Retirements, other staff moves OK’d
MILL HALL — Following a busy program planning meeting and a lengthy, closed-door executive session, the Keystone Central School Board approved a number of personnel had a late start at its monthly work session on Thursday.
The session came immediately after a presentation by substitute Superintendent Dr. Alan Lonoconus on the district’s budget process, during which he unveiled a plan to get the district through the next school year.
The latest numbers show Keystone still faces a budget deficit of $7.7 million.
Projected expenses come to $80.5 million, while revenues stand at $72.8 million.
Dr. Lonoconus said he would like to have the district pull $2 million from its reserve fund to help offset the budget deficit for 2018-19, as well as increase taxes to the 3.3 percent index, which would result in an average taxpayer in Clinton County seeing an increase of $44, and in Potter County, an increase of $144. However, the average taxpayer in Centre County would actually see a decrease of $47 in taxes under the plan.
Along with increased state subsidies from Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget of $101,816 and a natural growth in tax revenues from real estate of $121,440, Lonoconus’s budget also presumes the district will receive a $765,000 grant to fund the Pre-K program.
Furthermore, his plan sees an additional $350,000 reduction of operating budget cuts, $923,000 saved from additional positions to be eliminated through attrition, and $113,000 saved from the closure of the Renovo branch of the Pre-K program, which would not be covered by the Pre-K Counts grant.
Finally, he urged the board to consider “Option 2” for the debt restructuring, which would result in an upfront savings of $1,729,834 for the 2018-19 budget.
“Normally, I wouldn’t recommend refinancing the bonds, but it might buy us some time, and that’s what’s needed right now,” he said.
“All of these decisions have education as the priority,” he said, adding that his goal “is to get us into next year, without doing a whole lot to the district.”
His plan brings the deficit for the 2018-19 budget down to $917,109.
After 2018-19, though, Dr. Lonoconus expressed concern, citing a projected $5 million deficit for 2019-20, as well as other potential issues, such as President Trump’s proposed additional 25 cents tax on a gallon of gasoline, which would have “a large impact on Keystone’s transportation costs if it goes into place,” he said.
But for now, business as usual continues at the district.
First up, the school board heard a presentation by Darin Rathbun, director of Hunt Engineering’s Towanda office.
Hunt Engineering specializes in school design.
Rathbun stressed the importance of “understanding your buildings, how they function, and how they will be moved to the future.”
“We’re a rural firm, specializing in rural K to 12,” he said.
Rathbun said that he came primarily to discuss facility condition surveys.
“Our building condition survey will look at the district as a whole, reviewing all of the buildings, evaluating what their conditions currently are, how are they being utilized, and so on,” he explained. “Our team of architects and engineers that will flood the buildings during off hours and make sure that we really get into all the nooks and crannies.”
To help manage this information, Hunt developed its own program to handle data.
“I like to call it Excel on steroids,” Rathbun quipped.
Hunt will then take all of the information and summarize it, building a 5-year-plan out of what items they find, and how those items are prioritized.
“You’re not unlike a lot of the districts in Pennsylvania,” he began. “We would come up with a facility master plan, so we can look at that and try to match that with fiscal priorities.”
Following his presentation, board member Billie Rupert had several questions.
She asked, “If there’s funding available, are you the one that searches for that funding for that recommendation?”
Rathbun replied, “It’s a combination. We work with grant funds, we do presentations to different grant programs to try to get more money into the district.”
“How much do you save districts compared to how much the cost of utilizing your services would be,” Rupert then asked.
Rathbun answered, “I can’t really put a dollar amount on it. It’s looking at … say for instance a roof,” he said. “We had an example where the school was going to replace the roof. We came in, looked at it, and told the district that the roof wasn’t in bad shape. We brought the manufacturer holding the (roof) warranty in, and spent $750 on the repairs, and saving the district the cost of replacement for five years.”
The board also heard three speakers from the community.
The evening’s first speaker was Heather Haigh, who spoke on behalf of the music program.
