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Issue Home December 9, 2003 Site Home

Policy Changes At Elk Lake
County School Boards Consider Priorities
County Plan A Done Deal
Blue Ridge School Organizes
FC Directors Facing Tough Decision
Forest City Will Get New Store
Great Bend Borough Anxious For Its Truck
Lanesboro Council Meeting Minutes
MASD Auditor Gives High Marks
Big Stuff at MASD Work Session
New Milford Discusses Emergency Plans
Susky Boro Nov. Police Reports
SCSD Board Reorganizes

Policy Changes At Elk Lake

The Elk Lake School Board reorganizational meeting saw one change of face, as Harold Bender replaced Bruce Marshall as the representative from Meshoppen. Eric Emmerich of Springville was chosen as President of the new Board while Arden Tewksbury became Vice President.

Policy changes were the main topics for the evening, some spurred by the auditor recommending that they be part of the official decisions of the board. When students transfer into Elk Lake, parental registration with a sworn statement as well as transfer of records are now officially part of the transfer process, which gives the district the opportunity to review materials for each new student and allow for considerations if a student had a previous discipline problem.

Purchasing procedures were also made into official policy, as was a transportation policy which says that students going to sports activities are expected to travel both ways on the provided bus, although an exception can be made if parents personally request the student ride home with them.

A blood borne pathogens control plan was adopted, after being considered by the staff nurses, who were said to feel comfortable with the recommendations of the policy. Chuck Place said he was all in favor of having such a policy but wondered if kits were available for all athletic endeavors. Place also asked about chemical right-to-know laws, and was assured by Superintendent William Bush that those materials were in compliance.

Curriculum revisions appeared to be moving away from all but college level courses. Applied communications is being phased out with all students heading toward regular English classes. Applied biology will travel the same path, moving toward a straight college preparatory biology. Math classes will phase out pre-algebra classes to all but the 7th grade level, thereby eliminating it in 8th and 9th grades, so that all applied math courses will also be eliminated.

New graduation projects and rules for participation for the graduation ceremony had previously been approved.

Students wishing to take advanced placement courses will have an easier time. Earlier, a certain grade point average was needed, but that will no longer be necessary. If a student wants to take an AP English class, for instance, she can, even if her math grades are bad. All students will be eligible with parental permission. Teachers will give an overview of what will be expected in the AP courses, so that students (and parents) can make an "informed" decisions.

On December 6 (a Saturday), a certificate of deposit worth over $1.9 million will mature. Authorization was given to reinvest it for three months on December 8, at which time it will be verified which bank will give the largest interest, which was between .92 and 1.5 when Hollister last checked. The short time span is because interest rates may become better, plus the district may need part of those funds for capital projects.

This reporter asked how the milk machine is doing, to which Bush responded "very slow." He said that the machine was in storage because of so much vandalism and people taking the product illegally. "They've learned how to tilt it," and an angle iron that attached the machine to a cinder block wall has been pulled out of the wall.

Apparently, at least one board member feels they were pressured into getting the machine, and we "might have gone in another direction if not under the gun." Those who pressed to place the machine in the school wanted it done by Dairy Day last year so it could be displayed at that event, but had also said that if the school didn't agree to purchase the machine, they'd have to move it after Dairy Day, which they were hoping not to do. Asked what the machine cost, they said that they weren't sure but that 70-75 percent had been reimbursed.

School board meetings for the next year will be at 7:00 p.m. in the library on January 20, February 17, March 16, April 19, May 17, June 22, July 20, August 17, September 20, October 18, November 15 and December 6.

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County School Boards Consider Priorities

School taxes are the largest single tax that many local residents pay during the year. School board members help determine what those taxes will be, but much of it is determined by state funding (also tax money) as well as mandates set by the state. Priority lobbying efforts by the Pennsylvania School Board Association (PSBA) reflect what local school board members feel are important issues.

Twice a year, local school board members meet with a representative of the Pennsylvania School Board Association to 1. determine priority policy items they'd like to see the association push in the state legislature and 2. check in with elected legislators to see what bills have passed, and/or what the chances are of getting others through the legislature. Last Thursday's spring meeting addressed the first item, while the second is traditionally addressed during a fall meeting.

Of a list of 14 general items, each with as many as 20 plus specific issues, board members came up with their five priority items, which the PSBA representative takes back to the state headquarters and tallies with other counties to come up with the 5 state top items. The local meeting, at Blue Ridge School, covers both Susquehanna County and Wyoming County, and the votes for the top five from each county are taken from each person in attendance even if they are not school board members, for a county-wide priority list.

Blue Ridge had 6 people present, including the Superintendent, the Business Manager and 4 board members, giving them a heavily weighted vote, compared with two from Mountain View (Superintendent and one board member), Elk Lake (Superintendent only), and Tunkhannock (Superintendent only). Tunkhannock's Superintendent got to determine the five items for his whole county.

No one was present from Montrose, Susquehanna, Forest City, nor any other district in Wyoming except Tunkhannock. You'd think this would be a problem, yet most boards in this area seem to have the same concerns, and coming to a consensus is rarely a problem as most of the issues deal with funding.

This year was especially focused on funding, as the state has not passed a budget and payments that normally occur at specific times during the school year, paying to the schools the state's diminishing portion of a school's budget (which has gone over recent years from about 50 percent down to 35 percent statewide) have gone unpaid. The two payments that have been missed amount on a state wide basis to $1.2 billion since the beginning of the schools' fiscal year, July 1. Another payment is due this month.

Because Governor Rendell has tried to make schools less dependent on property taxes and has not come up with a concrete alternative the impasse has occurred.

The PSBA representative was not overly optimistic that a budget for schools could be passed when the legislators re-convene on Monday, December 8, as there are only 6 scheduled days left for them to meet during the calendar year, unless they decide to extend that schedule.

In the meantime, some schools may be facing a situation where they are having to borrow money from other funds to pay their bills, and by the PSBA's account of things, the schools are minimally losing interest on monies of their own which they've had to dip into because of the state's impasse over the funding. Other schools are in deeper financial trouble.

Since the state monies were included in the current year's local school budgets, the association thinks that some programs may be delayed which could affect the schools even "after state aid has been provided."

However, the association does not support the tax relief program that is currently being shuffled around the legislature, mainly due to what is called the back-end referendum. In fact, they are opposed to any referendum connected with legislation, and they write, "Referendum does not address the needs of school districts and will serve only to make school directors less accountable for their actions."

Their other objection focuses on what they say is a system that is unworkable. Alternative funding that includes earned income tax increases, using gambling revenues which are not dependable/consistent and the referendums which would be tied to scheduling votes during primary elections when the school boards won't even know what the dollar amounts are until March 1 of each year, meaning they'd have to gear up to a referendum possibility without knowing if the requirements for the referendum have been met.

With that for a background, those from Susquehanna County who attended this spring legislative meeting choose as their priorities (not in order of voting):

1. "Opposes legislation expanding retirement benefits without an increase in the employee contribution rate to fund the new benefit."

2. "Opposes legislation that will subject the authority of boards of school directors to public referendum."

3. "Supports and will continue to provide leadership for the coordinated efforts of the basic education community in seeking an equal partnership between local school districts and state government in the funding of public education. The association believes state funding must appropriately reflect actual pupil enrollment and cost of instruction, the needs of small districts and the number of students living in poverty, and it must be equitably distributed among school districts."

