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First Commonwealth wins Battle of the Banks

First Commonwealth Bank won its fourth consecutive Piggy Bank Trophy on Thursday as the top fundraiser at the Lifesteps VIP Serve: Battle of the Banks.

First Commonwealth beat out S&T Bank and Marion Center Bank to help raise $9,367 for the Lifesteps Family Caring Fund.

The event at H.B. Culpeppers saw representatives from the three banks square off as bartenders and waitstaff competing to see who could raise the most tips in two hours. At the end of the evening, First Commonwealth was declared the winner for the fourth consecutive year and was awarded the prestigious Piggy Bank Trophy.

The Piggy Bank Trophy was established in 2006 and has been awarded each year. First Commonwealth gets to proudly display the white porcelain trophy in its offices or branches for an entire year.

Tips raised from Battle of the Banks benefit Lifesteps Family Caring Fund, supporting programs and services in Indiana County. Programs include Child Check, which is a free developmental screening to help children reach their milestones at an early age, as well as the Family Care Mobile Resource Center, providing local residents with the specialized resources they need to face the challenges in their lives.

For nearly 100 years, Lifesteps has helped individuals and families along life’s journey by providing programs that will help to improve their quality of life. A nonprofit serving western Pennsylvania, Lifesteps believes people of every ability have the right to live to their fullest potential. Services for children, families, adults with disabilities and seniors are designed to encourage growth, independence, confidence and dignity.

Programs span the age spectrum, ranging from free developmental screenings for infants and toddlers to programs that allow adults with intellectual disabilities to live an “Everyday Life,” encouraged to be as independent as possible.

To learn more, visit


“Nothing is boring except to people who aren’t really paying attention.”

Michael Chabon, American novelist, “Summerland,” born on this date in 1963

Indiana Area school board makes personnel moves

A long list of personnel moves was approved as part of Monday’s agenda for the Indiana Area School District’s board of directors:

• Mikayla Dokos was hired as a long-term secondary math substitute teacher for the 2023-24 school year at a per diem rate of $250.41, pending receipt of all required paperwork.

• Subject to 60-day probation periods, the board hired Matthew Boring as a food service truck driver/custodian ($13.75 per hour, effective Monday), Savannah Fields as a custodian ($12.75, effective May 10) and Karissa Spencer as a paraeducator ($12.75, effective Tuesday). Spencer’s approval also is pending receipt of all necessary paperwork.

• Effective Aug. 23, pending receipt of updated clearances and clear Act 168 forms, the board hired Faith Buggey as an art teacher ($51,752 salary, Step 1, Instructional 1), Amanda Hilliard as a learning support teacher ($51,752, Step 1, Instructional 1), Casey Williams as a music teacher ($77,939, Step 2, Masters), Mary Sabatini as a senior high English teacher ($78,739, Step 3, Masters), and as junior high science teachers Bradley Adams ($76,339, Step 3, Bachelor’s) and Lisa Adams ($82,339, Step 3, Masters+30 credit hours).

• Also effective Aug. 23 and pending clearances, the board is filling two newly-created junior high positions, with Magdalena Cassidy teaching English Language Arts ($55,237, Step 2, Instructional 1) and Matthew Reed teaching math ($78,739, Step 3, Masters).

• Hired for summer learning camp positions at their per diem rate are facilitators Leanne Jack and Lori Dadson, teachers Brenda O’Barto, Matt Scaife, Shelly Wright, April Morealli, Valerie Birch, Korrie Alexander, Lisa Freidhoff, Alicia Haggerty, Ed Kocinski, Robyn Nicewonger, Cybil Peoples, Tara Maruca, Kristy Mannings and Tara Pangonis, substitute teachers Angie Petroff and Robert Stewart, and nurse Tracy Pecora.

• Also hired for summer learning camp as tutors at $30 per hour are Emily Vogel, Nicole Ianarelli, Lindsay Beck, Maria Cassidy, Emily Rissinger, Maria Cerro, Haley Baldinger, Ralph Stewart, Amber Stewart, Grant Distefano, Bridget Sherry, Maura King, Heather Hooks, Nicole Reninger, Kelsey Craig, Skyler Branton, Lo’gom Lombard, Jodi Garzelli, Kayla Bosely, Brooke Deyarmin and substitute Quinten Brocious.

• Also hired for summer learning camp as support staff, at their contracted rates, are paraeducators Renee Deabenderfer, Kayla Mumau, Demita Greene, Melanie Williams and Chaya Matos; teacher aide Tara Maharaj; and licensed practical nurses Anita Small and Tracy Harper.

