Armstrong School District Newsletter 1Q23

March 2023

Armstrong School District Reveals New Website with Simpler, User-Friendly Format

Students, parents, and community members will notice a new Armstrong School District website design that leaders hope will be more engaging and user-friendly.

"The internet is constantly evolving and developing," said Danielle Panchik, who works in the district's transportation department and also serves as communications coordinator. "New tech comes out every day with the goal of making websites better, faster, simpler, lighter, and more secure.

"Our goal is to create a site that keeps up with design trends and is important to stay relevant in the eyes of parents, students, and the community," Panchik said. "Our new site will have fuller graphics, creative themes, colors, and shape choices. Cleaner and straightforward websites will grow more popular daily, and we hope ours will fit that mold."

The district also changed the school system's logo to represent all eight schools better, Panchik said.

"The new logo is a collaboration of ideas from numerous employees and administrators all throughout the district. The colors, blue and gray, were chosen to represent the two junior/senior high schools all students attend or will attend in their academic future with ASD."

The website's update includes a simpler, fresher look, focusing on spotlighting important information prominently on the main page and information about the district's school. The website offers students, parents, and community members seeking more information about the district a forum to answer questions. Each section will feature information about the district, job opportunities in our district, academics, how to access the parent portal, and more, Panchik said.

"We hope that parents/guardians will better utilize the parent portal, also known as Skyward," she said. "There are many things within Skyward that they will find useful, whether it be keeping up with their student's grades and schedules, bus stop information, and filling out and submitting school excuses electronically. Also, we will have quick links right on the main page. These quick links will direct users to our quarterly newsletter, school calendar, community resource lists, and information about our social media platforms."

The redesigned website targets students, parents, guardians, and "anyone in our community, as well as others looking to move into our district," Panchik said. "There is so much informative information available on our website for everyone."

She said the district's website was due for an upgrade because it has been a while since it was redesigned. The district will maintain the website and update it in the future through a partnership with CBT and by assigning someone in the district to focus solely on getting information out to everyone who visits the website. Each of the district's schools updates its own school's page on the website.

One of the key features of the new website is ensuring data safety. The district protects data collected from users and makes that protection a priority. When long forms are filled out with personal information, it is often stored digitally. The website's content management system will ensure the website is compliant with the latest security standards. 

Another important advantage of the update is the inclusion of popular integrations like social media, Google Analytics, and interactive calendars.

The students meet regularly to manage the project. They worked with contractors to design the monument and have helped solicit and review bids for the project.

"I'm very proud of what they've done," Cornetti said. "They're good kids."

Senior Niko Buffone, junior Maggie Byers, and sophomore Lucy Dean are the student council leaders overseeing the project.

Students hope to raise $10,000 for the project. Two local contractors, First Impression Landscape and Carson Boyer Funeral Home, are donating labor and much of the material at cost. The money raised will cover the many expenses associated with the project, including the granite monument. Students will sell the walkway paver stones for engraving in the spring to families who want to honor loved ones at the memorial.

Construction is scheduled to begin in the coming weeks, with completion planned in time for Veterans Day. Cornetti said the school tech department would do the paver engraving as another way to bring more students into the project.

Cloak, who was asked to create new courses that would enhance social studies offerings for students, said he came up with the idea after discussions with Assistant Superintendent Joshua Williams. As a lifelong county resident, Cloak said he realized that there were many people and places from the past whose impact continues, but little is known about them.

"This course will offer the ability for students to study history that has shaped them personally and directly," he said. 

Williams and the district school board supported his idea and approved the course, which will be offered next school year. After word got out about the new course, Cloak said more than two dozen local residents reached out with ideas and content for the new course.

"For this reason, the course will never be taught the same way," he said. "There is so much material each class will take different directions as we work to cover the great expanse of Armstrong County history."

Mr. Cloak is in his 15th year of teaching in the district and his third year at Armstrong Jr.-Sr. High School. He said he's already getting requests to offer the course to adults in the community. But for now, he said he hopes to set up opportunities for students to present at local senior centers about what they've learned.

Manor Township Police Department Treats Armstrong Students on Valentine's Day

The Manor Township Police Department showed lots of love to Lenape Elementary School students on Valentine's Day, ensuring each student received a special message that day.

Manor Township Police Chief Christopher J. Robbins joined a couple of his officers to deliver Valentine's Day notes to all of the school's students in first through sixth grades. The officers visited each classroom and distributed the cards with notes like "You Shine" and "You're Bright" to the more than 740 students.

"They loved it," said Lenape Assistant Principal Joe Cali, referring to students' reaction as the officers made their deliveries. "The younger kids treated them like rock stars." 

Cali said township officials reached out about two months ago to discuss ways to celebrate the students. The police department decided to hand-deliver a note to each student. Each Valentine's Day note card featured the Manor Township Police Department logo on the front with a "Happy Valentine's Day" greeting. 

