An annual time of transition has begun at the Indiana Area School District, where 14 employees have turned in their notices of resignation, most for retirement from positions they’ve held for many years in the schools.
They figure to take more than 300 years of experience in the district with them, school administrators said Monday. All but two plan to leave when the school year ends.
Noting their regret for the teachers’ and other workers’ departures, the board accepted notices from Horace Mann elementary teacher Katie Bungo; junior high English/reading teacher Lorrie Gallo; junior high BCIT teacher Valerie Haney; paraeducator Heather Joseph, resignation effective Jan. 21; junior high art teacher Bonnie Kurcsics; food service truck driver Mark Little, resignation effective Dec. 11; East Pike elementary teacher Natalie McKee; Horace Mann elementary teacher Patrick McKee; senior high art teacher Arlene Miller; senior high administrative assistant Bonnie Myers, retirement on June 2; East Pike elementary teacher Debra Potts-Patterson; junior high English/language arts teacher Bonnie Proctor; East Pike elementary teacher Margaret Soukup; and senior high mathematics teacher Mark Zilinskas.
“While the educators will be replaced and the district will hire the best teachers available, the lessons and legacies that these 12 educators have left will be here forever,” said Paul McHugh, president of the Indiana Area Education Association teachers union.
“Personally, I hope that at the end of my career, I will have given the same dedication that they have given this school district, and I would like to thank them, too.”
In other business, the board:
• Granted tenure to East Pike Elementary School teachers Jennifer Grim and Ambur Schaefer, upon their satisfactorily completing three years of teaching.
• Authorized the administration to complete and submit an application for a grant of as much as $30,000 from the PA SmartGrant program, a pot of funds earmarked for improvement of STEM education for elementary school students.
• Directed the administration to create an online subdomain of Google classroom for the use of IUP student teachers to collaborate online at no cost to the district. IUP will assume costs of set-up and maintenance.
• Accepted a grant of $600 from US Lacrosse for the purchase of 30 lacrosse sticks and balls for Horace Mann and Eisenhower elementary schools.
• Approved a revised course of study for the Family and Consumer Science course in the senior high school. The updated course outline brings career readiness skills and social/emotional learning into the class.
• Approved a cooperative student teaching agreement between the district and
Eastern University for a school nurse practicum student.
• Hired Devan Borst as a long-term substitute school nurse at the junior high school at daily pay of $245.48 beginning Jan 6, and Leighann Dominick as a long-term substitute English/language arts teacher at the junior high school at $245.48 a day beginning Jan. 3.
• Hired Cody Stolitza as a food service truck driver and custodian, retroactive to Dec. 16, at $13 an hour.
• Authorized the administration to work with Allegheny Intermediate Unit No. 3 to submit a grant for up to $1,000 to support a Storytime STEM + C Adventure Packs program for young elementary school students.
• Accepted a grant award of up to $40,000 through Intermediate Unit No. 13 allowing the district to launch a pilot MTSS/Literacy/Dyslexia program.
• Directed the administration to create and post two additional MTSS/school psychologist positions.
• Appointed Douglas Johnson as the assistant coordinator for school safety and climate, to work with Transportation Coordinator Michael Travis, at no cost to the district.
• Agreed to continue participation in the Allegheny
Intermediate Unit joint purchasing program and named Business Manager Jared Cronauer as the representative to the program.
• Authorized the district’s continued participation in the Armstrong-Indiana Intermediate Unit cooperative purchasing program.
• Ratified an agreement with Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Education and School Psychology to allow IUP students to support Indiana district teachers in assisting with students who have learning and behavioral problems.
• Approved the attendance of Angela McMasters at the National Association of School Psychologists convention Feb. 18 to 21 in Baltimore at a cost to the district of no more than $1,212.76.
• Approved an extra-duty/extra-pay assignment of Amy Kukula as junior high musical choreographer at a stipend of $1,128 over the objection of board member Tom Harley, who again pushed for the exclusion of after-school positions and pay rates from the teachers’ union contract and for the district to study the statewide averages of compensation for the supplemental positions.
• Granted leaves of absence to custodian Patricia Wyatt, retroactive to Sept. 27; junior high English/language arts teacher Ashleigh Henning, from Feb. 26 to May 11; and Ben Franklin elementary teacher Laura Lorelli, from Dec. 12 to May 11.
• Authorized the administration to provide as many as three interns in the 2020-2021 school year at a cost of $14,590 per intern.
• Learned from solicitor Ron Repak of a state appeals court decision that upholds criminal prosecution of people who abuse school employees.
“As you know, teachers, administrators, coaches sometimes can hear harsh words from parents, especially when their son or daughter is not getting what they believe they should be getting,” Repak said.
“In this case, a Pa. court actually confirmed a conviction for terroristic threats by a parent to an administrator. They called and said ‘I’m going to kill you all.’ The administrator said ‘you can’t say those things,’ and she then said it again.
“The Superior Court upheld that. The key here was, and this is why I want to highlight it, that the parent had a chance to think about what they were saying and then said it again.
“The second key component is that the administrator did admit that he did not think … that she could actually carry out killing all the administrators, but the court said that did not matter in this case, and that has been a pretty big burden for a lot of other cases in the past.”