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United School District looks to save on Internet security services

Jeff Himler
| Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, 8:55 p.m.

Officials at United School District look to save $41,000 by amending Internet services provided by Sting Communications as part of a new Regional Wide Area Network launched through an agreement with the ARIN Intermediate Unit.

The school board on Jan. 14 approved a change in Internet security and filtering services as recommended by its technology services coordinator, Robert Sarraf.

As part of a five-year agreement with Sting, beginning on July 1, United approved an upgrade from a basic managed firewall service to an advanced managed firewall that will include content-filtering, anti-virus/spam and intrusion prevention features.

The upgraded service requires a one-time equipment cost of $3,000 and a monthly cost of $150, up from $85 per month for the basic service. But, Sarraf explained, United will realize a net savings since the upgraded service through Sting will allow the district to drop two existing web- and spam-filtering services.

According to Sarraf, the amended services will result in a yearly savings of $8,800 for the district, less the $3,000 cost in the first year of the five-year agreement.

During an initial workshop portion of the meeting, the school board heard a proposed four-phase plan for overhauling and updating the district's technology resources, presented by Josh Muscatello, director of technology for ARIN.

In conjunction with a district website revamp that has already been approved, Muscatello suggested the first phase of the plan should include replacing a 12-year-old core switch. Otherwise, he said, “There's a potential for the core switch to have an outage.”

He estimated the new switch would cost about $30,000 and should be covered by money already budgeted for the 2013-14 school year.

“We're looking to do this before July,” he said, adding, “This is the concrete, this is the foundation” for additional recommended technology improvements.

In the second phase of the plan, Muscatello recommended that the district upgrade some of its 10 existing computer servers. Instead of replacing four servers at a cost of $40,000, he explained that by purchasing three physical servers with added memory storage, at a cost of about $65,000, “I can get you 75 virtual servers.”

Muscatello said the server improvement could also be completed within existing budget limits because of other proposed technology savings. He said Sarraf “uncovered areas where we could better spend our money,” by making a change in service providers and eliminating some unnecessary services.

The third phase of the technology plan involves putting in place a schedule for periodically replacing older “end-use” devices, such as personal computers.

Muscatello cited seven years as the expected useable lifespan of a PC. So, he recommended, prior to the 2015-16 school year, beginning on a regular basis to replace all PCs as they enter their seventh year — “so your oldest PC is only going to be six years old.”

The final phase of the plan will be a wireless network project, proposed for the 2016-17 school year. While Muscatello said the district's existing computer network “is currently meeting our needs, by 2016-17, we're probably going to look at a different solution.”

According to Muscatello, the various recommended improvements will help lay the groundwork for the ultimate goal of providing students with individual assigned devices as part of a “1-to-1 initiative,” possibly in 2017-18.

Gym repairs eyed

The school board authorized district facilities coordinator Ed Sutter to contact Dynamic Sports Construction about making repairs to the elementary gym floor. The board also authorized its consultant for recent elementary school renovations, HHSDR Architects, to provide a cost estimate for repair/replacement alternatives for a sliding wall that divides the school's gym and cafeteria areas.

United just installed a new gym floor in a work item that was added near the end of the elementary renovation project. But school board President Don Davis said the new floor already has been damaged and district officials believe the “very old” sliding wall may be to blame.

Sutter also was directed to obtain three quotes for repairing or modifying a floor drain in the elementary cafeteria.

The school board appointed superintendent Barbara Parkins, district director of finance G. Thomas Kalinyak, Davis and fellow board members Trudy DeRubis, Beth Ann Marcus and Ronald Moyer to a district committee that will conduct negotiations with the United Education Association for a new teacher's contract that would succeed the current collective bargaining agreement set to expire on June 30.

DeRubis reported negotiators for the two parties held an initial “meet and greet” session on Jan. 9 that included setting ground rules for the contract talks. A meeting that will also involve a state mediator is slated for Feb. 20.

