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The evening of October 25 saw the meeting of a few committees, and a workshop by the full Blue Ridge School Board in what may be a brief hiatus before the heavy lifting that will come with development of next year’s budget.
The evening opened early with the Career Development Committee under Christina Whitney, which is developing another faculty survey that Ms. Whitney hopes will be more “effective” than the last one. The surveys are intended to gather information about a variety of topics that affect the way students prepare for life after Blue Ridge, be it college or the workplace. She wants to highlight gaps in the instructional and motivational program that can be filled in an effort to ensure that “100 percent of our students … have a plan,” one of the goals of the committee. Superintendent Robert McTiernan concurred, remarking that planning for the future is vital, and “the earlier the better.” The committee would like to create a career development file on each student to help avoid missing milestones in the development of a student’s plans for the future.
The committee is also considering a software system called Choices, that committee member Joseph Conigliaro says can help students develop their own plans and portfolios.
The Facilities and Grounds Committee, led by Harold Empett, heard from Business Manager Loren Small on a few outstanding items. In addition to holding out a large payment to the contractor until next Spring when the quality of the paving job can be further evaluated, Mr. Small said that some duct work will be installed to help minimize moisture in a corner of one of the buildings. These are leftovers from last summer’s ambitious schedule of projects at the campus.
Mr. Small said that a decision on the district’s application for funding for a $1 million energy conservation project should be known within a month. The funds would be available under a program called “Qualified Zone Academy Bonds” (QZAB) at 1% interest to the district. The conservation program is intended to pay for itself.
He also expects to conduct a silent auction this winter to try to sell surplus items such as desks, file cabinets, cafeteria equipment, carts, etc.
He then asked the committee for suggestions for projects for summer 2011. Mr. Empett focused on drainage, particularly at the township road. There may be more paving of parking lots, and the physical education department would like more indoor storage. The biggest project, however, could be the replacement of the 35-year-old gym floor. Staff and volunteers have also been patching up the bleachers in the gym for years; they are worn out and would probably be replaced at the same time as the floor.
During the workshop, Priscinda Gaughan reported on the activities of her Wellness Committee, which has scheduled its next meeting for November 30. The committee is considering requests from district staff for an exercise program. The Board would have to consider liability for such an undertaking.
Ms. Gaughan also suggested that the district’s web site could use some refurbishing. Her committee strives to make its own pages informative, but she said that sometimes it can be difficult to find something from the district home page.
Laurie Brown-Bonner, the Board’s legislative reporter, told her colleagues that the pension program for state employees - including school employees - known as PSERS, is currently underfunded by some $14 billion. It is this accumulation of liabilities that threatens school budgets statewide, as the legislature struggles to find a way to bolster the fund. Board President Alan Hall called the situation “a disaster waiting to happen.”
Mr. Hall noted the impending budget development process, remarking that “there’s going to be some tough decisions” to make. He said that last year’s infusion of some $750,000 from the federal “stimulus” program would not be repeated. Some of that was spent on one-time projects, but he doesn’t expect that state funding will rise much, if at all next year.
Board representative to the North-Eastern Instructional Unit #19 (“the IU”) Joel Whitehead said that he expected some “profound changes” at the IU, in light of recent revelations about payments made to retiring executive director Dr. Fred Rosetti.
And finally, Parent Council co-founder Vicki Drake reported a very successful recent meeting targeted at the parents of high school junior and seniors to offer and exchange information about what students and their families can expect as they prepare to leave Blue Ridge for the wider world, particularly college. She said the next meeting, on November 11, will focus on technology.
Mr. Hall announced that the Board would gather for an executive session following the workshop to consider grievances filed against the district by some faculty, probably as a consequence of the agreement earlier this year to roll back the schedule of positions covered under Schedule B of the teachers’ contract to the original 2005 list. The contract will come up for negotiation later this winter.
The next meeting of the Blue Ridge School Board is scheduled for Monday, November 8, beginning at 7:30 p.m. All meetings are held in the cafeteria in the Elementary School.
