The easiest way to be in the know.
It’s Friday, January 28. Last week the West Chester Area School District shared a concerning report on students’ social emotional health that largely got overlooked as parents continued to bicker about masks. We revisit. Also, a local legend announces he is hanging it up after 53 years on the field and the winner of the Borough’s Professional Gingerbread Competition is announced. Who’s ready? Let’s catch up.
The Kids Are Not Alright
There was one thing in particular that stood out to me at Monday’s school board meeting and it was not the hour-long public comment session (interrupted with a 15-minute recess to let temperatures cool down and masks rise back up) over whether to continue to require masks in school. For those invested in that particular debate, there has been no change to the health and safety plan – as of now masks will remain as long as the transmission rate is considered moderate or above.
No what caught my attention was the mention of a Social Emotional Learning Data presentation given at the Pupil Services committee meeting that shows suicide risk assessments among other factors have doubled over the past year. According to the report presented by Director of Pupil Services Dr. Leigh Ann Ranieri too many of our students are not alright and masks, it seems, are the least of their concerns.
Three things that stood out:
More suicide risks assessments have been completed through December 29 than were completed during the entire last school year. With 156 suicide risk assessments already completed, those numbers will also likely eclipse the 216 assessments conducted during the 2018-2019 school year, the highest level on record. Reports of suicide to the Safe 2 Say Something anonymous tip hotline are also up, already more than double what they were last year and again, we are only half way through the school year.
There have been an alarming number of threats against the schools this year. According to the report, there were 13 school threats reported to the Safe 2 Say Something hotline. This is a 13-fold increase over last year – when there was one report and a quadrupling of calls reported during the 2019-2020 school year when there were three. “That’s a huge increase compared to any of the other years,” Dr. Ranieri told the committee members.
Calls reporting incidents of bullying (in person or cyber) are up 60 percent as of December. Last year there were a total of five calls to the Safe 2 Safe hotline regarding bullying, so far this year there have been eight.
While the total numbers are not huge, eight calls on bullying in a district of 12,200 students is not a ton and completing a suicide risk assessment does not mean a student is suicidal, still the trends are troubling. So, too, are some of the insights gained directly from students during one of the District’s Student Voice Days – a support measure introduced to help improve social emotional learning.
During a word cloud exercise 30 students were asked to share the “two words that represent the community you hope for.” At the top of the list for middle school students were “safe”, “inclusive”, “understanding”, “supportive”, and “respectful”; for the high school students it was “inclusive”, “understanding”, “united”, and “non-judgemental.”
While parents continue to bicker over what is best, it seems what the students really want is a community that is supportive, respectful and united. Of course, if that community also came with “no homework” and “less computers” they wouldn’t be totally against that either. Full disclosure the High School word cloud does include “no masks” but mentions were well below the top contenders mentioned above.
Read the full report here. Note: The School Board’s Pupil Services Committee fully admitted they had not dedicated enough time to this topic and they have promised more discussion at a future meeting.
Greystone Elementary has a playground!
This fall West Chester Area School District opened Greystone Elementary, its eleventh elementary school. A gorgeous building – with no playground. After a little sorting and (a lot) of fundraising, the Greystone elementary PTO was able to rectify the situation and now as we approach the year’s 100th day, they are proud to announce their playground is going in! “There is lots to be happy about,” Selene Lacayo of the Greystone PTO shared.
There will be slides and swings and plenty of climbing apparatuses. There will also be a must of the modern grade school playground – a gaga pit.
“That one, we are so proud to say, our very own students paid for with the money collected in the coin jars during our fall fundraiser,” said Selene. It’s always so nice when a story has a happy ending – and a gaga pit.
If you would like to help Greystone continue to add to their playground, they have been selected by the West Chester Rotary Club to be the recipient organization for the annual fruit sale fundraiser. You can order the fruit here, either for yourself or pay it forward to the West Chester Food Cupboard. Maybe, both?
Lock your home and your car and otherwise keep an eye on your possessions. Remember that headline that came out about a week ago – Chester County has 3 of the safest cities in PA? Well, we weren’t one of them. A recent ranking of PA cities based on FBI crime statistics put West Chester at 134 out of 179 when compared with communities with a population between 10,000 to 30,000. This places West Chester well above the median when compared to similar size communities. However, with 37 reported crimes for our 20,299 residents and a Crime Score of 1.82 we are still much closer to the low end then the high end when is comes to violent crimes. By comparison McKeesport, located just outside Pittsburg, registered 320 violent crimes per its 20,915 residents giving it a crime score of 15.3. That said, it doesn’t hurt to stay vigilant. Each night remember to remove valuables from your car and lock the doors. Also, close and lock your garage doors, house doors and windows.
