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Blairsville-Saltsburg School District adopts literacy plan, posts proposed comprehensive plan

Jeff Himler
| Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013, 9:15 p.m.

Blairsville-Saltsburg School Board on Wednesday adopted a plan for boosting student literacy skills in conjunction with the Keystones to Opportunities program that is providing a multi-year federal grant to assist in the effort.

Assistant Superintendent Ian Magness noted the plan calls for addressing literacy needs among children living in the district from birth to grade 12 and coincides with the district's launch of new pre-kindergarten classes.

Among district guiding principles, the plan cites the importance of early childhood intervention to ensure students have a firm foundation on which to build literacy skills.

With a goal of having all students start kindergarten on a “more level playing field,” the plan states, “At the Birth to Pre-kindergarten level, partnerships have been created in order to share literacy materials and best practices with the caregivers.”

In a related move at Wednesday's regular meeting, the school board approved Kathy Lupyan to serve as the district's early childhood liaison. Her compensation of $60 per hour, not to exceed 400 hours per year, will be covered by the Keystones to Opportunities grant. Magness explained Lupyan will provide outreach to other organizations in the community that provide pre-kindergarten and day care services for young children.

Other principles set forth in the literacy plan include: providing instruction to “address the full range of learners,” including those in gifted and special education programs; using assessment tools to identify student literacy needs; and providing ongoing professional development for teachers.

The plan makes reference to the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts that have been adopted by Pennsylvania.

At its meeting next month, the board is expected to take action on a more wide-ranging comprehensive plan for the district that must be submitted to state education officials by the end of November. School board member Holly Gibson, who served on a committee that helped develop the comprehensive plan, noted it is posted on the district website for public review.

The plan cites district accomplishments as well as concerns — including the challenge of maintaining consistency of curriculum alignment between the two school campuses in Blairsville and Saltsburg.

The school board Wednesday approved several revised courses including an “orientation” course meant to help sixth-graders transition from elementary school to middle school and a “freshman seminar” that acquaints incoming high school students with the graduation project each must eventually complete and the iPad tablet devices used by each. Other revamped courses address subjects ranging from citizenship and careers to keyboarding, computer applications and desktop publishing.

Blairsville-Saltsburg approved a contract with the ARIN Intermediate Unit that allows district students to participate in the IU's driver's education program at no cost to the district. Students and their families will be responsible for any fees for taking the training and a driver's exam.

The board contracted McIlvried, DiDiano and Mox LLC of Pittsburgh to conduct a topographical map survey of the Blairsville football stadium at a cost of $6,800. Business manager Eric Kocsis explained the survey is needed as the district considers how to address a portion of the site that was washed out by heavy rains in late August. In the meantime, the affected area has been roped off and the field and surrounding track are still able to be used.

In personnel matters, the board hired Linzi Powers as a fourth-grade teacher at Blairsville Elementary a salary of $50,882. She replaces a teacher who resigned shortly before fall classes started to accept a job with the Indiana Area School District.

Hired as long-term substitute instructors were: Heather Charlton, Saltsburg Middle/High School learning support, retroactive from Oct. 9 through the end of the current semester; Angela Wicklund, Blairsville Middle/High School art, during the leave of Courtney Scherf. Each will have a prorated salary of $20,000.

Family and/or Medical Leave of Absence requests were approved for: Blairsville Elementary School Principal Joseph Baker, from about Dec. 3 through Jan. 6; SMHS guidance counselor Lori Baker, from approximately Dec. 3 through March 3.

Approved for supplemental positions were: Cheri Matarrese, SMHS 9th-grade class adviser; Glenn Richards, SMHS 10th-grade class adviser; Matt Nicely, BMHS jv basketball coach; Harold Harsh, BMHS head softball coach; Justin Reed and John Reed, SMHS boys' basketball junior high coach and assistant coach, respectively.

Also, Matt Doak was approved as a volunteer wrestling coach.

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

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