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In keeping with the district’s wellness policy, it wasn’t topped with vanilla ice cream, but the apple crisp was delicious all by itself when the Blue Ridge School Board gathered for its first public meeting of the new school year on September 14.
According to Board President Harold Empett, the board had met in executive session twice in August on personnel matters, once to evaluate Superintendent Chris Dyer on his one-year anniversary at Blue Ridge. The board took 20 minutes or so out of the start of its business meeting for yet another executive session, this time to discuss a faculty member’s request for a 6-month sabbatical. There were indications that the request was controversial, and when the matter later came up on the agenda, the sabbatical was granted pending receipt of an “official medical statement” from the individual’s physician.
The business meeting followed an hour of committee meetings. Finance and Facilities heard a report from Business Manager Loren Small. He told the committee that the large gym floor had been repaired from water damage caused by a leaky roof at a cost of $1,260. The district’s solicitors will be negotiating with the prime contractor on the roof, Weatherproofing Technologies/Tremco, to contribute a share of the cost of replacing the entire floor. He also reported that plans are underway to install the three remaining backboard winches over the Columbus Day weekend.
The district will be developing plans for renovating some of the science rooms, reconfiguring the entrance to the Elementary School, and paving some parking lots next summer, in anticipation of beginning the bid process next February.
Mr. Small also reported that 3 energy companies are vying for gas leases for the 49.6 acres owned by the district. So far the district has been offered a $5,600 per acre bonus by Cabot Oil, and a 21% royalty during production, this following word last weekend that a group of landowners in the northwest part of the county had been offered $5,500 by Fortuna.
The increasingly complex school budgeting process in Pennsylvania will begin a lot earlier than usual at Blue Ridge this time. Mr. Small said that a retirement incentive should be developed by the next meeting on September 28; faculty who intend to take advantage of the program will have until November 13 to make their declarations. The school principals are due to present draft budgets to the administration by mid-October, for presentation to the Board a month later. All of this for a fiscal year that won’t begin for another 9 months.
A lot depends, of course, on the state budget, of which so far is not in sight. Mr. Small said that the district’s cash flow could hold out until the beginning of December, or early January at the very latest. He said that at the beginning of October he would be preparing to take out a “revenue anticipation note,” a loan to tide the district over until the state comes through. He said that a “trickle” of stimulus money and the annual subsidy is coming through from the federal government, along with some money for programs supported by grants. During the business meeting, the Board passed a resolution asking the governor and legislature to “approve a 2009-2010 budget that includes an increase of at least $300 million in basic education subsidy.” In the meantime, Mr. Small will curtail all non-essential purchases and travel.
Before the business meeting could get under way, the technology staff - Donna Tewes and Mike Stewart - summarized their “summer vacation.” Among other things, with the help of the maintenance staff, more than a mile of additional cable was strung to help improve the performance of the campus network. They also installed 70 new computers and “redistributed” 110 others. There are currently just shy of 1,000 devices connected to that network.
The new disaster recovery system approved by the board in hurry-up mode a month ago hadn’t been installed yet when one of the district’s main servers “crashed,” kicking off a major recovery effort just in time for school to begin. Some of the backups for the various systems hosted on those computers were as much as a year old. But with the help of I365, a subsidiary of a disk drive manufacturer, most of the data was recovered. Whew!
During the business meeting, the Board reviewed some of its policy manual. It gave formal approval to a policy regarding surveys of the student body. They also published for a month’s review some policies related to organization, the use of service animals in the schools, and acceptable use of the district’s resources for use of the Internet.
One new proposed policy came in for some debate at a meeting of the policy committee. The committee’s chair, Lon Fisher, asked the board to set that one aside for now. The policy appears to “prohibit use of electronic devices by students during the school day,” and seems to “prohibit possession of laser pointers and attachments and telephone paging devices/beepers by students” anywhere on campus. Mr. Fisher said that the proposed policy was drafted by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association and was generalized for statewide use. He said his committee had “quite a few concerns with it,” and would like to review it further for local fine-tuning. High School Principal Scott Jeffery noted that the principals may waive the prohibitions for “other reasons determined appropriate,” which he thought offered plenty of latitude.
The Board got a little anxious about the latitude given the administration when it came to some of what appeared to be smaller expenditures requested on the agenda. A request to pay teachers $21 per hour for “lost planning time” during the school year seemed to offer administrators a little too much latitude. These payments are made when a teacher is asked to give up a contractual period (42 minutes per day, to be exact) for class preparation to supervise a class in an emergency, for example, when another teacher is absent and a substitute cannot be found in time. The principals all vowed that this is used very seldom, and is always a “last resort.” Nevertheless, the Board requested periodic reports on the use of this privilege.
The question arose again when the Board was asked approval to pay for summer “Read-to-Me” program hours. Board member Dawn Franks asked why this wasn’t pre-approved like all the other summer-session positions. She was told that in the past these activities were compensated by the use of “comp time.” Mr. Dyer said that he wanted to make some of these programs “more accountable.”
