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United selects new school bus contractor

| Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, 9:55 p.m.

United School District has decided to trade in its existing bus provider for a new model.

The school board voted unanimously Tuesday to approve Northern Cambria-based Tri County Transportation as the district's new transportation contractor for a 12-year term beginning with the 2014-15 school year.

United's existing five-year agreement with Krise Transportation will expire in June. President Don Davis said the school board made its decision after hearing presentations from both bus companies.

“In these times of budget concerns, we're looking to provide the best service at the best price for our taxpayers and our students,” Davis said. “It's our opinion, though both provide excellent service, financially (the Tri County agreement) was a little bit better deal for us.”

Davis said the longer term is a key factor in the Tri County agreement. He explained, “We're looking for that long-term, 12-year contract to spread the cost over a longer period of time, thereby giving us a better deal financially and giving (Tri County) the job security of knowing, once they get a place and buy some buses and equipment,... they'll be with us for 12 years.”

Jerry Tibbott, president since 1992 of the transportation company his father started in 1964, said 12 years is the standard length of contracts Tri County currently has with other districts — including Northern Cambria, Penns Manor, Purchase Line, Punxsutawney, Cambria Heights and Portage Area.

Davis didn't place a figure on savings the district expects to realize through the switch to Tri County. The board set Wednesday as a target date for arriving at a completed contract with the new bus provider.

“We do have to work out the details, but I don't anticipate there will be any problem doing that,” Davis said.

While Tri County will be searching for a new base from which to serve United bus routes, Tibbott said the company plans to meet with existing United bus drivers and will welcome them to join Tri County.

Also on Wednesday, the school board will hold a special meeting at 6 p.m. to act on the district's preliminary 2014-15 budget.

Following up on technology items discussed last month, United approved an agreement with Computer CenterLine Technologies to replace a 12-year-old core switch at a cost of $29,513.73. The project will be funded through the district's 2013-14 technology services budget.

The board amended an Oct. 1 managed technology services contract that will allow staff from the ARIN intermediate Unit to manage the district's website. The cost for the added service will be $3,500 prorated to the term remaining for the existing contract.

Pressley Ridge will provide special education services for a high school student in the current semester at a basic rate of $29,250 plus other costs as needed.

Ron Saffron was reappointed district solicitor through February 2015, at a retainer of $6,000 plus $85 per hour for any additional services as needed.

United approved a Pregnant and Parenting Teens Program provided by ARIN at a cost of $900. The school board also accepted donations of $200 from Joseph Maintenance Inc. and of $50 from Todd Surloff to benefit the elementary gifted program. An anonymous donation of $2,349 was accepted for purchasing junior high boys' basketball uniforms.

In personnel matters, United hired Amy Kirsch as a long-term, pre-kindergarten substitute. She'll fill in during an unpaid leave approved beginning Feb. 28 for Kayla Graham.

The board approved a transfer of paraprofessional Sophia Harkleroad from the high school to the elementary school as a result of changing student needs. It also approved new faculty member Francine Ressler's transfer of 20.5 sick days from her previous employment at Portage Area.

United approved the following supplemental football assignments for 2014-15: Scott Boring, assistant varsity coach, and Sean Mack, assistant coach, at a salary of $3,201.03 each; and Kenneth Main, junior high assistant coach, at $2,057.80.

Approved as volunteers: Scott McCully, Bill Lichtenfels, Lee Ann Ault and Tyler Capitosti, for track; Allison Mintmier and Kerry Stewart, softball; Joshua Hammack, baseball; Cathleen Harr, volleyball; and Jamilyn Sombronski, at the elementary school.

The school board approved the 2014-15 school calendar, which sets Aug. 27 and June 5 as the first and last days of student instruction.

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

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