Susquehanna County Commissioners eliminated two county positions during the Salary Board meeting held on October 28. Effective October 27, the Assistant Public Defender position does not exist. The current Public Defender, Linda LaBarbara, has been handling the public defender's workload alone. Her salary is now set at $65,000 per year, effective November 4. LaBarbara was at the meeting and affirmed she can carry the workload in the future as well. A member of the press asked what would be done if a conflict of interest arose in a case she was handling. The Public Defender stated that there is a conflict counsel available to take her place should that scenario arise.
Also, a full-time temporary secretary position was eliminated from the Sheriff's office.
During the public meeting, Commissioners approved two new hires. Karissa Lewis, of Kingsley, will fill the open, full-time union position of secretary in the Sheriff's office. Lewis will deal specifically with foreclosures and sheriff sales.
Eric Watkins of New Milford was approved to the open, full-time Program Specialist I position in the Soil Conservation department.
The county approved an agreement between the commissioners, the Susquehanna County Railroad Authority and the Central Bradford Progress Authority, which handles economic development for the county. CBPA will assist the railroad authority in advancing railroad services to generate economic development in the county.
The Tax Claim Bureau has been exonerated from collecting delinquent taxes on a property in Forest City Borough. The bankruptcy filed by the owners is now closed and the $45 unpaid tax balance remains unpaid out of the Chapter 13 plan.
Another property, in Clifford Township, was exonerated in August as unlivable.
Also, the Tax Claim Bureau was given the go ahead to accept any negotiated price on seven county properties which have been through two public sales and are no longer generating income from taxes.
A used 2000 Ford Explorer is up for sale by the county. Its estimated value is under $1,000. A notice of sale will be posted at the courthouse for 10 days, after which time the vehicle will be sold to the highest bidder, or sold for current junk value.
November 15 has been designated "America Recycles Day" in the county, in an effort to educate residents about the county's recycling program and to encourage residents to help raise awareness of the need to reduce waste by reusing, recycling and buying recycled products.
The entire month of November will be known as "Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month" in the county, to make residents aware of the causes and effective treatment of a cancer that receives significantly less research money than other cancers. The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and its affiliates in Susquehanna County work to support those suffering from the disease and are committed to finding a cure.
The next Susquehanna County Commissioners meeting is 9 a.m., Wednesday, November 10, in the downstairs conference room of the county office building, 31 Public Avenue, Montrose. The Susquehanna County Commissioners office may be reached at (570) 278-4600.
Earl G. and Lynnette K. Cox to Mario Fasullo, in Brooklyn Township for $510,000.00.
Kirt B. and Valerie E. Buzzell to Kirt B. Buzzell, in Hallstead Borough for one dollar.
Wayne R. and Anne Adams to Joanne Wisniewski, in Harford Township for $180,000.00.
Susan Fissler to Steven H. and Brenda J. Demarest, in Rush Township for one dollar.
Charles W. Earlley to Charles W. and Connie Earlley and Felicia Weatherford, in Dimock Township for one dollar.
Renee and Michael Wallner to Renee (rev trust) and Michael D. (rev trust) Wallner, in Clifford Township for one dollar.
Thomas R. and Jennifer R. Ehrie to Robert E. Earl, Jr., in Franklin Township for $100,000.00.
Samir N. Issa to Lars M. Issa, in Silver Lake Township for one dollar.
Robyn (by sheriff) and John (by sheriff) McGuane to American Mortgage Fund, in Susquehanna for $1,879.51.
Fannie Mae (AKA) Federal National Mortgage Association to Docs Home Service, Inc., in Oakland Borough for $15,000.00.
Edward D. Gates (estate), Edna Atkins and Edward Gates to Dorothy Gates, in Lenox Township for $26,000.00.
St. Thomas the Apostle Church (by trustee) to Warren Center Independent Bible Church, in Little Meadows Borough for $87,500.00.
Bernard A. and Glendora L. Graham and Graham Trust (by trustees) to Robbie L. and Wendy L. Cranmer, in Little Meadows Borough for $72,000.00.
Peter D. and Alexandra J. Vanderlyke to Matthew P. and Wendy M. Reimel, in Forest Lake Township for $227,250.00.
Daniel and Lori Poirier to JNT Transportation, Inc., in Friendsville Borough for $60,000.00.
Christopher W. Harris (by sheriff) and Melissa Bodie (by sheriff) to Deutsche Bank National Trust Company, in Montrose for $3,200.83.
