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The largest crowd to attend a Blue Ridge School Board meeting in recent years turned out on September 13 to hear about a proposed $6.5 million project at the school. Attracted by word of mouth, and by advertising placed by Board member Harold Empett, nearly 125 people sat patiently through a routine business meeting before Board President Alan Hall opened a special "workshop" to talk about the proposed plan.
The full Board was present, including student representative Aaron Survilla, President of the Student Council, who opened the business meeting with a report on the plans of High School students for the new school year. Mr. Survilla mentioned a proposed monument to Brad Conklin, a fellow student killed this summer in an auto crash. Students will continue community-centered activities by adopting a family for the Christmas holidays, and working with the Feed-a-Friend program at Thanksgiving.
Among other routine business, the Board hired Janelle Mead as coordinator of the gifted program, a part-time position that will occupy Ms. Mead 3 days per week. Edward Royko becomes a long-term substitute during school librarian Jennifer Yannone's leave. And Christine Whitney will continue in her position as "Career Services para- professional" in the High School Guidance office. The career counseling position was added last Spring to help students clarify their after-high-school goals.
A request from Singh Realty to continue a tax abatement package provided to the owners of the development properties at the Gibson exit on the Interstate did not get a hearing when a call for a motion received no response. The Monteforte fireworks company received the tax relief originally to help obtain financing to develop the property, which has now been sold to Singh Realty. The Board is less inclined now to offer tax breaks to businesses under the Keystone Opportunity Zone (KOZ) initiative or any other program after several such efforts have yielded so little visible result.
All administrators reported a smooth opening for the new school year. "Best start ever," was the assessment of High School Principal Michael Thornton. Each of the principals listed a clutch of programs offered, under way, or planned in their schools.
Mr. Thornton reported several programs under way and expanding this year. More special education students will be "mainstreamed" into regular classrooms this year, under government guidelines. All seniors will be interviewed about their plans following graduation. The A-Plus certification program begun last year by Technology Coordinator John Ketchur is catching on. It now serves 10 students; Mr. Ketchur hopes to expand the program from computer repair to networking topics. A-Plus gives graduating students an opportunity to take with them certification in a computer-related skill. Mr. Thornton also hopes to offer after-school SAT study sessions consisting of 4, 2-hour sessions. The extra SAT preparation is expected to help students cope with changes in the SAT, which in the Spring will begin requiring more writing.
Middle School Principal John Manchester described the "Success Maker" program designed to enhance instruction in math and reading. He also reported some 70 7th and 8th grade students signed up for soccer and cross-country.
Robert Dietz, Principal in the Elementary School, reported that the Foster Grandparents, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Classroom Plus and "Peer Helpers" programs are under way. The latter attempts to foster more positive playground behavior. He also reminded Board members that Dede Tersteeg will be participating in a Fulbright Achievement program in Japan this Fall. And 1st-grade student Janet Phelan won the Mary H. Karhnak award at the Harford Fair this year. Unfortunately, Ms. Phelan has since moved out of state.
Superintendent Robert McNamara welcomed the opening of the new school year with enthusiasm, poetically declaring, "When the students arrive, the campus comes alive." He summed up the impressive list of programs described by his principals: "a lot of initiatives are going on in our schools."
According to Mr. McNamara and Mr. Hall, the number and variety of those initiatives offered at Blue Ridge are a major reason for the proposed expansion in the Elementary School that brought so many people to the meeting. As soon as the business session adjourned, Mr. Hall launched into an hour-long tour de force, explaining in extravagant detail - virtually without notes - all of the items in the proposed project for which the Board had authorized itself to spend up to $6.5 million, if it eventually decides to do so.
Over the course of several months, the plan has gone through many changes and amendments, none of which, as Mr. Hall was at pains to point out, are yet decided upon. Among other things, the plan encompasses: the addition of 8 classrooms in the Elementary School. The addition of a third gym, configured for competition, in a "Butler" building. Adding a Pre-Kindergarten program. Repairing or replacing the soccer field. Replacing soccer field bleachers for up to 500 spectators. Resurfacing or repainting the 10-year-old track. Installing more emergency generating capacity to handle county-wide crisis situations. Moving the business office to a more isolated location. Replacing the floor in the main lobby. Upgrading the telephone system. Upgrading the computer networking infrastructure. Upgrading the security system. Adding air conditioning to the gyms and other areas. Rope lighting in the auditorium. Repairing school entrances subject to ice blockage.
Through the course of his dissertation, Mr. Hall ticked off many of these items that might be "pulled out" of the larger project, perhaps to be added to the normal district budget later and accomplished with local resources. "We're not happy with these prices," he said, referring to things like more than $100,000 for a terrazzo floor in the lobby; more than $200,000 for technology upgrades; refurbishing the soccer field in its present configuration for about $387,000 (plus irrigation for another $125,000); $3 million for the 2- story addition to the Elementary School, plus another $500,000 for a business office on its first floor; and about $1.8 million for a gym in a Butler building. Items that he thought could be accomplished out of the district's expense budget might include the telephone, computer networking and security system upgrades, additional parking, changes to the Middle School entrance, and perhaps refurbishing the track.