Similarly, a request to approve “tentative tutoring hours as needed” was challenged, especially since only about $16,000 was budgeted for tutoring, and the requested maximum could be as high as $23,000. Mr. Empett wondered why the children needed so much tutoring; is the material not being properly presented in class? He also noted that, while some of this can be paid from stimulus funds and other grant money, once the stimulus ends and the grants run out, the district’s taxpayers will have to continue to foot the bill. Like for the “lost planning time” payments, the Board will get periodic reports on this fund so they can keep track of it more closely.
The administration asked for permission to advertise for a teacher’s aide in the IEP area in the Elementary School. Was this a new position? Mr. Dyer: “Well, yes and no.” There was such a position last year, but the budget didn’t anticipate the need again this year. Board member Laurie Brown-Bonner suggested to her colleagues that “we’re going to see more of this,” particularly with the district’s large population of special-needs students.
There was some dispute about the need for a paid advisor for the new Diversity Club, to the tune of $387 per year. The position, to be added to Schedule B of the teachers’ contract, will probably be filled by a member of the guidance department. The “Diversity Club” caused some debate in the community last year when it seemed to be focused on gender identity issues. The idea arose out of a survey conducted by students interested in the idea. Thus the new survey policy.
And the Board questioned a request to pay a speech therapist for 5 hours (at $27 per hour) for an evaluation over the summer. Special Education Director Mark Fallon said that the case was unusual, and required the services of a professional.
The Board was also asked to approve payments for additional professional development sessions over the summer. Mr. Dyer said they had been omitted from the original list presented early in the summer.
And the Board approved payment for summer hours worked assisting with sports physicals.
All of these small requests add up, but the Board was clearly becoming frustrated with the number of small payments requested. So, when it came to a big one, the bus contracts, there were still more questions. Like, why only now, after school has started, when the preliminary contracts were available in June? Mr. Small noted that busing requirements can change almost daily. Mr. Fisher pointed out that the total is about $40,000 more than last year, and doesn’t even include fuel adjustments.
In other matters, the Board approved an agreement with Trehab for the “Student Assistance Program” for the new year. There are no dollar amounts mentioned in the agreement, which brings in the Trehab Drug and Alcohol team to assist with assessments and intervention.
The Board appointed Superintendent Dyer and Business Manager Small as non-voting delegates to the Susquehanna County Tax Collection Committee. The committee is established by the county commissioners in response to Act 32 of 2008, which is an attempt to consolidate collection of local income taxes. Most municipalities in the county do not now collect income taxes, but the earned income tax (EIT) seems to be on the horizon as yet another source of revenue for local government.
Lorrie Detwiler was accompanied by her new boss in the health center when the Board welcomed her as health office clerk, replacing Linda Vancott, whose resignation was also accepted at the meeting.
On the good news side, the Blue Ridge Youth Soccer organization will cover the expenses of landscaper Andre & Son “to provide as needed beneficial landscaping improvements” to the campus athletic fields. The organization provides these improvements “as an act of appreciation for the positive support provided” by the school district.
And the best news yet. Mr. Jeffery begins each Board meeting during the school year by bringing forward a couple of his standout seniors. This time he chose Ken Seamans and Meghan Regard, a couple of true workaholics. Mr. Seamans lists class secretary, National Honor Society and a summer leadership conference at West Point on his resume, and hopes to attend the Military Academy to become a U.S. Army officer. Ms. Regard is class president, member of the student council, president of the National Honor Society, and, beginning at this session, the student body’s representative on the School Board. She hopes to study biology at Rider University or Millersville University.
Times are tough, money is tight, but Blue Ridge is making the most of it. In the words of Superintendent Dyer, “Come and see what’s going on at Blue Ridge.”
But don’t always expect warm apple crisp. With the cooler weather fast approaching, a nice hot soup might be just the thing, on the 2nd and 4th Mondays of each month, beginning at 7:30 p.m. (earlier, if you’re into committees), in the cafeteria in the Elementary School.
September 16 was the date of the Susquehanna Community School Board meeting. It was also day 78 of the state budget impasse. School districts are required to have their budgets for the coming year in place by July, which the district did, but without a state budget in place the district won't know exactly what funding they will receive from the state until the state budget is approved.
With no state budget, the district will need to reopen their budget if increases are not forthcoming. The district will also need to obtain a Tax Anticipation Note to cover expenses for October and November. The approximate cost to the district for the TAN, $14,000 in associated fees, is an unbudgeted expense.
New elementary faculty members were introduced: Katie Edwards, grade 6; Dan Maurer, grade 5; Jami Hyndshaw and Megan Piekarski, Title I reading; Rebecca Stalker, grade 2; Jamie Bollinger, speech; and Megan Clough, grade 6 learning support.
There was a good turnout for the elementary open house, with 251 out of 356 students represented.
Kathleen Hinkley, president of the district's education association, was pleased to report that the association and the district had both been honored by the NE Labor Management Council for their cooperation, achievement and productivity in recent contract negotiations.
The district is taking a proactive stance on the H1N1 (swine) flu virus, and has registered to receive 2,200 doses of the two-dose vaccine. Students and staff have also received information on steps they can take to reduce the possibility of its spread: hand washing, cleaning of surfaces, using hand sanitizer, and practicing good cough etiquette. The district will also be participating in a school monitoring system, with results reported to the state Department of Health. When a student is absent, parents will be asked more than the usual questions when they are contacted, such as whether or not the student has a fever of over 100°, or is exhibiting symptoms of the flu.
