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Virginia Beach students learn reality of Indiana deli

Employees at a downtown Indiana restaurant were minding their own business a few months back, just scooping soup and heaping hot steak and cold cuts on the customers’ sub and sandwich orders.

A phone caller, from 400 miles away, interrupted the routine to ask if 9th Street Deli was for real.

It was a teacher from Birdneck Elementary School in Virginia Beach, Va., asking on behalf of a class of fifth-grade math students whether their math lesson in money, based on a menu from 9th Street Deli, was the real deal.

Yes, Virginia. There is a 9th Street Deli.

For more than 13 years, Birdneck teacher Jo Anne Coauette instructed kids in the nuances of the decimal system using a decades-old menu from an unheard of sandwich shop. All well and good. Until this year, when a class of 22 students wouldn’t let it go.

“Is this for real?” they demanded.

Coauette dialed the phone number shown on the menu and heard “9th Street Deli, can I help you?” as confirmation.

Owner Josh Muscatello found it equally curious that a school named Birdneck was using his restaurant’s old menu for teaching ‘rithmetic.

Muscatello told Coauette he wanted to meet the class and hear about their fascination with his sub and sandwich shop, and set up a visit to Birdneck bringing tokens of good will from Indiana.

First was a package of 2023 menus, that Muscatello used to teach a lesson in menu pricing, changes and percentages.

Next was a cooler full of meats and cheeses and sub rolls, to serve up the real deal — 9th Street Deli sub sandwiches for Coauette and every kid in the classroom.

Finally were gifts from Muscatello’s 9th Street Deli ownership partners, who also run a school supply business in Indiana, The largely online operation is based on West Pike in White Township.

The origin of the lesson plan based on a restaurant two states away has been a secondary matter. After asking whether 9th Street Deli wasn’t a piece of fiction, the question of how the real-life menu found its way to Virginia Beach seems to only have been asked — and answered — among the teachers.

Once the tale of the connection reached the airwaves, and website and Facebook page, of Virginia Beach TV station WVEC (13NewsNow), it struck familiar chords. Math teacher Michelle Montillo posted on the TV station’s page that she received the same lesson plan from Gwendolyn Tolbert Best, a graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, who spent her career teaching in Virginia.

Best joined the commenting in response to Coauette’s remarks on 9th Street Deli’s Facebook page, who said her Southampton County School District students also asked about the reality of the deli when she first devised word problems based on menu pricing in 1999.

Best, a 1993 undergrad and 1995 master’s degree recipient at IUP, told the Gazette of her passion for teaching student about “real world” math.

“One of the things that was important to me was kids had context, that numbers were real,” she said. “I love making sure kids can create their own word problems. That’s where the 9th Street Deli came into play. It was a real restaurant that I loved, and when those kids worked out those problems, it brought back memories of Indiana to me.”

It wasn’t an actual menu taken from the restaurant when she graduated from IUP, Best said. She downloaded it a few years later from the deli’s website.

As she rose within her profession to serve as a teacher leader and a presenter at statewide professional development conferences in Virginia, she shared the 9th Street Deli decimal and pricing unit with untold numbers of other teachers of math.

“Part of getting teachers to love math is to give them rich resources,” Best said.

Coauette was among them and adopted the deli math lessons into her curriculum at Virginia Beach.

In her comment on the 9th Street Deli Facebook page, Coauette called the visit from Muscatello “the highlight of my 20 plus teaching years.”

Muscatello earned some validation for his venture to share real life 24-inch subs with the curious students. Multiple posts on the Channel 13 Facebook page came from IUP grads or former Indiana area residents who shared their memories of dining at the deli.

Best, originally of Sharpsville, Mercer County, said she also relived her memories of studying and student teaching in Indiana by developing lessons based on another area restaurant.

It was in the mid-1990s when she accepted a student teaching assignment at Penns Manor Elementary School and became fond of a local Italian restaurant of some renown.

