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INDIANA: School directors again table decision on music post

by on April 29, 2014 11:00 AM

The Indiana Area School District board has again postponed a decision on whether to replace a full-time music teaching job with a part-time position, as board members on Monday asked for more time for administrators and teachers to devise a plan that maintains the elementary string music program.

Interim Superintendent Rodney Green said the administration appreciated the comments received from district residents since the April 14 board meeting when the directors stalemated on the proposal.

But the administration’s recommendation to not replace a retiring music teacher stands, he said.

“We have advised the board that if the position is not replaced, we feel strongly that, with dialogue between the administration and staff, that we can come up with what we feel is a more than adequate plan to continue music instruction and provide nearly the same opportunities.

“We have meetings scheduled this week with the music staff to explore further a couple of different options that will provide many of the same opportunities and still, I think, have more than just a good music program.”

Board member Deborah Clawson said the music staffing could change further in the coming two weeks.

“I’m not asking that we add a position. I’m asking that we reconsider eliminating a music position,” she said. “I’m hoping this motion will remain tabled because more information may be coming … in terms of additional retirements that may or may not change the picture, but we will know that in two weeks.”

The board should find other expenses to cut, director John Barbor said.

“The allocation of suffering in the district is inequitable,” he said. “I’ve seen reductions in one academic program after another. I have not seen any money reduced for sports teams. I think before we start talking about reducing academic positions, we should be talking about reducing, wholesale if necessary, entire team sports. They are secondary to this school district’s mission and we have not touched one in this crisis. I think it is time to reverse that policy.”

Director John Uccellini said he was struck by music teacher Julianne Laird’s appeal on April 14 for the board to preserve string music instruction, and that Indiana is one of the few districts in the region that provides string training.

“My concern is that with a half-time position, or even if we restore the full-time position, would that guarantee that we would have elementary strings? I don’t have a sense of that,” he said. “I would like not to have to vote on this tonight, because two weeks from now we may be talking about cutting a position somewhere else so we can attain the savings we’re trying to have.

“I would rather table it and give the department and administration some time to look at other alternatives.”

The board also heard district resident Gian Panucci’s appeal to the board to preserve the program during the public comment period.

“It’s not just a good music program — it’s phenomenal,” Panucci said. “One of the thoughts was that it would affect the ability to get private personal lessons, and have parents do that on their own. My worry is that the cost of that is something many parents may not be able to afford. Even for those who can afford it, it might be that many parents don’t realize their kids have an aptitude.

“And finally, once you push the program outside the school, it forces parents to blend it in with all the other things going on and it becomes a struggle for them. I think that making music a built-in part of the school system hits a wide range of kids who may not realize they have those talents. I encourage the board to think carefully before it cuts what, to me, is a gem of the school district.”

Green said district finances remain a factor in the decision.

“I ask people to try to understand that the board is charged with looking at the big picture, not looking at just programs, and looking down the road,” Green said. “If you take something as simple as the retirement issue … just in our district alone, our costs in 2013-14 were just over $4 million and in three years, that will jump to $7,245,000. We’re going to have to find $3,230,000 of new money over three years just to take care of that one number in the budget.”

“For the first time, many districts like Indiana are looking at the fact that the resources to which they are accustomed to having are not infinite, but they are finite. That’s a reality that is really hitting home in many districts and it is hitting home here,” Green said.

The board voted without opposition to again table the motion.

In other business, the board:

• Approved the transfer of Cori Anderson, the Indiana Area Junior High School assistant principal, to junior high guidance counselor at a salary of $83,740, and authorized the administration to post the assistant principal position.

The appointment was approved on a vote of 6 to 3.

Director Hilliary Creely said she supported Anderson’s selection but was opposed to the screening process that only considered people currently working for the district. President Thomas Harley and board member Robert Gongaware joined Creely in voting no; board members Barbor, Clawson, Uccellini, Julia Trimarchi Cuccaro, Diana Paccapaniccia and Brian Petersen voted in favor.

• Hired Lawra Stewart, a principal in the Conemaugh Valley School District, as principal of Horace Mann Elementary School beginning July 1 at a salary of $89,000.

• Approved the purchase of new band uniforms at a cost of $94,459.59 from DeMoulin Bros. Uniform Company on a vote of 6-3, with Gongaware, Harley and Cuccaro opposed.

• Approved food service prices for 2014-15 at the same prices as the current year.

• Approved revisions to the 2014-15 school calendar, designating Sept. 1, Nov. 11, Nov. 28, Dec. 24 and April 3 as official school district holidays, on a vote of 8-1. Paccapaniccia voted no, saying that classes should not begin before Labor Day.

• Approved the attendance by five Quiz Bowl team students and social studies teacher Michael Bertig for competition against other high schools at the National Quiz Bowl championships from May 30 to June 1 in Rosemont, Ill., at a cost to the district not to exceed $3,195.

• Approved the attendance of one FBLA student and business teacher Eric Brocious at the Future Business Leaders of America National Leadership Conference from June 27 to July 3 in Nashville at a cost to the district not to exceed $4,890.

• Approved a summer instrumental music program providing five 30-minute sessions at tuition of $50 per student or $80 per family (or $25 per student and $40 per family for those qualified for reduced rates), and employed Jason Olean, Scott Kemerer and Jason Rummel as program instructors at per diem rates, beginning June 8.

• Employed Steve Cochran and Robyn Bailey-Orchard as instructors for an SAT preparation course from July 21 through Aug. 7 at per diem rates for up to 54 hours, and set a tuition fee of $50 per student for the course.

• Employed Koren Greene, Ashley Rosendale, Leanne Jack and Jeff Reed as teachers in the STARS summer literacy program for 3.5 hours a day for no more than nine days beginning June 17.

• Employed Joy Dress, Heather Walton, Melissa Nibert, Steve Cochran, Erin Fulton and Matt Scaife as summer remediation program course instructors at per diem rates for a minimum of three hours per week.

• Employed Jody Lewandowski, Sarah Lonetti, Steve Cochran, Brian Schreyer and Matt Scaife as summer credit-advancement program course instructors at Indiana Area Senior High School at per diem rates for a minimum of three hours a week.

• Employed Marquetta Pisarcik as the librarian to support the YMCA summer program at per diem rates for 10 hours.

• Approved Spellman Studio as the district’s senior photographer for 2014-15 and 2015-16.

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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