Homer Center schools sign 02

With little comment other than to offer thoughts and prayers for his recovery, school directors  accepted Kunko’s notice Wednesday evening at the board’s rescheduled monthly business meeting.

The district earlier advertised for applications for the business manager post, board President Michael Bertig said, and the board may be poised to name a replacement on March 19.

The Homer-Center board agreed to a two-year contract effective Aug. 19 with Kunko, the successor to Greg Cessna, who accepted a position at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

David Piper, of Indiana, was named Dec. 5 to fill in as the district’s fiscal controller on an hourly basis during Kunko’s absence.

In other business, the board:

• Voted to spend as much as $33,000 for the purchase and installation of security cameras in the schools. At a reporter’s request, the directors identified the supplier as Directech but they provided no other information about the planned safety measure.

• Dedicated a round of debate then cast a split vote on the district’s calendar for the 2020-21 school year.

Traditional sentiments prompted give-and-take: Should students be in class before Labor Day? How deep into June should classes remain in session? Should the Easter break be padded with snow makeup days?

The directors’ wishes expressed at the Feb. 6 planning session, for a tweak to the teachers’ slate of in-service days, was incorporated: There will be no classes Monday, Feb. 1, 2021, but the faculty will be in school for parent-teacher conferences.

And a community wish that emerged in an online survey of district residents also shaped the calendar, Bertig said. The day before Christmas Eve — Wednesday, Dec. 23 — has been granted as a day off. Students will be off until Monday, Jan. 4, 2021.

With no clear consensus on the Thanksgiving holiday, either through the web-based survey or board debate, the district will be closed from Wednesday, Nov. 25, through Monday, Nov. 30.

Students will attend class through Thursday, June 3, and teachers will finish with a “clerical day” on Friday, June 4, 2021.

Over the objection of Director Dan Fabin, the lone “no” vote in an 8 to 1 approval, the school year will begin Wednesday, Aug. 19, for teachers and Tuesday, Aug. 25, for students. The majority held to the sentiment that students ought to be in class for as many days as possible before taking the rigorous standardized state assessment tests — the PSSAs and Keystone exams — scheduled in April and May.

Fabin raised another question as the board voted to approve March 23 as a makeup day for classes lost due to snow on Feb. 7: Why are students scheduled to return after the last weekend of May to attend one-half day of classes on Monday, June 1, as the last day of the current school year?

Board members agreed to revisit the question later — “after winter,” in some directors’ view — to see where a scheduled day off could be turned into a class day so the school year could end May 29. The remaining off days are April 9 and 10, preceding Easter; April 13 and 14, following Easter; May 8, the day of the prom; and May 25, Memorial Day.

• Offered a round of praise and best wishes for boys’ basketball coach Bob Rado, after voting to formally accept his notice of retirement from the hardwood.

“He not only taught basketball but he made it a point to teach life lessons to those young men,” board member James McLoughlin said.

Director Michael Schmidt echoed that. “He taught them to be responsible young men,” he said.

“He ran the program with class,” director Gerald Bertig said.

Rado, who mentored the Wildcats for 13 years, reached the 500 victory milestone on Jan. 17 and finished with 502 wins in his 37-year coaching career.

• Changed the date for the April 16 school board meeting to April 15.

• Saluted several honor students at the outset of the meeting, including Grace Neal, the Senior of the Month recognized by the Homer City Kiwanis; fifth-grader Elizabeth Brown, the recipient of the Wildcat Recognition Award for the elementary school; and ninth-grader Rose Terranova, the Wildcat award winner for the high school.

• Approved the district’s participation in the Armstrong-Indiana Intermediate Unit’s Pregnant and Parent Teen program at a cost of $900.

• Authorized Piper to establish a rebate credit card account for the district.

• Ratified a cyber services agreement between the district and Seneca Valley School District at a base annual maintenance fee of $1,500.

• Approved the ARIN IU No. 28 general operating budget of $3.5 million for 2020-21. The school district’s share of the expense will be unchanged from the current year at $27,235.

• Created a new Policy Committee, composed of directors Michael Bertig, Christa Pontani Palmer and Michael Schmidt, to meet twice a year to review school board policies.

• Approved board member McLoughlin and district resident Martin Maschak as unpaid volunteers and Richard Sacco as a paid scorekeeper for the baseball team for the 2019-20 school year.

• Approved the sale of old band keyboards and allocation of the funds to the music department budget.

• Approved Patrick Shipley as a substitute guest teacher though ARIN for the remainder of the school year.

• Accepted the resignation of security officer Charges Waller, retroactive to Jan. 20.

• Hired Aliyah Clowser as a four-hour cafeteria workers in the high school retroactive to Jan 29 at $10.52 an hour.

• Reassigned Kermit Kurek, a four-hour, 12-month custodian, to an eight-hour, 12-month position retroactive to Feb. 10.

• Approved three requests of staff members to attend professional conferences.

• Granted three requests for use of buildings and grounds.

• Renewed contracts with Frontline Technologies for the 2020-21 school year in the amount of $5,243.

• Authorized the fifth-grade teachers and students to visit the Gateway Clipper in Pittsburgh on May 22 at no cost to the district.

Staff writer/Web Editor, The Indiana (Pa.) Gazette

Staff Writer/Web Editor

Chauncey Ross represents the Gazette at the Indiana Area and Homer-Center school boards and White Township, Center Township, Homer City and Burrell Township, and is something of an Open Records, Right to Know and Sunshine Law advocate in the newsroom.