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Kiski Area's Region I race finds 3 competing for 2 seats

| Tuesday, May 7, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Dave Anderson--Kiski Area School Board candidate

In less than a month, voters in Kiski Area School District Region I will have at least three choices to nominate two candidates in the May 21 primary.

David Anderson and Elizabeth Pollick Kovach, both incumbents, and political newcomer Carly Opaska are seeking two nominations in Region I. A write-in candidacy is possible.

Region I draws voters from Allegheny Township and the Washington Township's North Washington section.

Anderson, Kovach and Opaska said safety and budgetary questions are top issues.

Anderson said the board believes safety to be paramount. He pointed to the work that is under way to reinforce the entryway to Allegheny-Hyde Park Elementary School.

Additional precautions are in place, he said. More options are being considered and will be discussed at a public meeting sometime after the election, he said.

Kovach, who is a retired teacher, said an emergency plan has been in effect for years. The staff regularly meets with police and discuss potential problems, she said.

“Bad things can happen everywhere,” Opaska said.

The Hyde Park Elementary School work under way is needed and other changes may be needed, too, she said.The candidates agree that budget worries are an issue for all school districts.

The district's 2012-13 budget of $50.7 million is largely fueled by $22.3 million from local taxes.

The school board has taken a number of fiscal actions, including closing Bell-Avon Elementary School and Washington Elementary as part of a larger school construction and grade reconfiguration plan.

The district is coping with state budget cuts from Gov. Corbett, Kovach said.“We've tightened up spending, but our first responsibility remains the students,” she said.

Kovach praised teachers for previously extending their contract and accepting wage restructuring. “I'm very proud of our teachers,” she said.Anderson said the board is closely watching potential employee retirements and other costs while looking for ways to keep the basic curriculum relevant to students.

The VND reported in March that Kiski Area had the A-K Valley's fourth-lowest graduation rate, at 87.3 percent, although that's still almost 5 percent above the state's average graduation rate.

Opaska said she is “taken aback” by that number.

“Our graduation percentage is going up, but it's still below the state average and we want to change that,” Anderson said.

“We are evaluating where we are strong and where we're weak,” Kovach said.

In another matter, Opaska believes district class sizes are too large — particularly for the youngest students — and that makes a teacher's job tougher.

According to the state, the district has an average of 22 students for every teacher.

Fewer students per teacher should be the rule for elementary-age students, Opaska believes, but there are more students per teacher than last school year. Budgetary pressure is understandable, she said, but administrators should do more to reduce class size for youngsters.

Kovach said the district is working to equalize class sizes to benefit children. The improvements should be seen, she said, when classes resume this fall.

“It would be great if we could do it, but the expense is too much,” Anderson said. “And a 22 to 1 ratio is not a bad ratio.

“Elementary school size was reconfigured to equalize the numbers,” Anderson said. “Before, we had some schools with an 18 to 1 ratio and some with a 28 to 1 ratio.”

“The 22 to 1 ration may be true for some grades,” Opaska said. “It's still very off whack for others.”

Chuck Biedka is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4711 or cbiedka@tribweb.com.

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