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Night At Blue Ridge
The Blue Ridge School District cheered its volunteers at the School Board meeting on April 14th. Several years ago the Board created a volunteer citizen recognition certificate, but that award disappeared some time ago. More recently, Elementary School Principal Robert Dietz announced the Pride & Promise awards, based on an initiative of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) that seeks to honor citizen service to public schools.
The first recipients of the Pride & Promise certificate from Blue Ridge board President Alan Hall were Phyllis Caffrey, Jan Reed and Rick Ainey, all of whom were present to accept their awards.
Board members themselves are volunteers, of course, since they receive no compensation for their service. Mr. Hall presented another PSBA award to Board member Denise Bloomer.
And then the Little League Association came forward to present a certificate of thanks to the entire board for its contribution of $2,000 last year in support of upgrades for one of the Hallstead ball fields.
Altogether, the awards demonstrated the community spirit that surrounds Blue Ridge these days, and all applauded the award winners.
Once the Board got down to its business agenda, members plowed through the routine matters quickly, and, for the most part without comment. Following up on a discussion last month, the Board formally terminated the District's contract with SKJ Facilities of Horseheads, NY for custodial services. Then they immediately hired 7 local people for custodial and maintenance jobs, most of them in part-time positions.
The Board also formalized an agreement with a company called Bethesda Day Treatment Center, operating in South Montrose, to provide "alternative educational programs for disruptive youth." Alternative education is a program schools offer to students who have difficulty working in the normal school environment and are in danger of expulsion. According to Superintendent Robert McNamara, Blue Ridge pays Bethesda $35 per student per day (averaging a total of some $13,000 per year), plus transportation costs for the program, which can accommodate middle school and high school students. Responding to questions from Judy Kelly, president of the Blue Ridge teachers' union, Mr. McNamara said that the Bethesda program is a state certified corporation, and that the measure before the Board was to formalize an arrangement than has been used for some time already. He said that there is no reimbursement from state funds for costs to the district. High School Principal Michael Thornton said that about 8 Blue Ridge students are now in the program, which also offers summer therapy programs that are not officially supported by the district.
The Board also approved a formal agreement with the End- of-Day After School program, a limited day-care offering for elementary school students that was described by its executive director at a meeting last month. The after- school program is now operating at Lathrop Street Elementary School in Montrose, and is hoping to expand by one school district per year until it can offer its services county- wide. Elementary school children enrolled in the program will gather in the cafeteria or the gym for the hours following school until 6:00 p.m. for help with school work, snacks, and special programs. Offered at no cost to the district, parents will pay an initial registration fee of $10, plus $6 per day. The program will start with the beginning of the 2003-2004 school year, and will be available on all days that the schools are open for a full day of classes.
Mr. Thornton announced another new initiative, called the Blue Ridge Occupational Readiness Program, that will be offered to "eligible students, that provides a paid work/learning experience three times per week." The program is offered through the Susquehanna County CareerLink Office. Students in the program at Blue Ridge, to begin with will work in the schools' building and grounds maintenance operations. The program is funded largely with federal dollars.
Mr. Thornton also reported that the Red Cross collected 45 pints of blood from volunteering high-school students recently; and that Patrick Manchester was named Artist of the Week by WVIA.
The state standard testing program is an on-going issue with administrators in public schools. Board member Joel Whitehead, the District's representative to the Intermediate Unit, NEIU 19, reported that one measure of the District's achievement was that Blue Ridge has consistently met the goal of at least 95 percent participation in the testing program. Recent results reported by Mr. Thornton for 9th- grade writing indicated average performance, which he hopes to improve.
The Blue Ridge School Board generally meets on the second and fourth Mondays of each month, beginning at 7:30 p.m., in the cafeteria in the Elementary School.
The Oakland Township Supervisors met for their regular monthly meeting on Saturday, April 12 with all present.
Supervisor/secretary Cy Cowperthwait reported that the annual liquid fuels fund audit had been completed, with "A 1" results.
Activity reports included the townships amusement tax; Mr. Cowperthwait reported that one business is not up to date, as no report has been received since November, and its annual permit had not been renewed. After some discussion, it was agreed to take no action for the time being, although a letter will be sent to the business owners requesting that reports be brought up to date.
Under codes reports, Mr. Cowperthwait compiled a list of all township ordinances and resolutions relating to codes issues so that the supervisors can readily find relevant information. Supervisor Tim Ross will be investigating one current possible codes violation; Mr. Cowperthwait is working on another, ongoing violation.
