Tag Archives: Patriot-News

What happens when newspaper reporters with no training try to shoot video

This does.

So our photographer wouldn’t have to try to juggle his still and video cameras, I volunteered to shoot some video. I didn’t say I’d be good at it, I just said I’d try it. I clearly had no idea what I was doing.

My favorite moment came when a friendly videographer there said to me: “You know your tripod goes down another foot-and-a-half, right?” Uhhh, yeah…I knew that.

I’d love to hear any feedback — since I already know it stinks, there’s nothing that could be said that would offend me. I’m just hoping that with enough practice, and much more reading before the next time I shoot video, I’ll eventually learn to stink less. Might as well be trying, at least.

And before you say anything about the lack of audio, I would have offered a voice-over had I known it was going to be put online immediately. I’ll offer to add one on Monday.

(Also — if you want to play a game, go to the front page of Pennlive and try to find the video. Let me know if you make it, and if so, how long it took you.)

CLIPS: Grace’s new life at the Milton Hershey School (12/02/07)

BY DANIEL VICTOR
Of The Patriot-News

There was never much space between 4-year-old Grace Stanley and her mother, Louann.

They routinely slept snuggled against each other. During the day, Grace rarely left Louann’s side. Grace talked, talked, talked, winning affection with her infectious giggle and near-permanent smile.

Grace was Louann Stanley’s little baby.

She still is. But when Louann sent Grace to the Milton Hershey School in Derry Twp., entrusting a surrogate set of houseparents and an $8 billion organization to feed, clothe, shelter, educate and nurture Grace until she graduates from high school, she had to learn to let go much earlier than most parents.

As Grace learns her ABCs, has her first crush, earns her driver’s license and gets accepted to college, Louann will experience the journey, starting this year, through phone calls and occasional visits.

Grace is the third child Louann, of Shiremanstown, has sent to the school. Everything is free to the single mother, who has entrusted the girls to the school because she must care for a fourth daughter, a mentally handicapped 10-year-old who requires near-constant attention.

But Hannah, 7, and Brianna, 14, didn’t start at the school when they were as young as Grace. This year, Louann knew, would be tough.

At the end of enrollment day on Aug. 4, their final day together before Grace started school, Grace was more interested in playing with her new friends and toys than spending time with her mother.

“I guess I’ll just leave if you don’t want me here,” Louann said to Grace.

Her tone was playful, but it was a difficult goodbye.

Without her mother, Grace struggled to fall asleep her first night.

Enrollment day

When Grace is comfortable, she’s a clown, she giggles unceasingly and she often gives hugs.

On the morning of her first day, Grace wasn’t herself.

While listening to elementary administrators explain the school, she climbed into her mother’s lap and burrowed her head in her chest. Louann repeatedly kissed Grace on the forehead.

Administrators warned parents that the children were likely to have a tough time at first. To ease Grace’s transition, the school told Louann not to come back for four to six weeks and to call only once a week.

“Focus on your dreams and goals,” said Myron McCurdy, a home administrator. “Don’t give in to the temporary pain and sadness.”

Grace met Kara Brady, an assistant principal at the elementary school. Brady told her that she’s beautiful, and Grace gave her a hug.

By lunchtime, the real Grace was emerging.

She met Kyle, who is in her prekindergarten class. They cheerfully chased each other, both carrying balloons, until their parents made them go.

They went to the student home, a spacious but warm place with rooms for eight girls. Grace tried each of the toys in the recreation room.

Now, having met the girls with whom she would live, Grace couldn’t be bothered with her mother. “Who wants to do puzzles with me?” she asked the girls.

Louann took the hint. She asked Grace for a kiss and a hug. Grace quickly complied, told Mom she loved her, and then ran off with her new friends.

Worried about Grace’s sleeping habits, Louann left a pillow in Grace’s cubby. She told the houseparents, Linda and Dennis Van Scoyoc, to give it to Grace only if she needed it – Louann had sprayed it with her perfume.

“My heart is very heavy, but I know she’s going to be taken care of,” she said.

A mother’s battle

In those first weeks, when she couldn’t visit, Louann considered pulling Grace from the school.

“I just missed her presence and her hugs and her kisses and her giggles and her smiles and talking to me,” she said. “She would talk from the time she got up to the time she went to bed. I wouldn’t get one minute of peace because she just didn’t know how to be quiet. I said, ‘Can you be quiet for one minute?’ And we timed it, and she couldn’t do it. It was killing her.”

But Louann knew she was doing this for good reason. She works from home – she does real estate work and tries to sell candles on the side to boost her income – until Diana, 10, returns at 3 p.m. from Broad Street Elementary School in the Mechanicsburg Area School District. Then she devotes her time to Diana; her daughter’s needs have made it impossible to get a full-time job, Louann said.

She and the girls’ father divorced. The girls occasionally visit him.