Among items approved during the meeting was the district's 2009 report card, which is a detailed breakdown of the district's AYP status, graduation rate and attendance, PSSA participation, PSSA reading, math, writing and science scores by percentage. The elementary met AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) for the seventh consecutive year, and the high school met AYP and is making progress in school improvement. PSSA scores were above the state average.
In recognition of the district's overall AYP improvement, a district-wide picnic was planned for students and faculty/staff from both buildings. Also on that day, recognition awards will be given for students who participated in the summer reading program.
Other items approved by the board were as follows:
-The Academic Standards and Assessment Midpoint Review.
-A teacher induction plan.
-An educational technology plan
-A professional education plan.
-A student services plan.
-Transportation contracts for the 2009-10 school year.
-Transportation drivers for the 2009-10 school year.
-Appointing Richard B. Cottrell as the deputy tax collector for Ararat Township.
-The score of 455 as the district's minimum passing score for the para pro assessment, a tool used to determine whether an aide with instructional duties is qualified under No Child Left Behind. As PA has no minimum score, comparisons were made of other states' requirements.
-Homebound instruction for a student.
-The continuance of the Big Brother/Big Sister program.
-Tenure for Jacob Johnson, Liza Dooley, Jime Grabowski, Leanne Rhone and Lawrence Tompkins.
-Substitute personnel for the 2009-10 school year. New substitutes are always needed; a four-year Bachelor's Degree or Highly Qualified Status is required to obtain an emergency certificate, and clearances are required.
-The resignation of para professional Sarah Krause.
-Medical sabbatical for Carol Dubas for the 2009-10 school year.
-Hiring the following for the 2009-10 school year: Steve Nayduch, Jennifer Rockwell and Kimberly Garrison, after school tutoring; Pam Weiss, Carol Homer, Rachael Gilleran, Ellen Rockwell, Julie Gallow, and Ellen Walko, mentors; Carolyn Homer, Debra Stone, Megan Clough and Kevin Davis (substitute only), after school tutoring.
-Two volunteers, for football cheerleaders and girls' basketball.
-A medical leave of absence for Susan Whitney.
-Permission to EMB Embroidery & Design to sell embroidery-based items at home football games. Ten percent of all profits will be donated to the district for the athletic account. The agreement is subject to continual school board review and may be withdrawn at any time.
-The (fourth grade) Class of 2018's request to place vending machines in the teachers lounge; profit to go towards the student camping trip.
-The customary list of activities and fundraisers.
The next meeting will be on Wednesday, October 21, 7:00 p.m. in the administration offices in the elementary building.
The members of the county Council of Governments had expected to hear a presentation on the regional police study being conducted by Greg Hostettler for the DCED at their September 15 meeting. However, due to work constraints, Mr. Hostettler was unable to attend, and sent word that he does expect to attend their October meeting.
Correspondence reviewed included notice that there are DEP PA Green Energy Works! Combined Heat and Powergrants available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Pennsylvania will receive nearly $100 million from the United States Department of Energy to stimulate the economy and create jobs while meeting the following goals: increase energy efficiency to reduce energy costs and consumption for consumers, businesses and government; reduce reliance on imported energy; improve the reliability of electricity and fuel supply and delivery of energy services; and reduce the impacts of energy production and use on the environment. Information on the one-time only grant program for eligible combined heat and power energy projects is available at www.grants.dcnr.state.pa.us/grantprograms.aspx.
At last month's meeting, the group had discussed amending their meeting schedule to every other month instead of monthly. Discussion continued at this meeting, with the suggestion that the executive committee continue to meet monthly to take care of any business that may arise between general meetings. And, general meetings could still be held on the “off” months when needed. It was agreed not to take any immediate action, especially as Mr. Hostettler is expected at the October meeting, but to discuss the idea further when there are more members present, and to possibly begin the new schedule after the first of the year.
New Milford Boro, COG's landlord, had scheduled a work session for the following Thursday. Ted Plevinsky planned to attend, and was on the agenda to discuss COG's request that some energy-saving work be done on the COG offices door and windows.
And, HB1500 was a topic of discussion; it is proposed legislation that will levy a per capita “service fee” on municipalities that do not have full-time police coverage, either from their own police departments or through contracts with other municipalities or regional forces. It was agreed that this legislation would have a devastating financial impact on those municipalities that do not have full-time police coverage. One member of the group commented that the bill would affect those who contract with other departments if that coverage is not 24/7. Members were urged to write letters to our legislators opposing the legislation. Copies of sample letters will be sent to members, to help in composing their own. It was hoped that if enough local governments speak up and oppose the legislation, it will not go through.
The sewage committee reported that work has been busier lately, and that inspections are being completed on schedule.
Only one topic was discussed at length during the codes portion of the meeting, demolitions. Specifically, whether or not structures could be demolished by controlled burns conducted by fire companies. A UCC permit is required for any demolition, whether the structure is residential or commercial, and the resulting material cannot be burned, it must be disposed of in a landfill. In some rare instances, structures may be demolished by a controlled burn by a fire company, but strict restrictions apply. The permit entails a rather lengthy application to DEP, which issues the permit; controlled burns are not covered by UCC permits. And, DEP also has strict regulations regarding removal of any asbestos that the structure may contain.