Under the land development item on the agenda, a building permit was approved for the Walker property. The supervisors reviewed building plans received regarding the Topolski property on Bedbug Hollow, including site preparation information. The SEO is involved, Mr. Cowperthwait said. The documentation was for information purposes, with no action required yet. The supervisors discussed an inquiry from a Cookish Road property owner, interested in building a home; a packet of information was sent, including permit requirements for building and sewage.
Mr. Cowperthwait and roadmaster Richard Norris are in the process of conducting a survey of the townships roads. Several complaints were discussed, regarding problems on Barrett Road, and Bedbug Hollow (Panther Hill Road) where there is a sink hole. Mr. Cowperthwait said that a nearby quarry operator has offered shale to fill it in. He and Mr. Norris planned to take a look following the meeting.
Mail delivery has been approved to a property at the top of Skinner Hill; Mr. Cowperthwait expressed concern that the school district might subsequently consider allowing school bus runs to this location. The road, he said is very narrow in some spots, with deep ditches on either side; it is impossible for two vehicles to pass without one having to back up for a considerable distance.
Now that winter is apparently over, the townships truck will be serviced, including replacement of the windshield and removing the plow. The tractor is also in need of service.
In a related discussion, supervisor Tim Ross has suggested subcontracting work; there are opportunities for the township to borrow or rent equipment. Some concerns discussed were whether this equipment is licensed (a legal requirement), with liability being a bigger concern. "We can insure rented equipment," Mr. Cowperthwait said, "but it must be under township control." Another requirement is that normal bidding procedures must be followed, such as advertising through local newspapers, with specs prepared. "Anything we do with liquid fuels funds is subject to review and approval by the state," he added. He cited an incident from 1990, when $5,000 + had to be reimbursed to liquid fuels funds, due to the project being improperly bid. The consensus was that the supervisors should prepare an agreement to be used in such situations, outlining requirements such as proof of insurance and a highway license and any other provisions that may be necessary.
In other business, Mr. Cowperthwait has processed an application for reimbursement of funds used during the winters recent storm.
Other road projects to be considered are drainage on Cookish Road, patching potholes on High Street, and deciding which roads might get tar and chip resurfacing.
Correspondence discussed included information regarding a county sponsored tire collection in May and a PSATS bulletin regarding proposed changes in allowable compensation for supervisors and auditors when attending workshops or conferences.
Under unfinished business, Mr. Cowperthwait suggested that he and Mr. Ross should, after the meeting, go look at the boat launch site which has been the subject of residents concerns; Mr. Cowperthwait said that a letter received from the fish and boat commission had raised some questions that would be better answered by an on-site inspection.
Continuing discussion regarding a county plan for readdressing (renaming) roads, Mr. Cowperthwait reported that COG has been holding meetings on this subject and asking for input from municipalities. The plan requires that state roads must be numbered; township roads can be named. In speaking with residents, Mr. Cowperthwait said that some people dont care about the change, but some are upset.
The supervisors received a request from a landowner, who would like to temporarily locate a mobile home (camper) on property in the township for a period of several months. The camper will not have electric or telephone hookups. It will be periodically moved to empty its holding tanks and replenish the water supply. According to township ordinances, this situation is in compliance as it wont be a permanent home, and does not require any action from the supervisors.
Under new business, the supervisors discussed a request from SOLIDA, for a resolution to approve expansion of the authoritys powers. The correspondence was sent to the townships attorney for review, as there are some questions, such as a definition of what "expanded power" entails. Mr. Cowperthwait noted that the matter of the access road at the SOLIDA industrial park has not yet been resolved. The township had passed a resolution some time last year, requesting that all member municipalities commit to some (financial) responsibility for the park; although the park itself is in the township, SOLIDA is a joint authority with representation from Susquehanna Boro, Lanesboro Boro and Harmony Township as well as Oakland.
Mr. Ross offered the opinion that perhaps the township had no choice but to consent to SOLIDAs request, as "we cant afford to fight it." Mr. Cowperthwait disagreed, "We always have a choice." What, he asked, would the supervisors do if the township were to be held responsible for the costs of the railroad siding, which could be approximately $20,000. "The other municipalities do not have one nickel invested in this," he said. The other municipalities had been asked to make a commitment, and had not responded. Supervisor Gorton agreed, "That authority means everybody."
