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Despite protests from several individuals in attendance, during the July 14 business meeting, the Forest City Regiona School Board approved a revised dress code policy for the 2008-2009 school year.
Members of the school board who support the new dress code feel that it answers the question, “How can we do a better job of taking care of the kids?” By eliminating baggy clothes, hoodies, and clothes with many pockets, board members hope to reduce the risk of weapons being brought into the school. Board members also feel that the new dress code will promote equality between students by making family income less apparent.
Those opposed to the new dress code argue that the clothing is “uniform-like” and that it severely limits options. “I can’t find anything to fit [my son],” said one mother. “You’re taking away the rights of some people,” said another woman. One individual wondered how equality can be achieved when some poor students will inevitably be forced by circumstance to attend school in dirty, ill-fitting or worn clothing.
Pauline Wilcox, who does not directly oppose the new dress code, nevertheless feels that it will present a hardship for Forest City’s destitute families. Wilcox, who volunteers with the Salvation Army, stated that Forest City is a financially troubled area and pointed out that about 47 Forest City families qualified for the Angel Tree program last year. Furthermore, Wilcox added, Salvation Army funds for the year have already been exhausted, meaning that needy families will have to go elsewhere for assistance. Wilcox volunteered to organize a community closet and hopes to receive assistance from community members and local businesses. Henry Nebzydoski stated that the school is obligated to assist financially in clothing poor students.
The board has agreed to add brown as a color option for shorts, slacks, skorts and skirts. Superintendent Vadella stated that compliant clothing can be found anywhere, including Wal-Mart and the Salvation Army, and he added that the dress code policy has been under development for nearly a year. Another reason to support the new dress code, Vadella stated, is that most teachers support it and are willing to enforce it. Several board members added that other schools have had success with similar dress codes. Fred Garm encouraged parents and students to give the new dress code a one-year trial period to see how it works in practice. However, one parent told the board, “I don’t think that it even mattered that we [parents and students] came.” Another person concurred, noting that the board already had its mind made up before the meeting.
One student athlete stated that she supports the uniform policy because many students come to school in “ridiculous” clothing. Her concern is for the quality of the girls’ softball program, which she feels is so inferior that it’s “embarassing.” Judy Tamaro agreed, stating, “The kids are learning absolutely nothing.” Several people in attendance agreed that Forest City has hired some inexperienced coaches and needs to revise its hiring policy for athletics. Someone added that the athletic uniforms are immodest and that athletes have not been required to wear a shirt under their jersey.
The board approved the 2008 Homestead/Farmstead Resolution. Last year’s applicants saved $261 on this year’s tax bill. The tax break was funded through gambling industry profits. Applications for next year are to be sent to taxpayers again this autumn.
The Forest City Regional Elementary School received Adequate Yearly Progress on PSSA’s for the 2007-2008 school year.
The elementary school cafeteria has installed a biometric system for its registers, allowing students to pay for lunch without ID cards and pin-pads. The new system will use a fingerprint scanner to access a student’s lunch account. Nebzydoski stated that this will be a real time-saver. However, parents will have the option of opting out.
The cafeteria has raised its meal price by 15 cents and its milk by 5 cents. Registration for kindergarten and pre-kindergarten is still open. Parents may contact the elementary office at 785-2410 for details.
Parents of high-schoolers will receive scheduling date notification in the mail.
Pre-kindergarten orientation is scheduled for Wednesday, August 20, from1-3 p.m., with seventh grade orientation on Thursday, August 21 at 5:30 p.m. Classes will resume for the 2008-2009 school year on Tuesday, August 26.
The New Milford Township supervisors’ meeting on July 16 lasted only about 14 minutes, which did not keep business from occurring. Jim Hunter was absent, Jack Conroy presided.
With its business code inspector resigning, the supervisors announced the township will be utilizing Building Inspection Underwriters, Inc. for its commercial code enforcement work. It is planned that in time they will also handle residential code enforcement.
The supervisors received a notification that Chesapeake Appalachia, LLC had filed an application for approval to take water out of the Susquehanna River Basin. The supervisors did not need to take action on this matter; it was merely a notification.
