Category Archives: Youth and students

High-Tech Manufacturing: Aliquippa Summer Camp Opens New World to Students

Kordell Boose, 17, of Aliquippa takes instruction on finishing an aluminum cast during the Titans of Pittsburgh Summer Camp’s field trip Wednesday to Robert Morris University’s engineering lab. [Lucy Schaly/For BCT]

Learning about career opportunities in the manufacturing industry is the purpose of the pilot Titans of Pittsburgh Summer Program developed by Catalyst Connection and Southwestern Pennsylvania BotsIQ.

By Marsha Keefer
Beaver County Times

Aug 10, 2019 – MOON TWP. — Students, most of them from Aliquippa, gathered Wednesday at a robotic work cell in an engineering lab at Robert Morris University’s John Jay Center for the School of Engineering, Mathematics and Science.

For most, it was a seminal moment. The two previous days, they sat at computers at the Family Life Center housed in the Church in the Round in Aliquippa, and used software to design a product. Now, those drafts would be programmed into a computer-controlled milling machine to carve their designs in a rectangular block of aluminum — a process that took all of seven minutes.

What had been merely a concept would come to life.

Most of the 23 students enrolled in the four-day summer camp — high school juniors and seniors and a few recent graduates — had never worked with computer-aided design (CAD) programs and certainly not computer numerical control (CNC) routers, said Scott Dietz, director of workforce initiatives at Catalyst Connection, an economic development organization based in Pittsburgh that helps small- to medium-sized manufacturers improve competitive performance.

“We’re seeing sparks happening already this week in the few days we’ve had with them,” he said. “We’re seeing light bulbs going off. The students are seeing stuff they haven’t been exposed to before. We think the program is definitely a success.”

Essentially, learning about career opportunities in the manufacturing industry, is the purpose of the pilot Titans of Pittsburgh Summer Program developed by Catalyst Connection and Southwestern Pennsylvania BotsIQ, a manufacturing workforce development program that engages high school students in robotics competitions to stimulate interest in manufacturing careers.

Catalyst Connection works with 2,800 manufacturing companies across 12 counties in western Pennsylvania, Beaver County included, Dietz said.

“When we go in their doors, the first thing they tell us when we ask ‘what is their biggest pain point’ is workforce — lack of workforce,” he said.

Dietz estimated 30 percent of the current workforce will retire in the next 10 years and that’s compounded by the large number of job needs now.

“We recently did a survey of 100 of those manufacturers who told us they have 2,300 job openings,” he said. Extrapolating those numbers, Catalyst Connection projects a shortage of about 20,000 workers, Dietz said. Continue reading High-Tech Manufacturing: Aliquippa Summer Camp Opens New World to Students

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Memo to Tom Wolf and Harrisburg: An Eye-Opening Description of Pennsylvania’s Failed School Funding System

By Valerie Strauss
Washington Post

Dec 11, 2014 – Many school reformers today like to say that “money doesn’t matter” in making schools work and that holding students and teachers more “accountable”   — largely through standardized test scores — is what is needed.

Certainly a great deal of money can be used poorly but that is not the same thing as money doesn’t matter. It is, however, a good mantra for people who want to ignore the severe and consequential funding inequities that persist in the U.S. public education system across the United States.

According to this 2013 report on school funding by the Education Law Center:

    In fiscal year 2010, the most recent year for which data is available, state governments, on average, funded 43.5 percent, or $259.8 billion, of the total amount spent on public education. School districts and other local sources were responsible, on average, for almost 44 percent of all public school spending or $261.6 billion. The federal government, on average, provided almost 13 percent of the total revenue received by public schools, or $75.9 billion.

With most of the money coming from state and local sources, disparities are inevitable, especially because in most places local sources are dependent on property taxes, meaning that poor areas have less money to spend on schools. Federal money given to low-income areas doesn’t close the gap.

So how inequitable can school funding be within a single state? Let’s look at one of the most troubled in this respect, Pennsylvania.

