I would like to take the time to clarify some information regarding cyber charter schools presented in the Times News on March 12th. While I have the utmost respect for Mr. Hiles (Panther Valley School Board member), I believe he is very misinformed about cyber charter schools. I believe there is also a lot of "contempt prior to investigation."
Regarding cyber schools approved by the Dept. of Ed., each teacher must be certified in the state of Pennsylvania and have credentials in each subject, just as they would in the public school system. Each child must participate in state testing or they will be subject to dismissal if they do not. A child only spends a maximum of 25-30 percent (this may be higher for high school students) of their time on the computer. The rest of the curriculum relies on "printed and/or hands-on materials, including textbooks, paint, cell samples, and telescopes." Students have the opportunity to socialize by participating in academic and social outings within the area.
At the very least, parents are required to participate in assisting their child for at least two hours a day. It is the parents who organize the lessons and plans for the day. The child and parent have an assigned teacher to assist, as well as guide and track their progress. Face to Face meetings with the teacher are available as well. Most kids excel faster in cyber school rather than in the public school system. Also, children must master the concepts and lessons through testing before moving on to the next lesson. (This does not happen in public school) I am sure I am not giving the justice cyber charter schools deserve but this does basically give somewhat of a condensed version of what cyber charter schools are and do.
Cyber charter school is not for every student or parent. It takes very dedicated and involved parents to accomplish this. Your insinuation that every child sits on the computer all day in their pajamas is false. Most involved parents who have made this choice have their child in a routine and prepare them for the day as if they were going to public school. (except for wearing the standard uniform) The Cyber Charter Schools attendance policy is much stricter as there are fewer excuses for absences and there are no "snow days." (Please see: http://www.k12.com/agora/ or http://www.21cccs.org/ for more research).
One thing I believe that needs to be considered is one size does not fit all, meaning each child learns differently and public school may not be the best options for the child to reach their potential. Some children need more of an individualized approach.
I understand the issue of losing state funding and the costs of operating the school. I may take heat for my opinion but I am entitled to one. I do see an awful lot of wasteful spending within the district other than funding students to attend cyber school. The money allocated for many activities (sports etc.) could be funded through holding fundraisers instead of tax dollars. Panther Valley has been rated by the state as the worst in the county academically. So I can understand a parent's decision to choose a cyber charter school.
We must all pay taxes. I would rather see my tax dollars go toward academics rather than sports or other school district funded activities since our children are suffering academically. Parents with children in sports will argue and claim they need to socialize, build character and experience life outside of school. Well then the parents need to pony up and pay for these activities. After school activities are limited to the select chosen few and does not benefit "all" the student body. Unless every child gets to play and participate in football, baseball etc. whether they are good or not, I cannot see tax dollars going to the chosen few.
There are also many other ways expenses can be cut and redistributed in other areas to benefit the students academically.
Rosemary Porembo asked "can Panther Valley do something better?" I applaud her for meeting with parents to discuss the reasons they chose cyber school as an option. There are many reasons why parents opt for cyber school whether it is higher standards academically and the bullying, fighting, drugs, alcohol, peer pressure, favoritism by teachers; the list could go on and on. I recently read an article in the Times News blaming the parents for not being involved. Those parents who are involved are often ignored. There is plenty of blame to go around. While we all sit back and blame the parents, teachers, administration and school board no solutions to the day to day issues are ever found. I also feel the school board is overburdened by unions, buildings, finances, staffing etc. to focus on the day to day problems children endure in the classroom. In a perfect world little Johnny or Suzie would behave like perfect robots. This will never happen. No matter how involved or uninvolved the parent is, children will have issues or make mistakes. The bottom line is solutions.
The last comment I would like to make and I am sure there is awareness as to why state funds cannot be used to pay for OLOAA or Marian as there is the issue of separation of church and state. Panther Valley would stand to lose even more students and funds if the state would pay for a private catholic education. Many catholic families send their children to Panther Valley because the cost of tuition is not feasible especially while in a recession.
Be careful what you wish for.