Stevens Elementary Staff, Students Praised for ‘Distinguished School’ Status

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It takes a village… so the saying goes. Tom Knepper, Stevens Elementary School principal, credits the entire Stevens community with the success of its Title I program.

Knepper and his staff at Stephens were treated to a special “thank you” lunch by Chambersburg Area School District Supt. Dion Betts Thursday celebrating the school’s recent designation as a Distinguished Title I School.

Betts and two of the school board’s newest members praised that community, and Knepper, who Betts said sets high standards for those around him.

Knepper acknowledged the award as “a big deal,” but credited his staff and students with making mportant academic gains This year. He said they were the ones who did the hard work that earned recognition for the school.

“The most important thing here is the relationship between parents and teachers,” he said. “You care about the kids,” he said. “You want your kids to succeed and are willing to go the extra mile for them.”

He told his staff that he was the privileged one to be working with them.

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It Takes a Community Working Together

“I am proud of Stevens teachers, students, parents and the entire Stevens’ community for all of the hard work and dedication required to earn this designation,” Knepper said.

“I’m not surprised,” Lindsay Breslin, CASD Title I supervisor, said of the award. “We have a principal and staff who want the absolute best for the Stevens community. They work hard to get that.”

Breslin said Stevens students know they have to work hard, and because they and their families feel loved and accepted, they do their best to meet those high expectations.

“You have the recipe for success here,” she said. “A dedicated staff, driven leader and a vibrant community of students and families.”

Stevens has been a Title I school for many years, meaning it receives special federal funding to help disadvantaged children better succeed in school. Title I funding is based on economic factors, such as the percentage of low income children enrolled in a school.

The funding isn’t overly generous, even in a district like CASD with fairly high poverty rates.

But Breslin said Stevens uses its funding in creative ways which make a difference in student achievement.

CASD Officials Praise School

Two of the newest members of CASD’s school board were on hand for the luncheon. Both praised what they called the “incredible hard work” of the Stevens community.

Mike Finucane, who replaced Joan Smith on the board after she resigned in November, congratulated the school’s hard-working teachers and students.

“I now have a better understanding of what teachers do to inspire students,” he said. “That inspiration is so important to students success.”

“I have been impressed since coming here with the dedication of the district’s teachers and administrators,” said Tom Dolan, who came on the board in December after defeating incumbent Bill Lennhartz.

He praised the Stevens staff and student body for the hard work that resulted in the Title I recognition.

Several Stevens students — Raymond Los Santos, 11, Dominic Orrdonez, 10, William Beasley, 11, and Melani David, 9 — attended the luncheon.

After all the adults finished their speeches, Melanie talked about her teachers and the work she and fellow students put in every day. Before she sat down, she held her arm out in a sweeping motion as she recognized teachers who influence her daily life.

Steven’s achievement will be recognized at the next school board meeting, Betts said. The school will also be honored at the 2020 Title I Improving Schools’ Performance Conference in Pittsburgh, PA, as a 2019-20 Distinguished Title I School by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Division of Federal Programs and Pennsylvania Association of Federal Program Coordinators (PAFPC).

Stevens is the second CASD school recognized for its academic improvement this year.

CAMS North Also Recognized

Chambersburg Area Middle School (CAMS) North got an award earlier this school year and was recognized at the January 21 school board meeting. That award recognized CAMS North for achieving the highest academic growth rate among middle schools and second highest growth rate among all schools in Pennsylvania.

The growth rating was determined using Pennsylvania Value-Added Assessment System (PVAAS) information based on a statistical analysis of state assessment data.

  • ELA- Out of 1280 schools CAMS North attained the second highest student growth in the state
  • Math- Out of 1279 schools CAMS North attained the third highest student growth rate in the state
  • Algebra I- Out of 787 schools, CAMS North attained the thirty-first highest student growth rate in the state. 100% of students passed the Keystone exam and 88.9% were advanced.
  • Science –  100% growth rating

Vicky Taylor can be reached at 717-372-0079 or by email at

Photos by Vicky Taylor/Franklin County Free Press

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