• For summer school, these teachers were approved at their per diem rate as per the Computer Mediated Instruction Matrix in the collective bargaining agreement with the Indiana Area Education Association: Coordinator Steve Cochran (also math instructor); Science (Recovery) Instructor Jamie Edmonds; Health and Physical Education instructors Pete Woytowish and Rachel Horrell; Social Studies instructors Candice Lockard and Casey Hoffman; Pam Distefano in the Computer Applications Course and Jan Brocious in Career and Work Readiness.

The presentation by Buildings/Grounds & Transportation Chair Terry Kerr focused on Eisenhower and East Pike activity.

Kerr’s committee recommended and the board concurred as the district administration was authorized to release a request for bids for asbestos abatement at Eisenhower Elementary, in preparation for the renovation/addition project there.

Change orders and soil bearing tests were approved for East Pike and the district administration building that is part of the East Pike complex in White Township.

One change order was for updated prices for materials needed in a replacement of the administration building roof that originally was approved in October 2021.

At that meeting, at the recommendation of Kerr’s committee, the board approved the proposal from C.E. Davis Contracting LLC of Ford City to replace the roof of the East Pike school for $718,472 and, separately, to replace the roof of the adjacent administration office for $57,631.

On Monday night, a change order for $18,041.74 was approved from Duro Last System, for which Davis is a contractor.

Also at the recommendation of Kerr’s committee, change orders of $6,889.13 and $5,027.80 were approved for the East Pike old office renovation project, while a proposal from Ackenheil Engineers for soil bearing testing for that project was approved at an estimated cost of $4,000.

At the recommendation of the Academic/Extracurricular Committee chaired by School Director Tom Harley, the board approved two student disciplinary agreements as well as these agreements:

• With the Center for Orthopedics and Sports Medicine for physician services during the 2023-24 school year.

• For special education services at Indiana County Technology Center.

• With Adelphia Education Inc. for a general alternative education program including behavioral support.

• For purchase of a Link-It! Data Management, Benchmarking and Intervention Management System at a cost of $57,306 a year for the next three years.

• For April Morealli and Shelley Wright to become certified trainers in Acadience Benchmarking at a cost of $1,354.

• To send Ben Franklin Principal Kelly Urbani to the Reading Science Summit from June 26-29 in Cincinnati, at a cost to the district not to exceed $686.32.

• For service from The Children’s Institute.

The board also approved participation in the ARIN Intermediate Unit 28’s Guest Teacher Consortium for 2023-24 at a cost of $500; reappointed Dr. Christina Lubold as district physician for 2023-24 at a rate of $4,500, plus $5 per mandated physical; and reappointed the Indiana County Dental Society and affiliated dentists to serve as district dentist at a rate of $1,000 plus $1.50 per mandated dental exam.

River Valley school board OKs new 5-year collective bargaining agreement with teachers union

The River Valley School District board of directors approved (7-2) a five-year collective bargaining agreement with the River Valley Education Association for the 2024-25 school year Tuesday.

The new contract will provide greater healthcare coverage for teachers as well as wage increases, according to board president Rick Harper. Board members Beverly Caranese and Melanie Pantalone were the only board members to vote against the motion.

“The teachers are getting a healthier raise, they’re not paying for their health care and we’re not paying for the HSA (Health Savings Account) costs anymore,” Harper said. “So, both sides win. ... It’s $600,000 in savings for us, but we’re putting the money back into the teachers’ salaries, and we’re also going to the new (Allegheny County Schools Health Insurance) Consortium for the health care.”

The new agreement provides competitive compensation with starting salaries at $71,900, annual increases of 3.2 percent for professional employees and an attendance incentive program, according to a River Valley news release. Under the agreement, the district will also adopt a new health insurance plan with reduced out-of-pocket and copay costs.

“The five-year contract allows the district to hire and retain the best teachers in a tight labor market,” Harper said. “River Valley is thriving thanks to teachers who work tirelessly to provide the best education for our students.”

Kathy Muir, president of the River Valley Education Association, a union representing 130 district employees including teachers, school councilors and nurses, agreed that the new contract will help with teacher retention and recruitment efforts.

“At a time when there is a statewide teacher shortage, we’re proud to bring a long-term contract to this district,” Muir said. “Our bargaining team has worked hard to reach an agreement that positions the district financially well and will make River Valley a place where talented teachers come to work and build their career.”

Also Tuesday, the school board voted, 7-2, to approve a $4 million bid/change order for phases 1, 2 and 3 of the district’s athletic complex project, with Caranese and Pantalone voting against the motion.

