Wednesday, March 31, 2010

If you weren't able to attend the Town Hall Meeting in Kittanning on Sunday, March 28, 2010, you can watch the meeting in it's entirety on YouTube.  There are 14 videos. (Use the control arrows on the left and right to scroll through the 14 videos)

Questions that were subitted in advance and were in the printed program:
  • Why isn’t the Department of Education getting involved?
  • Do we have a long-range plan?
  • Were we able to realize any savings from the closing of EHS?
  • What’s the story with EHS’s secession to AR, was there interference?
  • What were your reasons for voting for or against reopening EHS?
  • What are your plans for the upcoming pension plan fund spike?
  • Studies show that elementary schools should be kept smaller and secondary should be consolidated, why is ASD doing the opposite by consolidating KTE with EE and reopening EHS with small class sizes?
  • Why does Kittanning have inadequate facilities like science labs?
  • Are there plans for a Super School? If so, how can we afford it and where will it be built?
  • Why wasn’t there a referendum vote?
  • What were the reasons given by the board to have Lee Price dismissed as solicitor?
  • What were the reasons given by the board for not entertaining any other possibilities and choosing from a candidate field of "one" to have this person as our new solicitor?
  • Where did the new solicitor come from?
  • What is his background?
  • What other school districts has he had involvement with in the past and does he currently have involvement with on either a solicitor level or on a council level to private groups involved in activities with a school district?
  • Why do you keep spending thousand of dollars to do studies and do nothing with them when you don't get the results that you want?
  • Would it be more beneficial for our school district if the board members were elected at-large instead of by attendance areas/regions?
  • If so, what would we need to do to go about making that change?
  • Since the District's state mandated retirement contribution is scheduled in the next 5 years to increase from just under 5% to over 30% of salary expenses, wouldn't it be prudent for the District to lower salary expenditures by reducing the number of teachers?
  • Armstrong County is similar to the State of Kansas where an aging population and a declining student  enrollment are causing schools to be consolidated. Closer to home, surrounding areas are closing and
  • consolidating schools. Why is Armstrong County expanding the number of schools and teachers?
  • Does the Armstrong School Board think like the State and Federal Governments that taxpayers have the where-with-all to pay any bill they lay on the table?
These were questions asked from the audience.  There were a few more that were asked directly by audience members, these are the ones that we had in writing.
  • How many teachers were actually furloughed when EHS closed?
  • What is it going to take to revers the decision back to close EHS?
  • Because certain boar members will not let the Lenape half day figures alone, is there a fear that ASD could potentially choose to only go for half day because of the hybrid option and not allow student choice?
  • What is your forecast for the "Elderton Transfers" vote and what will be the fallout of that vote?
  • Is it ethical for a school board member to block emails from his/her constituents?
  • Will EHS be on school improvement due to low PSSA scores for 08-09.  Will this process cost ASD additional funding?
  • How will this years PSSA scores be configured?
  • Board Director Solak posed a question on February 23's agenda on OTH-5 - Has PDE given approval for re-opening EHS?
  • What recourse will parents have if transfer requests are denied?
Finally a written comment from a retired IUP professor:
I have no question, my comment would be that while I empathize with the desire to maintain a sense of community, community members need to take the energy they've used to re-open Elderton High School (at great expense to their fellow citizens) and use it creatively to find another way to maintain that sense of community. 

Truer words have never been spoken.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Town Hall Meeting - A Success!

The Town Hall Meeting held this afternoon at The Covenant Center in Kittanning was a huge success.  Chris Choncek, Joe Close and Jim Rearic answered questions from the audience.  Even though the directors represent the Kittanning regions, any taxpayer in the county was invited to attend.

We urge everyone to contact their board member in their region to have a town hall meeting.  There is a link to the side that will tell you who your board rep is.

Videos will be up by sometime tomorrow.  There was a lot of good information shared as well as a healthy question and answer session, this just isn't an option at formal board meetings.