It's just one of several ways the police force works to engage students in the community, Cali said. "They do a great job of connecting a face to the police in the area."

Police officers also walk the elementary school halls weekly to greet students and introduce them to what they do in the community. Cali said officers also greet students on some days at the bus stop. They plan to return to the school in future years with more Valentine's Day surprises.

The outreach helps to familiarize students with the police, showing they can have a positive influence in their lives and serve as a resource. The job is not just about tackling crime or emergency situations but also serving the community.

"Whatever you see on TV or on YouTube about police, they're here to help," Cali said.

West Hills Update

Happy Music In Our School Month!!

Please mark your calendars for our 1st annual WHI ARTS NIGHT! The WHI art department and the 5th and 6th-grade choir combine to create a wonderful night of art and music! Please join us on Wednesday evening, April 19th, at West Hills Intermediate to hear the choir and see the art show! The students have been working hard this year, and we are excited to show off their talents! The choir portion of the evening will begin at 6:30 pm. Students in the choir will be asked to dress nicely for the performance. Girls should wear either a dress or a skirt with a nice top or dress pants and a nice top. Boys are asked to wear khakis or dress pants with a button-up shirt or polo. All students are asked to wear nice comfortable shoes as they will stand on the risers for most of the concert. Please be on the lookout for more information about Arts Nights coming soon!

This month there are a lot of exciting things happening in music classes. Our 4th-grade students are participating in a March Music Madness Bracket, where they listen to various music to determine which song should be the champion! This year's theme is tempo! So each song fits into one of the four categories largo, moderato, allegro, or presto. 4th-grade students also play recorder karate, where they can earn different colored belts by playing different songs on the recorder.

5th-grade students are starting their ukulele music unit this month. We will be learning about the history of the ukulele, the parts of the ukulele, and of course, how to play it! The ukulele is unique in that it can play individual notes and chords. 5th-grade students will be learning to play both in their music classes. I have had many students ask what type of ukulele they should buy. If you would like to buy a ukulele for your child, I would recommend this one: Amazon Ukulele

6th-grade students were finishing up their composition projects where they were writing music for their own TV commercial for a product of their choice. I am excited to see the final products/commercials in a few weeks.

As always, please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns. It's going to be a great month of music-making here at WHI! We have such creative and musical students here!


Armstrong District Athletes

Become the Latest 1000-point Scorers

Two standout athletes at Armstrong Jr.-Sr. High School became the latest to reach the 1,000-point milestone in school history.

Emma Paul, a junior, became the second Armstrong River Hawks girls' basketball team member and the second person in school history to reach the 1,000-point milestone during a game against New Castle on Jan. 26th. Emma is currently on pace to become the school's all-time leading scorer. She follows Kenzie Lasher, a 2018 Armstrong High School graduate who became the school's first basketball player to reach this milestone.

"Just as any other award or accomplishment, I looked forward to and hoped the day would come when I would surpass 1,000 points," Paul said. "Then, when I did reach this accomplishment, the support from the community and school made it a whole lot sweeter, and I will never forget that."

Cadin Olsen, a senior, was the first member of the Armstrong River Hawks boys' basketball team and the third person in school history to reach the 1,000-point milestone during a game against Woodland Hills on Jan. 27th. Cadin's basketball career at AHS recently ended with a total of 1,080 points during his 4-year varsity career.

"Even though we didn’t have the best record this year, this is an accomplishment that means very much to me, and to be the first male in Armstrong High School to achieve this means a lot to me," Olsen said. "I cannot thank my friends, family, teammates, and coaches enough for guiding me through my high school career; their impact on me will last a lifetime."

The accomplishment by Paul and Olsen to reach the 1,000-point milestone occurred on consecutive nights of competition.

"It made for a very exciting atmosphere in The Hawks Nest," said Jake Kanish, Armstrong's co-athletic director. "We hope that as younger players in our junior high level and elementary level see these milestones happen within our programs, it is a way for future River Hawk basketball players to strive to meet this accomplishment."

Paul's and Olsen's legacy will live on at the school when their names are added to the 1,000 Point Club plaque located in the AHS lobby.


Armstrong Students Benefit

From Time With Therapy Dogs

Armstrong School District students can spend some time with therapy dogs now that two system employees are making them available at schools and in classrooms.

Ellie, a miniature Golden Doodle, and Kilt, an Irish Doodle, will spend time at some of the district's schools, offering students a respite from the challenges of the typical academic day. The hope is that the dogs will help improve the school and classroom environment and benefit students and staff.

Research identifies benefits from therapy dogs, including improved attendance and reading fluency, said Dr. Matthew Pawk, the district's Director of Special Education and Psychological Services.

