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The Blue Ridge School Board had a full agenda on April 14. Members met in an executive session before the beginning of the business meeting to discuss a gas leasing contract. They tacked another executive session onto the end, saying it was a "personnel issue," and when they returned the agenda had acquired another item: High School Principal John Manchester offered his intention to retire.
The Board accepted his letter regretfully. Mr. Manchester, taciturn as always, bashfully yet graciously accepted a round of applause when Board President Priscinda Gaughan said to him, "Thank you so much for everything you've done for so many years." Thirty-five in all. Mr. Manchester began as a music teacher and has been an administrator for the past dozen or so years, the last two in the High School. After the meeting he said he might like to get back to music for a change.
The business meeting actually opened with another brief recognition ceremony. Curtis Rose, Assistant Executive Director for School Board & Management Services for the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA), drove some 170 miles to present a plaque to Joel Whitehead in recognition of 24 years of service on the board at Blue Ridge, acknowledging that Mr. Whitehead has actually served 26 years altogether.
Launching into the business agenda, the board approved a collection of agreements, as follows:
– PA Treatment and Healing (formerly Bethesda Day Treatment) provides "alternative education" for disruptive students as a last opportunity before expulsion. The principals said that four high-schoolers and two from the Middle School are currently enrolled in the program, for which the district pays $39 per day each. Tuition for next year under the new contract was not set, but is limited by state law, and the district is not committed to any minimum contract amount.
– Blue Ridge Recreation, Inc. will offer the Blue Ridge Summer Adventures program for its 17th year on campus. The board approved a small donation and the use of the facility for the program, which serves about 100 children a day at a cost of about $3 per child.
– Blue Ridge participates in the V-Media program offered by public radio station WVIA that provides a number of members-only productions for "educational enrichment," most of which are offered over the Internet. For a cost of about $1,056, Blue Ridge students and staff will have access to a number of professional development workshops, the "Reading Rainbow Young Writers" contest, something called "Scholastic Scrimmage," and other similar video-based offerings.
– The Board approved the proposal of Creative Adventures For Education (C.A.F.E.) for next year's sixth-grade Washington trip for April 15 through 19, 2009. They made their request prior to this year's trip so they could make reservations for next year while in Washington this week.
– The Board accepted the quote of a company known as Premier, of Bellingham, Washington, to supply handbooks for all of the schools for next year, for a total cost of about $8,400. Premier is thought to be the only company offering these products, that include schedulers and other student aids as well as the handbook.
– The Board agreed to donate $5,000 "to show support for receiving a grant to renovate the Route 11 softball field" in Hallstead. No funds are committed yet, but will go toward refurbishing the bleachers, concession stand, dugouts and other facilities at the field that is a fine school as well as community resource.
– The Board approved a "Memorandum of Understanding" with Johnson Controls that allows the administration to provide information to the company on energy consumption in return for an "Energy Management Evaluation" at no cost or obligation to the district. Business Manager Loren Small admitted that it was a marketing effort by Johnson Controls, but Blue Ridge has used their products for a number of years anyway.
The Board also decided to commit to a new "consortium" sponsored by the Northeastern Educational Intermediate Unit 19 (NEIU 19, "the IU") called VLINC (Virtually Linking Instruction and Curriculum) that hopes to offer some competition to state-wide "cyber-charter schools" that have been draining resources from school districts across the state.
According to Superintendent Robert McNamara, VLINC will cost the district $4,500 to buy in, plus about $100 per student per course when operational. Blue Ridge now pays about $8,600 per year for each of the 17 or so students enrolled in cyber-charter schools (over $16,000 per year for special education students). VLINC hopes to control those costs by offering some of the same services through the Blue Ridge district. It may also offer some programs not available locally, like foreign languages other than French or Spanish.
The IU studied the situation across Pennsylvania and, in the words of Mr. McNamara, "has done a very good job putting this together." Compared to existing cyber-charter schools, VLINC would offer contact with real teachers, and provide opportunities for enrolled students to participate in other Blue Ridge extra-curricular activities and sports, still at no extra cost to parents. The superintendent said he intended to approach the families of known cyber-charter participants and other home-schooled students with the idea of keeping them in the Blue Ridge community, as well as saving the district some money in the long run.
In other business, the board approved amendments to schedule B salaries through the 2010-2011 school years. This list of coaching and other activities positions is defined in the contract with the Blue Ridge Education Association, the teachers' union. It now covers more than 129 positions. The salaries obligated now total over $160,000. By the 2010-2011 year the total will be over $170,000, rising annually under the terms of the teachers' contract. Incidentally, the board also agreed to add a keyboard accompanist to the list at a rate of $75 per concert for the current year, a job that staff had often undertaken voluntarily.