4. "Supports legislation to increase the state contribution for special education services based on actual cost incurred and students served."

5. "Supports legislation to revise the method of funding career and technical education to remove current disincentives to student enrollment and supports state funding equal to that of school districts with the goal of a full 50% of instructional costs. (Although this seems like a concession to the Career & Technology Center at Elk Lake, a representative from another district said that it affects them all as they pay tuition for their students attending the Career & Technology Center.)

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County Needs No Tax Hike

There will be no county tax increase in 2004. That is, providing the incoming Board of County Commissioners accepts the budget it will inherit from the outgoing lame-duck administration.

Of course, there usually are two sides to every circumstance and the flip side of this one would be that the new commissioners could actually reduce the tax rate if their inspection of the new spending plan uncovers some fat that could be trimmed from it.

The county budget must be approved by February 2, 2004. Subtract 10 days that would be allowed for public inspection of any changes and the new commissioners will have to make any changes on or before January 16.

If there are no changes in the proposed 2004 budget, the tax millage will remain the same for the third consecutive year. The millage will be: Occupation, 18 mills; and, total millage for real estate, 9.75 mills. A breakdown of the real estate millage shows 8.50 mills for the general fund, .95 mills for funded debt; and, .30 mills for the library fund.

For the 2004 budget, the county is anticipating a fund balance carryover of almost $1.7 million. In the current budget, the carryover was $1.3 million. And, in the current budget, $312,467 was transferred to the general fund from capital improvements. Only $8,486 has been transferred from capital improvements to the general fund.

Income to support the general fund usually comes from four sources, real estate taxes, occupation taxes, fund balance, and a handful of miscellaneous incomes. These areas will pump $7,740,792 into the general fund as follows: all real estate taxes, $5,743,874; fund balance carryover, $1,698,226; occupation taxes, $95,716; and, various other sources, $202,976.

While the above revenues are expected to finance the general fund for the year 2004, revenues from departments that generate income are also deposited in the general fund, raising the total anticipated revenue in the account to $10,085,049. Of course, the departments that add revenue to the general fund might feed from it. Total expenditures appropriated from the account equal the total expected income.

Expenditures in the 2004 budget add up to a record $16.1 million. Some departments with staggering figures actually cost the county little or no money. Like Children & Youth Services for example. The budget for this department is $2.3 million, but incoming revenue from state and federal sources is expected to be $2.3 million.

Another department that thrives on state and federal appropriations is the all-important 911 communications system. Dawn Watson, who heads up 911 lists expenses of $1,547,552. Her anticipated income - $1,547,552.

Some noticeable department appropriations in the new budget include: Tax Assessment, $421,469; county buildings, $456,725; Sheriff’s Department, $412,305 (this department expects to generate more than $100,000 in revenue in 2004); County Jail, $1.6 million, including $800,000 in salaries and wages, $228,400 in health insurance, and $173,000 in retirement funds.

Chief Clerk Suzanne Brainard said a contributing factor to the county being able to hold the line on taxes is a rather large amount of money the state owes the county for Children and Youth Services and Domestic Relations.

"The money did not come in 2003 so we will receive it in 2004," Mrs. Brainard said.

The 2004 budget will be on display inside the county courthouse for a few more days. The county commissioners are expected to adopt it at their final meeting of the year, which has been moved to Tuesday, December 23, because of the Christmas holiday season.

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Blue Ridge School Organizes

The Blue Ridge School Board met in public for the only time in December on the 2nd to organize itself following the November elections. Four incumbents were re-elected: Alan Hall, Priscinda Gaughan, Joel Whitehead, and Harold Empett. And Tom Phillips relinquished his seat after 8 years to newcomer Maureen Powell. Mr. Phillips was seen off with warmest wishes and a slice or two of cake. All five were sworn in by Lonnie Fisher, who took the temporary chair until the reconstituted board re-elected Alan Hall President. Priscinda Gaughan was elected Vice President. Toward the end of the meeting, Mr. Hall said he would make committee appointments at the business meeting in January.

The Board also warmly recognized Annette Conigliaro as a representative of the High School Student Council. Ms. Conigliaro reported on a variety of fund-raising activities in the school that supported Thanksgiving dinners for 2 families in the community, and a Merry Christmas for an "adopted family." High School Principal Michael Thornton took note of a shift in recent years from fund-raising for "student-centered activities" to a broader community focus.

Following recent dustups between Board President Alan Hall and some booster organizations and others in the community about the color schemes of uniforms and other school-focused apparel, the Board accepted a "directive" that defines the Blue Ridge official colors as red and white, and mandates the use of the official colors for all school sponsored activities. The measure does, however, give the Board's Activities Committee authority to approve deviations from the directive, but also places the directive above any other current or future policy that may conflict. The resolution was passed unanimously and without further comment.

In other business, the Board hired three custodians and a custodial shift supervisor. Ron Cranage was present to accept the latter position. Business Manager Loren Small was asked for the current complement of the custodial staff. He ultimately reported that the District currently employs 15 full-time custodians, plus two part-timers, in three shifts Monday through Friday during the school year; there are two shifts on weekends. He said a full complement should be 18. The District has been hiring its own custodial staff since terminating a contract with an outside firm some months ago.

The Board issued a retirement incentive option for faculty equivalent to one offered last year. The plan provides for 50% of a retiring teacher's highest salary to be paid out over five years, plus health insurance coverage for 10 years, or until other health insurance becomes available. Faculty who are interested in the program must apply by March 31, 2004. Judy Kelly, President of the Blue Ridge Education Association (BREA), the teachers' union, applauded the offer and said she would remind her members of the early application deadline. Superintendent Robert McNamara said that he knew of four individuals who might take advantage of the program this year.

A long-term substitute for a teacher recently granted a lengthy leave of absence, was fired and rehired, all in blink. Apparently there had been a mix-up at the last meeting when her salary was fixed at $25,000, so that measure was rescinded, and the Board subsequently approved her employment at $29,000 without benefits. Ms. Kelly also thanked the Board for this measure.

Mr. Hall read a letter from Tom Chamberlain, President of Creative Adventures For Education (C.A.F.E.), the local, private, non-profit corporation that arranges and sponsors the annual sixth-grade trip to Washington, DC. The letter requested approval of plans for 2005, covering four days from April 20 through April 23. Priscinda Gaughan, who has been actively involved with these trips for many years, said that scheduling some appointments had to be done well in advance, and the Board's approval of the 2005 trip dates will give C.A.F.E. enough time to fill in the calendar. The 2005 excursion will use only three school days, and Mr. McNamara was asked if these days would be counted as absences, as they have been in the past. Mr. McNamara said that the days used on the 2003 trip were not counted as absences, nor would they be in the future. As a school-sponsored activity – a field trip of sorts – the school is permitted to treat them as class days, important most recently for consideration by the state in its accountability programs under the Federal No Child Left Behind Act, that uses attendance as one of its standard measures.

Mr. McNamara and Mr. Hall reported no action on the state budget in Harrisburg. Neither of them expect any movement in the impasse between the Democrat Governor and the Republican legislature before the first of the year. The District has a $2 million line of credit to tide them over until the state gets its act together.

