PHM Introduces ParentSquare, new parent communication tool

With the start of the 2024-2025 academic year, P-H-M is switching to ParentSquare, a new unified, user-friendly, communications platform designed with parents and guardians in mind. 

Click here to watch a short video introduction.

ParentSquare provides a centralized location for families to receive communications from school principals, teachers, coaches, and front office staff on all their students, in all schools, in all classrooms! 

Parents/guardians receive alerts, updates, and posts on:

  • important notifications, such as school closings and delays
  • attendance
  • principal & teacher newsletters
  • school & classroom calendar of events
  • volunteer & RSVP for events
  • fill out permission slips & other forms
  • … ALL IN ONE LOCATION!

Families chose their preferred mode of communication for non-urgent notifications– app, text, email, phone. Parents/guardians can also chose to have all communications automatically translated to their preferred first language.

As we approach the first day of school (Wednesday, August 21), principals and teachers will be using ParentSquare to share important “Back to School” information. Parents and guardians are asked to activate their accounts by Monday, August 12, 2024.

PLEASE NOTE: If your child is transitioning to a new building from last school year, the information will be updated later this summer. You are still able to register for ParentSquare.

To activate parent/guardian accounts, parents need to check their email for the welcome and introductory email.

The email was sent between Thursday, July 11 and Friday, July 12, 2024 with the subject line: “Penn-Harris-Madison School Corp. is now using ParentSquare.” 

The sender of the email will appear as “Penn-Harris-Madison via ParentSquare” with a donotreply @parentsquare.com email address, similar to this … donotreply+01d8d49e-b6f1-47f3-ac23-d45abf67b233@parentsquare.com

P-H-M’s DVT & Planetarium Renamed Arthur M. Klinger Planetarium

Mr. Art Klinger, the man credited with being the “father” of P-H-M’s DVT & Planetarium, was honored today when the facility he helped create 44 years ago was officially renamed in his honor. The new P-H-M Arthur M. Klinger Planetarium sign now hangs on the exterior of Bittersweet Elementary School, where the facility is housed. It was unveiled to cheers and applause on the afternoon of May 14, 2024. Click to watch the video below.

On hand for the unveiling and dedication were Klinger’s wife, son, and longtime friends. Also present was P-H-M Superintendent Dr. Jerry Thacker, Executive Director of P-H-M Education Foundation Jennifer Turnblom, members of PHMEF Executive Board, P-H-M School Board Members Jim Garrett and Ryan McCullough, P-H-M Administrators, and current Planetarium Director Melinda O’Malley. P-H-M former Superintendent Dr. Dean Speicher also attended. It was under Dr. Speicher’s leadership that Bittersweet school and the Planetarium opened in 1980. Bittersweet first grader teachers and students added to the celebration. The students made a banners to mark the occasion.


PHM School Trustee VP Ryan McCullough, former PHM Superintendent Dr. Dean Speicher, Art Klinger, current PHM Superintendent Dr. Jerry Thacker, & PHM School Trustee Jim Garrett

Click to see the full photo gallery on P-H-M’s website.

Klinger began his 45 year career with P-H-M in 1970.  He taught Earth and Space Sciences at Schmucker Middle School, a position held for 10 years before taking over the Planetarium as its first director. Klinger’s interests in astronomy, aviation, and space travel made him a natural for the position. He was a pilot receiving his private pilot’s license in 1974. He was a member of the Great Lakes Planetarium Association and the International Planetarium Society. Klinger even authored an Introductory Astronomy text book that was used in Penn High School and IUSB astronomy classes; the last revision was August 2020. 

It was Klinger’s interest in the space travel history and NASA that really transformed the Planetarium. Astronaut Col. James Irwin, Lunar Module Pilot of Apollo 15 (8th man to land on the Moon), was the honorary speaker at the Planetarium’s public dedication in February 1981. He was the first of six astronauts to visit the Planetarium over the years; a Russian cosmonaut even visited in 1994. With every visit, personalized autographed photos were donated.