Summer school this year will run from June 23 through July 21. Tuition will remain at $75 for district students, $125 for non-residents. Moreover, the summer school program will be expanded somewhat to include grades 3 through 5. Elementary School Principal Matthew Button said that these grades constituted a "gap" between the orientation programs offered to the younger grades, and the regular summer school for the older students. He said the program would be an "academic" summer offering for these children preparing for Middle School that would cost about $3,000 to cover one additional teacher. Mr. McNamara said it would help to "meet the challenge of the PSSA" (the state-mandated standardized tests), and Ms. Gaughan called it a "nice recommendation" where the board had never noticed a gap before.
Mr. Button also got the go-ahead to close the "Elementary Life Skills" class next year. He said that of the six now in the class, only one was a Blue Ridge resident. He said he didn't think the low Blue Ridge participation justified the cost, which involved a teacher and two aides.
There will be a place for those staff, however. In an addendum to the agenda, Mr. Button requested a "transition class" for the Elementary School. He has developed a plan for offering intensified instruction to children entering first grade who have been identified by teachers in the kindergarten as "struggling" with "reading readiness" skills, or who may not have the "foundation at home" to support the traditional classroom environment.
Mr. Button said that the new class would offer all the same material as a regular first-grade class, but the class size would be smaller, so the students would get more individualized instruction and closer support. The idea is to help these youngsters to keep up with their peers in the earlier grades so that they would be less likely to need "learning support" or other special attention later on. He said that those three years – two of kindergarten, and first grade – are "crucial" to giving children a firm beginning, learning to read, for example, so that later they can "read to learn."
Mr. Whitehead wondered if such a "serious commitment" to individual children might not seem unfair to parents of other students who aren't getting the special attention. He was also concerned that the board was asked for a vote on a program that had just been presented.
Mr. Button and others noted that the schools provide a number of special programs for groups of students. He said that he could accommodate the transition class with the staff available, given current enrollment projections. He later reported about 60 registrations so far for both kindergarten classes for next year.
Mr. Manchester commended his students and staff for their participation in a recent blood drive, with over 70 pints collected. The blood drives can't accommodate too many more than that, and the Red Cross will offer a scholarship to a Blue Ridge senior in recognition of the school's consistently high participation. He noted that 16- year-olds are now allowed to donate blood with a parent's permission as long as they meet the minimum physical requirements. Early participation tends to lead students to continue donating later in life.
Middle School Principal Matthew Nebzydoski reported the receipt of a $500 grant from Exxon for supplies for math classes. He also said that he would like to begin a summer reading initiative by asking students to choose one from a short list of "non-controversial" books to be read over the summer. Then he jumped into the deep end.
Mr. Nebzydoski said that his budget request would be asking for a new "mobile computer lab" of 16 "ruggedized" laptop computers in a mobile cabinet that could be made available anywhere in the school by simply plugging in a power cord. When asked what this marvel might cost, he seemed to gulp once before saying, "A little bit over $18,000." Mr. McNamara told the Board that this was all still under discussion.
The Board approved a revision to the current year calendar that will put the last class on June 13, with graduation on Saturday, June 14. June 12 would be a teacher "in-service" day; according to Mr. Manchester, the day is often needed to make final grade corrections and other preparations for the end of the school year.
The Board also added Matthew Empett, Caleb Park, and Cassandra Summers to the list of those who will share a $500 allocation for students applying for assistance with special out-of-area events. Mr. Empett wants to tour Europe with BC United Fusion to play soccer in several cities in France and Spain. Mr. Park would like to attend a "Lead America" conference at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC. And Ms. Summers would like to participate in a 4-H exchange program by visiting Japan.
Mr. Whitehead noted that sharing a small pot of $500 doesn't seem like much for events like this that can be very expensive. On the other hand, Ms. Gaughan said that the single allocation saved the Board the trouble of having to decide what programs were worthy, and for how much. Some consideration may be given during upcoming budget discussions about raising the total a little.
The Blue Ridge Board's Budget & Finance Committee will be meeting on the budget for next year at 7:00 p.m. on at least the next two Monday evenings, April 21 and April 28, the latter preceding the Board's regular workshop at 7:30 p.m. All meetings are held in the cafeteria in the Elementary School.
Montrose is looking to add another winter sport to its repertoire next year. Whereas, currently, high school athletes are limited to wrestling and basketball in the winter months, it is hoped that they will soon also be able to competitively swim. The idea began when a parent approached Mr. Ognosky in February. Her daughter had been participating in the swimming program at Elk Lake of her own accord, in an attempt to achieve a qualifying time for districts. The parent reported, however, that the girl really wanted to be a part of the Elk Lake team, and to be able to score at meets. Mr. Ognosky then e-mailed Elk Lake superintendent Dr. Bush about the possibility. This isn't the first time a cooperative spots agreement between the two schools has been proposed. Students at Elk Lake might like to play football at Montrose, or students at Montrose to play volleyball at Elk Lake. Neither superintendent, however, wants to combine numbers in a sport where doing so might jump the school to a different division. By PIAA regulations, for example, two Elk Lake students coming to play football would cause the entire male student population to be factored into Montrose's division status, even though the combined team would not be much larger. Swimming, however, is one of only two sports in the state with only two divisions. Thus combining the schools' student populations will not affect the division Elk Lake swimming is in. While no board member was opposed to the idea, Mr. Ognosky did not want to approve the agreement until Elk Lake had a chance to at its meeting on the 15th, thus the agreement may be voted upon in May.
