Crowd packs Keystone meeting

Naming of ‘substitute’ district superintendent delayed

By KEVIN MCKEE

kmckee@lockhaven.com

MILL HALL – While the agenda item to appoint a substitute superintendent may have been removed from last night’s Keystone Central School Board meeting, work continues behind the scenes to make it happen, according to board President Charles Rosamilia.

Per Rosamilia, the item was removed because while the board has someone in mind for the position, that person must complete paperwork involving the Pennsylvania Department of Educators recognizing a relevant certification, which the person already has, before a vote can actually occur.

While no time frame on this paperwork was provided, Rosamilia did clarify that the correct terminology for this person’s role will be that of substitute superintendent until the point at which Kelly Hastings’s resignation takes effect in mid-March.

After that point, the title will change to interim superintendent.

That shows a level of concern and vision for new long-term plans at Keystone, which several speakers throughout the evening – before a crowd of more than 200 people in the Central Mountain High School cafeteria – touched on as well.

It is currently unknown what level of influence the substitute superintendent will wield, or for how long they will hold their position, as the search for a full superintendent continues.

New leadership is central to the district moving forward, as yet another program planning meeting prior to the regular work session revealed that a preliminary 2018-2019 budget – one showing a $2 million deficit after multiple expense reductions involving cutting staff, eliminating programs, a pay freeze, higher student fees and more – has burgeoned to $7 million.

That because PSERS’ contribution rate, which governs pension funds under the Pennsylvania State Employees Retirement System, has been newly certified by the state at 33.43 percent, coming in higher than expected, said Susan Blesh, district business manager.

The deficit may grow further before it all is said and done, as well: Healthcare costs, which the administration maintains is the other major cost measure at the district, may also come in above expectations.

Currently, the very preliminary 2018-19 budget projects an overall 8 percent increase in Blue Cross-Blue Shield health-care insurance costs to the district.

However, the consortium which Keystone is a part of has warned the district that cost increases could come in at as much as 10 percent.

Of course, the preliminary budget is just that – preliminhary – because some cost-cutting items to stem the bleeding involve a district-wide pay freeze and stipend reductions that employee unions – most notably teachers – would have to agree to.

Also not in the budget counts at the moment: School closings.

It is unclear for how long that will remain the case, though, as some community members last night echoed a question previously asked by board members: What would the numbers look like with a single school closing?

Central Mountain Middle School and

Dickey Elementary were the two which were specifically asked about.

Discussion of these schools’ fates could come at next month’s program planning meeting, which was added to the schedule.

Originally, there was no program planning meeting for February, but with the time-frames the district is working with and the overall severity of the decisions needing to be made, another meeting at 5 p.m. in the cafeteria was added for Feb. 1.

That will precede next month’s regular work session the same night.

Meanwhile, the board did accept Jeff Johnston’s official resignation.

Johnston left the board in mid-December, the third such resignation in 2017.

He represented Region VIII consisting of Castanea and Bald Eagle Townships, and Flemington Borough.

The board set Jan. 25 as the deadline to receive applications for Johnston’s seat.

Interested residents are urged to contact the district directly to learn how to formally apply.

The board hopes to conduct interviews for the seat on Tuesday, Jan. 30, and appoint someone at the February meeting.

See Saturday’s Express for reports on the various presentations at last night’s meeting, along with other items the board approved or acted upon.

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