Two senior housing projects are underway in the county, one in Choconut and one in Hallstead. Building plans for both were said to meet UCC regulations. The one in Hallstead will be hooked into a municipal sewage system. The one in Choconut will require an on-lot system, the plans for which have been approved.
The next meeting will be on Tuesday, October 20, 7:00 pm in the COG offices in New Milford.
Beth and Glenn L. Curtis and Betty Jean and Daniel L. Depue to Doreen T. Schottman, in Franklin Township for $143,000.00.
Gladys E. Rosenkrans (Trust by Trustee) to Lynn M. Meyer, in Lathrop Township for one dollar.
Gladys E. Rosenkrans (Trust by Trustee) to Danny S. Rosenkrans, in Lathrop Township for one dollar.
Gladys E. Rosenkrans (Trust by Trustee) to Lynn M. Meyer, in Lathrop Township for one dollar.
Anthony J. Yannone to Judith E. Silfee, in Susquehanna for $77,250.00.
Robert A. and Ann T. Dorio to Michael Favale, in Silver Lake Township for $115,000.00.
Randy (AKA) Randy C. and Tammie L. Miller to Randy C. and Tammie L. Miller, in Dimock Township for one dollar.
Juel Suchy (AKA) Juel S. Petrilyak (Estate) to Margaret S. Baron, in New Milford Borough for one dollar.
Juel Suchy (AKA) Juel S. Petrilyak (Estate) to Margaret S. Baron, in Clifford Township for one dollar.
Robert M. Saylor to Jeremy R. Saylor, in Springville Township for $100,000.00.
Melissa Muth and Will Maus to David J., Nancy and Christopher Phillips, in Lenox Township for $280,000.00.
Guy A., II (By Atty) and Courtney L. Erceg to Carol L. Beal, in Hallstead Borough for $74,200.00.
Allen J. Sydlosky to Thomas J., Jr. (DBA) and Jeanine (DBA) Dellongo and Dellongo Fence Company, in New Milford Township for $25,000.00.
David A. Stone and Guy (AKA) Guy L. Parrish to Guy L. Parrish, in Bridgewater Township for $150,000.00.
Jeffrey M. and Shelley (AKA) Shelly Karp to Jeffrey M. Karp, in Lenox Township for one dollar.
Theodore K. and Lennas L. Russell to Lennas L. Russell, in Dimock Township for one dollar.
United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs to Kenneth J. and Sandi L. Truman, in Dimock Township for $106,000.00.
Isabelle Ball to Karen Ann Valentine, in Lenox Township for $10.00.
Eastern Overhawk LLC to Anthony and Ingrid B. Balsamo, in New Milford Borough for $9,000.00.
Gudaitis Trust (By Trustee) and Gudaitis Credit Whelter Trust UTD (By Trustee) to Patricia Gudaitis, in Forest City.
Irena and Ronald Gutkowski and Eva Olszewski to Bonnice Land LLC, in Bridgewater Township for $230,000.00.
James (By POA) and Jacqueline Doriety to Michael J. Webb, in Jackson Township for $110,000.00.
Charles and Marie Litwin to Drafty Meadows Farm, in Lathrop Township for one dollar.
Sherry Ann Brzuska, Lynn and John A. Jerauld and F. Scott and Amy L. Knauer (AKA) Amy L. Rentner to Christopher Short, in Bridgewater Township for $51,000.00.
Jeffrey M. Karp of Montrose vs. Shelley Karp of Archbald, married 2001.
Debra Feece of Winterset, IO vs. Dennis A. Feece of Montrose, married 1983.
The Susquehanna County Domestic Relations Section has bench warrants for the following individuals as of September 18, 2009 at 10:30 a.m.
Duane Aldrich, Michael A. Argust, David P. Atherholt, Jr., Erika L. Back, John W. Barber, Sr., Keith B. Beach, David Shawn Blaisure, Joseph Bonavita, Michael P. Bradley, Jr., Devin S. Brewer, Howard A. Burns, III, Robert B. Carrier, Jason James Carroll, Beverly A. Carvin, Christopher J. Clark, Tony R. Clark, Mark T. Conklin, Neil Darrow, Edward J. Dickson, Jr., James W. Donahue, III, Deborah L. Drish, Joseph A. Fiorentino, David J. Fischer, Ryan M. Forder, Kelly Fox, Dominick M. Franklin, David Haines, Jr., Suzanne R. Hansen, Ann Hightower, Steven L. Jones, Kenneth M. Kintner, Kevin D. Klein, Eric C. Kohlhepp, Erik E. Krisovitch, Amber Kuns, Charlie J. Legere, Harold K. Leiger, II, Carlos L. Leiser, Patricia J. Marrero, Jason Marshall, Nancy McGillis, Rollin E. Miller, Jr., Joseph C. Moore, Anthony Neri, Benjamin Newell, Tanya M. Novak, Rodney Alan Oakley, Todd M. O'Hara, Donald Palmer, Gary Perico, Jesse R. Rhinebeck, Jr., Timothy W. Rogers, Troy Rohmann, David J. Shiner, Darin Sink, Duane Spencer, Garrett M. Thomas, Keith W. Vroman, Steven G. Warner, Jamie L. Williams, Kenneth L. Wilmot, Jr.
