Rallying for Scotland School

February 04, 2009|By DON AINES

Rendell's budget draws criticism

SCOTLAND, PA. -- Students and faculty at Scotland School for Veterans Children held something like a pep rally Tuesday morning, not to drum up school spirit for a basketball game, but for the upcoming fight to keep the school open.

"I know you feel like our lives got flipped over yesterday," guidance counselor Lindsey Leonard said, referring to Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell's proposal to close the school. She told the students what they do in the last months of the school year could determine the school's future.

"We have to show our leaders, Gov. Ed Rendell, that we belong here," Leonard told the students assembled in the auditorium. That includes performing well on standardized tests to demonstrate the educational value of the school, she said.


"We went from crying and sadness to being mad. We are going to fight," math teacher Ray Smith said. Students need to have their parents and guardians contact state legislators and tell them why their children should not be returned to public schools.

"You have to excel, excel, excel every day," Smith told the students.

"The state doesn't know what they are doing. They are breaking up a family," football coach Keith Lehman said.

"Some of us grew up here," said one student who addressed her classmates. The senior said she might call "Bill Gates, Donald Trump and Tyra Banks" to get the money to keep the school open.

In his budget message Wednesday, Rendell said many states opened schools for orphans of soldiers following the Civil War, "but those schools are long since closed. The fact is, none of the students in the school are orphans of veterans, and only seven have parents who are currently deployed."

It costs $45,000 to educate each of the students at the school, Rendell said. There are 288 students, 80 percent from the Philadelphia area, at the school that has an annual budget of $13.5 million, according to the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

The school also employs 186 people at the 183-acre campus, according to the department.

State Sen. Richard Alloway, R-Franklin/Adams/York, said Tuesday the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee should hold a hearing at the school to examine the effects of its closing on the community, the students and staff.

State Rep. Rob Kauffman, R-Franklin/Cumberland, called the proposal a "slap in the face" to veterans and said he had contacted the House's Black Caucus to enlist its support to keep the school open. Rather than close it by June 30, state Rep. Todd Rock, R-Franklin, said the governor should have proposed a phased closing over a period of years.

"Keep your hopes up," said a sophomore who addressed the students. "A lot can happen between now and June 30."

At the end of the rally, students and teachers joined hands in a ring inside the auditorium.

"I will do my best on the tests ... I will ask my parents to make phone calls ... I will be on my best behavior ... I will have a good attitude ... We are Scotland Cadets," they said in unison.

There will be a meeting Saturday in Philadelphia for parents of students from that area. Parents from other parts of the state can attend a meeting at the school at 1 p.m. Friday, Feb. 13, to meet with representatives of the state Department of Education and Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

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