The supervisors have had quite a few issues with the current SEO. For this reason, it was said, there had been discussion of having the alternate SEO become a second, primary SEO. This would give township residents a choice of SEO's. The motion passed, placing Tom Button in the new position.
Mr. Bevan, a visitor, inquired as to the status of the East Lake campground situation. The township's solicitor, Mike Briechle, responded it was still in litigation. A recent meeting was apparently canceled by mutual request on both sides, and has been rescheduled for November. Mr. Bevan asked if the camp was open or closed. Mr. Conroy and Mr. Shibley had been there on the fourth of July, and reported that it was definitely being used. They counted two pop-up campers, people in the cabin, and a few drivable campers. They did not go past the lodge to look, however, as they were not allowed to do so by the campground owner. Mr. Bevan asked if the township was okay with this, and expressed his opinion that the whole thing seems a waste of time, since two years ago the decree was issued and the campground was still in use. The supervisors replied that they were not okay with the use, and had noted the violation.
Mr. Bevan also asked again about the 911 signs, inquiring as to cost. It was replied that the signs and posts would cost approximately $75, though this could vary.
Visitors also asked about the status of B&S's large quarry application to DEP. It was stated that the application has been withdrawn. Mr. Briechle said that the letter of concerns, which included public input from the June meeting, was sent as promised, despite knowledge of the withdrawal.
At the July 14 Montrose Area School board meeting there was no work session, per annual July tradition. In addition to this, the administrator reports were tabled until the August meeting. Though the length of the meeting was curtailed, business was done and a presentation given regarding a program deemed a success by those speaking.
Mary Lee Fitzgerald related to the board that registrations for the adult school, which project was spearheaded by she and Phillipa Follert, had exceeded their hopes. She stated that when it began they had no real notion of the output, and that she was “pleased” and “gratified” with the results. Holding eight-week courses in both fall and spring semesters, the school saw 550 registrations in its first year. The organizers had originally thought that if 100 people registered it would be a good thing. The second year appears to be maintaining the success; over 200 people are already registered for this coming fall. Ms. Fitzgerald spoke of a desire to expand the program, as she feels there is a terrific market for learning in the area; people traveled from as far as Forest City to attend the classes. The program provides instruction in areas people are interested in, such as knitting or business. All sessions were originally held on Tuesdays, but through public request they have been expanded to Thursdays and Saturdays as well. Fitzgerald's husband Martin, who functions as an in-house business administrator for the program, briefly went over the financial aspects of the school, demonstrating that it ended with a positive balance. During the first year there was little administrative overhead as Ms. Follert, Ms. Fitzgerald, and her husband all worked pro-bono. Ms. Fitzgerald publicly thanked the district for its cooperation, singling out the Key Club, the school’s custodians, and Craig Owens in particular. For the district's part, board president Chris Caterson thanked the representatives for organizing the program, calling it an asset to the community.
At the second board meeting in June, the district had decided to start its own elementary life skills and elementary autistic instruction programs. One reason given for this decision was the district's inability to find satisfactory placement for children within its bounds that fit into these programs, and were displaced when BOCES closed its doors to out of state placements. Mr. Ognosky spoke highly of the staff hired to work in the new programs.
Several staff matters were brought before the board during the meeting. The summer camp director, Mrs. Chris Brown, was lauded and applauded for her work this summer. Kathryn Benninger was hired as an elementary life skills instructional aide at Lathrop Street, and Shari Rapasardi as an elementary autistic instructional aide at Choconut Valley. Rhonda White was hired as the emotional support instructional aide at the high school. Courtney Tokos was hired as the elementary autistic educator, and Brittany Noble as the elementary life skills educator. At Lathrop Street, long-term substitutes were approved: Elizabeth Trinca for third grade, and Holly Johnson for sixth. The resignation of Marilyn Day, librarian at the Choconut Valley Elementary School was accepted with regret. The board and administration wished her the best in the future.
Nicholas and Jennifer J. Farley and Valerie W. Kinney to Mark Andre, in Forest Lake Township for $99,000.00.
