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Connellsville Area School Board board threatened with lawsuit

| Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Connellsville Area School Board members were advised Monday night that they could be facing a lawsuit if they choose not to rescind a motion that moved about 50 students from Dunbar Township Elementary School to Dunbar Borough Elementary School.

A majority of the board voted on May 12 to change district lines between Dunbar Borough and Dunbar Township elementary schools. The change moved students who live on Eighty Acres Road and the Monarch area and who currently attend Dunbar Township Elementary School to Dunbar Borough Elementary School beginning with the 2010-11 school year.

Board members and administrators said the decision would help save money, since the district wouldn't need to hire five teachers to replace a group of teachers who are retiring. Also, the move would more than likely help the schools meet Adequate Yearly Progress and help solve overcrowding issues at Dunbar Township Elementary.

Several parents represented by Attorney David Lint with a law firm from Charleroi attended last night's meeting to discuss their concerns about the board's decision.

"My clients have asked me to advise the board that they intend to pursue this matter to the furthest extent if the board decides not to change their decision on this issue," Lint said.

Lint told board members that his clients have concerns not only about the move, but also about the psychological and developmental impact the move will have on their children.

While no facts or details were presented on the issue, Lint said his clients feel it's not fair that their students, who have been part of the township elementary school historically, are being forced to change schools when there are students currently attending the school who don't even live in the school's boundaries.

"I think it's only fair that the students who belong (at Dunbar Township) stay and those who don't, go back to their own schools," said parent Lisa Seese.

Parents also are concerned that the district is moving their children from one of the newest and nicest elementary schools in the district to one that has problems, according to a study the district paid to have done a few years ago.

"(Dunbar Borough) has air quality problems, mold, mine subsidence issues, cracks and structural defects," Lint said.

Parent Jonya Koslosky suggested the board consider moving teachers rather than students to solve their teacher-to-student ratio issues, and as for AYP, she said that while the move would thin out the total population, it would only increase class size, which she said wouldn't help AYP issues.

"There are alternatives available," she said. "Board members can act to keep these students in one of the newest and best elementary schools in the district."

While parent Brandi Szabo said this decision was "basically a travesty of democracy against the family and children affected," resident John Hustofsky said the district was only "putting a Band-Aid on a huge, gaping flesh wound."

"You can't please 100 percent of the people 100 percent of the time, but that doesn't mean that you don't try," he said. "You need to take some information from the parents and put together a plan that the majority can accept."

Former board member Ed Zadylak said both sides could be satisfied if they moved students from the areas in question through natural attrition.

"If there's a new student registering for kindergarten or a family who has just moved into the area, you have them register at Dunbar Borough Elementary School," said Zadylak, adding that the district continues to allow the families whose students are already attending Dunbar Township Elementary to do so.

"I ask that you put a motion on Wednesday's agenda to rescind this action," he said.

While Director Jon Detwiler said they will look over any information submitted to them by the parents, no decision was made last night to put such a motion on Wednesday's agenda.

Solicitor Christopher Stern said the district has a policy in place that would allow students who did not live within the boundaries of a school to attend that school if transportation was provided and school capacity had not been reached.

He added that while there was no guarantee all of the students would be approved to attend Dunbar Township Elementary School if their parents coordinated the transportation for their child, they could at least begin the process of looking into the possibility by talking to the principal of both schools in question.

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