Along the way, Mr. Hall explained in some detail the history and the need for each of the items. One of the more controversial aspects of the plan - certainly the most expensive - is the expansion of the Elementary School. The original design called for an octagonal structure with seven classrooms. Under prompting by the Board, the design was changed to a rectangular building that, by using space more efficiently, would provide 8 classrooms. The lower floor would be an activity space.
Mr. Hall said that some classes are now being taught in spaces that used to be closets and storage rooms, areas that are not properly ventilated or arranged according to state standards. All of the classes using those spaces would be moved to the new "pod." In addition, he noted the large number and variety of programs offered at Blue Ridge - including those offered to the larger community and the difficulty of scheduling them all in the available space. This is especially true of the gyms: a third gym would ease competition for space when multiple events are scheduled concurrently, and provide more practice space for the athletes.
He also said that the additional space might allow Blue Ridge to bring vocational education back from Elk Lake, where 37 Blue Ridge students are now enrolled. Moreover, the Instructional Unit also uses Blue Ridge space for instruction, which minimizes transportation costs for the special programs offered by the IU.
In long, Mr. Hall made very strong arguments for each item in the plan, and probably hoped to calm fears by moving many of the items from the larger project into the local budget process. It's not clear that he was completely successful.
Mr. Hall explained the new Act 72 being touted as tax reform in Harrisburg that promises gambling revenue to schools while giving relief to property taxpayers, as a complex package whose many parts have yet to be interpreted. He warned his listeners not to get too excited about tax reform yet. He insisted that last month's Board action to pre-approve the project was not an attempt to slip in under the Act's September 3rd effective date, and that, in any case, "we're not at the decision-making [point] yet."
Naturally, most of the people who heard the speech were concerned about the impact of such a project on their taxes. Mr. Hall explained that he hoped and expected the state to reimburse the district for as much as 30% of the cost. And he repeated several times his pledge that, "This Board is not in favor of any building project that will cause a tax increase." He was seconded by Board member Dawn Franks: "We're not raising taxes, not for this project." The more vocal in the cafeteria weren't buying it.
Mr. Hall explained that the Board has twice refinanced the construction bonds issued to pay for the 1994 renovation and is currently paying only 1-3% interest on the $14 million still outstanding. He went on to explain that the financing of the new project would call for paying all the interest up front, but conceded that it would cost more that way - about $4 million over the 10 year life of the new bonds.
"Pay off the $14 million; then we'll talk about a new building project," shouted one observer, who was heartily applauded. Mr. Hall wasn't convincing his audience of the miracles of creative financing. The line, "You haven't been to school finance training," brought a huge groan. "Your taxes are going up!" came a voice from the crowd.
The taxpayers in attendance listened patiently and respectfully to all that Mr. Hall had to say, and many seemed grateful for the detailed explanations. But they still couldn't see how it could all be done without more money, from them. And several questioned the need for some of the projects' features.
All the explanations notwithstanding, many could not understand why, if enrollment is still going down, there was a need for more classrooms. Total attendance at the end of last year was about 1,232. This year, total attendance on the 3rd day of school was 1,201, continuing a long-term trend that even Mr. Hall had to admit stretched back before the 1994 project. Yet he pointed to kindergarten enrollments which have not decreased recently, seeming to expect the declines to end, if not to be reversed.
Some questioned the wisdom of a pre-kindergarten (pre- K) program, which isn't (yet?) required in Pennsylvania. Blue Ridge went to all-day kindergarten only 4 years ago. Mr. Hall said that local Head-Start classes that serve the same age group do not have enough places for all who qualify in the area. A pre-K program would serve all youngsters, regardless of need. They would ultimately come to first grade better prepared to learn, which would benefit the students, but might also benefit the district through better academic performance, achievement on standardized tests, and ultimately financial rewards from the state.
Although Mr. Hall at first said that the bleachers now in place at the soccer field weren't up to standard (the seats don't have backs, and there's no netting below), when asked, he admitted that there is no requirement to meet state standards for bleachers; only that insurance costs were higher for that reason.
Others questioned the need for additional emergency generating capacity. Is the school to become a haven in the event of a catastrophe? Local emergency management officials look at it that way. In any case, according to Mr. Hall, the generators are necessary to power the school's emergency lighting system.
There was a fair amount of hostility toward property owners taking advantage of the Clean & Green tax benefit, with claims that homeowners in town on small lots are paying "more than our fair share." Mr. Hall didn't argue with that, and went on to explain that Blue Ridge may need to impose an earned income tax so that residents of the district can qualify for property tax relief. The earned income tax has been available for some time, but Blue Ridge has so far chosen not to participate. According to Mr. McNamara, it would represent only a very small part of the district's revenue anyway.