Ione and Edgar L. Harden to Ione Harden, in Great Bend Township for one dollar.
Robert A. Signorello (Estate) to Claire Kropa and Kim Gary, in Dimock Township for one dollar.
Joseph Miceli to Victor Como, in Lenox Township for one dollar.
Ronald A. Andrews (DBA) Ryvamat to Ryvamat, Inc., in Silver Lake Township for one dollar.
Walter D. Sullivan, Jr. (Estate) to Constance C. Collins (Trustee) and Walter D. Sullivan, Jr. (Estate), in Silver Lake Township for one dollar.
Kenneth P. and Deborah L. Ely to Kenneth P. and Deborah L. Ely, in Dimock Township for one dollar.
Kenneth P. and Deborah L. Ely to Kenneth P. and Deborah L. Ely, in Bridgewater and Brooklyn Townships for one dollar.
James V. and Nancy Lynn Fowler to James V. and Nancy Lynn Fowler, Daniel Payne and Niki Highland-Payne, in Silver Lake Township for one dollar.
Deer Park Lumber, Inc. to Ryvamat, Inc., in Middletown and Rush Townships for one dollar.
Alfred and Garry Vanbroekhoven to Jhase LLC, in Ararat Township for $270,000.00.
American General Consumer Discount Company to Crossland Investment Properties LLC, in Susquehanna for $9,000.00.
David L. Morgan to David L. and Tiffany Morgan, in Montrose for $10.00.
Lura and Anthony J. Colinet to Lura and Anthony J. Colinet, in Dimock Township for one dollar.
Donald W. Diehl to Gerald R. Pennay, Jr., in Brookly Township for $20,000.00.
Robert R. and Barbara H. Forcier to Thomas W. MacVaugh, in Oakland Township for $49,000.00.
Jerry L. and Diane L. Cronk to James M. and Bonnie Gulbin, in Montrose for $125,000.00.
Laddie A. Gribick to Laddie A. Gribick and Margot Schueler, in Thompson Township for one dollar.
Clifford Leinonen and Cynthia Lavine to Nicholas and Elizabeth Lacroix, in Herrick Township for $100.00.
Wayne County Prothonotary to Stephanie Cochran (NKA) Stephanie Butler, in Harmony Township for one dollar.
Merle E. and Ruth A. Hickok to James T. Davenport, in Franklin Township for $50,000.00.
James J. and Lee R. Manning to James T. Davenport, in Oakland Township for $181,500.00.
Karl H. Anderson to James T. Davenport, in Ararat Township for $51,200.00.
Buck Horn Rod & Gun Club LLC to Buck Horn Rod & Gun Club LLC, in Oakland Township for one dollar.
Ogden P. Moss, III (By POA) to Daniel M. and Maryellen German, in Bridgewater Township for $18,000.00.
Kenneth D. and Jackie L. Hoffman to David J. Kenderdine, in Jackson Township for $220,000.00.
Cory S. Allen and Summer M. Swackhamer to Cory S. Allen, in Montrose for one dollar.
Dale H. and Kathleen A. Hayden to Raymond, Jr. and Kimberly A. Eppley, in Lenox Township for $135,000.00.
William Mark Atkins (By Sheriff) to Honesdale National Bank, in Forest City for $3,664.32.
Deidra Cleary-Geyer to Howard Geyer, in Clifford Township for one dollar.
Allan W. and Sharon Green to Thomas W. and Lori A. Norton, in Silver Lake Township for $21,000.00.
Beverly and Edward C. Nolan and Karen L. and James C. Malkemes to Robert and Laura Schneider and William Kenneth and Benjamin Wood, in New Milford Township for $150,000.00.
Fannie Mae to PHH Mortgage Corporation (FKA) Cendant Mortgage Corporation, in Hop Bottom Borough for one dollar.
PHH Mortgage Corporation (By POA FKA) Cendant Mortgage Corporation to Douglas A. Osgood, in Hop Bottom Borough for $10,000.00.
Daniel McDevitt to Mark A. and Brooke Hayes, in Great Bend Township for $127,000.00.
