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Blairsville-Saltsburg board selects replacement for Marasti

| Saturday, April 28, 2012, 1:17 a.m.

SALTSBURG -- Dr. Stephen J. Whisdosh, who retired last year as superintendent of the Ligonier Valley School District, will step back into the role at neighboring Blairsville-Saltsburg School District.

School directors Wednesday hired Whisdosh as their district's acting superintendent, filling a vacancy left by the departure of Dr. Joseph Marasti.

Marasti was hired to head the district's administrative team on an interim basis in March, following the resignation of Arnold Nadonley. District Solicitor Jack Cambest said Marasti tendered a letter of resignation a few weeks ago, citing a need to focus his attention on his role as a consultant for the state Department of Education.

Cambest said Whisdosh will receive $70 per hour and no benefits, the same terms of the district's agreement with Marasti. With the start of fall classes approaching, Cambest said the district is hopeful Whisdosh can begin work within a week.

Beverly Caranese, president of the school board, said Whisdosh had expressed interest in the interim superintendent slot at the same time Marasti was hired. She noted Whisdosh "has a lot of experience. I think he'll lead the district in the right direction until we have a permanent superintendent."

A Latrobe area resident who also is an adjunct professor at Gannon University, Whisdosh served as Ligonier Valley superintendent beginning in 1996, after a previous stint as principal at the district's Laurel Valley High School, from 1986 to 1992. Whisdosh also was an administrator at the Rochester Area School District in Beaver County.

As initial construction continues on a $13.7 million renovation of the Saltsburg Middle/High School and an elementary school addition, the board postponed action on the project's first proposed change order.

Cambest told the board Ryco, Inc. is seeking an $8,228 increase to its $828,800 plumbing contract, for replacement of valves in the high school's boys' and girls' locker rooms. He said the work includes valves that mix hot and cold water to prevent students from being scalded.

Board members questioned whether the work already had been performed and why it was not included on original project blueprints.

Member Michael Smith said the change order request seemed to indicate the contractor needed three days to complete what he estimated should be a 16-hour task. He asked for more details, as did board member Michael LaMantia, and District Business Manager Eric Kocsis agreed to investigate.

The board conducted an initial review of a proposed policy change that would expand the district's requirement of background checks for those who work with district students. Cambest said the change, if approved, would require background checks for coaches and other volunteers for extra-curricular programs, such as midget football teams, that are not school-sponsored but that use district facilities.

Such checks already are required for district-approved employees and volunteers.

Smith said the proposed change was prompted by parents expressing concerns about their children's safety while on school property. He said affected volunteers would be responsible for the costs of the required checks. "They either have it, or they don't function in the school," he said.

Board member Linda Johnston pointed out that many non-school sporting leagues already require such checks of their staff, and a copy of the results could be supplied to the district.

In other business

In other personnel matters, the school board employed social studies instructor Joseph Sembrat and gym teacher Justin Kulik. Their hirings were prompted by respective faculty openings at Saltsburg's high school and elementary school. Each will be paid a salary of $45,373, representing the first step of the master's degree scale.

The board also accepted the resignation of Stephen Izzo, hired in June as an art instructor at Blairsville Middle School. Izzo, who previously taught at United School District, told the board he is leaving his new post due to relocation of his family.

Meghan Radkowski resigned as Blairsville-Saltsburg's assistant volleyball coach, instead opting for a volunteer role with the program. The board replaced her by hiring Lisa Ewing, at a salary of $2,332.

Also hired were: Jason Mottillo, Saltsburg Middle/High School assistant band director, at a salary of $1,941; Karen Brunecke and Mitzi Sinclair, as noon-hour supervisors at Saltsburg Elementary School -- each at $7.25 per hour -- following Charlotte Almes' resignation from the same role.

Additionally, the board appointed Betty Branthoover as a volunteer assistant golf coach and approved an unpaid leave of up to 12 months for Patricia Prenni, nurse at Saltsburg Elementary School.

Tenure was granted to the following district faculty members, who successfully completed three years of teaching in Pennsylvania: Eileen Phelan and Michele Sistiki, at Blairsville Elementary School; Brandy DelleDonne, at Saltsburg Elementary; Amanda McAnulty, Blairsville Spanish teacher; and Linsey Palazzi, biology/science instructor at Saltsburg Middle/High School.

The board agreed to keep the pay for substitute teachers at $85 per day for the 2009-10 school year.

Board member Ed Smith was appointed to serve as the district's primary voting delegate on a new countywide tax collection committee that will choose an agent for collecting wage and local service taxes on behalf of all taxing bodies in the county. Mike Smith will be the first alternate delegate, and Brett Treece will be the second alternate.

Mike Smith will continue as the school board's voting delegate to the Pennsylvania School Boards Association's legislative policy council. Linda Brown will serve as the alternate.

The board designated Excela Health-Latrobe to provide medical coverage at home football games as well as team physicals, at a cost of $10 per exam. Also, Dr. Matthew Klain was approved as a school physician, at $10 per physical, and Doctors Edward Morgan and Bruce Highberger were appointed as school dentists, each at $4 per exam.

Lifestat Ambulance Service will provide emergency medical coverage for the district at a cost of $2,600.

The board renewed an agreement with the Armstrong-Indiana Drug and Alcohol Commission to provide a Student Assistance Program for 2009-10.

It also renewed memos of understanding with the district's teachers' union regarding two parent/teacher conference days to be held in 2009-10 and policies concerning delays in the start of the school day and early dismissals resulting from inclement weather or other emergency situations.

Cambest reported negotiating sessions for new contracts are scheduled in mid September between the district and union representatives for its teachers and support workers.

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