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Washington, DC - Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) unveiled his bipartisan anti-bullying in schools bill. Casey’s bill would require schools districts across the country to develop and implement locally driven anti-bullying policies that protect vulnerable children. A Department of Education study found that 1 in 3 children between the ages of 12 and 18 will be impacted by bullying. Casey highlighted a school district estimate that works to show the potential impact across the state.  
 
“Bullying is a challenge that impacts far too many children and families across the country,” Senator Casey said. “With the advent of text-messaging, social media, and social networking, many children find they cannot escape the harassment when they go home at night. It follows them from the moment they wake until the moment they go to sleep. This legislation will ensure that schools districts across the country take proactive steps to combat bullying and protect children.”  
 
The Safe Schools Improvement Act is designed to help schools address this problem. It requires:
- Schools and districts receiving federal funding to specifically prohibit bullying and harassment, including conduct based on a student’s actual or perceived race, color, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or religion.
-Ensures that schools and school districts focus on effective prevention programs in order to better prevent and respond to incidents of bullying and harassment both in school and online.
-Requires that states report data on incidents of bullying and harassment to the Department of Education
The state ranks schools on a scale of one to one hundred, and we crunched the numbers and found some of the lowest-performing schools according to the state's ratings, but one district we spoke to said there's much more to those numbers.

Teresa Young is the middle and high school principal here at Harmony School District -- the second lowest ranked in our area, but she says people need to know more about what these numbers represent.

Young said, "I believe the school performance profile in a sense is comparing apples to oranges."

Harmony School District has an average class size between 18 and 26 -- so each child's performance makes up a large portion of the score.

Young said, "The demographics of a class can have a big impact."

School performance profiles are closely tied to state standardized testing scores. 40 percent is made up from academic achievement, while academic growth and closing the achievement gap also make up a portion. There's even extra credit for advanced achievement and students taking a-p and baccalaureate classes.

Young says in 2014 they were named one of America’s best high schools by US News and World Reports. Meanwhile, their school performance profile scores were not that great.

Local state representative Carl Walker Metzgar says he understands the struggles of smaller schools -- but says that transparency is good.

Rep. Carl Walker Metzgar, (R) - 69th District, said, "There is some room for tweaking, but at the same time one of the lower performers are the biggest school districts, and that's Philadelphia."

The lowest performing district in our region is one of the largest -- Greater Johnstown School District.

They received a score of 52 out of 100 -- far behind Harmony School District.

We tried to speak with them about their scores, the superintendent cancelled our interview and the assistant superintendent never returned our calls.

Some administrators say this standardized information is more comprehensive than before, but that it might not be appropriate for every community.

Harmony School District says they've changed their class offerings to score better on the tests. They now have some of their teachers certified to teach AP classes to grab some of the “extra credit” on their School Performance Profile score.

CLICK ON ONE OF THE LINKS BELOW FOR MORE DETAILS.

Bedford County

Blair County 

Cambria County

Cameron County

Centre County

Clearfield County

Elk County

Huntingdon County

Jefferson County

Somerset County

Rankings by County










LAKEMONT, BLAIR COUNTY -- Students at St. John the Evangelist in Lakemont, Blair County performed to a crowd gathered to mark National School Choice Week.

An innovative scholarship fund helps to pay tuition for K-12 students who need assistance. 

High school senior Clarisse Spencer is thankful she's received some financial  help to attend her school choice - Bishop Guilfoyle.

"It's been the choice for me because I've met the best friends that I'm going to have the rest of my life. I've had a great educational opportunity and I know BG has prepared me for college."

This 21st Century Scholarship is funded through local businesses directing a portion of their tax dollars to the fund.





JOHNSTOWN - A state grant will attempt to help control teen alcohol use, drug use, and violence in Cambria county.  The nearly $99,000 dollar grant was awarded to the Cambria County Prevention Coalition.  

Members of the coalition say the plan to help teens in Cambria County will only work if the community comes together.  They say they have been analyzing data from the Pennsylvania Youth Survey to help to identify the factors that put teens at risk.