Please contact the Domestic Relations Section at 570-278-4600 ext. 170 with any information on the location of these individuals.
At a board of education meeting on September 14, Forest City Regional School Board members approved several new programs and events for district students. Included was approval for conducting the Pennsylvania Youth Survey for students in grades 6, 8, and 10, a confidential assessment of controlled substance use among Forest City Regional students. The survey, school superintendent Dr. Robert Vadella explained, will serve as a comparison tool and a possible means of securing grant money for anti-drug programs. Parents will receive a copy of the survey to review. Participation in the survey requires parental permission.
New high school principal Christine Daniels-Acevedo is anticipated to begin work at Forest City Regional on October 5; the school will host a “Meet the Principal” event in the near future.
Following several years as a storage room, the school planetarium is set to run again. “I think it’ll be an asset to our science department,” commented Mary Emmett, “We’re happy about [the re-opening].”
A new Spanish club will be offered for Forest City Regional high school students this year, with Richard Priebe serving as advisor.
In addition, on Wednesday, October 21 at 6 p.m., a scholastic awards banquet will be held for the top ten percent of students in grades 8-12.
Though the event was over a month ago, the New Milford bicentennial celebration's success was still a topic of discussion at the September 16 New Milford Township meeting. As he was absent at the August meeting, the supervisors took this opportunity to thank Ken Bondurant for his work, on what was called a fantastic event.
Mr. Bondurant explained that work on the event is continuing. The first follow up meeting was scheduled for shortly after the meeting. He wanted the public to know that the committee is still open to time capsule entries. Decisions need to be made regarding what to do with the extra blue books from the old time capsule. Work is being done to make the website one which can be at the disposal of both the township and borough, and the plan is to set aside enough money to keep it going for at least the next few years. Mr. Bondurant also expressed his appreciation for Dean Holbrook's work on the disc, and for the donation of the dumpster at no cost by Joe's disposal. He turned over to the supervisors documents which were accepted on their behalf at the event's opening ceremonies. The items included a proclamation from the county (presented by commissioners Warren and Giangrieco), a proclamation from Sandy Major on behalf of the House of Representatives, and a proclamation by the Senate signed by Senator Yaw, all honoring the township on the occasion of its bicentennial.
The township had received a letter from Mike Briechle concerning the Oneida Campground, as a follow up on an ongoing investigation. The campground, it was stated, is willing to comply with necessary requests, and is committed to resolving the sewage issues without litigation with the New Milford Township.
Steve Roman attended the meeting to ask what the situation was with Campbell road, which goes up a hill near his home. Someone had dug three ditches across the road, perhaps two feet deep, and the power company (and anyone else) could not travel up it. He requested that it might be fixed. The township stated that they had not done it, and one person questioned as to whether the state might have, as their were issues with runoff from it at one point. Mr. Conroy said that he was 90% certain that the road was either vacated or abandoned, and that it was not maintained by the township. In this case it would revert to its owners. The supervisors agreed to look into the matter.
Mr. Bevans asked if the supervisors had heard anything regarding legislation at the state level requiring municipalities to obtain police protection. It was responded that a letter had been received saying that some people wanted to pass this legislation, but it had not yet been passed. Further discussion revealed that, under this plan, any township or borough not having their own protection would be billed for utilizing the state police. Estimates of this fee range as high as $50,000, and would escalate as the years progressed. It has been speculated by some that this could break townships. Mr. Bevans recommended that this might be something which the township should consider. Mr. Bondurant pointed out that it would be decidedly cheaper to pay part-time cops than to pay the government's fee. There is apparently, it was said, no parameters on how many hours coverage must be provided. Mr. Conroy said that a letter had been sent to the legislators.
The September 15 Elk Lake and SCCTC school board meeting was better attended than usual, with several students coming out to question a homecoming decision that had recently come to light. The decision had been made, based upon discussions after last year’s event, to cancel the post-game bonfire. The concern, administrators said, was that the event had grown too large for them to properly supervise with the light currently available. To allay this difficulty, various measures were taken. The volleyball game was moved to a different day. Junior high students, it was decided, would no longer be allowed to attend without their parents. The bonfire was canceled. Those present protested only the third move.
The administration repeatedly assured those present that this was the only thing deleted; three games were scheduled for that night, with the soccer game still taking place under the lights. To the students assembled however, one of whom brought with him a petition signed by 352 people, this was not enough. Student after student spoke up, emphasizing the importance of the event for school spirit and its status as a tradition. One boy went so far as to state that without it, the students were worthless. The teenagers spoke eloquently (and at length) about their lack of social life in the rural area, and explained that this is one event where they are able to see friends from other districts. It is an opportunity for them to release pent up energy, it was argued, and it serves as the kick off to the school year. If the tradition were changed, it was asserted, the year would be off-kilter. It was suggested that perhaps the district could do something about additional lighting, recruit additional security, have staff provide additional supervision, or have the security normally present rove the grounds more. One student argued that there were really only two ways to access the bonfire site, thus it ought to be easy to monitor.