The cost the board approved Tuesday was roughly $180,000 over the $3.9 million budgeted for the first three phases of the project. But the overall project is still on budget, according to Harper, because the board voted in April to reduce the scope of the field house, saving the district roughly $2 million in project costs.

The first three phases of the athletic complex include a variety of infrastructure projects that will commence as early as Wednesday, May 31, according to Harper.

“There’s some ground-leveling to do,” Harper said. “We also have to run water, sewer and electric all underground, and we have to fix the sewage line behind the (high school) building here. We hope to get a grant for that. ... We have to build retaining walls, tear up a portion of the parking lot, move all the existing ball fields, and so forth. All that needs done.”

In other news Tuesday, the school board passed a variety of motions, including:

• Approving a five-year extension agreement with Twisted Computing, with Caranese and Pantalone voting against the motion.

“We’re happy to continue working with Twisted Computing,” Harper said. “They’ve been a stellar performer for the past five years. We’re looking forward to the next five years working with them.”

• Approving a five-year agreement with Smith Bus Company for student transportation beginning July 1 and ending June 30, 2028.

“Smith Bus was able to work with us,” Harper said. “And as (board member and transportation committee chair Jessica) Clawson alluded to, we’re getting four propane busses, so it’s better for the environment.”

• Authorizing and approving participation in the Allegheny County School Health Insurance Consortium.

• Approving professional development services by Kevin Honeycutt in an amount not to exceed $9,500, including transportation costs.

• Approving the purchase of 10 HP EliteBook Notebook computers, for administrative staff, in an amount not to exceed $21,134.40, as a CoSTARS pricing from Twisted Computing, with Caranese and Pantalone voting against the motion.

• Approving the purchase of 26 HP EliteDesk desktop computers, in an amount not to exceed $36,312.02, at a CoSTARS pricing from Twisted Computing, with Caranese and Pantalone voting against the motion.

• Approving consulting services by Andrew Paulhamus to develop the new biomedical program and courses for the River Valley STEAM Academy, at a rate of $40 per hour, not to exceed $7,500, with Caranese and Pantalone voting against the motion.

• Authorizing administration to implement the 2023-24 staffing plan, with Caranese, Clawson and Pantalone voting against the motion.

• Approving Carrie Detwiler as the health occupations instructor, as part of the River Valley Education Association, retroactive to February, with Caranese, Clawson and Pantalone voting against the motion.

Pioneer Saltsburg area cemetery is the topic for Historical Society

SALTSBURG — A historic Conemaugh Township cemetery founded by a family that was among the original pioneers of Indiana County will be the focus of a presentation Thursday night at the Saltsburg Historical Society’s meeting at 7 p.m. at the borough building, 320 Point St., Saltsburg.

“The Robinson River Hill Cemetery ... was established in 1794 on a small piece of land owned by Robert Robinson which he called the ‘York,’” said James Sagan, who is making the presentation. “The Robinsons were a prominent family in the southwestern part of the county in the 1700s, 1800s, and early 1900s.”

Sagan has researched this family for a book, “The Journey Forward,” which will be coming out at the end of the month.

An 1880 “History of Indiana County” by J. A. Caldwell described “the above grave-yard” located some “100 rods,” or about a quarter of a mile as a rod is a surveyor’s unit measuring 16½ feet, “from the southwest corner of the county, on an elevation of 200 feet above the Kiskiminetas River.”

The cemetery is on part of more than 210 acres deeded to Robert Robinson on Feb. 25, 1786.

“This old cemetery is no longer used and has not had a burial for over 175 years,” Sagan said. “The first burial occurred in September 1795 and (burials) continued until 1848.”

In the presentation he has scheduled for Thursday night, he talks about how a mistake wound up obscuring the purpose of the cemetery between a land sale in 1798 to Thomas Hindman and the resale of a portion of that land that included the cemetery to Robinson’s grandson and other individuals in 1837.

“I’m planning on inviting anyone interested to join us the next day, Friday, to hike up to the cemetery for a first-hand look,” Sagan said.

He also plans to ask if anyone is interested in volunteering to help in the restoration of the site.

DeSantis plans to announce presidential bid today
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis plans to announce his 2024 presidential campaign in a Twitter Spaces event with Elon Musk on Wednesday

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, long seen as Donald Trump’s leading rival for the Republican nomination, plans to launch his 2024 presidential campaign today in an online conversation with Twitter CEO Elon Musk, according to two people with knowledge of the decision.

DeSantis, an outspoken cultural conservative, will outline his plans in an evening audio event streamed on Twitter Spaces, according to the two people. They spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the announcement publicly.