All are invited to attend the coalition's meeting on Tuesday February 10 from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. at Central Cambria High School in Ebensburg.  Those interested in attending the meeting are asked to RSVP to secretary@cambriahealthandwelfare.org.



TYRONE, BLAIR COUNTY - Many schools across the viewing area dismissed early Thursday. Superintendents told WTAJ News they wanted get ahead of the projected icy mix that was expected to hit the normal dismissal time.
 
PennDOT was also ready to go in anticipation of the wintry mix. Crews were out on their routes on standby for the weather since it was too cold to pre-treat Thursday.

"A lot of our snow routes are approximately 40 miles in length so you can imagine by the time they start that route until they get back to that route, get their truck refilled up, there could be snow back on that roadway so we do want people to use caution because we cannot be everywhere at once," said Tara Callahan-Henry, PennDOT.
 
The ice is trickier to treat than the snow, but Callahan-Henry said the snow from this past weekend helped the roads
 
"Because we've had continuous snow falls right now, there is enough residue on the roadway. If you look at a lot of the roadway you can see the white to it, so that's the residue which is the same thing that salt brine would do."
 
For the latest on the road conditions, click here.

PUNXSUTAWNEY, JEFFERSON COUNTY - In just a few days, Punxsutawney Phil will make his annual prediction.

Gobbler's Knob usually attracts 15,000 to 20,000 visitors a year when the holiday falls on a Monday. But, event organizers are concerned the weather might keep people away on Groundhog Day.

"It's a little overwhelming at first whenever you get in. It's not very often in Punxsy on a normal day that you can't find a place to park," says Groundhog Club executive director Katie Donald.

"We enjoy the folks who come in from out of town," says Groundhog Club President Bill Deeley.

Deeley, a retired undertaker who was first invited to join the Inner Circle about 30 years ago, says the event has grown  more complicated over the years.

"Who's going to help us park cars, who's going to help us with security, did we order the fireworks, the banquet," says Deeley.

"It was a just a little tree stump in a little clearing and you know the Groundhog Club and the big officials with the Groundhog Club would go and my uncle George was a part of that," says Punxsutawney native Doris Krupiewski.

The club says 30,000 people came last year, but on a Sunday.

"We're expecting a smaller crowd because it is on a Monday and the weather," says Donald.

When Phil's not at Gobbler's Knob or traveling for a special event, you can usually find him here at his burrow next to the Punxsutawney library.

"Every day we're open, there's people," says library assistant Jane Parente. "From all over from the United States, Europe, we had people one time from Iceland. ...They want to know how old he is mostly and we tell them 130 or however many years this has been going on."

"There's only one Phil, okay, Phil is like the Easter Bunny, Phil is like Santa Claus," says Deeley. "There's only ever been one and how we come up with that is we give Phil a little shot of punch every summer at our picnic."

Two members of the Inner Circle are handlers, and library employees say they use a special door on the outside to go in and feed the groundhog or hogs that stay in the burrow.

"Carrots and bananas and granola bars," says Parente. "They have a little plexiglass cage with wheels that has straw and stuff on the bottom when they're taking him because he goes everywhere. He goes to the Farm Show, he goes to schools, he even several years ago was on the Oprah Winfrey Show."
* The full list of school rankings will be online tonight at 11:00.

The state ranks each school on a scale of one to one hundred. So we decided to take those numbers, calculate an average for each school district and find out who's doing well -- and why.
 
Richland School District and State College Area School District take top honors in our region -- Richland is ranked second, while State College is the top school in our ten county viewing area. The success in these classrooms come as no surprise to their superintendents.
 
Arnie Nadonley, Superintendent of Schools, Richland SD, said, "I'm blessed to be here. I can't put it any simpler than that."
 
Nadonley just started at Richland and says a lot of the success in the classroom can be attributed to parental support. Richland surveyed parents. Those surveys said 90 percent of parents support education -- but it wasn't always like that where he worked.
 