The Planetarium’s Space Museum came about through a connection Klinger made with the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum because of his application for the “Teacher in Space Project” in 1984. From that connection, 47 artifacts, including 16 that have actually been on the Moon, were loaned to the museum. Klinger eventually secured autographed pictures of all flown astronauts. He even obtained the autographed photos of the scientific minds behind the “Space Race,” like Wernher von Braun and Yuri Gagarin. Klinger states that according to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, P-H-M is the only public school district that not only has artifacts from the space program, but also has items that have been on the Moon. Click here to watch a video of Klinger talking about the importance of space exploration.

Klinger served as Director of P-H-M’s DVT, Planetarium Space Museum for 35 years retiring in 2015 after working at P-H-M for 45 years.

Dr. and Mrs. Thacker donated $10,000 to the Penn-Harris-Madison Education Foundation to rename the Planetarium the Arthur M. Klinger Planetarium.

This $10,000 donation is among four donations to PHMEF that Dr. and Mrs. Thacker have made as part of the Naming Rights Campaign. All recognize the contributions P-H-M employees have made to the community:

Per PHMEF’s Naming Rights fundraising initiative, 80 percent of the donation will go into Foundation’s endowment, which will in turn provide alternative and additional funding for various co-curricular and extracurricular programs. The remaining 20 percent directly funds professional development initiatives for
P-H-M teachers. Continuing the education and training of teachers is a major priority the School Corporation.

The mission of the Education Foundation is to develop alternative sources of income to support education initiatives in the School Corporation by strengthening partnerships between the community and the District. PHMEF supports education through awarding innovative teaching grants, staff development and other corporation-wide initiatives.

Multicultural Night Photo Gallery

Our annual Multicultural Night was Thursday, May 9. The event celebrates our school’s diverse cultures. Families and staff had booths with information and history, crafts, or food from their native or ancestral countries. Some students and family members performed. 

Take a look through the photo gallery.

Mrs. Nichol Mondy Named P-H-M Elementary Teacher of the Year

National Teacher Appreciation Week kicked off with Penn-Harris-Madison Superintendent Dr. Jerry Thacker Monday surprising 3rd grade Northpoint teacher Nichol Mondy that she had won the district’s Elementary Teacher of the Year!

With the help of Northpoint Principal Lorraine White, a handful of P-H-M district administrators, and news crews, Dr. Thacker surprised Mrs. Mondy she had won this year’s award. Click to watch the video below; and click here to see the photo gallery below.

Mrs. Mondy is in her 12th year with P-H-M and all at Northpoint; she started as a Teacher’s Aide at Walt Disney. Mrs. Mondy started out as a kindergarten teacher, but has chosen to stay a 3rd grade teacher so she can continue to coach Northpoint’s 3rd grade Spell Bowl Team, which has quite the record!

The joy of teaching is different for every teacher. For Mrs. Mondy, her joy comes when a “huge guitar shaped package arrives;” she gets “giddy!” Every year in time for Arbor Day, Mrs. Mondy orders 100+ free trees for every student in 3rd grade to take home and plant.

“I want my students to see that they can do great things,” says Mrs. Mondy. “Just knowing the correct answers to their weekly test will not change our world for the better.” 

Prior to the P-H-M Education Foundation purchasing Spheros for all 11 elementary schools, Mrs. Mondy was already hard at work helping to build this new culture of robotics integration at Northpoint. She worked with the PTO to purchase a set of Sphero Bolts and Interactive Game Balls for the school. By helping her fellow teachers learn code and how to utilize the new resources in their classrooms, she in turn was instrumental in helping all Northpoint students learn coding. She then used the bots for after school learning clubs, as well as school day projects and learning experiences.

Mrs. Mondy put her creativity to work and organized Norhpoint’s own “Macy’s Day Parade.” Third graders programmed their Sphero Bolt to hold a balloon and make it go a specific distance down the hallways. She was the perfect person to help organize Northpoint’s first STEM night this past April. The hope is that this is the first step that will lead to the IDOE naming Northpoint a STEM Certified School. 

Whether it’s with trees or robots, Mrs. Mondy continues to help her students grow, learn and try new things. 

