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State offers praise to Southmoreland School District

| Wednesday, April 10, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
Rachel Basinger | for the Daily Courier
Gerald W. Yanity, solicitor and notary public, swears in new Scottdale Borough Councilman Jim Pallygus.

The Southmoreland School District recently received two letters from the state's Department of Education recognizing district accomplishments.

Both letters were read at the April 4 meeting of the school board by Superintendent John Molnar.

One came from the department's Bureau of Special Education stating disabled students at Southmoreland Elementary School have demonstrated growth at the same or above the progress of their non-disabled peers for the past three years.

“While recognizing that many students with disabilities are not at grade level, it is critical that these students continue to make growth each year to maximize their ability to enable them to be successful as they transition to their post-secondary plans,” stated the letter from John J. Tommasini, bureau director, who added that the district should share its practices with other districts.

“It's a wonderful achievement that we have students with disabilities who are progressing at the same rate as their non-disabled peers,” Molnar said.

The other letter came from Vonda Cooke, state director, child nutrition programs. It informed Lynn Huggins, food service director, the district was eligible to receive performance-based reimbursement for each lunch meal served as of Dec. 1, 2012 based on compliance with new meal standards. This equates to an additional six cents for each lunch served for the 2012-2013 school year.

“It may not sound like a whole lot,” Molnar said. “But when you multiply six cents times the number of lunches we serve on a daily basis...That is a significant amount of money.”

Recognition also continues for Southmoreland Middle School. The school was one of 10 in the country honored as a Breakthrough School through the National Association of Secondary School Principals, in conjunction with MetLife

The school will be featured in an upcoming edition of Principal Magazine. The article covers seven pages, according to Vince Mascia, principal of Southmoreland Middle School.

Mascia and Tim Scott, assistant superintendent, will be in Washington D.C. May 1-3 for the next NASSP forum.

“We will actually have the opportunity to sit down with the U.S. Department of Education,” Mascia told the board. “The next day we are given the opportunity to go to Capitol Hill to meet with the legislators and discuss educational policy....It has been a tremendous honor to be a part of this process.”

“We have people from the Southmoreland School District going to Washington to help shape national education policy,” Molnar added. “I couldn't be prouder of the work you folks are doing.”

The search for a new business manager continues. A replacement is needed for Bill Salem, who resigned from the position after 18 months on the job. That move was accepted by the board at its Jan. 10 meeting.

A committee of school directors Josie Kauffman, Michael Bentz and Aimee Love will work with the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials to spearhead the search for a new business manager.

In the meantime, Sheldon Berk has begun as interim business manager.

Berk spent 30 years as business manager of the Blackhawk School District before retiring. Since then, he has served a number of school districts on an interim basis such as Jeannette, Plum and United, which is located in Indiana County.

Finally, the board will have a special meeting at 7 p.m. April 30 to continue discussions on the 2013-14 budget.

Paul Paterra is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-887-6101 or