There's no lack of local activity, however. Along with the efforts in the High School reported by Ms. Conigliaro, Middle School Principal John Manchester reported that his students successfully participated in the Feed a Friend campaign, and raised $1,000. Robert Dietz, Principal in the Elementary School said his 3rd-graders had each received dictionaries from the local Rotary Club. And Mr. Thornton described for the Board a project in his English Department to write letters to soldiers in Iraq.

The Blue Ridge School Board is taking a long holiday season this year. The next official public meeting will be on January 12, 2004, in the cafeteria in the Elementary School, beginning at 7:30 p.m.

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FC Directors Facing Tough Decision

Directors of the Forest City Regional Board of Education will have more than visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads during the approaching holiday season. One of the top items on the agenda at the board’s January meeting will be a decision on whether to extend the contract of School Superintendent Bernice Lukus for another five years.

Tom Baileys, new board president, apparently isn’t sure of the outcome. He moved the February meeting from the ninth of the month to the first of the month, one day before the board is required to tell Mrs. Lukus whether they intend to keep her. The move gives the board another meeting to consider the issue just in case it is not settled in January.

At the November meeting, a move to retain Mrs. Lukus failed when four directors refused to return from an executive meeting to the regularly scheduled meeting. Of the five that did return, four directors voted to reappoint Mrs. Lukus but outgoing director Barbara Mihelc abstained and the motion did not receive five votes necessary for approval. Two of the four directors who supported Mrs. Lukus did not seek reelection and are no longer on the board.

Director Tom Heller balked at the idea of a Sunday board meeting but he stood alone. Al Dyno, who replaced Joseph Farrell as the board’s representative from Vandling, appeared ready to challenge the Sunday meeting but backed off when the president advised him that the meeting would be returned to its regular date if the board settled the superintendent’s issue at the January meeting.

Sources close to the superintendent’s issue say that, prior to the recent election, the board was split about retaining Mrs. Lukus. One source said some board members are in favor of replacing Mrs. Lukus with High School Principal Anthony Rusnak.

In another matter, problems with the state budget appear to be affecting most boards of education across the Commonwealth including Forest City Regional.

Karen Forsette, board secretary/business manager, said the district has not received its August and October payments from the state because the state has not passed its 2003-2004 budget. An apparent political feud involving Democrat Governor Ed Rendell’s budget and the Republican-controlled legislature is being blamed for the state’s failure to pass a budget.

Mrs. Forsette said the state owes the school district more than $700,000 in basic subsidy. She said the amount will exceed $1.1 million if the state fails to reach a budget agreement in time for the December appropriation. Fortunately Mrs. Forsette saw the problem developing in Harrisburg and made adequate financial moves to keep the district afloat. However, she said a major problem could develop if the district does not receive any state money until June.

Baileys suggested that the board withhold its payments to the Fell Charter School that is attended by 10 students living in the Forest City Regional District.

"I would rather see the charter school hurting than us," said Baileys.

Dyno suggested that the board write a letter to state legislators from this area expressing its unhappiness with the fact that little or no progress is being made with the state budget. Later in the meeting he carried it a step further by suggesting the school consider a one-day shutdown as a method of further displaying the school district’s feeling.

Elementary School Principal Ken Swartz gave a report on the PSSA results for grade three. It revealed that overall, the students’ reading and math scores are slightly below that state average. A note on the report indicated that fewer than 50 scaled score points should not be considered educationally meaningful. Forest City results were about 30 points lower than the state average of 1303 in reading and 1272 in math.

Nevertheless, Swartz said he and his teaching staff are planning improvement initiatives designed to bring Forest City students closer to the state average. Some of the ideas that will be implemented include an after-school program that provides remediation and/or enrichment; study buddies, a volunteer program, and a morning Breakfast Club Program.

Referring to the scores, Baileys said, "As a small school we should be very much higher than that."

Motions approved by the board completed the following business-

-Appointed Dan Nebzydoski to the extracurricular position of senior class advisor.

-Accepted the resignation of Charlene Collins as Band Front Advisor.

-Appointed Dyno as representative to the Career Technology Center of Lackawanna County Board Joint Committee. Dyno was also appointed to the district’s Buildings and Grounds Committee.

-Appointed Pamela Heritage as part-time instructional assistant at $7.02 an hour.

-Set the first Monday of each month for work sessions except May, July and December.

-Set the regular monthly meetings for the second Monday of each month except for July where there will not be a meeting.

-Named Dr. Michael Sterchak as the school dentist for the remainder of the 2003-2004 school year at no cost to the district. Dr. Sterchak was also elected vice president of the school board.

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Forest City Will Get New Store

Dollar General is coming to Forest City.

Christian Foust of Kressler Estates Construction, Bloomsburg, said the tentative date for the store opening is June 1, but it could be sooner if the weather cooperates. He said present plans call for an 8,100 square-foot building and parking for 20-30 vehicles.

"I will own the building and the land and it will be leased to Dollar General," Foust said. He said he is currently working on three additional projects that will house Dollar General stores.

"We are waiting for the required 30-day waiting period to end and then we will begin working," he said. Jim Wells Excavating of Forest City sold the land to Foust and will do the excavating work. Foust said the overall lot size is one and one-half acres.

Foust said he also plans to erect a second building some 2,500 square feet in size on the site and is looking for a tenant to occupy it. He noted that, as the anchor store, Dollar General will attract people to the site.

Dollar General, which opened; its first store in 1955, has more than 6,000 stores across the country. Management describes DG as a family of small, neighborhood stores delivering convenience and helping its customers save time and money.

Last week, the company reported a new income for the third fiscal year of 2003 at $77.9 million reflecting a 13 percent increase over the same period in 2002. Net sales during the third quarter of 2003 increased 12.5 percent to $1.69 billion compared to $1.50 billion in the third quarter of 2002. The increase resulted primarily from 577 net new stores and a same-store sales increase of 3.8 percent. Gross profit during the quarter was $516.9 million, or 30.7 percent of sales, versus $428.6 million, or 28.6 percent of sales, in the prior year.

In another land matter, the Borough Council approved a request from the Susquehanna County Housing Authority to convert the abandoned borough swimming pool on the grounds of the William Penn Apartments into additional parking facilities. The approval is subject to the authority’s offer to provide four parking spaces for the Forest City Ambulance Association.

A motion by Councilman Paul J. Amadio adding the swimming pool area to lands already under lease by the authority was unanimously approved. In a letter to the council, Karen McBride Allen, executive director of the authority, said the authority will assume the cost of the paving.

Council also agreed to ask the Susquehanna County Housing/Redevelopment Authority, to include the borough in its application for Community Development Block Grant Entitlement Funds. Council said it has a couple of houses in the borough that could be razed if grant money is made available.

Council passed its 2004 municipal budget that keeps the tax rate at 11.8 mills, the same as the current millage.

And, council agreed to donate $100 to the Endless Mountains Visitors Bureau.

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Great Bend Borough Anxious For Its Truck

News of an impending major snowfall creates some anxiety in Great Bend Borough. Council ordered a new truck, equipped with a 9-foot plow and a material spreader, a few months ago. It has yet to arrive and the Borough's maintenance employee, Alan Grannis, says he doesn't have a spreader to distribute sand or cinders on the town's streets. The old truck has a plow, but Mr. Grannis was a little skeptical about its longevity. Councilman Ray Holtzman has been managing the acquisition of the new truck, and he was inexplicably absent from the Council meeting on December 4. The Borough Secretary was asked to contact neighboring Great Bend Township and Hallstead Borough for help if needed.