HERC-ACT would like to thank the three busy board members for their time, The Covenant Center in Kittanning for the use of their facilities and especially to all of the taxpayers who came out!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Student Transfers Up in Air

On January 18, 2010, Rose Stitt made comments about student transfers.

Then, at the meeting March 16, 2010, she tried to say that she said they would follow board policy (Watch at the 8:07 mark)

She was not present at the meeting last night where the issue ended up in the air. Solak was concerned that the transfers were not categorized. They were already broken down by school, he must want them broken down by grade. The item was pulled until administration can categorize them to his specifications and then the board will vote on them at a "Special Meeting" to be held before the April 19 Open Caucus meeting.

There are three videos of this discussion, please watch all three.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Student Transfers may be DENIED

We were very disappointed to hear at last night's meeting that Directors Solak and Stitt plan to follow current Board Policy 252 on Student Transfers to a "T".  They stressed that they will be paying particular attention to the clause:
5. Lack of space or disruption of class sizes at the sending or receiving school building.
When Armstrong East and Armstrong Central were de-consolidated in the early 90's, those students were allowed to pick their school of choice.  Also, we feel certain that the "No sports for one school year" was not imposed like it is now.  That, we feel, set a presidence.  What is so different now? 

If you are a parent, who submitted a Transfer Request, we urge you to attend the meeting Monday, March 22, 2010 at 7:30 PM at Lenape Elementary.  We urge you to take to the podium during Public Comments section and tell this board that this is UNACCEPTABLE!

Please watch the video from last night's meeting where Directors Solak and Stitt make it clear that they are planning to DENY any requests out of Elderton High School for next school year.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Town Hall Meeting, March 28, 2010

HERC-ACT is hosting the first Town Hall Meeting!

We hope to have others as well....

The people of Kittanning asked for a meeting from their Directors. Their Directors ARE listening and willing to hold a Town Hall Meeting for any taxpayer in the ASD attendance area.

Sunday, March 28, 2010
Starting at 2:00 pm

The Covenant Center
332 North Water Street,
Kittanning, PA  16201

Due to limited seating, an RSVP will be required and we will allow for a maximum of 4 seats per reservation.
Please RSVP to

Or write to us at :

PO Box 424
Ford City, PA  16226
We want to get the most information to those in attendance, so if you have a question that you would like presented to the Directors, please submit them to the same addresses as the RSVP. The moderators will present the questions to each director.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A message from Adam Scaife

40+ years of listening and accepting the very vocal minority position has gained us nothing in our school district. It has continued to place our students "LAST" in the surrounding districts. Our board members should not be so interested in the LENAPE student scores once they arrive at LENAPE but in the scores of the students prior to arriving at Lenape.

Getting back to the basics has been preached by this and previous boards for the past 30 years. Where have these basics gotten us? Dr. Kerr did not hire or employ himself. He has made very sound, documented, and private consultant backed recommendation for appropriate change. Why does this new board not recognize this? They are of the same mold as previous boards of provincial mindsets. Does it not meet with their own personal agendas that have continued to stifle our educational system? We all know the answer to this question.

Are only those of us who are willing and wanting to let go of provincial mindsets able to see that we must change for the betterment of ALL Students and Taxpayers? Dr. Kerr is a Superintendent that has looked and is looking toward the best interests of ALL of the students and ALL of the tax payers.

Our district has completed MANY studies in the past, not just the hayes large or previous study, that back Dr. Kerr's direction. These multiple studies have cost the taxpayers much in the form of money and time and the students lost opportunities all in the name of maintaining a local identity that only a few cling to. Why do so many students leave the area following graduation from high school and college? Why is our district continuing to dwindle while districts nearby grow their student population?

Adam Scaife
East Franklin Twp.
511 Butler Road
Kittanning, PA 16201

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Markilinski Vote

We keep hearing, from certain people, how Markilinski won by a landslide.  It's kind of hard to do that when you are the only one running.  You are, in essence, the winner AND the loser.  It is also an opportunity to get 100% of the vote.  This, however, was not the case for Markilinski.