"I've been in districts where surveys have indicated that it's less than 30 percent parental support,” said Nadonley.
 
State College's classrooms rank best -- an 87.6 out of 100. Superintendent Bob O'Donnell is happy about that -- but is looking to the next step no matter how small.
 
O’Donnell said, "I think one of the analogies that we discussed was what happens from water when it goes from 211 degrees to 212. You're going to start boiling. And one degree makes a difference."
 
A school's degree of success with school performance profiles are closely tied to state standardized testing scores. 40 percent is made up from academic achievement, while 40 percent is made from academic growth and closing the achievement gap also make up a portion. There's even extra credit for advanced achievement and students taking a-p and baccalaureate classes.
 
O’Donnell said, "It surely is not a comprehensive look at a school system, but it's a step further than where we've been."
 
Love it or hate it, these scores tied to tests in the classroom are here to stay.
 
Scott Gettig, Geometry Teacher at State College Area School District said, "Well we're certainly at a time where scores seem to be more focused than ever and seem to be one of the main focuses of education, and although those scores are important we certainly don't want to forget about the kids themselves and what we're teaching."
 
Superintendents agree these school ratings are a step forward, but they're not so sure that a school or district can be compared by just a number.

HARRISBURG - Highmark will continue to cover pregnancy and followup care at Magee Women's Hospital of UPMC this year. The resolution announced Thursday by Governor Tom Wolf covers women with Highmark insurance who became pregnant and sought treatment last year.

They'll continue to have in-network access to Magee Women's Hospital through the end of this year. Because of the dispute between Highmark and UPMC, Magee Women's is out of network for most Highmark customers.

PENN STATE, UNIVERSITY PARK - Five months ago, Penn State President Eric Barron charged a 17-member specialized task force to look into the issue of sexual assault and sexual harassment on campus and to identify solutions to help combat the problem.

Thursday, that task force is releasing its findings.

It's a more than 200 page report with 18 recommendations to help combat the issue of sexual violence on campus. Members of the task force said the focus needs to be on education and communication.

"We're talking about being active bystanders, making sure that if we see something, we deal with it," Peggy Lorah, Director of the Penn State Center for Women Students and member of the task force said.

Lorah said there are a number of groups on campus that work to raise awareness about the issue of sexual violence, but said the messages are all different.

"Making sure that we're knowledgeable and paying attention to what each other is doing and that we're partners instead of unintentionally working at cross purposes," she said.

The task force also recommends a mandated training process for all university employees to help educate them on the issues involved with sexual misconduct.

Other recommendations include creating a new, stand-alone position at the university and to coordinate Title IX goals and initiatives and changes in the Office of Student Conduct. The task force recommends the office move away from its traditional hearing process and embrace an investigative approach to look into sexual misconduct cases.

Senior and task force member Alexandra LaMont wants to see more follow through.

"Students are just kind of at a loss because they get a text that an assault has occurred and they feel bad and then there is nothing they can do, there is nothing they know about what happened," she said. "You get the text, you feel a certain way and then there is nothing else to go off of. I think that's where the issue gets lost in the mix."

The task force presented its findings to President Barron last week. He's expected to respond the week of February 16. To read the task force's full report, click here.
UNIVERSITY PARK - A Penn State Sexual Assault Task Force is announcing its findings today on how to best curb these types of crimes on the University Park campus.

In 2014 this task force was assigned to spend several months examining the issue of sexual violence on and around the Penn State campus.

The task force gave their findings and recommendations to Penn State president Eric Barron in a 267 page document late this morning.

Penn State says it hopes this report will promote an environment where victims of assault feel comfortable reporting it to police.

ALTOONA - Movers are beginning to take equipment out of the Easter Seals building in Altoona.

The staff, in partnership with Tyrone Hospital and Procare, wants to continue providing occupational, physical and speech therapy at the facility.

Another organization, Kids First, has announced plans to open a new pediatric therapy center.

Both groups asked the Blair County Commissioners to allow them to use the Easter Seals building.

