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Bond refinancing to save Blairsville-Saltsburg School District $57 K

Jeff Himler
| Thursday, April 25, 2013, 8:55 p.m.

Blairsville-Saltsburg School District expects to save $57,784.37 by refinancing a little over $4.1 million in bonds that it issued in 2003.

School board members approved the refinancing plan at their regular April 17 meeting at Blairsville High School. The sale of the bonds is scheduled to close on May 22 with interest rates locked in until then.

Alisha Phillips, managing director of financial advisor Janney Montgomery Scott, told the board the bonds will mature according to the schedule for the original issue, with the savings realized through a debt service reduction in the 2013-14 school year.

Board President Ed Smith noted the savings is “nothing to sneeze at in today's market. We need every bit we can get.”

The school board approved the 2013-14 Indiana County Technology Center budget of $5,546,688 with Blairsville-Saltsburg contributing a share of $548,380 toward that amount. ICTC member districts are expected to contribute a combined total of more than $2.7 million toward the new center budget, representing a decrease of .96 percent from the 2012-13 budget.

Smith noted, however, that the B-S share is increasing by about $30,000 because the district's enrollment at the center has increased by 50 students.

The school board approved several new “College in High School” courses for the 2013-14 school year. Through arrangements with two area colleges, district instructors will teach the courses to participating B-S students, whose families will pay reduced class fees.

Courses offered through Seton Hill University include art history; college chemistry, physics or Spanish; American government; pre-calculus; and English composition and literature.

College accounting or algebra, business law, calculus, English literature and microcomputer applications are available in conjunction with Penn Highlands Community College.

School director Holly Gibson, who serves on the B-S curriculum committee, suggested the CIHS courses will allow students who aren't sure about their college plans to get a taste of post-secondary academics.

She said Penn Highlands would charge $120 for a three-credit course while Seton Hill would charge $220 for a course worth either three or four credits. “That's a great price,” she observed.

B-S approved operation of a summer school program in cooperation with eAcademy. BSSD staff members who will serve as summer instructors include Kevin Lopata, James Buckles, Trisha Kaylor, Linsey Palazzi, Michele Marra, Justin Kulik, John Brady, Allison Weir and Melissa Milanik.

B-S administrators were authorized to transfer operation of the special education Life Skills program from the ARIN Intermediate Unit to the district

Blairsville parents Amanda Vresilovic and Molly Stiles aired their concerns about a new class schedule the school board recently approved that will have all district students dismissed 2.5 hours early each Friday beginning in the fall.

District officials have said the move is intended to boost time available to teachers for professional development, in light of local school initiatives and increasing state and federal mandates that must be met.

Both parents opposed the decision not to serve a midday meal to most secondary students during the truncated Friday schedule. A hot brunch will be served to elementary students. For secondary students, the normal breakfast will be offered, but lunch will not be provided except for students who attend the Indiana County Technology Center.

Vresilovic said eliminating the secondary lunch is “irresponsible when half of our district receives free and reduced lunches.” She argued that some children rely on the district for hot meals.

The women also protested the added burden working parents will face to provide child care for students who will leave school earlier on Fridays. While district officials have pointed out that early dismissals have been in use at two Cambria County school districts, Richland and Westmont, Vresilovic cited statistics indicating those districts have average household incomes significantly higher than that in B-S.

She added that options for child care are limited in the Blairsville area, with one day care center in operation and five other providers offering child care in their homes.

The parents expressed doubt about the district's contention that other changes, including elimination of Act 80 days when students stayed home, will offset class time lost on Fridays and actually increase overall instructional hours for students under the new schedule.

Stiles questioned how effective shorter class periods will be on Fridays. “I think it's going to be a blow-off day for a lot of the kids,” she said.

Both women said the district did a disservice to families by voting on the new calendar before soliciting parental input.

Following the meeting, assistant superintendent Ian Magness indicated approval of the calendar couldn't wait if both the district and parents were to have enough time to make preparations for the new Friday schedule.

Since the vote, B-S sent home a letter to parents and used the district web site ( to post information and solicit input through comments and an online survey.

Magness expressed sympathy for parents who will have to seek out child care. He said the district is working with outside partners to consider offering after-school programming and care on Fridays for elementary students. But he noted a similar service failed to take off previously due to lack of interest.

Magness said public input has prompted district administrators to tweak the Friday schedule by slightly adjusting the beginning and ending times for classes, revisiting a homeroom period and allowing parents the option of selecting an alternate bus stop for their children on Fridays only.

“I think the plan will work,” he said.

Some board members who voted against the new calendar, including Smith, said they agreed that more should have been done to inform parents before the decision was made.

But, Smith concluded, “We'll get through this. The bugs will be worked out.”

In personnel matters, the school board approved the retirements of: Sandra Ross, Blairsville Elementary teacher, who has worked at the district since November 1975, and Saltsburg Elementary reading specialist Kathy Lupyan, who joined the district staff in August 1978. Each will retire at the end of the 2012-13 school year.

The board hired Christopher Freidhoff as a long-term substitute biology teacher during Kara Petro's leave of absence. He will be paid a salary of $20,000 prorated to the number of days worked, with no additional benefits.

A two-month Family and/or Medical Leave of Absence was approved for Blairsville Elementary teacher Alissa Joyce, intermittently retroactive to April 2.

Several supplemental contracts were approved for positions at Saltsburg Middle/High School during 2013-14: Football head coach, Tim Frassenei; band front adviser, Kara Petro; boys' basketball — head coach, Don Stitt Jr., and assistant coach, Steve Shannon; junior high girls' basketball — coach, Steve Shannon, and assistant coach, Don Stitt Jr.; golf coach, John Chernega; baseball — coach, Glenn Richards, and assistant coach, Bernie Stadtmiller; cheerleading co-advisers, Shawn Battistelli and Kim Davis; junior high cheerleading co-advisers, Stacy Plowman and Wendy Smith; junior high volleyball — coach, Angie Simpson, and assistant coach, Stephanie Simpson.

At Blairsville High School, Greg Kaylor was approved as the math department chair and Kevin Lopata was named the science department chair.

The school board approved district policies regarding booster groups and head lice.

Each booster organizations must submit copies of its bylaws and proposed budget and a list of its officers for the group to be considered for approval at the school board's July or August meeting. At the end of each fiscal year, the organization will submit to the superintendent an accounting of money raised, purchases made and other expenses incurred.

Booster groups may not used district equipment. A booster group will be required to pay a fee within 30 days to reimburse B-S for any damage occurring during the group's use of district facilities.

Any booster group that fails to comply with the requirements will be treated the same as an outside organization and will be prohibited from no-cost use of district facilities.

According to the lice policy, the school nurse may inspect any student for lice at any time during the school year. If lice or nits are found, the child will be removed from the classroom, the parents will receive counseling on proper treatment of the infestation and the child will not be readmitted to school before passing another inspection by the nurse.

Board member Mary Whitfield, reporting on her attendance at the National School Boards Association conference, said the confab offered her proof that Blairsville-Saltsburg, with recent strides it has made in technology and other educational aspects, compares favorably to many other districts.

“A lot of them are just talking about what we've already done,” she said, citing a district that is considering investing in iPads just for instructors while B-S recently began providing the devices for all students in grades 9-12.

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

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