West Chester Charter School Wins Chester County Mock Trial Competition

PA Leadership Charter School advanced to the Regional round, where it fell to Episcopal.

Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School's University Scholars Program (PALCS USP) competed against 15 teams from 10 other Chester County high schools, and won this year's Chester County Mock Trial Competition on February 25, 2013. Past state champions of the Pennsylvania Mock Trial Competition include Henderson High School and Devon Preparatory, both of whom lost to PALCS USP in this year’s Chester County competition.

The PALCS USP team overtook West Chester East High School in the District Level competition, then West Chester Henderson High School in a semi-final round, and finally defeated Devon Preparatory School in the final round. With this win the team will now go on to compete in the Regional Play-offs on March 5, the next step on the way to the State competition in Harrisburg in late March. The national competition will take place in May in Indianapolis.

The PALCS USP team consists of the following PALCS students participating in the University Scholars Program: Louisa Ahlqvist, Alexandre Boyer, Thomas Farinha, Grace Kier, Sarah Koros, Matthew LoPolito, Sarah Moldoff, Steven O'Hanlon, Gabby Plotts, Kiann Plotts, Kevin Schwenk, Haleigh Swansen, and Caleb Thompson. Students Ralph Lawton and Matthew LoPolito served as alternates and trained alongside the team. The team is coached by Attorney-Advisor Lori Kier, a PALCS parent, herself an attorney, along with PALCS teachers Christopher Stiles, Nona Niedert, and Matthew Smith, all who volunteered their time to work with the team. Another attorney, Deborah Krabbendam, also worked with the group.

“I know that when I tell people about how exciting Mock Trial is to participate in and to watch, my friends tend to roll their eyes at me,” said 12th grader Haleigh Swensen. “Once they come out and see the process, though – the speed and intensity of the arguments and how many quick decisions the contestants are making—they are blown away. If anyone doubts in a high schooler’s ability to analyze, think on his feet, or argue legal facts with maturity, that person needs to come watch a mock trial competition. “

The coaching staff and parents of the students note the impressive commitment and devotion of the students. "The students have prepared all year for the playoffs. They have stayed after school, attended scrimmages on Friday afternoons, tournaments on Saturdays and Sundays, and finally the district competition and playoffs,” noted Coach Christopher Stiles. “I have seen them grow so much through this process. It has been an honor to serve as their coach."

Coach Stiles credits attorney advisor Lori Kier as being critical to the success of the team. He elaborates, “She allows the students to discover the law naturally as they work through the case, providing guidance when needed, but letting the students lead the investigation."

The PALCS USP team agrees that one key to their success has been the support of the whole PA Leadership Charter School school community. Teachers who weren't coaching voluntarily helped with logistics, parents brought food and ferried students to scrimmages and tournaments, and the students did whatever they could to help each other improve through practice and preparation. Coach Nona Niedert, a middle school English teacher and Drama Club director, used her talent for drama to help the students grow into more confident and persuasive speakers.

In Pennsylvania, there are approximately 300 teams that compete in Mock Trial, an activity that gives high school students the opportunity to act as lawyers and witnesses in simulated civil and criminal trials before actual judges and panels of juries.


Delaware County Courthouse served as the venue for the Regional Mock Trial Competition on Tuesday, March 5. As the winner of Chester County district, the PALCS-USP team squared off against the winner of Delaware County, the Episcopal Academy. The USP Mock Trial team lost in a tough battle against EA. The students performed well and learned numerous lessons through the experience. The team is looking forward to next year and the opportunity to compete again.

This release was submitted by Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School's University Scholars Program.

Star Thrower March 10, 2013 at 04:30 PM
Hate to say I told you so Jake, but obviously cyber (unlike brick and mortar) learning is the future of SUSTAINABLE education. Also this ... for the dead-ucation-freeloading detractors of AYP among us ... PA Leadership (like Conestoga ... and unlike WCASD) met the Pennsylvania Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) designation for the 2011-2012 school year ... not that AYP is the be all and end all of education, just that the proven best of our schools manage to make AYP consistently, while those who don't manage to make AYP (WCASD), consistently appear in droves to whine about it. Did I mention that cyber education is the only 99.9% sure way of protecting our children from school building terrorism? PS - you have my permission to edit or remove this comment Jake, if the heat from the wasteful spending unsustainable entities among us becomes too intense
Chrissie Raysor March 11, 2013 at 12:14 AM
Good evening! I am the Public Relations Associate for the Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School, and the writer of this article, and am thrilled that the Patch published it! I'm commenting tonight to share some interesting and positive information about our school (http://www.palcs.org). For the 2011-2012 school year, Pennsylvania's Dept. of Education reported an overall graduation rate of 80%. Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School, the cyber school written about in this article, had an overall graduation rate of 88% for that same school year. As Star Thrower commented "not that AYP is the be all and end all of education," other standardized testings, namely SAT and ACT, speak well about the education received by students of the Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School. The Class of 2012 scored a 1518 overall average on the SAT, higher than the state average of 1472. The Class of 2012 obtained an average composite score of 23.4 on the ACT, higher than the state average of 22.4.
AmyL March 12, 2013 at 08:56 PM
Congratulations to the PALCS' Mock Trial team! I saw them in action at the Regionals and they did a great job. I was impressed with the student attorneys and witnesses ... as well as the feedback from the judge.
shnobycat May 28, 2013 at 05:11 PM
FYI: This is an important clarification: the University Scholars Program students won the mock trial competition. Under its purview, PALCS has a separate "school": University Scholars Program. USP is a combination cyber/on-site program specifically designed for gifted middle and high school kids. Admission is very selective and competitive. The kids that attend USP are gifted across all academic subjects; they well-rounded, mature, sociable, have a quick wit and have an awesome sense of humor. All classes are either AP or honors; SAT/ACT scores are very high; they are universally admitted to top universities and colleges; and they often receive academic scholarships from colleges/universities. Within the school, it is well-known that "USP students" are **not** "PALCS students." USP is a distinct entity that is under the PALCS administrative umbrella. USP students (and parents) were upset that PALCS decided to "take credit" for the team's success (um, misrepresent the true PALCS student abilities,) rather than honestly attribute the team to USP. see part 2
shnobycat May 28, 2013 at 05:12 PM
part 2 And, if PALCS chooses to continue to ride on the successes of USP students, ethically, they need to significantly increase the current truly pathetic program budget. USP needs include the following: many, many more teachers--and those teachers need to be intelligent enough to keep up with the kids: at least one properly outfitted science lab (preferably more); more classrooms to increase the ability of on-site attendance; a budget for student activities--including equipment support for the popular after-school drama program; an updated computer lab without the silly Puritanical "bad words" and "until-marriage-innocence-preserving" filter; a full-time nurse and a full-time guidance counselor; an experienced college advisor...I could go on. The kids are really intelligent, eager and hard-working. Image what they could do with adequate (if not generous) budget support from PALCS.


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