Mr. Cowperthwait noted that the park is a multi-municipal project. He cited a court case where only Oakland Township had been held liable for construction costs, which are yet unpaid, of $20,000 with the county being held responsible for an additional $60,000. Mr. Gorton suggested that the matter should be tabled, "Until we can get a guarantee of performance from the other parties involved." Mr. Cowperthwait reiterated that the solicitor should be contacted for further information. A motion carried to table the matter.
The next meeting will be on Saturday, May 10, 9:00 a.m. in the township building.
Todd J. Pagano, Endicott, NY, failed to stay in the lane of travel while driving along State Route 4014, west of Friendsville Borough, in Apolacon Township, and his 1982 Dodge truck ran along the gravel and he lost control. The vehicle subsequently slid across the road and rolled down an embankment. No injuries occurred in this April 12 incident.
On April 1 at about 5:30 pm, Lawrence Hardic, 32, Montrose, received minor injury when he lost control of his vehicle on State Route 267, Forest Lake Township, following a snow event. The vehicle exited the roadway and rolled over an embankment into a creek bed.
THEFT OF MOTOR VEHICLE
Someone arrived at Blue Ridge Motors, Route 11, Hallstead, overnight between April 12 -13, and removed a 1986 Chevy G-20 full size conversion van, silver and grey in color. Anyone with information is asked to call the PA State Police at 570-465-3154.
Two white males driving an 80's style Chrysler minivan pumped gas into their vehicle at the Penn Can Truck Stop, Harford Township, then went inside the Penn Can Restaurant. When they came back out, they got into their vehicle and left without paying for the fuel at the cash register near the pumps. The incident occurred on April 10 at 4:06 pm.
MOTOR VEHICLE ACCIDENT
Tracy Bennett, Rushville, was traveling south on State Route 29, Franklin Township, when a trailer on his 1999 Ford F350 pick up began to sway, causing the vehicle to jack knife. The incident occurred on April 11 at 9:30 am. No injuries were noted.
TWO-VEHICLE CRASH--HIT & RUN
Someone passed Beth Trautman, 36, Springfield, on the right berm of Interstate 81, Harford Township, on April 6 at 6:25 pm, striking Trautman's vehicle in the process. Trautman then struck a guide rail. The unknown operator failed to stop.
MOTOR VEHICLE ACCIDENT
While traveling through a curve on State Route 267, Forest Lake Township, Thomas Keenan, 32, Friendsville, lost control of his vehicle on snow covered road on April 7 at 4:15 pm. His 1997 Chevy 1500 truck then traveled off the road and struck a tree. Keenan was not injured.
The Gibson Barracks is investigating a burglary which occurred on April 8 between 6:00 am and 8:00 pm at the Charles James Washburn (39, Thompson Township) residence on State Route 1011. Someone kicked in the front door and stole three hunting rifles, two pistols, several hunting knives and $1400 in cash and change. According to the police report this is believed to be related to another burglary which occurred on the same day in Harmony Township. Anyone with information is asked to contact the PA State Police at Gibson.
A burglary is being investigated at the Ernesto and Margarita Moran residence on State Route 171, Harmony Township, on April 8 between noon and 5:00 pm. The door to the garage was kicked in and someone entered the home, removing two Craftsman chainsaws, one an orange "Echo" model # CS 280EP and the other was a 16-inch grey saw, model # 358.351160. They also took a Dell dimension 2350 computer and a Dell E551C color monitor. Two watches were stolen, along with a gold colored Oleg Cassini and a gold Gucci with a leather wrist band. Anyone with information is asked to contact the PA State Police at Gibson.
A male juvenile, Susquehanna, struck Jason Reed, Susquehanna, in the head, possibly with a baseball bat during an argument on March 28 at 2:30 am, on Willow Ave. Susquehanna Borough.
On April 6, someone arrived in front of the residence of Betty Felton, RR1, Nicholson (Lenox Township), and punctured two tires on her 1993 Ford Explorer. Anyone with information is asked to contact the PA State Police at 570-465-3154.
Matthew Joseph Slivinski, 25, Dimock Township, and Donna Elizabeth Tunnicliff, 22, Dimock Township.
David Paul Button, 36, Lenox Township, and Kimberly Ann Vasky, 32, Lenox Township.
Vinette Alderson to Deer Park Lumber, Inc. in Liberty, Franklin and Forest Lake Townships for agreement for the sale, purchase and conveyance of standing timber.
Marianne Theresa Yonker, nbm, Marianne Stout and William Stout to Hop Bottom Borough in Hop Bottom Borough for $10,000.
