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INDIANA: School directors fill curriculum position

by CHAUNCEY ROSS on August 20, 2013 11:00 AM

A longtime mathematics teacher and past school administrator has been promoted to serve as coordinator of curriculum and instruction for the Indiana Area School District.

In a special session Monday, the school board appointed Holly Rougeaux to the post, succeeding Mark Gross, who resigned one week ago.

Rougeaux will receive a salary of $101,000.

Rougeaux, who worked as a private-sector software engineer before being hired by the district in 1995, has mainly taught math but also served two years as an assistant principal at Indiana Area Senior High School and 1ᄑ years as principal of Horace Mann Elementary School.

She has been on the faculty at the junior high the past 5ᄑ years.

The school board voted to advertise for applications for a secondary math teacher to take her place, but held off on a planned motion to hire an elementary teacher.

District Superintendent Dale Kirsch asked the board to wait until the meeting scheduled for Monday.

“We are still reviewing class sizes; we have a couple of hot spots across the district,” Kirsch said. “We also are reviewing whether we can, as the board authorized one week ago, get some families to volunteer to move their children to balance out some of those class sizes.”

Identifying where an additional teacher would be needed “is a moving target,” Kirsch said.

No new figures were provided on the expected enrollment in first grade at Eisenhower Elementary School. A group of parents appealed to the board last week to provide an additional teacher to reduce class sizes.

District officials regard 20 as the optimum capacity of an early-elementary grade class; last week, administrators projected 43 students would be enrolled in first grade at Eisenhower School.

The school board Monday also hired Amy McDowell as a pre-K teacher at an annual salary of $59,705 and hired Danielle Olear and Kelsey Williams as para-educators assigned to the Pre-K Counts program, at a rate of $9 an hour upon completing a 60-day probationary period.

The Pre-K appointments were approved on votes of 7-2: Board President Thomas Harley and members Hilliary Creely, David Ferguson, Robert Gongaware, Brian Petersen, Walter Schroth and Robert Werner voted in favor, while Alison Billon and Diana Paccapaniccia were opposed.

“I’m not opposed to the Pre-K program, but … we have yet to discuss what our target area is, what we will do … when the grant money runs out, whether we’re going to continue the program,” Paccapaniccia said. “Right now I think I have too many questions to move ahead and support this.”

“I think it’s irresponsible of the state to extend commitments to other educational programs when they are failing miserably to fund public education at the most basic levels,” Billon said. “The state continues to shift the burden of funding … to our local districts, and now they’re starting other programs when who knows what money is available in the future. I’m not going to support that.”

The state Department of Education in late June approved the Indiana and Blairsville-Saltsburg school districts for a grant of $628,800 — to be administered through the Armstrong-Indiana Intermediate Unit — for the initial year of the five-year Pre-K Counts program. The districts have the option to pursue funding and continue to offer the program the next four years.

The programs will be set up in the Ben Franklin and Eisenhower elementary schools.

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