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United school board agrees to add Pre-K staff, hires finance director

Jeff Himler
| Thursday, July 25, 2013, 8:36 p.m.

Instruction for four-year-olds is slated to return in a limited form this fall at United School District.

At a special Tuesday meeting, the United school board voted to create four new positions for instruction of the young students — for two teachers certified in early childhood education and two “highly qualified” aides.

Board President Don Davis and Superintendent Barbara Parkins explained the positions will be funded for three years through a state Pre-K Counts grant.

Parkins couldn't cite the exact amount of the funding but noted it will provide for beginning salaries for the four instructional positions, staffing two classrooms of 15 students each.

To be eligible for the pre-kindergarten program, students must come from households earning no more than 300 percent of the federal income poverty level. Parkins said income guidelines are included in letters that were being sent to alert parents to the new program.

United previously offered a K4 instructional program for four-year-olds, but the program was eliminated as part of cost-saving measures during a budget crunch.

“It's kind of the same and a little bit different as well,” Davis said of the new program funded through Pre-K Counts. He noted, “The K4 program we had before, anyone was eligible for that.”

Ultimately, he said, “We're going to be able to do some early intervention with younger students. I think the superintendent, the administration and this board are certainly now advocates of early childhood education.”

The board hired Gerard Thomas Kalinyak as the district's new director of finance and board secretary. He is set to begin work Aug. 19 at a salary of $89,000.

Kalinyak was picked from a field of 15 candidates for the vacancy, which resulted from the resignation of Tammy Tuccarello.

Kalinyak is currently director of finance for the Hollidaysburg Area School District and previously worked with the Greater Johnstown School District, Davis said, adding, “We're looking forward to his arrival and the experience he brings for our district.”

In addition to work related to security improvements planned at United High School, Kalinyak will have early preparations for the 2014-15 budget waiting for him in his new position, Davis said: “We'd like to start budget talks right away so we don't get behind the eight ball.”

United is winding down work on renovations at its elementary school. The board approved change orders for HVAC contractor John Hall Inc. and electrical contractor G.M. McCrossin Inc., reflecting respective credits of $68,937 and $17,899.3 to the district for planned expenditures that weren't needed.

In other personnel matters, the board approved the Aug. 23 retirement of custodian Carol Clark, who has served the district for 18.75 years.

It also accepted the resignation of Zackery Karcher as assistant band director and hired three assistant coaches: Zachary Waddell, for the varsity football program, at a salary of $3,201.03; Josh Hammack, football, $3,201.03; and Mikel Balsley, junior high boys' basketball, $2,400.77.

Approved as volunteer coaches were: Mark Beacker, girls' varsity soccer; Meghan Bono, cheerleading; William Lichtenfels, junior high and varsity girls' basketball; and Kathleen Whitcomb, cross country. Patricia Rich was approved as a band volunteer.

United approved a dual enrollment agreement with Mount Aloysius College for the 2013-14 school year. The agreement allows qualifying upperclassmen at United High School to take select courses offered by the college and to receive college credit for successfully completing the courses.

Parkins noted the district has expanded such options for students, which also include agreements with Indiana University of Pennsylvania, St. Francis University and Penn Highlands Community College. She said the district hopes to forge similar agreements with the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown and the Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport.

The United board renewed student athletic accident insurance coverage with Bollinger Inc. for 2013-14 at an annual premium of $17,747.

Pending language recommendations from district solicitor Ron Saffron, the board also approved an agreement for Adelphoi Education to provide day treatment services in the coming school year — at a cost of $49.46 per day for general alternative education and $53.39 per day for special education services.

The board authorized the district to participate in a school-based ACCESS administrative claims program. Parkins explained the program allows the district to claim partial state reimbursement for eligible administrative costs, mainly related to special education services.

Davis and school board Vice President Trudy DeRubis were approved as voting delegates to participate in the 2013-14 Pennsylvania School Boards Association Legislative Policy Council meeting.

Carol Knupp, president of the United Youth Football organization and an officer with several other athletic booster groups at the district, asked whether such organizations need to be bonded. Saffron replied that the district doesn't require the organizations to be bonded but noted he was checking to see if the district's liability coverage would extend to those groups for activities conducted at district facilities.

Knupp indicated that “all the midget groups carry liability insurance.”

Responding to other concerns expressed by Knupp, Saffron said the district does not require that booster volunteers manning athletic concession stands obtain security clearances.

The district needed time to research an answer to Knupp's query whether juvenile students are permitted to assist at concession stands.

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

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