Some family members thought Louann should have sent Diana to a special school and kept Grace, Hannah and Brianna at home.

“I wanted them to get the best I could give them, and that really is why I sent them there,” she said. “I can’t give them as much as they’re getting there.”

In many places, there’s a stigma attached to “giving up your child” until the school is understood, said John O’Brien, the president of the Milton Hershey School.

Most students enter the school in their middle-school years, so Grace will have an advantage by joining so early, he said. The “Ivy League treatment in kindergarten” can better form self-confidence, he said. “It just then becomes a way of life,” he said. “So that the Milton Hershey way, which is all about character strength, is imbued in a deep and enduring way.”

At first, Grace didn’t make it easy on her mother. Grace felt overwhelmed by the rules she had to learn, such as putting away her toys or sweeping the floor.

“I’m too little,” Grace tearfully told her mother on one of their weekly phone chats in August. “I thought I was grown up, but I’m not.”

Her new home

In class and at home, Grace made progress.

“Grace participates well in whole group settings and is eager to answer questions and learn new things,” her teacher, Lisa Rundle, wrote to Louann in September.

She was well behaved and made friends easily. For show-and-tell, one student brought in a stuffed animal that she had named after Grace. During recess, Grace played with most of the eight students in the class.

As the students chose seats before science class, one girl told her: “I’m sitting next to you because you’re the bestest girl.”

At the student home, one girl nicknamed her “Giggle Gracie” because of her frequent giggling fits. Since she was the youngest, the girls looked at Grace like a little sister, houseparent Linda Van Scoyoc said.

She was becoming more affectionate, initiating hugs with the Van Scoyocs instead of simply allowing them. She had no problems falling asleep.

Initially, she shared a room with her sister Hannah. But Grace was relying on Hannah too much, rarely leaving her, so they were separated three weeks later.

And Grace missed her mom. After each visit with Louann, Grace would struggle to readjust to the home. She’d cry after getting off the phone with her mom.

“They have to grow up fast sometimes,” Linda Van Scoyoc said.

The Van Scoyocs have been houseparents for 26 years but have never had a child as young as Grace. They have two children themselves, one of whom lives at the home.

Their purpose isn’t to replace Grace’s parents, but the children need to feel at home and feel loved, Linda Van Scoyoc said.

Linda Van Scoyoc gathers them before dinner each night to read them a Christian-themed story. They hold hands in a circle and pray before their meal. Over dinner, the girls meticulously follow table manners. They get ice cream and cookies for dessert only if they’ve been displaying good behavior that week.

As it approaches 7 p.m., Grace climbs into Linda Van Scoyoc’s lap in the living room for a bedtime story. Grace brushes her teeth, and they walk back to Grace’s room.

There, Linda Van Scoyoc tucks her in, prays with her and turns out the lights.

Back in Shiremanstown

Home for a long Thanksgiving break, Grace was playing with her sisters better and not talking as much, Louann said.

She was more willing to help and less whiny, Louann said. As Diana played on her own and Hannah watched “Hannah Montana” on TV, Grace joyfully played with her room full of toys.

At night, Hannah and Grace fell asleep with Louann. After Grace fell asleep, Louann carried her back to her own bed.

Around 2 a.m., Louann heard the pitter-patter of feet. Grace returned to the room and squeezed between her sister and mother.

Grace excitedly talked about her friends, houseparents and teachers while she was at home.

When it was time for Grace to return to school, she and her mom hugged, kissed, said “I love you” and parted ways again. For the first time, Grace didn’t cry.

“I know the school is a good place, and I know everything is wonderful, but she’s my baby,” Louann said.

“I know someday she’s going to tell me it was the best thing I ever did for her.”


INFOBOX:ABOUT THE MILTON HERSHEY SCHOOLThe Derry Twp. school for disadvantaged children was created by the town’s founder, Milton S. Hershey.

* WHAT IT PROVIDES: Free education, housing, medical care, clothing and food for the students, whose families must show need. The school spends $76,000 per student per year.

* ENROLLMENT: About 1,700, and the school has pledged to increase enrollment to 2,000 by 2012.

* WHERE THEY’RE FROM: Last year, 28 percent of the students came from Dauphin, Lebanon and Lancaster counties. Three of four students are from Pennsylvania.

* HOUSING: The children live in homes with eight to 12 other students, with a set of full-time houseparents in charge.

* THE STAFF: About 1,000 full-time employees.

* THE HIERARCHY: It’s mandated by Milton Hershey’s deed of trust. The Milton Hershey School Trust owns 30 percent of The Hershey Co., the candy-making company, and fully owns the Hershey Entertainment & Resorts Co., which runs Hersheypark, among other properties.

The Milton Hershey School Trust is run by the Hershey Trust Co., which makes private investments and runs the nonprofit M.S. Hershey Foundation. That foundation runs the Hershey Theatre, the Hershey Museum, the Hershey Gardens and the Hershey Community Archives. The Hershey Trust Co. is worth $8 billion and is intended to keep the school running forever.

