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INDIANA: School board OKs changes to class credits, revised courses

by on January 15, 2014 10:59 AM

Indiana Area Senior High School students will have some new options to consider next month when they put in their requests for courses on their 2014-15 schedules.

The district school board on Monday approved changes in the numbers of credits required in certain subjects for high school graduation. The changes reduce health and physical education requirements from three to two credits, reduce computer technology from one to one-half credit, and increase electives from 5.5 to seven credits.

The vote was 8-1. President Thomas Harley and directors John Barbor, Deborah Clawson, Hilliary Creely, Robert Gongaware, Brian Petersen, Julia Trimarchi-Cuccaro and John Uccellini were in favor; and director Diana Paccapaniccia was opposed.

Speaking during the public comment period, district teacher Eric Brocious protested the change in required technology education.

“That greatly shocked me,” Brocious said of learning that the proposal was on the agenda. “I had concerns not only for my children but students that I have had in class.”

Combined with a proposal to move a business teacher from the senior high to a lower level, he said, “I feel that is going to greatly reduce the elective offerings at the high school level. … Our students aren’t going to get those offerings that are going to steer them in that direction, and as we know, our society revolves around business.”

“I have a problem with reducing the computer technology requirement, and I believe that computer apps should be taught earlier in the process, most likely at the junior high,” Paccapaniccia said.

“But when you talk about technology and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) … I can’t accept that. No matter what field you’re going into, you’re going to be using technology, whether it’s medicine or teaching. I really don’t feel we’re really educating our students for the future with only one computer technology course.”

But Petersen, chairman of the academic and extracurricular committee, which recommended the change, said that students would have more overall exposure to computer technology instruction with the additional business teacher in the junior high, although an elementary level class would not be reflected in the graduation credit count.

“When they’re using it in junior high or elementary school now, in their classwork — due to the earlier instruction — they can apply the technology they learn with the hope that we offer more advanced options in the high school level,” Petersen said.

District superintendent Dale Kirsch said the recommendations are related in part to staffing levels, but that students still could take additional physical education or technology courses and count them as electives, if the classes aren’t filled by students needing them as requirements.

The board also approved new and revised courses, including supplemental instruction in Algebra I, Biology and Literature; 10th grade Honors English; Algebra I and Algebra I block; Biology (Keystone Biology I); elective English classes British Literature, Fantasy Literature, Non-Fiction Literature Analysis; and Civics and Government.

The board unanimously approved the changes and additions following presentations by Curriculum Coordinator Holly Rougeaux, high school assistant principal Erin Eisenman, and teachers Erin Fulton and Devin Duffy, although Barbor criticized the content of the current British Literature course as “subliterary fluff, largely viewed through film, and does not have Pope, Tennyson, Elliot. … It would seem to me that some of that is essential to calling yourself an educated human being.”

Fulton said the faculty has discussed offering a second British literature course in the future.

“The Brit Lit course they offer is a very good course, and the courses offered tonight are all excellent, well structured, thoroughly thought through, solid academically. There’s nothing wrong with them,” Barbor said following the meeting. “I just am concerned that there are large areas of standard British literature that students at Indiana High School can’t study, even if they want to, because no courses are being offered to teach them. I think it’s something to be addressed.”

He said there’s not a lot taught that was published after Shakespeare’s days, beyond the Restoration.

“How about anything that was written after the reign of Charles II? That’s 1660 to date. They wrote a few things in those centuries. Nowhere in that curriculum is there a course that teaches any of that, and that strikes me as wrong,” Barbor said, “I’d like to know that somewhere, kids could read a little Keats, maybe some Wordsworth. That would be nice.”

In other business, the board:

• Eliminated the IDEAL facilitator position and created the Coordinator of Instructional Technology to supervise the IDEAL program, which will be offered to junior high students next year.

• Agreed to designate a temporary elementary principal position as a permanent post. The principal position at Horace Mann Elementary School, held this year by Jen Helm, was designated temporary while the possible closing of an elementary school was under consideration by the board.

• Appointed Dr. Christina Lubold as the district physician, effective Jan. 1, at a rate of $500 a month plus $5 per mandated exam, following the retirement of Dr. Shafic Twal.

• Directed the Outreach Committee to meet with Indiana University of Pennsylvania communication media professor Gail Wilson and her students to develop communication plans for the district.

• Approved credit limits of $2,000 for two additional credit cards for use by the junior high and senior high student activity accounts. The cards are available for district staff to shop locally and online for purchases that offer discounts, rebates or other rewards but which require credit cards.

• Accepted the resignation of confidential secretary Barbara Andresky, of the transportation and buildings and grounds office, effective Dec. 17.

• Approved recommended changes in staffing and job titles in the administration offices: deleting a confidential secretary for personnel, changing the public relations and grant writer to human resources manager for public relations — to be filled with existing personnel — and creating an additional computer technician position, which will be advertised.

• Agreed to form an ad hoc Comprehensive Plan Committee to revise and complete the district’s comprehensive plan. The deadline for the update is November.

Harley said district residents would be welcome to serve on the committee. Those interested should contact Anise Markle in the district office.

• Granted an extension of leave from Oct. 14, 2013, to Feb. 28 for senior high special-education teacher Kristy Manning.

• Approved a leave of absence for junior high social studies teacher Kristine Bunyak for the second semester of the school year.

• Approved extra-duty, extra-pay assignments of Timothy Hrutkay, as senior high assistant track coach, and of Patrick Kuta, as senior high assistant baseball coach, both at salaries of $2,500.

• Approved Sharon O’Keiff as a deputy tax collector for White Township at the request of tax collector Jeffrey Mack.

• Reconsidered proposals to change the high school graduation requirements, which had been tabled on Nov. 12.

Proposals to raise the graduation requirement from 24 to 25 credits, or to maintain 24 credits but to redistribute the requirements among various disciplines, both failed when the motions were not seconded.



Chauncey Ross is the Gazette’s fixture at Indiana Area and Homer-Center school board meetings, has been seen with pen and notepad in area police stations and courts, and is something of an Open Records Act and Sunshine Law advocate. He also manages the Gazette’s websites and answers your questions about them.
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