Saturday, November 6, 2010

New ASD Regions

These are the new regions in the ASD. Listed are the current board members holding those seats and if those seats are up for reelection. If you live in an area that has a seat open and you would like to run or you know someone who would like to run, please contact SoLongSolak@yahoo.com and we will point you in the right direction!

Region I
Current Member, Up for reelection?
Kozuch - YES - 2 year remaining on MJM's term
Solak - YES
Rearic - YES

Bethel, Burrell, Cadogan, Ford City, Ford Cliff, Manor, Manorville, North Buffalo and West Kittanning.


Region II
Current Member, Up for reelection?
Choncek - YES
Close - No 2013
NEW SEAT

Applewald, East Franklin, Kittanning Boro, Rayburn, Washington, West Franklin and Worthington.


Region III
Current Member, Up for reelection?
Monroe and Stitt - YES these two seats will now be ONE
Smeltzer - No 2013
Yassem - No 2013

Atwood, Boggs, Cowanshannock, Dayton, Elderton, Kittanning Twp, Pine, Plumcreek, Rural Valley, South Bend, Valley and Wayne.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Letter to Department of Education - Oppose The Wasteful Spending!

If you opposed the frivilous spending that is about to occur in the Armstrong School District, please print out the following letter, sign it and mail it to the Department of Education. The district is required to have an Act 34 Hearing, which will be held on Wednesday, October 20, 2010 at 6:30 pm at Elderton High School. Please plan to attend and share your views. If you can't attend, it is important that you mail a letter. Act 34 Letter

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Network of influence: It's hard to tell if the public interest is being served

Armstrong County should recognize some of the names in this BLOG POST.  It's time to wake up people!

Repost of originial blog that can be found at the link above.

Some of the most influential figures in local municipalities and school districts aren't those elected by the voters. Theirs are not household names and most citizens wouldn't recognize their faces. The roles they play are hard to pinpoint and the consequences for taxpayers hard to ascertain.


Yet the threads that connect their governmental, political and business enterprises form a tight bond, affording them access to multimillion-dollar contracts, which in many cases do not go through open bidding processes that bring competition, public scrutiny and cost controls.

In "The Network," a three-part series published last week and based on a six-month investigation, Post-Gazette staff writer Rich Lord described the long-standing relationships among a group of lawyers and businessmen, and he documented $32 million in payments from state and local municipalities and agencies from 2005 to 2009 to their companies, as well as 31 bond deals since 2001.

The reality is there are two flow charts that simultaneously determine how the work of governing gets done. One is visible and contains the public officials who lead towns, counties and municipal authorities. The other is less obvious but no less influential.

The old-boys-style network includes: Stephen A. Zappala Sr., the former state Supreme Court chief justice, his brother Charles and Charles' nephew Greg; the elder Zappala's former law partner, James J. Dodaro, long active in county development, the Port Authority and the state Turnpike Commission; Mr. Dodaro's partners John F. Cambest and Gary J. Matta; Mr. Matta's brother George, the former county clerk of courts; political operatives John J. Verbanac and Edward Grattan; and business associates Joseph F. Hohman, Christopher Kerr and William Brucker.

The biggest contract, at $19.53 million, was held by Wilkinsburg-based Resource Development and Management, to handle operations of the Greater Johnstown Water Authority. The firm -- headed by Mr. Hohman, Mr. Dodaro and Mr. Kerr -- also manages three other public water systems and has gotten state contracts to advise six financially distressed municipalities and 11 local governments at risk of heading that way.

A related business, Utility Line Security, should be familiar to customers of the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority. It was able to add a $5 charge to their monthly bills when it assumed responsibility for line repairs. Mr. Kerr incorporated ULS and Mr. Brucker's law firm represents it. ULS obtained an unusual contract that gave it unprecedented access to a customer base because it forced homeowners to opt out if they didn't want the service rather than opt in if they did. The contract now is the subject of a civil lawsuit and a state attorney general's investigation.

In another example in the series, a Downtown firm, PrimeSolutions Capital Corp., was paid $30,000 in referral fees for sending business to a local bank. One of the accounts that was subject to the referral agreement belonged to the Allegheny County sheriff's department. The problem is, that account, holding around $6 million, earned interest from the bank that was far below the prevailing market rate. Mr. Grattan was an independent contractor for PrimeSolutions. The bank arrangement was in effect during the term of former Sheriff Pete DeFazio, who retired after pleading guilty to soliciting campaign contributions from employees. After William P. Mullen was elected sheriff, he put a stop to the practice, but the public funds in the account had missed out on earnings during years when interest rates were much higher than current levels.

Not all of the situations detailed in the series dealt specifically with dollars. In some cases, network connections led to influence. For example, Mr. Verbanac, from outside the government, was instrumental in a change in leadership at the city's powerful Urban Redevelopment Authority.

"Who you know" often is a key factor in private commerce, and many consider its practice as simply the way of the world. No one should be so naive as to suggest it doesn't play a role in government and politics as well. But that doesn't make it right and, more to the point, it doesn't necessarily serve the public's interests.

"Know who," as opposed to know-how, should not play a decisive role when the enterprise is the people's business, funded with the people's dollars. Even though the letter of the law allows for some opaque practices, citizens have a right to see how their tax dollars are being spent and a right to know who is really calling the shots.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Terrorist Attack on Armstrong School District

Disclaimer, " this is a parody, the names have not been changed to expose the sillyness".


Author: U.N. Owen

Today, the ASD, Department of Homeland Community Schools issued a warning, lowering the intelligence level from stupid to idiotic, two levels above the nadir of insane.

The reason for the lowering of the intelligence level is weapons of mass destruction have been found at a science teachers home, an unnamed source said the cache consisted of, a pen, writing paper, a voice box, independent thought and most damaging of all, a brain.

As a reminder, the ASD Department of Homeland Community Schools warning system is as follows:

1. Silly
2. Stupid
3. Idiotic
4. Imbecile
5. Insane

Members of the ASD were informed of the threat and appropriate actions taken,

D. Royce Smeltzer was interrupted reading “ My pet goat” seemed utterly confused.

Tokyo Rose Stitt was seen crying in front of Kittanning Township School, explaining “we had to close the school in order to keep it open.

Kim Jong Solak, born on a mountain top underneath double rainbows, immediately issued a statement stating “this conspiracy has been in the works since William Kerr was an oocyte”.

Ms. Sara Yessum issued a statement saying “ this is like, you know a tragedy”

Mr. John Monroe was ushered into the underground command center at an undisclosed location somewhere near Yellow Dog.

Mr. Jim Rearic stated, what a bunch of assholes

Mr. Joe Close was tooting a train whistle indicating that any vestige of sensibility has left the station.

Mr. Chris Choncek uttered a call for reason, and some investigation into whether actually possessing independent thought and a brain were reasons to lower the intelligence level.

Mr. Dave Brown, spokesman for a “truther movement” called H.E.R.O. declared that over 200 years ago, Washington D.C. applied for and built The White House, this is unfair, where is our White House? We pay taxes, it’s no fair that everything occurs near the Potomac River, I’ll bet they have a new YMCA as well. I heard them say “pull it” that means we can spend all the money we want and we want a White House. Look the Pentagon was rebuilt and we didn’t get anything, we deserve something.

Upon further reflection, it was determined that a phallic symbol would be more appropriate for the H.E.R.O. “truther movement”, all agreed that the phallus is more indicative of the movement.

Kim Jong Solak: well furthermore, on an official document which I just made up, and furthermore to my furthermore, I have read this in great detail and it has been furthermore determined that the threat, while not real, is meaningless and needs to be prosecuted.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Something smells fishy.....

An Editorial by Jen Willyard
I have waited to see if more information has come out regarding this, but since it hasn't, this is what I think so far.....the whole thing is fishy, in my eyes.

A- you can't really read everything on that kdka piece, but I can plainly see that it is not a print screen of a facebook page. It looks like a cut and paste job to me. So who did that? Why? Since it is cut and paste, is the conversation taken out of order?

