PURCHASE LINE — The Purchase Line school board appointed Mary Jane Hodak as the newest member of the board during a regular meeting Monday at the Purchase Line High School. Hodak received five of the seven votes cast.
A graduate of Purchase Line High School, Hodak is a former Purchase Line elementary teacher as well, having taught from 1971 to 2004. She was the mathematics coordinator for the district and taught several grade levels. Her family has owned a business in the district for 50 years, and she hopes to bring that fiscal knowledge to her position.
She plans on bringing defunct programs back to the district, including the Gazette student reporter program, for which Purchase Line had no student representatives last year.
Hodak’s appointment follows the recent resignation of former board member Scott Gearhart. Her term will run from Sept. 9 to the end of November.
The board received a presentation by representatives of the Challenger Learning Center and the Indiana County Technology Center.
Purchase Line is the last school district in the county they have talked to, according to Julia Trimarchi Cuccaro, chairwoman of the committee exploring the Challenger proposal, and she said she was happy to finally have her chance to speak to the board. Cuccaro was joined by Carol J. Fry, ICTC executive director.
According to Cuccaro, there are 48 Challenger Learning Centers in the U.S., but none in Pennsylvania. The center was recently licensed by the National Challenger Foundation in Washington, D.C., to have a 22-county region in the commonwealth situated in Indiana County.
“This is unusual for a community of our size to be licensed for a Challenger center,” she said. “Most places have a larger city that they operate out of, but we got a really big break.”
The ICTC has agreed to lease 10 acres of land on campus for the creation of the center.
Indiana County was chosen, Cuccaro explained, because the CEO of the Challenger Foundation, Lance Bush, is a Homer-Center graduate. While initially considering Johnstown or State College as a potential location for a center, the recent running of fiber-optic cables throughout the county brought Indiana County ahead as a candidate.
The $3 million project would see the construction of a center complete with a space shuttle simulator. The center would focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) learning.
“The main mission of Challenger is to get students interested in taking higher-level math and science classes by the time they reach eighth grade,” Cuccaro said.
The program primarily targets middle schools. The entire program works as a full learning experience. Students would receive six weeks of classroom curriculum before the culminating trip to the center to fly a mission on the shuttle simulator.
Missions include Encounter Earth, Rendezvous with a Comet, Return to the Moon and Voyage to Mars.
The center would also offer programs to adult learners. First responders can experience a simulated disaster such as an earthquake or hurricane and the challenges that come with coordinating a response.
“We are not expecting school districts to pay for it,” Cuccaro said. “We intend to raise the $3 million from private foundations and corporations. However we are presenting to school districts and county commissioners.”
The center is looking for a resolution of support and a donation of $1 per student from the surrounding school districts to help offset startup costs. The cost for a student to visit the center would be $25.
A contract was approved for Hillsdale Construction and Excavation to resurface the football field at a cost of $63,227. This was the only bid received by the district. The board had originally budgeted $44,880 for the project. Maintenance supervisor Carl Jones explained the cost increase occurred when the project took on a dual nature. Dirt from the band field will be moved down to the football field, leveling both fields at the same time, and “basically killing two birds with one stone,” according to Jones.
The board tabled a motion approving Purchase Line’s involvement with the Pennsylvania Youth Surveys program. Headed by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, the survey measures students’ knowledge and attitude toward drugs and alcohol.
Board member James McMullen felt some of the questions asked in the survey were inappropriate, while acting supervisor Paul Gallagher explained parents can opt their children out of the survey. The board will vote at a later date.
In other business, the board approved:
• Hiring of Justine Smuro as an elementary school counselor at a salary of $49,614.
• Hiring of Carrie Ankenz as a seven-hour instructional aide at a rate of $12.85 per hour.
• Hiring Stephanie Jobe, Verna Rice, Isaac Solak and Rose Marie as lunch monitors at a rate of $10.50 per hour retroactive to Sept. 3.
• Hiring Janessa Hardesty as health and physical education department chairwoman for grades K-12 at $1,856 for the 2013-14 school year.
• The resignation of Christine King, elementary science department chairwoman, effective Sept. 3.
• A leave of absence request for Rene Baker, mathematics teacher, from Sept. 5 through Jan. 1.
• A leave of absence request for Deanna Gray, reading specialist, for Sept. 18 through Oct. 25.
• A leave of absence request for Candace Kosinski, elementary teacher, beginning Aug. 26.
• The elimination of a 7 1/2-hour cafeteria position and the creation of a 5 1/2-hour cafeteria position.
• Additional teacher substitutes: Amanda Chichy, English 7-12 and special education N-12; Taylor Myers, earth and space science and general science; and Paula Polenik, biology 7-12.
This story edited at 11:25 a.m. to correct the spelling of Mary Jane Hodak's name.