Wendy Buzzard, Director of Elections for Armstrong County provided us with these figures.

There are 3,087 registered voters in Region 9

Number of people who voted in the Nov. 2009 election for Region 9 - Manor Twp. and Manorville Borough

Manor TwpNorth338
South 1241
South 2288
Total Manor Twp867
Manorville Borough  91
Grand Total958

958 total voters in Manor Twp and Manorville Boro who voted in the November 2009 election.

Number of voters that voted for School Director

Manor Twp.North265
South 1172
South 2204
Total Manor Twp.641
Manorville Borough  67
Grand Total708

708 is the number of Manor Twp and Manorville Boro voters that voted for School Director

Votes for Markilinski

Manor TownshipNorth257
South 1166
South 2197
Total Manor Township620
Manorville Borough  66
Grand Total686

686 Votes for Markilinski


250 didn't vote for anyone for School Director, they chose to exercise their right to under vote.

22 people voted for a write in.


2% voted for a write in

72% voted for Markilinski

Of Markilinski's votes, 49 were for straight Republican party and 38 were straight Democrat party.  We consider these votes "freebies" since they weren't a direct vote for him, he only got those votes because he was registered for both parties.

Yes, he won.  By a landslide, we don't think so.  For someone who should have gotten 100% of the vote, he only got 62.5% DIRECT votes.

The Pension Plan

We are sure, by now, you have read Jennifer Willyard and Rebecca Fullerton's latest editorial in The Kittanning Paper.  In it, they discuss the Pension Plan Spike that is going to occur in the 2012-2013 school year.  We thought you would like to see some supporting documents.  We like to get the true facts to the public, we just don't make things up, we have documentation to back up everything we write about.

In addition to the documents below, we urge you to investigate this yourself at the PA Public School Employee's Retirement System (PPSERS) website especially this page, which discusses the rate spike.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

ASD Board History

ASD Board Director's Year Elected

Director Solak was elected for the MANOR region and served 1985-1987. He resigned in August 1987 to further his schooling.

Solak was elected for the FORD CITY region in 1991 - Voted out 2011
Smeltzer 1997
Monroe 1999 - Did not run for reelection in 2011
Close 2001
Stitt 2003 - Voted Out 2011
Choncek 2007
Rearic 2007
Yassem 2009 - Resigned 2012
Markilinksi 2009 - Resigned 2010
Kozuch 2010 - Replaced Markilinski - Voted out 2011
Berdell 2011
Lhote 2011
Lobby 2011
Robb 2011
Walker 2012 (Replaced Yassem)

Up For Re-election in 2011
Solak - LOST
Monroe - Did not run
Choncek - WON
Rearic - WON
Stitt - LOST

Up for Re-election in 2013

ASD Board fires Price and hires HERO's attorney Matta

Video footage from last night's special meeting to discuss legal council.  The board voted 6-1 to terminate the services of  Andrews and Price as solicitor and then voted 6-1 to hire Dodaro, Matta & Cambest as their new solicitor effective March 10, 2010 at 4:00 pm.  If the name Matta sounds familiar, it's because he is HERO's attorney.

Special note from Scott Starr,  as he posted on the Kittanning Paper's comment section:
I must correct something, I did mispeak last night. HERO did not sue the district, they merely threatened to sue the district.

I was given the letter by HERO stating that they would sue the district if….

Saturday, March 6, 2010


TheArmstrong School District Budget.
The numbers of the ASD budget are a point of controversy. Numbers have been changed, moved, combined and twisted to make things look better or worse, why should the ASD Board be able to use different accounting than we use in our households?
The most important factors are:
  1. How much money is coming in?
  2. How much money is being spent?
Following is a breakdown of Expenditures
and Income from the ASD Board meeting on February 22nd, these numbers have not been manipulated.