The meeting seemed to drift at times. The official agenda was exactly the same as last month, but with the new date written over by hand. Councilman Joe Collins made an effort to get his colleagues back on track with a list of items, but the group seemed lethargic and tired. With snow in the forecast, Mr. Collins suggested that the Borough announce its sidewalk ordinance on television. According to Councilman Mike Wasko, the Borough requires that property owners must clear their walks within 24 hours of a snowfall of two inches or more. Council's Code Enforcement officer, Jeff Burkett, would presumably be responsible for encouraging his neighbors to comply.

The most obvious item missing from last month's, uh, this month's agenda was the budget. Mayor Jim Riecke said that he and Mr. Holtzman had been working on it, and that he didn't expect any significant changes. Nobody could really get excited about it, but Council grudgingly agreed to a workshop on Monday, December 8 to work it over. As a workshop, they couldn't take action on the budget at that time, which they hope to vote on formally before Christmas.

One thing that might help the budget was a check from the Tim Fancher Memorial Race committee for $1,000, which is designated to be spent on local parks and recreation facilities. The foot race is hosted each year by Great Bend and Hallstead, and begins in Great Bend's Greenwood Park.

The budget might be helped a little more by construction permit fees, if people would pay them. A problem in most communities hereabouts is construction that proceeds without a permit, and therefore without the payment of fees. Council President Louise Lonzinski asked about two projects that she hadn't remembered were properly permitted. For one of them, some remembered discussing it, but no one was sure about the other. Property owners planning construction that will change the dimensions of an existing structure are required to get a permit from the Borough.

Everyone expressed delight with the new holiday lighting along Main Street. Ms. Lonzinski said the lights are extinguished by midnight each night. In the past, lights that hung over the roadway were left on all night to be visible to large trucks passing through. The new lights do not extend over the roadway. There was also some interest that rival Borough Hallstead seems to have copied Great Bend's innovation.

The Great Bend Borough Council usually meets on the first Thursday of each month, beginning at 7:00 p.m., at the Community Building on Elizabeth Street. There will probably be a special public session on December 22 to adopt a budget for 2004.

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Lanesboro Council Meeting Minutes

Present at the November 4 Lanesboro Council meeting were Dan Boughton, Regina Dilello, Chris Maby, Bob Mireider, Bob Page; Roland Salamon came in at 7:45. Absent was Paul Corse. Also present: Mayor Slater, Secretary Aileen Shay, Officer Canini. Visitors: Enos White, Pat Bentler, Stan Rockwell, Ray Barnes, Jerry and Sandy Benson.

Visitors: Enos White had a slip of paper put on his vehicle about where he is parking. Maby explained that on November 1 from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. there is to be no parking on the streets; this is to help the plow trucks plow the roads without having cars in the way. Mr. White stated that he had the lawn dug out so he could park his van there. He stated that his was his property, why was he not allowed to park there? Maby explained that there is a right-of-way 15 feet from the center of the road, and with him parking there he is in the right of way. Mr. White asked where was he going to park. Mayor Slater stated that if he would park his vehicle closer to the bank, then he would be okay. Pat Bentler had the same questions, and if she does the same thing she will be okay. They both live on Jefferson Street.

Correspondence: Received letter from Frank Schmidt asking to reduce his house from a two-family house to a one-family house. He also asked about getting a refund for the last few months that no one has lived in the other side of the house. Maby stated that it will never go back to a two-family house; as far as the refunds he should have notified the council before if he didn’t want to be charged for two units. Motion made to advise Mr. Schmidt that he is not entitled to a refund, but as of December 1 he will only be charged for one unit.

Fire company sent their contract for next year; it needs to be sent back before December 31.

Police Report: Officer Canini stated that there was no trouble on Halloween. He stated that they are out on weekends and are slowing people down. He went on to state that they had 30 traffic citations and one non-traffic citation. Boughton asked about setting up on Main Street to slow people down. Officer Canini stated they would do this.

Mayor’s Report: Mayor Slater stated that they have emptied out the bus with the recyclables and have taken them to the recycling center. Also, he stated that the borough could get some dumpsters to store the recycling and he needed someone to go get them. Motion carried to get the dumpsters and to authorize the transportation of the dumpster.

Mayor then went on to state that the garbage truck had another flat tire. He stated this was normal because of going to the landfill. He also stated that the exhaust needs to be fixed.

Mayor asked council what they were going to do with Jefferson Street because something needs to be done before winter sets in. Mireider has gone up to talk to the quarry people and they stated they would get to it when they had time because they are very busy right now. Maby stated they talked to them back in May and nothing has been done. Maby stated that council has to cover their own liability. Mireider stated when he talked to the quarry people they stated the water was there before they moved in. Maby stated they have to replace all the pipes and ditch the water. Mayor stated to send them a letter that gives them the schedule of when the work will be done because with Ozzie doing it they would have to close the road down for each sluice that has to be replaced. Mayor will work with Ozzie to come up with schedule of when the work will be done once the schedule is complete; Mireider will deliver it to the quarry. Motion carried to have Ozzie fix the pipes from the top of Jefferson Street to the bottom and also ditch the water and get water off intersection.

Community Center: Regina stated that she has had a lot of people calling her about how much it would cost to rent the community center. Also, she received a donation from Raymond Rudolph for the community center.

Motion carried to rent the community center for $50 for in-town people and $75 for out-of-town people. Everyone will be required to put a refundable deposit of $25. If the center is left in the same condition that it was in when they got there and there is nothing broken, they will receive their $25 back. The person to contact for the community center will be Regina Dilello.

Treasurer’s Report: Motion carried to accept the treasurer’s report.

The line of credit has a balance of $9,000. Motion carried to pay $3,000 this month and look at it again next month.

Council wants a letter sent to Susquehanna Depot about the street sweeping. The letter should say that since they didn’t get around to it this year council would like their streets swept twice next year.

Boughton mentioned about sending a letter to all residents about the ordinance for snow on sidewalks.

Had a meeting with Shane Lewis; council needs to pass a resolution to increase the building permits by $25. Motion carried to pass a resolution to increase the building permit by $25 due to the increase in administration costs.

Motion carried to adjourn.

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MASD Auditor Gives High Marks

The Montrose Area School District board of directors took a few minutes before its last meeting of the year to reorganize for the new one. The seven members present (Jim Blachek and Sean Brown were unable to attend) reelected Ken Gould as the group’s president, and Celeste Ridler its vice president.

That accomplished, it went on to approve payment of the district’s usual and customary bills, and approved budget transfers to pay others. Much (about $50,000) of the latter was for special education needs transferred from the budgetary reserve into the IDEA account. The reason for the transfer at this time was that, in preparing this year’s budget, the special ed department didn’t take into account certain revenue which was then assigned another account; a board-approved transfer was required to move it from that account into one for the special ed needs.

Some of them were for special education for inmates at the county jail. Director Mary Homan asked if the district got reimbursed for the work it did there. Board secretary Lewis Plauny replied that that it would get reimbursed if the Board billed for it – something it has not done in the past but would be doing going forward.