In personnel matters, the school board approved a new nurse aide job description as well as a one-year Act 93 agreement for district administrators and coordinators dated retroactively to July 1. Don Davis said the agreement, which does not include the superintendent, maintains administrators' wages at the previous year's level. Davis indicated the pay freeze is a result of budgetary concerns and is “not a reflection on anybody's job performance.”

For the 2013-14 year, Act 93 salaries were set as follows: elementary principal Lewis Kindja, $102,050; high school principal Michael Worthington, $78,000; director of education Patricia Berezansky, $92,800; facilities coordinator Ed Sutter, $55,352.05; assistant facilities coordinator Clay Skedel, $48,177.05.

Substitute teachers hired

The board also hired Kimberly Sisitki and Craig Bytner as long-term substitute teachers at rates set forth under administrative regulations. Sisitki will work up to 12 weeks, beginning Feb. 14, during the unpaid leave of elementary instructor Megan Rensko, while Bytner will substitute for elementary teacher Roseanne Williams during her sick leave of 6-8 weeks.

United also approved an unpaid leave beginning Feb. 28 for elementary instructor Kayla Graham.

The board granted tenure status to high school music teacher and band director Ben Saylor, who has completed six semesters of satisfactory service.

It also approved the retirement of custodian Charles Stiles on March 3, after 24.5 years of service, as well as the resignations of Zachary Waddell and Josh Hammack as assistant football coaches.

Bytner was approved as a volunteer with the track program while Kelli Curtiss, Wendy Donelson, Margie Monty and Diane Travis were approved as volunteers at the elementary school.

A one-time reimbursement in the amount of $48.75, for a background clearance fee, was approved for the following district volunteers: John and Jim Holupka, Bob Lichtenfels and Jason Stiles.

United agreed to award a General Equivalency Diploma to a former student, providing district criteria are met.

Saylor was authorized to accompany two United students to the District III Jazz Band Festival, which was to have been held Jan 16-17 at Indiana Area  High School, and seven students to the District III Band event, set for Feb. 5-8 at Punxsutawney High School. The district will cover costs of $1,591.50 for the two trips.

Acey Gongaware and four students will attend the Regional Chorus Festival, Feb. 12-15 at Oil City High School, at a cost of $1,523.50

Kristie Good and about five students will attend the Agriculture Cooperation Establishes Success (ACES) Convention Feb. 15-16 in Harrisburg, at a cost of $325.

Kathy Reasor and 12 students will travel to Hershey for the Pennsylvania FBLA State Conference, April 6-9. The cost was estimated at $5,285.

Elementary reading specialist Mark Weakland was authorized to attend the Title I Improving Schools Performance Conference Jan. 26-28 in Pittsburgh, at a cost of $1,028.95, and the International Reading Association Annual Conference May 9-12 in New Orleans, La., at a cost of $170. Author of a children's book and an adult instructional book, he is expected to take part as a presenter at the New Orleans gathering.

The school board accepted the donation of a walnut plaque from the girls' varsity basketball boosters group that will display names and statistics for up to 24 student-athletes who scored 1,000 points as members of the United team.

Detour affects buses

Kindja, who also serves as the district's transportation coordinator, said three or four bus routes will be affected when a section of Route 403 in East Wheatfield Township is closed for up to 8 weeks for a bridge replacement project. Traffic from Johnstown will be rerouted along Route 56 during the PennDOT project, which is slated to begin in April.

Worthington noted students at the high school joined efforts to help a fellow student who “had a rough patch in his life.” Through a dress-down day, $707 was raised to assist the student's family, he said.

Alumni group formed

Worthington said he is hoping to attract more members to join The Pride-The United Alumni Association, which currently has 40 some people on its rolls. According to the organization's brochure, it was created this past August “to reunite former students, teachers, parents, administrative staff and all who have contributed” to the school's success.

The group's goals include: encouraging members to participate in the United community by attending events and volunteering; awarding scholarships to United students; and making financial donations to support field trips and other district programs.

More information about the alumni group will be posted on the district website at

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

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