Kenneth P. and Thelma Stanford and Sandra Mae Wright to Kenneth P. Stanford, in Harmony Township for one dollar.
Bernard A. Dayton (Estate) to Timothy A. Dayton, in Forest Lake, Jessup and Rush Townships for one dollar.
William J. Vancott vs. Linda K. Vancott, both of New Milford, married 1979.
Stacey L. Bennett vs. Scott P. Bennett, both of Montrose, married 2003.
Chad D. Wallace vs. Christina M. Wallace, both of Thompson, married 1996.
The Susquehanna County Domestic Relations Section has Bench Warrants for the following individuals as of 7/16/2008 at 9:39AM
Leroy J. Adams, Robert L. Andersen, Myrtle Anthony, Michael A. Argust, Harry Ashley, Edward R. Ashman, William Barton, Michael J. Beach, David S. Blaisure, Joseph Bonavita, Daniel E. Boyer, Michael P. Bradley, Jr., Kevin P. Brink, Kenneth G. Burgess, Howard A. Burns, III, Lynn M. Cokely, Mark T. Conklin, Steve C. Conklin, Steven Cook, Jeffrey Craig, John C. Creps, Michele Devito, Paul H. Donovan, Deborah Drish, David R. Duane, Jr., Thomas D. Earley, Keith L. Edwards, Jr., James Esposito, Jonathan Fathi, Kristoffer B. Fazzi, Shawn P. Fiorentino, David J. Fischer, Mary E. Fish, Thomas Fisher, Nesbitt Fitch, Jr., Joseph E. Flynn, Kelly Fox, Jason Y. Gardner, Moriah L. Garrison, Brian J. Gary, Sr., Yvette Glover, Gary Gorton, Jr., Charles R. Groover, David Haines, Jr., Suzanne R. Hansen, Keith G. Harms, Shawn D. Hartzell, Linda Higgins, Edward C. Holmes, Timothy M. Holmes, Jeffrey J. Horrocks, Roy M. Huntley, Steven Jones, Erik E. Krisovitch, Victoria Kutney, Charlie Legere, Carlos L. Leiser, Howard J. Linder, George D. Lowery, John A. Manning, Patricia J. Marrero, Jason K. Marshall, Fred C. Materese, Erica Y. Mead, William Negron, Benjamin Newell, James E. Purse, Jeffrey A. Ransom, Kim Read, Raymond Ricci, Phillip Robertson, Timothy Rogers, Nathan Rosene, Brandon Scott, James F. Secrist, Neil D. Shaffer, David J. Shiner, Jeffrey C. Skinner, Jason Smith, Jason E. Sopinski, Amy M. Squier, Justin Thompson, Earl Thompson, Jr., Laura M. Thorn, Keith W. Vroman, Bradley D. Warner, Sr., Glynn Wildoner, III, Kenneth L. Wilmotm Patrick Yachymiak.
Please contact the Domestic Relations Section at 570-278-4600 ext. 170 with any information on the location of these individuals.
On July 13, at around 4 a.m., an unknown driver lost control of a 1995 Chevrolet Prism and struck a guardrail. The incident occurred in Jackson Twp. on State Hwy. 0092. The vehicle's operator then fled the scene. The vehicle was stolen, but this had not yet been reported at the time of the crash.
APPARENT ACCIDENTAL DEATH
On July 15, at approximately 1:45 p.m., an incident occurred at Phillips Garage in Great Bend Twp. which led to the death of Steven Osterhout of Hallstead. It is believed that Osterhout died as a result of injuries sustained from an industrial accident, which occurred when he was working on a forklift. Osterhout was transported by ambulance to the Barnes-Kasson Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
On July 14 a crash occurred on State Hwy. 706 in Rush, at approximately 10:54 p.m. The incident occurred as Stanley Bonavita of Meshoppen was traveling east on that road when, for unknown reasons, he lost control of the Kenworth tractor he was driving on a curve. The truck exited the roadway, rolled onto its right side, and came to rest in a ditch. Some of the milk cargo of the tractor leaked onto the ground. Bonavita was transported to Tyler Memorial Hospital for Treatment. PSP was assisted on the scene by Rush Fire Co. and Fire Police, PA Dept. of Agriculture, and PA Dept. of Environmental Protection.