Mark Susquehanna Associates LP to Brian P. Gesford, in Bridgewater Township for $174,900.00.
Dominick J. and Lynne Daleo to John J. and Mary Kathleen Sharkey, in Dimock Township for $195,000.00.
Faye L. Marcho to Richard M. and Donna M. Marcho, in Gibson Township for one dollar.
Darlene L. Bayuk to Richard Osterhout, in Hallstead Borough for $23,500.00.
Brenda Jean Landis and Ronald Henry Svoboda to Joseph J. and Connie C. Johnson, in Lenox Township for $56,000.00.
Kim Z. Homsher (by atty) to Cartus Financial Corporation, in Choconut Township for $155,000.00.
Cartus Financial Corporation to Andrew Axworthy, in Choconut Township for $155,000.00.
Robert H. and Bernadette Dube to Joshua Merrill and Megan Owens, in Bridgewater Township for $60,000.00.
Beneficial Consumer Discount Co. (DBA) Beneficial Mortgage Co. of PA to Richard A. and Lynn M. Murphy, in Ararat Township for $20,900.00.
Margaret S. (AKA) Margaret Meckwood (by sheriff) to HSBC Bank USA, in Silver Lake Township for $6,283.85.
Patricia (AKA) Patricia A. Pratt (by sheriff) to Bank of New York Mellon, in Forest City for $1,987.60.
P. Earnshaw and Paul A. Kelly to J. Howland Gilley, III, in Franklin Township for one dollar.
Richard Layton to Patricia L. Hoag, in Little Meadows Borough for one dollar.
Vanessa Kernoski-Ramey (NBM) Vanessa Kernoski to Vanessa Kernoski-Ramey and Robert Michael Ramey, in Lenox Township for one dollar.
Kenneth H. and Nancy Martin to Valerie E. Buzzell, in Oakland Borough for $68,000.00.
Diana S. Luellen to Donald A. Adam and Diana Renee Adam-Podgornik, in Forest Lake Township for one dollar.
Fannie Mae (AKA) Federal National Mortgage Association to Adam E. MacGeorge, in Great Bend Borough for $49,900.00.
Norman E. and Dorothy Turner to Turn One Equities LP, in Silver Lake and Liberty Townships for $200,000.00.
Sandy A., III (AKA) Sandy Buselli (estate) to Jane M. Buselli, in Lenox Township for one dollar.
Norman E. and Dorothy Turner to Turn One Minerals LP, in Liberty and Silver Lake Townships for $600,000.00.
Rachel Cooley to Bremer Hof Owners, Inc., in Herrick Township for $100.00.
Robert Jones to Scott R. and Melissa Whitaker, in Herrick Township for $100.00.
Irene Kosarick to Bremer Hof Owners, Inc., in Herrick Township for $100.00.
Irene Kosarick to Bremer Hof Owners, Inc., in Herrick Township for $100.00.
Adam J. and Pauline Baron to Valerie, James, II and Lynn Cole, in Clifford Township for $80,000.00.
Anne M. Smith of Hallstead vs. Stephen C. Smith of New Milford, married 2008.
Rebecca Poole of Montrose vs. Robert Poole, married 1995.
Michelle D. Roman vs. Marcus B. Roman, both of Montrose, married 1997.
Curtis Rudock vs. Joann Rudock, both of Hallstead, married 2006.
David B. Moser of Hallstead vs. Wendy Moser of Cleveland, NY, married 2003.
Robert Zupanovich of New Milford vs. Sandra Q. Zupanovich of Harford, married 1995.
The Susquehanna County Domestic Relations Section has bench warrants for the following individuals as of 10:30 a.m. on October 29, 2010.
Craig J. Anderson, Erika L. Back, Bradley J. Baker, Keith Bryant Beach, Harold R. Bensley, David Shawn Blaisure, Howard A. Burns, III, Deborah L. Drish, Jonathan Fathi, Shawn Fiorentino, David J. Fischer, Thomas Fisher, Jonathan S. Guzy, David Haines, Jr., Keith G. Harms, Anthony D. Hibbard, Sr., Jason R. James, Erik E. Krisovitch, Casey J. Lawton, Joshua S. Lee, Charlie J. Legere, Carlos L. Leiser, Jason Lindquist, Jennifer M. Miller, Shane Nelson, Anthony Neri, Brian T. Phillips, Arthur D. Quick, Michael S. Rieman, David J. Shiner, Richard D. Shoemaker, Sinon C. Smith, Sr., Justin Thompson, Robert J. Twilley, Keith W. Vroman, Roderic R. Williams, Kenneth L. Wilmot, Jr., Steven G. Wormuth, Karl D. Zantowsky.
