classroom instruction that is going on and participate in it.”

Wolfe noted that this aspect of the system is important to him because all three of his children have spent time at the Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh.

“I know what it’s like for your child to just be there and have all of his friends be the adults who work in the hospital,” Wolfe said. “The mother was very appreciative, and so far, it has been working out very well. If that can bring a little bit of joy to his life every couple of days, it’s well worth it.

“When students are home bound, they just stay home and the teacher sends the work to the student. They complete it and send it back,” he said. “This way, the student has some communication with his classmates and teacher.”

Wolfe added that one of his goals as the superintendent of schools is that he doesn’t want One-to-One Computing to “just be something that the district shows off from time to time.”

“The tools are only as good as those who are trained to use them,” Wolfe said. “I wish we didn’t have as many damages to the laptops with One-to-One computing, as we attempt to recoup the money from those damages. It would be nice to keep those costs down. The screens are what we’ve had a problem with, and I think most of the trouble stems from misuse.

“I’ve dropped my laptop computer at home, and it didn’t break, so it’s not just a simple matter of it slipped off the table,” Wolfe explained. “I’ve worked with kids for 20 years, so I know how they behave with equipment.”

On another topic, Wolfe said that he would like to make some changes to the twice-yearly newsletter that the district publishes.

“I’d like to see us publish it at the end of the first semester, and the end of the school year,” Wolfe explained. “I think we’re going to change the focus so that it covers a broader range of topics. We’re going take a look at some of the things that are going on in each of the buildings during those semesters.”

Wolfe also said that he would like to receive submissions for the newsletters from teachers and students as well.

“I think it would make it more interesting for the reader by highlighting some areas of our district that don’t receive much recognition,” Wolfe said. “Often times, the lion’s share of coverage will go to the high school level just because that’s where so many activities happen.”

Wolfe pointed out that at the elementary level, principals Sharon Weber and Travis Monroe have just been notified that they will receive a grant that will be announced at tonight’s school board meeting.

“Those are the kinds of things that I’m talking about — like the mobile science lab that came to the middle school,” he said. “We could write an article about that from the perspective of the kids.”

The Punxsutawney Area School Board will hold its voting meeting at 7 p.m. tonight in the Central Office board room.