The district was offered the opportunity to be a test location for a wind turbine. Mr. Ognosky had been contacted recently with the information that there are almost two dozen grants looking for schools, etc. which may be available to be test locations for small turbines. (One board member specifically requested that the press not call it a windmill.) The woman who contacted Mr. Ognosky had access to three such turbines, and agreed to put one on hold for Montrose. The cost would be between $8,000 and $15,000, and it was suggested that they should move ahead with the partnership, as the district has an accomplished grant writing team. Mr. Ognosky, personally, felt that the district ought to move ahead with the idea even if a grant could not be achieved.
Choconut Valley is likely to lose some of its land in the near future. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation wrote a letter to the district stating that they would be acquiring the land, and would pay the district a fair price for it. The land in question is desired due to work which the DOT plans on doing to the bank of Choconut Creek. Flooding took out about half of the fence line along the creek, and it is planned that a wall be built to hold back future flood waters. It was said that at this location one can currently see underneath the road.
Oil and gas leases have been news at various meetings for awhile now, and Montrose is no exception. Board president Mr. Caterson expressed his desire to move forward with the process, saying that there are both advantages and disadvantages to waiting. He proposed the idea of splitting the district's property, perhaps bidding out the 169 acres at the secondary school now, while holding the 90 acres in Choconut back with the Friendsville group. The fear was mentioned, however, that the Friendsville group might be getting too big. It was also suggested that the district require any company leasing its land to also lease the 8 ¾ acres at Lathrop Street, though they might not be useful on their own. The board eventually voted to go ahead and bid.
Montrose will be altering its calendar slightly in the coming year. Over the last three years the professional staff contract has required two days of in-service at the beginning of the school year, one of which is to be devoted to work in classrooms. It is difficult, however, for primary kids to start their year on a five-day week. People have wanted, then, to have these staff days on Monday and Tuesday, leaving only a three-day week remaining. The administration and board have held off on this action as they wish to mesh with other district calendars. This year, a compromise has been reached. Staff days will be on Friday and Monday, leaving only a four-day first week.
The meeting opened with a presentation by representatives for the Endless Mountains Technology Center: Ralph Reynolds, Roberta Kelly, and Patrick Ahearn. This proposed center would operate with the cooperation of Cornell University and RIT. It is planned to benefit grades k-12, as well as run adult reeducation programs, on the premise that electronic technology is the future. Everything would be offered at no cost to the schools. The mission of the center would be to partner with industry and academia to establish a best in class technology center in Susquehanna County. Though the idea is for a physical center to eventually exist, this is not a priority right now. The plan also calls for teleconferencing, training, and programs to be made available, and for Cornell to ship labs to the schools. All six district schools could participate. The superintendents met with the man behind the idea last spring and embraced it wholeheartedly, feeling it to be a doable idea which fills a need.
The per-mile rate for activity bus runs was raised from $1.50 to $2.25 at the meeting. This change currently only applies to activity runs, not other runs.
The principal reports held some positive news for the district. Mr. McComb reported that a lot of students reported the PSSA's to be easier than they thought. It was felt that the PSSA prep group was a success, and a little celebration party was planned for participants. A small grant was also received which would allow special needs students to utilize the study island program, and allow the school to purchase 26 laptops for use in an after school tutoring program. Mr. Ognosky was on a televised panel regarding Classrooms for the Future on WVIA, and the school attended an event which gave them the opportunity to showcase projects the students could create with materials from this grant. More grant money has been accrued through People's National Bank and Pennstar Bank, with the assistance of the Community Foundation. The Foundation is helping the district to utilize a state program which allows banks to participate in school funding. The money, it is thought, will go toward updating the business learning initiatives, and revamping the distance learning room. This would involve replacing old equipment with IP high speed videoconferencing equipment. It might be made into a multipurpose room which could be used for classes and board meetings, as well as be made available for the use of local businesses and organizations after school hours.
The football and soccer scoreboard is progressing in funding. At the time of the meeting, $15000 had been raised in donations. Community Bank and Trust will be the sponsor of the sign, due to the size of its donation, however other companies will receive advertising on the digital sign. The new sign can sustain winds up to 100 miles per hour, reportedly, but will still be put on the other side of the stadium where winds might affect it less. (The last sign blew down.) In the future it might be able to be used as a source of income, with Happy Birthday messages, etc. being sold.