In response to a question, Mr. Hall did report that negotiations with the district's teachers on a new contract are expected to begin in October or November of this year. Salaries and benefits are far and away the greatest expense for the school district.
Tempers were kept well in check during the lengthy discussion. Most seemed satisfied with the opportunity to express opposition to higher taxes, and with the well- reasoned and informative presentation from their School Board President. For his part, Mr. Hall thanked them all for coming, and expressed surprise at the number of people who turned out, when rarely more than 6 or 7 show up at public Board meetings.
Want to be part of that elite 6 or 7? Your next chance will be a workshop scheduled for September 27, beginning at 7:30 p.m., in the cafeteria in the Elementary School.
Present at the September 16 meeting of the Hallstead Boro Council were members Mary Rudock, Michele Giangrieco, David Callender, John Giangrieco and Joseph Franks, secretary Cindy Gillespie and maintenance supervisor John Gordon.
During approval of the agenda, it was agreed to take one item, "building permits" off future agendas, as building permits are now issued through COG, in keeping with the states new Uniform Construction Code. Permit applications may still be obtained at the boro office.
Mr. Giangrieco reported receiving complaints about the overgrowth of brush at the intersection of Park and New York Avenues, which causes a reduction in sight distance for motorists. A letter will be sent to the property owner, asking that the shrubs be trimmed.
Mr. Gordon reported that, following last months meeting, drains on Bennet Street and Valley View have been cleaned.
The new heating oil tank has been installed in the boro building garage. Mr. Gordon agreed to find out what had to be done to properly dispose of the old one.
There was some discussion regarding the progress of the bridge beautification project. Information obtained indicated that there is no word on whether grant funding will be finalized this year or next. No action was taken on remitting the final portion of the boros financial commitment as it is unclear whether or not the grant funding will be realized. A structural engineer will be needed if the project is to proceed; the committee is looking for a volunteer to serve in this capacity. A big question is whether all of the affected property owners will agree to allow the new sidewalks to go in on their respective properties; the project must have 100% compliance. If even one property owner refuses to allow the new walks, the project could be stalled. If this were to happen, there were questions about whether the boro would be refunded monies already paid towards its commitment to the project.
There was a lengthy discussion about the Route 11 park; some years ago, resident Jeff Case had approached council about putting in a dirt bike track. As there has been little progress since then, council discussed whether or not to put the area to some other use. It was agreed not to take any action until Mr. Case could be contacted for an update; Ms. Giangrieco agreed to do so. In the meantime, council has been planning how to use donations it has received for park equipment. It was agreed that it would best be used for equipment for smaller children at this park, as it is used mostly by families. Mr. Franks suggested that council consider locking this park at night, to prevent vandalism. In a related subject, it was reported that there has been a continuing problem with loitering at the boros other parks; areas that would otherwise be used by families with small children are being avoided at night because of this. Mr. Giangrieco agreed to contact the State Police to see if increased patrols could be implemented.
In response to numerous complaints about a continuous parking problem, Mr. Giangrieco will also ask the State Police what the proper procedure is to have a vehicle towed. In a situation that has been a problem for a number of years, a vehicle has been parked illegally, blocking sight distance at an intersection where "no parking" signs are posted.
The final topic discussed is the budget for the coming year; council will set up a finance meeting to begin working on it.
The next meeting will be on Thursday, October 21, 7:00 p.m. in the boro building.
Meeting Is Made Up
Daniel Joseph Nozza Sr. and Sue Joan Nozza to Daniel Nozza Jr. and Joseph Nozza, in Jackson Township for one dollar.
Michael R. Long and Kimberly A. Long to Roman Catholic Churches of Forest City, in Forest City for $5,000.
Ignazio Cavallaro and Maria Anna Cavallaro to Wayne H. Very (trust) and Belva L. Very (trust), in Rush Township for one dollar.
James G. Weisbecker and Alice M. Weisbecker to Lucikay Johnson, in Liberty Township for $55,000.
Susquehanna County Housing/Redevelopment Authority (aka) Susquehanna County Housing Authority to Trehab Center Inc. in Susquehanna for one dollar.
Leonard J. Levine to Leonard J. Levine and Rochelle L. Klieger, in Forest Lake Township for one dollar.
Eric P. Upright, Barbara J. Valentine (nbm) Barbara J. Upright to Barbara J. Upright, in Oakland Borough for one dollar.
Barbara J. Upright to Brandea Sparks and Lewis L. Sparks, in Oakland Borough for $36,000.
Carol M. Masteres to Steven J. Galloway and Carol G. Galloway, in Harford Township for $30,000.
Judy M. Dailey (fka) Judy M. Dunn (fka) Judy M. Gard to Marcel Joseph Arsenault, in Great Bend Borough for $30,000.
