indiana area senior high school totem sign

Tossed lunches and harassing phone calls: They don’t happen at Indiana Area School District lunchrooms, school officials said Monday.

The district follows legal guidelines to assure nutritious meals for kids, even those without funds, and doesn’t condone so-called “lunch shaming” practices, District Superintendent Michael Vuckovich told the school board and meeting guests Monday evening.

The topics had floated recently on social media.

“The kid (with no money) gets his lunch,” Vuckovich said. “What we don’t do is we don’t allow a la carte items, so every kid gets a lunch, they’re never refused a lunch, but the additional items that we can’t resell … are under stricter guidelines. No one is denied a lunch, everyone is entitled to a lunch,” generally the daily main entr←e, he said.

And unlike hounding by bill collectors, the district’s communication technology initiates automatic telephone calls to parents with alerts when their children’s prepaid meal accounts drop below certain thresholds.

For the facts about cafeteria policies, Vuckovich said, phone the district office or visit the district website.

“Call us if you have a question. We appreciate the appeal of social media, but if there’s a concern or issue, call us so we can address it quickly and it’s not festering or getting spun out of control,” Vuckovich said. “Our website is a work in progress, but there’s a lot of information on there for people to see, and you’ll see our lunch policies.

“There is no such thing as lunch shaming. That’s against the law and we don’t do that. But we have an algorithm-automated system that contacts people when certain balances hit a certain point. It’s an automated system but we’d be glad to work with anyone who has questions.”

In other business Monday, the board:

• Learned that the district has 54 fewer students than it did one year ago.

The board reviewed start-of-year student enrollment figures showing 445 pupils on Sept. 1 at Ben Franklin Elementary School (compared to 472 on Sept. 1, 2018); 370 at East Pike (401 a year ago); 230 at Eisenhower Elementary School (an increase from 213); 213 at Horace Mann Elementary (the same as Sept. 1, 2018); 669 at the junior high (671) and 907 at the senior high school (893). The changes for the district are a decrease of 66 elementary level students from 1,324 to 1,258; an increase of 12 secondary students from 1,564 to 1,576; and an overall decline of 54 from 2,888 to 2,834.

• Approved the purchase of two new scoreboards and control systems from DeMans Team Systems, of Brookville, at a cost of $11,930 including delivery and installation in the senior high school gym.

• Authorized the administration to complete the replacement of a condensing unit in the senior high school cafeteria at a cost of $10,750 from Davis Brothers Heating of Indiana. 

• Hired Lindy Stossel as a school-certified nurse at an annual salary of $50,732 effective today.

• Accepted the resignation of board member Tamara Leeper and appointment of director Barbara Barker as the district’s representative to the Armstrong-Indiana Intermediate Unit No. 28 board of directors.

• Appointed Director of Education Robert Heinrich, Angela McMasters and Victoria Franco as new members of the district’s Professional Educational Plan committee.

• Welcomed student Hanna Contrucci as the Student Government Association representative to the board. Contrucci will have a seat at the board table at the twice-monthly meetings and be entitled to discuss and comment on student-related matters, but will not have a vote on items of business.

• Granted approval for an educational field trip by the senior high swimming and diving team including 15 to 20 student athletes, two coaches and two parents, to the Deerfield Beach (Fla.) Aquatic Center from Dec. 26 to Jan 1 at no cost to the district.

• Learned from Vuckovich that the district has been approved for a grant-funded trip by students to visit the National Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., by the Blanche Beerman Holocaust Museum Fund, through the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies. The district’s only cost would be for substitute teachers. A date for a field trip was not announced.

• Approved an agreement with Indiana University of Pennsylvania that makes the district responsible for disbursing paychecks, $12,000 annually, for psychologist intern Aubrey Miller.

• Ratified an agreement with Terry Tallman for review of individual education plans (IEPs) to determine medical necessity of medical and mental health services to be provided to each student, at a cost of $7.50 per IEP, through Aug. 15, 2020.

• Renewed an agreement with The Reschini Group to produce required tax-filing forms for Affordable Care Act reporting at an estimated cost of $2,500.

• Contracted with C. Mitchell DHH Support Services, of Homer City, for hearing interpreter services generally at the junior high school during the 2019-20 school year at a rate of $30 an hour.

• Renewed an agreement with YMCA of Indiana County to provide certified lifeguard service at the junior high swimming pool from Oct. 28 to May 21 at a rate of $2,205 a month from November to April and $16.80 an hour in May.

• Approved support teacher assignments of Sarah Coleman, Kristine Cook, Carol Kerchensky, Joelene Loughry, Beth Mauk and Jason Rummel, each at a stipend of $684 per semester ($7.35 a day) for service as mentors to new employees.

• Approved Marquetta Pisarcik, a librarian, to serve as assistant rifle coach at a salary of $2,276. Board member Thomas Harley dissented, and called again for the extra-duty, extra-pay assignments and wage rates to be approved independently of the collective-bargaining agreement with Indiana Area Education Association.

• Authorized the administration to apply for grants of varying amounts from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) for school safety and security and for community violence prevention and reduction.

Staff writer/Web Editor, The Indiana (Pa.) Gazette

Staff Writer/Web Editor

Chauncey Ross represents the Gazette at the Indiana Area and Homer-Center school boards and White Township, Center Township, Homer City and Burrell Township, and is something of an Open Records, Right to Know and Sunshine Law advocate in the newsroom.