Mrs. Mondy also serves as Northpoint’s High Ability and Academic Coordinator and leads the school’s Teacher Leadership Team (TLT). In her TLT role, she leads discussions with her fellow teachers on how to make lasting impacts on student learning, solving problems and finding solutions, and advocating for the learning potential of every student.

When it comes to her students, Mrs. Mondy says she always tries to remember that children grow up to be adults and that teachers, and others have lasting impacts, “There are always times to show the sweet kids love, but what the class will notice most is when you show love to ones that push away that love. You show that you care when it is hard to love.”

Northpoint Principal Lorraine White says of Mrs. Mondy, “She is one of those people who brings joy to all those around her. She has a contagious joy about her that makes people laugh—students, staff and community members alike.”  

During the week of May 6, Dr. Thacker will also surprise the winners of the Secondary Teacher of the Year and Classified Employee of the Year. All winners will be officially recognized at P-H-M’s Employee Recognition & Retiree Dinner on Wednesday, May 22nd. Along with a plaque, the two Teachers of the Year will also receive a grant from the P-H-M Education Foundation to use in their classroom. Both TOY winners will go on to compete for Indiana’s Teacher of the Year, which will be announced in early Fall 2024 by the IDOE.

P-H-M Named 2024 Best Community for Music Education

Penn-Harris-Madison School Corporation was named among the 2024’s Best Communities for Music Education (​BCME) in the country by the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation for the 11th year in a row! P-H-M is among only 17 Indiana school districts, out of about 300, that made the list.

Now in its 25th year, the 2024 Best Communities for Music Education program has recognized 583 school districts and 135 schools across the country for the outstanding efforts by teachers, administrators, parents, students, and community leaders and their support for music education as part of a well-rounded education for all children. This recognition celebrates and recognizes K-12 music teachers in school districts who found creative ways for the “show to carry on” despite schools moving online or to in-person settings where masks were required not only for student musicians and instruments.

In P-H-M elementary schools, music class is part of the regular curriculum following state standards. Students are instructed in both vocal and instrument classes. Beginning in 6th grade, P-H-M students at our three middle schools (Discovery, Schmucker and Grissom) have the opportunity to choose choir, orchestra or band as their music elective. Students at Discovery also have the option of choosing Piano Lab. Schools from elementary all the way up to Penn High School also perform musicals.

Horizon Elementary students perform Charlie Brown Christmas
Horizon Elementary students perform Charlie Brown Christmas

Penn High School offers the Fine Arts & Communication Academy as part of its unique academy structure. The seven academy design provides Penn students with relevant and meaningful coursework taught in smaller, supportive environments where each student is known well by his teacher and peers. Nearly a third of Penn’s total 3,500 students are enrolled in the Fine Arts Academy with the majority being involved with music programs, either Choir, Orchestra, Band or another music program.

Penn High School Band students perform A Evening of Jazz (Feb. 9, 2024)
Penn High School Band students perform A Evening of Jazz (Feb. 9, 2024)

To qualify for the Best Communities designation, P-H-M answered detailed questions about funding, graduation requirements, music class participation, instruction time, facilities, support for the music program, and community music-making programs. Responses were verified with school officials and reviewed by The Music Research Institute at the University of Kansas. Research into music education continues to demonstrate educational/cognitive and social skill benefits for children who make music.

In a series of landmark studies by scientists and researchers at Northwestern University a link was found between students in community music programs and life-long academic success, including higher high school graduation rates and college attendance. In another study from the University, it was discovered that the benefits of early exposure to music education improves how the brain processes and assimilates sounds, a trait that lasts well into adulthood. Beyond the Northwestern research, other studies have indicated that music education lays the foundation for individual excellence in group settings, creative problem solving and flexibility in work situations, as well learning how to give and receive constructive criticism to excel.

2024 PHM Elementary Spell Bowl Results

Tuesday, March 19 was P-H-M’s annual Elementary Spell Bowl event. Student 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade teams from all 11 elementary schools compete. Click here to see the photo gallery below.