Then move those cars into a garage or driveway, if you can. This week West Chester police responded to reports of 10 cars whose tires were slashed on Hannum Avenue and Chestnut Street on Friday night (or early Saturday morning). If you have any information or a camera that captures either of these streets, the West Chester Police would love your help on this one. Give Officer Samantha Long a shout at (610)-696-2700
Always be aware of your surroundings. Also, this week West Chester Police recovered and returned a wallet that was stolen off a patron at Barnaby’s on Saturday night.
Finally guns and schools don’t mix, (neither really to guns and home imo). Last Friday West Chester East student Juan Rivera was arrested by the West Goshen Police department after he was found in possession of a handgun and illegal drugs while on school property. An email went out to all parents in the district on Friday afternoon notifying them of the incident and a special meeting was held for East parents and students that evening about the incident. According to a press release on the incident issued by West Goshen police, there was “no indication that anyone was in immediate danger.”
Mr. Rivera was charged with possession of a controlled substance, possession of a firearm on school property and carrying a firearm without a license among other charges. In a letter to West Chester Area School District families, Superintendent Robert Sokolowski said he did not “believe this incident is at all reflective of the student body at East” and promised to “pursue [the matter] to the greatest extent allowable by law.”
Round of applause to Master Baker and Danielle Zahodski on winning the Greater West Chester Chamber of Commerce Professional Gingerbread Decorating Competition. Inspired by its gothic quality, for her winning design she chose to recreate West Chester University’s Philips Memorial Hall in gingerbread and icing. “I have always had a huge fascination for castles. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to recreate one that is basically right in our backyard!” she said.
A portion of the proceeds will go to stock the Master Baker’s Little Pantry outside their Gay Street offices.
Also, high fives to the West Chester University gymnastics team which beat Cornell with an all round team effort on Sunday. And while we are here, keep an eye out for the WCU women’s softball team come spring. The team recently learned it is ranked 9th among all Division II softball teams in preseason polling. Go Rams!
Finally fist bumps to the Henderson Boys Basketball team who beat Sun Valley this week notching their tenth straight conference victory. To quote HendyGolf22 on Twitter (and TimBuk3) “Future is so bright, I gotta wear shades.”
Say hello again to the Spicy Pig Café – which is coming back under partial new ownership and with a new head chef in the same Market Street location. The menu will revert to the original concept of American-Thai, locally sourced, when possible, and always made from scratch. Expect to see many of your old favorites as well as a few new recipes. According to the new chef, they are hoping to open in the next two to three weeks – if staffing allows.
Also a warm welcome to the Bocce ball team at Rustin. With the addition of the Rustin team, now all three West Chester High Schools are participating in the unified sports program through the Special Olympics Pennsylvania. The program brings students both with disabilities and without disabilities together in a competition that has been described as “unlike any high school competition you are ever likely to see.” If you would like to test that theory, the West Chester playoffs are being held on February 23, 3 p.m. at Henderson.
Finally, a warm welcome to Dr. Laura Detre, Karen Fleming and Stacey Whomsley, the newest members of the West Chester Area School Board. Each was sworn in at the annual organization meeting held in December and got a chance to see a board meeting from behind the tables for themselves this week. And speaking of new roles, Sue Tiernan is stepping up as the new board president and Gary Bevilacqua as the new vice president.
Say goodbye to the night’s (artificial) lights. The West Chester Green Team is conveying a subcommittee led by West Chester University Professor Marc Gagne to take a look at light pollution in West Chester. Light pollution is defined as “the excessive or poor use of artificial outdoor light” and can negatively affect everything from your ability to see the stars to the migration patterns of birds and insects to your personal health to the planet’s health (to Captain Planet’s health). If you are interested in learning more, the first meeting of the Dark Skies Initiative is taking place Tuesday, 6 p.m. at the West Chester University Planetarium and is open to the public.
