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Charleroi parents show support for gifted teacher

| Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, 12:03 a.m.

Charleroi Area School Board President Ken Wiltz admitted that he and the board were “caught off guard” Tuesday when a group of parents showed up to support the district's gifted education teacher, Laura Piecknick.

The parents said they came to Tuesday's monthly board meeting to address “rumors” that the district was considering moving Piecknick from the position.

“We can assure you that the gifted program will go on,” Wiltz told students and parents in attendance. “We are reviewing the gifted program, but we can not comment on matters of personnel. I wouldn't say that our minds are made up on anything.”

Nine parents and one student spoke in support of Piecknick and urged the board to reconsider any sort of restructuring that would involve Piecknick being removed from her position.

“She is the REACH program at Charleroi,” parent Keith Marucci said, of the gifted program. “There are teachers out there that get by doing the minimum work, well she does the maximum she can do and doesn't ask for anything in return. She treats every kid in the program as if they were her own.”

Marucci said that he and other parents have heard “through the grapevine” that Piecknick was going to be moved to teach the chorus at the high school.

“The gifted kids are like any other group of kids in the high school, they have their own little niche,” Marucci said. “The kids need stability and she provides that. She goes above and beyond what she has to for those kids ... it's not just a job for her.

“I'm just concerned that you're going to take something special out of my son's and these kids' lives.”

The board went into a brief executive session and could have returned to regular session and add an item to the agenda to take action, but Wiltz said they would make a decision at their February meeting.

“We'll meet with the principals and come up with a decision,” Wiltz said. “We just can't comment on the matter publicly right now.”

Solicitor Mike Lucas reiterated that the board could not go into personnel matters.

“Every employee has their right to privacy,” Lucas said. “When an item is on the agenda and board action is going to be taken anyone is welcome to comment and the matter may be discussed further, but there is still a matter of privacy that the board must adhere to.”

Director Elaine Pappasergi urged those in attendance to attend the appropriate committee meeting.

“The meetings are advertised,” Pappasergi said. “That's where most of the discussion takes place. We do value your input and we do listen and hear your concerns.”

A second chance

Ferko announced that after discussing the matter with high school Principal Patricia Mason, the district's prom will be held at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium.Ferko declared last spring that after no one took responsibility for an incident that occurred at last year's event, this year's prom would be held in the high school gymnasium. There were reports of vandalism at last year's prom.

“After a great presentation by the students and discussing it with Ms. Mason, the prom will be held at the zoo,” Ferko said. “Even though no one took responsibility for what happened last year, the junior class has agreed to take responsibility for their actions as a class if anything happens this year and for their behavior. They said they want to restore the sense of pride in the school.”

He added that one of the stipulations was that there could be no incidents at this year's winter dance.

“It's well-warranted,” Ferko said of the decision. “I'm impressed with the way the class stepped up as a group.”

No more long lines

In other business, the board agreed to begin a “Grab-N-Go” breakfast program at the high school/middle school.

“What this program will do is put a cart with certain breakfast items with a cash register in the high school-middle school lobby,” Ferko said when asked to describe the program. “This is to eliminate the long lines in the cafeteria at breakfast time. Kids can get off the bus and grab some breakfast before heading to the cafeteria. We all know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and this will make it available to more kids without having to wait in long lines.”

Looking ahead

The board voted unanimously to approve the 2013-2014 academic calendar.

“The biggest thing is that Christmas break has been extended to two full weeks,” Ferko said. “Instead of returning to school on a Thursday, students will have that day and Friday off. School will resume Jan. 6.”

Ferko added that an Oct. 4 teacher's in-service day will focus solely on security and safety. The last day of school will be June 4, with commencement on June 5.

A big thank you

The board recognized Ed Szygender, of West Penn Wire, for his donation of nearly $3,000 worth of wiring needed to update the district's wireless network.

Jeremy Sellew is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 724-684-2667.

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