Gateway, Monroeville, Pitcairn officials discuss 2014 outlook
New academic goals for Gateway School District students, continuing teachers contract negotiations and a new Monroeville Council are among the changes residents will see in 2014.
Gateway and Monroeville officials experienced a year of many changes in 2013.
The superintendent set a number of goals for Gateway, and the school board parted ways with its longtime football coach.
On Monroeville Council, political differences led to controversial personnel changes. The election in November changed the makeup of council; four new members will be sworn in on Monday.
Here's an overview of some of the changes residents might see this year in the Gateway School District, Monroeville and Pitcairn:
Leaders are setting new academic goals and standards, while teachers continue to negotiate a contract with district officials.
Superintendent Nina Zetty and administrators have set their sights nationally, with a plan to achieve the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, which is presented annually by the president of the United States.
School director Skip Drumheller said he attended a seminar on the program two months ago.
“It's for the entire school district, not just for individual schools like the Blue Ribbon award,” Drumheller said. “I think it's a cool thing.”
District officials anticipate receiving grant funding to cover the cost of academic initiatives associated with the program, Drumheller said.
Zetty has said it will take years to have all the systems in place, but that the process has started and will result in several changes throughout the district.
Meanwhile, teachers continue to negotiate with district officials for a new multiyear contract. The previous five-year contract expired in August.
The teachers union voted in 2012 to accept a 1-percent salary reduction and to forego hourly wages for administering classrooms in lieu of a substitute teacher.
Gateway Education Association President Mike Krestar could not be reached on Monday for comment.
A Monroeville Council that includes four newcomers is tasked with approving a 2014 budget after the budget was tabled last month by the previous council.
A balanced budget proposed by manager Lynette McKinney maintained the current property-tax rate and municipal services provided to residents, though it called for the merger of the parks and recreation department with the senior center, which was protested by senior citizens who said they deserve a building all to themselves.
Councilman-elect Ron Harvey said he hasn't heard an argument — financially or otherwise — from current officials that is strong enough to gain his support.
“With the senior citizens opposing it, someone's got to give me a real good reason,” Harvey said.
A budget workshop with department heads is scheduled Jan. 9 as part of the monthly workshop meeting.
Monroeville Mayor Greg Erosenko said officials are hoping to have a budget passed by the end of January. If a budget is not passed in January, expenses would be approved by council on a month-to-month basis, according to the Monroeville Home Rule Charter.
McKinney made personnel decisions in 2013 that drew the ire of some elected officials.
She fired former police Chief Doug Cole and launched an internal investigation of the Monroeville dispatch center and local fire departments.
An audit by the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General (OAG) found that unauthorized police information was accessed by Monroeville firefighters.
The report said the municipality took the correct steps in shutting down the system.
McKinney also hired five new police officers in 2013 in anticipation of officers retiring in 2014.
Some council members accused McKinney of micromanaging the police department and overspending taxpayer money on the internal investigation.
She was suspended with pay at a Nov. 26 special meeting. After four new council members are sworn in on Monday, they will vote on whether to fire McKinney. The decision to hire five new officers already was reversed by interim manager Joe Sedlak with the support of a majority on council.
The results of a Jan. 24 arbitration hearing for Cole might result in his return to the position of police chief.
“I want him back in January, as soon as we can,” Erosenko said Monday.
A federal investigation by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services of a report accusing the police dispatch center of a medical-privacy violation is ongoing. The investigation is unrelated to the OAG audit.
Improvements to public safety and infrastructure in Pitcairn have made borough officials optimistic about 2014.
After a six-month narcotics investigation in Pitcairn that yielded dozens of arrests in recent months, the police department's budget was increased by $8,000 in 2014 for local drug enforcement.
“It will give our local police department the opportunity to initiate any kind of operations either similar to the one that took place or completely independent of other law enforcement agencies,” John Bova, a Pitcairn councilman and public-safety committee chairman, said Monday.
He said officials and residents informally have discussed a drug rehabilitation center in Pitcairn.
“We just can't keep arresting these folks, putting them away for a while and hoping they're changed people,” Bova said.
“There needs to be a concerted effort to rehabilitate.”
Kyle Lawson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8755, or firstname.lastname@example.org.