Other amounts transferred were to purchase new football uniforms and football cheerleading uniforms; the cheerleading uniforms are on sale and the athletic department would like to take advantage of the discount now for uniforms that would have been purchased next year. A member of the audience, whose children participate in sports that are not football, later commented that their uniforms are in really sad shape, and it appeared to her kids that football and cheerleading got a lot while their sports got very little. Superintendent Mike Ognosky responded that he requested and received a replacement cycle for all sports uniforms over the next five years from athletic director Joseph Gilhool. Ognosky had the cycle list for the next four years; however, cross country (the sport of the woman’s child) and tennis were not on it, and he will follow up.

Plauny next summarized a very good auditor’s report for the 2002-2003 school year and which the board approved. It stated that the district is in good financial shape, with the auditors commenting on the board’s foresight in determining the financial position of the district. The secretary noted that the district, like others in the area, are benefiting from a boost in delinquent tax collections. Plauny also reported that, while tax collections are now tailing off, the district has not had to transfer money to reduce any budgetary fund balance and was maintaining it in its investment fund in case the state legislature continues to extend the time until it subsidizes the commonwealth’s school districts. The district, he reported, currently has about $4.2 million in cash and investments in general funds and much of that will be transferred out to pay its ongoing expenses. "Compared with other school districts weathering the state funding storm," he said, "we are in good shape."

Director and finance committee chair Chris Caterson noted that the Pennsylvania School Board Association reported that school districts are losing about $1,5 million in interest a week because they are pulling money out of their reserves to pay their bills while waiting for state funding. When Ridler asked if the state still wanted timely payment of the district’s contributions to the retirement fund, Plauny answered, "Oh, yes. It’s one-directional cash flow."

In extracurricular activities, the board accepted the resignations of Rhonda White as head junior high field hockey coach (she’s a new mom) and of Charlotte Sherwood as the junior high’s assistant track coach (she’s soon to be a new mom).

It approved Mary Zuber as an instructional aide (a 180-day position) at Lathrop Street at and hourly rate of $7.50, and the hiring of Teresa Thorne as a long-term substitute third-grade teacher at Lathrop Street for the 2003-2004 second semester at a salary of $13,150. It granted medical sabbaticals to teachers Diana Huff and Christopher Buffington.

Retirement resignations were accepted from Sandra Sample as guidance counselor at the High School, and from John Mooney as custodian at Choconut, whom Ognosky said did a very good job in his more than 25 years with the district.

In new business, the creation of a student activities account was approved for the IONS Science Club at the high school. This will allow the group of mostly juniors and seniors to raise funds for its activities, the principal ones being visiting the elementary schools to do hands-on experiments with students there, including, perhaps field trips. The Club is one, like others (the Acoustical Guitar Club), that have sprung out of an increased effort by teachers and students to work together to include yet more students in activities.

The next regular meeting of the Montrose Area School District is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on January 9 at the Junior-Senior High School.

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Big Stuff at MASD Work Session

When students return to the Choconut Valley Elementary School from summer vacation next year, they’ll be going in through a reconfigured entry that will not only provide more protection from the elements, but also provide significantly more safety and security to those who work and study there. The current entry includes security doors and a security camera. Still, its configuration is such that it makes entry into the building difficult to control. Office personnel cannot see who’s entering and leaving, and there’s the potential for someone to enter the building and classrooms directly to the right of the entry.

That’s why the district asked Highland Associates to propose a solution to these safety, security and weather issues at the main entrance. They did, and at last Friday night’s work session, the board of directors of the Montrose Area School District unanimously (7-0, with two members unable to attend) chose one which it plans to adopt by resolution at its next meeting. In the meantime, Highland Associates has the go-ahead to start planning work on the estimated $160,000-$175,000 project that will begin once school lets out for the summer.

Consultant Jonathan Loiselle literally walked board members and the public who were present at the work session through the proposed plan that can be summarized as follows: The current open courtyard entry will be enclosed, except for a new set of entry doors leading into what will be the enclosed courtyard. The current entry doors will become a second set of doors, into which visitors will be buzzed in. The current classroom, now immediately to the left and behind the brick wall of the courtyard, will become the administrative office. The brick wall will be replaced with a large window so that those in the office can see and choose to buzz in visitors through the second set of doors. The area currently occupied by administration will become a classroom with square walls and skylights (energy efficient), which will be bigger than the room it’s replacing (the proposed administration office).

Because of this reconfiguration, there will be space left over for a mailroom, filing, a conference area, storage – depending on their priorities as determined by school administrators.

After the board gave it’s informal go-ahead for the plan, president Ken Gould noted "this satisfies the one and biggest remaining issue in our security plan for Choconut."

Administrators’ Reports were next addressed and director Chris Caterson singled out administrator Michael Beamish for helping to produce some extraordinary and outstanding results: "He (Beamish) should be commended for what appears to be a turnaround in the 7th and 8th grade failure rates." Beamish’s report shows that the failure rate in one or more of five major subjects for last year’s 7th graders was 74; this year, that number is down to 22; forty-five failures for 8th graders decreased from 16. All told, the number of F’s distributed to 7th graders this year decreased by 70 per cent from last year; for 8th graders, the number went down by 64 per cent.

Ognosky cited some of Beamish’s methods for achieving these fine statistics: He established a program where fourteen seniors assist students in fourteen study halls who have trouble doing homework. A lunch detention program has a student eating with a teacher and doing homework assignments they failed to do earlier. Ognosky said, "You don’t see students going back to that (lunchroom detention), so they’ve started doing their homework on a regular basis. Beamish began a homework challenge: Any student who completes all his or her homework during a preset period of time becomes eligible to attend a movie on Friday at the Montrose Theater. Said Caterson, "This seems to bear out the fact that, with proper incentives, students will rise to the occasion." Director George Gow added that there were more seventh graders on the latest honor role than any other grade, while Ognosky noted that students and teachers are functioning at a very high level because they have someone – Beamish – working with them.

In other administrative action, the Board approved IT director Craig Owen’s request for a three-year agreement with ServControl for its filtering and reporting system for Internet use at the schools to replace the simple filter that’s in there now. The system allows the user (the school district, in this case) to set up its own level of access to different websites and own level of blocking. It can quickly report on who visited what site, when, and from what computer.

Gould thought students and faculty and not Owens should set the blocking parameters, and that these parameters be put into writing first. Caterson added that there was a need, too, not to be overzealous and to respect the civil liberties of those who surf the Net. Gould agreed, saying that "if we err, let’s err the other way. Just because we don’t like a word, we shouldn’t block it. We need to open up the box and start thinking outside of it as a group."

And that’s what will be done. A standard is expected to be developed and presented to the board at its next regular meeting.

The board, via the district’s solicitor, will also be sending a letter to the County library agreeing that it would give the association a piece of land on the school’s property which the association would like to use to build a new library. The letter contains the requirements that come with the donation of land and which the association must agree to.

Safety and transportation director Rick Clapper also made a case for hiring, on a trial basis, four coop students as custodians – two at the high school, and one each at the elementary schools – each for 20 hours of work a week. It’s anticipated that, if hired, these student-workers would replace the temporary help hired for full-time, 40-hours-per-week work during the summer. Clapper would define their responsibilities and manage them. Citing the success the district has with students who work in the administrative office, Ognosky was all for it, and so was the board. The positions will be posted and Clapper and school principals will conduct interviews with applicants.