The April 16 meeting of the New Milford Township lasted about 15 minutes from salute to adjournment. It was also relatively quiet, with few comments made or questions asked. Despite its abbreviated length, a few things were accomplished or clarified.
An update was provided on two matters from last month. The SEO had gone to the B&S site to investigate the situation there. The site has three port-o-johns, and one restroom with a sink which is attached to an existing sewer. Mr. Fortner did not find any violations. The situation on Cosmello Road has been rectified as well, it was reported.
Other discussions demonstrated the willingness of the supervisors to assist the public, and the public's current appreciation for this. A visitor reported a problem with a sluice pipe on Sutton Road. This washes out the apron of his driveway. The supervisors told him that they knew about the problem, and that it was slated to be fixed with a bigger pipe. A few other pipes are scheduled to be changed, and other work done, which might also help. When questioned what would be done about the dust on the road, the man was told that it would be treated with a liquid calcium dusting. Another visitor publicly acknowledged how nice the roads that the township has been working on are.
Mr. Bevan appeared to want to further discuss a few things with solicitor Briechle which had been mentioned at the previous meeting. Last month Mr. Briechle had refused to comment on a meeting with the owner of the camp at East Lake, saying that it was ongoing litigation. Mr. Bevan questioned this, asking exactly what kind of meeting it was. Mr. Briechle responded that it had been a working meeting with DEP, to discuss potential actions. Mr. Bevan then questioned him on this as well, wondering if the same would be done for anyone, and if not, why this situation received such assistance. Mr. Briechle explained that no, most people would go through the SEO, but that this situation was in litigation and had progressed past that point. Mr. Bevan also still disputes Mr. Briechle's assertion that with the lack of a township ordinance, the county ordinance is fallen back upon. Further steps were to be taken to settle this dispute.
Jasper and Sharon Defazio to Sharon Defazio, in Clifford Township for one dollar.
Sharon and Jasper Defazio to Sharon Defazio, in Clifford Township for one dollar.
Joseph P. Franceski, III to Eva Flannery, Joseph M. Allen and Steven Polifrone, in Forest City for $35,000.00.
Jeffery Scott Davis and Valentina Morani to Steven W. Furness and Susan C. Dooner, in Oakland Township for $50,000.00.
Mark and Monica Sutton to Wayne C. and Dawn Hartley Culp, in Great Bend Township for $16,500.00.
Eric J. Marshall (Estate) to Norman Vandeinse, in Lanesboro Borough for $185,000.00.
Bremer Hof Owners, Inc. to Richard B. and Elizabeth L. Casper, in Herrick Township for $2,745.00.
Helen Petersen to Helen, David E. and Keith J. Petersen and Deborah P. Adams, in Dimock Township for one dollar.
Cora, Harold E., III and Dale A. Groover to Harold E., III and Dale A. Groover, in Bridgewater Township for one dollar.
A. Michael and Geraldine F. Hamara to Bruce Schlessinger and Genevieve M. Crowthers, in New Milford Township for $83,000.00.
Andrew and Jacqueline T. Nunez to Craig A. and Julia I. Sautner, in Dimock Township for $150,000.00.
Irene Harris to Kenneth D. and Carol V. Woodruff, in Clifford Township for $140,000.00.
Lyle E. and Nelda Leonard to William B. and Laura Hendrickson, in Susquehanna for $7,322.24.
Judy Svecz (NBM) Judy A. Reynolds to Judy A. Reynolds, in Herrick Township for one dollar.
Amber E., Jeffrey Robert and Donald Eric Snyder and Carol Anne Mynyk to Amber E. and Donald Eric Snyder and Carol Anne Mynyk, in Clifford Township for one dollar.
Robert J. and Bonnie E. Fleming to Theresa M. Fleming, in Great Bend Borough for $65,000.00.
Faye L. Marcho to Richard M. and Donna M. Marcho, in Gibson Township for one dollar.
Yvonne M. Kamansky to Robert E. Kamansky, in Bridgewater Township for one dollar.
James (AKA) James J. and Carol Ann Pettinato to James J. and Carol Ann Pettinato, in Clifford Township for one dollar.
Cheryl A. Lamphere of Hallstead vs. James Lamphere of Montrose, married 1982.
Suzette A. Marshman of Conklin, NY vs. Robert A. Marshman of Hallstead, married 1987.
Sandy Buselli of Nicholson vs. Barbara Buselli of Gouldsboro, married 1987.
Clemekia Gianunzio of Hallstead vs. Cody Gianunzio of Garrison, TX, married 2005.
Mary E. Place of Mehoopany vs. Lyle G. Place of Laceyville, married 2000.
Robert E. Kamansky vs. Yvonne Kamansky, both of Montrose, married 2002.
Jacalyn Comfort of Montrose vs. Ralph R. Comfort of Sheridan, AR, married 2004.
