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When Blue Ridge School Board members arrived for a workshop on January 28, a large black bag waited at each place at the table. The bags each contained a brand-new, fully-equipped laptop computer, complete with wireless detached mouse, a battery charger for use in a car, and other accessories. The computers were pre-loaded with a full suite of software and configured for wired as well as wireless Internet access. Each person at the table, including principals, business manager, superintendent and secretary was similarly outfitted.
Most seemed comfortable using the computers, which could connect to the Internet through wireless ("wi-fi") facilities covering the cafeteria where board meetings are held. Blue Ridge Information Systems Director John Ketchur gave a brief presentation, showing board members how to get to the board's pages on the Blue Ridge web site (www.brsd.org), and how to use their assigned Blue Ridge e-mail addresses.
Eventually they hope to use the large flat screen already mounted in the cafeteria to make meeting materials visible to others attending the meetings. The idea is to reduce the load of paper board members are inundated with by conducting meetings entirely through the use of these computers. In the meantime, most board materials are secreted behind a password-protected "portal" accessible only by administrators and board members. Should there be a demand from the public for printed materials, Board President Priscinda Gaughan and Superintendent Robert McNamara promised to make a few copies available as they are now, and to put more of the materials in a publicly-accessible area of the district's web site.
After about a half hour, when they were done playing, the new toys were mostly put away and discussions began, covering a wide range of issues.
Mr. McNamara said that staff are just now being trained in the on-line purchasing system recently implemented, another paperwork-reduction measure. Consequently, budget preparations are just beginning, a process that will be influenced by the upcoming "state-of-the-state" message by Governor Rendell. Mr. McNamara reported that the budget of the North-Eastern Instructional Unit (NEIU-19) to which Blue Ridge belongs, is expected to go up, probably meaning a proportional increase in the Blue Ridge contribution. He also said that in March the district will begin the search for replacements for retiring faculty; four faculty have announced their intentions to leave at the end of the school year.
Business Manager Loren Small asked the board to consider another new on-line system called "Easy Pay." This one could make it easier and more efficient for payments to be made to the district, for example for various fees as well as for food service accounts.
Mr. Small and Mr. McNamara would also like the board to consider searching for and designating an "architect of record" that the administration could call upon as needed, so that a board vote to select an architect would not be necessary for each project. Mr. Small said that the architect's fee schedule would be available in advance, but the arrangement would not involve a retainer fee. An architect's opinion is often required before a project can be offered for bids by contractors.
Mr. Small's recommendations regarding last year's "fund balance" elicited some lively discussion. The state department of education doesn't like to see school districts carry such a budget surplus disproportionate to the size of the overall budget. For Blue Ridge the guideline would limit the fund balance carried forward to about $1.6 million. For the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2007, Blue Ridge had a substantial surplus, far exceeding expectations. Mr. Small suggested that the extra $700,000 be distributed between two reserve funds, one for debt service and the other for capital improvements.
Ms. Gaughan pronounced this "a nice place to be," with a healthy surplus to fall back on in case a major, unexpected expenditure comes up, or if the state doesn't pony up enough money for the budget. Blue Ridge hasn't raised tax rates in several years, and a surplus like this helps to ensure that a tax increase won't become necessary later. She mentioned funds to cover large pension or insurance requirements as other places some of the extra money could be socked away.
Board member Lon Fisher was concerned that a split of $200,000 for debt service and $500,000 for capital reserves might make the capital reserve fund appear larger than necessary. After all, there are no large projects in prospect for the campus.
Ms. Gaughan's predecessor had pledged that tax rates could actually be cut in future years, particularly as construction debt was paid off. There was no talk of that this time.
Two issues held over from the last business meeting were hashed out; workshops do not make final decisions, however.
High School Principal John Manchester had reported that the student council and their advisor had surveyed female seniors concerning the graduation gowns they will wear. There was some concern that the white gowns were so thin that they were almost transparent. The survey revealed only slightly more than half of the responding seniors wanted to change the gowns.