The art project will also become a reality. Administrators met with members of the student council to go through about 33 proposals from various artists for artwork in the high school’s large spaces (the gym and the cafeteria). Students were not told the price of each proposal, but were asked to rank the ones they preferred. Their second favorite for the gym was from a Tunkhannock firm whose total cost (materials, labor) was $9,600, significantly lower than their first choice. The students’ first choice for the cafeteria was also a lowest-cost proposal ($5,000, including materials and labor) from a Friendsville organization. A matching grant will also be applied for to hire an artist-in-residence for a year to work with students and administrators on the best way to bring artwork to the rest of the high school as well as the elementary schools.

The board, with director George Gow dissenting, agreed to go forward with this plan. The firms selected to work on the cafeteria and the gym will meet with students beforehand to gather more input from them.

The board will also host a pizza night in the cafeteria at 7 p.m. on January 5 with last year’s graduates, as a kind of information session to see not only how they are doing in what they chose to do after graduation, but also how well the district prepared them for it. Director Mary Homan was particularly interested to find out how well they were served by the district’s investment in technology – last year’s grads being the first class to benefit from it. Gould hoped the board would learn from them what could have been done better as a district.

In other discussion, Gow asked about the possibility of getting a small school store where MASD-related items could be sold. Gould asked Ognosky to look into the feasibility of one and report back to the board at its next regular meeting.

The work session was adjourned, and after it Gould wanted to thank everyone in the district who called, stopped by and/or sent cards during a recent and serious illness. "Grades are going up; good work is being done; and you get sick and are sent 600-700 hand-made cards from kids in this school district. Anyone who says that good things are not happening," he said – literally with a full heart, "are truly nuts."

The next work session of the Montrose Area School District will immediately follow its regular meeting, scheduled to begin at 6:30 on January 9 in the high school cafeteria.

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New Milford Discusses Emergency Plans

With Jim Carr presiding in place of president Scott Smith, the otherwise full complement of New Milford council voted to adopt the borough’s 2004 budget. The nearly $270,000 budget maintains taxes at the same amount as last year, and includes funds set aside for an ambitious paving project slated to begin once the weather becomes more accommodating come the spring.

Carr reported that he received a ballpark estimate on the paving price tag from PENNDOT’s Randy Decker. Carr measured each street in the borough and gave Decker their dimensions, which were then inputted into a PENNDOT software program that calculates the cost, by street, to pave. In New Milford’s case, this is about $200,000 for the whole town; not surprisingly, Church Street is the most costly.

The paving estimate includes some streets that have already been paved and which don’t need to be addressed in this paving project; thus, the estimate can be assumed to be lower. The borough has already set aside roughly $100,000 for the project. Once the paving project is wrapped up, Council has targeted sidewalks and curbing as the next major effort it would like to start on.

The borough may have a bit more money to work with as well, depending how borough secretary Amy Hine’s research turns out on the Great Bend Area Joint Police Pension Plan. The borough received a report from the Department of the Auditor General that stated all was in order with the plan, that it had assets of $134,391, and that one person – Charles Martell – was eligible for and receiving benefits. The borough estimated that it contributed about 65 percent of the funds for the ill-fated joint police project. An audience member suggested that perhaps an annuity could be purchased to cover the regular and monthly pension obligation to Martell that would result in a dollar value of less than the roughly $135,000 in plan assets. The difference between the cost of the annuity and the plan obligations could then be returned to those who paid the (taxpayer) money in, according to the percentage in which they made it. Council member Rick Ainey asked Hine to find out who’s responsible for administering the pension plan, and to report back at council’s next meeting.

Council heard a report by member Chris Allen about his and borough employee Donnie Button’s efforts during the more than day-long power outage that recently hit the town. Button heard about people – the elderly and disabled – who were in distress, including one elderly woman who was so cold she was thinking about starting up an old kerosene heater. A disabled man lay in bed for close to a day when Allen and Button got him into a hotel in Binghamton.

Allen and Button thought there needed to be a more coordinated emergency effort should this happen again, which was thought to be more likely than not. They thought perhaps a list with contact information could be developed of those who would need help; perhaps an emergency generator and some cots could be purchased for a warm place for those who need it – the elderly, disabled, those with infants and young children. The town could purchase a storage shed in which to keep the generator and cots.

Council liked the idea a lot. Ainey thought that the borough could coordinate this kind of effort with churches in the borough, perhaps those with a gas stove that could heat up some warm soup. Other suggestions included working with the churches and assigning an area to each one, with their volunteers calling those who live in it to see if they need help. Hine noted that the borough could put a $500 grant it received towards the purchase of emergency equipment. Member Mary Ann Warren, in her last meeting as a council member prior to being sworn in as a county commissioner, offered to speak with a representative on the Area Agency on Aging about how to coordinate such an effort. Junior council member Beth Giangrieco will look into the resources that might be available from the Blue Ridge School. It’s anticipated that a meeting will be scheduled and sponsored by the borough, to talk about the problem and how to solve it. Preliminary reports are expected at the first meeting of the new year.

In a report left by codes enforcement officer Shane Lewis, everything seemed to be okay with permits or contacts with state Labor and Industry. Lewis inspected the Cosmello junkyard, found no violations, and Council voted to issue it a permit based on Lewis’ report. Lewis also followed up on a verbal complaint about junk and garbage on a property on Maple/Church Street; as no one was home, he sent a violation notice to the owner. Members were also pleased to see the results of Hine’s coordination of the CEO; it seems that this month’s COG bill was significantly lower than past bills due to efficiency, although Hine did say that the latest bill did not include the junkyard inspection, which took about an hour, and which would show up on the town’s next invoice.

Regarding funds for taking care of Peck Hill, the town is trying to get a CDBG grant for its repair. To be considered for this grant, it must be shown that at least one-half of the people who live on a street belong to a low-income bracket. There are six houses on Peck Hill and a simple survey was sent to each for purposes of the grant. Two have been returned, and both are from low-income people. Thus, only one more is needed, and Hine will follow up with the others, explain why the town needs the form, and will hopefully get the third house that’s needed to qualify for the grant that will fix up the street.

Discussion on economic development focused on the Rail Authority, with Ainey reporting that it’s considering a second siding, in addition to the one in New Milford, in an old railroad bed line that’s close by the road, off Route 11, leading into the high school. Ainey’s concern was about traffic – especially big tractor-trailer truck traffic – going in and out of that area and their ability to even make the rather sharp turn. And while such a siding would certainly make the owner’s land more valuable, it was thought that the Authority should address the problem of traffic before it makes any decisions. Ainey noted that while there is potential growth for the community, there’s also a potential for problems that should be considered as well.

Members also looked over two signs for the front of the building proposed by Rosencranz Signs and chose one of them, but not in the red color suggested by Rosencranz. It was left to Hine to look at other color samples in a material that would not fade with sun exposure, and bring her choices to council.

The borough will also repair one of the planter boxes at the post office. It seems that Allen met with a representative of the state who told Allen that it would replace the wounded planter box with basically anything that was less than 18 inches tall. The representative, however, turned down all suggestions that were made to him. Carr has been waiting for information from the state that the representative said he would send within five days of his visit. That time has long since passed, and since the borough has an agreement with the state for the planter boxes, Carr thought it was just simpler to have boxes repaired and that’s what the town will do.

In personnel matters, council member Teri Gulik reported that the Personnel Committee conducted reviews with three employees. "They all had very good reviews, and we recommend a 3 per cent increase for each this year." That was fine by council, which also authorized that a total amount of $350 be set aside for Christmas bonuses to be allocated among the trio. Both the pay raise and the bonus have been accounted for in the budget.