Marie K. Pelicci to Gerald W. Remick and Frances M. Remick, in Hallstead Borough for one dollar.
Key Bank USA to Richard Banker, in Susquehanna for $11,500.
Marjory Johnson Boyd (estate, aka) Marjory Boyd to Jonathan M. Stewart, in Clifford Township for $56,650.
Charles Brown to Harry Schork and Maureen Schork, in Springville Towship for $25,000.
Lewis Estell (by sheriff) and Carol L. Estell (by sheriff) to Washington Mutual Bank (sbm) and Fleet Mortgage, in Bridgewater Township for $2,360.
Betty F. Fisher to Robert R. Fisher, in Harford and New Milford townships for one dollar.
Thomas W. Cacace and Diana Cacace to Greg R. Williams, in Harford Township for $59,500.
Charlotte Whitbeck and Carol Joann Jones to Carol Joann Jones, in Lenox Township for one dollar.
Lawrence T. OReilly, Christine M OReilly, and Thomas J. OReilly to Thomas Moran and Olga L. Moran, in Apolacon Township for $86,000.
Harold G. Gary and Sara S. Gary to Kevin L. Pratt, in Bridgewater Township for $115,000.
Scotty R. Cook and Lori J. Cook to George Hicks and Joan Hicks, in Bridgewater Township for $100,000.
Charles W. Decker Jr. to Ardith R. Young and David A. Young, in Franklin Township for one dollar.
Lauren A. Wise to David Strollo, in Forest Lake Township for $55,000.
Paul S. Frisbie and Rita A. Frisbie to Kirk A. Hayes and Kelly K. Hayes, in Liberty Township for $25,000.
Stanley E. MacConnell and Hanna F. MacConnell to Elwin L. MacConnell, Joan M. MacConnell, Donald K. MacConnell, Kathleen J. MacConnell, Robert L. MacConnell, Jean C. MacConnell, Joseph R. MacConnell, Roberta J. Houlihan, in New Milford Borough for one dollar.
Daniel Mrykalo and Jean Mrykalo to Cornelius P. McCarthy and Lynn E. McCarthy, in Herrick Township for $36,500.
Ronald L. Kelech and Mary E. Kelech to Margaret Elizabeth Staskiel, in Auburn Township for $69,000.
Karl Weidel III (estate) to Lydia Weidel, Ruth Ann Weidel, Elizabeth Weidel Kessler, Katherine Weidel Reuter, and Louise Weidel Basralian, in Clifford Township for one dollar.
Lydia Weidel to Elizabeth Weidel Kessler and Louise Weidel Basralian, in Clifford Township for $25,000.
Ruth Ann Weidel to Elizabeth Weidel Kessler and Louise Weidel Basralian, in Clifford Township for $25,000.
Jennifer A. Hartman (fka) Jennifer A. Ogline to Jennifer A. Hartman and Louis Hartman, in New Milford Township for one dollar.
Delia Bentivoglio to Delia Bentivoglio (trust) in Clifford Township for one dollar.
Robert Summers and Thena G. Summers to Barbara Nettleship, in Great Bend Township for $55,000.
Jessie H. B. Carr and Robert A. Carr to Birchardville Cemetery Association Inc., in Forest Lake Township for $1,000.
Clifton H. Birchard and Pearl M. Birchard to Birchardville Cemetery Association Inc., in Forest Lake Township for one dollar.
John E. Colwell, Charles A. Colwell, and David A. Colwell to John E. Colwell, Charles A. Colwell, David A. Colwell and Elizabeth A. Johnson, in Oakland Borough for one dollar.
John Colwell to John E. Colwell, Elizabeth Colwell, Charles A. Colwell, and David A. Colwell, in Harmony Township for one dollar.
Betty Glemboski to Marcia Karhnak, in Lathrop Township for $20,000.
Betty Glemboski to Betty Glemboski, in Lathrop Township for one dollar.
Stanley R. Pazanski to Kenneth J. Pazanski, in Gibson Township for one dollar.
Martha O. Girton to Katz Beverlee Star, in Brooklyn Township for one dollar.
George Burdick Jr. and Joyce Burdick to Jon Charles Burdick, Kevin Paul Burdick, Connie Louise Gordon, George William Burdick III, and Joyce Marie Curtis, in Oakland Borough for one dollar.
Teresa S. Tyler to Teresa S. Tyler, in Montrose for one dollar.
Leo J. Feduchak and Dorothy M. Feduchak to Timothy L. Feduchak, in Lenox Township for one dollar.
Leo J. Feduchak and Dorothy M. Feduchak to Gregory S. Feduchak and Michele R. Feduchak, in Lenox Township for one dollar.
Thomas F. Mack and Eileen L. Mack to Kenneth R. Lattimore and Laura B. Lattimore, in Choconut Township for $35,000.
