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Tyrone Area School District receives Community Service grant

Thomas P. Carey, deputy secretary for elementary and secondary education notified the Tyrone Area School District that its proposed Community Service program has been funded for 2003. TASD was one of 48 districts and charter schools awarded funds through the grant process. $39,135 of grant proceeds were approved as a contract as part of Pennsylvania’s 1.8 million federal dollars administered through the No Child Left Behind legislation.
The goal of the community service program is to provide students with meaningful hands-on activities, to teach them the value of service to others in their communities, and to work toward academic achievement through service. The funds will be used to implement and coordinate the district’s program for students who are expelled or suspended from school and have a community service assignment as a part of their suspension/expulsion process.
“In the past community service was hit and miss,” said Sam Dean, grant writer for TASD. “Sometimes the superintendent would assign it and sometimes nobody assigned it. This really formalizes the process of community service. It will help to bring consistency.”
This is a disciplinary community service for students rather than community service for credit, which also exists at the school for general, academic and vocational students.
“The intent of it is to help the students pay back to his community for the harm that they have caused either to a peer, a staff member or property,” said Dean.
The district is exploring partnership developments with many Tyrone community agencies and organizations that are interested in hosting and providing service activities for students. These agencies and organizations include: American Red Cross, Blair County Recycling, Colonial Courtyard, Easter Seals, Epworth Manor, Habitat for Humanity, PA Cleanways, Salvation Army, Tyrone Borough, Tyrone Hospital, Tyrone Library, Tyrone Senior Services, Tyrone YMCA, Van Zandt Hospital and Volunteers for Literacy.
The steps of the community service program start with the student identifying his disruptive behavior. The next step is for that student to select or to be assigned to complete a service project at one of the participating agencies. The community service most likely will be performed during the period of suspension or expulsion for the student. Also, during this time the student must maintain academics by completing school homework web page class assignments. When the student returns to school, he will reflect on his experiences in writing.
“My goal that I envision here is that they’ll sit back and say, ‘You know, my behavior wasn’t appropriate,’” said Dean. “Hopefully, they will begin to see that there is networking in the community between agencies, that there is dependence and inter-dependence between these agencies and within the agencies.
“I want them to get a sense of serving. ‘Hey I do something wrong, I have to pay the price.’ I don’t want it to be that way. I want them to see some possibilities for careers. I want them to see what people have to do.”
The purpose is to use the suspension/expulsion as productive and engaging time for the student instead of just time off. The learning experiences that the student will gain from this community service program are important in the standards-based No Child Left Behind Legislation. The theory behind it is if the student is suspended and not in school, he is not learning. However, if he follows the steps of the program, he is doing community service and keeping up with academics, all during the time of suspension/expulsion.
“That keeps them occupied during the day. It helps them from having time on their hands,” said Dean.
The project will fund a part-time community service coordinator, which is TASD Police Chief Mark Frailey.
“Mark’s going to be the community service coordinator. He will oversee the program. He will meet with the different agencies in the community. He will generally take the student out, introduce the student to the agency, go over what the expectations are of the agency and make sure there is a very clear understanding of what that child is to do,” said Dean.
The project will also fund a part-time community service counselor, which is TASD teacher Tom Coleman. He will manage homework assignments and return completed work and provide counseling services to students and families.
“There are some students who may never be assigned to community service because they may be so hostile, so threatening, so agitated, or so emotionally unstable that we don’t want to have to manage them minute by minute. We don’t want confrontations with Mark (Frailey), with anybody that’s out with them, we don’t want confrontations with the host site. So we will be very careful and very judicious in how we assign, who we assign and where we assign,” added Dean.
In the school year 2000-01, 64 middle school students were either suspended or expelled for a combined total of 302 days. 53 high school students were suspended or expelled, and there were no elementary suspensions/expulsions. The purpose of the community service program is to redirect this time for students so that they develop more constructive behaviors.
“The ideal is to cut down on recidivism,” said Dean.