Gulik also reported that despite frigid weather, Santa in the Park went very well, with 84 children showing up to meet Santa and enjoy the festivities.

The good neighbor recognized for the month of December was Pat Bailey. In recognizing him, Ainey noted his 20 years of service on the borough council, a long-time member of the fire company, and more than three decades taking care of the New Milford cemetery. In accepting his recognition, Bailey praised the super job that the Boy Scouts and interested lot owners did in cleaning up the cemetery. He noted that the cemetery is kept in good shape with very limited funds. "All we can use for maintenance purposes is the interest on the trust fund. This used to be about $5,400 a year, but with interest rates down, that amount is about $3,500," he reported, adding that about $7,000 is spent on mowing alone. The difference has to be raised, which he said comes from the work of friends and family and donations. He added, "Sometimes it looks scraggly, sometimes it looks good, and we try to make the lots without perpetual care look good." And while Bailey said that he takes pride in what he does, he also noted that he’s getting older, many of the other individuals who help him are getting older, and that "we’ve got to get somebody to train up there to take over."

The next meeting of the New Milford Borough Council will be its reorganization meeting scheduled for December 5, 7 p.m. in the Borough building on Main Street. Its regular monthly meeting will immediately follow.

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Susky Boro Nov. Police Reports


Amy Sue Olmstead of Susquehanna reported that between 10/29 to 10/31, someone took a stereo out of her 1996 Ford Mustang while parked at French’s Auto in Susquehanna. Please call Susquehanna Borough Police with any information, 853–3147.


Eric Marshal of RR 2 Susquehanna was traveling East on Turnpike St. on 11/02 at around 8:30 p.m. Marshall swerved to avoid a deer in road hitting embankment with his 1996 Pontiac. This caused vehicle to roll over and slide on its roof, stopping in front of St. John’s Cemetery. Marshall was not injured. Vehicle towed.


On 11/03 at 3 p.m., Stephen Michael Hughes of Fleetwood, PA struck a utility pole with a tractor-trailer belonging to "AWI" in the parking lot of the H.O. Mart while negotiating a turn from Broad Ave. Heading North on 171. No injuries. No damage to pole.


On 11/03 at 10:30 p.m. several people reported a motorcycle being driven by Jeffrey Heller, RR 2, Susquehanna, to be possibly under the influence of alcohol by causing a disturbance at the H.O. Mart. Police found Heller at 11:00 p.m. with passenger Arthur Tyrell of Susquehanna. After an investigation, Heller was arrested for DUI and Reckless Endangering another person. Charges filed at District Court 34-3-02.


On 11/04, Barbara Landry reported her 2003 GMC Envoy to have gotten several dents in it while parked in the 300 block of Church St. on 10/31 between 6-7:30 p.m. Please call Susquehanna Borough Police at 853–3147 with any information.


On 11/06, between 2:15 and 3:20 p.m., someone hit a parked 2000 Ford Explorer belonging to Carissa Stanton of Susquehanna. Vehicle was parked in the Dollar General parking lot at 104 Main St. Anyone with information is asked to please call Susquehanna Borough Police at 853–3147.


On 11/08 at 2:30 a.m. Police observed a suspicious white, four-door Honda Acura in the 200 block of Willow Ave. Driver was an adult, white male 18-23 years old with some brown facial hair, dark hooded sweatshirt and a blue and white bandanna on head. Upon Police stopping vehicle in the 900 block of Prospect St. for traffic violations, driver attempted to hit a Police Officer with vehicle, then fled. Vehicle registration of NY was found to be a stolen car. Police pursued vehicle from Prospect St. to 92 South where vehicle was lost and pursuit ended. Vehicle found days later by Binghamton Police and returned to owner. Anyone with any information regarding driver is asked to call Susquehanna Borough Police at 853–3147.


On 11/09, Kitty Williams of Susquehanna reported her 1995 Chevy to have been hit in the 400 block of Grand St. Parts of the suspect’s vehicle found on the scene. Call Susquehanna Borough Police with information, 853–3147.


Guy Clift of Susquehanna reported on 11/12 that a former acquaintance keeps calling his residence unwanted. Police went to suspect’s house and advised to cease calling. No further complaints.


Nancy Groover of Jackson, PA allegedly harassed Lisa Muchanic of Susquehanna on 11/12 at the Hilltop Bar at 10:30 p.m. by verbal threats. One harassment charge was filed with District Justice 34-3-02 due to a previous complaint from Muchanic on file.


Mary Frisbie of 208 Washington St. reported assault by Lynn Cafaro of Thompson at 208 Washington on 11/17 at 7:18 p.m. Police responded. Both parties went to Barnes-Kasson Hospital for minor injuries. Charges were filed on both with District Justice 34-3-02.


Police observed four adult males and a juvenile in possession of a male deer outside of 940 Prospect St. on 11/23 at 1:45 a.m. with alcohol involved. Two males fled on foot. Nicholas Murray and Eric Green of New Jersey were apprehended by Police with the juvenile, of Susquehanna. Juvenile turned over to parent. Game Commission Officer Burchell was called to scene in which both Murray and Green were taken and pled guilty to District Justice Watson Dayton for being in possession of a deer on same date. Murray and Green were taken to County Jail by Police until able to make restitution of fine. Both have paid fine and been released.


On 11/23, Barnes-Kasson ER reported a theft of a "Sherwood Medical" thermometer taken at around 2:15 a.m. Police are investigating and have a possible suspect.


Schneider’s Market of Susquehanna has reported two different incidents in which a tall, white, adult male possibly wearing glasses, with facial hair has taken large quantities of meat. Suspect leaves shopping cart on side of building and possibly has a vehicle. Anyone with information is asked to call Susquehanna Borough Police at 853–3147.


On 11/28 at 6:19 p.m., a crash occurred at Turnpike and Broad Ave. Christy Westcott of Susquehanna reported that a 1992 Acura had struck her 98 Ford Probe and then fled scene. After investigation, Scott Wheeler of Susquehanna turned himself in to Police several hours later. Charges filed with District Justice 34-3-02 on Wheeler.


On 11/28 at 10:49 p.m., John Rivenburg, Sr. failed to negotiate a turn into the H.O. Mart parking lot, striking a utility pole head on, while driving a 1987 Ford Mustang from 171 South. Passenger of vehicle was taken to Barnes-Kasson Hospital by EMS and treated for minor injuries. Passenger released on same date.

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SCSD Board Reorganizes

The first order of business at the December 3 meeting of the Susquehanna Community School Board was to conduct their annual reorganization. With all members present, reelected members James Bucci, Evelyn Cottrell and Terry Carpenter were sworn in, as were newly elected members Martha Stanford and Steven Stanford.

Mike Kosko was chosen as president pro tempore for the purpose of conducting the election of officers for the 2004 school year. Only one nomination was made for president, Terry Carpenter, who was then sworn in. And, James Bucci, who received the only nomination for vice president, was sworn in.

The reorganization meeting was adjourned, and the regular meeting began. The minutes of the October 15 meeting were approved, as were the treasurer’s report, general fund bills, food service report, and filing of the activity fund and athletic fund reports.

