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INDIANA: Grant will help school create pre-K effort

by CHAUNCEY ROSS on July 09, 2013 11:00 AM

The late award of a state grant to the Indiana Area School District and the Blairsville-Saltsburg School District will support new pre-kindergarten programs and create four new jobs at the Indiana district.

The school districts will share in $628,800 being awarded through the Armstrong-Indiana Intermediate Unit, Superintendent Dale Kirsch told the Indiana board of school directors Monday.

Indiana will start Pre-K Counts programs at Benjamin Franklin and East Pike elementary schools and will have the option to renew the grant for four additional years. Similar programs are planned for the Blairsville and Saltsburg elementary schools.

Kirsch said the grant was announced after the state and school district had approved their 2013-14 budgets. The amount to be paid to each district will depend on the program expenses that each submits for reimbursement to ARIN, which coordinated the grant process.

To start the program, the board voted to advertise for two teachers with pre-kindergarten certification and two para-educators.

In other business, the board:

• Voted to begin a search for a curriculum coordinator or assistant superintendent.

Indiana’s curriculum coordinator, Mark Gross, has been offered a job as an assistant superintendent in another school district and, although he has not formally accepted the offer or tendered his resignation at Indiana, he is expected to take the job, Kirsch said.

The district will post virtually the same advertisement that was used one year ago when the district hired Gross.

“We want to get the process started,” Kirsch said. “If by chance he does not take that position, which seems unlikely, we just would cancel the search.”

• Hired Jennifer Moore as a speech and language teacher at a salary of $67,926 and Leah Lyons as a drama/English teacher at a salary of $66,712 beginning Aug. 22 on a vote of 5 to 1.

Board member Robert Gongaware said he voted no in protest of the pay rates provided by the teachers’ contract with consideration for the new employees’ education and experience. Compared to the salaries they earned at their previous jobs, Moore will earn 31 percent more and Lyons will earn 54 percent more, Gongaware said.

“On principle ... I will continue to vote no on replacement candidates until IAEA agrees to open a dialogue on entertaining change to the current practice,” Gongaware said.

Board President Thomas Harley and directors David Ferguson, Brian Petersen, Walter Schroth and Robert Werner voted in favor.

“I don’t mind paying the money when there already has been experience gained,” Ferguson said. “I have a little bit easier time accepting it rather than paying it for someone the first time out.”

Directors Alison Billon, Hilliary Creely and Diana Paccapaniccia were absent.

• Retained the law firm of Andrews & Beard, of Altoona, to conduct a review of the collective-bargaining agreement between the district and Indiana Area Education Association.

The analysis is intended to position the district for negotiation of a new contract, Harley said. The current CBA expires June 30, 2014.

A fee for the service will be presented for the board at the next meeting on Aug. 12.

• Appointed Harley, Petersen and a third director to be named later to represent the district as voting delegates at the Pennsylvania School Boards Association convention in October.

• Directed the administration to prepare an informative presentation on the district’s current and pending policies on school entry procedures.

Ferguson said the Outreach Committee had discussed concerns about parents’ abilities to enter the schools.

“We want to find out what is being proposed at the building level and perhaps offer some oversight and suggestions so we have some balance between allowing parents to have access to drop off lunches for their children, while keeping in mind the important safety component we have in taking care of them,” Ferguson said.

“The main purpose for this is to clarify what the policies are,” Harley said. “There are some rumors going around and we’d like to get these addressed.”

• Voted to support a community initiative to give the symbolic name James Nance Boulevard to the section of North Fifth Street in Indiana from Philadelphia Street to the White Township border and the connecting section of North Fifth Avenue to North Fourth Street.

Carl Kologie, of the Indiana County Sports Hall of Fame and a retired managing editor at the Gazette, briefed the board on the steps completed so far to accord the honor to Nance, an acclaimed athlete who excelled in wrestling at Indiana Area Senior High School and Syracuse University and in professional football with the Boston Patriots in the 1960s and 70s.

• Approved a contract with a consulting firm, Thought Process, to manage advertising on the district’s website.

Thought Process is arranging similar agreements with other member districts of the ARIN Intermediate Unit and plans to place ads with the greatest possible exposure on multiple websites, said Ferguson, the chairman of the board’s Outreach Committee.

Business Manager Jared Cronauer said the district could potentially receive $10,000 in online ad revenue in the coming year.

The Indiana Area School District site,, has been undergoing an unrelated redesign and is expected to go “live” with its new look on Monday, Cronauer said.

• Ratified an agreement with Adelphoi Village to provide day treatment services for the 2013-14 school year, subject to review by the district solicitor.

• Raised the price of breakfast for adults in the school cafeterias by 10 cents to $1.80 beginning with the start of school in August.

• Retroactively revised the 2012-13 school calendar to designate four dates as Act 80 days, one at each of the elementary schools.

• Approved a partnership with Indiana University of Pennsylvania on an application for a grant to improve the teaching and learning of mathematics through research-based professional development.

• Approved a cooperative sponsorship agreement with Marion Center Area School District for a girls’ lacrosse team.

• Authorized eight hours of training on the IDEAL distance-learning program for several district employees.

The board also learned from Kirsch that the district’s application to serve as a ground link site for an amateur radio connection with the International Space Station has been approved.

Kirsch said the Indiana Amateur Radio Club will help to set up the connection.

“It is targeted to middle school students,” Kirsch said. The plan, he said, is “to try to beam in into as many rooms as possible where we have promethium boards, but we can’t do it alone. We need the Amateur Radio Club to be involved. They will consider it at a meeting in August and we are on their agenda to go in and talk about it in September.

Kirsch said a date for the Space Station connection, a 10-minute interactive educational program, has not been determined. It is to be coordinated by ARISS (Amateur Radio on the International Space Station), a cooperative venture of NASA, the Amateur Radio Relay League, the Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation and other worldwide amateur radio groups and international space agencies.

The program will enable students to speak live with astronauts on the space station.

“While that’s a pretty cool 10 minutes, there are a lot of things that happen before and after,” Kirsch said. “The goal is to inspire an interest in science, technology, engineering and math using NASA missions and resources. It’s an educational opportunity for students, teachers and the general public to learn about resources related to wireless technology and amateur radio.”

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