Dennis F. Nagy vs. Geraldine Nagy, both of Montrose, married 1983.
Steven M. Codo vs. Susan R. Codo, both of Montrose, married 1983.
Rhonda Lynn Bulford vs. Kenneth R. Bulford, both of Tunkhannock, married 1991.
Following is the list of names drawn to serve as Petit and Traverse jurors, to appear in the Court of Common Pleas, Susquehanna County Courthouse, Montrose, on the fifth day of May, at 9:00 a.m.
Apolacon Twp.: Faith Garza.
Ararat Twp.: June Bussolini.
Auburn Twp.: Charlotte Barnett, Brenda Drost, Shantel Gamble, Gerald Parkhurst, Dorothy Teetsel.
Bridgewater Twp.: James Berg, Erika Canfield, Ronald Cook, Laurie Salamone, Rebecca E. Severcool, Suzanne Winn.
Brooklyn Twp.: Lloyd Pierson, Beverly Stepniak.
Choconut Twp.: Alan Evans, Shirley Kelly, Dennis Olson, Joan Wilcox.
Clifford Twp.: Teri Brewer, Deborah Finnerty, Lois Todd, Patricia M. Williams.
Forest City 1W: Shirley Pecko.
Forest Lake Twp.: Joanne Reynolds, George Rose, Jr.
Franklin Twp.: Michael Potts, Joyce Printz, Timothy Strayer.
Gibson Twp.: Theresa Goodenough.
Great Bend Boro: Ronnie Phillips.
Great Bend Twp.: David Eaton.
Hallstead Boro: Patricia Arnold, Maria Moser, Peggy Woosman.
Harford Twp.: Rene Bodt, Michael Walsh.
Harmony Twp.: Mary Knowles, Geoffrey Ross.
Herrick Twp.: Charles Gorton, Joan Samuel, Annette Sandy.
Hop Bottom Boro: Robert Norton.
Jackson Twp.: Mary Auburn-Cook, Carol Barton, Brittany Page Gaynor, Debra Wade.
Lathrop Twp.: Jody Nowalk, Noel Peet.
Lenox Twp.: Joann Burns, Bonnie Zipprich.
Liberty Twp.: Nancy O’Brien.
Middletown Twp.: Carol Kanuk.
New Milford Twp.: Michelle Oakley.
Oakland Twp.: Carol McNamara.
Rush Twp.: Denise Kirk, Andrew Mollo.
Silver Lake Twp.: Evelyn Carley, Bridget Ferencik, Rosalind Hammer, Kathleen Johnson, Brendan McMahon, Jeffery Tyler, Catherine Walsh, Kim Walters.
Springville Twp.: Jack Denney.
Susquehanna Boro 1W: Harry Biesecker, Robert Osterhout.
Union Dale Boro: Maureen Orefice, Robert Tedesco.
Elk Lake faced parental calendar displeasure for the second year in a row at the April 15 meeting of the ELSD and SCCTC school board. Mothers at the meeting expressed concern over the proposed practice of dismissing an hour early every Wednesday in the coming year. Concerns mentioned included fears over a compressed schedule affecting student academics, the impact on after-school programs, and children's appreciation of consistency. Child care was another area of concern, one of the largest mentioned. One woman, a licensed daycare owner herself, expressed her fear that there is a lack of quality licensed daycare as is. At one point it was DPW law, she reported, that any person watching more than three kids not their own, without being licensed was breaking the law. It was suggested that the early dismissals might lead to more latchkey children and parent difficulties at work.
The board and administration addressed some of the concerns, and assured visitors that they shared others. Dr. Cuomo explained that students would not be missing classes. All courses will run on a shortened schedule on those days, with classes generally three minutes shorter than on other days. The exceptions to this rule will be first period, which is about six minutes longer to allow for the pledge and morning announcements, and the lunch periods which must by law be at least half an hour long. This will allow for a 2:00 dismissal rather than one at 2:58. The board and administrators felt that this was a consistent schedule; certainly offering more consistency than the previous year. Addressing complaints of parents not having been sufficiently notified, it was stated that typically they would not be notified until the calendar is adopted. One visitor queried why the staff should not be made to stay after on Wednesdays for staff development, rather than children losing educational time. Dr. Bush explained the problem to be that while the government continues to hand down demands, staff have a contract which limits their hours. He also related that he had spoken with the superintendent of an area school which has been following this plan for around twenty years, and that superintendent told him that although there was anxiety at first, he thought that if he told parents he was switching back now they would be highly upset. He felt that ultimately the decision came down to whether the district altered what they were doing for the good of the kids, or stay as it is knowing that things could be improved. Concerned parents were encouraged to meet with administrators to explore what the district might do to help them.
