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Snow Days Push School Year Back in Wyalusing; Superintendent Search Near End?

The search goes on for the next superintendent of the Wyalusing Area School District, and the process has reportedly narrowed to a final threesome. However, at this point nobody is saying when the name of Ray Fleming's successor will be announced. Fleming officially steps down on Sept. 27—about a month into the 2011-12 school year.

"All I can say is we're working on it," said Barbara Hugo, the school board vice president who was filling in Monday for President Debbie Stethers. "We've had some really good candidates."

The board has been meeting in several executive sessions as a committee of the whole in the interviewing and hiring process. In fact, they met again for more than an hour Monday night after their monthly school board meeting at the Wyalusing Elementary School.

Again, Fleming reminded the board that budgeting the next budget is going to be a challenge and that state reductions to the school district for the next school year total just under a million dollars—$986,994 to be exact. The good news, according to Fleming, is at least they have the numbers to work with and they have been reassured that the state shortfall won't go any lower.

"If there is any change in the numbers, it will be to the better," said Fleming, "but we can't count on that."

Union representatives for the teachers and support staff will be invited to join in the budget process, Fleming assured the board.

"All I can say is it's a good thing we did consolidation, and it's a good thing we have a fund balance," said Fleming, noting that he expects a number of school districts to go bankrupt as a result of Gov. Tom Corbett's cuts for public education. Fleming has predicted that more school districts will be consolidating with each other in order to survive financially.

The sale of the four elementary school buildings at the end of the current school year should relieve some of the financial burden, though the combined appraised value of all four properties is under $1 million.

For the record, reductions to other Bradford County school districts in Corbett's budget are as follows, according to the state House Appropriations Committee: Athens Area, $1,730,126; Canton Area, $1,034,851; Northeast Bradford, $867,543; Sayre Area, $795,341; Towanda Area, $1,043,338, and Troy Area, $1,479,214.

Snow Days' Dilemma

With a wintry March still remaining, the district has had to take seven snow days off this winter, including a flood day, which would push commencement back to Monday, June 13. Fleming suggested to the board that Easter Monday, April 25, could be erased from the holiday list, thus moving graduation to Friday, June 10, which would be fairer to people who have to travel longer distances to attend the rites and then return home.

Maintenance Supervisor Bob Brigham said that the cost of snow removal on school grounds has been a drain on the budget: "It's been a bad year as far as costs are concerned."

However, he had high praise for the job the contractor, Dave Heller, has been doing and said he has been very responsive in working with him on the costs.

High School Principal Gary Otis reported on some of the sports highlights of the winter season and noted that another area where the girls' basketball team excelled was as students, with eight members of the team named academic all-stars, which requires a grade point average of 90 percent and above. The academic standouts were: Caitlyn Doerner, Abby Fogel, Laci Holdren, Elesha Schulze, Lauren Chadwick, Courtney Eberlin, Arielle Kneller and Mackenzie Martin.

"This may be the smartest sports team we ever had," said Otis after the meeting.

In other school business:

—Elementary Principal Joe Darrow said PSSA (Pennsylvania System of School Assessment) testing has been pushed back from Tuesday of this week until next Tuesday due to the days students have missed because of the weather;

—Principal Otis reported that their PSSA testing will begin on Tuesday, March 22, and will require a three-week schedule for testing in math, reading, writing and science;

—Brigham said that a road constructed back to the elementary school complex severed the water and power to the softball playing fields, but that they would be digging a trench the full length of the fields so they will have access to water and electricity,. He said that should happen quickly, weather permitting;

—Quandel's John Waltman reported that the progress on the elementary school is progressing on schedule, with mechanical equipment for the heating system up and running, with the entire building being heated, including the cafeteria and kitchen areas. He explained that the masonry subcontractor has gone out of business and will not finish the rest of that project as they move outside, adding that they have been pricing other contractors and it should have no impact on the cost;

—Fleming reported that the Northern Tier Career Center should have a CDL licensing program ready for this spring and are hoping to use the airport in Towanda for the driving testing. This is an adult program and he noted that there is plenty of interest, and

—the board was informed by Otis that 19 WVHS students will be competing in Hershey at the FBLA State Conference on April 3-6, and that the Friends of Rachel students of the month for January and February were, respectively, Sydney Snyder and Brandon Shaw.

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