Mr. Manchester said that he didn't think the issue was "that big a deal," but said he would meet with students and advisors to come up with a proposal for formal board consideration.
The consensus seemed to be that the gowns should be some combination of the school colors, red and white, but members didn't seem to want to change the gowns each year for each graduating class; they wanted to respect tradition, too. Ms. Gaughan noted that graduating women might also want to be more aware of what they were wearing under the gowns.
Two weeks ago, board members tabled a proposal from the Susquehanna Community School District to extend the cooperative athletic program to junior-varsity/junior high students. Susquehanna suggested that Blue Ridge students could join the Susquehanna J-V football program, and junior-high Susquehanna students could come to Blue Ridge for soccer. Some in the Blue Ridge district are less than enthusiastic about the idea for several reasons.
For one thing, the Susquehanna J-V sports program encompasses a different group of grades than the Blue Ridge Middle School or High School. And because the schools' schedules differ, it might be easier for one group to visit the other school than the other way around. Board member Harold Empett described the idea as "a feeder program for [Susquehanna] J-V and varsity sports." Some are also concerned that the local Triplets football program could be negatively impacted by such a move, with the school drawing off a number of the younger players.
On the other hand, Mr. McNamara said that co-sponsorship would probably increase the number of students participating in Blue Ridge soccer, thereby lifting the soccer program into a higher class of competition under PIAA rules. He also said he thought that co-sponsorship could ultimately increase the opportunities for girls’ sports, too.
And finally, Ms. Gaughan, as the new board President, will try once again to establish effective board committees. She distributed a list of committee names, including "Policy & Procedure," "Activities," "Curriculum," "Facilities & Grounds," and "Budget, Finance & Transportation," to which she added a new one, "Health & Wellness." She wasn't overwhelmed with volunteers offering to serve. It took a little arm-twisting and friendly cajolery to place each board member on at least one committee.
Ms. Gaughan stressed that committees need not be composed solely of board members. While board members would be responsible for reporting to the entire board, the committee chair does not have to be held by a board member. Board committee members are encouraged to include community members, school staff, anyone with an interest. She managed to get reluctant agreement that committees will meet once a month, beginning at 7:00 p.m., just before what is usually the monthly workshop on the fourth Monday of the month.
The next meeting of the Blue Ridge School Board will be a business session, on Monday, February 11, beginning at 7:30 p.m., in the cafeteria in the Elementary School. Bring your laptop.
Next year, if all goes according to plan, high school students at Mountain View will be able to enroll in advanced placement courses, a course on Greek, Roman, and Norse mythology, and intermediate guitar. These are some of the course offerings highlighted at the January 28 school board meeting. The mythology course is scheduled to be next year's embodiment of the culture shock curriculum, and intermediate guitar will be held due to the success of the beginning guitar class, which had 35 students enrolled this year. (These students are slated to perform in the spring's Arts Alive program.) Conversational French and Spanish, the art of baking, and a new music class called Like Notes, are also on the itinerary. The latter will be a continuance of the current culture shock course. Music faculty have traditionally spent part of their day monitoring study halls and doing cafeteria duty. It was thought that this time could be better spent. Although the rotating culture shock class will move to its new department and subject matter next year as scheduled, the music course has been so successful it will be made into a regular class.
Another program for which continuance is planned is the dual enrollment program. Thirteen students or so participated, taking 28 classes at four colleges and universities. The school only spent about half of the money it was allotted for this program, and tuition was covered. The superintendent cautioned, however, that the district is not likely to receive as much credit for the next year, so that future students might need to pay for some of the classes themselves.
A slew of commendations were made for the success and hard work of students, staff, and the district in general. At recent Scholastic Art Awards, Mountain View had multiple winners, including Silver and Gold key winners (the latter of which will be going to NY for state competition). The art of these students will be viewable at Marywood University. The district also had a gold medal winner at a vo-tech competition: Ethan Demi achieved this honor in cabinet making. The Poetry Out Loud competition was described as a success. It was a night full of activity, as not only the poetry reciters were showcased but complimentary performers as well, between recitations. The week of the meeting, an African drummer was scheduled to come to the district, along with an assistant. Students would be invited to assemblies where they could learn about African drumming and dance. Ten of the seniors who underwent mandatory PSSA retests attained a proficient rating when retested They will receive certificates for their improvement.