Julius Guzior to David Guzior and Mariela Guzior in Thompson Township for $1 (transfer tax paid on fair market value of $29,784).
Todd A. Illg to Charles D. Illg in Choconut Township for no consideration (2 parcels).
Scott T. Vangorden to Scott T. Vangorden in Jackson Township for $1 (transfer tax paid on 50 % of fair market value of $71,800).
Bark Em Squirrel Partnership to Bark "Em Squirrel, LLC, in New Milford Township for no consideration.
Caroline Delsordo, nbm, Caroline A. Crescente and Robert J. Crescente to Caroline A. Crescente and Robert J. Crescente in Franklin Township for $1 ogvc.
Edmund Kulick and Theresa Kulick to Kurt Stiles in Herrick Township for $20,000.
James A. Moers and Victoria A. Moers to Dorothy T. Kuhlman in Herrick Township for $10.
Frank Romanowski aka Francis J. Romanowski to Francis J. Romanowski in Auburn Township for $1.
Charles P. Gayson and W. Eric Sprout and Cynthia D. Sprout to Frank Romanowski in Auburn Township for $43,500.
Joseph W. Shearon and Betty R. Shearon to Step by Step, Inc. in Bridgewater Township for $155,000.
Kathryn Barnard & Ralph Barnard to Carol J. Potter in Oakland Township for $60,000.
Bruce E. Ross and Nancy W. Ross to Bruce E. Ross and Nancy W. Ross in Herrick Township for $1.
Talks Codes, Readdressing
Codes Enforcement Committee members spent a lot of time discussing the new international building codes at their regular meeting last Tuesday night, and it appears that an effective date may in fact be close to finalized. Committee president Ted Plevinsky recently attended a statewide conference for townships (PSAT). More than one person there indicated that July, August and September of this year look to be opt-in/opt-out months during which municipalities can either adopt the new code and enforce it themselves, or let the state do it for them. "October and November," said Plevinsky, "seem to be set aside for getting ourselves ready for the effective date," with that date being sometime in January or February, 2004. Of course, all this may change, but members were pleased to hear some dates being thrown out after a long time of waiting.
Plevinsky said he understood that three state agencies had to sign off on the new code, with the state attorney generals office being one of them, before they could become effective. He also spoke with representatives from various consulting organizations about what they thought they would be charging to enforce the new codes. One estimated about $500 for an average sized house, although Plevinsky didnt know how they arrived at that figure.
In fact, its not quite clear if anyone has a good handle yet on what to charge to enforce the code. Secretary Karen Trynoski noted that the state seems to be reviewing rates, and guidelines may be included when an effective date is announced. Plevinsky will pass this and other questions on to PSAT representatives for clarification.
In the meantime, COG is gearing up for increased activity because of the new codes and will be interviewing applicants for a Codes enforcement officer position and property maintenance code enforcement.
And this is possible, said Plevinsky, because of the good job done by Trynoski. She submitted material to the state that showed how the costs to perform a study in order to obtain a grant where a big chunk of the grant amount COG was requesting.
The state agreed with Trynoski, and it looks very, very good indeed that the grant will be forthcoming. COG will use these monies to hire the new enforcement people. Not only did Trynoski get these funds for COG because of her work, but Plevinsky noted that Sullivan County and Mansfield Borough are getting a grant as well, because of the logic and statistics that Trynoski employed.
Codes enforcement officer Shane Lewis reported on his activity since the group last met. This included a permit for a new cottage in Dimock Township, a deck permit in Liberty Township, a permit for a double-wide in Little Meadows Borough, and several inspections and other activity.
Council of Governments
Many COG members still have a lot more questions than they have answers about the County readdressing system being promoted by EMA. And for that reason, EMA director Dawn Watson will be invited to address the group again at its May meeting. While Watson and a coworker did speak to the group a few months ago, it was on one of those snowy, blustery nights that we seemed to have far too many of this winter. With getting around easier, more members should be on hand to hear what Watson has to say next month.
In other business, the group decided to use a proposal it received for a COG website, minus names and fees, as a prototype for specifications to request an RFP from others. Committee chairman Charlie Fahringer noted that the proposal responded to what the committee wanted to see on any COG site, and by having others look at it, the Committee would be able to do an apples-to-apples comparison. If COG decides to go ahead on a website, it can choose all or some of the features contained in the proposal. Fahringer reported that he spoke with Cindy Price in Bradford County, who also emphasized that the review committee check references and other websites developed by whoever responds to the RFP.
