Michael Vuckovich

Michael Vuckovich talked with Indiana school board member Terry Kerr (out of view) after the board voted to appoint him the next district superintendent.

The controversial web-based and technology-heavy Summit Learning program at Indiana Area Junior High School will be abandoned when school lets out this spring.

The district school board on Monday unanimously accepted the recommendation of the Academic and Extracurricular Committee to scrap the California-based curriculum model, which has been under fire since it was introduced to sixth graders for the 2017-18 school year.

As a style of teaching, Summit’s pre-packaged lesson plans were introduced by teachers at the outset of classes and students were left to complete projects at their own pace and ability to demonstrate proficiency in the subject areas.

As a curriculum, parents complained that Summit’s dictated resources were often inappropriate for pre-teens or of questionable relevance to the subject being taught.

A mandatory program in its first year, it was scaled back as an option for 2018-19.

“At this point there is declining interest, we couldn’t sustain it with the staff, and our other class sizes are rising,” said District Superintendent Michael Vuckovich. “And we weren’t offering a program with the fidelity it should have had, so I made the recommendation … and we decided to end it.

“This did not fail because of teachers. Not at all. The teachers we have are amazing and we’re proud of the work they do. They put their heart and soul into making it work, but it was a difficult decision and it wasn’t made lightly.”

The move restores all students in the junior high to traditional learning from teachers’ lectures and textbook lessons.

Also disappearing from the school district’s agenda beginning this summer will be the Indiana Area Recreation and Parks Commission, which is being dismantled by its three governing bodies — Indiana Borough, White Township and the school district.

The board adopted a dissolution plan on a vote of 8 to 1. Board members John Barbor, Barbara Barker, Julia Trimarchi Cuccaro, Tom Harley, Terry Kerr, Tamara Leeper, Ute Lowery, and Walter Schroth voted in favor and Doug Steve was opposed.

Steve said he disagreed with the trend in recreation funding that required the school district to pay money for student athletes’ use of ball fields and tennis courts operated by White Township, while the township wants to use school district facilities at no charge.

“If you look at the opportunities White Township is offering, they are not geared for younger elementary-age children, they’re doing programs for older kids and there are a lot of younger kids who won’t have opportunities,” Steve said. “They’re not going for the younger kids who need to learn the most, how to follow directions and be a part of a team. The recreation opportunities we have seen over the last 50 years are no longer, and it’s a sad state.”

The board also adopted new starting and ending times for student classes, which would add five minutes to the senior high school day and run it from 7:30 a.m. to 2:40 p.m. daily.

Assistant Superintendent Robert Rizzo said the change would provide 10 periods of equal length rather than a shortened activity period at day’s end.

The changes would run classes later but not longer at the elementary schools, Rizzo said. The exact times haven’t been decided, but will be provided to parents by the district administration, according to the vote of the board.

Staff Writer/Web Editor

Chauncey Ross represents the Gazette at the county courthouse; Indiana Area and Homer-Center schools; Blairsville, Homer City, Clymer, Center and Burrell; and is something of an Open Records, Right to Know and Sunshine Law advocate in the newsroom.