Also, farewell to Coach Paul Stankewicz. Coach Stank, as he is known by his many players and fans, announced this week via the Henderson Athletic Department Instagram account, he is retiring after 53 years coaching (14 as an assistant, 39 as a head coach) the Henderson Boys Lacrosse Team. That, my friends, is a legacy. Congratulations Coach and best of luck in your retirement!
Pay it forward.
Did you know earlier this year Kati Mac Floral Designs reopened as the nonprofit Kati Mac Education Foundation – full-service floral design business and a work development program for those with disabilities? It is there mission to “provide a positive space for those with intellectual disabilities to learn, train and grow.” Currently the floral shop has four paid employees and two interns working onsite with intellectual disabilities. “We want our community to see how individuals with intellectual disabilities can contribute to society in meaningful ways,” shop co-owner Colleen Brennan told The Daily Local. The were also featured this week on the Eddie Knows West Chester Instagram page.
Want to support their work? Shop local this Valentine’s Day season.
Also this week, Fred Beans Auto group, including their Ford and Lincoln dealerships locally, presented a check for $27,500 to the Salvation Army of West Chester. The money was raised by giving a portion of all sales and services completed in December toward their goal for raising 50,000 meals for the community.
The freakin’ weekend.
What are you up to this weekend? We are watching to see if this snow fall will accumulate enough to go sledding – predictions are all over the place. Where’s the best sledding hill? I have been told its somewhere behind WCU. If the snow comes, maybe we’ll go looking. Then warm up with one of those espresso affogatos… yum.
For those of you that are planning ahead for Valentine’s Day but not so far ahead that you thought to make plans a week ago… Well, good news. Levante and Dia Doce have added a Beer and Cupcake pairing session for February 14 – the first one planned for the previous Friday is sold out.
Also, a shout out to Monday Movie nights at Uptown. We had a chance to check it out this Monday and so cute. Yes, beers were $10 each (ouch), but tickets were $5, so we felt justified and the kids were big fans of the free popcorn. They have a variety of movie selections including one animated option a month and one with a Chef tasting on Monday.
Mark your calendars:
- January 28 – Bad Hombres Return to Pietro’s, Pietro’s Prime, 8 p.m.
- January 29 – Brandywine Base Ball Club informational session, Levante Brewing, 11:30 a.m. Note this is not your typical baseball league – they play the game like it was meant to be played – liked originally in 1800s.
- January 31 – WCU Faculty recital, Stephen Ng, Tenor, Madeleine Wing Adler Theatre, 8-9:30 p.m.
- February 2 – An Evening with Frank Sinatra, Fiorello’s (730 E. Gay St.) 7-9 p.m.
- February 3 – Dark History Part 1: Murder, Madness and Misadventure in Penn’s Woods, 7 p.m. this is a virtual event provided by the West Chester Library and Chester County History Center. This is a virtual event. Registration is required.
- February 4 – First Friday, Downtown West Chester, enjoy free street level parking and live ice sculpting in front of the Old Courthouse.
- February 4 – Hollywood Nights: the music of Bob Seger, Uptown! Theater, 8 p.m. Tickets $40 + $3 service fee.
- February 4 – Countdown to Ecstasy: Music of Steely Dan, Uptown! Theater, 7:30 p.m. Tickets $30 + $3 service fee.
- February 5 – The Flying Komorowski Brothers, Slow Hand, 9 p.m.
- February 6 – Riverstone United Christian Academy open house, 430 Hannum Ave, 2:30 p.m.
- February 7 – First day of in person classes for WCU
- February 7 – WCU Faculty recital, Kimberly Reighley, Flute, Madeleine Wing Adler Theatre, 8-9:00 p.m.
- Feb 7 – Feb 25 – Network Connection: the sculpture of Erica Loustau, Knauer Gallery (817 High Street), Viewings Monday – Friday 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. Exhibits free and open to the public. Masks required.
- Feb 7 – Feb 25 – We the Women: Poster exhibit exploring women’s rights, John H. Baker Gallery (2 E. Rosedale Avenue), Viewings Monday – Friday 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. Exhibits free and open to the public. Masks required.
- February 8 – The Story of Chester County Hospital, Chester County History Center, 7-8 p.m. The event is virtual, the admission is pay as you wish.
- February 10 – Managing Change with Grace. Virtual program presented by the West Chester Public Library. Registration required.
That’s it. Stay safe, stay healthy and I’ll see you next week.
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