Monthly Archives: November 2011

They’re Your Schools

Revitalizing our urban centers and sustaining vibrant communities where people want to live and work is not possible without strong schools that offer robust curricula and are safe for children. Last year, Pennsylvanians witnessed $900 million worth of cuts in public education. As a result, local school districts have been forced to cut kindergarten classes, after-school tutoring programs, the arts, and sports. In order to pay for what the public schools have left, boards must modestly raise taxes to fill the gaps caused by the budget cuts, but this isn’t even enough. Consequently, we are seeing reductions in programs offered to the students who attend the 500 school districts in Pennsylvania. 

Make no mistake about it… this is not a Republican or Democrat issue; this is your issue. While the schools have been given more state testing requirements (a way to hold them accountable to the taxpayers and to the state for money spent), there has not been any meaningful review of how the schools have been funded through all these changes. The state has ordered a “costing out” study and a “school consolidation study,” neither of which have led to more streamlined or efficient school governance. It is time that we get serious about a statewide funding formula that is “aligned to learning standards, fiscally responsible, fair, and both Constitutional and ethical” according to “Education Voters.”

You have that opportunity to be heard on Monday, December 5th. Education Voters is calling on you to speak up. Go to the website (http://www.educationvoterspa.org/) and follow the easy prompts that will get you to your legislator so you can voice your opinion on public education in Pennsylvania. We must let them know what is important. Get involved in your community. After all, it is YOUR community.

Giving Thanks for HUD Grant

Time to give thanks for $3.4 million coming to the Lehigh Valley from HUD!  On Monday, 21 November 2011, HUD announced $96 million worth of “Sustainable Communities Awards” which were distributed to help communities create jobs and improve housing, transportation, and the economy in urban and rural areas.  There were requests for over $500 million in funding from communities in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, so as you can see, the competition was tough; only 29 regional areas received “Regional Planning” grants nationwide.

According to HUD’s press release: “The Regional Planning Grant program encourages grantees to support regional planning efforts that integrate housing, land-use, economic and workforce development, transportation, and infrastructure developments in a manner that empowers regions to consider how all of these factors work together to create more jobs and economic opportunities. The program will place a priority on partnerships, including the collaboration of arts and culture, philanthropy, and innovative ideas to the regional planning process.” (To read the full release, click here: http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/press/press_releases_media_advisories/2011/HUDNo.11-274 ).

The article contains a chart listing every award in the country.  There were only two awards granted in Pennsylvania: one in Erie and one in the Lehigh Valley. Another noteworthy fact is that only five of the 56 awards were greater than the $3.4 million granted to the LehighValley. Obviously HUD took notice of the impact our regional cooperation is already having and is encouraging us to continue to improve on the good things that are happening here.

Now, here’s where you come in. It is time to have your voice heard! Speak up and let us know what you want to see in the plan for YOUR communities.  Renew Lehigh Valley is responsible for the “public participation” or community engagement piece. Start thinking as a participant in this process. More to come as the plan unfolds…

In the meantime, relax, enjoy your turkey, and give thanks.

The New Faces of RenewLV

RenewLV welcomes two new members to our team this fall– Pam Colton, Executive Director, and Rachel Bradshaw!

Pam Colton comes to Renew Lehigh Valley after 24 years of service in the US   Government’s Open Source Center where she spent time as a document analyst, an editor, a “Daily Report” manager, and an overseas chief editor, working in places like Nicosia, Cyprus, Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Reston, Virginia, and her home in Washington Township, PA. Before taking her position in the federal employee ranks, Pam graduated with a degree in Political Science and Russian/East European Studies from the University of Pittsburgh.

Upon returning to the Slate Belt where she grew up, Pam made a successful run for the Bangor School Board, where she was just re-elected for her fourth term. As school board vice president, she has negotiated two successful five-year teacher contracts and numerous other Act 93 contracts. She represents the board as its legislative liaison and is also its representative on the board of the Colonial Intermediate Unit #20.

Pam was also instrumental in starting the Slater Family Network Foundation, Inc (SFN), a family center based in the Bangor Area School District. SFN is a joint venture with the school district, the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley, Two Rivers Health and Wellness Foundation, Northampton County Children & Youth, the 21st Century Community Learning Center, and other donors and is currently beginning its 12th year of assisting families in the Bangor School District with resources, referrals to programs throughout the Lehigh Valley, and advocacy on an as needed basis. Pam served as the organization’s president for 11 years before stepping down to pursue the position at RenewLV.

Rachel Bradshaw is a Community Fellow from Lehigh University. She will be serving as the Community Coordinator for the next year as she pursues her M.A. in Political Science. Rachel graduated from Western New England College with a B.A. in History.

While attending Western New England, Rachel was extremely active in the First Year Students & Students in Transition Program. She mentored a cohort of 20 first year students for three years as a Peer Advisor and led the Peer Advisor group her senior year as a member of the Steering Committee. Rachel also assisted in reinstating the Sexual Misconduct Advocate Response Team (SMART) at Western New England, while serving as the Community Coordinator of the peer education and support group. She facilitated peer educational events and workshops in partnership with the Springfield YWCA. While at Western New England College, Rachel was also a member of the Historical Society, Class Council, Omicron Delta Kappa Honor Society, Mortarboard Honor Society, and Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society.

Rachel has worked at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania as the Education Assistant for the past three summers planning and executing educator workshops and week-long institutes. Her previous work experience at the National Constitution Center and her thesis work at Western New England encouraged her interest in both the nonprofit sector and public policy. The fellowship at RenewLV offers a unique opportunity to combine her two interests while she gains practical experience coordinating events and collaborating on initiatives. Rachel resides in her hometown of Perkasie, Pennsylvania.

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