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School board touts achievements, welcomes PANDA at meeting

October 5, 2011
By Richard Sberna
The Sept. 26 meeting of the Poland Board of Education at Poland Middle School featured a presentation about a new program for students at PMS. Mark Covell, principal at the middle school, spoke about the PANDA Leaders Club, a student organization designed to encourage positive behavior and combat negative activity like bullying, and drug and alcohol abuse.

According to Covell, 100 students attended the club’s first meeting at PMS on Sept. 20, far exceeding expectations for its inaugural gathering.

“The idea is to make positive leaders and make a positive impact on the school environment,” Covell said. The group is a cooperative effort among students, faculty and guidance counselors, and Meridian Community Care. Meetings are held at 7:45 a.m., before the start of the school day, every other Tuesday.

Covell said the PMS group was inspired by the PANDA program at Boardman Center Middle School, with a focus on being peer-driven towards positive outcomes, including making positive choices, being comfortable with themselves and supportive of their fellow students.

The group is overseen by Teresa Delasandro, guidance counselor at PMS, with input from Covell, McKinley Elementary Principal Ed Kempers, plus a core group of teachers, parents and counselors from Meridian.

Covell says that planning began last winter, with administrators, staff and PTO members analyzing the programs currently available in the school seeking to fill a perceived void. The group identified the importance of the peer component beginning in middle school and tried to find a positive channel for peer influence.

“We felt it was something we needed to incorporate,” Covell said.

Students in the PANDA group talk about current topics in the school and community, engage in role-playing activities and other interaction exercises. They also plan and discuss other projects, including awareness campaigns and peer-to-peer activities with younger students from McKinley Elementary School. In fact, Covell said the group hopes to expand and include sixth-graders as well. “It comes from the students themselves,” he said. “The goal is teaching them how to be good, positive role models for the school.”

Interested parents can contact Delasandro for more information.

Elsewhere in the meeting, the board unanimously passed a resolution commending Cheryl Saculla and Jim Bennett, who will be this year’s honorees at the annual banquet of Poland Schools Foundation for Educational Excellence, scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 19 at The Lake Club.

Saculla will be recognized as Educator of the Year for distinguished academic contributions and meritorious service to Poland Schools. Bennett will be honored as Alumnus of the Year for distinguished accomplishments and recognition as a professional and community leader.

The board also commended faculty, students, parents, staff and administration for Poland Schools receiving an academic rating of Excellent from the Ohio Department of Education for the 2010-2011 school year. The district met all 26 indicators on the state’s Report Card.

“We’re very proud,” said Dr. Robert Zorn, superintendent of Poland Schools. He compared the achievement of 26 out of 26 to earning a 4.0 grade point average.


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