Please contact the Domestic Relations Section at 570-278-4600 ext. 170 with any information on the location of these individuals.
Hallstead Borough Council discussed the ongoing improvement project at the softball field on Route 11 at their October 28 meeting. The project, funded through a grant, requires that a project manager be appointed to oversee its progress and to approve payments to suppliers. After a brief discussion, a motion carried to appoint David Callender.
Also discussed was the need for a handicap accessible parking spot, and a hard walkway to the bathroom and concession stand. Some local paving contractors will be contacted to see if they would be willing to donate leftover materials for the paths when the paving season resumes in the spring.
It does not look as if the sidewalk project will be completed before winter. If not, it will be completed in the spring.
A motion carried to approve purchase of ten tons of salt for the winter, to be mixed with anti skid.
The light over the parking lot door to the boro building is not working; council agreed to see what could be done to get it fixed before election day.
There was some discussion about the boro’s burning ordinance; paper (only) may be burned in a container. Garbage, leaves and plastic may not be burned.
There was a review of the proposed budget, with some minor adjustments made. Funds will be allocated for drainage work, with projects to be chosen from a priority list of those areas most in need.
There was discussion about putting in a stop sign at the end of Wellington Street.
And, council has received an inquiry from an individual interested in filling the seat left vacant by the passing of Joseph Franks. The boro solicitor will be contacted about the procedure for the courts to appoint someone to fill the seat.
The next meeting will be on Thursday, November 18 at 7:00 p.m.
Katie Cure, the new student government liaison, spoke early on in the Mountain View school board meeting to report on the happenings of the secondary students and clubs. SADD was running red ribbon week, to fight drugs. This included selling red bracelets for the honor of wearing pajamas for a day. Student government was running feed a friend, with a competition between Mr. Doster and Mr. Beamish. The loser, it was said, would have to dress like a cafeteria lady and serve lunch for a day. Homecoming was held on October 16, with an under the sea theme. The FBLA did a breast cancer fundraiser, with many people getting pink streaks in their hair. One instructor was to dye his hair and mustache pink for this cause, and another offered to cut his hair. The art club has been running well, it was reported, and Big Brothers Big Sisters was beginning. Ms. Cure was officially welcomed by Mr. Zick.
It was stated that a settlement agreement and release was approved in the amount of $17,500 according to the terms of a written settlement agreement drafted and approved by counsel for the district. Of this, $10,000 was for settlement or compensatory education.
Various staff motions were acted upon. The motion was made and approved to appoint David Breese to the open English instructor position. The motion was unanimous, save for Ms. Dava Rinehart-Cowan. The October 11 motion to create a part-time position was rescinded. Dr. Chichura explained that he had received communication from PSBA stating that a part-time paraprofessional may not be possible under the contract, so in order to prevent any future grievances a monitor position was moved forward with instead. The position was to be for a three-day-a-week in-school suspension supervisor.
During the superintendent's report, Dr. Chichura announced that the district has 1,196 students in grades K-12; the projection at the beginning of the year was slightly over 1,200 students. (In addition to this number, there were 20 pre-K students which weren't counted for state purposes.) He stated that he felt that the previous projections of decline rate, that the number would decline by twenty or more each year, was proving true. The trend of smaller classes coming into each grade than were departing it, could be seen to continue for at least six years.
Mr. Doster, during his report, spoke of parent instructor conferences. The district was working on bringing in Jason Legg and Thomas Sheeran to discuss the perils of children's on-line lives.
It was announced that the parent portal is now open for the elementary school, on Skyward. Login information was to be sent to parents who do not yet have it.
Mrs. Pipitone, with a pink stripe in her hair, spoke of enjoying the fundraiser at the high school level. She also spoke of the big brothers/big sisters program, calling it phenomenal.
