A School Away From Home, Part III

Article Tools
  • PrintPrinter-Friendly
  • EmailEmail Article
  • ReprintReprints

Using or selling drugs or alcohol, using or carrying a dangerous weapon, stealing, and sexual misconduct fall under the school's 2-year-old zero-tolerance policy. Those offenses are grounds for expulsion.

"The hardest things for kids to stop doing are cursing and fighting, because that was a way of life before they came here," says Patty Klugh, a houseparent for 12 years. "With the zero-tolerance policy, they think twice before they fight because they know it means a trip home."

About 60 percent of the school's parents visit on the three parents' days each year.

About a dozen students make that one-way trip each year. Last month, the school expelled a senior just two months from a diploma who cold-cocked another student after a basketball game.

"And I liked that kid," says Frame, exasperated. "I was going to take him to Ohio to look at a school. But he violated our values."

Those values--respect, kindness, responsibility, and excellence--are constantly drummed into the students and displayed on posters throughout the school.

"What are the values?" Hamilton, the principal, asks a high school senior sent to his office for talking during JROTC. "Which one didn't you meet?"

The same questions are asked by Frame and James Lowe, the acting director of student affairs, who meet weekly with students who consistently misbehave. "I've resigned myself to the fact that we can't save every child," Frame says. "We have high standards, and not everyone can accept the responsibility to meet them."

That goes for some parents, too. Many, like Tracy Morton of Philadelphia, have taken the time to meet their children's teachers and houseparents.

Morton enrolled her son, Calvin, after she saw her nephew mature at the school. "I'm secure in knowing that he's here and not running the streets," says Morton, an assistant administrator at a social services agency. She drove more than three hours to visit her son and attend a recent board meeting at the school.

But too many of the other mothers and fathers don't get involved.

Ask Virginia James, who heads the Parents' Association of Philadelphia and has served on the Scotland School's board of trustees since her grandson graduated in 1992. Only a handful of the Scotland parents who live in the city come to her monthly meetings.

About 60 percent of the school's parents visit on the three parents' days each year.

"We have some very caring parents, and some very poor parents," James says simply.

Starting next year, the parents of 12th graders will be required to visit at least once to discuss their children's graduation plans.

The school is governed by a board of nine trustees who are appointed by the governor.

At a recent board meeting in the school library, the agenda included a 10th grader who got pregnant, an April appearance by Gov. Tom Ridge at the opening of the new cafeteria, and fund raising by the school's new foundation.

Frame started the foundation in December after realizing the state's $1.8 million contribution to build a cafeteria wouldn't cover equipment. The foundation set out to raise $400,000 and has received $30,000 so far.

"We started out with furniture in mind, and we realized that we needed to do many things," says Lloyd Trinklein, the foundation's chief executive officer.

A loosely organized alumni association organizes campus gatherings once a year but has never sent out solicitations for money. For the first time, alumni have been invited to an off-campus reception at a Philadelphia hotel, which school officials hope will jump-start fund raising.

Though 1991 was the closest the school has come to the ax, its budget is always in jeopardy.

The school has always viewed the state as its caretaker. Legend has it that on Thanksgiving Day in 1863, Gov. Andrew Gregg Curtin answered a knock at his mansion door. Two children begged for food, saying their father had been killed in battle and their mother had died.

Haunted by their desperation, Curtin used a $50,000 donation from the Pennsylvania Railroad to the Union Army to start an orphans' fund, and in the following decades the state opened more than 40 schools and homes for soldiers' orphans.

The state legislature in 1893 approved the purchase of 100 acres for $12,000 to consolidate some of the orphanages into one school.

The Pennsylvania Soldiers' Orphans Industrial School opened in Scotland two years later. The word "orphans" was later dropped to avoid a stigma.

The only other existing residential school that traces its roots to the Civil War is the state-funded Indiana Soldiers' and Sailors' Children's Home, in Knightstown. Rising costs forced the Ohio Soldiers and Sailors Home in Xenia to close in 1995 after 128 years. Even some of the dozen or so public residential magnet schools around the country have struggled to survive.

"The Scotland School is a real gem," says Heidi Goldsmith, the executive director of the International Center for Residential Education.

Like a proud father, Frame, who has worked here since 1967, points to photographs near his office of a former student who graduated from Lehigh University and another who plans to be a doctor. His occasionally abrupt demeanor suggests a stern disciplinarian; his kind, blue eyes reveal a man who loves children.

The 56-year-old educator is known to sleep with one ear next to a walkie-talkie linked to the nighttime security guard and the infirmary.

"No one works as hard as Mr. Frame," says Lowe. "When you think you've put in a long day and you're just about to sign out, the light in his office goes back on."

Frame, a native of Charleston, W.Va., holds a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University and a master's degree in education from Pennsylvania State University.

In February 1991, two months after Frame became superintendent, then-Gov. Robert P. Casey proposed dissolving the school over two years.

Frame mobilized veterans' groups, teachers, parents, and alumni to lobby state legislators to preserve the school's budget.

The school persevered, but at a high cost. Frame was forced to chop $1.5 million from the $9.1 million budget. He cut vocational-technical subjects such as carpentry, electronics, and print shop; fired several middle managers; and consolidated students in fewer cottages.

Though 1991 was the closest the school has come to the ax, its budget is always in jeopardy. This year, the school is hoping to receive the same amount of state aid as last year. Per-pupil costs are $25,402.

"There's always someone questioning why the state is in the education business," Frame says. "They say it costs as much to send them here as it does to Harvard. But a student at Harvard isn't clothed, fed, and watched-over 24 hours a day."

Web Only

Back to Top Back to Top

Most Popular Stories