Sewage Enforcement Committee
President Rick Pisasik presided at a meeting where it was confirmed that a bit more than $128,000 reimbursement would be forthcoming from the groups 537 application. This was very close to what Sewage requested, so Pisasik was very pleased.
Again this month, sewage enforcement officers had little to report, but activity is sure to speed up with the weather warming. Pisasik asked the group whether he thought it was important for the SEOs to attend every meeting. As the groups new president, Pisasik is focusing on cutting costs where the group can, and he noted that the SEOs report the time they spend attending meetings. Their time is tracked, and at the end of the year, sometimes their hours are over what they are salaried for, and the SEOs are paid for the excess.
Plevinsky thought that it would be helpful to have the officers at meetings during the busy season, but saw no reason when there was little activity. The group will discuss this further in upcoming meetings.
The next regular meeting of the Council of Governments is scheduled for May 20, 7 p.m. at COG offices in the New Milford Borough building on Main Street.
Hears Good Things
With MASD Board president Ken Gould unable to attend the regular monthly meeting last Wednesday (same thing for director Shawn Brown), Board vice president Celeste Ridler led the proceedings, which began with reports on several good things that have recently happened in the District.
Superintendent Mike Ognosky announced that five MASD officials received in-service awards from the Pennsylvania School Board Association (PSBA). These are given to board members and other administrators who participate at least 12 hours in a school year in various workshops, seminars, committees and other endeavors that promote education. This is quite an accomplishment, since only 19 of the 501 districts within the state had five people so honored. Earning award certificates were Gould, directors Jim Blachek and Chris Caterson, secretary Lewis Plauny and Ognosky, who pointed out that Ridler and directors Linda LaBarbara and Mary Homan participate in the state conference, with director George Gow attending a workshop this summer. As Ognosky put it, "You have a Board who is very interested in how to govern a district, in legal and financial issues, and in quality education."
The second honorees of the evening were bus contractors James Conboy and LouAnn Kiefer who, said Ognosky, represented the entire service of District drivers and contractors. He read a letter from a parent about how Conboy took the time to go out of his way to ensure that her son made it home safely and soundly on one of the coldest days of the year, when his ride wasnt waiting for him.
"Its things like this," Ognosky stated, "that can happen any day to any of our drivers. We sometimes dont stop and say thanks for those kinds of things, but they happen even day with our teachers, in our lunchrooms and in our playgrounds." Speaking on behalf of all drivers, Kiefer noted that the certificate of appreciation she and Conboy received would be shared by other drivers, because any of them would have acted the same way in similar circumstances.
Junior-Senior High School principal Doug Wilcox had a lot of good things to report as part of this administrative report at the end of the meeting, including two students who had very good showings in essay contests. He also related how he filled in for Mrs. Cobb, the Montrose Meteors advisor, when she was unable to accompany her journalism class to Wilkes College where it recently participated in the Tom Bigler High School Journalism contest. "At the end of the day," said Wilcox, "I was probably beaming as much, if not more than, the students." Thats because four students received individual awards, the paper won overall awards in layout and design, and the Meteor was judged the best overall newspaper.
An update on honoring another special District educator, Choconut Valley principal Stephen Placko, was presented by Homan. She reported that the memorial committee met the week before and are considering a structure similar to the gazebo across from the PennStar Bank in Choconut, and another structure that would be built from the ground up. This memorial building would look like an old-fashioned school house complete with school bell and open on either side. Whichever structure is chosen, its expected to accommodate about 30 children, and will be landscaped by the Choconut Valley Garden Club. Homan added that the committee "hoped to have something going before schools out."
The Board also expects to have hired a new principal for the Choconut School beginning with the next school year. Last Friday, it began conducting the first round of interviews for the position, which has been held on an interim basis by Jackie Shaw.
One of the items on the agenda was for the District to accept receipt of the Highland Associates needs-assessment report. In handling the agenda item, Gow noted particularly that the motion that would be made was to accept the Highland book and presentation, and not a motion to build or redo anything at all. Ognosky added that, when asked by Highland when they would make a decision on any of the findings in the report, he told them that maybe the Board would make a decision as to what to do or not do in the next year or so. "There are mounds and mounds of information to digest. This is just motion to accept the report. We are affirming that they did for us what we asked them to do." Caterson added that while Highland did indeed present the District with four options to address the various needs it identified, there was also a fifth option to do nothing, or to do some of them based on priorities and funds available. With these explanations, the Board accepted delivery of the Highland report.