B- The "maybe someone will blow it up" comment seems to me that it is taken out of context just from the few other things I can read on there. No more harmful that wishing my ex would drop off the face of the planet. LOL It's a wish in one hand and spit in the other....which one fills up first?

C- I find it curious that the police are not involved if this indeed is a threat. If this really were a threat, that school would have been locked down and bomb sniffing dogs would have been involved. Unfortunately, we have had that happen before.

D- How did kdka get a hold of this if it is a personnel issue? Sounds like either a person with connections in pittsburgh for the TV station Or someone that knows a reporter from kdka since he is from the area? Either way unethical.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Senator Don White speaks out about Elderton Reopening

In a recent Leader Times article, Senator Don White speaks out about education spending and the reopening of Elderton High School:

Education spending: The senator called the current public system broken, adding that taxpayers are "paying through the nose" for that system.




"The education funding increase gravy train is going to stop," he said. "The governor has continued to take money from other programs and dump it into an education system that is flawed and we need to take that money back and put it where it belongs."


White also mentioned the Armstrong School District and the battle over Elderton High School, saying that the issue "has done nothing but waste millions in tax dollars."


"We as taxpayers need to pay close attention to the people we are electing into the school director positions and stop electing people who have no fiscal restraints," he said. "I have no power over the people who are elected to the school boards, the voters have given them the power to do what they do."
This is a MUCH different opinion than ASD School Director Sara Yassem claimed that Senator White had on the issue, when she claimed, under oath, that Senator Don White told her to fight for the community schools and not to believe "them" when they say that they're not interested in building a new big school.

We the People

An editorial by Rebecca Fullerton and Jennifer Willyard

So far in 2010, there have been a lot of people complaining about the state of our Towns, Boroughs, School District, Committee’s, Councils, etc.

What people are not saying, is the majority of the time, they have had the opportunity to change the way things are done but failed to do so.

When we become lazy or worse yet, apathetic, or when we expect that others will have the good sense and morality to do the "right thing" that's when things begin to deteriorate. Sometimes these things happen so slowly that we don't at first notice the route events are taking and then suddenly we find ourselves in a hole that we can' t possibly dig ourselves out of, at least not alone.

Everyone needs to get together on the same page and speak up about the wrongs that are being forced upon the majority of our citizens. We all need to do our due diligence and not expect that someone else will take care of it. Haven't you heard the expression "God helps those who help themselves"? It is about time for each and every one of us to begin helping ourselves out of the tremendous mess our school district, towns, county, and country is/are in.

There are complaints aplenty about transparency, shady dealings, illegal activity, hidden agenda’s, takeovers, kickbacks, side deals, etc. But you know what? We have nobody to blame but ourselves. Here is an expression that fits pretty well for our region: “If you do what you always did, you get what you always got”.

There are several times we have opportunities to change the way things are done. One of those times occurs in the month of November most years. If officials are not changing things over a course of years on a council or board, if positive changes are not taking place in our communities, then why are these people continuously put into these positions of power? Why is the public voting for them or maybe even worse, not voting at all?

Sometimes, it’s not a matter of why are people voting for them as much as it is a matter of who is running against them in the polls. Where are you, the people, at a time when your town, borough, county, library, sewage authority, school board needs you?

Everyone has an opinion on the way things are done, but why is nobody stepping forward and volunteering their time and not just their opinion? Where are you, the people, at a time when your town, borough, county, library, sewage authority, school board needs to hear your opinion? Why are you not at the meetings? You have these opinions, why are you not publicly stating them to the people that need to hear them the most? Just like an employee with bad performance, until they are written up, they do not change. Just like a child that is misbehaving, they will push the buck until finally you put a stop to it.

Don't think that your vote doesn't matter. IT DOES! Some of the current offenders currently in office got there 8 votes...yes 8! EVERY VOTE COUNTS! It takes mere minutes out of your day to make a positive impact on your community! Please get out there and make an informed decision by exercising your right to vote or stepping forward and being that person to vote for!

As a great man once said "Our lives begin to end the minute we become silent about things that matter...." Reverend Martin Luther King

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Markilinski Resigns - Who should replace him?

Well, God does answer prayers.  Word is that the Leader Times is reporting that MJM has resigned.  Now the question is, who will replace him?  The board is going to have to appoint someone to fill his position.  With the current structrure being 5-3, we can only hope we don't get a clone of MJM in there. 

We feel the perfect candidate would be Hank Cacurak.  He's a Manor Township resident, hes a father of children in the district and he's a retired PA State Trooper.  If you would like to get a taste of what Hank is all about, here is something that he wrote, publicly during the whole "let's make Lenape half day" period.

School Director Job Description

School board members have Job Descriptions/Expectations for all employees that work for or at a school. Do the School Board Members have a job description for their position? Are expectations of what School Board Members do clearly posted anywhere? We know what is expected of students, administrators, teachers, custodians, aids, secretaries, et cetera. I have taken liberty to produce such a list. The list is not intended to be all-inclusive but touches on some basic, core beliefs many members in our community have developed thanks to the newly elected School Board. The Description/Expectations are as follows:


School Board Member Job Description/Expectations List:

You shall represent the voters of the district that elected you. Assuming that you actually live in the district that elected you, your voting and actions should represent the will of your electorate and not the interests of a municipality in which you have substantial monetary interests (eg own a business). Refrain from generalities and referring to “doing what is best for the tax payer” – as an elected public official you agree to serve your electorate. You do not serve the generic taxpayer. You serve a specific group of taxpayers who elected you.

You must conduct yourself with the highest possible ethical values. Treat people with dignity. When a board member berates a citizen you must do your best to pull in the reigns on the out-of- control board member or you will be seen at the least as being ineffective and at best aligning yourself with a bully. Do not use generic terms such as “skaters” or “misfits” to describe people you believe to be lower than you on the social ladder. It demonstrates pre-judging people (aka prejudice) and makes it impossible for you to render an unbiased judgment which affects those lives. If you cannot clear your mind of prejudice then you must recuse yourself from any votes affecting people for which you consider lower life forms. Also, no racial or ethnic slurs, either.

If you apply a standard to a group of people then expect to have that standard applied to you. For example, if you accuse a school of being a failure based upon PSSA testing scores without considering the totality of the circumstances, then you must pass a test. A “Blue Ribbon Panel” of knowledgeable Voters from the district electing you shall put together an examination based upon facts and circumstances encompassing issues before the Board. You must pass the examination or else abstain from the vote. Your experience, background and accomplishments will not be considered—only the test results (similar to PSSA Exams). If you wish to reopen a school, you will be quizzed about how much money will it cost each person and business IN YOUR VOTING DISTRICT. You will need to understand the results of a cost effectiveness study (if you have to wait three months for the facts then you must wait three months for the facts. This will curb the impulse to be impulsive.). If the vote involves millage increases then an essay explaining what millage is and how it applies to the topic will be required. You will also need to be able to correctly solve a couple of millage “problems” to further demonstrate your understanding of the issue. Testing along these lines will ensure that the Board Member will make enlightened decisions for “the taxpayer”. Testing of Board Members will serve as a reality check and demonstrate that he or she is capable of making an informed decision or vote. If the member does not pass the test then the member can be considered to be a Failure and be placed “in corrective action and have his vote reduced by one-half (which would be called a “hybrid” vote).

You must undergo another test - a random drug test. Anyone working in the school with children is subject to one. Board Members, who make decisions with millions of taxpayer dollars and directly affect the lives of children, must not be chemically impaired.

Not agreeing to random drug testing equals no right to vote at a board meeting. The way some board members think and act begs the question: “What the heck have they been smoking?!”

The Board President should be firm and fair. When a member becomes obsessed with a single topic (such as the procedure on how another school district arrives at their costs) or gets a glassy-eyed stare and begins ranting about a mythical “super school”, you must advise him he is out of order. Board Members need to remind each other that mythical schools cannot exist in a county which has a severly eroded tax base. Part of each School Board Quiz will involve asking members if they realize that PPG and Eljer aren’t here anymore to foot the bill. You must also remind everyone that Armstrong County does not have an economic tax base that can even tie the shoe string of Butler, Indiana or Westmoreland Counties. Armstrong County is not the land of Oz but more resembles the dustbowl days of Kansas.