Mr. Beeman, one of the board members, related a recent tour he received of the secondary school's use of new technology. A representative from PDE had been dispatched to examine how the district was utilizing its Classrooms for the Future grant. Mr. Beeman and the representative were able to see eighth grade students' presentation on smart boards, and to observe a few classrooms actively utilizing the laptops. The representative spoke very highly of the school's level of implementation, which is much greater than that of some other districts. For this reason Mountain View was invited to present at the state conference. The instructors and Mr. Yost were publicly acknowledged at the meeting for their role in this success, and the kids were recognized for their responsibility with the equipment.
In the second hearing of visitors, Mr. Ron Phillips spotlighted another school program, applauding its focus on life skills instruction. A former board member, he stated that he used to wonder if the district were adequately preparing students for life post high-school. This year the departments collaborated to work with the seniors on just this problem. They were required to create a résumé and an assembly, which brought in community business leaders to discuss interview skills, was held while the younger students were testing.
Mr. Phillips tied this success in with the Business Education department. He felt that students might not realize all the material which the business education department covers, that they, like he in times past, might think the program was only for secretaries and accountants He stated that he felt a curriculum objectives information, to tell students what different educational tracts would help prepare them for, would be beneficial to students in general.
There was actually very little dissension at the meeting, compared to some past sessions. One of the few topics of widespread debate was that of the school calendar draft. Mrs. Jesse questioned why the district always started its year two days late, and then took away from Easter break to compensate for snow days. It was explained that many staff members and students worked at the Harford Fair, which is why the start of the year is delayed. Others present wondered why the district had the second day of deer season off. This year, that day was utilized for parent conferences. Mrs. Voigt acknowledged their concerns, and stated that the calendar had been designed such that Martin Luther King Junior day was the first snow makeup day and Holy Thursday was the second. After that, however, further days would be tacked onto the end of the year. The district had preserved the Monday after Easter for families which might go away during that time.
FALSE ID TO LAW ENFORCEMENT/FUGITIVE
On January 29, a police officer requested the identification of an automobile passenger when stopped on Interstate 81 Northbound in Harford Twp. The man told the officer that he did not possess an ID, but provided an alias, a birth date, and a social security number. When a records check was performed in the trooper's vehicle, no record existed for that name and number. The accused was interviewed again, giving a different social security number than he gave the first time. At this point the trooper knew that he was attempting to conceal his identity. The suspect was handcuffed and detained for investigative reasons until positive identification could be made via live scan. After becoming detained the man related his real name, and provided the information that his real identification was inside the vehicle. This information was retrieved and a records check performed, which showed that the accused was wanted out of New York State for an extraditable parole violation. He was transported back to PSP/Gibson for processing, arraigned, and sent to the Susquehanna County Prison on $100,000 bail.
On January 29, at 8:30 a.m., Brandy Knight of South Montrose was traveling northbound on SR 0029 with a passenger, Shawn Fiorentino. Ms. Knight lost control of her vehicle on the ice covered road while negotiating a left hand curve. The vehicle exited the roadway off of the east berm and struck several trees, before rolling over onto its right side and coming to a rest. Ms. Knight was transported to EMHCF in Montrose for treatment; Fiorentino was not injured. Neither occupant was wearing a seatbelt.
On January 29 at 9:25 a.m., Edward Shellehamer of Plainfield was traveling south on SR 81 when he lost control of his vehicle on the icy roadway. Shellehamer traveled across the center median and crashed into a vehicle driven by Michael Baker of Zionsville.
On November 29 at 8:30 a.m. Andrew Nowik was traveling westbound on SR 706 when he lost control of his vehicle while negotiating a left hand curve on the icy road. Nowik's vehicle exited the roadway off of the north berm and struck a snow bank, becoming airborne and impacting with a barn.