One or more unknown person(s) stole a laptop belonging to Brooke O'Hare from P.J. O'hare's Restaurant/Bar in Oakland Twp. The theft occurred between noon and 11 p.m., during business hours. The laptop is described as a Dell model #5150, and was taken from the restaurant area of the establishment.
On July 14 someone damaged a 1991 Chevrolet Blazer, owned by George Miller of Montrose, by breaking the passenger's side front window.
THEFT FROM MOTOR VEHICLE
On July 13, a vehicle belonging to Christina Osterhout of Susquehanna was entered without her permission, and a purse and cell phone removed from it. The incident occurred in Susquehanna Depot, near the Catholic Church.
On July 11, some time between 2 and 7 a.m., the screens on two windows of a garage in Franklin Twp. were cut. The garage belonged to James Schreck of that town.
Sometime during the night of July 13, unknown person(s) dented the hood and scratched the left doors of a 2003 Chevy Malibu belonging to Wade McDonald of Susquehanna. The vehicle was parked in a parking area across from McDonald's residence at the time.
The theft of a sheeps foot roller from the Penn Can Raceway in Susquehanna was reported recently. The item is described as a large steel roller with spikes all around the drum. A large truck would be required to move it.
COLLISION – TRAFFIC, HIT AND RUN
On July 12 at around 2:45 a.m., a green 1997 Chrysler sedan was traveling north on SR 267 when it exited the roadway and impacted a utility pole. The unknown operator of the vehicle fled the scene prior to police response. The vehicle had PA reg. #GXH4521.
On July 11, someone damaged a 1995 Hyundai sedan belonging to Angel Very of the Montrose area. The driver's side front window was broken.
MEGAN'S LAW REGISTRATION
A registered sex offender is charged with Failure to Comply with Registration of Sexual Offender's Requirements after failing to verify his address and notify the PSP of a change of address. These actions are a requirement of Megan's law. The accused is listed as having a Montrose address.
On July 9, Allan Hoad of Prattsburg, NY and Charles Peters of Addison, NY were involved in a fight at the bar. Both are being charged with disorderly conduct, which carries a fine of up to $300 and or up to 90 days in jail.
Between the 3rd and 4th of July, one or more unknown person(s) threw a chunk of broken concrete and broke a window at the Bendix plant in S. Montrose. The investigation was listed as continuing, pending a search of the security video.
Between the 22nd and 24th of June, Paul Ruske of Scranton entered a barn belonging to Kenneth Zupp of Kingsley and removed several items of copper pipe, copper scrap pieces, and a roll of electrical wire. Ruske then departed the scene and sold the scrap at Elmwood Specialized in Scranton.
HIT AND RUN
On July 2, an unknown driver was traveling southbound on Main Street (Rte. 11) in Great Bend Borough. At that time a 2000 Dodge Caravan was legally parked on the shoulder of Main Street, in front of 409. The first vehicle sideswiped the second, impacting its right side with the left side of the parked car, and continuing the contact up to the latter's front fender. The unknown driver then fled the scene south on Main Street.
Donald Welch of New Milford reported that someone damaged a window on his trailer, lot #8 in the Oakland Trailer park. The incident occurred on July 6 while Welch was out for the day.
On July 12 at around 12:25 p.m., a three-car accident occurred on I-81 within an active construction area. At this time, Jeremy Tompkins of Oxford, NY slowed quickly due to traffic slowing in front of him. Behind him, Tze-Yoke Yeo of Scarborough, Ont. also slowed, but was struck by Jennifer Shoaf of Webster, NY who was driving behind Yeo. This impact caused Yeo's vehicle to lurch forward and strike Tompkins' car. No injuries were reported from any of the drivers or assorted passengers.