“The indoor majorettes and indoor color guard have been hard at work, even though we went from three groups to only two due to reductions of staff,” she said. “We just hosted the first competition of the year this past weekend, and it was a great success with teams from across the state here.”
Keystone performed well at the competition, with its two groups achieving the highest scores of the groups present.
“We are also hosting, on April 29, the Chapter Championships – great, all day-long competition. It’s a huge honor to be able to host that,” Haigh said proudly.
At the end of the chapter championships, the highest scoring teams are invited to go to the championship in New Jersey.
Haigh emphasized that “the music department is dealing with the cuts and is making concessions. But the cuts are hurting and I want to make sure that we are all aware that the cuts are already hurting, and that more cuts will hurt even worse.”
She specifically referenced the pressure on boosters, parents, and students to be able to afford sending the kids to competitions.
“If we cut further, it’s like being told that we won’t have a program in a couple years because the feeder programs go into the higher-up programs,” she concluded.
Kaylee Weaver was the second speaker.
A student at Central Mountain High School, she wanted to address the subject of school shootings.
“Some students are saying that they didn’t feel safe at school, especially at Central Mountain. Anyone can walk into the building with a weapon, which scares me,” she said.
“I started a schoolwide petition, although I couldn’t reach out to everyone because of my class schedule,” Weaver said. “I’ve received over 150 signatures.”
Her first proposal: “We have a metal detector, supposedly, but it’s sitting in a closet collecting dust. I propose not only that we start using the one that we already have, but also invest in a new one by soliciting the community for donations or by holding fundraisers.”
Weaver’s second proposal would include changing the lock-down drill.
“Shooters are getting smarter and are focusing on casualties, like when students are in the hallways. The Florida shooter used the fire alarm. Our students wouldn’t know what to do in an event like this,” she said.
Weaver closed by affirming, “let’s do what we can to prevent our school from adding to the number of these horrific tragedies.”
Rupert spoke up at the end of Weaver’s message with a suggestion of her own: “Check with county and state facilities to see if any are updating their metal detectors and would be willing to donate or sell at reduced cost.”
The final speaker was Sarah Nestor, a pre-school speech language pathologist with the district’s Pre-K program.
“I screened every student in both classrooms at Robb (Elementary) and approved eight students for special education services, some of whom are now already exiting special education,” she said proudly.
Nestor spoke in support of the Pre-K program.
“My own daughter participated last year, and we saw a lot of benefit to her,” Nestor said of Pre-K.
If more students are needed to fill Pre-K’s possible extra slot requirements due to the grant, Nestor said the district should contact Head Start.
“There’s a waitlist there,” she said.
Dr. Lonoconus took the opportunity at the end of the work session to congratulate the boys’ basketball team, which took second place in districts.
Board member Roger Elling also spoke up, congratulating the CMHS wrestlers who won the district title and “will be moving on to regionals in Altoona this weekend, if anyone is looking for anything to do.”
Elling also backed up Haigh, saying the indoors competition “had a really great turnout, and it was amazing to see what those kids can do.”
For the voting meeting, several board members had special considerations that had to be pulled from the overall agenda, including the refinancing, the employment of game workers, the employment of a track coach, and three separate student agreements.
The board unanimously approved the bond refinancing.
For the employment of game workers, Rupert abstained, but otherwise the vote passed unanimously in favor.
Board member Eric Probert moved to table the hiring of the track coach until April’s meeting, which also passed unanimously in favor.
In other business, the board approved:
r A cooperative agreement between Bucktail Area and Central Mountain high schools’ track and field (boys and girls) for the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 school years.
r Uncompensated leave for Melinda Allen, general cafeteria worker, at Central Mountain Middle School, Jan. 4.
r Uncompensated leave for Ashley Snook, general cafeteria worker, at CMHS, Jan. 18, 19, 22, 29 and Feb 2.
r Uncompensated leave for Tiffany Renzo, general cafeteria worker, at Dickey Elementary, Jan. 13.
r Leave for Kimberly Keller, housekeeper, at Mill Hall Elementary, Jan. 22 through March 2.
r Uncompensated leave for Amber Leitch, custodian, at CMHS, Jan. 25 and 26 and Feb. 7.
