Connellsville Area School District
Connellsville Area High School is something to behold… not only from the outside, but on the inside as well. From the moment you step in the front door, it’s abundantly clear that the Falcons take great pride in every aspect of their school.
Straight ahead towering above you as you enter the high school doors is a colossal structure. You learn from a commemorative plaque below that it is a piece of the World Trade Center North Tower recovered from Ground Zero after the 9/11 attacks. It made its way to Connellsville in February of 2011, thanks to the diligent efforts of a special teacher who was also founder of the CAHS Patriots, Inc. The piece of the tower resides in the foyer with a quote from President George W. Bush on the wall just above it that reads, “These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve,” acting as a constant reminder of the resiliency that was on display as the nation strove to recover. CAHS Patriots, Inc. is a student volunteer group committed to promoting patriotism and supporting military personnel. Students participate by shipping care packages around the world, taking part in Wreaths Across America, and by organizing fundraisers like their Warriors Rock concert, a tribute to local veterans. For their excellent work, they’ve even been featured on national news.
Just below the President’s quote sits the CAHS Wall of Honor, a wonderful display of plaques with names and faces of past graduates, showcasing their accomplishments and successes since graduating from Connellsville. With it continuously growing, the rest will have to be kept in a new location.
Down the hall sits the hub of the high school. Constantly buzzing with students, this area houses the Falcon Productions studio, library, and Fab Lab. Falcon Productions takes care of all videos and live streams, from covering upcoming musicals to the morning and afternoon announcements, to interviews and hype videos for big sporting events. Their equipment is college-level, and it shows in the impressive quality of the student’s creations. The library, or iMedia Center, is equipped with so much more than books. The school coffee shop, Falcon Fuel, operates here, with money raised from sales going toward the Life Skills class fieldtrips. The gaming center is there also, as well as an interactive classroom, comprised of 9 televisions that can be utilized as 1 big screen. Finally, the iMedia Center is home to the Harold J. Betters recording studio, aptly named after the 1947 graduate who went on to become a prominent jazz musician, playing with music legends such as Louis Armstrong and Ray Charles, just to name a few. Students can even intern in the library to receive elective course credit. Then comes their fabrication lab just across the hall, which is a creator’s dream. With multiple 3D printers, wood soldering, vinyl cutters, heat presses, and a direct to garment printer, the space where students can turn their ideas into a reality, leaves little to be desired.
Just up the hill behind the high school sits the Connellsville Area CTC, home to more than 10 different vocational programs, from Automotive Collision Repair to Welding, and including unique programs like HVAC and Heavy Equipment Operations. Electrical Occupations works closely with West Penn Power, and in recent history, students who successfully completed the lineman course were employed full-time within days of their graduation. The Culinary Arts program offers catering options and opens the doors to their café throughout the week so the community can enjoy their fantastic meals. In the Heavy Equipment Operations and Preventive Maintenance program (which is one of only a few across the state), students learn to safely operate and maintain large pieces of equipment including backhoes, bulldozers, loaders, and excavators, thanks in large part to their innovative and highly accurate Caterpillar simulators. They also learn about soils, erosion and sediment control, paving, surveying, and grading. Upon completion of the program, with the possibility of earning several industry certifications, the immediate employment opportunities are abundant.
At the risk of sounding repetitive, the Connellsville School District really is something to behold. The cleanliness of the buildings, the state-of-the-art technology, the warm and welcoming staff, the overall atmosphere… every aspect of it all tied into one, makes them a district that other schools who might be looking to make improvements, could surely benefit from emulating.
*Special thanks to Superintendent Dr. Joseph Bradley, Connellsville School Board member Mr. Paul Harshman, and CACTC Principal Eric DiCianna for the tour of the school, and for allowing IU1 to showcase the school district.