Before this topic closed, one potential plan for making both sides happier was proposed. While an outside end-of-day program failed to take root due to financial concerns, it was suggested that the district might be able to find money to begin its own program for the early dismissal days. Students in the early childhood education program at the vo-tech might perhaps help with this program. The subject was closed on this note, with the understanding that more thought be given it and more information gathered. The calendar was accepted through a unanimous vote.
While the Montrose school board wholeheartedly embraced the idea of a PIAA cooperative sponsorship between the two schools for swimming (as referenced in that article), the Elk Lake board had more reservations. The agreement between the two schools would allow Montrose students to swim as part of the Elk Lake team. Ideas of similar jointures in the past for other sports have been thwarted by transportation concerns and the possibility that combining school populations could bump the host school into a different competitive division, though the team itself might not grow much. Concerns mentioned by the board included what Montrose would reciprocate in the agreement, with the question being raised as to whether Elk Lake students could then play football. The Montrose superintendent is not willing to do this, as it would move their football team into the AAA or quad A division. Another concern was, what would happen if many of their students wanted to participate; would they help out financially or would Elk Lake be responsible for costs? Would their swimmers take the place of Elk Lake competitors? Did Elk Lake have the right to limit how many came? It was responded that such an agreement would open the door to as many as wanted to come, but that large numbers were not expected. Neither school is locked into the agreement either; it could be ended should either school ever wish it. The agreement may be approved at the May meeting, giving the board time to review it.
Montrose district came into the conversation in another way as well. Montrose's PSSA after school program was mentioned. The kids were allowed to stay for extra preparation work, and were given books to take home and keep working in. It was asked if Elk Lake had such a program; it does not. The Title 1 Summer program and Learning Academy are being planned again for this summer, however. The former focuses on reading, and the latter on math skills.
The district is on track for gas and oil drilling. One site has been marked, out of sight of the building; the commencement of drilling is planned for 2009. Revenue from this may not directly show through a reduction in taxes, however. It was explained that the district now operates under the constraints of Act 1, which stipulates that revenue must be expended, and that millage must continue to be raised now or it cannot be raised later. Thus if the district cut taxes now and the well dried up, they could not raise them again to compensate for the lost revenue. Ways in which district residents could still profit from gas revenue were mentioned, and may be further discussed in the future.
As usual, various school events were announced at the meeting, and student accomplishments highlighted. The Forensics team continues to be successful, with both students who went to State Championships placing well. Senior Max McKeon placed sixth in the Student Congress competition, only the second member of the team to ever place in this event at states. Freshman Shea Skinner advanced to the Quarter Finals in the Lincoln-Douglas Debate. He finished the competition in eighth place overall. He is the first Elk Lake freshman to ever advance to elimination rounds at states, and the only freshman in an elimination round of debate at the tournament this year. Both boys will still be moving on to compete at Nationals over the Memorial Day weekend. Mr. Mallery announced that, per parent recommendation, an assembly on internet safety was scheduled. The senior awards ceremony is planned for May 19. The list of graduates for this year was approved. An impressive 134 students had perfect attendance at the secondary level. The Elk Lake Swim Club was reported to have been a success, and was accepted into a competitive league for next year. The board gave them permission to use the pool to hold meets.
Much of the April 17 meeting of the Hallstead Boro Council was spent discussing garbage. To be more precise, complaints about properties with garbage problems. Now that winter appears to be behind us, such accumulations are more evident and the complaints have been plentiful; at least seven were discussed at length. Some of the property owners had already been sent letters by the boro’s solicitor; those who had been given a timeframe to get it cleaned up and had not complied will be referred to the solicitor for further legal action. Those who have not yet been sent a letter, will be.
There was another complaint, dealing with noise, particularly in the middle of the night. As the boro does not have its own police and there are only two State Police officers to cover the entire county at that time of night, there are limited options of how to deal with the situation. The boro does have a nuisance ordinance, but there is a question of whether or not this situation qualifies as a “nuisance.” And, if it did, there is still the question of how to enforce it with no municipal police. The boro could contract out with another municipal police department, such as their neighbor, Great Bend Boro is doing. Another suggestion was to look into whether or not a constable would have the power to make an arrest (to enforce ordinances). Until the answer to this question could be found, council will be watching with interest to see how things work out in Great Bend.
Price quotes to repair the boro’s backhoe were reviewed; the bucket has an eight-inch crack that needs to be repaired and it needs a center wear strip. After consideration, a motion carried to approve the quote from Pennypacker Welding. The other quotes were somewhat higher, and did not include the wear strip.
Council approved its annual $200 donation to the Blue Ridge Recreation Summer Adventures program.
Considerable discussion also took place regarding the ongoing restoration of the Route 11 park and the ballfield across the road. Motions carried to approve purchase of several truckloads of crushed stone and topsoil for the areas where they are needed. Ted Loomis volunteered to use his four-wheeler to “roll” the ballfield to smooth it out. And, motions carried to approve a shopping list of items, two tables for the smaller pavilion at the ballfield, a wheelbarrow, chains to secure the tables, primer and paint for the bathroom at the park and other needed items.