Only one item of correspondence was received, notification that a Lanesboro resident has qualified for a property tax exemption due to a disability incurred as a result of injury received during active military service. As the resident in question has met all of the criteria to qualify for the exemption, the board carried a motion to approve.

Superintendent Bronson Stone reported that the district will be receiving a grant, targeted for rural schools, to be used to increase students’ achievement. The funds will be applied towards a laptop computer cart, complete with 30 computers, for the high school, and for remediation-based assessment software.

The district will be working with faculty from the University of Scranton to evaluate the district’s teaching methods, to improve effectiveness. The university will be conducting their evaluation during the months of February and March, particularly in Special Ed, Reading and Math. The university’s recommendations, Mr. Stone said, will provide a good road map to follow for the next couple of years.

During a report of district personnel, high school principal Mike Lisowski had the pleasure of introducing three of this year’s recipients of McKelvey scholarships. The scholarship program was developed by Andy McKelvey, who, Mr. Lisowski said started his career by selling vegetables and went on to found, an on-line job search service. The scholarships are awarded to students at small, rural schools who show an entrepreneurial spirit; the selection process includes an essay and interviews. Students must choose to attend colleges or universities from a specific list. This year’s Gold winners are Heather Warneke and Joe Barnes. Miss Warneke plans to attend Susquehanna University and study communications and/or psychology. Mr. Barnes has not yet decided between Scranton University, Wilkes University, Bucknell or Lehigh; he plans to study mechanical or electrical engineering. Based on the recommendations of the Gold winners, two Bronze winners are chosen; they must be students who had not planned to attend college but would if the opportunity presented itself. Chosen for the Bronze scholarships were Becky Darling, who plans to attend Mansfield University, and Jason Clapper (who was not present) who plans to attend Bloomsburg.

Mr. Lisowski noted that Miss Warneke’s interview had been so outstanding that she had been chosen to make a presentation at a meeting of the McKelvey Foundation in Harrisburg.

Elementary principal Bob Keyes updated the board on the district’s mentor program, where faculty members work one-on-one with students in need of individual attention or guidance; currently there are 29 students/faculty members participating in the program. Mr. Keyes noted that 76% of the elementary faculty have "signed up" to take part in the program. It is one that is sorely needed, he said, and so far is going very well.

The fifth and sixth grade students are participating in a statewide contest to "pen a phrase" to create a slogan, which will be used on PA state license plates. If a winner from the district is chosen, the district will be eligible to receive up to 20 new computers for classroom use. As part of their research, students have been writing to students in other states, and a display has been made of the license plates from the states of responding students.

Lastly, Mr. Keyes reported that at the last parent/teacher conferences, 451 out of 500 students’ parents had attended, an average of about 90%.

Dean of Students Mark Gerchman reported that the faculty has been working closely with the truancy officer to address the issue of attendance, to improve it. He outlined the process used to contact parents to keep them aware of their child’s attendance, to ensure that they are aware of absences. He also reported that the district has been using an interactive website to help students prepare for assessment tests; the program is set up to show students their individual strengths or weaknesses, and achieve specific results. Mr. Gerchman and two students were scheduled to make a presentation to IU 19 on the program the following Friday.

Maintenance supervisor Donnie Norris reported that, following the recent power outage, it had been discovered that a contact in the gym had apparently burned up, as when it was turned on the gym filled with smoke. The fire department had been called; the problem has since been fixed by an electrician. And, Mr. Norris reported that the district has received a substantial donation; Dean Lewis has given the district a field grooming tractor for use on the athletic fields.

Mr. Lisowski noted that during the power outage, school had been in session for about three hours without power; all had functioned very well, and the students had been very orderly.

Business manager Ray Testa said that the outage had pointed out the need for additional lighting in several areas, as there currently is inadequate coverage.

The board approved a meeting schedule for 2004; meetings will be held on January 21, February 18, March 17, April 21, May 19, June 16, August 4, September 15, October 20, and reorganization meeting on December 1, at 7:30 p.m. in the administration office. Information and deliberation sessions will be held the Tuesday prior to the meeting, same time and place. These sessions had traditionally been held on Mondays, but, Mr. Stone said the new schedule had been agreed upon due to scheduling conflicts, mostly related to the number of holidays that usually occur on Mondays.

The board approved the following additions to the substitute list: Teresa Leinauer, Jamie Rodriguez, and Agnes Schad, teacher aides; Jennifer Hill, certified elementary; Richard Repa and Dawn Repa, bus drivers; Paul Britten, certified French/Spanish.

Two bus contract changes were approved; Mr. Testa relayed that the changes were in conjunction with the reopening of a bridge in Starrucca and subsequent changes in bus routes.

Resignations were approved from Maria Gordon, high school computer lab aide; Michael Reavey, assistant track coach; Matt Misiura, JV baseball coach.

Hiring of the following was approved: George Moore, junior high girls’ and boys’ basketball game manager; William Burge, junior high girls’ assistant basketball coach; Steven Felter, elementary (5/6) boys’ basketball coach; John Seigle, school remediation, reading; Matthew Misiura, school remediation, math. Board member Mary Wescott abstained from voting on this item because, she said, the positions had not been advertised outside of the school district.

Transfer of Carol Bushong to the position of high school office clerical/aide was approved, as was a leave of absence for Jennifer Rockwell, effective January 5, for approximately four to six weeks.

One late Per Capita tax exoneration was approved; it was noted that the applicant is now deceased. Also approved were tax exonerations for three lots in Susquehanna Boro, for the years 2000, 2001 and 2002, at the request of the county Tax Claim Bureau. The exonerations will allow the bureau to accept whatever offers are made for sale of the land.

There was some discussion regarding a two-part item on the agenda, to approve an exoneration of future property tax for the River Bounty Association on land formerly owned by American Hydro pending transfer of the land to Susquehanna Borough, the Susquehanna Fire Department and the Tri-Boro Municipal Sewer Authority. Mrs. Stanford explained that the parcel in question will be divided among Tri-Boro and the fire department for expansion, and the boro for development of a park. There was some discussion as to whether an exoneration (now) to these three entities could then result in the property eventually being sold to a commercial concern which would, in turn, be exempt; the exoneration is granted to these entities (who are exempt from this tax), but would not apply if the property were eventually to be sold.

The first part of the item, to grant a rebate of property tax already paid on the land, in the amount of $757.83 led to more discussion, with the final outcome being that a vote carried, six to three, to allow the rebate.

The board approved a policy regarding the new Privacy Rule under the Health Insurance and Accountability Act. Mr. Stone explained that this involves a very extensive policy, as a result of state legislation concerning medical services that may be given to students who require such things as physical therapy or any service that may qualify as medical care. Mr. Testa added that the policy is intended to protect students; a policy needs to be officially put in place to protect those students’ personal information.

Homebound instruction was approved for two students, one in grade 11, one in grade 9.

A motion carried to approve a resolution from Attorney Kelly to retain a line of credit from Peoples National Bank. Mr. Stone explained that the necessity for a line of credit is a result of the state’s inability to pass a budget, which includes the allocation for school districts’ subsidies. Mr. Testa expanded, saying that districts within the state have not received the subsidies they normally receive; these funds are necessary to operate. Hopefully, once the state budget is passed, districts will be eligible for reimbursement of any interest costs that are incurred.

The last item on the agenda was approved, a list of activities and fundraising requests.

The next meeting will be on Wednesday, January 21, 7:30 p.m. in the administration offices.

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