Here’s some testimony from Michael Churchill of the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, given to a public hearing of the Basic Education Funding Commission in Pennsylvania about school funding:

    Pennsylvania’s system of funding schools is a failure by every criterion: equity, adequacy, predictability, fairness. Too many students in too many schools are unable to meet state standards of what children should know and be able to do. Too few are going on to college or are prepared for well paying jobs. No one is responsible to calculate how much it will cost districts to provide the necessary instruction and support. The inequity of the system is glaring: the amount of public resources spent on preparing a child to succeed in the adult world varies from $9,000 to $27,000 a year, which is a quarter of a million dollars difference over a school career from K to 12th grade. But it is not only unfair to children, it is unfair to taxpayers where the tax burden can vary from the equivalent of 8 to 36 equalized mills of tax effort for homes with the same value. And in the ultimate insult, the districts bearing the highest tax burdens frequently have less dollars to spend on their students than districts with tax burdens half the amount.

    The reasons for these multiple failures are simple:

    1. Too few state dollars result in too high reliance on local dollars;
    2. The system does not take into account how much it costs to educate children.
    3. State dollars are distributed on a basis which does not reflect the tax effort of the district.

Continue reading Memo to Tom Wolf and Harrisburg: An Eye-Opening Description of Pennsylvania’s Failed School Funding System

Young People Take to the Street in Solidarity with Ferguson, Garner and vs. other Killings

Pittsburgh police give Downtown protesters their space

By Liz Navratil

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Dec 4, 2014 – Julia Johnson let out a piercing scream on the steps of the City-County Building on Thursday afternoon.

“Stop killing us!” she yelled next. Then, she screamed loudly once more.

Below her, on the steps leading to the Downtown building, dozens of people lay on the ground, their limbs splayed outward as if they were dead. Later, some would be outlined in chalk, and Ms. Johnson would scatter flower petals over their bodies.

On the outskirts of the protest — which at times swelled to include about 100 people — were Pittsburgh police officers on bicycles and on foot, some in plainclothes. Most of them stood silently or chatted with one another while the crowd — over about two hours — chanted slogans such as “no justice, no peace” and “no racist police.”

Their message was being echoed at similar demonstrations across the country — they decried a New York City grand jury’s decision not to indict an officer who killed Eric Garner in a chokehold this year and lamented a Missouri grand jury’s decision not to charge an officer who killed unarmed teenager Michael Brown.

20141204MWHprotestLocal17-1 Protesters rally against police brutality and racism by marching with their hands up along Liberty Avenue, Downtown.

Protesters rally against police brutality and racism by marching with their hands up along Liberty Avenue, Downtown. Michael Henninger/Post-Gazette

But this demonstration, unlike some in other cities, ended peacefully and without arrests.

Pittsburgh police Cmdr. Eric Holmes stood on the fringes of the protest as groups blocked traffic at four intersections and as one of his officers coordinated with demonstrators to clear the path for a woman driving her child to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.

The issues discussed, he said, were important to many officers on the force. “I obviously recognize that I’m an African-American male, so I’m going to come to the discussion on both sides.”

Cmdr. Holmes said he took a “passive approach” to working with the demonstrators. “I allowed them to block the street, and I made that call, so that decision rests with me. We wanted to make sure that individuals are allowed to exercise their First Amendment rights and we do recognize that with that comes a cost, and today that cost was [the] disruption of traffic.”

Elizabeth Pittinger, executive director of the Citizen Police Review Board, watched as the group gathered outside the City-County Building. She praised the police and the protesters for the way they acted. The 2009 G-20 Summit aside, she said, Pittsburgh residents and police have a long history of peacefully interacting with each other at protests.

Still, tensions at times were high. Iyanna Bridges, who is black, yelled in the street at a white man who she said described their protest and stories as “funny.”

Continue reading Young People Take to the Street in Solidarity with Ferguson, Garner and vs. other Killings

Wolf’s Challenge: PA ‘One of the Worst’ in Funding Its Schools

Schools, Parents Sue Pennsylvania Over ‘Educational Caste System’

 By Deirdre Fulton

Beaver County Blue via Common Dreams

Nov. 11, 2014 – Six school districts, seven parents, and two statewide associations sued [1] the commonwealth of Pennsylvania on Monday, claiming legislative leaders, state education officials, and the governor have failed to uphold the state’s constitutional obligation to provide a system of public education that gives all children the resources they need to meet state-imposed academic standards and "participate meaningfully in the economic, civic, and social life of their communities."

According to the complaint [2] (pdf), "state officials have adopted an irrational and inequitable school financing arrangement that drastically underfunds school districts across the Commonwealth and discriminates against children on the basis of the taxable property and household incomes in their districts."