The application deadline for grant funding to replace the concession stand at the ballfield is fast approaching. Council has encountered some difficulty getting a detailed estimate for the cost, for such items as construction materials, labor and equipment. A boro resident contributed a detailed plan for the proposed building, which included several options (plumbing, etc.). But, without the detailed estimate the application could not proceed. Council approved a resolution to submit the application, pending receipt of an estimate, and a motion carried to commit $5,000 to the project, which the boro could furnish in the form of cash or man-hours.
For the past five years, the Tim Fancher memorial race committee has contributed $1,000 each year to the boro, to be used for recreation. Council has been letting the funds accrue, with the intent of using them for one big project, rather than a lot of smaller ones. A council member had been approached by an individual who had the idea of using the money to set up a scholarship fund. After a short discussion, it was agreed to stick with the original intent of the donation, and use it towards a recreation project.
The Conservation District is applying for grant funding for a rain barrel distribution program. The District had asked if council would be willing to be one of the project sponsors, if it is approved, and allow use of the pavilion at the Route 11 park for the program. Council agreed.
Council has been looking into grant opportunities for funding for a new boro building; information indicates that it must be state funding, as federal funding cannot be used for a structure where municipal meetings are held.
Council member Martin Brown will set up a time to use a camera to check out several areas where the drains appear to be clogged, to see what the problem is.
And, a price quote was received for removal of debris at the Route 11 park (much of it from the flood of 2006). It was agreed that the price was rather high, and that more prices should be sought.
The next meeting will be on Thursday, May 15, 7:00 p.m. in the boro building.
Correspondence reviewed at the April 15 COG meetings included an invitation from Habitat for Humanity for a dinner on May 10, which will also include an auction of locally produced art, and an invitation to the PA COG spring board of delegates meeting, which had been held on April 7 (it arrived too late for consideration at the March meeting).
Through an oversight, COG’s bylaws, section 2b were never changed to reflect that member municipalities must join by enacting an ordinance; a motion carried to amend them, changing the word “resolution” to “ordinance.” Any changes require thirty days’ review, and will be brought up for a vote at the next meeting.
The building committee reported that all is going well, closing on the purchase of the land for the new building should be taking place shortly.
The Northern Tier Coalition approved the agreement for COG to administer zoning at their last meeting. The grant paperwork had been resubmitted to Harrisburg with changes to reflect the terms of the agreement; official notification of the grant approval from Harrisburg is expected shortly. The municipalities belonging to Northern Tier expect to have their zoning ordinances in place by June. It was agreed to begin the process of interviewing to hire a zoning officer as it may take that long to find one. Two members of Northern Tier and two COG members will serve as the executive committee for zoning. A motion carried for Elliot Ross and Ted Plevinsky to represent COG on the committee.
With so much interest in gas leasing in the area of late, there was discussion about what municipalities are doing to ensure that the truck traffic at drilling sites is not causing damage to their roads. One option available to them is posting and bonding of roads, which is a very expensive undertaking. Research has shown that at least two of the larger drilling companies have been very receptive to municipalities’ concerns and have reached agreements with them to maintain the roads, either by supplying materials or reimbursement of the costs involved, whether it be for manpower or equipment use. It was said that these two companies, at least, were actively seeking good public relations and were working at keeping on friendly terms with municipalities. In at least one case, the municipality’s roads were in better condition after the drilling than they had been before.
Another question was, what about dust control? Some areas typically have a difficult time with it, without the added truck traffic. Research indicated that the heaviest traffic occurs during the drilling process, once that is completed there is not much additional traffic. This, too, is something that should be discussed with the drilling company.
In the event that the company involved is not willing to work with the municipality, the municipality may have to resort to posting and bonding. But, it was agreed that the better approach would be to negotiate directly with the gas company, as bonding would also result in considerable expense to the gas company as well. In all, it was said to be encouraging that the gas companies are willing to work with the municipalities.
Another question was right-of-ways; would it be possible for a municipality to lease the right-of-way for running gas lines? That would be a way to provide much-needed funding to municipalities if it is an option. It was noted that lines may cross (under) roads, but usually did not run parallel to them. Leasing the right-of-way would require research into individual deeds. It was agreed that the matter is “food for thought.”
The sewage committee officially welcomed Herrick Center, its newest member; the committee’s membership currently stands at 25.
Activity is picking up with the end of winter weather, although it is still somewhat slow due, it was thought, to gas leasing. Many property owners are not subdividing, as the gas companies are only interested in parcels of ten acres or more.
John Watts will be taking his SEO certification test in May.
And, the yearly reimbursement from DEP has been received, and the committee reported that COG did “very well” with the amount received.
