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Homer-Center purchases new phone system from Blairsville company

| Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012, 8:52 p.m.

Homer-Center school district has found a way to simultaneously solve its communications problem and support a local business.

The school board last month rescinded its approval for installating a new telephone system over the service provider's lack of required credentials. Since then, the district has located a vendor approved by the Pennsylvania Education Purchasing Program for Microcomputers (PEPPM) to handle the project.

Blairsville-based Chestnut Ridge Communications Services will take on the task of replacing the district's outdated phone system at a cost of $50,740.17 after the school board voted Dec. 13 to approve the contract.

District superintendent Charles Koren said the new system would be installed by Jan. 21

“This will address our redundancy issues so that if the system goes down the entire district doesn't go down,” Koren said.

Training is included in the phone system installation price. Additional training would not incur additional charges, Koren said.

The board also voted to assign an additional $9,311.58 to its technology budget to cover necessary network switches and a voice mail file server for the new phone system, allowing voice mail messages to be accessed via e-mail.

ASCC, Inc. had been approved in August for the project, but the district later learned the company was not among the list of PEPPM-approved vendors and rescinded its approval at a Nov. 15 meeting.

PEPPM, developed and managed by the Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit, consolidates bids from technology providers, allowing bidders to reach numerous potential customers and allowing school districts to bypass the expense and time of advertising and collecting individual bids.

The school board also voted to participate in the ARIN Cooperative Purchasing Program for the 2013-14 school year. The program allows schools to take advantage of discounted prices on school supplies gained through bulk purchasing.

Similarly, the board elected to continue to participate in the Western Pennsylvania Gasoline and Diesel Fuel Consortium for next school year, again to lower costs by purchasing in bulk.

The board approved seven substitute teachers and three spare bus drivers while accepting Tony Maggio as a volunteer coach for the high school softball team.

Many of the new substitute teachers, Koren said, are recent college graduates who have just received their teaching certification.

The board accepted the resignations of part-time secretarial aide Lisa Worcester, effective Nov. 30, student aide Christine Caugherty, effective Nov. 21, and part-time cafeteria worker Brenda Rager, effective Dec. 21. The board also approved a family medical leave from Dec. 31 through Feb. 22 for head custodian Lola Skoff and an unpaid leave from Dec. 11 through Jan. 22 for part-time cleaner Cheryl Groves.

Nine field trips were approved, including student participation in district band, jazz band and chorus events as well as county band.

The costs for the music-related field trips total $1,439.11 and hiring substitute teachers for six days. The events provide professional development workshops for music teachers in addition to the students' rehearsals and performances.

“The side-benefit to that, too, though is that if you're a director who's taking kids and you're not directing, then they do have professional development conferences and stuff,” high school principal Jody Rainey said. “As the kids are rehearsing with these two or three directors, the other music teachers can go to different workshops.”

The board also approved student field trips to the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater, the 1160 WCCS radio station, Indiana County Technology Center, the Regional History Day competition at IUP and the National History Bowl in Hookstown.

The district had planned to send its representatives to the National History Bowl competition in Scranton, but altered its plan when the less-distant destination in Beaver County was made available.

“They just announced this location today,” Rainey said of the Hookstown site. “Prior to that we were going to have to travel to Scranton for the qualifying match, so this really saved us a major trip across the state.”

The board approved an Act 93 agreement, retroactive to July 1 and expiring June 30, 2015, establishing compensation and fringe benefits for the district's administrative and supervisory personnel.

Greg Reinbold is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2913 or greinbold@tribweb.com.

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