PA Cyber STEM education project manager speaks to Pittsburgh Ivy League group

PITTSBURGH, Oct. 12, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Science education in Pennsylvania public schools "can become relevant to real-world needs and lead students toward productive careers" if regional technology-based corporations become involved, PA Cyber's new STEM project manager said.

Eugene "Geno" Thomas made his comments as the monthly speaker at a lunch lecture series sponsored by the Allegheny HYP Club and Harvard Club of Western Pennsylvania in downtown Pittsburgh on Tuesday, Oct. 9.

"Our students need to be prepared for technology jobs that may not even exist yet," said Thomas. "To meet this challenge we have to bring industry inside the educational system."

PA Cyber's plan includes collaboration on curriculum and program design with working scientists and technologists from regional corporations, and with educators from area institutions of higher learning.

"The overall concept of getting these corporations together and devising a plan on how we can move forward is really the key," said luncheon attendee Bob Martin. "There are a lot of corporations that believe in these goals. Maybe PA Cyber can be the glue that brings it together."

Martin said he knows from his contacts within large regional corporations that several are committed to finding ways to promote STEM education. He is a member of the Pittsburgh Technology Council, and founder and COO of North Shore Technologies, an information technology staffing provider.

Questions asked at the luncheon showed that many well-educated people are still learning about online education, Martin added.

PA Cyber's STEM Initiative was announced one year ago at the 2011 Pittsburgh STEM Summit. Thomas, who has held top administrative positions in both traditional school districts and charter schools, was tapped four months ago to head PA Cyber's STEM project.

Thomas said PA Cyber would make use of its statewide network of regional offices to provide hands-on, project-based STEM experiences. New STEM curricula is being developed for grades K-12. A proposed STEM education facility in the Cranberry area, northwest of Pittsburgh, is conceived as a training and laboratory site.

The acronym "STEM" conventionally stands for "science, technology, engineering and math." Thomas said PA Cyber defines the "M" in STEM as "medicine" to connect with Pittsburgh's great medical centers and biotechnology companies, and because math is already integral to science, technology and engineering.

A native of New Castle, Pa., Thomas has been a teacher, principal and educational administrator, serving in Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania schools. He served as superintendent of three school districts, and founded and led four charter schools.

He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education from Slippery Rock University and a Master's Degree in Education Administration and Supervision from George Mason University. He had the opportunity to study English at Oxford University in England, and is currently a doctoral candidate at Youngstown State University.

Thomas was invited to speak by Ed Breaux, a member of the All Ivy Network of Western Pennsylvania and a PA Cyber mathematics teacher.

Thomas said PA Cyber's 250 online courses already include a wide menu of basic and advanced math, science and technical courses, many of them not offered in traditional school districts. An original series called Cutting Edge Science includes such courses as emerging genetics, forensic science, biofuels and engineering land speed vehicles.

The school has established a collaborative relationship with scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratories. They have consulted on curricula and regularly meet online with students in the PA Cyber Cutting Edge Science Club.

The Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School is one of the nation's largest and most successful cyber charter schools. Founded and headquartered in western Pennsylvania, it provides a free, state-approved education for 11,000 students residing in every part of the Commonwealth. PA Cyber is nationally recognized as a leader and innovator in online education. It is fully accredited for grades K-12 by the Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges.

Contact Jill Valentine, 724.643.1180 x1036

SOURCE PA Cyber Charter School