Positive Notes Color Board Meeting as Elk Lake Readies for Another Year
By Sandra Raub
The prevailing mood was enthusiastic and anticipatory at the Aug. 18 Elk Lake School Board meeting, as all three building principals and the superintendant reported their respective facilities ready and waiting for the influx of young learners.
In a first order of business, the district was presented with an award for Environmental Excellence from Energy Education for their ongoing efforts to reduce their energy usage and costs. The district has reduced those costs by 24 percent, and in the less than three years they have been participating, surpassed milestones set by the program, said Ross Kelly, vice-president of Marketing from Energy Education’s eastern division. A presentation by the district’s energy education specialist, Kim Guiton, highlighted the savings the school has already experienced, as well as the ones they hope to achieve in the future, totaling $336,005.
Guiton credits all members of the district with the success of the program, with special thanks going to staff and custodians for their attentiveness to efforts to save energy. The general message to all was: “keep up the good work.” At this time, a construction project is underway at the CTC, and Superintendant William Bush reported that everything is on track and the new building will be handed over to the district in July of 2012 to be used for the 2012-13 school year. Likewise, 95 percent of the renovations to the existing facility have been completed and everything is in readiness for the coming year.
One concern expressed by the public at the meeting was the metering of the electric service for the new building, and visitors and board members were assured that it is metered separately from the existing building. Elk Lake is unique to public schools in that it also operates the Susquehanna County Career and Technology Center, located on its campus.
According to board president Chuck Place, “To the best of my knowledge we are the only career and tech owned and operated by a single school district with a joint operating board in PA. In other words, the same board as Elk Lake oversees the tech center. This is the way the tech center was set up when it was originally built and opened some 25 or so years ago.”
In other business, the board discussed the difficulty they have been having in finding bus drivers, both commercially licensed and non-CDL, and it was proposed and approved that an increase in driver salaries may alleviate the problem. An increase of $.50 per hour for non-CDL and $1.50 for CDL for regular drivers was approved, along with a plan to raise the substitute driver rates from $7.70 to $8 per hour for non-CDL and from $11 to $13 for CDL. The possibility of altering routes was also discussed. One board member asked if Elk Lake’s system is comparable to other area schools, and the board in general observed that one significant difference is that Elk Lake owns and operates its own fleet of buses, whereas many other area districts utilize owner operated buses to fill their needs.
Elk Lake’s drivers are district employees, and one advantage for drivers in that respect is that the school covers certain testing and physical exam costs, and drivers can take advantage of district employee benefits. On the subject of busing, the board was asked why the offer was made for Elk Lake buses to be available to pick up students from Mountain View School District in Kingsley and bringing them to the CTC for classes. The board’s response was that Mountain View had expressed budget concerns relating to the additional transportation costs, and Elk Lake expects some reimbursements from the state department of education for transportation costs they would incur for providing this service. It was also offered by visitors at that time that Blue Ridge School District in New Milford would not be sending students to the CTC this year, and Superintendant Bush could offer no explanation for this change, and could only express his hope to see Blue Ridge students return at some point.
A large expense incurred by the district at this time, which prompted some lengthy discussion will be the replacement of the heater and air quality system for the school’s pool. Several years ago the possibility of replacing the system was investigated, and cost estimated at $450,000. According to Bush, the system runs 24/7 and has always operated well, but in recent years has needed a little more TLC by the service company to keep it operating at optimal levels. It was hoped that with careful attention, the system could be kept running for another year, with replacement slated for next year, but over the summer problems arose and the replacement cannot be delayed much longer. However, he said, due to the advances in technology, the replacement cost comes in at substantially less than the original estimate, at $165,000, which was good news to the board and the district.
The new equipment is on order and is expected to arrive and be installed by Nov. 1, in time for the swim season. In an added note, board secretary Kim Hollister affirmed her belief in the huge benefit of the pool to the community at large, saying that the pool had been in use almost constantly throughout the summer for parties, swim classes and exercise classes. Likewise, the high volume of usage provided employment opportunity for the lifeguards, which was a plus for them, added Bush.
Some lengthy discussion was conducted on revamping a policy the board had adopted for grade retention of students who are short two or more credits. Senior high principal Ken Cuomo said that the policy had become problematic in that students could conceivably earn the missed credits through various recovery plans, including summer school, and actually graduate at their junior year level. It was proposed that the policy be amended to a 2.5 credit shortfall being the benchmark for retention.
In wrap up, board president Place noted that in executive session prior to the meeting it was affirmed that the proposed joint football program with Montrose Area had been approved by Montrose’s board and would be going forward. Approval is still needed from the District 2 of the PIAA, but it is anticipated that the program will be in operation for the 2012-13 school year, and that weight training for players can begin in December of this year. The meeting wrapped with a final positive note from Lawton residents Robert and Jamie Heft, who came to the meeting just to thank the board for all the time and effort they had put in to making the joint football program a reality.