For their part, the administration - Dr. Bush, Dr. Cuomo, and Mr. Mallery - attempted to explain the situation from their point of view, and to offer possible alternatives to the students. Doctor Bush explained they were not trying to take away the students' ability to socialize, that they still had five hours worth of events that night. He explained that it was a much different situation when examined through the lens of keeping people safe and tasking students for poor behavior. There had been incidents in the past, and students had ranged widely across the premises. With perhaps close to a thousand people in attendance, the event had begun to pose too great a liability. Between the rearrangement of events, the exclusion of the junior high students, and the elimination of the bonfire, the event would theoretically be better contained - there would not be as much reason to spread out. Besides this, it was pointed out, although the students had brought a petition with over three hundred signatures, that many people had never been seen to attend the event. In fact, in recent years the school had allowed a band to play in order to draw more of a crowd. It was estimated that perhaps 100 to 125 people had actually been at the bonfire, mostly people waiting for their rides to pick them up. Security guards remain at the front of the school, it was explained, in order to escort people to their rides. As for staff supervision, some staff are generally used for this purpose already.
Mr. Mallery asked what the purpose of the bonfire was to the students - spirit or socialization. If it was to foster school spirit, why could the pep rally not do the same thing? If it was for socialization, why couldn't students socialize elsewhere? Some students called the pep rally essentially pointless, stating that it meant nothing if the district could not play Montrose, and arguing that it accomplished nothing when it was during the school day and held behind closed doors. It can be difficult, they also maintained, to socialize while at the game. The bonfire provided an opportunity to celebrate the game after everything was over, whether the team won or lost, and to let off steam.
The administration had discussed the possibility of holding the bonfire on another night, which would allow students to have the event while still allowing the administration to better contain things on Friday night. The students were not interested in this option, however. They felt that students, both from the district and outside it, would likely not attend were it any night but Friday. It was also argued that having it on a school night might detrimentally affect attendance the next day.
Various suggestions were offered: the possibility of charging admission to the event to pay for greater security, the potential for an outdoor pep rally with a bonfire prior to the game (which several other districts have), etc. In the end Dr. Bush offered to meet with a delegation of concerned students to discuss compromises. At first the students refused this offer, stating a fear that they would be asked to give up too much. After the board and administration explained, however, that as it stood there was no bonfire so a meeting could only help their case, it was agreed that discussion would be held two days later.
Though perhaps the most involved discussion of the night, the bonfire debate was not the only topic of conversation. Nor was it necessarily the most impassioned. One visitor attended the meeting to implore the board to change the ten mile transportation rule, and to transport her child to Scranton Prep. A Catholic, she explained that it had been important enough for her that her children attend Catholic school that she had paid out several thousand dollars in transportation through the years. Having paid taxes in the district for twenty years without receiving anything for it, and with taxes only going up, she requested that the school take over this task for only a few years. She argued that in a rural area she had to travel more than ten miles to go grocery shopping, and that as a rural district the cost could be allayed by a transportation reimbursement. She stated that a ruling had been changed regarding tuition when Dr. Bush moved out of the district. Mr. Place, however, responded that the rule had not been changed for Dr. Bush. The policy in question had been altered, in recent history, to allow children of all district staff to attend at no cost, as opposed to the prior policy of half tuition. No definitive answer was given to the woman that night.
Various items of note emerged during the administrators' reports. Some Elk Lake students were featured on a Channel 16 news broadcast, recognized for their work in recycling. The vo-tech program was featured in a National Rural Health Association publication. AHEC recommended the school for the honor, for its work on the health career day and awareness.
A change was formally made in the school's backpack policy. After searching for mesh and clear backpacks, and ascertaining that they are very difficult to find, this stipulation was stricken from the policy. The move was also made in an attempt to be fair, as purses and laptop bags were allowed already. Bags are still subject to the scrutiny of the administration, and may not be carried from class to class.
It was reported that progress had been made regarding safe road crossings. State workers had been consulted, who saw no problem with the district painting the road. Pedestrian crossing signs had been ordered.
The dual enrollment program has been held up because of the budget, Dr. Cuomo explained. In prior years, the cost of this program has been offset by means of a grant. If the grant doesn't come through, he explained, the program will run the same, except that students might have to pay for it (still at a discounted rate however). Even without the grant, the program offers a savings for parents. This is especially true in the case of Keystone college, which has expressed a willingness to work with students regardless of the budget, and to discount its rates by 50% if the grant doesn't come through.
A date was set for the SCCTC expansion project public hearing. The meeting is to be held on October 8, at 7 p.m. in the high school auditorium.
The Hallstead Boro Council met with a full house in attendance at their September 17 meeting.
First to address council was Mike Kotar, to ask if the forms required from the boro for interim financing for the Hallstead-Great Bend Joint Sewer Authority's system upgrade project had been submitted. The attorney working on the project preferred that original forms be used, rather than computer print-outs, and the original forms had not yet been received. Council assured Mr. Kotar that they would be signed and sent in as soon as they were received. Mr. Kotar had promised council at a previous meeting that he would keep them apprised of the progress of the project, and reiterated that promise at this meeting.