The codes committee reported the results of a board of appeals hearing had been held. The board’s findings were that the CEO had acted properly in finding the violation, and that the property owner was in violation of state UCC codes. Their request for a variance was denied. It was said to have been “a good test case.” It was noted that the UCC was put in place in response to unsafe conditions, where people had been hurt, or worse.
Lastly, COG’s lease with New Milford Boro was discussed. With plans in progress for a new “home,” and COG’s lease with New Milford expiring in July, negotiations have been underway with New Milford for the interim until the new building is ready. It was stressed that the planned move is due to COG’s “growing pains”; they have been very happy with the current space, it is just too small for COG’s needs. COG is still growing and, particularly with the addition of zoning administration, more space will be needed. While COG respects the boro’s position and have always had a good relationship with the boro, they do need to plan for the future and it could take up to three years before the new space is ready to be occupied. So, negotiations will continue to reach an agreement equitable to both parties.
The next meeting will be on Tuesday, May 20, at 7:00 p.m. in the COG offices in New Milford.
Gas leasing is a big topic in the area, and the April 16 meeting of the Susquehanna Community School District Board was no exception. The district is considering a lease for its 79 acres, and has sent the pertinent documentation to their solicitor for review. If it does go through, the expected revenue will be applied towards an expected increase of $108,000 in heating costs for the campus for next year.
The preliminary budget for next year will be presented at the May meeting, and the final one in June.
The district is anticipating a projected increase in Title I funding next year; this funding is used for summer and after school programs.
The three-year audit of federal funding will begin shortly.
The day before the meeting, the entire campus had participated in its first complete evacuation drill. Superintendent Stone said that it had gone off without a hitch and commended the students and staff for performing admirably. Another drill, the last for the year, is scheduled for May, which will involve evacuation to an alternate site.
Good news for homeowners; the state has begun disbursement of gambling revenues and qualifying properties will see a tax reduction of $169 next year, approximately 10%. It was noted that the reduction will be a tax credit for school taxes, and not a cash rebate.
The on-line meal payment plan is in operation. For a small transaction fee, parents can pay into their child’s meal accounts, and can access it any time to check balances. (The transaction fee is paid to Nutrikids, the district does not receive the revenue.)
The All Curriculum Exhibit had been held during parent-teacher conferences; students from both the high school and elementary school participated and much was said about the quality of their exhibits.
There was no shortage of good news. District students and their English teachers had participated in a reading competition at West Scranton High School and won a silver medal. The district was recognized as a Gold CAPS school in the Fast Forward Literacy Program, the highest award. Three students placed in a Domestic Violence Poster Contest hosted by Kings College; Connor Freitag won first place, Ellen Biegert second, and Kayshia Kruger third. O’Neil Scholarship interviews were held the previous Monday. Angela Petriello was chosen, and will use the scholarship to attend NYU. The other contenders were Craig Soden, Tamara Sager and Mary Jo Cotter.
Elementary makeup PSSA testing has been completed and submitted to Harrisburg, with Science PSSAs scheduled at the end of the month.
Elementary students participated in two fundraising efforts and raised $3,013 for the American Cancer Society’s Daffodil Days and $1,293.22 for Pennies for Patients.
The Education Association will be hosting a retirement dinner on May 17 at the Starrucca House. Four of the district’s ten retirees have agreed to take part, Mrs. Gallagher, Mrs. Rowe, Mr. Catalano and Mrs. McNamara. The rest, it was said, preferred to say their goodbyes in their own way.
Actions approved by the board included the following:
- The 2008-2009 Concurrent Enrollment Agreement with Luzerne County Community College.
- The Agreement of Services with Bethesda Day Treatment Center for the 2008-2009 school year.
- Granting the Business Office permission to tabulate and award bids and to order supplies for the 2008-2009 school year, subject to Board approval in May.
- May 6, 2008 as Teacher Recognition Day and sponsoring a breakfast on that day.
- Revisions to the District policy 216.2- Student Record Management Plan.
- Four Bus Contract changes, effective 4/16/08.
- The purchase of Fast Forward, a Scientific Learning software product, at a cost of $84,340.00 to be paid through a five-year finance option at an approximate cost per year of $19,056.
- Adoption of a plan documents, in response to recently released IRS regulations establishing a requirement for written documentation of the 403(b) tax sheltered annuity program offered to employees of the District.
- Accepting the following high school employees’ intent to retire at the end of the 2007/2008 school year: Charles Fuller - Science, Corrine Sohns –Technology, Mark McHale –Social Studies, Carol McNamara- Guidance.
- Addition to the substitute list: Alyssa Keelen, Special Ed. and Elementary Certified.
- Hiring the following: Lawrence Tompkins, Junior High Football Coach and Mary Jo Glover, aide for elementary student.
One item was not approved, unpaid medical leave for Tonya Scales, for the remainder of the year.
The next meeting will be on Wednesday, May 21 at 7:00 p.m. in the administration offices in the elementary building.
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