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Southmoreland has new business manager

| Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2011

Bill Salem has taken over as business manager at Southmoreland School District after the position came open when long-time manager Bill Porter retired.

Salem, a financial planner for 25 years, served as a school director in the Leechburg Area School District for eight years and is currently involved in a 10-course master's level program with Wilkes University, which was developed by the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials.

So far Salem has completed three courses of the program, including budgeting, financial operations and human resources, and has earned two certificates of enhanced qualifications, also from PASBO. He has a bachelor's degree in finance from Penn State University.

Salem saw the position posted in the help wanted section of PASBO's website and decided to apply.

"I had just finished eight years as a school director when the financial crisis of 2008 began," Salem said. "I have been a financial planner for 25 years and I grew weary of the market gyrations. I assessed my skills, which included 20 years of income tax preparations, and decided to seek a position in public education."

Salem said he really enjoyed his time on the school board and felt he could make the transition to the business office.

Over the last few weeks, Salem has tried to become acclimated to the position.

"Bill Porter has been busy finishing up the bus runs for the coming school year and hasn't had a lot of time to spend with me, so my biggest challenge has been trying to leave him alone to finish them," Salem said. "I'm very eager to jump in and get my hands dirty, so to speak, so I've been working in the office, learning what the staff does in their positions and helping them out where I can."

He added that Porter has created a perfect situation for him in this new position.

"He has put the district on very sound financial ground, which is no small feat considering the challenging environment that public education is in right now," Salem said. "I am very fortunate to be able to step into this position and learn at the elbow of someone with such experience."

Salem said the district has some significant challenges ahead of it, namely coping with the loss of $800,000 in annual revenue from the Sony plant and the uncertainty of future funding streams from Harrisburg and teacher contract negotiations. "But I am confident that we will overcome all of those obstacles and move the district forward."

Superintendent John Molnar said Salem is learning the different nuances of the district and is becoming very involved. "It appears he has a nice working relationship with the rest of the staff and it's a positive work experience for everyone."

Salem said his goal is to continue his education at Wilkes University and receive his master's degree in School Business Leadership. "Also, the school accounting software that we use is being phased out, so I expect that to be a major undertaking in the near future."

Salem said his brief time in Scottdale and the surrounding community has allowed him to visit some of the local businesses and see some of the countryside.

"It is a beautiful area and the people are very friendly," he said. "I like the quaint downtown area and I'm looking forward to spending a lot of time here."

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