CLIPS: Droves of reporters put Amish in spotlight they usually shun (10/03/06)

BY DANIEL VICTOR
Of The Patriot-News

NICKEL MINES — John Fisher, who the hundreds of journalists here knew was Amish because he was wearing a straw hat, was fielding questions from the
Baltimore Sun and New York Daily News when his cell phone appeared to ring.

He excused himself and left the reporters searching for more straw hats and bonnets to interview. Later, he told The Patriot-News he would sometimes pretend to get a call to get away from the bothersome questions of reporters.

“There’s about 250 too many,” he said when asked what he thought about the national media attention in the small town.

“I know it’s news,” said Sam Fisher, who manages Nickel Mines Auction House, where police and the media set up a home base, “but it’s something like overkill. It’s frustrating, let’s just put it that way.”

Those who dared to walk by the throngs of journalists wearing anything but professional garb were quickly snapped up for interviews, sometimes with dozens of news organizations at once. An Amish woman named Irene, who did not give reporters her last name, had six microphones in front of her as she explained her religious beliefs.

Several photographers snapped photos when a horse-drawn buggy drove by.

The Lancaster and Harrisburg media were on scene, but so were reporters from Montreal, the United Kingdom, Russia and Japan. CNN, MSNBC and Fox News followed the story all day. ABC recorded a “Good Morning America” segment.

More than 50 trucks with satellites atop their roofs filled the roadsides and nearby parking lots. Television reporters spoke in front of a long line of cameras, with a country hillside or the distant schoolhouse as backgrounds.

Sam Fisher said the reporters usually were polite. He minded only when they stuck cameras in his face, he said.

Jacob King, who is Amish, wore a stoic face as he took questions from several reporters.

“Does it make you more distrustful of outsiders?”

“Do you think there should be more security in the school?”

“Would you have ever expected something like this to happen?”

“Does it make you angry?”

He offered short responses to each question. For the final question, a reporter asked: “To people who are completely unfamiliar with your lifestyle, what do you want them to know about your community?”

King replied: “That we’re like everyone else.”

CLIPS: Why so few minority teachers in the midstate? (02/05/08)

BY DANIEL VICTOR
Of The Patriot-News

It seemed no one was able to reach the child.

He didn’t talk much, or do much work in school. He was poor, black, and no teacher in the Steelton-Highspire School District had ever connected with him.

Then came his fourth-grade teacher, Kelly Mosby-Fowlkes. She, too, was black. She, too, grew up in Steelton. She, too, came from humble beginnings.

He started to trust her, and he worked for her.

One year later, he went to another school, and Mosby-Fowlkes got a call from his new teacher. The boy talked about Mosby-Fowlkes all the time, she said. The new teacher wanted to know: How did Mosby-Fowlkes get through to the child?

“It’s all about that relationship,” said Mosby-Fowlkes, now an assistant principal at Steelton-Highspire Elementary School. “And it’s something, when you share the same ethnic background, it’s just something special there. It just raises that level of comfort, of ease, of understanding.”

Most educators agree on the value of minority teachers, both for their ability to provide role models to the rising number of minority students and to battle stereotypes in the minds of white students. Some school districts said they recruit minority teachers.

So why are there so few of them?

The difficulty

Every school faces different challenges in attracting minority teachers, but they share one big problem: There aren’t enough candidates out there.

In the 2006-07 school year, only four midstate school districts had more than six minority teachers: Carlisle, Central Dauphin, Harrisburg and Susquehanna Twp., according to the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Most districts had fewer than three. Seven districts had none.

In all of the schools, the percentage of minority teachers lagged far behind the percentage of minority students.

The subject has been a passion of Mark Holman, director of human resources for the Harrisburg School District. The district has one of the state’s highest rates of minority teachers, 23 percent, a rate that is still far behind the district’s minority student population of nearly 95 percent.

He cites several reasons for the shortage. The federal No Child Left Behind law has made it more difficult for mid-career transfers into education, which is where districts often find minority candidates.

Minority students statistically score lower on entrance exams, and a higher GPA requirement thins the field further, he said.

Many minority parents are encouraging their children to go into more profitable careers, he said.

“If you want to have more African-American teachers, you have to get more African-American parents to send their sons and daughters to school to become teachers,” Holman said.

And though administrators from several districts said they recruit at historically black colleges, such as Cheyney University and Lincoln University in eastern Pennsylvania, those colleges produce few teachers, and it can be difficult to lure them away from bigger cities.

“I love central Pennsylvania,” said David Volkman, superintendent of Susquehanna Twp. School District. “But when we recruit at historically black colleges, sometimes it’s difficult to get folks to commit to us, because of where we are.”

Several districts say they focus on keeping in touch with alumni who are going to college to study education, hoping they’ll want to return.