For the 2008 – 2009 Budget, please note the following:
Total Revenue (including State / Federal Subsidies) $82,340,095
Total Expenditures (including debt servicing) $83,440,253
Surplus / Deficit (FY 2008-09) -$ 1,100,158
Surplus Balance $ 5,000,000 (rounded)
Surplus Balance for FY 2009-2010 $ 4,000,000 (rounded)
Thanks to cost cutting from the administration, our balance has a surplus of over $4,000,000, this excess is used as justification that our district is in sound financial shape.

Can Your TAX dollars PAY for Your SCHOOLS?
The table below provides a straight forward example of YOUR TAXES and the EXPENDITURES for each attendance area. This does not include debt servicing or other items, which will be discussed later.

Attendance AreaTAX REVENUESCHOOL EXPENSESSurplus / Deficit
Elderton$ 4,896,427$ 7,782,046-$2,885,619
Ford City$ 7,886,459$12,029,133-$4,142,674
West Shmakoin$ 5,575,980$11,115,967-$5,539,987
No attendance area pays for itself.
On a per student basis, Kittanning has a deficit of $2,242 per student, the lowest of all attendance areas.

The following table includes debt servicing, STATE and FEDERAL money (really this is YOUR money as well) included in YOUR taxes.

Attendance AreaState/Federal MoneyTax RevenueSchool ExpensesDebt Service and other Surplus / Deficit
Elderton$ 7,447,573$ 4,896,427$ 7,782,046$ 5,010,215$ 448,261
Ford City$12,910,845$ 7,866,459$12,029,133$ 8,688,057$ 39,886
West Shamokin$11,344,020$ 5,575,980$11,115,967$ 7,631,983$1,827,950
Deficit$31,299,005$ 700,949

The data in the table, are a little confusing. There is a formula for State/ Federal money which is
complicated, such as the number of special needs students, poverty levels etc. It will take a while to get the data and put it in a useful format.

What is important is our District is losing money on day to day operations!

  1. Does the Kittanning area generate that much excess?
  2. Does West Shamokin area generate such a huge deficit?
  3. How is Ford City “about” breaking even?
  4. What about Elderton?
Results Based on % of Enrollment
Just for fun, lets take the State/Federal Money and divide it based on the percentage enrollment of each attendance area. Please find the information below:

Attendance Area% of EnrollmentIncrease / Decrease in State/ Federal
Surplus / Deficit
Elderton14.5$ 358,071$806,332
Ford City25.0$ 41,708$ 81,594
Kittanning38.5$ 910,022$705,126
West Shamokin22.0$1,309,801$518,149

By removing the State’s formula, and distributing money based on enrollment numbers, we get a picture, of how things would look if all things were equal (we understand they are not). There is something in the state’s formula which favors Kittanning and Elderton, ( greatly) yet West Shamokin seems to lose in this formula.

That is another Story.

Watch Out for Part II

Click here for supporting documents that were handed out at the February 22 ASD board meeting that SUPPORT the facts in this article!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Markilinski Writes to Secretary of Education

Mr. Markilinski is trying to enlist the Secretary of Education in his war against Lenape Vo-Tech.  Please notice that he used Ford City Ambulance's fax machine.  Again, 501(c)3 getting involved in activism.

03.03.2010 Markilinski Correspondence-1

Sign the Petition!

PLEASE NOTE:  Due to technical difficulties a lot of people had signing petitions at the previous site that we were using, we are starting over with a new site.  Please sign the petition, even if you already signed the ones at the site we posted on Thursday!  Thank you and we apologize for any inconvenience!

The School Board keeps stating that they are only doing what the voting public wants.  This is not true.  If you feel that your rep is not doing what is right or fiscally responsible, sign the petition to immediately submit his/her resignation from the school board due to the financially irresponsible, reckless and educationally damaging decisions he/she has made while in that position.

Your name does NOT have to appear on the online version of the petition, it will apprear as anonymous but will apprear on the printed version.