The 44-year-old two-term governor joins a crowded Republican contest to decide whether the party will move on from Trump in 2024. DeSantis has embraced Trump’s combative style and many of his policies, but casts himself as a younger and more electable version of the former president.

In choosing Twitter, DeSantis is taking a page out of the playbook that helped turn businessman-TV celebrity Trump into a political star.

The timing of DeSantis’ long-expected announcement has been shrouded, with various iterations of plans being leaked over the past few days. Some close to him suspected that he was providing conflicting information about the timing and location to root out leakers. Others believe he changed his initial preparations after news reports came out about them.

Musk, speaking at The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit event in London on Tuesday, seemed to confirm the Wednesday event, saying DeSantis would be making “quite an announcement” on Twitter the next day. “The first time something like this is happening on social media,” he said, with live questions and answers. The announcement is scheduled for 6 p.m. EDT.

He added that he is not endorsing any particular candidate at this time.

Meanwhile, Trump on Tuesday made a video appearance in a New York courtroom, where the judge tentatively scheduled a criminal trial for the former president for next March 25, in the heart of the primary season. Trump pleaded not guilty last month to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records at his family company, the Trump Organization.

While it is common for campaigns to publicize their announcements in videos shared on social media, it is far more unusual — and perhaps unprecedented — to hold a campaign announcement in a live social media forum.

“Big if true ...” DeSantis’ wife, Casey, posted Tuesday on Twitter, linking to a Fox News story on the announcement and adding a smiley face.

Earlier Tuesday, the Florida governor gave no hints of his 2024 plans during a short Cabinet meeting in Tallahassee where he discussed state business with agency heads. The media was barred from covering a subsequent bill signing ceremony.

DeSantis has emerged as a national star in Republican politics as an unapologetic leader on controversial issues.

The governor sent dozens of immigrants from Texas — by way of Florida — to a small island off the Massachusetts coast to draw attention to the influx of Latin American immigrants trying to cross the Southern border. He signed and then expanded a Parental Rights in Education bill — known by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” law — which bans instruction or classroom discussion of LGBTQ issues in Florida public schools for all grades.

More recently, he signed a law banning abortions at six weeks, which is before most women realize they’re pregnant. And he removed an elected prosecutor who vowed not to charge people under Florida’s new abortion restrictions or doctors who provide gender-affirming care.

Trump’s allies lashed out Tuesday at DeSantis’s plan.

“This is one of the most out-of-touch campaign launches in modern history. The only thing less relatable than a niche campaign launch on Twitter, is DeSantis’ after party at the uber elite Four Seasons resort in Miami,” said Karoline Leavitt, a spokeswoman for Trump’s super PAC.

Trump himself frequently dismisses his rival as Ron “DeSanctimonious.”

In choosing to announce with Musk, DeSantis is linking his presidential announcement to one of the world’s richest men, who has emerged as a conservative cult hero of sorts.

Since buying Twitter last October, Musk has reinstated the accounts of prominent Republicans including Trump and Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene who had been removed. Popular conservative broadcasters have flocked to Twitter, with ousted Fox News host Tucker Carlson and the podcast hosts of The Daily Wire announcing they will start streaming on the platform.

Musk himself has promoted far-right conspiracy theories on Twitter, including misleading claims questioning a Texas mall shooter’s background and a debunked rumor that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband had a relationship with an assailant who attacked him.

Earlier this month, Musk’s tweets likening billionaire philanthropist George Soros to a Jewish supervillain were met with criticism from the Anti-Defamation League, which said they would embolden antisemitic extremists. Musk responded on Twitter clarifying his criticism of Soros and saying he would “be more thoughtful in the future.”

Twitter was once Trump’s most important megaphone — one he used to dominate his rivals in the 2016 primary and to command the news cycle for years. Trump was barred from the platform after Jan. 6, 2021. Though his access was reinstated shortly after Musk took over, he has yet to tweet.

About 1 in 5 U.S. adults say they use Twitter, the Pew Research Center found last year.

Democrats are somewhat more likely than Republicans to say they have Twitter accounts, according to a Fox News poll from December. Republicans are far more likely than Democrats to say Musk buying Twitter was a good thing and to have a favorable view of him.


ASTOLOS, Charles J. Sr., 85, Saltsburg

CARNAHAN, Harry C. “Smokey” Sr., 79, Blairsville

HUTTON, Mildred Emma “Louise” (Shupe), 80, Home

MUIR, C. James, 83, Shelocta

VELTRE, Orlando Dominick “Nick”, 66, Alverda

Late Death

PERLONGO, Daniel J., 80, Penn Run