Christine L. Doubravia (nka) Christine L. Schell, and Christine Schell, to James Schell and Christine L. Schell, in Great Bend Township for one dollar.
Brian James Carpenetti, New Milford, and Lisa Ann Ainey, New Milford.
Scott Robert Farrell, Newark, Del. and Tiffany Hrabovsky, Newark, Del.
Zachery Joseph Durren, Jackson, and Rebecca E. Haines, Boonton, NJ.
James Arthur Fuller, Meshoppen, and Laura Ann Davies, Meshoppen.
James B. Costello, Montrose, and Julie A. Hill, Philadelphia.
James Vernon Paynter, Susquehanna, and Carol M. Slachta, Susquehanna.
William Henry White, Gaithersburg, MD, and Elizabeth Aviles Rahimi, Gaithersaburg, MD.
A Lawton resident was contacted by e-mail about a motorcycle that the resident had for sale. An unknown suspect sent a check to the resident for more than twice the amount requested, stating that it was to be used for shipping and handling of the bike, and that any money left after shipping was to be sent to an address in Brooklyn, NY via a Western Union money transfer. The resident was suspicious, depositing the check at his bank but waiting to verify that the check was good before sending a money transfer. The check was fraudulent. This incident, which occurred between August 29 and September 11, is currently under investigation.
The State Police remind the public that Internet-based fraud scams are becoming more prevalent and that people should be cautious, especially when they receive offers similar to that of the Lawton man.
THEFT BY UNLAWFUL TAKING
An unknown person(s) entered a residence belonging to Joseph McGee in Jackson Township and removed three guns. This incident was reported on September 10.*
THEFT BY UNLAWFUL TAKING
Late in the afternoon on September 10, an unknown person(s) entered an unlocked car belonging to Tonya Roe, Hallstead, which was parked in the lot at Stones Hardware in Great Bend, and stole her purse.*
On the afternoon of September 12, an employee at the Exxon in Great Bend Township reported a drive-off from their station and called the State Police. Their investigation revealed that the "suspect" had attempted to use his credit card at the pump. The cashier turned the pump on before the transaction went through. Because of this, the credit transaction was canceled and the machine then understood the transaction to be a cash one. The "Suspect" left, thinking he paid for the gas with his credit card, until he returned home to New Jersey and was contacted by the State Police. The situation was rectified between both the traveler and Exxon.
THEFT BY UNLAWFUL TAKING OR DISPOSITION
Management at Pennfield Feed in Montrose reported a loss in inventory on various dates and time. The matter is currently under investigation.
While a Wal-Mart tractor-trailer was parked at the Penn Can Truck Stop in Harford on the night of September 12, someone stole items from it.*
A complaint was made by Robert Williams, Thompson, about his neighbor, James A. Norton, using a waterway on Williams land. This incident was reported on the afternoon of August 21, and sent to the magistrate for a decision.
HIT AND RUN
A 2003 Honda owned by Sean Sheare, Union Dale, was parked at the Lift Inn in Lenox Township and was damaged as an unknown vehicle moved from its parking space. The unknown vehicle may be a dark SUV, such as a Blazer. This accident took place on the evening of September 11.*
MOTORCYCLE CRASH FATAL
Patrick ORourke, 35, Montrose, was killed in the late afternoon of September 11 when he lost control of his 2004 Harley Davidson along Kellum Road in Choconut Township. He went off the roadway and hit a telephone pole.
Matthew Marshall, Meshoppen, lost control of the 1992 Saturn he was driving on State Route 267, Auburn Township, which was wet. He struck the guide rail, traveled along the berm, struck an embankment and his vehicle flipped over onto its side, blocking both lanes of travel. There were no reports of injuries to Marshall and his passenger, and the Saturn was towed by Route 6 Towing.
An unknown person pumped $10 of gasoline into a dark blue or green Dodge Neon with a spoiler and yellow side decals without paying for the gas at the Great Bend Sunoco. The vehicle left the scene, traveling north on Route 11. This theft occurred on the evening of September 10.*
* Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call the State Police at 465-3154.
With all members present, the Susquehanna Community School Board quickly moved throughout the first several items on the agenda.
Approval was given for the minutes of August 18 meeting, filing of the treasurers report, the general fund bills, the food service report, and filing of the activity and athletic fund reports.
Superintendent Stone reported that, through Title II D, grant funding that the district received for Enhancing Education Through Technology has been used, in part to implement a series of parents academies. Unfortunately, the first one, held on September 14, was not very well attended, with only one parent showing up. The next session is scheduled for October 19, 6:15 p.m. in the elementary LGI; presenter will be teacher Kathy Matis, who will explain how technology gained through the grant will be used.
Mr. Stone reported that he and the superintendents of other county schools had met with the county assessor to discuss changes to the tax funding to districts in PA through Act 72. Revenue from slot machines is to be used to reduce property taxes, by as much as 25 to 50%. But, the act mandates an earned income tax be levied; every taxpayer will receive an application that will be used to compile information for this tax. Once completed, the applications must be returned to the assessors office.