For a district such as Steelton-Highspire, which has low teacher wages for the area, home ties often aren’t enough.

“We’ve had a number of cases where we actually recruited folks and had them move into the area,” Superintendent Norma Mateer said. “But after two or three years, they realized they could get much more money in a suburban district near us.”

The role model

James Sledge, an English teacher at Susquehanna Twp. High School, tells some of his students that he loves them as they leave class. About half of the students in his class are nonwhite.

A black man from Birmingham, Ala., Sledge was led to education by his family. Altruistic reasons and support from the district kept him in the job, he said.

“It allows students to see there are different types of people of color,” he said.

Tamira Howard, who is black, is hard on some of the black males in her class.

Howard knows that, before they come to her American Government or AP European History classes at Central Dauphin East High School, they’ve been labeled as trouble-makers.

But the Susquehanna Twp. High School alumna demands their respect and suspects they do respect her more than some of their other teachers. They’re not used to having black teachers.

“They need to see people like them that can do great things,” Howard said.

There’s a benefit to the white students, too, said Mary Kay Durham, superintendent of Carlisle Area School District.

“It helps all students realize we’re just a microcosm of the rest of the world, and it helps them learn about others and appreciate everyone,” she said.

Looking ahead, there are reasons for both hope and worry, Holman said.

Hope comes in the form of more competitive teacher salaries and the job stability of teaching when other industries are downsizing or restructuring. Teachers can be fairly confident that they’ll have jobs until they’re ready to retire, he said.

But the rising teacher standards, and the ability to make more money elsewhere, will continue to work against schools, he said.

“Every child should have the opportunity to see someone that looks like them as a role model,” Holman said. “By kids seeing people in these roles, they someday can see themselves in that role.”

CLIPS: School policies on sexual minorities vary (02/12/07)

BY DANIEL VICTOR
Of The Patriot-News

Far in the background of Red Land Senior High School senior David Moyer’s desire to take a male date to the homecoming dance without being harassed are two words in a policy book that have divided area school districts.

In the policies that aim to shield students from harassment, 15 area districts include language to protect “sexual orientation” along with other classifications. Nine districts omit the words or don’t have policies.

A policy “sends the message that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students are a protected class in the same way any other minorities are,” said Michelle Simmons, director of the Common Roads support group for such teens. “Having a policy in place creates a culture of tolerance and acceptance.”

The West Shore School District does not include sexual orientation in its harassment policy, but that didn’t stop Moyer from twice taking male dates to homecoming.

“And no one said anything,” he said.

In Pennsylvania, sexual minorities are not legally protected by the Human Relations Commission, but Chapter 4 of the Pennsylvania School Code was amended in 1999 to protect sexual minorities from discrimination.

That was an impetus for the Pennsylvania School Boards Association to add sexual orientation to its unlawful harassment policy in 2000, according to Director of Policy Services Sharon Fissel. PSBA policies are distributed to member schools as nonbinding recommendations.

Several of the schools that omit the words have a catch-all such as “includes but is not limited to” preceding the list of classifications, but Fissel said it’s important to be inclusive.

“We recommend that the districts do have it spelled out specifically so that when they go to the policy to implement it and enforce it, they know what it covers,” she said.

The policies tend to inflame conservatives, said Warren Throckmoyer, an associate professor of psychology at Grove City College, whose research has focused on sexual orientation.

He said he is not aware of research on the effectiveness of anti-harassment policies, and he promotes anti-bullying curricula as an alternative.

“A lot of times, conservatives worry that the problems with bullying is just a way for schools to include indoctrination about sexual orientation,” he said.

Diane Gramley, president of the American Family Association of Pennsylvania, said her concern is with the normalization of homosexuality.

Students “shouldn’t be harassed because of their lifestyle, but the school should not be promoting their lifestyle,” she said. “By adding sexual orientation or gender identity, that’s what they’re doing.”

Several school superintendents said their policies were updated to include sexual orientation after PSBA sent out its recommendation, with varying amounts of resistance from the public.

“That was quite a debate,” Susquehanna Twp. Superintendent David Volkman said. “In the end, the board decided they thought it was best to include it with all the others.”

The schools that don’t have the words vary in how harassment is covered. Cumberland Valley, Greenwood, Northern York, South Middleton, Upper Dauphin and West Shore have long lists of classifications without sexual orientation, though South Middleton has proposed a revised policy that would add the words.

Susquenita, West Perry and Central Dauphin do not include sexual orientation in their policies.

Greenwood Superintendent Ed Burns, whose school policy was revised in 1998, said harassment of homosexual students is prohibited.

“I think it’s clearly covered, let’s put it that way,” he said.

Having words in a policy doesn’t make harassment go away, Simmons said. She considers teaching and relationship building as better tactics.

But “it has to start with the administration,” Simmons said. “If they send the message that that kind of language is not acceptable, maybe it filters to the faculty, it filters to other staff. Then eventually the students get to understand that and hear it.”

