NEW BETHLEHEM – In a unanimous vote Monday night, the Redbank Valley School Board authorized the start of a new student club at the high school.

The new club, known as SPARK, stands for “Strengthening Positivity And Reinforcing Kindness” and is an accredited branch of the nationally recognized Smile Project.

According to the constitution of the organization, the goal of a SPARK club is to “show the student body how far a single random act of kindness can go.” The club is also dedicated to keeping a positive attitude, spreading smiles and inspiring those who come in contact with members.

A letter presented to the school board by interested students states that the purpose of the local SPARK club chapter is to encourage positive people to find creative ways to put kindness into action.

“This chapter would allow us to host service events and, in a larger sense, raise the morale of our entire community,” the letter continues. “SPARK clubs can benefit students as well, teaching us creativity, leadership, understanding and perhaps most importantly, compassion and love through charitable projects and random acts of kindness.”

Board member Ann Kopnitsky, who explained that her daughter was one of the club’s founding members, noted that impetus to start the SPARK club came from students who were introduced to the idea this summer while attending the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) program at Westminster and challenged to implement similar programs at their own schools.

While requiring a total of 10 student signatures for an organization to be considered, the letter presented to the board included the names of 12 interested students. The letter also indicated that Redbank’s SPARK club will use fundraising to be “entirely self-sufficient,” with all profits going to benefit the school or the local community.

“I think with what the club stands for in general, you couldn’t find any blemish in it,” student board representative Peyton Kirkpatrick said on behalf his peers, urging the board to consider voting in favor of the club.

He added that one of the things the district has been working on this year is getting rid of bullying, an act that the SPARK club could play an active role in.

“As a teenager it just helps when someone offers you a random act of kindness, whether it be picking up books in the hallway or inviting someone to join in something,” Kirkpatrick said.

Also during the Nov. 7 meeting, district superintendent Michael Drzewiecki announced that the state Department of Education publicly released the latest crop of district School Performance Profile (SPP) scores last week.

“These scores are basically the school assessments that are used to ensure that all schools in the state are meeting the Pennsylvania standards for academic growth,” Drzewiecki explained, noting that this is also the first year that the school’s scores will be used as 15 percent of the teachers’ annual professional assessment.

According to Drzewiecki, both the high school and the intermediate school at Redbank met the standards for academic growth set by the state, scoring SPPs of 72.7 and 74.9 respectively.

“In fact, the high school was one of only five school districts in the region to follow the framework that met those standards,” he said.

He continued that the intermediate school also did very well and that its score was very comparable to others in the region.

Drzewiecki noted that while the primary school, which received an SPP of 57.4, did not meet the standards, the reason for that was because PSSA testing doesn’t begin until third grade, leaving the K-2 school with no “growth measurements.”

“The primary school is using [the SPP] to reflect on areas that they need to focus on to get the students prepared to go from second to third grade and on,” he said.

“Again the schools did very well,” Drzewiecki continued. “I want to send kudos to the administration, students and teachers.”

For more information on SPP scores from across the region, visit www.paschoolperformance.org.

Other Business

• The board accepted a letter of retirement for district business manager Jack Loughner. Loughner has served in the position for the last 16 years.

The resignation of kindergarten aide Lisa Bowersox was also accepted. Crystal Over was reassigned to the vacant post.

• New water bottle procedures were added to the student handbook for the high school.

According to the procedures, only clear water will be permitted, and all bottles must be properly disposed by the end of the school day.

In addition, water bottles will not be allowed in computer labs or around computers or during standardized testing.

The motion passed in a 6-3 vote.

• A transportation contract with Valley Lines for the 2016-17 school year was approved.

• Travis Anthony was hired as assistant girls varsity basketball coach at a salary of $3,400.

• The following individuals were added to various substitute lists: Clinton Hetrick and Conan Colwell, bus/van driver; Patricia Henry, aide; Holly Kijowski, LPN/aide; and Terry Downs and Carolyn Husted, custodial.

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