Next was a representative from Girl Scout Troop 5799, who asked if the council meeting room could be used by the troop for their meetings. They are starting up a Daisy troop and plan to meet on Tuesdays during the month. Council approved the request.
A resident who lives in close proximity to the cemetery brought council a petition that had been signed by a number of his neighbors regarding activities at the park that they found objectionable. One is the recurring burning of leaves; the boro does have an ordinance that deals with that. Council agreed to send a letter and a copy of the ordinance to the person responsible for the cemetery. The other issue had to do with equipment being left out at the cemetery which, the petition said, promotes vandalism and theft by youths. That issue, council said, should be taken up with the person(s) responsible for the cemetery.
The owners of a property on Pine St. were present in response to a letter they had received from council, requesting that the property be cleaned up. They had cleaned it up, they said, and all of the vehicles on the property are registered. Council assured them that they were not being singled out, similar letters had been sent to a number of other people.
Officer Bob Sweet of the Susquehanna Boro Police addressed council about HB1500 which, if enacted by state legislators, will impose a service fee for State Police services on any municipality that does not have full-time police coverage, whether it be by their own department or through a contract with a neighboring municipality or with a regional police force.
Officer Sweet said that Hallstead's neighbors, Great Bend Boro, Great Bend Township, Oakland Township and Harmony Township had all been approached with a proposal to join a regional police department, which would provide full-time coverage at significantly less cost than the state service fee would be. The state legislation, if passed, would impose a per capita fee which will increase over a three-year period, $52 the first year, $104 the second, and $156 the third year and every year thereafter. The regional force could provide coverage at a monthly cost of $2,634 to the boro, providing all of the municipalities mentioned are on board with the proposal. A meeting was being set up, tentatively for the week of September 21, so that representatives of all of the municipalities could sit down with the officers and representatives from the Susquehanna council to discuss particulars. One of the subjects that would be discussed is the cost to each of the municipalities if one or more of them opt not to participate. There would also be a copy of a one-year contract available for review. The proposal includes setting up a panel, comprised of representatives from each of the municipalities involved, who would meet regularly to review the department's activities. And, any fine revenues would revert to the municipality in which the incident occurred.
Mr. Sweet said that if the proposal is accepted, there will be full-time officers to serve the area with their own vehicle, and the department would provide assistance to set up a Crime Watch. Regional forces also have grant opportunities available to them, he said.
Council agreed that the boro would benefit from full-time protection, but questioned whether the boro could afford it. They agreed to send a representative to the meeting to hear all of the details.
Two price quotes were obtained for repairs for the backhoe, $4,860 plus labor, and $4,300 for parts and labor. A motion carried to accept the second quote and to have the work done.
Plans for the Bridging Communities sidewalk replacement project were reviewed and signed. Bids will be sent out next week, and the work is expected to start in the spring.
The water heater in the boro building is shot. After discussion, a motion carried to replace it with two tankless heaters, one for the council rooms upstairs and one for downstairs in the library's facilities.
Curbing has been put in at the intersection of Fourth and Pine; the contractor suggested that the curbing be painted orange, to make sure drivers see it; there had been a continuing problem with drivers cutting the curve short and driving over the property owner's lawn. The drain at the intersection was also flushed, which should help make sure that rain water is directed to the storm water system. The Great Bend fire company is willing to bring their truck to flush out additional drains, with no compensation other than a contribution to cover the cost of the gas used. Council agreed that this is a good deal, and a motion carried to approve having them flush more of the drains.
Council will meet to begin work on the 2010 budget on October 15 at 6:00, followed by their regular monthly meeting.
The Montrose School Board often opens its meetings by recognizing student success and efforts, and the September 14 meeting was no exception. The first people recognized were national FBLA contestant Christopher Jordan, and his advisor, Duane Benedict. Having qualified at the state event in Hershey, Jordan was able to attend the California event. His success continued there, as he became the national runner up in his event. Out of 100 questions, he correctly answered 74, losing to the champion by only 1 point. Mr. Benedict stated that the now sophomore set a high watermark for Montrose. When asked what made him decide to become part of FBLA, Jordan responded that he became interested at a board meeting, which he attended with the boy scouts. He plans on continuing in the club, and competing again. He received a certificate, and handshakes from the board.
Christine Brown then presented to the board an overview of the district’s summer camp. In its second year, the program had 80 kids enrolled, 20 more than the previous year. Attendance averaged 70 a day. To accommodate the increased numbers, four more counselors were hired, so that the students still received more individualized attention. As had been discussed the previous year, additional transportation was organized in order to get the kids to the site. Ms. Brown stated that she really felt like the target population had been reached. She read an excerpt from the auditor's report, which stated that as a parent the auditor would want her child to attend the camp, and that the staff really seemed to care. The program had grown in ways beyond attendance, as well. A nurse was added to the staff, who not only performed standard nursing duties, but led lessons on hygiene and sanitation. Ms. Brown concluded the presentation using the success of the program as incentive for the board to continue it, as in the coming year it would need to be funded locally. She then showed those present the camp's website, which was designed by a sixth grade student, Kosta Konstatinos.
