Blairsville-Saltsburg debates athletic team assignments, eyes bond savings
In the new year, Blairsville-Saltsburg school officials are expected to consider a game plan for two spring sports and a proposed bond refinancing effort that could save the district about $56,000.
After a brief discussion at their regular Wednesday meeting, school board members tabled action on a recommendation to keep the district-wide track program headquartered on the Saltsburg end of the district and the softball team based on the Blairsville end.
Chairman Anthony Canzano said the board's student activities and athletics committee would meet in January to further discuss the team assignments as well as other athletic topics that were touched on at a Nov. 27 panel session — including a debate over whether to consolidate separate football teams fielded at Blairsville and Saltsburg high schools.
The debate continued at Wednesday's board meeting.
Board President Ed Smith said he felt there had been a “gentleman's agreement” among school officials that the track program should move from the Saltsburg High School stadium to Blairsville's Memorial Stadium in the coming spring. He pointed out that the Blairsville track offers five running lanes while Saltsburg's has only three lanes.
But school board member Linda Brown replied, “Five lanes doesn't make any difference. We can't have meets anyway.”
Though the running tracks at both ends of the district recently were improved with asphalt surfaces, neither meets the regulation for PIAA competitive events, so they can be used for practice sessions only.
Board member Mary Whitfield said district athletic director Glenn Richards — who has resigned from that position effective Dec. 31 due to a restructuring of the supplemental post proposed in the new year — submitted a plan for a consolidated district-wide football team that would schedule three home games each at the Blairsville and Saltsburg stadiums.
Whitfield said the idea for consolidating the Blairsville Bobcats and Saltsburg Trojans football teams is based primarily on safety. She explained after the meeting that a consolidated team would provide larger numbers of upperclassmen to play so that freshmen, who are considered more vulnerable to injury, would see less playing time.
“There have been students that have been hurt and LifeFlighted (by medical helicopter),” Whitfield said. “I think we need to look at all the ideas involved.”
Smith and board member Rick Harper both said they favor maintaining two separate football teams.
Harper noted that Saltsburg's football team has been struggling to achieve wins but pointed out it has faced that same struggle in the past. He argued that maintaining separate teams would provide an opportunity for more students to play the game.
Likewise, he said, having teams at both ends of the district provides more occasions for musicians in the respective high schools' marching bands to perform at home games. “That's why they're in the band,” he said.
Smith noted that home football games also provide important fundraising opportunities for the junior class.
In other matters, Canzano said his committee recommended that the district return to the past practice of hiring two athletic directors, one for each end of the district.
Blairsville-Saltsburg approved Harold Harsh as the Blairsville High School varsity softball coach.
At Saltsburg Middle/High School, Nathaniel Newell was named musical director and Mary Jo Zetts music director for the musical.
Robert Aumer, managing director of Pittsburgh-based Janney Montgomery Scott, reported to the board on the proposed refinancing in 2013 of $4.2 million worth of 2003 bonds. Taking advantage of current low interest rates, the refinancing is projected to result in a gross savings of $88,580. The district would realize a net savings of $56,133 after the state claims its share.
The school board passed a resolution stating that it does not intend to approve any tax increase for the 2013-14 school year that would exceed the 2.4-percent index established by the state Department of Education. That index would equal a tax hike of about 3 mills in the majority of the district, which lies in Indiana County, and about 2.6 mills in Loyalhanna Township, Westmoreland County.
In curriculum matters, the school board approved expanding dual enrollment opportunities to include 11th-grade students as well as seniors. The program allows B-S high school students who meet academic and attendance eligibility guidelines to spend a portion of the school day attending courses at participating colleges and earning college credit for their work.
Assistant superintendent Ian Magness said he hopes to reach an agreement with an additional institution and foresees future opportunities for students to complete college courses through distance learning rather than traveling to an institution's campus.
Saltsburg Middle/High School's holiday band and choral concert is set for 7 p.m. Monday. Blairsville's will be at 7 p.m. Dec. 18.
During the board's annual reorganization, Smith and Rowley were retained as president and vice president.
During 2013, the school board plans to hold combined workshop and voting meetings at 7 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month. Meeting locations will alternate between Blairsville and Saltsburg high schools.
Jeff Himler is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2910 or firstname.lastname@example.org.