The elementary school saw a good beginning to the new school year, as reported by Principal Keyes. The new pre-kindergarten program is running well; a few logistical problems had arisen and had been worked out. An open house was scheduled for September 16, and a staff development day, the first of five, for September 17 with NEIU 19 serving as facilitators.
Chorus teacher Teresa Marino, new to the district, was introduced by High School Principal Lisowski. Mr. Lisowski also reported that the guidance department and Assistant Principal Gerchman have been working on the curriculum, with one major change being implemented; the number of study halls throughout the day have been drastically reduced so that students spend more time in classes.
As part of his continuing "living presentations" to the board, Mr. Lisowski turned the floor over to Student Council Advisor John Seigle. Mr. Seigle in turn introduced Student Council Secretary, Kimberly Frechen. Ms. Frechen presented the board with minutes of the councils first two meetings, and will submit minutes of meetings to the board each month to keep them apprised of the councils activities.
In November, Mr. Seigle said, Ms. Frechen, along with president Rachel Ballard will be attending a state Student Council conference, along with a third student, possibly a ninth grader who will be chosen with the intention of getting younger students involved.
The council has opened the school store again, and are considering joining with the districts SADD chapter, to add to the roster of the volunteers so that additional hours may be added.
Supplies for the homecoming court have been purchased, and a DJ will be hired for the annual dance. The homecoming activities will be changed a bit this year; the parade will be at 6:15 on Friday; every class will have a float, with spots still available for any clubs or organizations that might like to participate. The traditional bonfire will be at 7:30, possibly with a DJ to provide entertainment. Store window decorations will be started earlier than usual, on October 3 with the expectation of removing them over the holiday weekend. With the football game on Saturday at 2:00, the annual dance will be held on Saturday evening this year, so that the football players can attend without having to worry about going home early to rest up for the big game. And, on Thursday the pre-game pep rally will be held; coaches will announce the teams roster and a powderpuff football game will be held.
Lastly, Mr. Seigle reported that the student council will be taking a more active role in this years Veterans Day program.
Mr. Gerchman reported that the new eight period schedule has been working, as has taking attendance at first period. And, the first fire drill of the year went very well.
Special Ed Coordinator Joni Miller reported that the community based vocational training program has gotten off to a good start, with all students finding placements with local businesses.
Changes implemented in the busing routes had gone very well, with business manager Ray Testa reporting that all involved had been very cooperative.
Several topics were brought up during public comment, which was prefaced by a comment from board president Terry Carpenter that the board and the district administration is prohibited from discussing student or personnel issues in a public forum; those issues would need to be discussed at an executive session.
Resident Crystal Shimer wished to speak on behalf of coach Dave Conroy; Mr. Carpenter responded that this subject would need to be discussed at an executive session. Mr. Stone added that, in the case of a student or personnel issue, there is an avenue of protocol that must be followed. The issue must first be brought up with the building principal; if it is not satisfactorily resolved, the next step is to discuss it with the superintendent. If this, too, proves to be unsatisfactory, it can then be brought to the board, but must be discussed in an executive session.
Resident Randy Shimer had some questions about the Susquehanna Boro Police; if, for any reason, they are in the school building during class hours, is it proper for them to be carrying firearms? Mr. Stone responded that any officer on campus is required to have received specific training to carry firearms in a school setting, or they would not be able to do so. "We have specific situations where the state police are called," he said, "where we have no authority to ask them to remove them (firearms). I will double-check," he said, to ensure that any local police who are on campus have the appropriate certification. Mr. Lisowski added that the Susquehanna police have visited the campus, to show themselves in a "positive light" to the students; in this situation, the police had agreed to leave their firearms behind.
Resident John McKinney then asked about rumors about the future of the districts shared football program with Blue Ridge; was the program going to "go away?" Mr. Carpenter said that the topic had not been discussed by the board; no plans have been made to disband the program. Mr. McKinney then asked about the status of the current coaching staff; would they all be back next year?
Mr. Stone replied that there are two classifications for positions such as coaching; if a coach is also a teacher, that person would be entitled to the same due process that a faculty (teaching) position would be entitled to. But, if a coach is a non-professional, that person could be dismissed at the end of the season, by the board, with sixty days notice. He added that information about the legal requirements for both of these types of positions could be found on-line in the PA School Code. Mr. McKinney asked if the current coaching staff would be automatically rehired for next year; Mr. Stone said that would depend on the individuals contract. If the person was a teacher, it has been the boards policy to enter into six-year contracts with teachers. But, the board could discuss any position at any time due to a change in the continuity of the program or in the program status. And, tenure only relates to teaching positions, not coaching positions.
With the conclusion of the public comment period, the board adjourned to an executive session, which lasted about 45 minutes.