Below is this year’s “leaderboard”:

3rd Grade Winners:

3rd gr. winners, Northpoint

  • 1st place- Northpoint with 29 points, coached by Nichol Monday
  • 2nd place- Prairie Vista with 27 points
  • 3rd place tie – Bittersweet, Horizon and Mary Frank each with 22 points

4th Grade Winners:

4th gr winners, Northpoint

  • 1st place- Northpoint with 30 points, coached by Jen Payne
  • 2nd place- Bittersweet with 29 points
  • 3rd place- Prairie Vista with 27 points

The 5th grade competition was very close with Northpoint and Bittersweet neck and neck. The tiebreaker words were: panache, soup du jour, fluorescence, pharmaceutical and Albuquerque.

5th Grade Winners:

5th gr winners, Northpoint  5th gr 2nd place, Bittersweet

  • 1st place- Northpoint with 38 points, coached by Ros Morehouse 
  • 2nd place- Bittersweet with 37 points
  • 3rd place tie – Prairie Vista and Horizon each with 26 points

Overall Bittersweet did so well that when the 5th grade team came out on stage to be recognized, the other students and parents cheered, clapped, and gave them a rousing round of congratulations!

Bittersweet team recognized  Bittersweet recognized

The teams spend weeks preparing for Spell Bowl with their teacher coaches. They may study word lists, learn about derivations (e.g., Latin roots) and rules (e.g., capitalization, pluralization), and how to spell correctly under pressure.

The format of the Spell Bowl is more like a written test. The emcee reads a word and uses the word in a sentence, the students listen and then write it on paper within a 15-second time limit. The students’ written entries are reviewed by a panel of judges and then their score is posted in front of the audience. Each correct word spelling is worth one point.

The annual event is held in Penn High School’s Center for Performing Arts to not only accommodate all the student teams, but also the students’ “fans,” which are their family, friends and other staff from their home schools!

Mrs. Cassie Scarsella, P-H-M’s High Ability Coordinator, manages the Spell Bowl and works to assure that it is a positive and enriching experience for students. Academic competition can give students confidence, increase their motivation to sharpen their skills and abilities, and expand their opportunities to receive recognition.

April 8 Solar Eclipse Information

While the Indianapolis area and south will experience 100% totality for the solar eclipse occurring on Monday, April 8, 2024, the St. Joseph County area will only experience 96%.

The Michiana area will start experiencing darkness at 1:53 p.m., lasting until 4:23 p.m., with 96% totality occurring at 3:09 p.m. and lasting just over 4 minutes.

Click to watch the video below and hear from P-H-M Digital Video Theater and Planetarium Director Melinda O’Malley as she shows us what to expect in our area.

Click here to see a Indiana Department of Natural Resources map of Indiana regions that will experience varying degrees of darkness.  Click here to also get more background information on the Great American Eclipse website.

Because the partial eclipse time is occurring around elementary school dismissal times and based on the recommendations of the Indiana Department of Homeland Security and the IDOE, P-H-M will have an eLearning day on April 8. Click here for more information on that decision.

Thanks to Old National Bank and P-H-M Education Foundation, all students will have a pair of eclipse glasses to use at home when watching the eclipse with their families. The glasses will be sent home the week of March 25 before P-H-M’s Spring Break.

DVT Director Mrs. O’Malley demonstrates how the eclipse glasses should be used.

eLearning Day for April 8 due to Solar Eclipse

At the P-H-M Board of School of Trustees meeting on Monday, February 26, district administration made a presentation to the Board regarding the total solar eclipse taking place on Monday, April 8. As part of the presentation, district administration announced that for a variety of reasons Monday, April 8 will be an eLearning Day. If the district has used all of its allotted three eLearning Days (we currently have used two), the day will be a Virtual Learning Day. No P-H-M sponsored field trips or planned evening activities will take place on this date. Monday, April 8 is the first day back after Spring Break (April 1-5). 

Indiana is in the path of totality and is centrally located in the United States, thus the Indiana Department of Homeland Security is telling tourists, residents, school districts and public agencies to be prepared for three days of potential impact such as, oversized crowds, gridlock traffic, communications disruptions, and even nocturnal animal confusion. Click here to see the full presentation from last night’s Board meeting.