"Therapy dogs fit perfectly under the district's Schoolwide Positive Behavioral Support and Social-Emotional Learning Initiative," Pawk said. "Students will practice emotional regulation, building relationships, and positive interactions while building trust, empathy, and affection."

Amanda Hill, a paraprofessional at West Hills Primary School, is Ellie's owner and has already been working with her in schools and classrooms. "The atmosphere is improved when Ellie is in the room," she said.

She trained her as a therapy dog, certified through the Alliance of Therapy Dogs. "Our dogs bring so much joy to our family. They are always there for my children, and I wanted the students I work with to experience that as well."

Hill said therapy dogs help students improve self-esteem, socialization, and overall emotional well-being and reduce anxiety. "Any positivity we can bring to the classroom is a benefit to students."

Hill said Ellie had visited several schools and brightened the day of students and staff.

"A former student of mine cried tears of pure joy as soon as she saw Ellie," Hill said. "At that moment, I was so thankful I pursued this program. She even brings joy to the staff! 

Hill has worked with others in the district to develop the therapy dog program, including Sarah Bojalad, a Title I reading specialist at West Hills Intermediate. Bojalad is Kilt's owner. Kilt is just under 2 years old and undergoing training to become certified as a therapy dog. 

"He brought so much joy to my family and a sense of calmness in anxious situations. We immediately knew he was special, and I felt that I needed to share him with as many people as possible," Bojalad said.

"Dogs are ideal reading companions because they help increase relaxation, listen attentively, do not judge, allow children to proceed at their own pace, and are less intimidating than peers," she said.

Bojalad said she is eager to kick off the program with Kilt. Students and staff "seem supportive, excited, and eager to learn more about the dog and how he will help our students." 

Armstrong Students Join New Unified

Sports Program That Offers More

Opportunities for Competition

Armstrong County students prepare for track and field competitions through a unique program that brings students with and without disabilities together.

A group of 16 Armstrong Jr.-Sr. High School students are participating in a new afterschool sports program through Special Olympics Pennsylvania. The Interscholastic Unified Sports program is a fully-inclusive co-ed program that brings together students with and without intellectual disabilities. The students, including many who previously didn't participate in organized sports, train and compete together as equals and learn more about their unique challenges.

The goal is to offer students who don't typically participate in sports an opportunity to compete and to bring students with intellectual disabilities together with those who don't to help them all learn more about each other.

"They will be able to establish relationships outside of those they have during the normal school day," said Devin Lorigan, a health and physical education teacher at the high school who created a unified PE class before the afterschool program that brings all students together.

Lorigan, one of the unified sports team coaches, said the high school's track and field team includes eight students with disabilities and eight without. The team will begin competing with other regional schools in April.

"The kids have really bought into this," said Tyler Spence, a learning support math teacher at the high school who also serves as a coach. Spence said Lorigan's work with the unified PE class, bringing students with disabilities together with students that don't have any, helped pave the way for the new sports program.

"It's been kind of happening here already," Spence said.

The Interscholastic Unified Sports program is a national initiative adopted by more than 7,300 schools. Indoor Bocce is offered as a winter sport, and track and field are in the spring. Special Olympics Pennsylvania is partnering with more than 270 schools across the state to offer unified sports programs.

The sports program is a great opportunity to show students they aren't that different. "Everybody has a disability. It just depends on how much," said Todd Strobel, the high school's transition coordinator who also serves as a coach for the new team.

Students participating in the program are already becoming closer, referring to each other as "besties" and sharing high-fives as they walk down the hallways in between classes.

The Armstrong School District sees the program as a way to support inclusion and to help students develop better health, social and competitive skills, said Dr. Matthew Pawk, the district's Director of Special Education and Psychological Services.

"We're looking to build momentum each year and get

more kids involved," Pawk said.

Kindergarten RegsitrationRegistration

Now accepting kindergarten registration for fall 2023

The Armstrong School District is excited to welcome the student of the Class of 2036 in August of 2023! Children who will be 5 years of age on or before August 31, 2023, are eligible for kindergarten during the 2023-2024 school year. 

Call to make an appointment.

  • West Hills Primary- 724-548-7651
  • Dayton Elementary- 814-257-8816 ext. 1100
  • Elderton Elementary- 724-354-2131
  • Shannock Valley Elementary- 724-783-6991
  • Lenape Elementary- 724-763-5299

ASD’s Mental Health &

Community Resource Guide

Mental health disorders in children and adolescents are described as serious changes in how children typically learn, behave, or handle their emotions, causing distress and problems getting through the day. It is estimated that approximately 30% of school-aged children will experience a behavioral, mental, or developmental condition in any given year.

Our Mental Health & Community Resource Guide contains resources for parents, educators, and professionals serving children and youth in school and community settings. 

Source PA Department of Education


181 Heritage Park Drive, Suite 2

Kittanning, PA 16201

Phone: (724) 548-7200