In other business, the Board unanimously voted to approve a contract with Student Assistance Services to provide behavioral support services to a student with special needs; appoint Marie Kind as assistant drama coach at $700, prorated; approve Dana Rossman and Constance Warner as substitute support staff; grant a professional development sabbatical leave for the 2003-2004 school year to Karen Ricci, first-grade teacher at Lathrop Street; and approve Meredith Reinhart, Stacy Griffiths and Kim Buiton as daily substitute teachers.
In addition, the Board accepted with regret the following resignations due to retirement: Jean Dunn, instructional aide at Lathrop Street; Eileen Gahris, lunchroom/playground aide at Lathrop Street; Constance Williams, health and phys. ed teacher at the high school; Jane Jerauld, German and English teacher at the high school; and Gerald Brown, fifth-grade teacher at Lathrop Street.
It also approved the 2003-2004 school calendar as submitted by Ognosky and which contains 180 student days and 186 teacher days. First day of school is scheduled for August 27; last day, June 3, 2004. Tentative graduation date for the Class of í04 is June 11.
In various administrators reports, Building, Grounds and Safety Director Rick Clapper updated directors on the Lathrop Street boiler, which he said will hopefully be repaired by the following Tuesday. He explained that the cast-iron boiler is 15 years old, and developed a crack deep inside its center section thats played havoc with hot water. Because it would cost more to repair the boiler than to replace it, Clapper reported it would hopefully run enough to take the chill off the building until the warmer weather settled in and the Board had more time to look at alternatives.
Junior-Senior High School principal Wilcox wanted to thank the District families and staff who participate in Target stores program whereby a percent of purchases made by those who sign up for its school fundraising program is sent along to the District. This past year, that added up to $355, which Wilcox said was turned over to Student Council and be put to use for all students.
The Boards last piece of business for the evening was to address a problem that Ognosky said the District regularly gets hit with, and thats the length of time it sometimes takes to get a commitment from some coaching staff at the end of the season about re-upping for the next one. "What has happened at time," he said, "is that six weeks before the season is scheduled to begin, a coach lets us know he or she cant do it." He suggested either of two options to prevent this occurring. The first was to either post all the coaching positions at the end of their seasons and have people reapply. The second is to go through a coaching evaluation process and, based on the evaluation, decide whether the District wanted the head coach to return; if it did, then the coach would need to make a firm commitment to return; if the coach did, he or she would also let the District know which of his or her coaching staff should also be retained.
Both LaBarbera and Ridler thought there was a lot of value in continuity, and LaBarbera said she wasnt comfortable posting positions that the District knows its going to fill with people they are satisfied with. Thus, they decided to go through the evaluation route, during which a coach would be told what needs to be improved, or what wasnt. It its the latter, then the position would be posted. If evaluations are satisfactory, the District will send letters to coaches requiring a commitment from them for the next season. Should they not want to make that commitment, then the positions would be posted. This process will be followed at the end of every sports season.
The next meeting of the Montrose Area School District Board of Directors is scheduled for Friday, May 9, 6:30 p.m., in the High School cafeteria.
Football Proposition Approved
The "hot" topic at April 16s board meeting of the Susquehanna Community School District was football. Specifically, a proposed merging of Susquehanna and Blue Ridge School Districts into a consolidated program. A motion made on the matter at last months meeting had resulted in a tie vote; the matter was an item on the agenda again for this month. Meetings are usually held in the administration offices, but on this evening was held in the elementary gym.
During public comment, the proposed merger was the only subject brought up for discussion. One district resident asked the board members to vote "yes," saying that his older son plays football, and he would like to see the same opportunity available for his younger son. Sports are the first step in teaching kids to take responsibility, whether it be football, soccer, lacrosse or any other sport. "(Sports) help children reach a higher level... lets vote for our kids first, and put all the other stuff behind us." Board member Pat Stewart responded that some seem to be under the impression that some board members are "trying to get rid of football; thats not whats happening. You cant just look at one sport and not look at the rest." She cited a recent volleyball game, where two of the seven players had been hurt. The resident replied that it was his understanding that Susquehanna had initially made the proposal. "Why would we propose it, then vote against it?" Superintendent Stracka added that, when the idea was first proposed to the board, three had voted against it, six in favor. The original proposal had included football, soccer, cheerleading and band; Blue Ridge had decided against merging soccer and was only interested in football.