Members need to submit to psychological examination. Just because someone graduates High School or College does not necessarily mean that they have the maturity or stability to hold a position of public trust. Just because someone is elected to public office does not mean that they actually possess mental stability. Why does a person take on a demanding job that does not provide a paycheck? If the non-paid elected public servants are taking on this job for the proper reasons we would not be witnessing some individuals behaving as if they are part of a “Saturday Night Live” Comedy Skit. Test results may explain why a school board member is a lap-dog at one meeting and then becomes an attack-dog at another meeting.

You need to make the secret Executive Meetings public as well. What kind of back-door deals are being cut. Are weaker, indecisive members being bullied by overbearing, opinionated members? Let the public examine how all the gears of the body politics work – warts and all.

I have to thank many members of the school board. You have energized an ever widening base of average people who are becoming interested in grassroots government. The riff-raff, garlic eating, skating electorate is now beginning to understand that a candidate can be elected without disclosing his true agenda until after the election. Once elected, “buyers’ remorse” cannot undo the reckless and intentional “in your face” type of damage done by an elected official who does not consider himself accountable to the electorate of his district but actually considers himself as a superior to the electorate and not as its servant. The bottom line of the above School Board Job Description is Accountability. If a board member does not wish to be held to the above standards then do the respectable thing – Resign the position. Just think about It!

Hank Cacurak, Manor Township

Friday, July 30, 2010

Mission Possible


An Editorial by Becky Fullerton and Jennifer Willyard

The last time the ASD School Board adopted a mission statement and goal, it was 2003. We think it can be agreed upon, that there have been vast changes in the past 7 years.

It would be thought, with a large organization such as the Pennsylvania School Board Association behind it, our board would look to them for guidance and assistance in their policies and endeavors.

The PSBA adopted their 5 year strategic plan in 2007. What is wonderful about their plan is they clearly outline their goals:

  • Determine PSBA's role as the lead public education association
  • Develop programs to recognize and promote effective governance
  • Ensure PSBA has expertise to implement strategic plan
  • Enhance member participation in PSBA governance, advocacy and related activities
  • Expand consulting services to school boards and management teams
  • Develop a fully integrated communications function for all audiences
  • Increase utilization of PSBA programs & services
  • Be the leader in school insurance
  • Diversify PSBA's revenue base
  • Ensure sound administrative procedures & controls
  • Establish education research & policy analysis center
  • Strengthen advocacy impact

As stakeholders in our district, we would like to know if our school directors are taking advantage of these services. One item in particular that the PSBA was working on was "Expand consulting services to school boards and management teams". Has our board taken advantage of this? Has the board had an independent entity come in to see how they are doing? How they are engaging each other? How they are engaging the community? How they are engaging our children?

What about the curriculum? Are our students being challenged enough? Are they being challenged too much? Why are our students failing? How about this question concerning curriculum: Are our students prepared for college or the world of work? Do they have to take remedial classes? Are there follow up studies by the school district to see what the students are doing five years after they graduate? Does our curriculum have to change to meet the needs of a 21st century learner. Are our children ready for the start of the Keystone Exams? For those of you that did not realize this, Pennsylvania has instituted the Keystone Exams to begin the 2011-2012 school year. These final exams will count as 1/3 of a student’s final grade, oh and if they do not pass the test, they do not graduate.

Why has information regarding this not been presented to the community? There is still discussion of past AYP, past PSSA scores, but let’s look to the future folks!

Our district has again adopted the PSBA Effective Governance Standards, but are they putting the work into that? Do they truly know what the Effective Governance Standards are?

Are they taking advantage of the training and events that the PSBA offer? If they are, then hopefully our directors attended the Symposium of Education Issues that was held July 11-12 in Gettysburg. Hopefully they listened as former Pine-Richland School District Superintendent Dr. James Manley addressed them. Perhaps they heard him state "There is no room for big egos in a learning organization. Superintendent and School Board members are dependent on one another to lead the district. How this relationship goes; so goes the district. What they do, how they act, what decisions they make and how they handle conflict sets the tone for the school district."

Maybe one of Dr. Stan Chapp’s first objectives once he takes over the reins of our district is to truly evaluate it. Take a page from Trinity School District that had Dr. Manley in to do an independent audit of their district. Our board did not want to listen when Dr. Kerr spoke about change, perhaps an independent audit of our districts workings could help. Spell out the things we are doing right. Spell out the things we are doing wrong. Offer some guidance and help.

Our board is willing to spend thousands of dollars on study after study, how about spending some money and truly evaluating something in our district other than buildings? How about implementing what some of those studies suggest rather than just wasting district tax dollars on them.

LINKS:

Trinity Area School District "A Journey Toward High Performance Schools

PSBA Symposium on Education Issues

Friday, July 16, 2010

Soup's On!

An Editorial by Becky Fullerton and Jennifer Willyard


At this week’s ASD School Board meeting, there were several interesting things discussed….one of which is the closing of Kittanning Township Elementary School and the transfer of these students to Elderton Elementary School.

A good question to ask in regard to this, is how many additional classrooms will be constructed when the renovations occur at Elderton Elementary to accommodate the pending increase in class sizes?

While most studies show that learning in the secondary schools is better with larger classes, they also indicate that elementary students need a smaller class size to be successful. The students who have been found to have the highest achievement in class size studies are the youngest of elementary students in K-3. So what will the consolidation of KT and Elderton Elementary result in for the new class sizes for these children?

Another item for consideration in this is, will the board deny transfer requests? We know personally, if we had Lenape Elementary closer to our homes than Elderton Elementary, we would put a transfer request in, especially for Kindergarteners that are in school for only half a day.

In addition to renovations being done at the Elderton complex, it seems Ford City will be receiving some renovations and possible additions as well.

Do the directors really feel that spending approximately $24 million on (as HERO stated in one of their handouts) “the aging, structurally questionable” FCHS is a good thing? There are only so many band-aids you can put on a gaping wound before you bleed out. Exactly where did this addition come from (as it was never mentioned in the options presented originally by the architects) and where on the FCHS is it supposed to be located? Maybe the ASD board will attempt to have Ford City Borough use Eminent Domain! Gee perhaps those that live on 4th Avenue should watch out as they may be part of the pending renovations!

There was also slight discussion, by Director Solak, regarding the issue of flooding at FCHS. It was stated that none of the classrooms had taken water in, but nothing with regard to results from the mold testing that was recently done. We are very interested to read these results when they are in since, as stated by many, the mold seems to be a recurring problem at the high school.

Why does the mold problem keep recurring? Poor air circulation? Clogged drains? Leaking plumbing? How did we come up with the above probable problems? Easy! Those are the reasons listed in a mold finding report from back in 2007! Where any or all of those problems addressed? Did that stop the mold from recurring? Does anyone know exactly what that status is? Again, the mold is not a new issue in Ford City High School, but perhaps it is one that somehow, someday will be remedied, one would hope, with the $24 million band-aid being applied to that building.

So lets see….Ford City gets renovations, Elderton gets renovations, ($47 million in renovations with MINIMAL state reimbursement)West Shamokin is fine (contrary to what Ms. Yassem states)…..who are we missing? Ahhhh yes! Kittanning!

Sorry Kittanning, but no soup for you!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Abstract Math and Thinking (NOT)

An Editorial by Scott Starr

Already the misinformation campaign concerning the Judge’s ruling concerning the arbitrary and capricious decision to open Elderton has begun, and the ink is hardly dry on the decision. First Director Solak incorrectly stated “the judge voted in favor of opening Elderton”, this statement is entirely wrong, the judge ruled (in my opinion incorrectly) that the vote to open Elderton was not illegal. Early on in this case, it was argued that the suit was not about Community v. Consolidated Schools, yet the judge cited this in his opinion, the ruling was wrong and the judge, in my opinion, did not understand the issue at hand. Or perhaps he did, because the ramifications of winning the lawsuit would have been far and wide, imagine if there were a heroic judge ruling in our favor, we could stop such legal and useful spending as the Arlen Specter Library and the John P. Murtha Center for public policy ($20milllion) as well as the additional $90 million in projects which are yet unnamed in our Pennsylvania State Budget! That’s right this could have been a precedent setting case, but alas, many are still following the yellow brick road searching for the wizard.