"The disparity in education resources has created an educational caste system that the Commonwealth must eliminate." —Wade Henderson, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

As a result, the plaintiffs claim that hundreds of thousands of students throughout the state lack basic educational supports and services—functioning school libraries, up-to-date textbooks and curriculum materials, reasonable class sizes, guidance counselors, school nurses, vocational-ed and college prep classes, academic tutoring programs, and more.

"My child is in classes with too many other students and she has no access to tutoring services or support from paraprofessionals, but our elected officials still expect and require her to pass standardized tests," said [3] Jamela Millar, parent of 11-year-old K.M., a student in the William Penn School District. "How are kids supposed to pass the tests required to graduate high school, find a job and contribute to our economy if their schools are starving for resources?"

The state NAACP and the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools joined the suit on behalf of their members. Urban, suburban, and rural districts are represented among the plaintiffs. While the state-run Philadelphia School District did not join the legal action, two Philadelphia parents are part of the suit and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers issued a statement in support on Monday.

Continue reading Wolf’s Challenge: PA ‘One of the Worst’ in Funding Its Schools

At Visit To Aliquippa HS, Wolf Talks Schools And Taxes

Tom Wolf with Mayor Dwan Walker (Photo Credit: KDKA)

By Jon Delano

BEAVER COUNTY (KDKA) — Students in Aliquippa had the day off — except for the undefeated football team hard at practice.

But that didn’t stop Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf from pushing his education plan at the high school.

“We’d like to welcome you all. If you’ve never been here before, this is Aliquippa,” quipped Mayor Dwan Walker.

Walker, with State Rep. Rob Matzie and school superintendent Dave Wytiaz, briefed the candidate before a short press conference.

“I’m here because this is important to me as a Pennsylvanian,” said Wolf.

“Education actually matters,” he added. “It doesn’t matter because I’m running for governor. It matters to all of us who want to build a business in Pennsylvania. It matters to all of us who want to build a family in Pennsylvania. It matters to all of us who actually care about a society where people can actually get a head. This is how we transform lives.”

By imposing an extraction tax on natural gas drilling, Wolf pledged to bring state funding of education back up to half of school spending

Continue reading At Visit To Aliquippa HS, Wolf Talks Schools And Taxes

Philly Students ‘Strike’ in Support of Teachers

Beaver County Blue via Inquirer Staff

Last updated: Wednesday, October 8, 2014, 10:39 AM
Posted: Wednesday, October 8, 2014, 8:32 AM

Students from at least two Philadelphia public high schools are refusing to go to classes this morning to protest the cancellation of their teachers’ labor agreement.

"We’re striking because every single teacher in the districts benefits are at risk and being played with through politics," organizers said in a Facebook post.

Dozens of students protested outside the High School for Creative and Performing Arts on South Broad Street and the Science Leadership Academy at 55 N. 22d St. in Center City.

The School Reform Commission on Monday canceled the labor contract with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers in a move aimed at requiring the union’s members to contribute to their health care costs.

The action had the support of both Gov. Corbett and Mayor Nutter.

At CAPA, band members provided music for the protest.

Outside SLA, students were holding up hand made signs and beating drums in a buoyant, upbeat demonstration.

"This is why we’re striking," Ruby Anderson, 18, an SLA senior said as she offered information leaflets from Students4Teachers to passersby.

Throughout the morning, SLA students offered up a variety of chants, including: "SRC! Leave our teachers be!" and "Tom Corbett, shame on you! We deserve a future, too."

Striking students planned to remain outside the schools until noon, when the schools are to close for a scheduled half-day.

Six Arrested in Philly Protest at Corbett, Christie Campaign Stop

Teachers, Parents and Students Spotlight School Cuts

By Allison Steele and Julia Terruso
Beaver County Blue via Philly Inquirer

June 10, 2014 – As many as 1,000 protesters, many angry about school funding, blocked traffic and waved signs in Center City on Monday afternoon, hoping to disrupt or at least deflect attention from a fund-raising stop by Govs. Corbett and Christie.

"Our members are here because they’re being mistreated," said Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.

Six people were arrested for obstructing the highway – a summary offense – after sitting down on 17th Street. Police did not use handcuffs as they led them away.

The names of those arrested were not available Monday night, but a statement from the coalition group Fight for Philly identified them as "parents, activists, and retired teachers."

The two Republican governors were scheduled to appear Monday evening at a private fund-raiser hosted by the Republican Governors Association. The association did not release details of the event, including its location.

Continue reading Six Arrested in Philly Protest at Corbett, Christie Campaign Stop