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  • Travelers on the Pennsylvania Turnpike this weekend are reminded that a 19-mile stretch will be closed early Sunday morning for a bridge removal.

  • As Harrisburg School District emerges from financial distress, school board incumbents and hopefuls say they're focusing on establishing stability and strengthening community partnerships that promote the success of students. Three candidates for Harrisburg School Board appeared at a forum sponsored by K.I.N.G.S, the new Keeping Innercity Neighborhoods Great and Safe organization of African-American men formed to create opportunities for youth. The forum, held at Camp Curtin YMCA on Saturday, attracted about 20 audience members who engaged in a spirited discussion on topics including teacher recruitment and retention, classroom control, and student success. Candidates attending were incumbents Jennifer Smallwood, the board president seeking a four-year term, and LaTasha Frye, seeking a two-year term. Challenger Judd Pittman, formerly a district teacher, is seeking a two-year term. The other five school board candidates were informed of the forum via their Facebook pages, said K.I.N.G.S. President Jamien Harvey. Pittman said he learned of the forum around the 11:30 scheduled start time. The board is working on positive initiatives, including the district's revived early childhood program, said Smallwood. She encouraged more residents to attend board meetings to share concerns and ideas. "We all have a responsibility, when we live in the city, to help, in whatever way, shape, or form," she said. Poverty in the district and such issues as teaching English to students of 30 ethnicities present the district with unique challenges that cost money, Smallwood said. "Those are the issues that we deal with when our kids come to our schools," said Smallwood. "Not only do we have to educate, but we have to provide those services so they feel safe, so money is always going to be an issue." From the audience, Karl Singleton, senior adviser to Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse, called on the school district to do good for the community while it asks for help. An energy-efficiency contract fell short of minority participation goals, he said, but Smallwood cited a study showing disparities in skills and said goals are difficult to attain "if you don't have the staff or workers to meet it." Singleton responded, "We can't sit back and say we can't set a goal because we don't have enough workforce to meet that goal." In the wake of resignations by 25 percent of teaching staff, the district is recruiting new teachers by attending college events, including at Pennsylvania's historically black Cheyney University of Pennsylvania and Lincoln University, Smallwood said. "We all want it to start and to be better today, but it's a process," Smallwood said. "When you're dealing with 25 percent of your staff leaving and replacing it, now we have to focus resources on getting them trained, and sometimes it's a battle but we're in it." Audience members wanted details on how new teachers are being trained and retained. K.I.N.G.S Vice President Darnell Montgomery, a teacher at the district's Rowland Academy, asked how the district with a largely minority enrollment "gives information to teachers as it relates to cultural diversity." "It's about resilience," said Donrico Colden from the audience. "What are we doing to help teachers to not quit?" In a district where many building administrators are also new, the board is "trying to find the principal that best meets the needs of the building," said Smallwood. The district acknowledges exceptional teachers with awards, said Frye, a Harrisburg High School graduate who added that she'd like to see more incentives encouraging alumni to become district teachers and live in the city of Harrisburg. Principals spend a lot of time on student discipline when they should be given opportunities "to carve out time so they can truly be educational leaders on a daily basis," Pittman said. Pittman, now an educational consultant, said the district should take advantage of free training resources and strategically place "the best people to mentor our teachers so that they have a positive experience, so they know what they need to do so they can stay in the classroom," Pittman said. "How can we make sure that we're not the training grounds for CD East, for Central Dauphin, for Susquehanna Twp., and making sure that we're keeping those teachers here?" said Pittman. "We have the great teachers here to do that." Audience members urged the board candidates to boost student success by monitoring the effectiveness of tutoring programs, ensure that teachers help students individually, and promote entrepreneurship and anti-hunger initiatives. Looking forward, Smallwood said the district is making steps toward "building stability for Harrisburg School District so it can succeed when I'm done on the board." Frye said she strives to "fill gaps" in the experiences of Harrisburg's young people, inside and outside of school. Pittman said his priority as a board member would be making sure that choices now being made in district curriculum "are correctly vetted" to assure student achievement and wise use of taxpayer dollars.

  • A multi-vehicle accident Saturday afternoon is blocking a southbound lane on I-83 near exit 32, according to Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

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