The commissioners indicated they'll support the Easter Seals proposal.

PHILADELPHIA – Governor Tom Wolf today signed an executive order reinstating a moratorium on new leases for oil and gas development in state parks and forests. At an event in Benjamin Rush State Park, Governor Wolf signed the executive order with members of the General Assembly in attendance.

“Natural gas development is vital to Pennsylvania’s economy, but so is the economic and environmental viability of our parks and forests,” said Governor Wolf. “This is about striking the right balance. Our state parks and forests are unique assets that should be preserved, protected, and utilized by our residents for recreational purposes.”

“Our parks host 38 million visitors annually, support over 13,000 jobs, and provide $1.2 billion to the state’s economy,” Governor Wolf continued. “We should be looking for opportunities to grow our recreational and tourism economy through a revitalized parks and forest system that ensures we are preserving our natural resources and protecting our people and the environment.”

Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) has concluded that additional leasing jeopardizes the agency’s ability to sustain the commonwealth’s gold-standard forest certification, which is vital the economic and environmental well-being of the state’s parks and forests. The executive order states that effective immediately, DCNR is directed to protect the lands of the Commonwealth that are held in trust for its citizens and for future generations, and subject to future advice and recommendations made by DCNR, no State Park and State Forest lands owned and/or managed by DCNR shall be leased for oil and gas development.
HARRISBURG - Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced today that charges were filed against a Beaver County man for the murder of Katherin Dolan Heckel of Lock Haven, Clinton County.

Loyd Groves, 65, of Beaver, Beaver County, was arrested and charged with one count of murder in the first degree and one count of murder in the third degree.

The Office of Attorney General opened the current investigation in November 2013 following a referral from the Clinton County District Attorney’s office, which is the culmination of previous investigative efforts spanning almost 25 years.

Evidence was gathered by the Pennsylvania State Police and Federal Bureau of Investigation and presented by the Office of Attorney General to a statewide investigating Grand Jury, which recommended the charges being filed today.

The Grand Jury found that co-workers Heckel and Groves began a brief romantic relationship during the summer of 1991. When Heckel informed Groves she wished to end their relationship, Groves murdered her following a loud and riotous fight at their place of employment, former colleagues recalled decades later. 

According to the Grand Jury, Groves disposed of Heckel’s body in a manner that caused it never to be found.

The case will be heard in Clinton County.





PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Why were several snow shovelers in Montgomery County stopped?

Officials in Lower Merion are now investigating.

On Wednesday evening, Police Superintendent Mike McGrath stepped before cameras, saying that the stopping of the two snow shovelers yesterday and two others in the same neighborhood had nothing to do with racial profiling.

The two shovelers are African American, and the owner of the home who hired them, Deborah Saldana, had expressed concerns that police detaining them and telling them to sit for at least part of the time in the snow, in fact, was driven by their race.

“The police pulled up, started talking to the boys, and then sat them down in the snow,” recalls Saldana.

She says she was surprised to see the two young men she had just hired to shovel her walk sitting in the snow, ordered not to move by police officers, who had pulled up and started questioning them.

“I think this is just a little extreme. They’re shoveling snow in broad daylight,” Saldana says.

She also says that when the two young men asked to get up from the frozen ground, they were ordered to stay put.

“He had asked if he could stand up because it was cold, and they said, ‘No, you have to remain seated,’” Saldana explains.

When Saldana and her father tried to learn more, they were told to go back inside their home.

“They told [my father], ‘Sir, go back in, we’re conducting an investigation,’” she says.

Eventually, after what Saldana estimates was about 20 minutes, the two young men were released.

“They were shaken up, they were pretty shaken up,” Saldana says. “They were nervous.”

Saldana says the officers told her the young men had been detained because you need a $50 permit to shovel snow in Lower Merion.

“Why did the kids have to sit in the snow? Why didn’t they sit them in the police car, or on our front steps, for that matter?” Saldana wonders. “I thought I was watching profiling. I think it’s wrong, I just think it’s wrong. They weren’t dangerous. They had shovels in their hands.”