COMMERCIAL VEHICLE CRASH
On July 4 at 6:20 p.m., Marissa Majka of Apalachin, NY was traveling north on I-81 when her vehicle left the right travel lane and drove onto the right side rumble strips. When the vehicle hit the rumble strips, Majka attempted to get her car back on the road surface, and in doing so lost control of the vehicle. It spun 90 degrees to the left and then slid sideways, across the northbound lanes of the road, across the median, and into the southbound travel lanes where it struck a Peterbilt Conventional vehicle traveling south. Impact was made as the right front fender of Majka's vehicle struck the truck just to the rear of the left side gas tank on the dual tires of the truck at the second axle. After the initial impact, Majka's vehicle was spun 360 degrees counter-clockwise before being struck a second time by the rear tires of the truck's trailer. The impact bent the fourth axle on the tractor trailer, which was driven by Stephen Annett of Pintendre, QC.
If you have information on any of these incidents please contact the Gibson State Police at (570) 465-3154.
There were two visitors at the July 17 Hallstead Borough Council meeting, a high school senior and his mother. The student requested that council consider allowing a skateboard park to be put in at one of the boro’s recreational properties. As part of his senior project, he had worked up plans for it, with several designs, and would be willing to organize fund-raisers to finance it. Its size wouldn’t have to be huge, only about the same area size as a tennis court. He said that there is no safe place nearby for kids to skateboard. Many of them ended up at the plaza parking lot in nearby Great Bend Township, which was not the safest place for it. He also provided some information that he had researched, which indicates that the sport of skateboarding has a very low percentage of injuries.
Council agreed that there should be a safe place for skateboarding, but before going any further they should look into the practical ramifications, the biggest being liability. Nearby New Milford Boro had a skateboard park some years back, but it had been dismantled due to the exorbitant cost of liability insurance. They agreed to look into what the boro would have to pay in addition to their current insurance, and to check with their solicitor to see if there were any legal considerations that should be looked at.
The student’s mother supported the park proposal, and suggested that perhaps users could be asked to sign a waiver, in effect stating that they would not hold the boro responsible for any injuries they might sustain. Council’s concern about that suggestion was, how would the waivers be controlled? There wouldn’t be any practical way to ensure that the park’s users had signed one; would simply posting a “skate at your own risk” sign be sufficient? This would be one of the questions the solicitor would be asked.
Complaints included one by a resident about brush being trimmed and the cuttings left in a ditch; no one was sure who had done the cutting, as it was not the boro.
Cameras had been used to check several problem areas to find out if the drains are clogged or broken. The pipes are in good shape, they are just clogged with years’ worth of debris. Council will look into the best way to clear them; perhaps one of the area fire companies would be willing to flush them so that the debris could be removed. It was also agreed to look into borrowing a street sweeper to clean up any cinders that might still be on the streets, to prevent them from ending up in the drain pipes.
Council approved purchase of materials to repair a broken drain, and will contact PennDOT to determine who is responsible to fix several other spots. Also approved was the purchase of cold patch to fill potholes.
COG has notified the boro that there will be a slight increase in building inspection fees, due to increases in the cost of fuel.
Council is still awaiting word on the approval of a DCNR grant for a new dugout at the ballfield; price quotes are needed for the cost of fencing.
It had been considered to place large stones at the Route 11 park, to prevent vehicles from driving over the grass. Cost estimates for stones are not as low as had been expected, and it was brought up that it would need more time spent on maintenance (grass trimming) if stones were put in. It was agreed to look into some alternatives and prices, to see what else would work.
Council approved maintenance supervisor Jim Canfield’s attendance at an equipment and safety show in Tunkhannock.
Council will consider the idea of getting a two-way radio for the truck; it could be used to communicate with workers in surrounding municipalities during snow plowing, and could be used to call the county in case of emergency.
A priority list of paving projects will be put together for next year.
And, Secretary Gillespie will get price quotes for trimming the trees at the riverbank park.
The next meeting will be on Thursday, August 21, 7 p.m. in the boro building.
In 1789, Bastille Day signaled major changes in the French government. On its anniversary on July 14, 2008, the Blue Ridge School District experienced some turnover of its own at the top. R. Scott Jeffery made his first appearance at a Board meeting as High School Principal, replacing John Manchester, who retired last month. And District Superintendent Robert McNamara made his last appearance before the board. Mr. Jeffery got some applause, and a few welcoming laughs when he said he had "nothing to report."