Mr. Owens spoke to those present about the v-link program. Run through the Intermediate Unit, this program allows students to participate in cyber schooling while remaining part of the Montrose student body. They graduate with a Montrose diploma, and can participate in extracurricular events such as the prom. It is much less expensive as well. Those who spoke at the meeting agreed that cyber schooling was the best educational option for some students, but the hope was to have them pursue through a program maintained and monitored by the local public school system. Mr. Owens reported that one year, only one out of eleven private cyber charter schools in the state made AYP. While v-linc has been successful in directing new cyber students its way, Mr. Owens asked the board for suggestions on how to bring back families which already left.
As of this meeting, it appeared that the field hockey coaching carousel had finally come to a stop. The original head coach had resigned for work reasons, and a replacement was obtained. The replacement then resigned, and the district was contacted by the original coach, Jason Young, who was once again able to fill the position. Meanwhile, although the assistant coach had stayed the same, the junior high program was in flux. Mr. Young, then, found two college students, who played on his team at Binghamton University. Neither of them was willing to hold the office alone, but both agreed to share it. Thus the program finally, at least for now, has a full complement of coaches.
The high school has attracted the notice of gas and oil companies, it was announced. The district currently has a non-surface mining lease at Choconut Valley.
Despite having moved from four 40 minute to three 30 minute lunch periods, Mr. Tallarico reported that students were still having no problem eating. This alteration, as well as a shortening of the time between classes from four minutes to three, has allowed for more class time and fewer disruptions and behavior problems.
The new dress code also seems to be working out well, according to Mr. Canaveri. The kids have been accommodating, he said, in situation such as when school uniforms are in violation. One board member, however, stated that she had heard it was still not being enforced.
Various other district happenings were highlighted as well. Mrs. Homan suggested that the district be nominated for magnet awards for its student board for4um. Both elementary schools were running meet the educator nights, and getting ready to begin Response to Intervention programs. Both principals were commended by Dr. Golden, the director of special education, for beginning the RTI initiative.
The special education department received a letter, it was said, from the secretary of education commending the school for meeting four requirements under the IDEA law. Montrose also went beyond the required percentage for least restrictive environment.
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 5th day of October at 9:00 a.m.
Apolacon Twp.: Joseph Kelleher, James Peck, Norene Purtell.
Ararat Twp.: Virginia Westbrook.
Auburn Twp.: Eileen Balboa, Lise Berger, Michele Crisman, Joelle Anne Kurz.
Bridgewater Twp.: Lowell Carpenter, Joseph Kielceski, Shelby Riker, Robert Thomas.
Brooklyn Twp.: Theodore Beeman, Michelene Klim.
Choconut Twp.: John Abramo, Robert Farthing, Regina Harris, John Rincavage, Louise Shockey, Judsen Sorensen.
Clifford Twp.: Robert Dietz, Beth Henn, Ina Marcho, Robert Polednak.
Dimock Twp.: Laurie Hunsinger, Ida Rhodes, Sara Strickland.
Forest City, 2W: Sheila Hosie, Earl Obelenus, Lawrence Ryan.
Franklin Twp.: Sandra Elbrecht.
Gibson Twp.: Ralph Biesecker, Elizabeth Koscelnak.
Great Bend Boro: James Ragard, Scott Updyke.
Great Bend Twp.: Lynn Radakovich, James Schell, Leah White.
Hallstead Boro: Laurie Frailey, Alfred Pelicci.
Harford Twp.: Audrey Allen, Christine Baldwin, Spencer Empet, Denny Miller, Louis Raub.
Harmony Twp.: Beatrice Barton, Linda Gladstone, Fred Schmied.
Herrick Twp.: Nancy Harvatine.
Hop Bottom Boro: Michael Turner.
Jackson Twp.: Diane Bennett, Erwin Herman.
Jessup Twp.: Walter Gieski.
Lanesboro Boro: Virginia Znamirowski.
Lenox Twp.: Bruce Edwards, Karen Hallock, Thomas Hancock, Gloria Konzman, Frank Piechocki, Richard Pompey, Dorothy Rogers, Sarah Ryan.
Liberty Twp.: Noel Binde, Fred Brand, Dorothy Luce.
Little Meadows Boro: William Gow.
Montrose Boro, 1W: Lucille Hewitt.
Montrose Boro, 2W: Marie Egli, Irene Omalley.
New Milford Boro: Francis Fleming.
New Milford Twp.: Wayne Bradley.
Oakland Boro: Randy Glover, Nicole Moore.
Rush Twp.: Lynne Manzek, Chad Moore.
Silver Lake Twp.: James Lee, George Mackey, Carol Sodon, Bonnie Teed.
Springville Twp.: Joseph Chesnick, Mary Elliott, W. Golden, Dixie Hinkley, Carlton Mogridge, Charlene Wilson.
Susquehanna Boro, 1W: Douglas Davison.
Susquehanna Boro, 2W: Claire Elliott, Amy Goss, David Rockwell, Holly Soules.
Thompson Twp.: Ronald Coyan, Dawn Gaffey.
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