Moyer, who works as an intern at Common Roads, said he’s had a few uncomfortable moments in school, but he’s never felt in danger. A bleacher full of students yelled “faggot!” at him as he walked to gym class once, but he ignored them and kept walking, he said.

“It’s not the most comfortable thing, but it happens,” he said. “That’s just common vernacular when it comes to high school kids.”

DANIEL VICTOR : 255-8144 or dvictor@patriot-news.com


INFOBOX:

– A SAMPLE POLICY FROM MIDDLETOWN For purposes of this policy, harassment shall consist of verbal, written, graphic or physical conduct relating to an individual’s race, color, national origin/ethnicity, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation or religion when such conduct: 1. Is sufficiently severe, persistent or pervasive that it affects an individual’s ability to participate in or benefit from an educational program or activity or creates an intimidating, threatening or abusive educational environment. 2. Has the purpose or effect of substantially or unreasonably interfering with an individual’s academic performance. 3. Otherwise adversely affects an individual’s learning opportunities.

Middletown Area School District, 2002

HOW DISTRICTS WORD THEIR POLICIES

Schools that include “sexual orientation” in harassment policies:

* Big Spring, Camp Hill, Carlisle, Derry Twp., East Pennsboro, Halifax, Harrisburg, Lower Dauphin, Newport, Mechanicsburg, Middletown, Millersburg, Shippensburg, Susquehanna Twp., Steelton-Highspire.

Schools that don’t include “sexual orientation” in harassment policies:

* Central Dauphin, Cumberland Valley, Greenwood, Northern York, South Middleton, Susquenita, Upper Dauphin, West Perry, West Shore.

CLIPS: Derry elementaries get 2-grade system (09/23/06)

BY DANIEL VICTOR
Of The Patriot-News

In Derry Twp. elementary classrooms, the A, B, C and D grade markings you know from your childhood have been expelled.

Now K-5 students strive for a P, which stands for proficient. If a student gets a W, or working toward proficient, that’s OK, too. That just means the student has more work to do. There are no other grades.

The new standards-based report card, modeled after about 30 other Pennsylvania school districts that have undergone similar changes, stops ranking students and focuses on progress toward specific benchmarks, said Cindy Goldsworthy, the director of curriculum and instruction in the Derry school district.

It gives parents feedback in more specific areas and separates factors such as work ethic and behavior from academic concepts and skills.

“This is to get kids, especially when they’re young, focused on what they’re learning much more so than the grades they’re earning,” she said.

Instead of getting a B with an 85 percent in math class, a fourth-grade student might have a P for “Rounds numbers,” but a W for “Renames fractions as decimals.” A boisterous student might get a W in “Demonstrates self control.”

There are 73 grading areas on the fourth-grade report card. On the previous report card, there were 10. The goal is to have a card full of P’s by the end of the year.

Other area districts have changed the way they grade in elementary schools. In 2004, the Northern Lebanon School District began using checks, pluses and minuses instead of traditional letter grades. The Eastern Lebanon County School District uses an “E” for exceeding expectations, an “M” for meeting them, and an “N” for “needing support.”

Reg Weaver, president of the National Educators Association, said there’s been a nationwide movement toward replacing traditional grading systems, but no consensus. Plenty of districts are experimenting, and it’s best for local districts to decide what works, he said.

Any way to give parents more feedback will be beneficial, he said.

“Once the kid knows the home and school is communicating and working together, in most cases you’ll see a difference in behavior, and you’ll see a difference in achievement,” Weaver said.

The impact is reaching into classroom lessons.

Fourth-grade teacher Brian Blase documents more data than he ever has before, but he won’t write scores or percentages on papers, he said. That data helps him direct his teaching at individual needs, he said.

During a geometry unit, one group of students was taken aside for a lesson on line segments. A few others got help on identifying right angles.

Students at elementary age are less motivated by grades than their older peers, and the new system helps him identify problem areas, Blase said.

“Even a student who got an A on the quiz, maybe they still don’t know how to draw a line segment,” he said.

The district is using just two letters to avoid the feeling of rankings, said Joe McFarland, principal of Hershey Primary Elementary School.

Some of the standards, designated by gray boxes on the report card, come from the state. Others are the district’s own.

Lori Dixon, principal of Hershey Intermediate Elementary School, said nonacademic factors are still important, though separate from academic achievement. They’ll be evaluated in a separate section, and misbehavior will be sternly talked about, she said.

But “it really should not muddy the issue of what this child knew and could demonstrate to me,” she said.

Parents and students will receive the first report card at the end of October, but the school is preparing parents for the switch. At a meeting with parents last week, the reaction was mostly positive.

Deborah Smith, who moved to Hershey from Binghamton, N.Y., said the former school district of her fifth-grade daughter used a similar system.

“This way you look at it, and you know the specific area you have to work on,” she said.