On Wednesday, the police superintendent denied any racial profiling. There is a soliciting ordinance in Lower Merion for snow shoveling or soliciting anything else. If you are an adult over 18, as these two were, the superintendent explains you need a permit.

The reason they were told to sit in the snow is that, momentarily, a background check indicated they may have had warrants issued for them. They did not, and they were not charged with anything.

McGrath says that in one case — this is one of two — the shovelers actually shook hands with the officers before leaving.

HARRISBURG - State Treasurer Rob McCord announced Thursday morning that he's stepping down.

McCord held the elected seat for six years. McCord's last day in February 12th.

McCord released this statement, "It has been the privilege of a lifetime to serve the citizens of Pennsylvania as their elected State Treasurer for the past six years. But with my goals at Treasury now achieved - and with a new governor now in office to appoint my successor - it is time for me to return to the private sector."

During his time in office, McCord and his team:
        -repaired a severely underfunded PA 529 college savings plan, solving a $400 million problem (the program is now more than 100 percent funded);
        -dramatically improved operational efficiencies of the department, increasing revenues from non-investment activities per employee by 133 percent during his six years;
        -helped reduce the risk and increase the return on a variety of state investment portfolios;
        -modernized the state's information technology and payment systems with a large, award-winning project that came in 20 percent under budget;
        -dramatically expanded Treasury’s role as a fiscal watchdog (e.g., recently triumphing in a struggle with the NCAA to keep Penn State fine money in Pennsylvania); and
        -initiated and expanded a number of innovative Treasury programs that help Pennsylvanians save money, afford higher education, make their homes more energy efficient, and prepare for retirement.

STATE COLLEGE -- Pennsylvania lawmakers are taking a look at the Public School's Code.  It was written in 1949 and uses derogatory terms to describe people with special needs. Even though the code has been amended and updated in recent years, the language within the code has been overlooked.

Pennsylvania Representative Scott Conklin sits on the Education Committee and says a change to the terminology within the code has been proposed and the committee is looking it over.

Parents who have children with special needs say it's about time these changes come.

Rep. Conklin says he is confident the changes will be approved but the proposal must go through its due process in the committee before going through the House and Senate and landing on the Governor's desk.
ALTOONA - With the biggest game in professional football just days away many people are planning to go out or host parties to watch it. And police are making plans of their own.

The Blair County DUI Task Force says they will be out for a special operation this weekend to make sure the roads are safe.

Chris Cohn is part of the task force. On big drinking days like before Thanksgiving, New Years Eve, and the Super Bowl they usually set up extra patrols and check points.

Cohn says just because someone has driven after drinking and gotten away with it in the past, doesn't mean they'll get away with it again and someone could easily get hurt or killed.

And Altoona Police Chief Janice Freehling says people who aren't even on the road still have responsibilities. She people hosting parties need to make sure the people that are leaving have a designated driver.

If someone is arrested for dui it can cost up to ten thousand dollars and they can lose their license for years.
ALTOONA - One local city struck a much better, more profitable, deal with the federal government.

For decades the city of Altoona has leased a property off of Chestnut Avenue near the railroad shops to the federal government. That's the building surrounded by razor wire. For all this time the city has been leasing it for a dollar a year.

But now the city has struck a new deal, and if council approves it they will get more than $96,600 a year for the lease.

City Council will vote on whether or not to accept the new contract at their next meeting.
HARRISBURG - Today, the Pennsylvania Game Commission gave preliminary approval to change part of the Youth Hunter Program. The change is that any mentored youth hunter under 7yrs old, won't be issued tags for turkey or deer. Instead, the tags must come from the adult mentor. There were some concerns that adults were unlawfully harvesting animals with those youth tags. There's no minimum age to be a mentored youth hunter in Pennsylvania.
A front will bring some snowfall Thursday afternoon into Friday. Right now this looks like a minor event. There have been indications of a more significant snow for Groundhog Day but are the models are now trending away from that.