Even worse, the arithmetically challenged Director Solak, cites the loss of 160 students and $1.6 million in revenue from South Bend Township if Elderton is not opened and they choose to attend Apollo School District (That’s $10,000 per student). The cost of an Elderton education is $14,000, sixth grade mathematics show that ASD is losing $4,000 per student! (that’s $640,000). This is a FACT !

Let’s use more Solakian math, add the $640,000 difference to the cost of $2.7 million to open Elderton and we are up to $3.34 million, let’s say we would save $100 K from not busing these students and we are at $3.44 Million. With abstract Solakian math we add in the $17 - $24 million in renovation, plus the interest on the bond to be floated (the longer the life of the bond, the more interest paid) and we are talking some real money.

Our friends in South Bend Township, this is not about you, Solak is using you as a pawn for reopening Elderton, just as the folks of Kittanning Township were used, you see where that got them.

The information needs to get out to the public.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Digging a Hole?

An Editorial by Adam Scaife

Is the current ASD School Board digging our school district into a hole with a hand spade or an earth excavator?


What is the state of the ASD pension fund contributions preparedness? It has been estimated that we will owe approximately + $25 Million DOLLARS to the pension fund over the next several years. There is currently a proposed state bill with respect to the pension fund contributions. "IF" it passes it will re-amortize the contributions over a greater number of years. They didn’t say that they were reducing the overall dollar amount owed, it’s still owed, it is just spreading it out over more years. Even if our payment contributions are half of what they were to be it is a huge cost that we will have to contribute each year over the next many years. What is our ASD board and administration doing to prepare for the looming pension fund contribution? Anything? Nothing? Surrounding districts are preparing for their contribution payments. Most of the surrounding districts are reporting that they are preparing now for their pension fund contributions with tax increases and some are using portions of their fund balance (savings account) now to alleviate the tax implications toward their current budget needs and pension fund contribution preparedness.

We’ve re-opened EHS and are paying for the re-staffing and facility operational budget out of the district’s fund balance (savings account). The re-staffing of this facility is an ANNUAL COST estimated at approximately $3.5 MILLION DOLLARS. This is being paid out of the fund balance this year so that taxes are not having to be increased this year. Could it also be that there would be an up-rising by the tax base if taxes were raised this year for re-opening this facility that will only graduate 30 students at this time next year? Perhaps this Fund Balance (savings account) money could have been used more wisely to alleviate the tax burden and implications once we do have to start making our payment contributions to the pension fund? There is currently a facilities study being done and an estimated cost being tossed around at approximately $18 MILLION Dollars to renovate Elderton. How will this renovation project be justified? Again, this is for a facility that will graduate only 30 students at this time next year.

This is an inequitable and unbalanced state of affairs that this current board is imposing on the entire tax base and to the entire student body of the district. How deep will this hole be that this current ASD board is placing our entire school district in?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Effective Practices


An Editorial by Becky Fullerton and Jennifer Willyard

On Monday evening, the ASD School Board revealed the secret identity of our new Superintendent to be Stan Chapp from Freeport School District…however, that was all they really revealed.

Where was the transparency in the hiring process?

Where is the transparency in revealing the contract terms and salary?

This is all public information and should be divulged at the time of hire. And once again, where is the transparency in a long range plan for our district?

Part of the problem in the lack of transparency of the ASD school board, is they are not following half of the practices set by the Pennsylvania School Board Association. For the detailed Standards for Effective School Governance set by the PSBA here is a link:
We urge everyone to read this with particular interest paid to the benchmarks.

Some of our personal favorite questions to answer are:

"How have the boards actions and attitudes elicited community trust and respect?"

"How often do members of the board speak to or participate with community organizations?"

"How do board members balance the need to represent the electorate with the need to to lead the district forward on behalf of children?"

"How does the board measure and evaluate the public perception of the board's behavior and demeanor, and how do those preceptions help or hinder confidence in the board?"

Wow!!! Perhaps being that she is the district representative with the PSBA, Ms. Yassem should get a copy of this to all the board members for their review! Or maybe this could be one of the things that could be read and discussed during one of the 5 annual training opportunities that the board members are suggested to take part in!

There are reports that there were only six candidates in the pool for the Superintendent position and only two of those were interviewed. Why not hire an interim Superintendent for a longer period of time to make sure a candidate did not slip through the cracks. Perhaps extend the search, or even use such services as the University of Pittsburgh Tri-State Study Council or Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators, to help identify a strong candidate?

Perhaps it would have led the board to hire Dr. Chapp, but due diligence would have been done. We do not want to discount Dr. Chapp’s qualifications. He, on paper, seems to be qualified to do a great job as Superintendent of schools, however, it would have been nice if there would have at least been an open interview process so the public could hear what the vision was of each of the candidates.

Will they bring something new to the table, or is it more status quo?

What are the goals the board has for the new superintendent?

This district needs to move forward, it is time the board works with all of its constituents.

This is a time where vision is absolutely needed and transparency is a must, will the school board FINALLY do so?

With the end of the school year, we wish to congratulate all of the outgoing seniors the best of luck, health and happiness in all their future endeavors!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Court Hearing Tuesday and Wednesday!

Will five be the magic number?  The three local judges, Valasek, Panchik and Nickleach have all recused themselves from hearing the case against the Super Six and their fiscally irresponsible decision to reopen Elderton High School for approximately 250 students in grades 7-12 at a cost of 3.5 million dollars.  Now we are hearing that Westmoreland County Senior Judge Daniel J. Ackerman, who was set to hear the case on Tuesday and Wednesday has been replaced by a judge from Erie because he broke his foot.

Please, if you are able to attend the hearings June 15 and 16, please show up to support the plaintiffs.  Show that you agree with them and support their decision to file suit.  The hearings will take place in Court Room 1 at 1:00 PM.

If possible, we will be live tweeting the proceedings.  Please follow HERCasd on Twitter. www.twitter.com/HERCasd

New Superintendent to be hired tonight


The Board of Directors of the Armstrong School District will hold a Special Meeting on Monday, June 14, 2010 at 7PM in the Ida R. Westwood Conference Room of the Administration Building, located at 410 Main Street in Ford City. The purpose of the meeting will be to hire a Superintendent and any other personnel-related issues that may come before the Board.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The board majority doesn't care what you have to say....

Especially Stitt and Solak.  This was totally apparent at Monday's Open Caucus meeting.  Four speakers and two board members appealed to the rest of the board to revisit the denied Student Transfers and to revote on them. 

Mr. Reesman speaks......

Mr. Crawford speaks......

Mr. Fullerton speaks......

Ms. Sperski speaks........

Choncek and Close speak, Stitt shuts them down......

Now Solak rants.............

People of Armstrong County, especially those in Solak and Stitt's areas, you need to do something.  These two board members DO NOT CARE what you think or want.  They only have their own agenda.  It is now up to you to create CHANGE!  Qualified people need to run against these two for the 2011 election.

Do we have any volunteers?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Armstrong School District directors question reopening of Elderton High

May 25, 2010 Leader Times Article

MANOR — As directors pore over the Armstrong School District's proposed 2010-11 budget, two board members questioned how long it would take before the impact of reopening Elderton High School would be felt by taxpayers.


While there is no tax increase planned in the coming school year, Directors Joe Close and Chris Choncek said they felt that the added expense of operating Elderton High School would lead to a tax increase in the coming years, as well as the added debt of a possible renovation project at the school.

"Right now, as we are looking at this, there is a projected ending fund balance next June of $3.95 million and the expenses are increasing by almost $3 million," Close said. "How long do you think we can continue to operate like this before we have to raise taxes to pay for that school?"

