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Enhanced safety a priority for South Allegheny

| Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, 1:31 a.m.
South Allegheny assistant elementary principal Dave Hoffman, Superintendent Wayne Gdovic and dean of students Glenn Bonczek.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Trib Total Media
South Allegheny assistant elementary principal Dave Hoffman, Superintendent Wayne Gdovic and dean of students Glenn Bonczek.
South Allegheny Middle School principal Lisa Duval (right) checks in with art teacher Jayne Sweet, whose classroom will be part of the new 'SwitchEd' wing that focuses on STEAM education.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Trib Total Media
South Allegheny Middle School principal Lisa Duval (right) checks in with art teacher Jayne Sweet, whose classroom will be part of the new 'SwitchEd' wing that focuses on STEAM education.

As South Allegheny School District prepares for the start of classes on Wednesday, the district is introducing initiatives to promote safety.

Glenn R. Bonczek, a 1975 South Allegheny graduate, is returning to the district as dean of students and director of security.

“I consider this an incredible opportunity to give back to my alma mater and contribute to the community,” Bonczek said. “I view myself as a hybrid administrator. I'm not a principal, but I do have a degree in education. That, along with my experience as an emergency response planner in the FBI, will bring something unique to the district.”

Bonczek has 37 years of law enforcement experience, having recently retired from a 29-year career as a special agent with the FBI. He coordinated special events, such as the G20 summit in Pittsburgh in 2009, in terms of terrorism response resources. He hopes to bring crisis management and response planning to the district and increase lines of communication between emergency responders and the schools.

Superintendent Wayne Gdovic said Bonczek is a great addition to the district.

“We will be able to utilize his experiences to build off of the safety measures we have in place and continue to make this a safe place for children,” Gdovic said.

Bonczek praised the district's safety standards and said South Allegheny schools will build upon the policies and procedures they have in place. He said the educational process “demands a safe environment. Otherwise it can't happen.”

Assistant elementary principal Dave Hoffman, who serves on the district's safety committee, said safety is of upmost importance on a daily basis.

“Our number one goal is to make sure children are safe from the time they get on the bus in the morning to the time they get off the bus in the afternoon,” Hoffman said.

As an added security measure this fall, all South Allegheny buildings will implement the Raptor system for visitor identification. To enter a building, all visitors must display a government-issued ID card, such as a Pennsylvania driver's license.

Front desk personnel will swipe the ID for a background check, including the state police database for registered Megan's Law offenders.

“It automatically notifies local law enforcement and administration if there's a violation,” Gdovic explained. “It's another layer of security.”

Parents will receive a letter providing additional information on how the Raptor system works and instructions regarding school visitation and procedures for student pickup.

At South Allegheny Elementary, a new traffic pattern will be established for student drop-off.

“Parents will be driving the opposite direction around the school, as opposed to last year and previous years,” Hoffman said. “The drop-off points will remain the same.”

Parents are asked to have children on the passenger side of the vehicle when possible to make for an easy exit.

Planned for the elementary-level buildings:

• The district is adding a AIU-managed pre-K class at South Allegheny Elementary for 3- and 4-year-old students. The program is in addition to the one at South Allegheny Early Childhood Center.

“It gives us an opportunity to educate more children before kindergarten,” Gdovic said.

• The district is implementing the Houghton Mifflin Journeys reading curriculum for kindergarten through third grade, which is aligned with the PA Common Core standards.

“It's still a standards-based program with a lot of opportunities for different-level learners,” Gdovic said. “These books provide resources to reach high-functioning students and those who are struggling academically.”

• An event to reveal the “Water, Art and Us” mural designed by students and artist in residence Laura Jean McLaughlin is scheduled for Sept. 3 at 6 p.m. at South Allegheny Elementary.

Throughout the last school year, the elementary school was home to McLaughlin, who supplemented classroom lessons with a mosaic project on school property. Her presence was part of a perntership with the Arts in Education Division of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.

Grant money will be used this year to begin “Nature, Art and Us.”

At South Allegheny Middle/High School:

• Utilizing a $20,000 grant facilitated by the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, the district will introduce a wing dedicated to the educational principles of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts/Design and Math, commonly referred to as STEAM.

“We are changing the learning spaces into more collaborative, creative spaces for the students to learn,” middle school principal Lisa Duval said.

The STEAM Center is called “SwitchEd” and will include new courses, including robotics and digital electronics. It will be revealed to district parents during a Sept. 9 open house from 5:30-7:30 p.m.

• The South Allegheny Community Learning and Wellness Center will be open to students in seventh through 12th grades during in-school physical education classes. Athletic programs will have access to the center for student workouts from 3-5 p.m. It will be open to district residents during non-student hours.

• The building's HVAC project will be complete for the start of the school year, which will provide central heat and air conditioning in common areas such as the auditorium, cafeteria, library and gymnasiums.

• Students in sixth through ninth grades will use an enhanced math curriculum with new resources. The course schedule includes the addition of Algebra I as an option for eighth-graders.

• A new Advanced Placement environmental science class will be offered to high school students.

“This is a learning opportunity for students who have an interest in environmental science,” Duvall said. “Thinking to the future, our environment is becoming an increasingly important topic and there are a number of professions that involve environmental science.”

• An SAT preparation course is a new elective for students in ninth through 12th grades. It will be offered by semester.

New developments in district-wide technology include the following:

• An open wifi connection is available at Glassport Memorial Stadium.

“It's helpful to our coaching personnel and media, who have to get their scores in on deadline,” district public relations coordinator Laura Thomson said.

• The Edline system no longer will be used for parents to access student grades and attendance information.

With training for teachers and staff under way, the district will implement the iPass system. Parents will be able to register for accounts in time for the district's planned Sept. 9 and 10 open house.

“Because it's one system, the information is more accurate and timely,” director of technology Maria Borkowski said.

Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1956, or

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