When the meeting reconvened, the board approved the following for the 2004-05 school year: a list of substitute personnel; district transportation contracts; a list of district transportation drivers.
The board approved exonerating two properties applying for 2004 Keystone Opportunity Zone status, one the SOLIDA property, in Oakland Township and one in Oakland Borough, by the Oakland Borough Council.
Homebound requests for two tenth grade students were approved.
The resignation of Laurie Passetti, RN was accepted.
Hiring of the following was approved: Phyllis French, secondary library aide; Matthew Tarbox, full-time maintenance; Brian Burman FT/PT maintenance; Tom Ballard, part-time maintenance; Bobbi Jo Norris and Barbara Lake, part-time nurse; and teacher mentors John Dunn, Joe Zabielski, and Rachael Gilleran.
Two (late) requests for per capita tax exonerations were approved, as were a contract for a daily personal care/behavioral support service, a list of activity/workshop requests, and a list of fundraising requests.
The next meeting will be on Wednesday, October 20, 7:30 p.m. in the administration offices in the elementary building.
Residents in the Crystal Lake area of Clifford Township who have been anxiously awaiting for the township to sewer the lake area, may have to wait until 2006 before the project gets started.
"There will be no funding for this year," John Regan, chair of the township Board of Supervisors said. Mr. Regan said the township is attempting to have its grant application grandfathered so that it would continue to operate under provisions of the 2000 census and retain its position on the priority list.
In April, the supervisors agreed to proceed with a plan to sewer the Crystal Lake and Dundaff sections of the township on a condition that the lions share of the cost would be paid for by a grant from the Rural Development Department of the US Department of Agriculture. The township anticipates that the grant will pay 75 percent of the cost and the USDA will provide the township with a low-interest loan to finance the rest of the project.
The project calls for some 150 units in the Crystal Lake/Dundaff area to be connected to the Greenfield Township Sewer Authoritys collection lines and treatment facility off Route 247. Early cost estimates for the project were figured at slightly less than $2 million.
Some residents of the Crystal Lake area attended the meeting and said they were advised that the grant application had been approved and the money would be made available. But Mr. Regan said information he received indicated there would be no appropriation in the current federal fiscal year.
In response to a question, Mr. Regan said he would think the township may have to re-negotiate its agreement with the Greenfield Sewer Authority. He said a new agreement might increase the sewer authoritys fees to Clifford.
"The rates could change," Mr. Regan said, "because labor and material costs will change."
"The contract is contingent upon funding," said Township Solicitor Paul Peterson. "If the funding comes through the contract will be in place but it can change before the approval."
In another financial matter, the township received word from the Susquehanna County Redevelopment Authority that it had approved a $20,000 grant to the township for renovating restrooms in the township building.
Motions approved by the board completed the following business:
-Accepted a delivered price of $10.50 per ton of black cinders from Browns Farm Enterprises in Tunkhannock.
-Awarded a contract to Upper Valley Oil Co. for fuel oil after the company submitted a low bid of $1.41.9 per gallon.
The Forest City Regional Board of Education hired Donna Fortuner of Union Dale as administrative assistant in the business office at a salary of $20,000 plus benefits.
Ms. Fortuner has worked in the school district for three years. She replaces Mary Kay Wilczewski who resigned last month.
Director Al Dyno said he was not opposed to Ms. Fortuners appointment but he did have a problem with the way the vacancy was advertised.
"It was advertised twice," he said, "and each time the ad failed to list the starting salary for the position. And there were a number of people interested in the position but no interviews were held."
The board also approved a long list of substitute teachers for the 2004-2005 school year as well as a list of NEIU guest teachers.
Other motions approved by the board included:
-awarding a transportation contract in the amount of $25 per day to Lori Ann Dolph effective Sept. 10 to transport an elementary student to Dunmore Elementary School.
-approving the establishment of a Future Business Leaders of America Chapter.
-entering into an agreement with FreeFormIT.com to provide software services from 9-1-04 to 8-31-05 at a cost of $6,988.
-appointing Joanne Holgate as a long-term substitute teacher in the high school language art department.
-approving a list of mentor teachers for new employees. They are Terri Erdmann (Lisa Harris), Ann Marie Cicci (Joanne Holgate), Brian Durkin (Chris Wade), Cathy Walker (Jason Pantzar), and Denise Skorupa (Christine Mangiaracina).
-approving the appointment of Chris Wade as senior class advisor splitting the stipend with Nancy Brown.
-adding Ben ONeill and Wayne George to the list of bus and van drivers.
-appointing the following student teachers for the 2004-2005 school year: Charlene Collins, Debbie Barvinak, Heather Suraci, Carri Evola and Teressa Dombrosky.
-accepting the resignation of Mary Yale, assistant cook, effective Sept. 17.
-appointing Dan Nebzydoski and Cynthia Washine as student council advisors for the 2004-2005 school year.