But Dana Bergey, the father of a fifth-grader, was skeptical.

“P is going to be ‘good enough,'” he said from the audience. “I don’t want my daughter to be good enough. I want her to be the best she can be.”

After the meeting, Bergey said he had feared the system catered to the lowest common denominator. But after a talk with McFarland, Bergey felt more optimistic, he said.

PTO President Ann Marie Schupper said she has already seen results.

Her fourth-grade daughter used to compare her grades to her seventh-grade brother’s, she said. This year, when her daughter brought home a spelling test with three questions wrong, she had a different response, Schupper said.

“She said, ‘I only have to learn these three,’ as opposed to ‘Oh, I have three wrong,'” Schupper said. “That’s really a great mind set.”

CLIPS: Some workers see buyouts as good news (04/04/07)

BY DANIEL VICTOR
Of The Patriot-News

News of job cuts at the West Hershey and 19 E. Chocolate Ave. plants in Derry Twp. were greeted with tears and anger. But at the Reese’s plant yesterday, some workers said their slice of The Hershey Co. reorganization tasted much better.

“It’s almost Hersheypark happy in there,” said Mike Henry, 54, a laborer with 34 years at the plant.

Reese’s workers were told yesterday that 200 to 250 jobs will be cut from the 900-worker plant. Workers said they expect details to be similar to the plans offered at the two unionized plants in Derry Twp.

How’s that good news?

Dozens of workers waved away interview requests, but almost all of the half-dozen or so who chose to speak were optimistic the cuts will be achieved voluntarily.

“Of course we don’t like to see the plant size reduced,” said Joe Peters, a 36-year veteran of the plant. “But if you’re close to retirement, this is definitely a better package than nothing.”

Peters, 57, said he can’t be sure until he sees the details of the offer, but he thought workers over 55 likely would take the deal.

Bill Brown, 55, wasn’t thinking about retirement. But he said he’d take a deal like the one offered to Hershey’s unionized workers last week. The union members approved that buyout plan overwhelmingly.

The plan for the Reese’s plant will not require a vote by workers because they are not unionized.

Lou Henry, 53, has worked at the Reese’s plant for 20 years and said she’ll wait to see the numbers before deciding whether to retire. She agreed that the mood yesterday was positive.

“For the most part, I think the people are very happy with what they’re getting,” she said.

Richard Stichler, 52, said the deal is good enough for him. He has 35 years at the plant, having started at 17. Single, with a daughter who graduated from college, he can work until the end of 2009 and collect the extra four years he believes the company is offering.

“I think I should be pretty well set,” he said.

The mood inside the plant yesterday was “pretty subdued,” Stichler said. He said a lot of people believed the youngest workers will be safe from layoffs.

“It’s just going to make it nicer and better for the younger people,” he said. “They have more of a sense of security.”

Brian Deimler, 22, didn’t know what to think as he was about to start his day. He’s been at the plant for a year and has hopes to stay longer, he said. It might be tough for a 52-year-old to leave, he said, and he wasn’t able to gauge his likelihood of staying.

“Can’t really do anything about it,” he said, shrugging his shoulders.

Steve Neider, who has worked in maintenance for less than a year, said he wasn’t too worried. Even if his job is cut, he said, “there are other jobs out there.”

Derry Twp. Supervisor Mike Pries said in an e-mail statement that “elected officials and work force agencies will assist the displaced employees who will be affected if not enough early retirements are taken.”

“The end result of the restructuring is that once these jobs are gone, they are gone forever,” he wrote.

LeRoy Zimmerman, chairman of The Hershey Trust, said the trust hopes all workers will be included in early retirement plans.

“I anticipated that they would hopefully be happy, because an early retirement package being offered to hourly employees is somewhat out of the ordinary,” he said.

“And I would hope they recognize that, notwithstanding the hardship that these things cause to families.”

The job cuts are part of a massive company restructuring that will result in about 3,000 job losses, although about 1,500 jobs eventually will be added at various plants, including a new one being built by Hershey in Mexico.

CLIPS: What would Milton do? (03/16/07)

BY DANIEL VICTOR
Of The Patriot-News

Even 62 years after his death, Milton Snavely Hershey has an opinion on everything.

The name and vision of The Hershey Co.’s founder is invoked in arguments over the future of the company, zoning changes and Internet message board etiquette. To get to the crux of the issues, residents often ask: What would Milton do?

“Milton still really matters a lot,” said Michael D’Antonio, author of “Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire and Utopian Dreams.”

“I don’t know if there are many places in America that you can find a founder so many years after his death that would be so alive in people’s minds and hearts.”

His name has been especially tied to The Hershey Co.’s plans to lay off as many as 3,000 workers while building a plant in Mexico. Locals fear the possibility of the plant at 19 E. Chocolate Ave., the one that emits a chocolate aroma through Hershey, shutting down or losing jobs.