On January 29 at 9:40 a.m., an unnamed person was driving on SR 3029 in Bridgewater Twp. when he or she lost control while rounding a curve. The vehicle exited the roadway and struck the Olde Barn Sporting Goods building. There was only minor damage to the building and the vehicle, and the driver was not injured.
On January 29 at 9:40 a.m. another unnamed driver was traveling east bound on SR 3029 in Bridgewater Twp. when he or she lost control while rounding a curve. The vehicle exited the roadway off of the north berm and struck a utility pole before coming to rest. The vehicle was drivable, and was taken across the street to a parking lot. The driver was not injured and there was no damage to the utility pole.
On January 29 at about 10:16 p.m., an unknown perpetrator entered the Pump and Pantry in Lenox and demanded money from Kenneth Grover of New Milford. The perpetrator is described as being about 5'5” tall, thin, and clad all in black.
On January 21 at around 9:42 p.m., Olivia Lesser was traveling north along SR 1037 in Great Bend when she lost control of her vehicle on a curve and exited the roadway. Esser's vehicle traveled down an embankment before coming to rest against a tree. The Hallstead/Great Bend Fire Dept. assisted at the scene. The driver was transported to Wilson Hospital for treatment of injuries.
FALSE ID TO LAW ENFORCEMENT
On January 18 at around 1:20 p.m., Hasani Marryshow of Brooklyn was stopped on SR 81 northbound in Lenox Twp for driving a Honda Civic with tinted windows. Marryshow produced a NY driver's license which belonged to another person, and purported it to be his own. Further investigation revealed his true identity, and his driving privileges are revoked. A criminal complaint was filed, charging him with Providing False Identification to Law Enforcement, which is a misdemeanor III, and various traffic and licensing violations.
TRACTOR TRAILER ROLLOVER
On January 21 at around 12:45 p.m., Brent Smith of Mountain Top was traveling west on SR 706 in New Milford Twp. when he lost control of his truck and exited the roadway. The vehicle rolled onto its side. New Milford and Montrose EMS and fire responded to the scene.
On January 22 at 1 a.m., Kathleen Demainovich and a passenger were traveling west along SR 374 in Gibson Twp. In the area of T-592 Demainovich swerved to avoid striking a deer that ran onto the roadway, went off the road, and struck a tree. The occupants were not injured due to seatbelt restraints being used.
On January 18, Vilaya Phounsoury of Endicott was pulling away from a gas pump at the Sunoco station in Great Bend Twp. As he did so, a pedestrian, Noreen Lanko of Binghamton, NY, walked out of the store in front of his vehicle. Phounsoury stated that he did not see her due to the sun being in his eyes. Lanko was transported to Wilson hospital for treatment. Hallstead EMS responded.
On January 28 at around 8:00 a.m., Vicki Wildoner of Stevensville was traveling northbound on SR 267 in Rush Twp when she lost control on the slushy roadway while negotiating a curve. She was distracted by the act of sneezing, crossed the southbound lane, and impacted a roadside culvert. Wildoner's vehicle then continued upon the shoulder, impacted with an embankment on the western side of the roadway, began a counterclockwise rotation, made a secondary impact on the embankment, and came to a final rest back upon the roadway. Wildoner was wearing her seatbelt and experienced no injuries during this collision.
James Loretto to Bremer Hof Owners, Inc., in Herrick Township for one dollar.
Patricia Guilfoyle to Kevin Guilfoyle, in Jackson Township for one dollar.
Gary Alan and Susan Golis Campbell to Evangelical Free Church Of Montrose for $500,000.00.
Garry and Susan Eddleston Wilber to Hallstead Borough, in Hallstead Borough for $91,600.00.
Robert C. and Grace E. Wert to Robert J. Pasqua, in Montrose for $72,500.00.
Melvin G. and Anacleta S. McKinney to Oakland Township, in Oakland Township for $80,000,00.
