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Southmoreland approves IU budget

| Monday, March 22, 2010

Despite concerns about expenses, Southmoreland School Board members have approved the 2010-11 Westmoreland Intermediate Unit general operating budget of $5.2 million.

Director Catherine Fike said there were a number of line items in the budget which she questions, including $30,000 a year for travel, workshop and conferences and more than $1 million for administration, including a $121,000 salary for the executive director and a $100,000 salary for the assistant executive director.

"I have concerns, and I just wanted to share them," she said.

Director Levi Miller added that he felt the salaries and other increases were out of line for this economy.

But Fike pointed out that it was almost impossible to keep the budget from passing.

"If nine school districts (of the 17 total in Westmoreland County) vote yes, that's all that matters," she said.

Fike and directors Sam Accipiter and Tony Lizza voted against the budget motion.

The district's contribution to the IU budget is $12,312, which is $394.10 less than last year.

There are 17 members on the board at the Westmoreland Intermediate Unit, and Fike will take one of those spots in a few months when the term of Southmoreland representative Accipiter ends.

In other business, the board has approved the posting of the positions of athletic director, assistant athletic director, faculty manager and equipment manager.

Dennis Zieger is finishing up a five-year contract as athletic director. Bobby Thompson is the assistant athletic director, Zieger is the equipment manager, and Harry Bowser is the faculty manager.

While the original intention was to consolidate the positions and develop new job descriptions, Superintendent John Halhfill said the positions can't be changed because they are under contract. To make the changes, it would have to be negotiated with the union.

The board has approved the high school assistant football coaches recommended by coach Brian Pritts, which include Mike Ansell, Kurt Beistel, Mike Cavalier, Frank Muccino and Rick Pritts. Middle school coaches approved were Mike Russin and Doug Craig, and varsity volunteers approved were Dreyer Shipley and Zach Welch.

The district also renewed other coaching positions for the 2010-11 school year, including Muccino as high school boys basketball coach, Kim Jacobs as high school girls basketball coach, Michael May as high school wrestling coach, James Suhan as the volunteer middle school softball coach and Maria Rendine as a volunteer for girls track.

Directors also approved Al Jezewski as assistant golf coach and accepted the resignation of Kelly Vance as the varsity cheerleader coach.

In other business, 15 teachers are expected to retire soon, and administrators were given the task by Business Manager Bill Porter to look into five of those positions that can be eliminated.

With that in mind, Jack Molnar, assistant to the superintendent, went over some facts about the developmental kindergarten program.

Ninety-eight students were enrolled between 1992 and 1996, with 61 percent graduated or expected to graduate. Fourteen percent have dropped out of school, 11 percent have moved from the district, 26 percent were eligible or in need of special education services, and seven percent had academic or behavioral needs the district couldn't meet.

Molnar added that some who were part of the program went on to be very successful in the district.

"There's also a social stigma with developmental kindergarten," Molnar said. "Spending two years at the same grade level lowers the student's self esteem, and they're 30 percent more likely to become high school dropouts."

He added that any academic or social gains from developmental kindergarten are usually gone by third grade.

Southmoreland is the only district in Westmoreland County that offers developmental kindergarten.

Board members were not asked to make a decision on the subject.

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