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Plum School Board, teachers union to discuss $1M budget deficit

| Wednesday, May 15, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Plum School Board and members of the district's teacher union plan to talk about ways to eliminate the $1 million deficit in the 2013-14 budget draft.

The negotiations are planned in the wake of the board's education committee recommending last week the slashing of 21 teaching positions to wipe out the deficit.

Board President Andrew Drake said board members and representatives of the Plum Borough Education Association (PBEA) were scheduled to meet earlier this week.

No additional information was available as of the Plum Advance Leader's deadline Tuesday morning.

Board member Joe Tommarello said during the education committee meeting that the PBEA declined a request from the school board to freeze wages for the 2013-14 school year.

Tommarello said the wage freeze would save the district $936,686.

PBEA President Martha Freese declined comment on the wage freeze proposal.

Freese said the union is open to discussions.

The proposed breakdown of teaching staff cuts is 14 positions at the high school, six at the junior high and one elementary job.

Program eliminations would include ROTC, television production, family consumer science and business education at the high school and computer instruction and French and Spanish at the junior high.

Also, technology education at both the high school and junior high is recommended for elimination.

The committee also recommended eliminating one librarian and one high school guidance counselor.

“We said this year would be tough,” board member Richard Zucco said. “No one listened.”

Freese opposes the proposed cuts.

“The PBEA is interested in saving all educational programs for students now and in the future,” Freese said after the meeting.

“Children should not be held hostage. That is exactly how we view what is happening right now.”

Prior to the education committee recommendation, several community members spoke out against cutting any programs including not replacing an elementary band director position.

“Children need the music program in elementary school, and you need someone dedicated to music to teach them,” said Daria Collins.

Collins said her daughter's participation in the district's music program resulted in her being selected as a member of the marching band at the University of Pittsburgh.

John DeLuce, the high school music teacher who directs the spring musical, also urged the board to hire a new elementary band director.

“There is a nick to an artery now,” DeLuce said.

“(Not hiring a new band director) would cut the legs off the music program. There would be no musical, marching band or ensembles. Electives keep kids out of cyber school.”

The board is scheduled to consider advertising the preliminary budget that will include the proposed cuts during a 7 p.m. meeting on Wednesday.

Karen Zapf is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8753, or kzapf@tribweb.com.

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