Leechburg Area School Board picks interim chief

Brian C. Rittmeyer
| Thursday, June 20, 2013, 12:21 a.m.

The Leechburg Area School District will have a new, albeit temporary superintendent as of July 1.

The school board Wednesday hired Frank Prazenica Jr. as interim superintendent. He will be paid $400 per day.

Prazenica retired as superintendent of the South Butler County School District in 2010. He is currently a school board member in Freeport Area.

Prazenica will fill the vacancy left by the departure of Superintendent Jim Budzilek, whose last day at Leechburg Area will be July 31. He starts Aug. 5 as superintendent of the Mars Area School District in Butler County.

Prazenica would work until a new superintendent is hired. Leechburg Area board President Terry Knepshield said the board hopes to hire a new superintendent in time for the start of the new school year, or shortly thereafter.

To help with the search, the board also approved hiring retired superintendent Victor Morrone as a search consultant. He will be paid up to $8,500.

Morrone's background includes being an assistant superintendent at South Butler County, and superintendent of Bethel Park in Allegheny County.

Morrone had consulted the Mars Area district in its search that resulted in hiring Budzilek, and that's how Leechburg Area became aware of him, Knepshield said.

“We want him to redo what he did there,” Knepshield said.

Morrone will advise the district on advertising, screening and interviewing candidates, Knepshield said.

He also will help the district develop a public survey asking residents what qualities they want in a new school leader.

Budget passed

The school board passed the district's $13.12 million budget for the 2013-14 school year.

The budget calls for no property tax increase, but the millage rate will increase in Armstrong County because of how taxes are equalized between the district's Armstrong and Westmoreland county communities.

The millage rate in Leechburg and Gilpin will increase from 64.49 mills to 64.9 mills; it is unchanged in West Leechburg at 106.56 mills.

Full-day kindergarten

The school board is continuing to consider whether the district will offer full-day kindergarten in the coming school year.

A phone survey of parents with children registered for kindergarten found a majority favor a full-day program, Assistant Principal Frank Ippolito said.

Although the school board had been looking at offering a full-day option without hiring a teacher, Knepshield said that may be necessary to keep class sizes smaller. There are also legal questions regarding how the district decides which students get into the full-day program, Knepshield said.

Knepshield said the board will have to decide by its July 10 meeting.

Contract approved

The school board accepted a new four-year contract with the union representing the district's custodians, maintenance and cafeteria staff. Details of the agreement were not available, as the workers, members of the Service Employees International Union, had not yet voted on it. Knepshield said a vote on the contract is expected within a few days.

School security

The school board approved the job description for the new position of director of school safety.

District officials are planning to have an armed guard, possibly a retired state police trooper, in school for the start of the new school year.

The board also approved spending up to $900 per year for a visitor management program.

Business Manager Mark Lukacs said the district now scans driver's licenses at a new visitor station in the high school.

The same system will be put in place this summer at the district's elementary school and administration office.

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4701 or brittmeyer@tribweb.com.

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