Blairsville-Saltsburg school board adds elementary cameras, eyes vote on security officers
Blairsville-Saltsburg School Board took action Wednesday to enhance safety at Blairsville Elementary School by approving 47 new security cameras to help monitor activity both inside and outside of the building.
The board also will hold a special voting meeting on March 6 to consider whether to take protection of all district students to the next level — by recruiting school security staff from the ranks of current or retired law enforcement officers.
Capital improvement funds will be tapped to cover the $52,000 cost of purchasing and installing the security cameras at Blairsville Elementary.
Ian Magness, assistant superintendent, noted the camera installation was already under discussion by district officials before December's mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school brought school safety to the forefront around the nation.
Magness noted the district's second elementary school, in Saltsburg, has enjoyed “excellent coverage” with cameras since it was relocated several years ago to a new addition adjoining the Saltsburg Middle/High School.
The cameras approved Wednesday will “bring Blairsville Elementary up to par,” Magness said.
District business manager Eric Kocsis noted the new cameras at BES will include 32 placed inside the school and 15 outside. “The cameras outside are a lot more expensive, plus there's the wiring to get them hooked up,” he said.
The March 6 voting meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. at Blairsville High School and will be preceded by a 6 p.m. budget session and a 6:30 p.m. policy committee meeting.
School board President Ed Smith said, if the district decides to hire security officers, it may consider either current or retired state police officers or staff from the sheriff's office. Another option would be to maintain the status quo and decide against adding such officers.
Several board members agreed that they would be ready to vote on the matter March 6 rather than just discuss it. Smith pointed out, “If we go with retired state police officers, there are not that many of them. So we'd better get them before another district gets them.”
Kocsis and board member Mary Whitfield referred to state and federal proposals for providing schools extra funding for security, but they noted approval of the funding is uncertain.
Rick Harper, who chairs the buildings and grounds committee, reported a proposed timeline for updating roofing of the buildings on the Blairsville school campus: March 8, receive bids; March 20, reward contracts; June 10-Aug. 30, complete construction.
Smith said the foresight of the school board and officials in managing district funds will allow Blairsville-Saltsburg to “pay cash” for the roof project rather than borrowing money. He said the district also deserves credit for holding the line on taxes for five years while other area districts have raised millage rates.
The board accepted a LifeSkills Training Program grant from the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Magness said the grant exceeds $30,000 and will fund staff training in preparation for including new drug and alcohol prevention content in middle school health and physical education classes beginning next fall.
The school board voted to offer soccer as a club sport for the next season, fielding one varsity team each for boys and girls.
Also, the board approved a more flexible policy for determining if a specific team should participate in postseason playoffs in a given year. In the past, teams were required to post at least a .500 record to take part; now the determination will be made by athletic directors, coaches and building principals.
Board members agreed to maintain the status quo for the home base of two district-wide spring athletic programs. Track will continue to be based on the district's Saltsburg end while softball will continue to be based on the Blairsville end.
The board accepted Melissa Milanak's resignation as the head girls' track coach and hired Brandy DelleDonne to take over that supplemental position.
Several other coaching assignments were approved: Mark Freeman and Steve Shannon, girls' and boys' assistant track coaches, respectively; Bernie Stadtmiller, assistant baseball coach; Angie Simpson and Stephanie Simpson, Saltsburg junior high volleyball coach and assistant coach, respectively; Matthew Nicely, Jonathan Santoro and Chad Yowler, volunteer baseball coaches.
Karen Kerin was approved as music director for the Blairsville High School musical “South Pacific,” to be performed at 7 p.m. March 14-16. Tickets cost $8 and can be obtained by calling 724-459-6757.
The board agreed to post or advertise all contracted supplemental positions for the 2013-2014 school year.
The school board hired Patrick Camut as a long-term substitute for Cheri Matarrese, a Saltsburg Middle/High School art teacher who is on an extended leave. Camut will receive a prorated salary of $20,000 with no additional benefits.
The board approved intermittent leaves through the end of the school year for the following employees, under the Family and Medical Leave Act: Denise Fazi, BES guidance counselor; Wanda Cunningham, SMHS attendance/copy aide; Cheryl Bevard, teacher at BHS.
Yolande McCloskey, BES librarian, was approved for a one-semester sabbatical leave for restoration of health, through the end of the school year.
Uncompensated leaves were approved for BMHS art teacher Courtney Scherf, May 3; and for BES custodian Samuel Zack, Aug. 8-17.
Jeff Himler is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2910 or firstname.lastname@example.org.