Close said the district can expect a large tax increase in the 2011-12 budget because of the continued increase in expenses due to Elderton's reopening.

Choncek asked Business Manager Eric Brandenburg for a cost estimate to reopen the school and was told the estimate is $3.5 million. Brandenburg said he did not have the cost breakdown available at Monday's agenda-setting meeting, but said it would be made available.

Choncek said he was against using the fund balance, which is expected to be $6.6 million at the end of this fiscal year, to balance the budget, saying that the district had been advised in the past against the practice.

Under the proposed budget, Brandenburg estimated projected revenues at $85.46 million, while expenses are expected to be $88.17 million. The district would use $2.7 million of the projected fund balance to cover the difference.

Brandenburg said the district can expect about $575,000 in increased basic education subsidy from the state and about $310,000 in savings in a reduction of administrative staff. The district will see about $3.57 million in slots revenues that will result in tax reductions of about $300 for approved property owners. There also are 22 staff retirements.

The district expenses will increase by an unspecified amount due to increasing the number of teachers from 467 to 493, along with $1 million in health-care expenses, $611,000 in textbook purchases and $750,000 in retirement contributions, Brandenburg said. The expenses are coupled with a $1.2 million increase in teacher salaries.

Directors Jim Solak and Rose Stitt argued that the fund balance, as well as other expenses, are being looked at to find additional ways to save money.

"Based on the Lenape budget that was passed last week, we are looking at an additional $417,000 that can be added to the fund balance," Solak said. "There could also be an $800,000 savings if the board chooses to close Kittanning Township Elementary School."

Close used Solak's comments about closing the elementary school to challenge his position on Elderton High School, saying, "The decision to close Elderton was made because it would save money and we were told it was wrong, but now Solak and Stitt are saying that saving money by closing Kittanning Township is a good thing because it saves money."

Stitt responded by saying she doesn't want to close the school, but she fears the board's lack of stability would result in those students being "tossed around to whatever school has room for them."

"But I would rather see those kids be able to go to one school, kindergarten through 12th grade in Elderton, than have them just bounced around wherever they fit," she said. "We can't keep a school open with just 150 kids in it."

Her comments were met with criticism from audience members, saying she voted to reopen Elderton for about the same number of students. The school is expected to reopen in August with about 250 students in grades 7 through 12.

Directors are expected to vote on the preliminary budget on Thursday during the board's voting meeting. The preliminary budget, once approved, will be made available for public review until final adoption, which is expected at the June 28 meeting.

Friday, May 21, 2010

How does it change?!

EDITORIAL BY JENNIFER WILLIARD AND BECKY FULLERTON


“Change is inevitable, growth is optional.”-Author Unknown

President, Vice President, Senator, Congress, Representative, Governor, Mayor, Judge, Coroner, Sheriff, District Attorney, School Board, Magistrate, Council, Tax Collector.

These are just some of the positions that we, as tax payers, elect people to look after our best interests and this week’s primary races show that across the country people are want change. But in order for change to happen, people need to become involved.

Of the 42,711 registered voters in Armstrong County, only 14,714 came out to the polls on Tuesday’s Primary Election.

Why is the voter turnout so poor in our county? Are people so apathetic about government or do they feel so helpless as to how to change what is going on that they just throw up their hands and let the chips fall where they may?

Does this seem familiar, perhaps similar to what happened with our last school board election? Should the lack of candidates and the lack of voter turnout for that last election tell us something about the quality of those who were elected to the board? Is the fact that one of our board directors ran unopposed in both the primary and in the November election, the fact that of the 3,087 registered voters in his region only 958 voted and of those only 686 voted for him an indicator of what type of “growth”, or lack there-of, that we can expect for our school district in the future? Why did we have so few candidates?

Is the job hard? Yes. Time consuming? Yes. Thankless? Perhaps. Important? Very. Maybe the outcome of the last election will help the silent majority have the courage to step forward, find qualified, quality candidates and VOTE! The voters of the Armstrong School District need to say “enough is enough”. Our children’s education is more important than the petty agenda’s of many of the current directors.

We need to find dedicated, forward- thinking, selfless individuals to lead our district. The out of control actions and spending of the current board needs to be brought into check and there is only one way to do that…..by action not by lip service. Our children’s educations, their future, the future of the County and maybe even to a degree the future of our Country are at stake. Why do we have people in power who think so little of education? Who are willing to cut teachers from a building, who by their own voice, have said is on the “warning list” for poor PSSA scores to staff a building with fewer students than said school….to staff a building where there will be classes with 10 or less students, to staff a building where some teachers will have only 4 classes to teach all day (as opposed to the customary 6-7 classes of all other building’s teachers) and fill the rest of their days doing “duties” yet are receiving the same pay as other teachers in the district? Why was the last open caucus meeting postponed…..because they can’t get the figures in order to show that reopening Elderton will not cause an increase in taxes or not deplete the current fund balance…..they are scrambling to try to make it appear to the taxpayers and voters that reopening EHS is fiscally sound when in fact there is just no way that it is. Apparently the agenda’s of the “super six” supersede the education of the majority of the students in the district. Why else would they be putting our students in such a precarious situation for PSSA success? Is it just so that it looks like there will not be “too many” new teachers hired to staff EHS. So the education of all of the other students in the district means so little to the “super-six” that this is okay???

The fact is we need to get out there, vote and support those that are in line with how we feel about things…..whether it is President or School Director.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Court Dates Set

Westmoreland County Senior Judge Daniel J. Ackerman set the hearing dates for June 15 and 16.  The Plaintiffs agreed to skip the preliminary injuction hearing and go right on to the main trial. This option makes the case more expedious and economical.  If the Plaintiffs win, EHS stays closed and the defendants (the six board members who voted to reopen EHS) will be responsible for repaying all of the funds that they've authorized to spend on reopening EHS.

Here is The Leader Times article on the subject from today's edition:

KITTANNING — About 40 people who attended court proceedings Friday morning to hear arguments related to the closing of Elderton High School will have to wait another month.

Westmoreland County Senior Judge Daniel J. Ackerman ordered that the lawsuit go straight to trial, skipping a preliminary injunction hearing that had been scheduled for yesterday. After about an hour of conferring among attorneys, plaintiff and defendants, Ackerman took the bench to explain the decision made by both parties.

"I know this is anticlimactic for many of you who have come here today," Ackerman said, adding that going straight to trial "makes much more sense economically and we will have the matter done in a more efficient fashion."

Trial was scheduled for June 15 and 16 in the lawsuit that seeks to force the Armstrong School District and six of its directors to keep Elderton High School closed. Five area residents filed the lawsuit in February to hold the six school directors who voted to reopen the school financially responsible for associated costs.

Attorney Chase McClister represents plaintiffs David Reefer of Kittanning Township and James and Mary Seaman, Scott Starr and Dan Goldinger, all of East Franklin.

The lawsuit names the Armstrong School District and directors Rose Stitt, Jim Solak, Mike Markilinski, John Monroe, Royce Smeltzer and Sara Yassem as defendants. The district is being represented in court by its solicitor Gary Matta, of the Pittsburgh firm, Dodaro, Matta and Cambest.

The six directors sat in the front row of the courtroom Friday across the aisle from school district administrators, including Superintendent William Kerr.

The trial will determine whether the directors acted within their rights as elected officials in voting to close Elderton or if their actions were illegal, as the plaintiffs allege.

Attorneys for both parties agreed that skipping the preliminary injunction hearing and instead heading straight to trial is the best for everyone involved.

Cambest said the judge's decision "is the best for the children of the district."

"By accelerating the process, we can short circuit an eight-month ordeal down to three weeks," he said.

Much of the evidence the plaintiffs would have presented yesterday would be reused in trial, McClister said.

"We would essentially be duplicating the hearing," he said.

If the preliminary injunction hearing had been held, Ackerman would have decided, based upon testimony and attorneys' arguments, whether to stop district spending related to the reopening of Elderton until a trial could be held. Instead, Ackerman said the "most expeditious and economical way" to deal with the matter was going directly to trial.

