Homer-Center hires substitute music instructors for spring semester
By Jeff Himler
Published: Friday, Dec. 20, 2013, 11:42 a.m.
Homer-Center School District is calling upon a pair of educators to fill in for an instructor who will be away on leave during the spring 2014 semester.
At its Dec. 12 regular meeting, the school board hired Jon Stolarz, who directs the district's high school band, and Nathaniel Mack to serve as long-term substitutes for elementary music teacher Tammy Menk, who is scheduled to begin a sabbatical on Jan. 20.
Stolarz and Mack each will receive a salary of $13,782.75 in accordance with the district's contract with the Homer-Center Education Association.
Superintendent Charles Koren explained the two substitutes will split the school day, with one covering morning classes and the other afternoon classes.
The district also added to its list of substitute teachers who can be called in for occasional work as needed. The board approved Bethany Cheek, who is certified to teach music in grades K-12, and Breanne Denning, a mid-level math instructor.
Homer-Center school directors and administrators sang the praises of recent musical programs at the district — including the high school band and choral concert, on Dec. 9, and the Nov. 22 and 24 musical production of “A Christmas Carol.”
School board members James McLoughlin and Sherri Williams gave high marks to the band, which is in a rebuilding phase with a large contingent of younger players.
“They were the best I've heard them in years,” McLoughlin said. “They just sounded so good.”
“The band, I believe, sounded wonderful,” Williams added. “With a very large majority of junior high students, I think they did an excellent job.”
High School Principal Jody Rainey noted the musical drew near-capacity crowds both nights with a cast including some members of the football team that captured the District 6 title between the two shows, on Nov. 23. The large production also was notable for drawing talent from elementary as well as secondary grades.
“One hundred and forty students participated, which is over probably about 30-plus percent of our student body,” Rainey said. “I think it's fantastic to see both the elementary and high school coming together for a community event like that.
Homer-Center music students will be in the spotlight once more when they help lend support to Pittsburgh singer and guitarist B.E. Taylor during his Christmas concert performance at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 20 at Indiana's Kovalchick Complex. The event will raise funds to benefit the Renda Broadcasting Teddy Bear Fund Drive and the Indiana Regional Medical Center pediatrics department. Homer-Center choral instructor Joy Wilson will direct choral groups from H-C and other county districts in the program while the H-C drum corps also is expected to participate.
Students at Homer-Center elementary and high schools have been raising additional money for the Teddy Bear drive through various efforts at the district. High school fundraising activities have included penny wars, Restaurant Days, a ping pong tournament and a musical performance by Lou and the Marksmen, a group fronted by high school English teacher Lou Stepanik.
School officials continued to address a recent turnover of cafeteria staff, with several hirings, but noted Homer-Center has had difficulty maintaining guards for two school crossings.
The school board accepted the resignations of cafeteria workers Veronica Ober and Elizabeth Gallo, noting that Gallo is retiring effective Dec. 20. Those departures come on the heels of four other cafeteria resignations, for various reasons, in November.
The board hired one new part-time cafeteria worker last month and added four more on Dec. 12: Tammy Blystone, Lisa Schmidt, Sherry Hosey and Natalia Brown. Each will be paid $9.64 per hour, receiving 90 percent of that amount during an initial 60-day probationary period.
Koren said an additional candidate for joining the cafeteria staff had been identified, but he noted the selection process had not progressed in time to include the individual on the Dec. 12 agenda.
Brown also was added to the list of approved cafeteria substitutes, along with Jessica Henry.
Crossing guard sought
At the November meeting, when Loretta Blystone was hired as a cleaner, there was an indication she would continue in an additional role as a school crossing guard. But, that's no longer the case, as the board this month accepted her resignation from the guard position retroactive to Dec. 6.
Koren explained there are two locations where guards are stationed to help students who walk to school safely cross Old Route 119 (Main Street) in Homer City — one in the heart of the downtown business district, near the Homer City Pharmacy, and the other near the school campus, at the border of the borough and adjacent Center Township.
For the time being, district officials noted Homer City Police Chief Louis Sacco has been helping with the crossing detail, as has a female volunteer who is participating as part of a program that offers a tax break to district residents in return for donated services.
Koren said the district has been searching for an additional crossing guard, including checking with the local senior citizens' center. “It's been a challenge,” he admitted.
In response to a question from the board, Koren noted the district is not mandated by law to provide crossing guards. But, he said, “It is a service for the safety of our students.”
Internet agreement OK'd
Homer-Center has joined other area districts in agreeing to participate in a Regional Wide Area Network for Internet access and related services. The five-year agreement begins July 1 of next year and continues through June 30, 2019. Service will be provided by Sting Communications through the ARIN Intermediate Unit.
“It provides more bandwidth at a decreased cost to all consortium members,” Koren said.
An ARIN official has indicated a combined average savings of about 20 percent on Internet costs will be realized by the participating districts.
The board retroactively agreed to have Frontline Technology provide 1.5 days of on-site training for district office secretaries in management of the AESOP automated system for calling in substitutes when instructors call off on a given day.
