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Norwin settles dispute over building usage fees

Joe Napsha
| Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, 10:15 p.m.

Norwin School District officials said Monday they've cleared up a miscommunication among administrators that left some outside groups paying more than they anticipated for using district fields and buildings last school year, as Norwin increased fees for facility use.

Ryan Kirsch, Norwin's new director of business affairs, told the school board that a change in the business office last year resulted in miscommunications with the facilities department which, in turn, led to higher charges for six dance groups that used school facilities.

Kirsch said they were charged an hourly rate, rather than a flat fee, which raised their bills.

Kirsch said he is contacting those groups with information on adjustments to their bills and will make certain they understand the new fees for using school facilities.

Lori Brown, studio manager for the Irwin-based Dance Expressions by Erica, informed the school board last week that the bill for using Norwin's facilities for a dance competition rose from $5,325 in the 2015-16 school year to $8,970 in the 2016-17 school year.

Brown, whose daughter, Erica, runs the dance studio, said she had been told fee increases would not take effect until July 1, which came after their dance competition.

Brown said they were shocked by the $3,600 increase in the bill, which is much greater than what they pay to other schools that host their dance competitions.

“I can guarantee that with the increase in 2017, there is no way we can have a dance recital in Norwin,” Brown said.

Walt Lehman, director of building and grounds, told the board last week he received complaints from parents about the increase in usage fees. Prior to revisions of the bills, the district was owed about $22,000 in fees from June and July, primarily from dance groups, Lehman said.

Amy Johnson, president of the Norwin Lacrosse League, said she is waiting for the administration to designate the sports group she leads as an approved youth organization, which would make it eligible to pay $5 per hour, not $20 per hour, for using district fields.

A computer program the district uses to schedule field use is being modified so that organizations can be designated as approved youth organizations, said Brandon Rapp, Norwin athletic director.

Rapp said, however, there have been problems recently regarding unscheduled use of fields. In one instance, a baseball game was being played during soccer practice and some youngsters got hit with a baseball.

Superintendent William Kerr said the district needs better security when its sports teams are using facilities. In some instances, people have been walking around the stadium when school teams were using the field.

Interim principal appointed

The board in a 5-4 vote approved appointing Laura Swick, an information technology teacher, as the interim principal at Sheridan Terrace Elementary School beginning Sept. 21 for either a four- or six-week period.

Swick is to replace Heather Newell, who would be on leave during that period. Swick isn't to get additional pay, but Norwin would have to pay a substitute while Swick was working as a principal, Kerr said.

Directors Robert Perkins, Donald Rhodes Jr., Dennis Rittenhouse, Barbara Viola and Rebecca Gediminskas voted to approve Swick as the interim principal, while Darlene J. Ciocca, Albert C. Lynn, Tracey L. Czajkowski and Shawn N. Petrisko were opposed.

Ciocca said she opposed the move because the district's administrators, such as Natalie McCracken, assistant superintendent of elementary education, could fill that role and Norwin would not have to pay for a substitute for Swick.

Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-5252 or jnapsha@tribweb.com.

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