Shaler Area students return to class

| Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013, 9:04 p.m.

Students returned to the halls of Shaler Area School District buildings for the first day of classes Sept. 13, following the end of the teachers strike that delayed school by more than a week.

“We're all ready to be back,” said Kristin Zientek, a fifth-grade teacher at Shaler Area Elementary School. “All the kids seem really happy to be back … the smiles seem bigger this year.”

The teachers union and district officials approved a five-year contract last week — retroactive to August 2011 and runs through Aug. 15, 2016 — following 2 ½ years of unsuccessful negotiating that led to a strike beginning Sept. 3. The strike could have lasted until Sept. 23.

“It was very stressful not knowing, but we're glad to be back,” said Dina Persichetti of Shaler, whose daughter attends first grade at Rogers Primary School.

Superintendent Wes Shipley spent the first day visiting each district building and welcoming the staff and student back to school.

“The best part of the year is the first days of school so we're glad to have them here,” Shipley said.

While some students enjoyed the extra long summer break, Rieley Herman, a fifth-grader at Shaler Area Elementary School, said she was happy to be back and is looking forward to swimming this year in physical education class.

“I felt it was time to come back,” Herman said.

School administrators spent the extra time caused by the delayed start to tackle some additional school maintenance projects.

Many schools' playgrounds received extra mulch, and the walls received a fresh coat of paint.

Many Shaler Area students also returned to school with a new building principal after an administrative reorganization this summer.

“We wanted to get the right people in the right seats to build our team and focus on the strengths of our administrators,” said Kara Eckert, assistant to the superintendent.

Six administrators opened the school year in a new location.

Eloise Groegler, former principal at the middle school, moved to the principal spot at Reserve Primary School.

Jeff Rojik, former Shaler Area Elementary School assistant principal, was promoted to the principal position at Burchfield Primary School.

Rick Pelkofer moved from a principal position at Reserve Primary School to Marzolf Primary School.

Marty Martynuska, former Marzolf Primary principal, will lead the middle school as principal with Shannon Howard by his side as assistant principal.

Howard previously was an assistant principal at the high school.

Former middle school Assistant Principal Lori Mish moved to an assistant principal position at Shaler Area Elementary School.

Venice Piveronas, a former high school teacher who spent the last year serving as dean of students at Shaler Area Elementary School, took a permanent position as assistant principal at the high school.

The 2013-14 school year also will start the next phase of the district's Project ACE, which stands for Advancing Classroom Education, and aims to integrate iPad use into regular classroom instruction.

During this year's phase, all teachers, nurses, social workers and professional staff received an iPad as an instructional tool and participate in regular training with the goal of getting them into the hands of every student in future phases.

“We're pretty excited to get the year up and running, and we have a lot on our plate,” Eckert said.

Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or

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