The training, which costs $1,250, is needed because the former H-C webmaster for the system has left the district staff, Koren said: “We have new people in that position, and they need the training.”
Hunting Club approved
The school board approved a new “Hunting Club” student activity at the high school. Koren explained the club will meet four times per school year and is meant to “increase hunter safety, hunting ethics and stewardship of the environment.”
School officials no actual firearms will be used in the club sessions. Koren said district instructors Greg Hartnett and Bill Tonkin have agreed to serve as advisers for the club — at least initially on a volunteer basis, since there are no such supplemental contracts provided for in the district's current agreement with its teachers' union.
Union President Lisa Adams reported that negotiations for a proposed new teachers' contract are going well. The current agreement is set to expire on Aug. 30.
The school board appointed McLoughlin to serve a three-year term as the district's alternate representative on the Indiana County Technology Center board. H-C school board President Vicki Smith serves as the primary district representative on the ICTC panel.
Meeting dates set
The board approved a schedule of dates for its planning meetings, regular voting meetings and buildings and grounds committee meetings for the first half of the coming year. All sessions are to be held in the central office board room.
The dates for planning meetings, beginning at 7 p.m., are Jan. 13, Feb. 3, March 10, April 7, May 5 and June 9.
Regular voting meetings will start at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 23, Feb. 13, March 20, April 16, May 15 and June 19. Voting meetings normally are held on a Thursday, but April's date was advanced by one day to avoid a conflict with observance of Holy Thursday, also known as Maundy Thursday.
The committee meetings, beginning at 7:15 p.m., are slated for Jan. 28, Feb. 25, March 25, April 22, May 27 and June 24.
Bertig joins board
Recently elected school director Michael Bertig attended his first regular meeting as a board member Dec. 12. Bertig, who has taught history at Indiana Area Senior High since 2007, told fellow board members, “I'm happy to be serving on the school board. I'm looking forward to doing whatever I can for Homer-Center School District.”
Bertig noted he has a bachelor's degree in teaching and a master's degree in educational administration, both from Duquesne University.
“I do believe that I can be useful to the board in helping make good, quality educational decisions,” he said.
In addition to district Business Manager Greg Cessna, the school board authorized the business manager's secretary and the district office secretarial aide to receive tax information and record from Bangor-based Berkheimer, the designated collector of local taxes for the district. Cessna said the additional staff was approved to access the information “to enable the business office to print out and organize the tax collection reports more easily.”
Adam Kochman and the Homer City Boosters Club received permission to use the elementary school gym for a boys' basketball tournament Jan. 18-19. The club will be assessed custodial fees of $525.
The board authorized several student field trips.
High school chemistry instructor Brenda Viazanko and students will visit the Indiana County Recycling Center Jan. 10 at no cost to the district.
Stolarz and high school band members will attend the following band festivals — County Band, Jan. 24 at United High School; District Band, Feb. 6-8 at Punxsutawney High School; Regional Band, March 13-15 at a site to be announced.
Patricia Zimmer and students will attend a Feb. 27 Youth Leadership Conference for the Armstrong-Indiana-Clarion Drug and Alcohol Commission. The commission will cover all expenses save hiring a substitute teacher for one day.
Individual students who received monthly recognition were Cody Miller, the Kiwanis Senior of the Month for December and Riley Clevenger, who was presented with the Wildcat Award at the elementary school. This month's high school Wildcat honoree, Alex Harper, will be presented with the award in January.
Rainey reported on other charitable efforts at the high school this holiday season. The Junior/Senior High Student Council, sponsored by Stepanik, led the school's annual Basket of Love drive, which collected nearly 1,900 items to help those in need. With a similar goal, students and staff collected more than 1,000 personal care and hygiene items.
Rainey noted an adult basketball league, organized through the Homer-Center Parks and Recreation Department, plays in the high school gym. Game sessions usually are scheduled at 8:30 p.m. twice a week and are noted on the school events calendar posted at http://highschool.homercenter.org/events.
Responding to a question from school board member Fred Hayes, Elementary Pprincipal Michael Stofa noted the Evergreen Boys and Girls Club attracts between 40 to 70 elementary students for afterschool activities and tutoring at the school.
Run by a nonprofit Indiana County organization affiliated with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, “It's a very good program for our students, and it's at no cost to the district,” Stofa said, noting the afterschool sessions will resume on Jan. 8 following the Christmas break.
The club's sessions at the high school attract between 20 and 40 students, Rainey added. “It's real popular with our junior high kids.”
According to Rainey, the club staff has reached out to Homer-Center's athletic coaches to provide a snack and homework help to student-athletes between the end of the school day and the start of team practice sessions.
He noted equipment the club has brought to the school, including weightlifting equipment and an outdoor Frisbee golf course, has been made available for use by the district. He said the club is considering adding bicycles for use on the Hoodlebug Trail that passes through the community.
United School District is among other county districts that play host to a similar Evergreen Boys and Girls Club program.
Jeff Himler is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2910 or email@example.com.
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