Less than two months after taking the helm as superintendent of the Shikellamy School District, Jason Bendle will present a plan to school board members tonight to encourage cyber school students to return to the district.
His plan could save taxpayers money, but more importantly, it features a strong effort by Shikellamy administrators to connect with 84 current cyber students and families about their educational plans and the advantages they may find by becoming Shikellamy students.
“My pitch here is that our kids are our kids, and they should be part of our district,” Bendle told us this week. “If they choose to come back to the district, then they get to participate in sports and all activities, including school dances. Most importantly, they get a Shikellamy diploma and we will be able to get a few more teachers.”
Bendle said he has already started reaching out to parents and wants to meet with each family and talk with them about what Shikellamy has to offer.
“I want to sit down and talk with people,” he said. “I truly believe not only will this be something that saves us money, but it is, more importantly, a way for our kids to become part of the district and get a great Shikellamy education.”
The superintendent’s plan is to expand the school district’s virtual academy — which currently enrolls sixth through 12th grade students — opening it up to pupils in kindergarten through fifth grades.
Because the school district is still required to fund the education of all students residing within its borders, Shikellamy is currently spending $1.2 million to support cyber students. The district would save taxpayer dollars for every student who returns to the Shikellamy School District, which had an enrollment of 2,869 during the past school year.
Bendle also notes that the district can craft flexible educational plans for each student.
“They can come in when they want,” he said. “Some people may like the class they are taking and want to come to the building. We can customize schedules for each student.”
Pennsylvania has 14 cyber schools that enroll more than 37,000 students, according to the state Department of Education.
Here in the Valley, the Shikellamy, Lewisburg, Danville, Milton, Selinsgrove and Warrior Run school districts offer cyber schooling options for their students.
Bendle offers an intriguing plan to blend some of the best elements of cyber and traditional classroom instruction in an effort to not only support the public school system and the taxpayers who fund it, but most importantly, to achieve the academic and social goals of students and their families.
NOTE: Opinions expressed in The Daily Item’s editorials are the consensus of the publisher and top newsroom executives. Today’s was written by Digital Editor Dave Hilliard.