-approving the districts participation in the Experience Works Plan.
Terry VanGorden ticked off agenda items in smart sequence at the Saturday morning meeting of the Harford Township Supervisors on September 11. Mr. VanGorden presided in the absence of Rick Pisasik, and, with Sue Furney, breezed through in barely more than a half hour, beginning with a discussion of recent progress in the Odd Fellows saga, of which there wasn't any.
The deed on the property where the Odd Fellows Hall stands requires a vote of the Harford electorate before the building can be dismantled or otherwise disposed of. Trouble is, the County Board of Elections has exercised its discretion and refused to put such a question on the Harford ballot. A letter from County attorney Michael Giangrieco said that the elections board determined that the issue was "not a proper question for the ballot."
Harford's solicitor has advised the Supervisors that the only way now to remove the restriction from the deed is to take it before a judge. The Supervisors feel that some sort of vote by township citizens would bolster their case, and the solicitor has suggested that a separate poll, say, in the garage on election day, November 2, might work. Ms. Furney said such a vote, however unofficial, would be "our way of getting the opinion of the electorate." With about a month and a half to go, Mr. VanGorden said the Supervisors are "still trying to figure out the wording" of a question that might be presented to voters. Wearing his other hat as a representative of the Board of Directors of the Harford Volunteer Fire Company, which put the restriction in the deed in the first place, when they gave the property to the Township, Mr. VanGorden said that the firemen will approve the change if it will help to resolve the matter.
Since last Spring the Supervisors have been soliciting input from local residents about what the building might be used for if it was renovated and put back into service. So far the response has been light, but mostly in favor of demolishing the old "town hall." A general vote might help to move the process forward -- in whatever direction it might go -- but Mr. VanGorden said, "I'm not prepared to ask the taxpayers to put that kind of money into it," referring to the expected cost of fixing it up.
In the meantime the Supervisors had other business to transact. They accepted a bid from Spectrum Electrical Services of Montrose for $2,290 to upgrade wiring and associated facilities in the Township building and garage, following a botched job by another local contractor. They also accepted a bid from Ralph Estabrook Excavating for $2,400 to improve Appleman Ridge Road.
Mr. VanGorden said that the township has been purchasing stone from State Aggregates because the original low bidder, New Milford Sand and Gravel, hasn't been able to perform in a timely manner. Township workers may be needing some of that stone on Lower Podunk Road, where flooding along Butler Creek has threatened to wash it out. There was a time when the township could have simply dug out the stream bed and fortified its eroded banks. Now, however, the area is classed as a "wetland" and is under the jurisdiction of the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). According to Assistant Roadmaster George Sansky, fixing the problem will be "very expensive," but, said he, "the process has begun."
A resident of Kingsley asked the Supervisors for a determination of right-of-way on what may have been known at one time as Parsonage Street in the village. According to Mr. VanGorden, that grand thoroughfare does not belong to the township, and is not maintained by the township. Township workers have plowed the street in the past, but the township claims no responsibility for it any longer.
Ms. Furney reported that the office has forms for those wishing to take advantage of the county hazardous waste recycling program. Drop-offs must be pre-registered, and there is a fee of $5.
The annual renewal of the agreement between the township and the fire company was tabled until Mr. Pisasik is available. Mr. VanGorden did not feel comfortable voting on the routine measure since he also holds a responsible position with the Fire Company.
The next scheduled meeting of the Harford Township Supervisors will be held on Tuesday, September 28, beginning at 7:30 p.m.
For several reasons the regularly scheduled meeting of the Susquehanna Boro Council was postponed on September 14. A couple of reasons, I know the borough president, Ron Whitehead resigned, and one member was ill.
But the scheduled "Hurley Rally," although small, was quite lively inside the Borough Hall. With three council members present - Mike Matis, Shane Lewis and Bill Kuiper - Mayor Hurley said, "I was elected by the people, and I have no plans to resign. I am in charge of the police department, and in my estimation they are doing a great job. I know they cant do everything perfect but they are doing their job and taking care of important things." (Members of the police staff were present.)
One question: why is she being asked to resign? Answer: shes not doing her job.
Another question: on what grounds was the asked to resign? The question could not be answered "fully."
Question: why were the locks changed in the building? Answer: to stop other employees from "snooping" into each others office.
Regarding several of the complaints involving Mayor Hurley not doing her job, Mrs. Hurley said, "Many of the people here - and officials - dont really know the laws by which we - the police - have to operate. We must follow the law."
One remark that drew a large applause from the crowd was, "Why dont the borough council members, its police department and the mayor meet in a special meeting (not open to the public) and discuss the situation. Dont we have enough problems already?"
Another remark made by an audience member was, "I sincerely believe there is a vendetta against Mayor Hurley when the entire council votes to ask for here resignation."
(A personal note: the three councilmen that attended the "rally meeting" should be highly commended for "braving" questions from Hurley supporters.)
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