Ackerman retired from the bench in December after serving 30 years in the Westmoreland County Court of Common Pleas.

Armstrong County Senior Judge Joseph Nickleach requested he be recused from the case after an April hearing and overruling the defendants' preliminary objections later in the month. The partially-retired judge cited a tight schedule that would not allow him to make a quick ruling.

The Armstrong School District superintendent proposed closing Elderton High School in January 2008, citing declining enrollment, increased building operational costs and other reasons.

The school was closed in June and students went to Ford City or West Shamokin high schools for the 2009-10 school year, based on attendance lines redrawn by the district. After the November election, directors Markilinski and Yassem joined the board, which voted to reopen the school in December.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Budget Buzz

MJM says in his weekly rant:
"The “new” Board is an obvious change that you can believe in.  June 30th will tell the tale when a final budget is adopted."
Our sources tell us that EHS is going to have 34 teachers approved to staff the building.  That is more teachers that Kittanning Junior High School, which has more students than EHS will have.  Also, sources tell us that the budget for 2010-2011 is slated to increase 3.2 million next year and the cost to reopen EHS is 3.6 million. Very interesting.

Right now, our sources are pretty good, but we want to show you proof.  Once we have our Right To Know information, we will publish it for all to see.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

May meeting dates change

The dates for May's ASD School Board Meetings have changed.  The Open Caucus has been rescheduled for Monday, May 24 at 7:00 pm and the Regular Monthly Meeting is rescheduled for Thursday, May 27 at 7:30 pm.  Both meetings are scheduled to be held at the Administration Building.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Comparing South Butler and Freeport to ASD - What's our plan?

Captures from two articles one on South Butler Area School District (Knoch) and one on Freeport Area School District From the VND 05/06/10


South Butler: raising taxes 2mils (an increase of 1.5-2mils is needed each year over the nxt 3yrs to pay for the increased state employee retirement costs. (Old rate 87.675 / New Rate 89.675). On a 15k property (yeh how many of those are there?) It raises the bill $30/yr. So if u have a 150k property (much more likely) your taxes are going up $300/yr.

Freeport cut their budget and they still have to raise taxes:

Buffalo Twp: was 118mils to 119mils (on a 15k property (again, how many of these are there? Taxes r going up $15/yr or $150/yr on a $150,000.00 property).

Freeport / South Buffalo: was 51mils now 53mils on a 30K property (again, why do they use these numbers?) Will be an increase of $60/yr. On a $150,000.00 will be $300/yr.

So how is the ASD going to add 2Million in staffing costs, a 20yr payment program on 20million for revamping an under-utilized facility, pay for the pensions that are coming due, etc.? And they (ASD Super Six) say they aren't raising our taxes to do this? So there must be going to be severe cuts to programs at the other schools in order to support what they are saying.

Interesting Quote from the South Butler School Board meeting:

"Supt. Frank Prazenica shared a warning received from State Lawmakers, which urges caution because of the state's $1 Billion deficit. It said there is "no guaranteed level of funding" for school districts or any other entities under the 2010-11 state budget.”

South Butler said that they will have to do this each year for the next three yrs. (This is just to take care of the pensions). So their taxes are going up $900-1,000.00 or MORE per property over the next three years.

What is our ASD boards plan? Oh, we haven't seen one from our ASD board.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

JENNA SCHRECENGOST: Letter to the Editor

Indiana Gazette
Published: Tuesday, May 4, 2010 12:33 PM EDT

Elderton High School? West Shamokin High School? Ford City High School? Which high school is better for me?

Many students have answered that question, but the Armstrong school board has decided to answer for them. Why is the ASD board now forcing these students back to EHS for the 2010-2011 school years?

Recently, 60 students had transfers approved to stay at the high school they have grown to love; however, 28 students, including myself, were denied because they truthfully answered a question relating to after-school activities on the transfer form. Why was this included with the reason why the transfer was requested?

Why sports? Why not band? Why discriminate if a student participates in a sport?

These 28 students are being forced back to a school they don't want to attend just because they participate in an athletic activity.

This is so unfair! The decision to transfer was made by the students and their parents based on what they believe is the best for their child.

I disagree with the school board for picking and choosing which student may transfer and which students could not. I'm sorry, but I thought discrimination was wrong!

Jenna Schrecengost
Rural Valley

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Insanity?


An editorial by Adam Scaife

"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." - Albert Einstein

40+ years of the ASD school board doing the same thing over and over should certainly qualify by Einstein’s definition above. Although, we don’t know that this current board is expecting different results. With the current school board and the soon to be chosen new superintendent we will be right back to the 1960's. The same poor results will continue. Higher taxes than the nearby successful school districts, keeping more facilities open and barely maintaining them, paying more teachers and staff than necessary because we have too many buildings open, offering less curriculum choices, and having low student to teacher ratios. Where has this gotten us in the past 40 years? Student test scores are not higher than the surrounding successful school districts. But our taxes are.

In the ASD we have an estimated $25,000,000.00 dollars in pension contributions coming due over the next several years and there is still no plan to pay for it. Where is this money coming from?

Re-opening Elderton Jr. Sr. High School means it will have to be staffed appropriately. Some current board members want to talk about teacher’s salaries and salary increases at the same time they plan to increase the number of teachers within the ASD by having to re-staff a re-opened facility. How much does the staffing of the Elderton Jr. Sr. High School cost the tax payers? The estimate of $2,000,000.00 plus for staffing Elderton Jr. Sr. High School has been used by the district. Elderton Jr. Sr. High School has 250 pupils with an average of 42 or less pupils per graduating class. This equates to a cost of $48,000.00 each for educating a graduating senior over the six years of educating them from the 7th through the 12th grade. This also includes some students who are not physically on the premises as they are attending Lenape Vo-Tech.

At the same time we are completing a study of facilities to the amount of $90,000.00+ to the architects. The only facilities that have been discussed or mentioned for renovations, at this time, are those of an increasingly under-utilized facility that will cost between $16,000,000.00 - $20,000,000.00 dollars or more. Of course if we were not considering renovations at Elderton Jr. Sr. High School, a building that should remain closed, the facility razed, and the property sold, and at the Elderton Elementary School we would not have this study completed and this fee to the architects to pay for. There are no other facilities that have been proposed by this current board for renovations. Please explain how this is a fiscally sound proposal for the entire tax base of the district in order to graduate approximately 42 students or less per year. Please also explain where the benefit is in the education to all of the students of the district including those attending Elderton. A great number of the Elderton attendance area students do not want to return, but they have been denied their transfer requests in order to suit the desires of the current school board.

Review the Freeport Area School District and their tax rates and make the comparison. You will find that for the same assessed property value you would pay significantly less in your school taxes. Freeport Area School District has been ranked by the state to be significantly higher in student test scores over the ASD student test scores for many years. Do not point to Leechburg as they are broke. Even if they raise taxes the maximum allowed, they are still broke. They are searching earnestly for any cuts they can make in order to reach their budget requirements and they are coming up short.

Is Leechburg area school district the mirror to the ASD’s future? They too are run by a school board and superintendent emphasizing the smaller community school. However, they have not found a way to continue to properly operate it with respect to revenues and expenditures and their budget, at this time, for next school year is looking to be in the red ink. They are searching for cuts and trims no matter how small in order to remain viable. How long will it be before they are no longer viable? What will suffer in addition to the obvious answer of the children’s education? This is a future that we can not permit to occur in the ASD.

C.N. Hanners, Dr. Brence, and Dr. Kerr, all were and are superintendents having a brighter vision for the ASD. These men were attempting to institute the appropriate and needed change for the future of the student's educations and the fiscal soundness of the ASD. Their visions were fought vehemently by those that fear change and as a result little progress has occurred. What is this current board’s plan for better educations for all students of the district and being fiscally responsible to the entire tax base? Or is it just back to status quo? What would Albert Einstein think of the sanity of the current situation we are faced with from this current school board majority?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Kittanning Paper Comments

Editorial by Jennifer Willyard and Becky Fullerton


The online version of the Kittanning Paper contains the same articles as are in print but there is also the option to comment on the articles, including this one (below). For the past several months there have been many articles in regard to the Armstrong School District and many specifically relating to the status of Elderton High School.

