Comet History: Do We Know Ourselves as Well as We Think?

One hundred and ten rural square miles.

The Penn Manor School District is one of the largest districts in Lancaster County. With a community population of approximately 32,000, a 5320 student population, and 375 teachers plus 200 non-instructional support staff, one would think that the majority of us knew our stuff about the district. Especially the little facts. As it turns out, that thought couldn’t be further from the truth.

The Original Penn Manor High School. Photo by Jenna Reel

We are the Penn Manor Comets, but does anyone actually know why? John Erisman, history teacher and former coach, does. His grandfather and retired bus driver, Spic Erisman, came up with the idea himself.

At the time, school buses were called Gold Comets. It just so happened that the advisor of Penn Manor’s school newspaper was holding a contest to come up with a nickname for the sports teams. So Spic Erisman submitted the “Gold Comets”  for the contest. He had a son named Ken who was a junior. Without Ken knowing, Erisman put Ken’s name on the entry form. Ken won the contest and received the cash prize along with a year’s subscription to the school newspaper. Ever since then, the name “Comets” has stuck.

Before

Students around the high school were asked if they knew how our name first came about. The ideas that they came up with were far off.

Math teacher, Jarod Staub, and sophomore and senior students, Mac Evarts and Jere Vital, all hadn’t had the slightest clue.

“Someone thought it was a cool name?” guessed senior Nick Hartley.

“A comet hit our district and named the school after it,” joked Danny Boehler.

Our district name and mascot is not the only thing that Penn Manor students, faculty, and community members are unaware of.

After

Many of them don’t know things like when the original high school was first presented, how many elementary schools we have, how many AP programs we have, or even the number of sports teams.

Most of those who were asked either guessed or flat out had no idea.

Both were the case for the majority of the questions proposed. The two questions that everyone knew the answer to were the address of the high school, 100 East Cottage Avenue, and the name of our superintendent, Dr. Michael Leichliter.

Everyone guessed the number of townships within the boundaries of the district being between three and six, when in fact there are four.

Penn Manor offers seventeen AP programs.  More than 80 percent of those polled said we had thirteen and one person guessed twenty. Only Evarts knew we offered 17 programs.

Another question that no one knew the answer to was when the school was first presented after being built.

“1960’s?” guessed Evarts.

“1943,” said Vital.

“1970,” said Hartley.

All wrong answers. The building was first presented on November 9, 1958.

That could be a reasonable thing to not know, but some of them didn’t even know how many elementary schools the district has.

Only 60 percent of those asked knew there were seven, but had to sit and think about it. Others guessed four, five, and eight.

Penn Manor High School has been known for our block scheduling that has recently been used in other local school districts, such as Hempfield High School. The sad thing is that students are unaware of how long it has been around.

Staub attended Penn Manor and was in high school when the change took place, so he knew the answer.

“1995,” he said confidently.

It was the 1995-1996 school year.

Others guessed the years being in 1998, 2000 and 2005.

It’s been made clear that many people don’t know the little things.

“Penn Manor has grown so much that people lose touch of where we started. It’s important to remember how hard we have worked to become Penn Manor as a district,” said John Erisman.

Erisman, who attended Penn Manor, has children who also go here.

“My kids always ask questions about Penn Manor. My dad taught us well, bleeding blue and gold,” said Erisman.”I was lucky enough to see pictures and hear stories. What my dad taught me, I teach my kids, and it’s my duty to continue the tradition.

“I’ve been part of Penn Manor my entire life,” he continued.  “I had a history of family in coaching and teaching and I wanted to be part of that coaching and teaching fraternity. I love Penn Manor, love living here and love being a part of the community.”

Erisman has strong feelings that people who go here or work here should know the school.

“I think its important for us to remember the past. It helps shape who we are as a school, gives community unity and a sense of common spirit. Its awesome to see alumni come back. I can’t see myself teaching or coaching anywhere but Penn Manor,” said Erisman.

By Jenna Reel

Comments

  1. Dr. Leichliter says:

    As a former history teacher it was good to see that Penn Points did an article on Penn Manor’s history!

    Will there be a second installment on the history of the first high school and its location? If you are interested, let me know. I can help you with some alumni who can help you with the research.

  2. Great story, Jenna. I would love to read about the history of each school building. Perhaps Penn Points writers could expand this article into a series.