Somewhere in some Virginia elementary schools, other students have learned to apply real-life math lessons based on another local menu. It’s not known whether they’ve questioned its authenticity.

But, yes, Virginia. If anyone asks, there certainly is a Luigi’s Ristorante in Clymer.

AP featured
Debt limit talks in standstill as Republicans, White House face 'real differences'
Debt limit talks came to an abrupt standstill after Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said it’s time to “pause” negotiations

WASHINGTON — Debt limit talks came to an abrupt standstill Friday after Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said it’s time to “pause” negotiations, and a White House official acknowledged there are “real differences” making further discussions difficult.

McCarthy said resolution to the standoff is “easy,” if only Democratic President Joe Biden’s team would agree to some spending cuts Republicans are demanding. The biggest impasse was over the fiscal 2024 top-line budget amount, according to a person briefed on the talks and granted anonymity to discuss them. Democrats staunchly oppose the steep reductions Republicans have put on the table as potentially harmful to Americans.

It is unclear when negotiations would resume, though talks could pick up again over the weekend.

“We’ve got to get movement by the White House and we don’t have any movement yet,” McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters at the Capitol. “So, yeah, we’ve got to pause.”

A White House official who was granted anonymity Friday to discuss the private conversations said there are “real differences” between the parties on the budget issues and further “talks will be difficult.”

The official added that the president’s team is working hard towards a “reasonable bipartisan solution” that can pass both the House and the Senate.

Biden’s administration is racing to strike a deal with Republicans led by McCarthy as the nation careens toward a potentially catastrophic debt default if the government fails to increase the borrowing limit, now at $31 trillion, to keep paying the nation’s bills.

Wall Street turned lower as negotiations on raising the nation’s debt limit came to a sudden halt, raising worries that the country could edge closer to risking a highly damaging default on U.S. government debt.

The president who has been in Japan attending the Group of Seven summit had no immediate comment. Biden had already planned to cut short the rest of his trip and he is expected to return to Washington later Sunday.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden planned to be briefed on the negotiations by his team Friday evening. Biden had departed early from a Friday night dinner with G7 leaders in Hiroshima.

Negotiators met Friday for a third day behind closed doors at the Capitol with hopes of settling on an agreement this weekend before possible House votes next week. They face a looming deadline as soon as June 1 when the Treasury Department has said it will run out of cash to pay the government’s incurred debt.

Republicans want to extract steep spending cuts arguing the nation’s deficit spending needs to get under control, rolling back spending to fiscal 2022 levels and restricting future growth. But Biden’s team is countering that the caps Republicans proposed in their House-passed bill would amount to 30 percent reductions in some programs if defense and veterans are spared, according to a memo from the Office of Management and Budget.

Any deal would need the support of both Republicans and Democrats to find approval in a divided Congress and be passed into law. Negotiators are eyeing a more narrow budget cap deal of a few years, rather than the decade-long caps Republicans initially wanted, and clawing back some $30 billion of unspent COVID-19 funds.

Still up for debate are policy changes, including a framework for permitting reforms to speed the development of energy projects, as well as the Republican push to impose work requirements on government aid recipients that Biden has been open to but the House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries has said was a “nonstarter.”

“Look, we can’t be spending more money next year,” McCarthy said at the Capitol. “We have to spend less than we spent the year before. It’s pretty easy.”

But McCarthy faces pressures from his hard-right flank to cut the strongest deal possible for Republicans, and he risks a threat to his leadership as speaker if he fails to deliver. Many House Republicans are unlikely to accept any deal with the White House.

The internal political dynamics confronting the embattled McCarthy leaves the Democrats skeptical of giving away too much to the Republicans and driving off the Democratic support they will need to pass any compromise through Congress.

Experts have warned that even the threat of a debt default would send shockwaves through the economy.

Markets had been rising this week on hopes of a deal. But that shifted abruptly Friday after negotiators ended late morning an hour after they had begun.