Each rep has their own petition.  Who is my board rep?

If your board representative is NOT listed, that means that they did NOT vote in the financially irresponsible, reckless manor that the other six board members did.

For Markilinski

For Solak

For Smeltzer

For Stitt

For Monroe

For Yassem

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Scott Starr: Why can't we have a Relay for Education?

There has been plenty of lively debate, some of it productive ,most not. Today, I hope to touch on a few issues that make the debate unproductive, hoping that by identifying the issues, they can be overcome. Before doing that I want to use Relay for Life as an example of what we can do when the ENTIRE county works together. The Armstrong Chapter of Relay for Life is continually at the top in the state, if we can do it for Relay for Life, why can’t we do it for Education?
Some of the reasons for unproductive discussions concerning the School District are as follows:

1. When determining which schools to rationalize, objective criteria are not laid out for the local citizens BEFORE making these determinations and BEFORE studies ensue. If the criteria are laid out, I suggest that the ADMIN and the Board do a better job disseminating the information to the public. Unfortunately, in my opinion, it’s too late to do that now, we need a disinterested 3rd party to look at our 9 schools and make a decision without the influence of any groups, or the district and abide by that ruling.

2. There is too much dis and mis information available, and it does nothing to help our students. For example, Lenape has become the current “whipping boy”.

Last Monday Mr. Markilinski showed Math scores of 22.9% and reading at 35.6% proficient exclaiming Lenape is failing! The scores are true, the failure is not. Students of Lenape are tested BEFORE entering , here are the ranges for 2006 - 2009

ASD Math 74-86% NOT proficient

Reading 40%-57% NOTproficient

Others Math 42 – 92 % NOTproficient

Reading 35 – 100% NOT proficient

We weren’t told this data, What else weren’t we told? Well Lenape has about 6 months to prepare these students for the PSSA test. Is busing these kids 3 times daily to make Lenape a half day really the answer? 10 years at the home school and 6 months preparation at Lenape, who is at fault? NOT Lenape.

Mr. Markilinski said “if this were the private sector someone would be fired”, and it would be whomever created a misleading report, misrepresenting data.

3. The alleged “Super school”. For those with Internet access, please go to the ASD website and see for yourself, that the consolidated school is ONE of FOUR options. It is not the ONLY option. Here are some facts: In the 1980’s there was a plan to build a consolidated school in West Hills, it was to be named Fort Armstrong and school colors were to be Black and Silver. That plan has long been shelved.

4. Again ONE of the FOUR possibilities is to build a consolidated Kittaning / FC School at the LENAPE COMPLEX, not the arbitrary line of demarcation “across the river”. Cost $95 Million.

5. The real issue is that the board, has some historical and irrational hostilities among the regions standing in the way.

Here is some REAL HISTORY

Had we followed the Dancu plan in 2005, we would have been finished with updating and rationalizing our facilities. We didn’t follow this plan.

In 2006 Elderton and Lenape were evaluated for improvements, that plan was not implemented.

In 2007 Hayes –Large did a comprehensive review, offering Renovation options of 1$12 MM ( band-aid plan), $97 MM and $137 MM all renovation plans. NONE of this were agreed upon either.

6. Here we are in 2010 and NONE of the plans, paid for by the taxpayer, have been adopted. Mr. Solak at the last meeting mentioned several times “tell the taxpayers the truth”, so tell us board, what is the truth? What is the plan? West Shamokin is 8 years old, Ford City is 100 years old, the other 6 schools are 55 years old. We need a renovation or consolidation plan for our schools to function. Tell us NOW which one is it. Is it NEW at $95 Million or the renovation options?

Numbers can be played with, Enron accounting can make anything look good or bad. The numbers I gave are right from the ASD website,

Let’s discuss the ASD budget in terms we all can understand, money coming in, and money going out. When WE have a surplus in our homes, we save it, when WE have a deficit in our homes, we cut back, when we know a big bill like our taxes are coming due, we put back a little each month and pay it! ASD has several big bills coming due, ( pension) and we are spending money!

