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Homer-Center board approves school security upgrades

| Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013, 9:15 p.m.

Homer-Center School District is moving forward with security upgrades at both its high school and elementary buildings, with construction possibly beginning before 2013 is over.

The school board at its Oct. 17 meeting approved a contract for the work with Johnson Controls Inc. at a cost of $179,444 — more than $37,000 less than had been projected by the district's architectural consultant.

Homer-Center officials are hoping the district may receive reimbursement for some of that cost from state coffers.

As explained at last month's meeting by Greer Hayden of HHSDR Architects, the project will revamp main entrances to the elementary and high schools and the entrance to the district office, allowing staff to remotely view and admit visitors to vestibule areas before they can access the office and then interior areas of the respective schools. Access also will be restricted at the elementary school's kitchen entrance. District employees will be able to enter buildings by swiping coded ID cards.

Security cameras also will be installed at both buildings.

Board Vice President Gerald Bertig, who chaired the Oct. 17 meeting, said the project “will bring our district further into the times with security needs.” While noting Homer-Center has capital project funds available to pay for the work, Bertig said district officials are hoping to get some assistance from the state, “so that our dollars will go further in the future.”

“We do hope the state will come across with special funding for these types of projects, but we can't wait for that,” he said.

The plan is to have the security upgrades completed by March. While much work will be done after the normal school day is over, superintendent Charles Koren noted that initial work might take place while students and staff are on Christmas break.

Bertig reported that school board President Vicki Smith was absent because she was attending a Pennsylvania School Boards Association leadership conference in Hershey. There Smith was set to receive the organization's “Everyday Hero Award,” which recognizes honorees for strong advocacy of public education and length of service.

Smith has served on the Homer-Center School Board for 16 years, about half of them as president. She also represents Homer-Center on the Indiana County Technology Center Joint Operating Committee, which she has chaired for a number of years.

At the Homer-Center meeting, Bertig and Kimberly Thomas received certificates from the PSBA for each serving eight years on the local school board. Thomas, who is not seeking reelection, will attend her last board meeting in November.

In personnel matters, the school board hired Tracey Page as the new secretary to the district business manager at a starting salary of $29,355. When Page begins work, on Nov. 4, Dana Zenisek, who has been serving in the position on a temporary basis, will transfer to the role of part-time secretarial aide in the district office, starting at the same wage she has been receiving — $11.17 per hour. Page and Zenisek each will be subject to an eight-month probationary period in their new roles.

Manon Gill, who is employed at Homer-Center providing technology support on behalf of the CJAWS consulting company, will have her weekly work schedule at the district increased from three days to five days, according to a motion approved by the school board. Koren explained Gill's schedule was expanded after Nathan Blehi, who provided similar services to Homer-Center on a part-time basis, left for a full-time job at the Marion Center School District.

Homer-Center accepted the resignations of instructional aide Kathleen Bennett and cleaner Jaime Wagner, who will remain on the district substitute list. Cheryl Grove, who works a four-hour shift as a cleaner, will have her yearly schedule expanded from 9 months to 12 months in accordance with the district's labor agreement with the Homer-Center Education Support Professionals union.

Turning to supplemental positions, the school board approved Jon Stolarz as the musical director assistant for the 2013-14 school year, at a salary of $1,367, and Christine Yurky as the musical choreographer, at a salary of $400. High School Principal Jody Rainey noted this year's musical production, “A Musical Christmas Carol,” will be staged on Nov. 22 and 23, with 28 students in grades 5 and 6 supplementing the high school cast.

Dan Hillegas was hired as the boys' assistant track coach at a salary of $2,256. Kelli Zerfoss will receive an identical salary for serving as the head junior high coach for the girls' basketball program. Rainey explained, due to a change in employment, coach Tom Lasher is no longer able to guide both the varsity and junior high teams.

Homer-Center selected the Infocon Corporation to print and mail Homestead/Farmstead applications for the current year. The item should cost in the neighborhood of $300, not including postage, according to Business Manager Gregory Cessna. He noted the cost is up slightly from last year's $275 total.

The district purchased four certificates of deposit totaling a combined $782,500 at S&T Bank and another totaling $240,000 through the Pennsylvania Local Government Investment Trust.

H-C contracted with Bayada Home Health Care, which has a Blairsville office, to provide in-school nursing services for a student with health needs during the 2013-14 school year. Jeanette Geary, curriculum and special programs director, said the firm will provide services as needed, noting fees “are in line with what we can submit” for reimbursement.

Science instructor Mark Shopland and students will conduct water testing in three local streams on five dates throughout the year, including on Wednesday and Nov. 13. The district will hire a substitute teacher and cover transportation costs.

Robert Stossel and students will attend the Indiana University of Pennsylvania Economics Collaboration Exchange on Nov. 7. IUP will cover transportation costs.

Lou Stepanik and Vicki Olinger were authorized to accompany members of the H-C Quiz Bowl team to three competitions, including one held Tuesday at Purchase Line High School. Others are slated for Nov. 12 at Indiana Area High School and Dec. 16 at Indiana's Rustic Lodge. The district will hire substitutes and pay for transportation.

Joy Wilson and school chorus members will tour New York City and attend a Broadway show in March at no cost to the district. Rainey said participants would miss only one instructional day.

H-C instructor Patricia Zimmer, honored as Pennsylvania's Family and Consumer Science Teacher of the Year last school year, will attend as a presenter at this year's Teacher of the Year Conference, set for April 4-6 in Lancaster. The district will cover registration and lodging costs, yet to be determined.

Joanne Morgan and the PTA received permission to use the elementary cafeteria and gym for Breakfast with Santa and Santa's Workshop programs on Dec. 7. The West Central District Elks Hoop Shoot will be held Jan. 26 in the high school gym.

At the elementary school, Principal Michael Stofa reported members of the Homer City Volunteer Fire Department presented their annual fire safety program for kindergarten classes on Oct. 16. On Oct. 25, Citizens' Ambulance Service personnel will administer flu vaccines to those who have signed up for the shots.

The elementary Halloween parade will be held at about 1:30 p.m. Thursday, weather permitting. The route will include a portion of Homer City's Main Street. A Halloween homeroom party will follow at 2:15 p.m.

At the high school, Rainey announced an annual walk held in conjunction with Cancer Awareness Activities Week will take place at 2 p.m. Oct. 25, weather permitting.

Veterans and members of the community are welcome to attend the annual Veterans Day assembly, slated for the morning of Nov. 8 in the high school gym.

Rainey reported the annual Drive One For Your School event, held Sept. 21 in partnership with Luther Ford-Lincoln, raised at least $4,500 for the school. A donation was made to the school for each test drive a community member completed in a Ford vehicle.

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

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