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INDIANA: Bench, trees to honor lives of student, teacher

by on June 10, 2014 10:55 AM

It’s been a somber end to the academic year in the Indiana Area School District.

The school board of directors on Monday voted to accept donations of a bench and tree in memory of Ben Franklin Elementary School student Gabby Novak, who died with her mother Nickole Novak and stepfather Shawn Marsh on May 18, when a fire destroyed their mobile home in White Township.

Students, parents and staff have donated funds for the memorial to the popular third-grader.

Ben Franklin School Principal Robert Rizzo said the donations also will go toward a sponsorship brick at the Miracle League Field under construction at the YMCA of Indiana County, not far from Ben Franklin School. The remaining contributions will go to a fund on behalf of Gabby’s surviving brother and sister, Rizzo said.

The board also accepted a donation of a tree in memory of Mark Hess, the junior high physical education teacher and varsity swimming coach who died Sept. 6. The tree will be planted on the junior high grounds.

The school board also approved the contribution of thousands of books to the junior high from personal reading libraries of retiring teachers John Lyons and Nancy Pottmeyer.

In other business, the board:

• Agreed to help fund improvements to Kennedy-King Park along Josephine Avenue, White Township, at a cost of $7,000.

The township, which already has grant money to pay for upgrades, will use the district contribution to add a larger backstop and additional fences to a ball field, and give the Indiana Area Senior High School softball team top priority for use of the field in March, April and May.

• On a divided vote, approved revisions to the social studies curriculum for third- through ninth-graders.

Board member Diana Paccapaniccia said she opposed the changes on behalf of district residents who disagree with Common Core education standards being enacted through federal and state mandates.

Directors voted 6 to 2 for the revisions, with John Barbor, Deborah Clawson, Julia Trimarchi Cuccaro, Thomas Harley, Brian Petersen and John Uccellini in favor, and Paccapaniccia and Robert Gongaware opposed. Hilliary Creely was absent from the meeting.

• Approved an agreement for the Purchase Line School District to become a member of the Indiana County Technology Center. The agreement calls for Purchase Line to pay just over $1 million, at a rate of $51,062 a year for 20 years, for a share of ownership of ICTC.

Purchase Line will become the seventh school district partner in operating the technology center. It is the last of the Indiana County-headquartered districts to join.

“This is historic,” said Cuccaro, Indiana’s representative to the ICTC operating committee. “This is now truly a county asset.”

As a member district, Purchase Line will pay lower student tuition rates, estimated at $119,000 for 2014-15. Combined with its first ownership fee for a total of $170,000, ICTC figures show Purchase Line would save more than $50,000 from the estimated tuition fee of $223,000 for the coming year.

• Formally affirmed the reduction of the music teaching staff from 9.2 to 8.2 positions, allowing a retired teacher’s position to go unfilled through attrition. A suggestion to replace the retiree with a part-time music teacher ended May 12 when the board voted 4 to 4 on the proposal.

Elementary grade school realignment will provide scheduling efficiency needed to maintain all current music instruction offerings, according to a recommendation from the board’s academic and extracurricular committee.

• Agreed to end a lease for a Homer City area apartment used as a learning lab for the life skills program, and to use the furnishings to create an apartment-like setting in the senior high school and to continue the course.

• Hired Michael Lehman as an earth and space science teacher effective Aug. 21 at a salary of $48,000.

• Hired Evan Squires and Dale Pearce and part-time summer maintenance workers effective today to help move supplies among the elementary schools for up to five weeks at $7.25 an hour.

• Renewed a consulting agreement with David Allen for school psychologist services at an average of 20 hours a week at a rate of $51 an hour.

• Approved a contract with Citizens’ Ambulance Service to provide an ambulance at 21 varsity, junior varsity and junior high football games at a cost of $3,250, a reduction of $325 from the 2013 season.

• Ratified an agreement for day treatment services for 2014-15 provided by Adelphoi Village.

• Approved attendance by Holly Rougeaux at the International Society for Technology in Education Connected Learned, Connected World Conference from June 27 to July 2 in Atlanta at a cost not to exceed $2,778.

• Accepted the resignation of senior high custodian William Yeamans for retirement, effective Thursday, and directed the administration to post the position.

• Approved leaves of absence for senior high art teacher Beth Porter from the beginning of the school year until Dec.1; for paraprofessional Jennifer Musser, effective May 27; and for paraprofessional Carrie Grudzien from Aug. 22 through the end of the 2014-15 school year.

• Approved tenure contracts to Alpha program teacher Claire Greenhill, junior high special-education teacher Sarah Kovach, senior high family and consumer science teacher Genna Chilson and senior high German teacher Kayla Thomas, who have satisfactorily completed three years of teaching.

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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