BURRELL TOWNSHIP — The Blairsville-Saltsburg School Board accepted, with regret, the retirement of Debra Shirley, principal at Blairsville Elementary School, during a special voting meeting Tuesday at Blairsville High School.
Shirley has been employed with the district for 36 years and has served as the principal for Blairsville Elementary since July 2009.
Before that, she was the Blairsville Middle School principal for one year and was a learning support teacher for Saltsburg Elementary and Middle schools from 1977 to 2008. Her retirement will become effective before the beginning of the 2013-14 school year.
The board voiced their appreciation for Shirley and wishes for her future. Shirley did not attend the meeting.
“She’s a good lady, and we’re going to miss her,” board President B. Edward Smith said. “I wish her nothing but the best.”
“I started coaching because of Debbie Shirley when I had cheerleaders,” board member Linda Brown said. “We absolutely had a friendship that will never, ever be broken. She’s a wonderful lady. She’s a fantastic coach. She was a fantastic teacher for Saltsburg. She did a great job with special-ed students. … She’s going to be missed.”
“Dr. Shirley has a great heart,” district Superintendent Tammy Whitfield said. “When I’m here at 6 or 7 p.m., I’ll look over and there’s her car. She will put in endless hours; she’s a dedicated employee and colleague, and we will miss her.”
The board also approved the acceptance of a Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts grant that will fund the creation of a pre-kindergarten class in both the Blairsville and Saltsburg elementary schools this fall. The grant will also fund the hiring of a teacher and an aide for both classrooms.
“Essentially, we are going to create from scratch … the district’s first Pre-K program equitably on both sides of the district with a class average of about 16 to 18,” Assistant Superintendent Ian Magness said.
The grant was submitted as a cooperative effort between the Blairsville-Saltsburg School District, Indiana Area School District and ARIN IU 28. Blairsville-Saltsburg and IASD will share the funding of $648,800 for each of the next five years. This funding will also cover meals and snacks.
“We felt going in on it together would give us a better opportunity as a collaborative,” Magness said, “and obviously it did.”
Magness thanked Kathy Monko of ARIN for writing the narrative of the grant.
“We’re very excited about this opportunity to catch some of our kids early,” Magness said. “This is the best way we can get early intervention to our kids. And to be frank with you, if you listen to the legislature at both the state and federal level, it is probably likely at some time that Pre-K will become part of public education, so I feel with this opportunity we’ll be well ahead of the game.
“The word I want to get out to folks is: For those families of children that are predominantly 4 years old … that live within the district boundaries, and are on or are eligible for assistance, to please contact us. The easiest is by phone at (724) 459-5500, extension 8, then extension 1103.”
In other business, the board approved the realignment of coaches for the Blairsville High School for the 2013-14 school year. James Buckles was moved from co-athletic director to athletic director, Richard Artley was moved from BHS football first assistant coach to head coach, Neil Stone was moved from BHS football second assistant coach to first assistant coach, Bryan Gould was moved from BHS football third assistant co-coach to second assistant coach, and Mark DeMarines was moved from BHS football third assistant co-coach to third assistant coach.
The board also approved Michael DeRubis as volunteer coach for the BHS football program, Richard Serafin as volunteer coach for the BSSD volleyball program and Betty Branthoover as volunteer coach for the BHS golf program.
In a discussion of school security, the board approved support for the Pennsylvania School Board Association’s platform to support legislation that would permit school boards to negotiate and enter into contracts with any policing body to provide appropriate school security regardless of jurisdiction.
The Indiana Area and Homer-Center school districts have both passed similar motions, according to Smith.
“This is nothing more than to go to our legislators and ask them … to add this to their agendas and get this passed,” Smith said. “It’s not binding us to any police protection or anything like that.”
In other business, the board approved:
• Proceeding forward in the steps necessary toward the formation of a soccer booster group with the purpose of fundraising for the soccer team.
• Spending $8,631 out of an allowed deductible of $22,950 toward roof and sign repairs.
• An agreement with The Learning Lamp for a part-time ACCESS coordinator for the 2013-14 school year for 40 weeks at a cost of $13,956.
• The renewal agreement with Lifestat Ambulance Service for the 2013-14 school year in the amount of $2,800.
• The establishment of a cooperative sponsorship for girls’ lacrosse with the Marion Center School District for the 2013-14 school year at no cost to the district.