Rep. Garret Graves, R-La., tapped by McCarthy to lead the talks, emerged from an hour-long session at the Capitol and said gaps remained between House Republicans and the Democratic administration.

“It’s time to press pause because it’s just not productive,” Graves told reporters.

He added that the negotiations have become “just unreasonable” and that it was unclear when talks would resume.

Another Republican negotiator, Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, said, “There is a “serious gap” between the sides.

“We’re in a tough spot,” said McHenry, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, as he left the meeting.

The S&P 500 went from a gain of 0.3 percent to a loss of 0.1 percent and the Dow Jones Industrial Average went from a gain of 117 points to a loss of about 90 points.

As Republicans demand spending cuts and policy changes, Biden is facing increased pushback from Democrats, particularly progressives, who argue the reductions will fall too heavily on domestic programs that Americans rely on.

Some Democrats want Biden to invoke his authority under the 14th amendment to raise the debt ceiling on his own, an idea that raises legal questions and that the president has so far said he is not inclined to consider.

Pressure on McCarthy comes from the conservative House Freedom Caucus, which said late Thursday there should be no further discussions until the Senate takes action on the House Republican plan. That bill approved last month would raise the debt limit into 2024 in exchange for spending caps and policy changes. Biden has said he would veto that Republican measure.

In the Senate, which is controlled by majority Democrats, the Republican leader Mitch McConnell has taken a backseat publicly, and is pushing Biden to strike a deal directly with McCarthy.

McConnell blamed Biden for having “waited months before agreeing to negotiate” with the speaker.

“They are the only two who can reach an agreement,” McConnell said in a tweet. “It is past time for the White House to get serious. Time is of the essence.”

Westsylvania festival releases complete schedule

A complete tentative schedule has been released for the Delaney Chevrolet Westsylvania Jazz and Blues Festival on May 27 in downtown Indiana’s IRMC Park.

Some events also will take place on Friday, May 26, including a 7 p.m. Indiana Theater performance featuring Joe Saylor, an Indiana native, known to viewers of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” as “The Cowboy Drummer,” as well as Grammy-nominated saxophonist, composer and bandleader Patrick Bartley, bassist and multi-hyphenate musician Philip Kuehn and jazz pianist Emmet Cohen.

Kuehn also hails from Indiana and formerly played with Saylor at Indiana Area Senior High School as well as on the Colbert house band.

Tickets are available via Showclix.

Then on Saturday, May 27, events will start at 11 a.m. with a high school student band performance. The band is to be announced.

Then at noon it is Jazz In Your Face, a Johnstown-based band that performs Big Band-era music, sometimes filtered through a contemporary lens. JIYF’s repertoire also includes bebop, cool jazz, and jazz and Latin standards.

Next at 1:15 p.m. is Blues Attack, an award-winning keystone in the Pittsburgh blues scene, featuring Gregg Krupa (guitar and vocals) who has twice been named Best Blues Guitar Player by the Blues Society of Western Pennsylvania.

From 1:45 to 2:45 p.m. there will be a student clinic with Joe Saylor and Philip Kuehn at the Indiana Theater.

Meanwhile, at 2:30 p.m., the Norside Organ Trio will perform. Guitarist Glenn Strother describes this Pittsburgh-based band’s sound as “Rust Belt Funk,” incorporating elements of blues, jazz, funk and rock & roll while honoring the tradition of the organ trio (a jazz ensemble that includes a Hammond organ).

At 3:45 p.m. there’s Soulful Femme, a blues duo featuring vocalist Stevee Wellons and guitarist Cheryl Rinovato.

Each is an award-winning artist in her own right, that has performed with Mavis Staples, Robert Cray, Samantha Fish,

Joanne Shaw Taylor, Ana Popovic, Tommy Castro, Shemekia Copeland, Bernard Allison, Jeremiah Johnson, and Mike Zito.

Joe Saylor then will perform at 5:30 p.m., followed at 7 p.m. by Toronzo Cannon, a Chicago bus driver turned multiple Blues Music Award nominee.

