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New Kensington-Arnold gets state grant to pay for 3 new teaching positions

| Friday, Aug. 23, 2013, 12:51 a.m.

State grant money will pay for three new teaching positions at New Kensington-Arnold School District this school year, including two jobs geared toward improving early-childhood education.

The district already was participating in the Keystones to Opportunity grant program, which is aimed at improving literacy.

However, thanks to the quick work of several employees, including program coordinators Dana Fularz and Nicole Bitar, the district was able to apply for additional money when it became available over the summer.

Superintendent John Pallone and Business Manager Jeff McVey on Thursday announced the district will receive all of the additional funds requested — nearly $200,000.

The money will pay for a half-day preschool teacher, a full-time kindergarten liaison with local day-care programs and a full-time sixth-grade literacy specialist.

All are one-year special assignments; if the grant money is not renewed, the positions will be eliminated.

The school board on Thursday agreed to hire Leslie Ward to fill the preschool position. She previously worked as a long-term substitute teaching kindergarten; Pallone said she will earn about $43,000 per year, which is the starting salary for a district teacher.

Ward will be tasked with teaching a new section of preschool at Fort Crawford Elementary School for half the day, then filling other duties for the second half of the day, including overseeing the elementary gifted program. Pallone said most of her salary will be paid through the KTO and other grants, although the district will cover a portion of it.

Pallone said the other two positions are fully grant-funded and will be offered to current teachers first. Anyone who takes one of the new jobs can return to a regular classroom if the new positions are eliminated in subsequent years. Long-term substitutes will be hired to teach the vacated classrooms.

The kindergarten liaison will identify district students who need additional help and work with them while they attend child-care programs.

Pallone said the liaison will be beneficial as the district transitions from full-day to half-day kindergarten this school year.

Finally, the sixth-grade literacy position will pick up where the elementary reading specialists leave off, identifying children who need extra attention.

“We're trying to address the needs of the community,” Pallone said.

Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680 or lhayes@tribweb.com.

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