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Changes to make school year better for Brentwood students

| Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Brittany Goncar | South Hills Record
The new Field Turf football field at Brentwood is looking sharp just before school is back in session and football season scheduled to open Aug. 30 against Serra Catholic.

Familiar faces in new roles will greet students in the Brentwood Borough School District.

A crisp, new Field Turf playing surface — with blue endzones, white lettering and Vegas gold stripping — will welcome the varsity football team.

New classes and technology will be unveiled in the district.

Students have a lot to look forward to as they head back to classrooms in the district on Monday.

Here's what they will face in the 2013-14 school year:

Staffing changes

Brentwood Middle/High School Assistant Principal Lindsay Klousnitzer will move her office across the hallway and take over a newly created position as coordinator of curriculum, instruction and professional development this fall.

“I can't tell you how excited I am,” said Klousnitzer, who joined the Brentwood Middle School staff in 2006 as a an eighth-grade language arts teacher. “I'm hoping that (this position) improves student achievement and growth.”

District officials created the curriculum, instruction and professional development position to have one person overseeing all those duties, Superintendent Ronald Dufalla said.

“Curriculum always has been a function that has been split up among the building principals and superintendent,” he said. “That segmentation really hasn't done the curriculum the justice that it should.”

Klousnitzer, who graduated from Westminster College in 2005 with a bachelor of arts in English and a minor in secondary education and received her master's of education degree in school leadership from the University of Pittsburgh in 2010, said many of her duties will focus on data analysis and aligning curriculum with the Common Core State Standards.

“Curriculum and instruction really go together,” she said. “I'm going to look at it (and determine) what is the first area that's in need of improvement? Where are we succeeding?”

She also will work on aligning curriculum and instruction among all grades, from kindergarten through 12th, Klousnitzer said.

At Brentwood Middle/High School, Ken Solomon will assume a new social studies teacher/dean of students role.

Solomon will continue to teach junior and senior high school students in the morning and then shift to the school office for his dean of students job in the afternoon, high school Principal Jason Olexa said.

Creating a half teaching/half administrative position was a way to save money, Olexa said.

“This was a measure that we could add an administrative position without adding an additional salary,” Olexa said.

New faces in the district this year are Vanessa Strassner, coordinator of special education, who started on Aug. 12, and Christina Gattens, a librarian at the elementary school, who was set to start Aug. 21.

Both positions were left open due to retirements.

Curriculum and technology

Brentwood High School students now will have a choice between an intense game of basketball or a calming aerobic routine during physical education classes.

A new format, being piloted this year will allow students to select between competitive sports and fitness programs for physical education classes, Olexa said.

“It's really trying to get the kids more physically active, more physically involved,” Olexa said. “We're letting the kids decide what would be best for themselves.”

Those who select “competitive sports” will have the option to compete in games of badminton, volleyball or basketball, while those selecting the “fitness” category can go to the Gold Center for weight training or participate in aerobics, Olexa said.

A seven-period Algebra II course, with a lab, also was added at Brentwood High School this year, Olexa said. The course, which has about 60 students enrolled this fall, was piloted last year and will focus on aligning students with the Common Core State Standards initiative, he said.

The class focuses on students who need extra support in math, Olexa said.

At Brentwood Middle School, curriculum also is being adapted to meet requirements of the Common Core standards, Principal David Radcliffe said.

Smartboards also will be added to four classrooms at Brentwood Middle School, Radcliffe said.

Brentwood Park upgrades

District officials said they've been watching turf being laid, the track area being set up and planning coming to fruition for the $8 million Brentwood Park overhaul.

The district leases portions of the park including the stadium for school activities. Brentwood Borough owns the stadium and has undertaken a renovation using borough funds, several grants and the Brentwood Park Initiative.

Frequent rain this summer delayed installation of the track. Yet school district officials said they plan to have the first Brentwood High School football game on the newly installed Field Turf on Aug. 30 at 7:30 p.m. against Serra Catholic.

Contingency plans are in place in case other events need to be moved due to construction, Dufalla said.

Elroy service project

Students, teachers and community members are invited to help beautify their neighborhood school playground on Aug. 25 at 9 a.m.

Elroy Elementary School first-grade teacher Amy Smith secured a $750 KaBOOM! and Dr. Pepper grant for new mulch for the playground area, Principal Amy Burch said.

The day before school starts, students and staff will gather to spruce up the play area, finalize the painting of the wall, rake leaves and spread mulch, Burch said.

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or

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