Novel Open Campus Pilot Program Brings Teachers and Administrators Together
The Pennsylvania State Education Association is a proud partner in the Open Campus project.
Presidents of PSEA’s local education associations, which represent the districts’ teachers, say the open campus model will strengthen their schools.
By adapting to changing technology and developing creative solutions for students with different educational needs, they believe the program will preserve teaching jobs, cut costs and reduce those leaving public schools for cyber charters.
Jason Ohrel, president of Hempfield Education Association, Mary Kay Fair, president of Penn Manor Education Association and Martin Pflieger, president of Manheim Township Education Association encouraged their members to not only participate, but to develop the curricula that would be used both on line and in the classroom.
The idea was so popular with the teachers that the districts had more volunteers than they could accommodate for the initial classes and there is now a waiting list.
“The Open Campus project allows teachers to give more options and flexibility to their students who need it,” Fair attests, “…which we believe will create more motivated students.”
As the idea was first being developed in 2011, Hempfield School District superintendent Brenda Becker, Penn Manor superintendent Michael Leichliter and Manheim Township superintendent Gene Freeman realized that for the program to be successful it would take not only teacher cooperation, but their development expertise as well. PSEA members would need to be an equal part in the venture.
They pitched the idea to Southern Region UniServ Wendy Leary, who quickly grasped the program would guarantee high-quality instruction by the districts’ professional staff, something many charter schools have been unable to offer.
“When we first heard about the project, we realized that the program was similar to suggestions being made by our teachers, who had recognized the changing needs of their students and had been seeking to develop courses that met that need,” Ohrel said. “We knew we would receive an enthusiastic response. And we did.”
“And by opening this up to the three districts,” Pflieger added, “it widens the pool of expertise while utilizing existing talent we have right here in Lancaster County.”