Mrs. Voigt reported on a team of scholastic students taken to WVIA to participate in a televised competition. She stated, with pleasure, that in the winter it would likely be possible to see the Mt. View students three times on television. She also said that there was to be a health conference in a couple of weeks in Scranton, and Mt. View was asked to sit on a panel to discuss how they have incorporated heath and wellness issues into their school. Also, four instructors were being trained in the Wilson program. They had their observations this week, and the monitor from Philadelphia expressed pleasure.
After the rest of the administrators spoke, Dr. Chichura gave a presentation on the Keystone Exams, using the answers to frequently asked questions from PDE handout, with copies for the board and press. In the fall of 2010, the Keystone exams will involve a field test of Algebra 1, Biology, and Literature. They will be available to mostly students in the high school, but may include middle school students taking Algebra one. If a middle school student were to complete that course, the exam would be given in place of the standard in-class final exam and would meet the Keystone requirement at that time.
The test is to be available as an online and paper-pencil assessment comprised of two modules, with multiple-choice and constructed response questions incorporated. The exam takes approximately 2-2.5 hours for each exam. Field test results are to be provided for participating districts. The actual operational administration of the exams is scheduled to be in the spring of 2011 for the first three exams, with field tests for Algebra 2, Geometry, and English Composition being available at that time. The testing window will be the beginning of May 2011. Students nearing completion of a course are to then be eligible to take the corresponding Keystone Exam. Preliminary results are to be provided around the end of May, with final results available later in the summer in Algebra 1, Biology, and Literature. Field testing in US History is scheduled for the Fall of 2012, and in Chemistry, Civics and Government, and World History. The operational exams, it appears to be the plan, will be available the spring or fall after the field test. Mrs. Voigt explained that the district is field testing the Biology exam only, at this time. The students tested will be those who completed the course the year previous. Under the new regulation, and beginning with the class of 2015, students can meet graduation requirements through the following options as determined by the district: successful completion of courses and Keystone Exams, rigorous, independently-validated local assessments, or AP or International Baccalaureate Exams. Dr. Chichura explained, however, that this district's availability of staff, etc. eliminates option two (where the district would have to have its own assessments pass a validation process).
This system is to be put into place by stages. Students in the classes of 2014 and 2016 must demonstrate proficiency in English composition, Literature, Algebra 1 and Biology. The class of 2017 and beyond must demonstrate proficiency in six of ten content areas: both English Composition and Literature, two of three Math courses (Algebra 1, Algebra 2 or Geometry), one of two sciences (Biology or Chemistry), and one of three social studies (American History, Civics and Government, or World History). The Keystone Exams will either count for a percentage of the final course grade or will be used as a local assessment, in which case students must score proficient or advanced. Alternately, the district can choose to pass national assessments, such as the advanced placement or international baccalaureate exams. For this option, PDE is to release policy regarding what will pass. Finally, there is also a project based alternative. A student who does not score proficient on a Keystone exam after two attempts would be eligible to complete a project-based assessment designed by the state. This would be aligned with the Keystone Exam modules and administered by the school staff. It would be scored by regional panels of educators. If the students performance was judged satisfactory it would be developed so that points would be added to a student's highest Keystone score. Accommodations would be available for those requiring them.
To sum up the matter, there are big implications to these changes, and continuing changes to the policies. This year's eighth graders and seventh graders will need to be proficient in four areas. After that the requirements raise.
Mr. Wescott asked Mr. Mirabelli what the protocol would be when a bus breaks down. It was responded that the driver was to pull off the road, then contact the school. From there the school would contact parents estimating where the bus would be at various times. Most of the driver's have cb radios, so if there was no cell service the drivers could contact each other and one of them would contact the school. With the calling system under consideration, this process would be expedited. Mr. Mirabelli complimented the drivers for working together; an anecdote was related of a time when another driver met a broken bus to transport the children. Dr. Chichura explained that the call system was taken out of the budget this year due to budgetary constraints, but it was hoped it might be reinstated the following year.
St. Rose Academy is closing this Friday, Mr. Mirabelli said. Some students from the district were being transported to that school, though he wasn't certain what impact that might have on enrollment. The Alumni Association had held their Alumni dinner, which the Life Skills students had baked the cakes for. These were shared with people after the meeting.
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