HISTORY OF SYLVAN HEIGHTS SCIENCE CHARTER SCHOOL

 

In 1997, when the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania passed enabling charter school legislation, Greater Harrisburg YWCA CEO Patricia Schwartz submitted a charter school planning grant to the Pennsylvania Department of Education for an elementary school that would focus on science, math, and related technology.  When the grant was awarded, Christie, Hansen & Associates was hired to assemble a group of volunteers and to prepare the application for a charter.  This planning committee entailed interested educators, community activists, businesspersons, parents, and YWCA staff.  The group included: Taja Barber, Cheryl Giles, Cheryl Harmon, Maryann Havalchak, Louise Kunkel, Brook Lenker, Fredrika McKain, Linda Moser, Bill Mosher, Jeanne Predmore, Stinson Stroup, Donna Weldon, and David Wise.

 

The first task of this group was defining the mission, vision, and core beliefs for the school.  The group reviewed research on charter schools and school reform movements and made school visits.  By the end of June 1997, the basic philosophy for the school was established and curriculum goals were set.  In addition to the focus on science and math, another distinguishing characteristics of the school was to develop family and community connections.  The school's application was submitted to the Harrisburg School Board in September 1997.

 

In January 1998, the Harrisburg School Board granted the Sylvan Heights Science Charter School a provisional charter, dependent on completion of items related to facility provisions, hiring of staff, and coordinating the school's calendar with Harrisburg School District.

The school's first Board of Trustees was named, with YWCA President Sheila Dow-Ford serving as President of the school.  Ms. Dow-Ford, an attorney and educator, was joined by five parents: Taja Barber, Julia Hoskins, Deidre Lenker, Fredrika McKain and Pamela Roberts; educators: Stinson Stroup, Cheryl Harmon, Louise Kunkel; business person: John Zarbus; and community activists: James Everett and David Wise.  A group of parents known as the Founding Families helped to organize the school lottery system and ran the school office for four months.  Parents also functioned as part of the Curriculum Committee, chaired by Louise Kunkel; the Personnel Committee, chaired by Stinson Stroup; the Finance Committee, chaired by Pamela Roberts; and other groups necessary to get the school operating.  Principal/CAO Susan Spadafore, M.Ed. was hired in June 1998 and a five-year charter was granted by Harrisburg School District in July 1998.  Parents continued to participate in determining the dress code, parent-school compact, and behavior code.

 

On August 31, 1998, Sylvan Heights Science Charter School opened its doors, becoming Harrisburg’s first charter school, receiving 88 students in grades K-2.  As the year progressed, the need for a larger facility became apparent.  In October 1999, the school was moved to 915 South 13th Street after a new site was leased and renovated.  Expansion of grade levels continued as planned, with annual renovations and increases in student population.  Kevin J. Moran, Ph.D. was hired in July 2001 as the new principal/CAO.  Since the school has opened, the Board of Trustees has been chaired by Sheila Dow-Ford (1998-99), Fredrika McKain (2000-01), Louise Kunkel (2002-04), Joseph Summers (2005-07), Colleen Ulrich (2007-2008), and J. Michael Troutman (2008-present).

 

On March 17, 2003, Harrisburg School District Board of Control approved the renewal of the SHSCS charter, allowing the school to operate through June 30, 2008. The charter was again renewed on November 19, 2007, allowing the school to operate through June 30, 2013.  The current enrollment is 220 students in grades K-4th.

Sylvan
Heights Science Charter School’s curriculum has a strong science focus which maintains high student interest and provides students with a strong knowledge base in an area having great potential for future career choices. Its governing board of trustees is composed of a diverse group of local citizens, parents, and community leaders having a vested interest in the success of the community, the experience to plan responsibly, and a wide-range of expertise to oversee all areas of school operation.

 

In January 2008, Senator Jeffrey Piccola presented Sylvan Heights Science Charter School with a Keystone Achievement Award for having attained Adequate Yearly Progress on state-wide PSSA tests for the past two years.  The school earned another Keystone award for its most recent PSSA test scores.

 

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