Here is a very interesting posting from this week:
“Please explain the math you are using when you make this statement: “The Elderton attendance area generates enough tax revenue to pay for the operation of the school and contributes to the debt service for schools in other areas of ASD.” Please indulge me for my own edification and please explain this to the people of: East Brady, Worthington, Shannock Valley, Dayton, Kittanning, and Ford City.

I am using the ASD reported attendance area Revenue and Expenditure Statement and I don’t see where you can make this claim.
The people from Elderton are good upstanding people that contribute positively to the community. We want your children to have as stellar of an education as possible, but not at the expense of other children’s education within the district. The misconception that the ASD needs Elderton and their taxes in the ASD is not factual. However, Elderton attendance area does need the ASD in order to keep their facilities open. Surrounding School districts sought for consolidation would and will not keep the Elderton Jr. Sr. High School open and renovate the facility. Our wanting for Elderton to remain within the district has nothing to do with revenues provided by the Elderton attendance area. Everyone has access to the data from the ASD for attendance area revenues and expenditures. We urge you to review them. (See above web-link) Yes, if Elderton attendance area is to remain within the ASD, the ASD needs to close and consolidate Elderton in order to reduce expenditures in facilities and staffing. This is where the greatest gains are to be had. However, a positive affect to the revenue stream for the ASD is also created by a secession of Elderton along with their revenues.

If secession to a neighboring school district is truly pursued by Elderton attendance area, for the price tag placed on the buildings you will find that the insured values of the facilities and assessed market value of the acreage should be a fair market price. Do insurance companies generally place higher replacement values on facilities that they insure? Regardless, the insured value of the buildings and the assessed market value of the acreage is the place to begin negotiation at a minimum. When Sugar Creek Elementary was closed by the ASD and re-opened to be continued to be used as an elementary school by the Karns City School District they paid for the facilities as such at that time. Other facilities that were closed and no longer to be used as a school have gone at lower prices. Which way would Elderton prefer it to be when their buildings are assessed for their value?

Do not get me wrong. I am NOT against Elderton, the people of Elderton, or the students of the Elderton attendance area. I am for ALL of the townships, boros, and municipalities and ALL of the people, and ALL of the students of the ASD. Elderton is not its own school district and has not been since the 1960’s. Due to declining enrollment, low student to teacher ratio, and ever increasing costs to educate a student (higher than all other attendance areas)it was time to close the facility and consolidate. If you truly believe that your above statement is correct, you may want the Elderton attendance area to earnestly pursue secession.”- Adam Scaife
Our reason for posting this particular comment? Savings is a very difficult thing to show.

We haven’t had a tax increase in this school district since approximately 2002 when the taxes settled at the current rate of 55 mills. Cost of education has gone up each year–so the “savings” have been used in one of two places. It is either being applied to off-set the increasing cost of operating a bloated school district (without increasing taxes)–or it is sitting in an over-taxation savings account (Fund Balance). Your savings which resulted from reducing costs are exactly in one of those two places.

And yes, there is savings which resulted from closing EHS. You simply can not remove the operation of a building and its associated staffing and not have “savings”.

The question is why hasn’t that savings been returned to the taxpayers in the form of a millage reduction?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

We call Shenanigans!

Sources tell us that last Friday, three science teachers from West Shamokin that have REQUESTED to be transfered back to Elderton, got to go out to Elderton and clean classrooms. Substitutes were provided for their classes. Remember that teacher transfer requests have not been approved as of yet. We are not sure who gave the permission to do this. So the kids are getting short changed when this cleaning should be done when students are not in session and we should NOT be spending our tax money on subs, when the teachers should be TEACHING their own classes NOT cleaning classrooms!

Furthermore, where are the cleaning supplies coming from?  We officially call Shenanigans!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Stitt and Solak have a problem with cost allocation

Board Directors Stitt and Solak have a problem with Close's request that the $94,000 spent on the architect and future costs be put towards the total of reopening Elderton. Would this be because of the lawsuit holding them and the four others that voted to reopen this school financially responsible for all costs involved with the reopening of Elderton?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Nickleach Dismisses Peliminary Objections

Judge Nickleach dismissed all of the defendants' preliminary objections and ordered them to file an Answer to the allegations of the Complaint within 20 days. This is pertaining to the lawsuit against the 6 ASD board members who are not being fiscally responsible with our tax dollars!

Memorandum and Order

April Monthly Meeting

The April Monthly Meeting will be held on Monday, April 26 at 7:30 pm at Lenape Elementary.  All parent with denied transfers or issues with transfers are urged to not only attend but to address the board during public comments. 

April Monthly Meeting Agenda

ASD Class Sizes

An Editorial by Rebecca Fullerton
Many studies out there seem to tout the advantages of small class sizes on student achievement, especially at the elementary levels. While not all studies on the subject have shown that students learn more in smaller settings—and while many are still ongoing—most studies have found some benefits. These studies indicate that the greatest success in small class size and increase in student achievement is seen in the grades K-3 and in the more economically disadvantaged (free and reduced lunch) students. Some 40 states have adopted federal class-size-reduction programs, under the reauthorized Elementary and Secondary School Act—popularly known as "No Child Left Behind" Act of 2001—with small elementary class sizes in the range of 17-20 students per classroom. With so many states/districts adopting these policies why then is ASD seeming to go backward with this concept? It seems that all of the elementary schools in the district now have in excess of 25-28 students in a classroom (with the exception of Dayton Elementary). With the upcoming “discussion” of the closing of Kittanning Township Elementary and merger with Elderton Elementary it seems this trend is continuing. What do these districts know that ASD does not? Why is ASD seeming to do the opposite, with decreasing class sizes in the upper classes rather than the elementary?

Some of the benefits and advantages of small class size may be seen in a number of different ways. For example, small class size could affect how students interact with each other—how they engage socially. This could result in less noise and disruptive behavior in the classroom, and in turn affect the kinds of activities the teacher is able to provide. Smaller class size may also affect the time a teacher is able to focus on individual students and their specific needs rather than on the group as a whole which may then result in increased individual attention. The class size could also affect the teacher’s allocation of time and, therefore, effectiveness, in other ways, too—for example, he/she may be able to cover much more material, or may choose different methods of teaching and assessment. They may assign more writing, or provide more feedback on students’ written work, or use open-ended assessments, or encourage more discussions, all excellent tools for improving achievement. It is also thought that exposure to a particular learning environment may not only affect learning over the time period of exposure, but may have long term or delayed effects as well (e.g., by increasing self-esteem or cognitive developments that have lasting effects). Various other advantages have been seen with a decrease in class size also, such things as noticeable declines in the number of disciplinary referrals, improved teacher morale, focus on prevention rather than remediation and higher levels in classroom participation by students.

Shouldn’t the energies and finances of the district be focusing on how to keep ALL of our elementary class sizes small and thus bestowing advantages on our children at their youngest and most impressionable levels rather than fighting over buildings, vying for dominance and control, and crushing educational advantages? Isn’t this the job of our elected School Board Directors and Administrators—to work together for the common good of the district, to focus on the educational issues at hand, help ALL of our children to achieve educational excellence and to afford them every choice and opportunity possible??

Friday, April 23, 2010

Denied!

An Editorial by Becky Fullerton and Jennifer Willyard

This week has been quite an interesting one for the Armstrong School District, hasn’t it?

The main topic at the ASD School Board’s open caucus meeting this week was the numerous transfer requests that were submitted by parents who wanted their children to attend a school other than their assigned attendance area building.

As reported in the newspapers, there were 28 transfer requests that were denied because of the following question asked of the parent signing the form:

“Does your child play any sport/s in grades 9-12 for his/her school? If yes, please be specific and list.”
The board did not care if a parent wanted educational continuity, if a parent had babysitting arrangements elsewhere, or if a family lived only 1/8 of a mile from an attendance border……if somebody had written Football, Basketball, Baseball, Tennis, Wrestling or any other sport, even without checking the box for sports as a reason for requesting the transfer, they were automatically denied. Did the board even look at anything beyond that word “sports”? Did they look to see if a student did flourish when transferred to new surroundings? Of course not, they wouldn’t even have looked at “sports” had they not needed to devise some way to force students into Elderton High School.