Joseph R., Jr., Anne L. Karp, Michael J. and Linda Karp to Michael J. and Linda Karp, in Lenox Township for one dollar.
Joseph R., Jr. and Anne L. Karp to Joseph R., Jr. and Anne L. Karp, in Lenox Township for one dollar.
Joseph R., Jr. and Anne L. Karp and Brenda M. and Joseph Marshalek to Brenda M. and Joseph Marshalek, in Lenox Township for one dollar.
Barry (AKA) Barry E. and Barbara J. Randall to Barry (AKA) Barry E. and Barbara J. Randall, in New Milford Township for one dollar.
Michael A. and Nichole A. Rosa to Jerry A. and Joanne T. MacConnell, in Great Bend Township for one dollar.
John W. and Virginia L. Carter to Gerald E. and Gail Burke, in Auburn Township for $135,000.00.
James E. and Eleanor C. Shultz to James E. and Eleanor C. Shultz (Rev. Trust Number One), in Silver Lake Township for one dollar.
Edward, Florence, Ryan and Edward, Jr. Volk to David B. Franceski, in Uniondale Borough for $16,000.00.
David B. Franceski to David B. Franceski, in Uniondale Borough for one dollar.
Carlton D. and Enid C. Ball to Carlton D. and Enid C. Ball, in Springville Township for one dollar.
Bremer Hof Owners, Inc. to William and Karen Mannhaupt, in Herrick Township for $5,495.00.
James A. Benvenuto to James R. and Eleanor M. Benvenuto, in Herrick Township for one dollar.
Robert W., II and Kay W. Laman to Kenneth L. Roberts, in Apolacon Township for $50,000.00.
Donna M. Sterling, Jennifer L. and Anthony Cina and Robert J. and Jeanine K. Sterling to Donna M. Sterling, in Great Bend Township for one dollar.
Aurora A. Wildoner (Estate) to Edward G. Schirra, in Franklin Township for $199,000.00.
Dale R. Shifler (By Atty), Kirk Matoushek and Dionisia Pande to Gibbs Real Estate Holdings LLC, in Forest City for $90,000.00.
Clifford P. and Wendy L. Johnson to Clifford P. Johnson, in Franklin Township for one dollar.
Montrose Bible Conference Association to Paul R. Wells, in Montrose for $68,000.00.
Andrew James Tantanella, of Hop Bottom and Anita Karimian-Nokabadi of Scranton.
Scott T. VanGorden vs. Rhonda VanGorden, both of Susquehanna, married 2005.
Elizabeth Davis vs. Robert Davis, both of Thompson, married 1979.
As of January 14, TREHAB Workforce Development Services has opened a Resource Center at 61 Church Street (Community Bank & Trust Building). The center offers core services to all area job seekers and will also be the site of the Work Certified Program, an intensive job readiness preparation class for Welfare to Work participants in both Susquehanna and Wyoming counties. The facility will eventually provide enrollments and services for all Workforce Investment Act and Welfare to Work programs.
Resource Room services will be available at the Center from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Call (570) 278–5250 for more information.
TREHAB has Learning Center offices in Great Bend, Susquehanna County, and in Tunkhannock, Wyoming County, which will continue to offer Workforce Development services to residents of the two counties.
Rep. Tina Pickett (R-Bradford/Sullivan/Susquehanna) announced that 40 local fire and EMS companies have been awarded grant funding from the Office of the State Fire Commissioner through the Volunteer Fire and Ambulance Company Grant Program.
Grants were awarded to the following companies located in Susquehanna County: Elk Lake Volunteer Fire Company, $19,000; Forest Lake Volunteer Fire Company No. 1, $19,000; Little Meadows Volunteer Fire Company (EMS), $9,969; Little Meadows Volunteer Fire Company (fire), $19,000; Rush Volunteer Fire Department, $19,000.
The grants were made possible under Act 10 of 2007. The funds can be used for construction or renovation of the fire company or ambulance service's primary structure; purchase or repair of firefighting, ambulance or rescue equipment; training; or debt reduction.
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