Another resident, who has long been involved in the Junior Saber football program, stated that she has noticed that team enrollment numbers have gotten smaller; there was even a time with none at the lower level. She read a statement from her son, who was unable to attend the meeting due to football practice at Wilkes University. The statement said that he feels strongly about the football program, as it has provided him with many opportunities, such as playing for Wilkes, and having been able to play in the "Dream Game," opportunities made possible through the efforts of the coaches at Susquehanna. "What is life without our children having a dream?," she concluded.
Another resident stated that he would hate to see football get "thrown away" due to misunderstanding the facts, or the facts not being properly represented. "The balance of our athletic system is hanging in the balance," he said. He noted that enrollment totals in each grade in the district, from kindergarten through eighth grade, ranges from 48 to 80. "Enrollment is a key thing," he said; the district was finishing the season with only 18 players. He noted that there seems to be a lack of interest in sports; pep rallies used to be held before every game. Lately there havent been any. "We need to get students involved. Look at what you see on Main Street at night. That is the alternative if we dont have sports." Board member Johnine Barnes responded that her children have played sports, "I know how much it means. It helps them organize their time." The time issue, she added is greater than football, "Is going with Blue Ridge going to help that?" The resident responded, "We need to take the first step; this is a blueprint for everything we do in the future." A merged program would have three years to "make it work. How long can you lose (football games) before kids quit?" Mr. Downton responded, "I agree with you 100%. " He cited enrollment figures in the district; 511 ten years ago, and this year 489. "Thats 22 less students; if half of them are boys, thats eleven less. But, numbers arent the main issue. We need to get all sports involved."
Mr. Stracka pointed out that many of the districts whose teams play against Susquehannas are in "growth areas; we are not growing." The resident responded that numbers are just a part of it. "Students dont go out for sports because theyre tired of being embarrassed." More than two hundred students had signed a petition in favor of the merger, he said. The merger would be a win-win situation. With more kids on the field there would be fewer injuries. "We need athletes, not just bodies. How many years do you think we can go 11-0? We have a good coach. Bashing the coach is not the problem. Bashing the system is the problem." Mr. Downton stated that he had made a proposal that parents and students be asked to state their preferences via a questionnaire, but that Mr. Stracka had opposed it. The resident asked, how many board members had contacted their constituents to find out how they felt about the merger; Mrs. Barnes responded that it would be difficult to call all of them, or even a good number of them as it was not possible to call during the day while people are at work. Board member Terry Carpenter said that, although he had not attended the last meeting, afterwards he had contacted a number of people, and all he had spoken with were in favor of the merger. Mrs. Barnes commented, "Its too bad we keep putting each other on the spot. We feel like we keep having to defend ourselves."
Several students addressed the board. The first said that numbers are not the problem, it is apathy on the part of students. "No one wants to do anything." Some activities were no longer available; most kids spend their time playing video games or "playing" on the Internet. "Football wont help keep kids off the streets," he said. He added that there are "good" kids involved in football, as well as coaches. But, it should be all about having fun, not winning, helping kids feel better about themselves. "If they can get a kid like me to play football, they can get anybody."
Another student spoke of the benefits he has realized from football; the team coaches had helped him with other things. As a result he is in good, physical shape and has a more positive outlook. "The Blue Ridge kids want to play," he said, and added that he had moved to the district from Blue Ridge so that he could play.
A third student stated that he truly believes that the players are well trained, "I knew they were putting everything into it. We had pride, even this year. Were going to get more kids (interested) when we start to win. More Susquehanna kids will get involved if Blue Ridge gets in." He cited another nearby area where three districts consolidated their program, and have a unified team. And, if a Blue Ridge player "is better than me, hes entitled to my position."
Another resident stated that, last year, only one eighth grader had "suited up" for every practice. This season, he had been downgraded to water boy. "If you take (football) away from one, you take it away from forty. If we bury this (merger) now, were done."
When the floor was closed to public comment, High School Principal Lisowski asked to be allowed to express his sentiments. The safety issue, he said, is always inherent in small schools; this issue must be addressed. He, personally, would distance himself from any board member who voted against the safety of students, and from any decision that does not take any competitiveness into consideration. A "yes" vote would probably guarantee that football would be a part of Susquehanna; but, with a "no" vote, "I cant guarantee that it will." He stated that he could not understand why anyone would want to deny kids from a neighboring district the chance to participate in a sport. "That would be incredibly wrong... Blue Ridge is a very willing participant. This opportunity might not present itself again. The window of opportunity may not be there again." He concluded that public comments made against a former coach were not his opinions. "He did an outstanding job and was an excellent role model, teaching kids about life in general, not just football."
