Leechburg considers switching vo-tech students to part time
By Brian C. Rittmeyer
Published: Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012, 12:06 a.m.
Vo-tech students in Leechburg Area School District could soon have no choice but to attend a part-time, or half-day, program at Lenape Tech.
The school board is considering making that move after board member Danielle Reinke raised concerns on Wednesday about Lenape not meeting performance targets on academic assessment tests.
Lenape did not make adequate yearly progress on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment exams in reading and math this year. Reinke said the school has not made AYP for eight consecutive years.
This year, about 39 percent of Lenape students scored proficient in reading, less than half the target of 81 percent. About 32 percent were at least proficient in math, which is below a target of 78 percent. The vo-tech school did not meet any of the eight academic performance targets.
In a part-time vo-tech program, students receive their academic instruction at their home district.
“I do not support a full-day vo-tech,” Reinke said. “We have great teachers here. We have made AYP.
“I want our kids educated here,” she said.
Lenape began offering a part-time program this year, and about 13 Leechburg sophomores are enrolled, district Principal Matt Kruluts said.
Those students were to have been given the choice of continuing at Lenape part-time or full-time in their junior and senior years.
The board is considering that they would have to attend part-time only. It would not be applied to today's juniors, who would be allowed to continue as full-time Lenape students.
Students would have to attend part-time for three years, from 10th to 12th grades, to equal the two-year full-time program offered to juniors and seniors.
Solicitor Robert Cinpinski said allowing only part-time attendance would run contrary to the board's previously stated intention that its desire was to offer students a choice.
“It boils down to a philosophical question for this school board — does this district want to continue to send students to a program that has not made AYP in eight years?” Superintendent James Budzilek said.
Kruluts said the board is likely to meet opposition from parents who are used to the full-day vo-tech program, some having attended it themselves, and want their children to stay in it.
Board member Jean Stull said Leechburg officials need to talk with Lenape representatives about their wishes.
“I don't want to start a war again,” board member David Matuscin said.
In other business
• The district could save about $139,000 in interest by refinancing a bond.
The board has about $6 million to pay on the bond from 2007. The money dates back to a 1995 renovation, business Manager Mark Lukacs said.
The district can refinance the bond every seven years and has done so twice before, Lukacs said. It is next able to refinance in February.
With employee retirement costs rising, Budzilek said, savings from the refinancing could avert a tax increase.
The board will vote during its Oct. 17 meeting on hiring Public Financial Management as the district's financial manager for bond refinancing, and Dinsmore & Shohl as bond counsel. The district has used both firms before.
• The district will be applying for a grant to fund a program that would provide “grab and go” food to students involved in after-school activities.
As explained by board secretary Patti Camp, the intent is to feed students who, because of after-school activities, might not get home until late in the evening.
The district could receive $5,000 to $10,000. The program would be available only if there is grant money to pay for it.
The food could cost students $2. But if the district gets a $10,000 grant, it could be provided for free, Camp said.
• Lukacs updated the board on the status of Berkheimer taking over earned income tax collection in Armstrong County from Centax.
He and Matuscin attended a Leechburg Council meeting on Wednesday that included an appearance by a Berkheimer representative.
Lukacs said those who have made tax payments to Centax should not stop payment on any checks. Those payments are being processed but it will take a while for Berkheimer to get caught up.
The school district's earned income tax collections are about $120,000 behind, Lukacs said. The district expects to eventually recoup that money.
Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4701 or email@example.com.
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