At the very end of the meeting, Board President Priscinda Gaughan listed some of the many accomplishments at Blue Ridge during Mr. McNamara's ten-year reign, including kindergarten for four-year olds (as well as all-day kindergarten for five-year-olds), Classrooms For the Future implementation in the high school, free breakfasts in the elementary school, and many others. For his part, Mr. McNamara declared that Blue Ridge is a "school on the move." He said, "It's been my pleasure" to serve, and there were thanks all around.
Otherwise, the only business session for July was more or less routine. Among personnel items, April Berger and Joseph Burchell will serve as long-term substitute third-grade teachers on a prorated daily rate without benefits. Jaclyn Lynch will serve as seventh grade Team Leader next year, a Schedule B position. The Board also accepted the resignation of Nana Pietriyk, who was a part-time teacher in the "gifted" program.
Ms. Pietriyk's open position will be merged with a need to teach English as a Second Language (ESL) and become full- time, with benefits. According to Mr. McNamara, the coming school year will be the first that Blue Ridge will need an ESL program. The ESL/Gifted teacher will cover all grades.
The Board went on to approve a new Schedule B position, advisor to the Elementary School ski club.
The Blue Ridge food service will get a new "data management system" called "LunchTime" from a State College-based company. According to Mr. McNamara and Business Manager Loren Small, the new software system will incur startup costs of some $3,530, but annual maintenance fees will be less than for the current system. More important, however, the new system can interface more easily with the district's Modular Management System (MMS), the student management information system used throughout the campus. It should save the cafeteria staff considerable time and help to prevent errors, in addition to keeping better track of student payments.
There was a minor kerfuffle over the selection of Craige's Photique to provide photography services for the middle and high schools next year. When the recommendation came up last month, the Board tabled it to await further information about prices and such. It seems there wasn't much more information available this month, so an initial motion was made to table again.
Mr. McNamara said that Craige's was recommended by the yearbook staff, which has been satisfied with their work, particularly some of the freebies offered when they first got the nod a few years ago. Most of the services are charged to individual families and are not billed to the district. Three Board members voted to keep the issue on the table; the rest killed the motion to table.
When someone attempted to move that the recommendation be adopted, the question was raised, is it legal to act on two motions on the same question? There was a brief hiatus while Mr. Small searched through some documents to clarify the question.
It was finally decided that, since the motion to table was voted down, the question was not tabled and therefore still open. A motion was made and all but the three who voted to table again approved and the motion passed to renew the arrangement with Craige's.
Among other items:
* The Board approved a "memorandum of understanding" with the Bradford/Sullivan/Susquehanna/Tioga (B/S/S/T) Area Agency on the Aging's Foster Grandparent program for the coming school year. For a cost of about $1,660, up to three senior citizens will take part in activities in the elementary school that pairs them with youngsters who might benefit from the closeness of another "grandparent."
* The Board approved another long list of changes to its policy manual to keep it in line with recent legislation and court decisions. The policy changes involve records management, family and medical leave for staff, and updates to copyright handling procedures to account for new technologies. The Board hopes to have the complete policy manual available on-line in the near future.
* There was an update to the 2008 Homestead/Farmstead Exclusion authorization based on "final final" figures out of the county. Eligible homeowners will have up to $9,677 excluded from their property valuation for tax purposes, significantly decreasing their property tax liability. Ms. Gaughan declared this a "nice thing to happen to the community," since many district taxpayers will be pleasantly surprised at the changes in their tax bills. The revenue lost to the district through the exclusion is to be made up through subsidies from the state drawn from gambling revenue.
The Board formally decided to proceed with a "self-funded" health-care insurance plan for its employees. In the works for a few months, the new arrangement should provide the same benefit to the District's staff while saving district taxpayers over $260,000 this year.
