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Palisades receives STEM grant, PALMS acclaim


For the much-acclaimed Palisades School District, the hits keep coming.

At the March 6 public school board meeting, Michael Donnelly, the district’s director of curriculum, instruction, and assessment, reported that the district had won a targeted grant from the state, in the maximum amount of $35,000, which is designed for training teams of educators in the areas of computer science and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).

The grant is part of PAsmart, a new initiative by Gov. Tom Wolf “to invest in the commonwealth’s existing and future workforce,” according to the initiative’s website, which adds “an estimated 300,000 STEM jobs will be available in the commonwealth by 2026.”

The grant is part of the $20 million Wolf sought “to provide support to educational entities throughout the commonwealth, to support an increase in education and opportunities for learning in the area of computer sciences.”

“I submitted an application on behalf of the Palisades School District, and we were awarded the full $35,000 amount to begin our team’s training on ways to implement computer science and STEM in classrooms and in the curriculum, overall,” Dr. Donnelly said.

“I am looking forward to working with a team of Palisades educators that will serve as teacher leaders, and their colleagues in the area of computer science and STEM, so that we can continue to ensure that our students in Palisades are receiving a world-class education, preparing them for the unknown challenges with which they will be faced in the decades to come.”

After Donnelly’s presentation, Karl R. Scheibenhofer, principal at Palisades Middle School (PALMS), announced that the school had been recognized as one of the state’s “Schools To Watch,” by the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform. PALMS is one of only 480 middle schools so recognized in the nation, and one of 41 in the state.

The application process was four years in the making, including a year off when principals changed, and the recognition means other middle schools will be seeking to learn how they can approach the PALMS standard, including by making site visits. The application included completing a 30-page application document, and entertaining a site visit by the forum, for extensive interviews, observations, and data collection.

The official recognition came last December, with PALMS selected by the Pennsylvania Association for Middle Level Education (PAMLE) as a “Don Eichorn School: Schools To Watch, 2019-2022,” and the presentation was made at the PAMLE State Conference in February.

A PALMS community celebration of the recognition is planned for May 14, with invitations and details said to be coming soon.

PALMS has the opportunity to apply for continuing the recognition after the present term. Particular areas of focus are identified as academic excellence, developmental responsiveness, social equity, and organizational structures and processes, while featuring how leaders and teachers work together to bring about continuous improvement.

The school plans to continue to be active with PAMLE, as well as the national and state Schools To Watch program.

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