r Uncompensated leave for Loretta Stine, general cafeteria worker, at Liberty-Curtin Elementary, Feb. 7.
r Uncompensated extended the leave for Brenda Swartz, secretary, at Robb Elementary, through Feb. 27.
r Employment of Catherine Yearick, general cafeteria worker, 4.5 hours per day, at CMHS, effective Feb. 7.
r The following volunteers for the 2017-2018 school year: Michelle Brungart, Michael McDevitt, Lisa Wagner, Chad Warren, Mary Warren, Kaitlin Bottorf, James Kelley, Charles Peck and Frank Sutliff
r The following SMILES volunteers for the 2017-2018 school year: James Miller and Anita Rathgeber.
r The following bus drivers and aides for Susquehanna Transit or the 2017-2018: Brooke Poorman and Dustin Sholley; and Krystle Melvin as support staff substitute.
r The resignation of Rachel Eiler, building assistant, at CMMS, effective Feb. 9.
r The resignation of Stephanie Dietz, cafeteria worker, at CMMS, effective Feb. 22.
r Rescinding the resignation of Brian Witner, building assistant, at CMHS, effective Jan. 12.
r The resignation of Brian Witner, building assistant, at CMHS, effective Jan. 19.
r The transfer of Tina Lomison from 3.25 to 4 hour a day as a general cafeteria worker at CMMS, effective Feb. 23. Position is the result of Stephanie Dietz’s resignation.
r The transfer Rebecca Snyder from 3 to 5.75 hours per day as a general cafeteria worker at Renovo Elementary School, effective March 2.
r Uncompensated leave for Heather Rooney-George, English teacher, at CMHS for Jan. 15 & 26 and Feb. 6.
r Uncompensated leave for Jachelle Vitko, speech therapist, for Feb. 6, 8, 9, and 13.
r Leave for Amy Anderson, Title I reading teacher, at Lock Haven Catholic School and Woodward Elementary School, beginning Feb. 20 through March 5.
r Leave for Jodi Hockenberry, emotional support teacher, at Robb Elementary, March 14 through April 11.
r Sabbatical leave (60 percent salary) for Ashley Gilmore, first grade teacher at Woodward Elementary, for the 2018-2019 school year.
r Sabbatical leave (60 percent salary) for Monica Wadsworth, second grade teacher at Robb Elementary, for the 2018-2019 school year.
r The retirement of Gretchen Warren, school psychologist with 18 years’s ervice, effective the end of the 2017-2018 school year.
r The retirement of Sherry McGraw, elementary music, with 30.97 years’ service, effective the end of the 2017-2018 school year.
r The retirement of Lisa Jo Grieb, learning support teacher at Mill Hall Elementary with 28 years’ service, effective the end of the 2017-2018 school year.
r The retirement of Leslie Powers, second grade teacher at Mill Hall Elementary with 28 years’ service, effective the end of the 2017-2018 school year.
r The retirement of Lisa Williams, kindergarten teacher at Woodward Elementary with 32 years’ service, effective the end of the 2017-2018 school year.
r Leave for Susan Ransdorf, food service manager, Feb. 5 through May 3. A portion of the absence is uncompensated.
r The retirement of Susan Ransdorf, food service manager, with 23.7 years’ service, effective May 31.
r The retirement of Lynn Embick, second shift custodial manager, with 4.72 years’ service, effective June 30. (Retirement is contingent upon approval of MOU waiving the notification of retirement within six months of intended retirement date.)
r The following sports volunteers: Kristin Allen, Keanan Bottorf, Dakota McCloskey, Eugene Bennett, Edward “Roy” Cowfer
r The following game workers Barry Jones, Kyler Lucas, Noel Moore, Ethan Neff, Ellison Porter, Jared Schlesinger, Madison Young, Aimee Zimmerman. Edward “Roy” Cowfer
r Cancellation of the 2017-2018 Bucktail Junior High Baseball season due to the lack of student participation.
r An undisclosed memorandum of understanding between Act 93 administrators and the district to extend the retirement date announcement.