Among the questions asked at a public rally last month: Where is the loyalty to Milton Hershey’s legacy? Will the dream of Milton Hershey die at the hands of Hershey Co. CEO Richard Lenny?

“I met Mr. Hershey, and Lenny could never stand on the same podium as that man,” Ralph Hetrick said at the rally.

So, if he were alive today, what would Milton Hershey say?

“I’m not sure we can say we know what Milton Hershey would do today,” said Tom Winpenny, a history professor at Elizabethtown College who has written papers and articles on the candymaker.

“It’s hard to compare 1905 with 2007. Anybody would make some adjustments to globalization, and I’m sure he would have made some.”

“I think if he had lived through the evolution of American business, he would understand the company’s approach and probably see it as inevitable,” D’Antonio said.

Milton Hershey’s rock star status lingers in his namesake village partly because his influence didn’t stop when he died in 1945.

The trust he left to educate underprivileged children has ballooned to several billion dollars, and the Milton Hershey School in Derry Twp. is increasing to a record-high enrollment of 1,700.

The trust gave $50 million to build the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, which employs thousands of people. Large swaths of land controlled by the trust have resisted the development of strip malls and hotels.

Hershey created jobs outside the United States. He poured money into sugar operations in Cuba, hoping to create a similar town there.

It was an era of civic concern when Milton Hershey ran the company, D’Antonio said, and “thinking people tended to dwell on the meaning of community.”

It was almost automatic for him to devote himself to others, he said.

The first chocolate plant in Hershey opened in 1905, soon to be followed by a post office, general store, barbershop, theater and boarding house for employees, according to the Derry Twp. Historical Society.

A park, which would later become Hersheypark, was created in 1907 as a place for employees to relax; the park and the iconic Hershey Kiss are celebrating their 100th anniversary this year.

Milton Hershey signed a Deed of Trust in 1909 to create a home for orphaned boys, which later became the Milton Hershey School. The development of the town continued through the Great Depression and after Milton Hershey died in 1945.

“Although townspeople felt a deep sense of loss, many knew that they had been well provided for, and life would always be good in Hershey,” wrote Millie Landis Coyle on the Derry Twp. Historical Society Web site.

The town existed mostly to serve the needs of the company employees until the 1960s, said Pam Whitenack, director of the Hershey Community Archives.

Around that time, the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center opened and tourism took off. A junior college that provided free education to Derry Twp. residents from 1938 to 1965 was a factor in the town’s growth, Whitenack said.

“In one perspective, Milton Hershey was about change,” she said. “He also really valued his employees and recognized their importance, and really felt that there was a very strong social contract between the company and the employee.”

Kathleen Lewis, vice president of the Derry Twp. Historical Society, said the company is no longer as paternalistic as it once was, but the area’s identity is still based on it.

“Since the very beginning, the town and the company were very close, and in fact everything that went on here was very intertwined,” she said. “That has changed somewhat, but I think people try to hold on to that feeling because they feel Mr. Hershey did a wonderful thing here.”

Staff writer Monica Von Dobeneck contributed to this report.

CLIPS: Amid anger and tears, difficult choices near (03/27/07)

BY DANIEL VICTOR
Of The Patriot-News

Michael Morgan said The Hershey Co.’s retirement package isn’t good enough.

Theresa Whitaker said she doesn’t see any choice but to take it.

Doug Geyer would be thrilled if he were eligible.

And Scott Ail is convinced he’s out of a job.

Workers, residents and politicians have pressed The Hershey Co. for the number of local job cuts since realignment plans were announced in February. Now that they know that 600 to 650 positions will be cut, the difficult decisions begin for the candymaking workers.

Whitaker, 52, plans to unenthusiastically take the deal for early retirement. It hurts to leave, she said, but she has to look out for her children.

“We don’t want to, but we don’t really have a choice,” said Whitaker, who works in molding. “If we don’t take it and it comes up again, it’s going to be worse.”

Her friend, Alice Jones-Pressley, said she’d love to be eligible for the deal.

The Harrisburg resident has worked in the plant since she was 18. She is now 46. So even though she was hired in the same year as Whitaker, she’s left out of the offer for early retirement.

She believes the company isn’t done downsizing. “The plant is a dinosaur,” she said, suggesting further cuts are likely in the 102-year-old main plant.

“There’s a lot of upset people right now,” she said. “A lot of anger, a lot of tears.”

At 47, Geyer, of Hummelstown, is missing the cut for a retirement package. He has worked in shipping for 29 years, but he wonders whether the plant will be shut in the coming years. “It’s just not cost-efficient,” he said.

Though much of his family, including his father, has worked at the plant, he’s looking for other jobs, unsure whether he’ll be able to retire with the company or what he might lose next. He said he would have taken a buyout if he had the opportunity.

“I always wanted to be younger,” he said. “For the first time, I’m too young.”