Admission is always free to the day-long festival, whose lineup runs the gamut from student performances to regional acts and rising stars, to international touring artists. After-hours shows at local venues will keep the party going following the final performance. The after-hours schedule will be announced shortly.

For more information, visit the festival’s website.

Story updated on May 22 at 10:00 p.m.

Report: Rural areas have less access to substance use disorder resources

Individuals with substance use disorder living in rural areas of the country have significantly less access to treatment options, putting more strain on rural hospitals, a new study found.

The study, conducted by the East Tennessee State University/NORC Rural Health Equity Research Center, found that individuals with substance use disorder living in rural areas had limited access to health care providers, treatment programs, and specialty resources compared to those living in urban areas.

“While all areas of the country face a SUD epidemic, rural areas have been hit hardest and currently have limited resources to address the crisis,” Craig Holden, senior research scientist with the NORC Walsh Center for Rural Health Analysis, said.

The study noted that limited access to SUD prevention and treatment services can also affect local hospitals, by increasing inpatient hospital utilization.

The national rate of opioid-related inpatient hospital stays nearly doubled in the decade between 2007 to 2017 to a rate of 300 people per 100,000 population.

The study also examined admission characteristics based on available data and found that the percentage of inpatients with a primary SUD diagnosis admitted through court or law enforcement channels was four-and-a-half-times higher for rural residents (5.8 percent) than for urban residents (1.3 percent).

Medicaid was the largest primary payer of SUD-related inpatient stay claims for rural (44 percent) and urban patients (40 percent). However, the study found that patients from urban areas “more often had private insurance listed as the primary payer than rural resident patients.”

Rural regions of Pennsylvania have been deeply affected by the opioid epidemic and substance use disorder, with approximately 299,000 Pennsylvanians experiencing drug use disorder, according to 2020 state data.

Several rural counties report more than 620 individuals with drug use disorder over the same time frame, including Tioga County, Pike, Wayne, Columbia, Northumberland, Jefferson, Clearfield, Adams, Bedford, and Somerset counties.

“All Pennsylvanians living with substance use disorder deserve access to high-quality treatment no matter where they live,” Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Spokesperson Stephany Dugan, said.

The study found that patients from rural areas were younger, more often White females, “and had a primary SUD diagnosis more likely related to opioids, stimulants or other/miscellaneous substances as compared to urban patients.”

Patients from urban areas, by contrast, were more often diagnosed with alcohol-related SUD and had five or more comorbidities as compared to inpatients from rural areas, according to the study.

Dugan told the Capital-Star that DDAP, which oversees the state’s efforts to reduce substance misuse and dependency, is “working to expand access to treatment while ensuring high-quality, equitable resources so more Pennsylvanians can live long and healthy lives free from the disease of addiction.”

During former Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration, the agency held roundtables with stakeholders and community members in several counties across the commonwealth — including rural ones — hoping to learn what strategies they are employing at the local level to help people access care, and to hear where they could use more support and resources.

Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro has proposed allocating $48.1 million to the department’s efforts in his 2023-24 fiscal year budget.

Based on the study’s findings, researchers concluded that more data is needed to identify national ways “to improve and streamline access to SUD care for rural residents.”

“This study further highlights the importance of attention to those who live in rural areas and the urgency to bring equitable health resources to them,” Robert Pack, director of the ETSU/NORC Rural Health Equity Research Center, said in a statement.


DELEANDRO, Raymond J. “Raymo”, 90, Blairsville

GALLO, Richard G., 87, Blairsville

HOUSER, Thomasine (Long), 79, Blairsville

Late Deaths

HOUSER, Donna, 87, Penn Run

SIMON, Robert John, Sr., 64, Indiana


“Every man who says frankly and fully what he thinks is so far doing a public service. We should be grateful to him for attacking most unsparingly our most cherished opinions.” John Stuart Mill, English philosopher “On Liberty” (born on this date 1806-1873)