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Blairsville-Saltsburg School District to add pre-kindergarten classes

| Friday, July 12, 2013, 11:27 a.m.

Blairsville-Saltsburg School District will have a pre-kindergarten class at each of its two campuses after being awarded a competitive state Pre-K Counts grant.

The district applied for the five-year grant in conjunction with Indiana Area School District, through Armstrong-Indiana Intermediate Unit, and winners were notified after the state budget was finalized.

The Blairsville-Saltsburg school board voted 8-0 to accept the grant funds at a special meeting Tuesday morning. Board member Holly Hall was absent. The grant awards $648,800 each year that will be administered by ARIN to reimburse the two districts for Pre-K teachers, aides and supplies.

“Essentially, we are going to create from scratch, as far as I know, the district's first-ever Pre-K program equitably on both sides of the district with a class average probably of about 16 to 18 (students),” assistant superintendent Ian Magness said. “It would be one classroom on each side of the district with a full-time teacher and full-time aide in each.”

Magness said 3- and 4-year-old children of district residents receiving or eligible for government assistance qualify for the Pre-K Counts program. The district will be contacting parents with children already attending school in the district who may also have children who qualify for the program, but Magness urged families whose children aren't in the school system yet to contact the district at 724-459-5500, ext. 8, then ext. 1103.

“These are the kids that usually fall through the cracks because they can't afford to go to a preschool,” board member Holly Gibson said. “Setting them up with a good solid foundation before they get to kindergarten and first grade, that's really important.”

The board accepted the retirement of Blairsville Elementary principal Debra Shirley, who spent 36 years as an employee of the district. Magness said no definite time-frame for hiring a replacement had been established, as Shirley notified the district of her retirement the day prior to the special meeting.

The district also made moves to replace recently-retired football coach and co-athletic director Ab Dettorre at Blairsville. James Buckles moves from co-athletic director to athletic director for the Blairsville campus. Rick Artley, who is entering his 16th year of coaching in the district and served as Blairsville's top assistant coach under Dettorre for the past eight seasons, takes over as head coach. The other assistant coaches on Dettorre's staff will remain on Artley's staff, with seven volunteer football coaches also approved at the meeting.

The district will dip into money set aside for additional expenses during the roof project at Blairsville Middle-High School for three items totaling $8,631. One of the items, board president Ed Smith said, is to fix a mistake in which the letter “S” in signs on the outside of the school was installed upside-down.

The board approved having Adelphoi Education, Inc. provide alternative education, Your Education Success and day treatment services to the district for the 2013-14 school year. The board approved an agreement with The Learning Lamp for an ACCESS coordinator part-time position for 40 weeks at a cost of $13,956.80. The directors also voted to renew the district's subscription to Study Island educational software for 2013-14 at a cost of $17,973.50.

The district will purchase a forklift and van from the 12th Congressional Regional Equipment Company for $3,500 each. The district had been leasing the vehicles previously, Smith said. The district also renewed its agreement with Lifestat Ambulance Service for the upcoming school year in the amount of $2,800.

In other business, the board:

• Approved the Saltsburg Middle-High School marching band field trip to the Fall Fantasy Parade at Kennywood on Aug. 12. The trip will cost the district $750 for transportation.

• Approved Richard Serafin as volunteer coach for the district's volleyball program and Betty Branthoover as volunteer coach for the Blairsville High golf program.

• Approved a Family Medical Leave of Absence for Alissa Joyce, Blairsville Elementary teacher, Aug. 3-Sept. 13 and intermittently through Nov. 4.

• Appointed Mary Whitfield and Anthony Canzano as voting delegates at the Pennsylvania School Boards Association Leadership Conference in October.

• Adopted policies regarding facilities use, electronic transactions records and signatures and volunteers.

• Authorized the establishment of a cooperative sponsorship for girls' lacrosse with the Marion Center School District for 2013-14, in cooperation with the Armstrong and Indiana Area school districts, at no cost to the district.

The board's regular July 17 meeting was cancelled, but it will hold another special voting meeting at 7 p.m. July 31 at Saltsburg High School as the district prepares to hire new teachers for the upcoming school year.

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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