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Four United faculty members preparing to retire

| Thursday, March 14, 2013, 8:55 p.m.

United School District is preparing to bid farewell to four veteran educators as the school board on Tuesday accepted their retirement resignations, all effective at the end of the current academic year.

Set to retire are: first-grade teacher Ann Dougherty, who has served the district for 25 years; second-grade instructor Maxine Toth, with 37 years of service; elementary art teacher Darleen Tishock, who has worked at the district for 34 years; and elementary librarian Alexandria Marguccio, who has served United for 29 years.

In a preliminary 2013-14 budget review that followed the board's regular monthly meeting, Tammy Tuccarello, director of finance, noted the district is planning to replace the second-grade and art teachers and the librarian, but the first-grade position might be eliminated through attrition and is not included in the current proposed spending plan for next year.

If United receives a Pre-K Counts grant for pre-kindergarten programming, it will need to hire two additional teachers and two aides, Tuccarello said.

Another item with a substantial budget impact that has yet to be determined is whether the district will choose to provide services for students with special needs in-house or will use the resources of the ARIN Intermediate Unit.

Tuccarello said salaries account for 40 percent of the district's total proposed expenditures of $20.6 million. Since revenues are projected to bring in just $17.9 million, United is facing a potential deficit of $2.7 million — which would be made up by drawing upon a fund balance of nearly $6.4 million.

That deficit is expected if United raises its real estate tax by 1.8 mills, to 98.15 mills — a hike that is needed to cover debt service obligations. Tuccarello noted, if state officials grant two exceptions the district has applied for under Act 1, United would have the ability to raise the tax by up to an additional 8 mills without seeking voter approval through a local referendum.

Tuccarello said each mill of tax ideally should generate about $48,000 for the district. But, due to an 82-percent collection rate, the real figure is closer to $39,000.

Due to rising costs, Tuccarello said she is budgeting $1.6 million for 2013-14 — up from $700,000 — to cover costs for district students who are enrolled in cyber charter schools or who receive services from various providers outside of the district.

It was noted that United recently decided to launch its own online course offerings but few students have enrolled.

Several board members suggested more should be done to make parents aware of the district's online option, which allows students to participate in United's extra-curricular activities and to receive a district diploma.

“What are we doing to promote this?” board President Don Davis asked. “It's a market and a business. People are competing for our students.”

The board is planning to hold an additional budget workshop on March 26. It will approve a tentative 2013-14 budget in May and a final budget in June.

In other business at Tuesday's voting session, the board approved change orders for the elementary school renovation project.

Additional payments to contractor G. M. McCrossin total $15,056.76 for a smoke detector and various electrical and lighting items. Mid-State Construction will receive an extra $5,838.28 for work on wall carpet and plywood infills for the gym. The board denied Mid-State's request to be excused from painting a maintenance garage and storage receiving room.

Quotes were accepted from several suppliers of interior items at the elementary school, to be paid from the construction fund: Smart Office Services (Your Office Outlet), bookcases and shelving, $5,354; Lakeshore, carpets, $1,363.90; Virco, furniture, $9,334.78; KOH Design, rail and bracket systems for Smart Boards, $2,955.

Board Vice President Trudy DeRubis indicated the elementary project is well within budget with the expectation of holding a rededication ceremony sometime before the start of classes next fall.

The board also agreed to solicit bids for replacing the elementary gym floor. Superintendent Barbara Parkins explained that flooring has been damaged in areas where bleachers are rolled out and the district decided it would be better to replace the flooring than to attempt a repair.

United accepted a quote from Accent Electronic Systems to add two phone lines to the high school press box and training room at a cost of $714.11.

United approved the 2013-14 ARIN general operating budget including a district share of $33,660, which represents a 1 percent increase from the previous year.

The district also approved an agreement with ARIN regarding IDEA funding related to special education for the current 2012-13 school year. United will receive reimbursements totaling $129,364.18 for allowable expenses.

DeRubis was named to a three-year term representing United on the ARIN board through June 30, 2016.

The school board accepted Tom Harley's resignation as assistant softball coach so that he can step into the program's head coaching position. The board hired Allison Mintmier as the new assistant softball coach and Steve Barbus as an assistant varsity baseball coach, each at a supplemental salary of $2,017.45.

An unpaid leave of up to 12 weeks was approved for Jodi Orr under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

United agreed to hold its school picnic May 25 at Idlewild Park near Ligonier. It accepted Ed Sutter's donation of a set of ladies' left-handed golf clubs, balls, tees and a bag for the golf team.

Several field trips were approved including: 20 students and three staff attending a robotics competition continuing through Saturday at Pittsburgh's Peterson Event Center; approximately two students attending the All-State Chorus Festival and Conference April 17-20 in Erie; a May 24 senior class trip to Cedar Point, Ohio, at no cost to the district; a June 8 trip by students to see the “Lion King” musical in New York City.

The district agreed to corrective action plans set forth in the state Auditor General's performance audit report for the fiscal years ending on June 30 in 2009 and 2010.

Parkins explained that there was an error in counting students riding on buses that resulted in the state overpaying the district in transportation funding. She said there will be a cost to the district for the error and administrators have agreed to meet quarterly to ensure that the bus counts are accurate.

United granted REA Energy Cooperative a right of way and easement for constructing a guy pole and anchor at the corner of Fox and Shellbark roads, near the high school football field.

Jeff Himler is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2910 or

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