Morgan, 50, said he plans to reject the company’s offer and stay for 10 years. A truck driver for 29 years, he said an additional four years offered by the company aren’t enough.

“That’s just not going to cut it,” he said.

Ail, 42, has 13 years at the company, so “I’m toast,” he said. If he can, he’ll take voluntary severance, which would give him two weeks of pay for each of his 13 years. Voluntary severance will be offered only if enough workers eligible for the early retirement plan don’t take it.

If he were involuntarily let go — which he believes could happen — he’d get one week of pay for each year.

“It’s clear. Either way I’m out the door,” he said.

Ail, who makes syrup, went to a union meeting yesterday that explained his options, and he said he believes the union will approve the contract when it votes Thursday or Friday.

“I’ll just get a commercial driver’s license and drive somewhere,” he said. “There aren’t a lot of options around here.”

Derry Twp. Supervisor August “Skip” Memmi said elected officials can craft plans to help workers find jobs now that the officials know how many will be cut. Several local officials had been pressing the company for a number.

“I believe that the community as a whole has always been questioning what the impact was going to be,” Memmi said. “This number allows them to understand that impact a little better and should allow them to understand that there will be chocolate-making in Derry Twp. for the foreseeable future.”

Some workers are being proactive about their future.

Lebanon County Commissioner Bill Carpenter said he got a phone call from a Hershey employee who already is looking for a job. The employee, in his 50s, has about 25 years with the company and thinks he probably will be eligible for some type of retirement incentive, Carpenter said.

“He said he won’t be able to live on that and might need another job — maybe not as good — but something to supplement,” he said.

Carpenter said a sufficient number of “supplemental” jobs are available in the area.

“It’s the jobs like at Hershey that aren’t around. That’s a career job,” Carpenter said. “Hopefully, they will give a good enough buyout that they can live with that and do some sort of supplemental job and between the two be able to get by.”

Carpenter called the announcement “better news.”

“I wouldn’t say good news, but it’s better than we originally thought, that they might close a plant,” he said. “That would have been devastating.”

Staff writer Barbara Miller contributed to this report.

CLIPS: Residents and workers filled with uncertainty (03/26/07)

BY DANIEL VICTOR
Of The Patriot-News

Even the good news surrounding The Hershey Co.’s future in Derry Twp. carries an aroma of uncertainty.

If a tentative agreement with the Chocolate Workers union is approved, the plants on East Chocolate Avenue and at Hershey West will keep running, ending a nagging fear that Chocolatetown, U.S.A., could lose its symbolic heart to cost-cutting measures.

But still up in the air is the number of local jobs to be lost under the company’s realignment.

A company spokesman said last night that Hershey would achieve “the majority” of expected job cuts through a “very attractive early retirement and voluntary severance plan.” How many jobs would be lost beyond that “majority” was not specified.

Yesterday’s news, like much of the communications from the company since it announced plans to lay off as many as 3,000 workers while building a plant in Mexico, was short on specifics.

“I guess we have to wait and see exactly what this is going to mean,” said Derry Twp. resident Rosemarie Rippon-Prete, who had organized a rally to save Hershey jobs. “This is a tease. It’s not the full truth yet.”

The union will present details of the tentative agreement to members at meetings this week. If approved, the agreement “fulfills our commitment to maintaining a strong presence within Derry Twp.,” the company said.

Some residents have feared the company might close its old plants. Many consider local job losses an assault on Milton S. Hershey’s vision for the company town.

“I have a feeling this is a beginning to an end of an era, and Mr. Hershey’s dream is soon to be destroyed,” Rippon-Prete said last night.

Others see job cuts as inevitable due to the changing business world and the company’s obligations to its stockholders.

The town, which features Hershey Kiss-shaped streetlights and a strong scent of chocolate, was built around the needs of the factory workers. Milton S. Hershey opened his first plant in 1905.

Dauphin County Commissioner George Hartwick III attended a rally this month along with several hundred local residents and Hershey workers. Last night, Hartwick said he was still waiting for a reply to an e-mail he wrote to Richard H. Lenny, asking the Hershey CEO to respond to questions about the local impact of the realignment.

He was e-mailed information on the union agreement from the company’s government relations director a few minutes before a call from The Patriot-News. The information also lacked an exact number on job losses, he said.

The company “holding their cards so close to their vest keeps me really confused and concerned about what the impact is going to be,” Hartwick said.

“In all of these agreements, the real impact is with the details,” he said. “And at first blush you think, obviously, The Hershey Co. must have had an idea how many jobs they wanted to reduce. If they didn’t have that number in mind, they couldn’t come to that agreement. It’d be nice to know what that total number will be.”

Without those numbers, he said, local government is having a hard time preparing for the impact.

“As an elected official, it is my responsibility to keep pressing them for more details,” Derry Twp. Supervisor Mike Pries said last night after hearing of the tentative agreement. “It is what they are not saying that has me worried.”