Lehigh Valley

Allentown School District gears up for new school year

ALLLENTOWN, Pa. - For Allentown School District teachers, a scoreboard replaced a chalkboard, students running through the halls gave way to mascots racing the baseline and Coca-Cola Park became the classroom a week before starting class. 

"We wanted to have a different vibe, a feeling, for opening schools in our district," said Superintendent Thomas Parker.

He and Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera were the stars as they prepped teachers for the upcoming year.

After the diamond, teachers took to the streets. Those at Harrison Morton Middle School canvassed the community extending a personal touch to students and parents with Principal Daria Custer already trying to recruit these homeschooler's to her public school team.

"We have a lot of staff members who want to get out there with our community and neighbors," she said.

The first pitch that gives the district a chance for a winning year.

Like a star closer, the state gave the district some much needed relief.

Facing a $14 million budget deficit, Harrisburg provided $10 million in aid helping to balance Allentown School District's budget, a budget that now spends more than $50 million on charter schools, up from $6 million in 2003.

Secretary Rivera said the district's role in being one of three schools statewide taking part in a PILOT program, as the state moves away from relying on standardized tests, helped to seal the financial deal.

"They showed through their plan of moving forward. They will be good stewards of state dollars.
That is what made the biggest difference," he said.

For Superintendent Parker, hitting a scholastic homerun come June means not only improving on lagging test scores, but also providing the right coaching no matter your school colors.

"Being able to connect and build relationships with parents and students and really have them communicating that we're providing the support and resources they need," he said.

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