Up until this time, past practice of the district, has never denied transfer requests in this manner. Why suddenly is the board so concerned with these???? You all know as well as we do, it is the same reason they are pushing for Lenape Tech to be ½ time…..warm bodies in EHS so that it looks like there was a solid reason for reopening.

For the students that did have their transfer requests approved the board, according to Mr. Marklinski’s telephone interview in the Kittanning Paper, will force them to sit out of sports for 1 year. Suddenly ASD Policy 252, Guideline #6 is being enforced in the district? Why? Never has been before?! PIAA doesn’t care…..again warm bodies, to falsely inflate numbers at EHS. As an aside is this policy even relevant? The students were already at the schools in question for 1 year and are simply asking to stay where they are…….is this even LEGALLY a transfer??)

We still don’t understand though, why EHS needs these numbers? Why is this board punishing parents and students who do not want to return to Elderton? The school is reopening, being majorly renovated and staffed for the students who want to be there. The fact that there are some students who do not wish to return is not going adversely affect the students that will attend EHS. The small number of students, with or without the transfers, will not change the class offerings at EHS, regardless they are already at the minimum for offering classes and losing a few more students will not make a difference in that regard. Why then can’t the students/parents have school choice, as has always been the case in our district? Why are the students who wish to transfer being bullied into returning to a school that they do not want to attend?

We have already heard of one family that had requested that their two children be transferred. One was approved and the other denied! Why? You guessed….the one child plays a sport.

Before the meeting, we had heard of a young man who previously did not like school and his grades were barely passing. With the closing of Elderton High School, he was transferred to a new school where he enjoyed the camaraderie, his grades improved and so did his spirit. Thus his family put in a transfer request to keep him in these surroundings that nurtured him. Wouldn’t you do the same if it were your child? Sure you would! Any of us would. But guess what? He plays a sport. We are going to take a guess that his family did put on the form that he plays because they seem to be honest people, so I am wondering if his request was indeed denied as well.

What do you do if you are a parent in any of these situations? You start fighting. It is YOUR child’s well being, it is YOUR child’s education and it is YOUR child that suddenly turned himself/herself around all because of a change of school.

If we were that parent, we would be filling out new request forms and attaching copies of previous report cards, letters from teachers and anything else relevant and then resubmitting it and making sure you got onto the agenda to speak to the board. There are, of course, always the legal avenues that can be pursued as well as Cyber School.

Were you denied your transfer request? Let us hear about it. Contact us by email at info@asd-news.com or by mail at:

HERC-ACT
PO Box 424
Ford City, PA 16226


There was another little issue brought up at the meeting, but because it was at the end when most people had left, there has not been a lot of discussion about it…..the estimate from the architects for renovations of Elderton High School.

$18,000,000.00 That’s right, Eighteen million dollars.

For a comparison of what this new study could possibly be, go to the ASD website and look at the 4-10-07 Hayes Large Facilities Master Plan. In their study, what they deemed as a Level Two renovation had a cost of $15,212,200 with only approximately $4 million in reimbursement from the state. Keep in mind, that figure did NOT include asbestos abatement which is VERY costly and must be done.

You can also go to the ASD website and look at the Hayes Large study from 3-20-06 OR the Ingraham Dancu Master Facilities Plan from 9-8-03. Those studies have studied previous studies at the taxpayer expense for years!

At any rate, at next week’s board meeting, it will be interesting to see what the $18 million includes.

In closing this editorial, we would like to thank Dr. William Kerr for his years of service to our district. There are many people here who have admired the dedication that you have shown to the students and families of ASD and appreciate the dignity and class you have shown in the face of adversity throughout the years. We wish you the absolute best in your new position as Superintendent of Norwin School District. Our loss is their gain.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Something Wicked This Way Comes

An Editorial by Scott Starr

The title is a line from The Tragedy of MacBeth, or for those who wish to be more contemporary the title of a Ray Bradbury novel, and even a short story by Agatha Christie. I remember the soliloquy memorized all those years ago, “is this a dagger which is before me? The handle toward my hand? Come let me clutch thee…” Sorry for the digression, oh to relive the days of attending 1984 Kittanning Sr. High (College Prep. English) in the super school with a graduating class of 250.

The full quote is “by the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes”, it was said by one of the witches in MacBeth, and just like the witch in the play, I am getting a tingling sensation, an omen if you will, that there are some interesting events about to occur. No, I am not talking about the Gang of 6 voting to reopen Elderton Sr. High School, rather this is about the change in solicitors. The reality is change can be good, but let’s consider why and for what reasons this change was made.

Director James Solak, expressed his adoration for the business skills and expertise of our new Solicitor the former Business Manager for Duquesne School District (DSD) ( now defunct). The Auditor State General conducted an accounting audit of DSD’s records for 1997 and 1998. Here is what was found:
  • There were 102 transactions for which the superintendent's credit card was used. Receipts for only 24 of the transactions, totaling $4,913, were found in the school district's records.
  • There were 122 transactions for which the business manager's credit card was used. Receipts for only 11 of the transactions, totaling $2,154, were found in the school district's records.
  • Overall, there was documentation for 35 transactions totaling $7,067, or about 13 percent of the expenditures
  • Nine computers for which SDCD was charged $12,765 are missing from the school district and are unaccounted for.
  • A SDCD employee with whom the business manager had a financial relationship was paid commissions in connection with a purchase by the school district without adequate records of justification or full disclosure.
  • SDCD failed to manage properly the process of purchasing computer technology equipment and services. The school district also obtained technology services without a written agreement or record of prior school board approval.
  • The school district failed to maintain records concerning travel reimbursement payments to the former business manager, payments to a school district employee for food and meals, miscellaneous purchases of food and payments to an employee of a school district contractor.
  • SDCD has not received the services of a personnel director called for in a contract with the former business manager. The contract has cost the school district over $30,000 to date.
  • SDCD overpaid the City of Duquesne about $14,776 for tax collection and other financial management services from 1997 through 1999.
  • The school district has failed to maintain records of financial activities in several basic areas and has poor record keeping procedures. These deficiencies impede efforts to verify expenditures or determine the reasons for actions taken by school district officials. As a result, the school district's overall financial management is subject to question.
I am not making accusations, nor implications, I am only reporting what the STATE AUDITOR GENERAL found. Here is the link, so you may read for yourself
Our new solicitors experience also has an element of building construction in Duquesne School District, an article was published in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, October 7, 1997 describing the construction of DSD:

  • The construction was expected to be September 15th, but was pushed back until October 6th ( if I read the article correctly)
  • Modular trailers were brought in to house students (the article states they were nice trailers)
  • Kindergarten through 4th grade were moved to a vacant Catholic School called St. Denis in Versailles
  • Grades 5 – 8 were moved to a vacant Catholic School called Holy Trinity in McKeesport.
Yes, Mr. Solak I understand in construction things don’t always run smoothly, I’m just reporting.

Apparently there was at least one board member at Duquense School District who was not very happy with the business manager and the handling of the construction, one Judith M. Burton, made an accusation that Raintree Consulting was not being pushed hard enough because it had contributed to the business managers unsuccessful run for State Representative in 1996. Please read the article for yourself.

Subsequently, Ms. Burton sent a letter to the McKeesport Daily News, which resulted in a lawsuit being filed against her by the business manager. The lawsuit was not successful. For those interested please read article here. 

(OK, I’ll just wait for a lawsuit to be filed against me for this recitation of facts).

If you are reading this use the power of Google to do some other research and ask questions, get the facts. I welcome any information which disputes the content of these links.

So, what do YOU think? Do you agree with the business savvy of Mr. Solak? Does Armstrong County need the “Duquesne Way”.

Do you agree that something wicked this way comes?