To take this step, the Board decided first to withdraw from a consortium sponsored by the Northeastern Instructional Unit (the "IU") that has been providing the health insurance plan for the past several years. For their trouble, the IU received 1% of the premiums paid by member school districts. Last year the health plan cost the district about $2.1 million.
Under the new arrangement, the Blue Ridge district will contract directly with Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania to administer the plan, and with Benefit Connections of Carlisle for consulting services. The consultants will monitor claims and help broker a "stop-loss" policy. The district will pay for claims against the plan, with the stop-loss carrier handling any claims outside a normal range. The projected savings is based in part on actuarial computations using past claims experience among Blue Ridge enrollees.
Under the contract with the Blue Ridge teachers' union, the district's health-care plan fully covers the faculty, without a co-pay. According to Finance Committee chairman and former Board President Alan Hall, the district and the teachers negotiated this benefit in exchange for a small reduction in salary rates. Administrators assure the staff that, except for a change in the benefit plan number that will come on a new plan ID card, the plan will provide the same benefits as before.
Health-care insurance is one of the big items in the budget of a school district, and it was the budget that came up for discussion at the Finance Committee meeting that took place before the Board's business meeting. Mr. Small presented figures showing that the fund balance (surplus) for the fiscal year just ended is slightly smaller than originally expected, but that was largely due to a transfer of $700,000 to the capital fund. Overall, both revenue and expenses were higher than expected, and only a small amount was drawn from reserves to keep the budget in balance.
The committee also reviewed transportation figures. Basic transportation is subsidized almost completely by the state, but Mr. Hall said that the district is "taking a bath locally" on transportation for students with special needs. The subsidies do not cover the empty leg of a run to deliver or pick up a student at one of some 43 different locations they may need to attend. According the Mr. Small, the drivers account for some 1,900 miles per day for special education students alone.
The Blue Ridge district also helps its bus drivers with a twice-yearly "fuel adjustment" to help out with rapidly rising fuel costs. The adjustments are based on the federal consumer price index (CPI), which is currently about 2.5%. Under this plan, the bus contractors will receive overall nearly $25,000 to help with fuel (for the year just ended the figure was about $21,000).
Ms. Gaughan reported that the Board is interviewing candidates for a new district Superintendent. Who will fill Mr. McNamara's shoes? Come find out at the August School Board meeting, on the 11th, beginning at 7:30 p.m. The Finance and Transportation and the Educational Programs committees are expected to hold meetings beginning at 6:45 – 7:00 p.m. the same evening. All public sessions are held in the cafeteria in the Elementary School.
HARRISBURG - Applications for a state program that will provide as much as $10 million in tax credits to farmers who promote sustainable farming practices are now available, Rep. Sandra Major (R-Susquehanna/Wayne/Wyoming) announced.
The Resource Enhancement and Protection Program (REAP) was created by Act 55 of 2007, providing tax credits for private investment in the implementation of a variety of proven and cost-effective Best Management Practices (BMPs). Those BMPs may include improvements to barnyards, pastures and riparian corridors, development and implementation of nutrient management plans, and remediation of legacy sediments.
BMPs are designed to promote environmentally friendly farming by abating storm water runoff, minimizing loss of sediment and nutrients, and reducing runoff of other pollutants from raising livestock.
REAP allows farmers to receive between 25 percent and 75 percent of project costs resulting from the implementation of approved BMPs.
To be eligible for up to $150,000 in tax credits through the REAP program, farmers must meet certain criteria such as having a conservation plan, an agricultural erosion and sedimentation control plan and, in some cases, a nutrient management plan. Farmers may also qualify for a 50 percent credit to purchase no-till planting equipment.
REAP applications for 2008-09 will be accepted beginning August 4, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. by the State Conservation Commission. Materials postmarked July 30 or earlier will be returned to the sender.
Applications may be delivered in person, by U.S. Postal Service, or by a private carrier to the Commission office at the following address: Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) Program, State Conservation Commission, Room 407, 2301 North Cameron Street, Harrisburg, PA 17110.
Funding in the amount of $10 million will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis, making timely applications important.
More information on eligibility requirements for REAP and an application is available by logging on to Major's Web site at RepMajor.com.
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