Jersey Shore gets a special surprise

PHOTO PROVIDED Sofia Patino Irurita, an exchange student at Jersey Shore, speaks with Sec. Rivera.

The Secretary of Education Pedro A. Rivera came to our end of Pennsylvania last Thursday. He stopped by Jersey Shore Area School District and visited Jersey Shore Elementary, Middle School and High School all within a short two-hour period.

Mr. Rivera has an outstanding resume that is built by a large amount of qualifications. Starting as a classroom teacher and staff member with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, he moved up to assistant principal, onto principal, and then became the executive director for the School District of Philadelphia. He held the title of superintendent of the school district of Lancaster from the years 2008-2015. Accompanying him on his visit to Jersey Shore were his press secretary, Nicole Reigelman, and various members of the district’s board and administration.

He first stopped at the elementary where he was greeted by the school’s principal, Mr. Keith Veldhuis. There they discussed a part of the School-Wide Positive Behavioral Support Plan which is a district-wide initiative, known at the elementary school as BARK.

“It started in the 2009-2010 school year, and is effectively reducing the number of office referrals, as well as referrals for special education, while creating a more positive school climate,” the elementary school’s website states. The following is what the acronym BARK stands for: Be Respectful, Act Responsibly, Remember Safety, and Keep On Learning.

Mr. Rivera and the other visitors stopped at a first grade classroom where all of the students were working on “Thinklink,” an app that allows the student to take a picture and label everything in the picture. They were busy labeling nouns, and Mr. Rivera had no problem helping out some of the students.

The next stop for the Secretary and his entourage was Jersey Shore Middle School. Like the elementary they discussed the School Wide Positive Behavior program. At the middle school, it is known as ROCK: Respect Yourself, Organize and Plan for Success, Care for People and Property, and Keep On Learning. The JSAMS handbook states that both programs are based off of “a nationally utilized program being implemented districtwide, including at JSAMS. In a nutshell, it’s all about creating Universal Expected Behaviors (UEBs), teaching them to our students, and then positively reinforcing students choosing to follow the standards held for them.”

The secretary was taken to the Life Application classes, which were shown to him to showcase the emphasis that the classes have on preparing the students for future education. Mr. Rivera talked to Mrs. Heather Reeder about her Technology Education classes.

“Mr. Rivera seems very interested in the effort that goes into preparing eighth grade students for course selection prior to the end of the school year,” Mrs. Laura Milarch, the principal of JSAMS, stated. “Overall, it was incredible the amount of time Mr. Rivera spent visiting the school. He spoke personally and knowledgably about career-readiness programs and was every engaging.”

Secretary Rivera finished his tour at the Jersey Shore Area Senior High School. He arrived and was personally greeted by Mr. Reed Mellinger, principal of JSASH, and Mr. Steven Keen, assistant principal of JSASH. The tour began with a visit to the Career and Technical Education wing, where they stopped at the school’s manufacturing, construction, automotive, and technology education classes, looked around. While there, Mr. Rivera and his entourage spoke with some of the students and they were very impressed with many of the students’ accomplishments within each of the certain classes.

On the way through the building, they made a stop at Mr. Timothy Green’s AP American History class, and then followed up with visiting Mr. Tom Neuschafer’s German class, where he explained the new technology that had been brought in and used during his classes to help the students learn faster, and more efficiently. The very last stop that was made before heading back to Harrisburg was at the high school’s Culinary Arts program, where refreshments by the culinary students were served. Mr. Keen said, “Unfortunately, time did not allow us to visit all of the wonderful programs and departments at JSASHS. However, Secretary Rivera was able to see how JSASH is personalizing education for our students through the Learning Pathways.”

Secretary Rivera said, “During my ‘Schools That Teach’ visit to Jersey Shore Area School District on Thursday I had the opportunity to meet with teachers, administrators, board members, and district staff who are all committed to ensuring students have access to the educational tools they need to graduate college and career ready.”

He said, “I was excited to see students as young as elementary school exploring the range of career pathways available to them. This kind of career exploration at an early age allows students to discover what sparks their interest early on in their academic lives. I saw how this focus on career pathways is impacting students from elementary school through high school through robust career and technical education programming. These investments in students reflect Governor Wolf’s vision for education that we’ve been highlighting as a part of his ‘Schools That Teach’ initiative.”

Abi Velez is a senior at Jersey Shore Area High School.