New Hope-Solebury School District – Bucks Country, Pennsylvania

February 19, 2024

New Hope-Solebury School District

Putting community-supported experiential learning first


An award-winning school district heading in the right educational direction

The New Hope-Solebury School District (NHSD), encompassing 28.57 square miles, is small and rural but boasts a progressive educational agenda steeped in community vision.

With two elementary, one middle, and one high school, NHSD prioritizes curriculum, academic excellence, and extensive extracurriculars. Among 665 Pennsylvanian schools, New Hope-Solebury High School holds an impressive rank, 9th overall and 6th on the College Readiness Index.

The schools support a distinctive path, nurturing well-rounded students. This vision is not aspirational; it is a driving force for the district’s initiatives. Efforts focus on creating a comprehensive high school program, which progressively exposes learners to colleges and careers.

This approach prevents students from investing in an education without clarity on their aspirations and heightens engagement, supporting social and emotional growth within the school system.

Community-Supported Experiential Learning

Over the past eight years, the district tirelessly forged partnerships, recognizing their opportunity to help shape the educational landscape. “The community is integral to our work,” states Superintendent Dr. Charles Lentz. Their collaborations support a dynamic partnership that involves the community in pivotal aspects of the district’s operations.

One noteworthy alliance involves the public’s participation in a groundbreaking College and Career Pathways program. This uses collective wisdom and resources to guide students in making informed decisions regarding their futures and shows a dedication to preparing graduates for the challenges and opportunities beyond the classroom.

The Pathways trajectory accepts education is not an isolated endeavor, but a continuum that extends into the professional realm.

The populace supports learners with meaningful experiences outside the classroom. “Opportunities to go out and work in the community are provided,” notes Lentz. This hands-on engagement broadens students’ perspectives and instills civic-mindedness, nurturing well-rounded individuals poised to contribute to both their own community and the global landscape.

New Hope-Solebury School District prioritizes literacy and has launched innovations to strengthen literary development among its youngest learners.

Dr. Amanda Benolken, New Hope-Solebury’s Director of Education, commended her team for their efforts to build partnerships with local preschools as they implemented a brand-new K-5 reading curriculum. “Our teams will meet with local preschool instructors to share our new literacy practices, so we prepare pupils to enter our building as kindergartners.”

NHSD also employs unique registration and placement, as Benolken explains, “During the first week of school, students rotate through the teachers.” This process, distinct in its approach, involves gathering baseline data, observing interactions, and creating balanced classrooms. Benolken emphasizes, “This is groundbreaking. Not many schools factor balanced classrooms into the kindergarten experience.”

Through its commitment to innovation and strategic partnerships, New Hope-Solebury School District fosters a dynamic educational ecosystem, pledging to grow beyond conventional academic limits.


Investing in Mental Health and  Safety Measures

The New Hope-Solebury School District has implemented multifaceted strategies to discuss mental health concerns. Dr. Rose Minniti, Assistant Superintendent, says, “This year we brought in the Cook Center to educate our parents, families, teachers, and administrative team about critical topics like anxiety, depression, and school avoidance.”

Building on its existing Student Assistance Program (SAP), NHSD is steadfast in addressing mental health concerns at the middle and high school levels by promoting a culture of inclusivity with the Anti-Defamation League’s “No Place for Hate” campaign. Minniti explains another partnership with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), “They host presentations with our students at each age- level.”

In response to widespread post-pandemic struggles with social-emotional well-being and stress levels, Dr. Lentz explains a shift in the high school schedule. “We built a block schedule of four periods a day, with a period in the middle called “Lunch and Learn” where students can decompress.” This freedom promotes peer bonding and improved connections with teachers, fostering essential social-emotional well-being.

To equip staff with the necessary tools, the district is investing in Mental Health First Aid training for secondary employees. “We have one teacher and a guidance counselor pursuing this certification, and then they will train the rest of our staff,” Minniti says. These initiatives underscore New Hope-Solebury’s preemptive approach, acknowledging the need for a comprehensive mental health plan that involves a supportive environment.

