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BLAIRSVILLE-SALTSBURG: Board discusses early dismissals

by on February 20, 2014 10:50 AM

BURRELL TOWNSHIP — More than half a year into a program that dismisses students early on Fridays, the Blairsville-Saltsburg school board discussed the policy amid some parental criticism Wednesday while considering next year’s school calendar.

Assistant Superintendent Ian Magness deemed the responses “constructive feedback,” though there were “certainly some negative consequences.”

At Wednesday’s board meeting, parent Amanda Vresilovic expressed her disapproval to the board, saying the early dismissal on Fridays is a hardship for some in regard to child care.

She also criticized the program for its 28-minute class periods for secondary students on Fridays, and said her elementary-aged son misses not having special classes such as library or gym, on Fridays.

Magness addressed her concerns, saying the frequency of specials has not decreased. In core classes at the secondary level, they are blocked back-to-back so a student gets two 28-minute periods of instruction.

Child care, he admitted can be hard to come by, especially for families who only need services for that day.

Most day cares charge a minimum fee, and options are limited.

As the program has grown, “we’ve grown along with it,” making adjustments, Magness said after the meeting.

With feedback from teachers and refocused efforts, teachers have “really been able to accomplish quite a bit” in the hours after dismissal on Fridays, when they participate in training sessions. He said he is “hopeful that will articulate into increased student achievement.”

The proposed calendar for 2014-15, discussed at Wednesday’s meeting, continues the practice of early dismissal on Fridays.

In other business Wednesday, the board:

• Was honored by computer company Apple with the Distinguished Program Award.

David Diokno presented an award to the school district, accepted by teachers who were instrumental in obtaining that recognition, Magness said.

The designation was given to just five schools in Pennsylvania and 109 nationally.

The designation was given to the district for “its demonstrated ability to transform learning and promote innovations using mobile tools and dynamic instructional practice,” according to a previous news release.

[PHOTO: Apple Computers honored the Blairsville-Saltsburg School District with its Distinguished Program award Wednesday for the years 2013 to 2015. Accepting the award were teachers who were instrumental in obtaining the distinction, according to Assistant Superintendent Ian Magness. From left are Melissa Milanak, business and technology teacher at Saltsburg; Jeanie Hertzler, literacy coach; Lauren Falcsik, Saltsburg English teacher; Jeff Smathers, Saltsburg Elementary; Stacie Isenberg, technology integration coach; Joshua Cunningham, secondary librarian and media specialist; and Naysa Altmyer, Spanish/ESL. (Teri Enciso/Gazette photo)]

• Discussed implementing consistent policies for the selection of drum majors on both sides of the district. At the urging of board member Beverly Caranese, the board will vote next month on requiring tryouts for the position. Currently, tryouts are implemented in Blairsville, but the band director selects the Saltsburg drum majors. This requirement may be added to the band director’s job description.

• Accepted a $33,145 Rural & Low Income Schools grant.

• Will participate in the ARIN Pregnant and Parenting Teens program for $1,800 for the 2014-15 year.

• Will evaluate a standby power generator for the freezer/refrigeration system at Blairsville Middle/High School with HHSDR.

• Accepted a grant from the Pennsylvania Game Commission to fund an Archery in Schools Program in the high school physical education course.

• Approved an English as a second language program.

• Approved the following supplemental contracted personnel for this year: Matt Nicely, volunteer coach, baseball; David Oswald, volunteer coach, softball; and Melissa Milanak, girls’ track assistant coach.

The following resignations were also accepted: Jessica Foor, BSSD girls’ track, assistant coach; and Bernard Stadtmiller, SMHS baseball assistant coach.

• Approved leave for the following employees: Julie Obney, SES teacher, May 22 to the end of the school year; Naysa Altmeyer, ESL/Spanish teacher, March 14 to the end of the year; and Employee No. 0711, intermittently through the end of the year. School officials declined to identify this employee.

• Hired Jessica Monk as a long-term ESL/Spanish substitute from March 14 to the end of the school year for $20,000 and no benefits; and Amelia Crockeras, long-term biology substitute, $20,000 with no benefits.

Margaret Weaver has served as a Gazette staff writer since 2006. She covers Clymer Borough, the Blairsville-Saltsburg School District and Blairsville court, and also works in the areas of layout, design and editing. She can be reached at
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