Burns secures $200K for Central Cambria, Westmont to continue STEM programs

HARRISBURG, Feb. 16 – Not one to leave work unfinished, state Rep. Frank Burns, obtained $200,000 in state grants to help Central Cambria and Westmont Hilltop school districts continue their national teacher training and development program they started last school year.

Back in 2022, Burns helped Central Cambria and Westmont school districts obtain an initial $200,000 -- $100,000 each – for the teacher training and development program for the 2022-23 school year, and again has stepped up to help secure a second round of funding so the districts can continue the program.

“When I first heard about NMSI’s teacher training and development program, I knew I had to bring it to Cambria County,” said Burns, D-Cambria. “I’m committed to working with our local schools to make sure our students have the best opportunities, and continuing this program is the right thing to do to ensure that happens.”

“Central Cambria School District would like to thank Representative Frank Burns for securing additional funding that will allow us to continue our partnership with the National Math and Science Initiative,” said Dr. Tricia Murin, Central Cambria School District assistant superintendent. “This relationship has been invaluable to our students and staff as they have been afforded opportunities with expanded Advanced Placement course offerings and high-quality professional development, respectively, that would not have been available to them otherwise.

 “As our district faces economic challenges brought about by commercial tax reassessments, declining enrollment, and cyber charter tuition bills, we are deeply grateful for Frank’s dedication to our students shown by securing the funding that will allow us to continue this program,” Murin said.

“Westmont Hilltop School District is grateful for the opportunity to participate in the National Math + Science Initiative,” said Westmont Hilltop Superintendent Thomas Mitchell. “The expansion of AP courses offerings, access to quality preparatory materials, discounted testing fees, and professional development would not have been possible without the support of Frank Burns.”

The National Math and Science Initiative is a group that works to increase and improve STEM education, as well as access to and success in AP classes. NMSI focuses on teacher training and coaching so classroom teachers are efficient and effective at covering material – not making students do unnecessary or unhelpful work.

“Increasing participation in AP courses not only gives students the chance to earn college credits while in high school, but also better prepares them for university coursework,” Burns said.

This program provides support to Westmont Hilltop’s 16 AP courses and offers additional resources to teachers and students promoting excellence in this challenging coursework. For the 2023-24 academic year, the school district has 122 students in grades 10-12 enrolled in 212 AP exams: a participation rate of 98%.

Central Cambria offers 20 different AP courses, with the highest AP enrollment and participation in Cambria County, according to Mitchell. The grant has enabled the district to reduce the exam fee, and as a result, participation rates have significantly increased due to its partnership with NMSI.