Administration, Staff, and Board Members Eager to Open New School
By Rick Hiduk
While many children and teens in the Wyalusing Area School District (WASD) are trying to figure out how to squeeze every last drop out of summer vacation, WASD faculty members, as well as those on the school board, are anxious to get the new Wyalusing Elementary School open and students and teachers assimilated to the layout of the building and all of the amenities it has to offer.
“We’ll be ready for the ribbon-cutting,” elementary school principal Joe Darrow said at the Aug. 8 school board meeting in reference to the Monday, Aug. 22, ceremony at which the latest addition to the WASD campus is slated to be dedicated. There are still some finishing touches to be made, and the cafeteria should be finished in the coming week, but Darrow was proud to report that the staff, which began moving from their respective former school buildings about a month ago, is now in the “training mode.” They are being versed daily in elements of a more departmentalized curriculum and immersed in the technologies that are part of the school’s infrastructure. Board member Richard Robinson commended the teachers for what he said was not an easy task and waxed nostalgia when he noted that he had seen the letters of the alphabet affixed over the whiteboards at the fronts of the primary classrooms.
School board member Vince Amoroso has spent a significant amount of time in the building already and reported that the morale of all of the teachers and maintenance employees who have been working at the school is very high. District maintenance supervisor Robert Brigham noted that the maintenance staff had completed cleaning the high school earlier on Aug. 8 and were looking forward to preparing the elementary school for its grand opening after they perform a final cleanup and some ceiling repairs at the former elementary school buildings. He added that he and his staff are already benefitting from the consolidation of staff and facilities to the expanded campus.
In lieu of a technology report, Amoroso commended district technology coordinator Tim Yale, who was absent from the meeting, for his part in integrating all of the computer, surveillance, and intercom elements and making them comprehensible to staff members. It took just two days to mount the cameras, Amoroso noted, and the intercom speakers sound crisp.
“It has been a very interesting summer,” superintendent Ray Fleming said of the months leading up to the new school year that included consolidation planning amidst contentious budget meetings conducted under the specter of drastic cuts in state funding for education. “It shows what can happen when you get a lot of people together working toward the same goals,” he stated.
Fleming has afforded a number of people a sneak peak of the new building and shared with board members that several employees of neighboring school districts were quite impressed with what the school will provide for returning students, including the ratio of dedicated educational space to overall square footage.
“It’s not only good space. It’s attractive space that will enhance the quality of education for our students,” Fleming remarked.
In other news, changes in the positions and pay scales of several business office employees were approved. Lorna Snyder was transferred to secretary to the business manager, and Carly Sheldon will now serve as assistant to the assistant principal at the high school. The changes will result in one opening for a payroll coordinator in the business office, which assistant superintendent Chester Mummau suggested will be filled from within.
An opening in the maintenance department will also apparently be filled from within the district. Fleming reported that the recent consolidation dictated a change in positions within the custodial department, and one of the employees opted not to accept a change in both position and shift. Mummau asked the board for and was granted permission to fill the business office and custodial positions before the start of the school year and officially confirm the hirings at the next school board meeting, which will be held on Monday, Sept. 12.
A roster of 31 substitute teachers and seven additional aides was improved. Amoroso and fellow board member Chad Salsman inquired about the current pay rate for substitute teachers and how it compared to other districts in the area. Robinson related that one of the subs who drives as needed from the Canton area has indicated that WASD sub rates are below the area average. The general consensus was that ensuring a quality list of substitute teachers would make a comparative rate scale study prior to the next meeting something worth looking into.
The following volunteer coaches were approved for the 2011-12 school year, pending any necessary paperwork: (football) Dan Cook, A.J. McKennas, Tucker Allyn, Bryan Kolodziej, Brian Jennings, Mike Earle, and Bud Putnam; (girls’ soccer) David Faulkner, Jessica Reed, and Jeff Homer; (cross country) Mark Kusmierz and Kathy Lutz; (volleyball) Jeff Overman and Kasey Huffman and (band front) Eric Dunn and Noreen O’Connor.
Board members reviewed and approved the cafeteria budget, which included a vote to retain the same breakfast, lunch, and milk prices as last year. Fleming indicated that this would likely be the last year that the district would be able to maintain meal prices that are below the national average, as increases are federally mandated every few years.
“Why is that relevant to the government?” Amoroso asked out of a curiosity that was shared by fellow board members.
Fleming replied that, because the federal government subsidizes free and reduced lunches, as well as food voucher programs taken advantage of by WASD, it requires minimal increases in lunch prices in each school district over a set number of years. “They’ve had their finger in this for a long time,” Fleming remarked.
The latest news on the sale of the former elementary school buildings included the possibility of modifying the boundaries of the Wyalusing building on Fifth Street. “We have to be careful about how we do this,” Fleming said of the potential changes to the property lines, noting that he wants to ensure that adjustments made now will not cause problems for future owners. The 6,000 square feet in question involves a portion of the playground area that was formerly Walnut Street, which was closed by the district after acquiring the parcel in the early 1950s but never properly deeded.
In his high school report, principal Gary Otis noted that schedules have been finalized and mailed to students. The marching band and color guard held a successful band camp during the previous week, and the fall sports schedule kicks off next week, he added.
Board member Crystal Hons asked Otis for an update on elective English classes that were offered on a trial basis last year. Otis responded that the program, which is comprised of four 45-day courses that cover advanced composition, public speaking, and literature as it relates to rock ’n’ roll and film, were generally successful and attracted 70 students during the course of the 2010-11 school year. A discussion about the district’s summer reading program sparked some confusion as to just how many books each student was required to read over the summer break. Most of those in attendance agreed that only one book was required of most students, and that advanced placement students were reading more.
Brigham announced that a leak in the concession stand has been fixed. The repair was done in-house and required removing a portion of the concrete floor and replacing a coupler.
The board also approved an extension to the current transportation agreement between the district and the Wyalusing Bus Contractors’ Association through June 30, 2012, that addresses rising fuel costs. A cap of $155,000 was approved for the combined fuel costs of bus, car, and van drivers. If the cost of gasoline per gallon exceeds $5 in the next year, the board will reconsider the matter.
The Aug. 22 school board meeting was officially cancelled due to the planned open-house celebration. Fleming suggested that an emergency meeting could be scheduled if a situation warrants it.