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Board fields concerns over canceled trips

| Wednesday, April 16, 2003

FALLOWFIELD TWP. - Zachery McGavitt has spent the past few months selling pepperoni rolls door-to-door to help finance a senior band trip to Walt Disney World in Florida.

"I've been looking forward to it for a long time," he said Tuesday before a Charleroi Area School Board agenda session.

McGavitt, a Charleroi Area High School senior, was one of a handful of people who attended the meeting because of concerns related to a school board decision to cancel school trips this year.

In doing so, the Charleroi Area board nixed both the band trip and a student trip to France.

McGavitt's mother, Cheryl, addressed the board, saying the cancellation was inconsiderate.

"I don't think anyone on the board considered the impact. ... They worked their butts off to go on this trip," she said of the students. "You just blankly cancelled it. You didn't even give us the opportunity to tell you the thousands of dollars lost on this trip."

Cheryl McGavitt said the board should have left the decisions with the parents.

"It's just wrong the way you did it," she added.

Connie Robinson said her two sons planned to make the band trip. She asked why a chorus trip to New York wasn't cancelled. The question was never directly answered.

Board President Joseph Cardinale stood by the decision, saying time was of the essence in making the choice.

He said the board's sole concern was the safety of district students.

"I feel we're in more danger now than we were before with what is going on in Iraq," Cardinal said. "As a board we felt it was a prudent thing to do."

Cardinal said there was no time to engage in detailed or prolonged discussion.

" ... A war broke out," Cardinale said. "We did this drastically. We did this in a hurry."

School director Rick Bergstedt agreed.

"I think it was a time factor more than it was a lack of consideration," he said.

Marsha Sacco said she will both miss the France trip and lose money.

Although she received a voucher for future, Sacco said the exchange was not adequate.

Sacco asked the board if it considered the money lost by would-be travelers.

Cardinale said that the board was "boxed in" and that travelers can still travel to France on their own with the vouchers.

"I can't stop you from going to France," he said. "Anyone who wants to go to France can go. They don't need our blessing."

Cardinale said the board's main concern was terrorism and tumultuous times, adding concerns are real for both international and domestic trips.

The board president said he received numerous calls from parents voicing concern about the then-pending trips.

He said several concerned parents attended last month's board meeting, clapping and thanking the board after the decision was rendered.

Superintendent Carol Witmyer said the board's decision echoed those of other districts.

"Most school districts have the same sanctions," she said.

School director Richard Hall said that while he agreed with the decision to cancel trips abroad, he believed the board's 350-mile limit on domestic trips is unfair.

"Since they allowed one they should have allowed them all," he said. "I think Disney's a lot safer than New York."

Cheryl McGavitt said she was dismayed at the board's reaction to her questions. "I got no answers," she said. "We were just cut off. We know nothing except they don't care."

After the meeting, Zachery McGavitt inferred that he is not done dealing with the issue.

"I'm just glad I can vote, now," the 18-year-old McGavitt said.

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