The Indianapolis area and south will experience 100% totality; while the St. Joseph County area will experience 96%. Click here to see a map of Indiana regions that will experience varying degrees of darkness from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources website. The South Bend area will start experiencing darkness at 1:53 p.m., lasting until 4:23 p.m., with 96% totality occurring at 3:09 p.m. and lasting just over 4 minutes. Because these times are around school dismissal times and based on the recommendations of the Indiana Department of Homeland Security and the IDOE, P-H-M will not be holding in-person instruction on April 8. 

Thanks to Old National Bank and P-H-M Education Foundation, all students in the district will receive eclipse glasses to use at home with instructions. Mrs. Mindy O’Malley, Director of P-H-M’s Arthur M. Klinger Planetarium and Digital Video Theater, and a team of teachers, are preparing grade-level eclipse information to send home with students. In the classrooms leading up to April 8, teachers will educate students about this nearly once-in-a-lifetime event; the next total solar eclipse where portions of Indiana will be in full totality will be 2099.

If parents have any questions, they should contact their students’ principals. Employees should contact their supervisor or Human Resources.

2024 Penn Musical, “The Music Man”

Penn’s school musical this year is “The Music Man.”

You won’t want to miss Penn’s talented student performers as they act out the play that follows fast-talking traveling salesman, Harold Hill, as he cons the people of River City, Iowa, into buying instruments and uniforms for a boys’ band that he vows to organize – this, despite the fact that he doesn’t know a trombone from a treble clef!

This year’s musical also includes the talents of a few P-H-M elementary and middle school students:

  • Mary Cortes, 5th grade, Prairie Vista Elementary School
  • Maxwell MacMillan, 5th grade, Mary Frank Elementary School
  • Anniston Steele, 7th grade, Grissom Middle School
  • Ezra Carrico, Katherine Hawkins, Benjamin Robertson and Noah Rohde, all in 8th grade, Schmucker Middle School

Click here to see the playbill.

   

This isn’t the first year Penn’s musicals have included students from younger grades. In 2016, younger students also participated in “Mary Poppins.” But this is the first year in recent memory to have this many!

Visit bit.ly/PennMusicMan to purchase tickets.

 

 

FIRST-IN District Robotics Competition, March 2 & 3

The 2024 FIN Mishawaka FRC District Event will once again be held at Penn High School March 1st – 3rd (open to the public on Saturday, March 2 and Sunday, March 3). The event will be held in Penn’s Main Arena. See below for a daily schedule:

Saturday, March 2

  • 10:30 – 11:00 a.m., Opening Ceremonies
  • 11:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m., Qualifying Matches (No matches during Lunch, 1:00 – 2:00 p.m.)

Sunday, March 3

  • 9:30 – 10:00 a.m., Opening Ceremonies
  • 10:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., Qualifying Matches
  • 12:30 – 1:00 p.m., Alliance Selections
  • 1:00 – 2:00 p.m., Lunch
  • 2:00 – 5:00 p.m., Playoff Matches & Awards Ceremony

Click here for the detailed daily schedule.

For elementary aged children, there’s also the Next Gen event from 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. on Saturday. The event will be upstairs–above Penn’s Main Arena–in the Fitness Center. This event is open to all children, not just P-H-M students. Children have the opportunity to do hands-on STEM activities, even operate a robot! Click here for pictures from last year’s event.

This year’s game is CRESCENDOSM presented by Haas; click here to view a video about the game. FIRST© Robotics Competition teams will use their STEM skills and creative power to turn up the volume as they design, build, and program their robots for action-packed game play. Watch the game animation to inspire ideas.

During our 2023-2024 arts-inspired robotics season, FIRST® IN SHOWSM presented by Qualcomm, FIRST Robotics teams will celebrate the roles STEM skills play in the arts and design, and how these skills help build a world of endless possibilities for students. Click here to learn more about FIRST® IN and the District event being held at Penn High School.