Board member Mike Kosko said that when the proposition was first brought to the board, it was his understanding that it was not an "all or nothing" choice. "If we start (with football), it opens up opportunities for other things," like band and cheerleading, and other sports such as soccer, some time in the future. "If we turn it down now, I dont think well see that. If the program works... I dont think the door is closed to other programs." He added that perhaps Blue Ridge has sufficient students playing soccer at this time. "Mergers have been very successful... if the program dies, its hard to resurrect it." He concluded that school provides most students activities.
Mr. Stracka stated that the proposal had been made to achieve particular goals in the most efficient, effective manner. After consideration, Blue Ridge had determined that soccer was not a consideration. But, Susquehanna would offer an opportunity for the Blue Ridge band to participate at pre-game football shows as a way to get things done in the future. "It doesnt have to stop at athletics. We have a need for safety now (due to low enrollment in football). We have the equipment, Blue Ridge has a need for the program. All kinds of positive things can come from this." Mrs. Barnes observed, "We all have different reasons for our vote. We all want whats best for our kids. If we vote no, its not because of safety."
A motion was made by Mr. Kosko and seconded by Jack McMahon. Board member Mary Wescott had a question for Mr. Lisowski about when the application for co-sponsorship had been filed with the PIAA. Mr. Lisowski responded that, according to District 2 allowable time-frames had been adhered to. "I dont remember the board approving (the filing)," Mrs. Wescott answered. Mr. Stracka asked that action be taken on the motion. The final vote was five in favor (Carpenter, Kosko, McMahon, Bucci, Cottrell) and four opposed (Barnes, Downton, Stewart, Wescott).
In other business, the board received a letter which was determined to be a personnel issue and referred to Mr. Stracka. Mr. Bucci explained that normal procedure must be followed; when a parent has a complaint, it is to be brought first to the principal, then the superintendent if it is unresolved. If it is still not resolved, it can then be brought to the board.
The board approved intents to retire, effective June 30, from Elizabeth Kelly, elementary, with 35 years of service, and Janice Carpenter, elementary aide, with nine years. And, effective December 31, superintendent Stracka will retire, with more than 33 years of service. Mr. Downton abstained from this vote, explaining that it was his understanding that Mr. Strackas contract was in effect until May, 2004; Mr. Downton stated that the matter should have been discussed at a work session because he did not understand the procedure.
The business office was given permission to tabulate and award bids and to order supplies for the coming school year, subject to board approval in May.
A resolution was approved to observe Teacher Recognition Day on May 6; a breakfast will be held on that date.
Additions to the substitute list were approved: Kari Needham, emergency certified; Tammy Stout and Cherie Conklin, food service.
Two requests for homebound instruction were approved.
A contract with Barnes-Kasson County Hospital was approved to provide occupational and physical therapy to district students, cost $72.00 per hour, for the coming school year.
And, a list of activities, workshops, fund-raisers and field trips was approved.
The next meeting will be on Wednesday, May 14, 7:30 p.m. in the administration offices.
Still Road Conscious
The recent monthly meeting of the Brooklyn Township Supervisors on April 17 found Graham Anthony and Dan Anthony in attendance. One of the major discussions was working on the roads in the township. This comes as no surprise as the Brooklyn-Kingsley road is still closed by order of PENNDOT, until the State can get to making the proper repairs. The supervisors still do not know when the repair will take place. It would be helpful for people to know that road is out and that secondary roads into Brooklyn must be accessed unless you are traveling on Route #167 which was set up as a major detour.
Dan Anthony reported in the absence of Linda Spinola, Treasurer, that there is $110,532.05 as the balance in the general account.
The Brooklyn clean-up day is scheduled for May 5. Contact either of the supervisors for any necessary information.
The supervisors were happy to report that Jack Fisher is back to work, however, they are still looking for a suitable part-time employee for the township.
The township's workmen's compensation premium dropped by $500.00 due to a payroll audit. This is good news for the township.
The supervisors reported that the GMC dump truck owned by the township needs a lot of work. They are starting to look around for a different truck.
The Brooklyn Township meeting takes place on the 3rd Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. in the Municipal Building on the corner of Route #167 & Maple Street. It is open to the public.
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