Recognizing the imperative for heightened security measures is an essential reality, Scott Radaszkiewicz, Director of District Operations, emphasizes, “We take safety seriously.” Adopting the ALICE protocols for active intruder incidents, the district focuses on alert, lockdown, inform, counter, and evacuate.

The district maintains a comprehensive and detailed safety plan, working routinely with external partners to conduct safety and security assessments and to implement their recommendations.

Enhancing staff visibility and identification is another priority. With unfamiliar staff members, the district seeks heightened awareness. Radaszkiewicz urges anyone spotting an unfamiliar face to report it: “If you do not recognize them, call the office and say I saw somebody walking through the hallways.”

Local law enforcement collaboration is integral, with police familiarized with school layouts. Radaszkiewicz notes, “They have master keys to all our buildings and conduct training drills on our campus,” ensuring a swift response. The district remains grounded in the belief that preparedness is fundamental.


Profile of the Graduate and Education Pathways

In the latest comprehensive plan, New Hope-Solebury officials and the community defined ten qualities for students in the “Profile of the Graduate.” Benolken highlights, “These include being collaborative, ethical, and effective communicators.” The district ensures alignment with this profile by framing opportunities through these lenses. Benolken poses a question, “Are we giving our students the chance to practice these skills before they leave?”

Another initiative, Career Pathways, involves freshmen in a college and career preparation course, allowing them to tailor their educational experience. Benolken explains, “We have three pathways, culminating with a 60-hour internship project, known as APEX, connecting students with mentors and providing hands-on experiences. Students seek their own placements offsite and have interned with a range of facilitators, from a local veterinarian office to Google’s headquarters in California.”

The learning extends beyond, with students presenting experiences to underclassmen and faculty, making this program a mandatory graduation requirement. New Hope-Solebury School District integrates education with real-world skills, shaping well-rounded graduates prepared for life beyond school.

The school’s concentration on student involvement extends to feedback and leadership opportunities. “We have a valuable Student Advisory Committee, so the students have input,” states Dr. Lentz. The district deliberately creates opportunities for student participation in decision-making by incorporating their feedback on restructuring classrooms, open spaces, and the high school stadium.

Five years ago, the stadium was in disrepair, hindering competitive play. NHSD started a capital campaign, securing $1.2 million in philanthropic funds for a comprehensive $2.5 million renovation. The result, which incorporated student concepts, is a transformed sports arena, with turf and a new track. Dr. Lentz says, “This development is a source of excitement, particularly since the grounds are utilized and valued by the community.” The new complex will include a press box, concession stand, and team rooms.

What Lays Ahead?

New Hope-Solebury’s future priorities revolve around ensuring student success in higher education and solid career choices.

Over the next three years, the New Hope-Solebury School District will continue to reimagine its classrooms to be future-focused learning environments. The rollout begins at the high school and systematically extends to the middle and elementary schools. “There are pilot areas, such as the K-2 building, with a unique indoor jungle space complete with plant-themed lighting and tables shaped like trees,” says Minniti.

This area supplies an inspiring and collaborative environment for first-grade students and considers the whole child. The intention is to create classrooms and learning spaces that foster collaboration, aligning with the principles outlined in the district’s “Profile of a Graduate.”

As NHSD continues its commitment to educational innovation and student empowerment, the journey unfolds with a shared vision. With a focus on literacy, security, mental health, and real-world skills, the district shapes a holistic educational ecosystem. Its innovations and vision, demonstrated by the “Profile of the Graduate” and Career Pathways, underscores a dedication to nurturing well-rounded individuals.

As each chapter unfolds within the halls of the New Hope-Solebury School District, it weaves a narrative of resilience, adaptability, and steadfast commitment to preparing students not just for academic success, but for the dynamic challenges of the 21st century.

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The New Hope-Solebury School District

What: A school district with 4 schools serving 1,311 students

Where: Bucks Country, Pennsylvania




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February 2024

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