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Southmoreland officials: High school's state test scores not dire

| Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014, 12:03 a.m.

The academic performance at the high school was a subject of discussion again during a Southmoreland School Board meeting on Thursday.

Recent academic performance statistics from the state Department of Education show the high school to be a shade under the desired performance level. The high school's building-level academic score was a 69.8, below the targeted level of 70 percent.

Superintendent John Molnar reiterated his position that the high school is moving in a positive direction and offered a Powerpoint presentation during the meeting to illustrate his assessment.

Among the data provided was a 1,488 average score on Scholastic Aptitude Tests (SATs), which Molnar said is the highest for Southmoreland High since 2009; a ranking by the Pittsburgh Business Times as one of the top 50 schools in SAT scores (Southmoreland ranked 44th); and scores on the recent Keystone tests.

“Not to say the high school doesn't still have some issues, but I think we're starting to trend in the right direction,” Molnar said. “I'm pleased with the improvement measures that are starting to take place there.”

Some examples provided by Principal Dan Krofcheck showed the state average score in math to be 38.6 percent of students checking in as advanced or proficient, compared to 64.47 percent at Southmoreland High. In reading, the state average was a shade under 50 percent, while Southmoreland checked in at 81.05 percent.

During the meeting, former school Director Catherine Fike expressed her displeasure with the high school's performance. Fike said when she was on the board, most of her colleagues and the administration didn't want to hear about her concerns.

“I simply tried to (make known) corrective action to a serious problem,” Fike said. “Never once did anyone even discuss it or ask if I had any recommendations or solutions to this devastating problem. ... It's way past time for the members of our community to step up and demand that our children receive the quality for which we are paying dearly.”

In other action:

• The board adopted the accelerated budget opt out resolution which certifies that if the board chooses to raise taxes on the 2014-2015 budget the increase can be no higher than 2.9 percent of the district's current millage rate.

Seven of the eight board members in attendance (Levi Miller was absent) voted in favor of the motion. School Director Ken Alt cast the lone negative tally.

“This budget does leave open the possibility of a tax increase up to the limit,” Alt said to explain his vote.

Under the Act 1 Taxpayer Relief Act of 2006, school districts must limit tax increases to the level set by an inflation index calculated by the Pennsylvania Department of Education — unless the tax increase is approved by voters in a referendum or if the district obtains referendum exceptions from the Department of Education or a Court of Common Pleas.

• The board approved the hiring of two coaches.

Todd Bunner is the new varsity head softball coach. David Kiefer is the new head coach of the track and field team.

Each of the school directors in attendance voted to hire Bunner. Alt said he would “pass” on voting for Kiefer.

Athletic Director Charlie Swink said Bunner has been the middle-school softball coach for the past three years and has experience coaching travel softball.

“He knows a lot of the girls,” Swink said. “He knows the game pretty well. He knows what we need to do to compete at the Triple-A level that we're at.”

Kiefer is a social studies teacher and an academic team leader at the high school. He has been involved with the Southmoreland track team in a number of capacities for years.

“He has 20 years experience and has been on staff here at Southmoreland High School with the track-and-field program that entire time,” said Krofcheck. “He has served as a coach in basically every sports season in one form or another.”

Krofcheck said Kiefer is an assistant football coach at Mt. Pleasant and has been a football assistant at Greensburg Central Catholic.

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

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