History is a great measure to see how far one has come, not where one wants to go. We are many communities but one school district, let’s make a Relay for Education and FIX our schools.

Debbi Reefer Asks About Pension Fund

Pension Fund Rate Spike
Deborah A Reefer
Kittanning, Pa 16201
ASD Board Meeting February 22, 2010

I’m speaking tonight to address the issue concerning the increase of the pension funding for the Pennsylvania Public School Employee’s Retirement System, as well as asking the board to explain how they are preparing for it in the upcoming budgets.

Many Pennsylvania school districts have been anticipating the increase and have already been proactive in preparing their district budgets accordingly. Unfortunately, other districts have not been.

There are many Pennsylvania taxpayers who aren’t informed on this issue, so I hope by speaking about it tonight, I bring some much needed attention to the matter and help our district taxpayers understand what our district faces starting the 2012-2013 fiscal year.

The funding changes of Act 40, which was passed on December 10, 2003, had the effect of pushing off pension obligations to the future to provide fiscal relief to both the commonwealth and school employees during recessionary times. The contribution rates for school districts are 15%, employee contributions are 26%, and 59% of the revenue is generated through investments.

But with costs rising in the past several years due to a number of factors, such as lower investment returns during the recent market slide, the 10-year amortization period, and the enhanced benefits created in 2001, the result is a 26.54% loss on investment returns.

The bottom line of how this is going to affect our district is summarized in the ASD Right To Know document containing the Salary, Health Insurance, and Retirement Increase. A 30 year projection and other relevant information can also be viewed at

The five year projection shows the current fiscal year at the contribution rate of 4.78% and the net cost to our district at $967,329.

The upcoming fiscal year of 2010-2011 shows the rate nearly doubling at 8.22% and the net cost of $1,713,386, which is an increase of $746,057.

But the real “spike” is during the 2012-2013 fiscal year, in which the contribution rate jumps to 29.22% and the net cost to our district being $6,461,569….which is a $4,187,9556 increase!

This is not a one time increase. The rate continues to climb every year into the 30%’s through the next decade, before finally dropping back to below 20% in the year 2033.

Some of the questions that I’m asking the board directors to answer are, how are you preparing our district for the $4 million dollar increase we face in two years? Our district will need more than $6 million for the retirement fund that year and over $7 million in 2013, then nearly $8 million in 2014.

What specifically are each of you doing to ensure the district continues to have a balanced budget, to prevent taxpayers from being slapped with higher taxes, with some taxpayers’ estimated increase being $500 to $900 more per year due to the pension fund increase?

In the upcoming years, our district faces possible declines in both taxpayer revenue and state subsidy, but increasing expenditures, which will also include higher utility bills, especially due to the expiration of the electric generation rate caps. Our district also has two other high schools as well as some of our elementary schools that are also in need of renovations. Will we be able to afford any of these additional costs, especially with the higher payments to the pension fund? In just the next five years, our net cost of the pension fund payments will be $25,640,319.

At the January 18th Open Caucus meeting, Mr. David Sallack’s presentation on “Long Term Financial Planning” strongly recommends school districts to have a 10 year plan. It’s quite apparent that due to the constant power struggle by some of our board directors, Armstrong School District never seems to have a one year plan, let alone a long term plan. There are some current board members who take every available opportunity to criticize and publicly insult those they don’t agree with, yet fail to make any effort to provide any important ideas for improving and strengthening our district.

Director Solak, at the January 18th meeting, you pressed for an answer to your question “What’s next?” Since you’re one of the directors who voted yes on reopening Elderton High School at the December 14th board meeting, at which meeting you spoke in a very carefree manner of spending the money to reopen it without knowing the costs, you’re the director who needs to answer that question. What will happen if or when we are faced with an enormous deficit in the next couple years?