MCSD sets early dismissal

Students, staff to get head start on holiday

LEWISTOWN — Students and staff of the Mifflin County School District will get an early start to their Thanksgiving holiday next Wednesday following action taken Thursday by the Mifflin County School Board.

Following a lengthy discussion, board members voted to allow students in grades K-seven to get out of school at 1:15 p.m. the day before Thanksgiving and students in grades eight-12 to be dismissed at 1:30 p.m.

Superintendent James Estep said he has been asked why the Mifflin County School District didn’t allow early dismissal in the past.

“I polled all the superintendents in the TIU (Tuscarora Intermediate Unit 11),” Estep noted. “Seven out of the nine (districts) either let out early or don’t have school that day. The only ones that don’t are Mifflin and Juniata Counties.”

Estep said a lot of families like to get an early start if they plan on spending Thanksgiving away from home and an early dismissal would benefit them and not interfere with the district’s mandated 990 instructional hours in the school year.

He added that he has spoken with the Juniata County superintendent and was told if the Mifflin County board agreed to the early dismissal, he would bring the matter up before his board.

Vance Vaner, director of secondary education, said he would see to it that the early dismissal notice would be sent out to parents Friday morning.

In other business Thursday, the board, not having to give an official vote, did authorize Chief Financial Officer Autumn Fiscus to inform the Mifflin County Tax Collection Committee that it was in favor of an option to get a resolution to the ongoing issue with  the per capita tax collector Miffco and what to do moving forward.

During the board’s Oct. 27 meeting, it was presented with four options which include:

Option 1 – Creation of a tax bureau operated on a non-profit basis governed by the TCC.  This option can become a reality in one of two ways. “First,” Jason Confair, the TCC solicitor said in October, “TCC takes over a bureau or collector that already exists in the county. Under that scenario TCC would acquire Miffco. The second would entail starting from the ground up, including hiring staff, getting a building, equipping it, etc.”

Confair said he has had discussions with Miffco about this scenario and, “They’re amenable. The indications I’ve been given is they’re open to it. I didn’t get any pushback, I can tell you that.”

If the TCC were to acquire Miffco, Confair said current employees would likely stay in place and the tax collection agency would be a governmental entity run basically by the school district and surrounding municipalities.

Option 2 – Issuing requests for proposals from any interested firms wanting to provide the tax collection service.

“Most districts have done this,” Confair said. “How this would work, in early 2017 the TCC would issue RFPs and those responding would send in their proposals. Ideally, TCC would select its collection agency by the spring of 2017 to ensure that if a new collector was chosen, they would have adequate time to notify employees and taxpayers in advance of Jan. 1, 2018.”

Option 3 – Renew the contract with Miffco without going through a competitive process.

Option 4 – A mixture of options 1 and 2. This scenario, Confair said, would still have the TCC acquire Miffco and then go ahead and issue requests for proposals.

“Once we get those back, TCC can make a decision to decide what’s best,” Confair added.

Following discussion on the matter, the board instructed Fiscus to let the TCC know it is in favor of option 4.

In other business Thursday, the board voted to adopt a new updated policy regarding public comment periods during meetings.

One sticking point to the revision that was objected to by board member Beth Laughlin would have anyone wishing to participate in the meeting to register their intent with the superintendent or board secretary by 1 p.m. the day of the meeting.

Laughlin said some people may not know ahead of time if they wish to comment and it would be a restriction of free speech.

Board President Mary Lou Sigler said the board president always has the right to waive the policy and let people speak their minds. The board eventually approved the policy revision with the 1 p.m. deadline removed.

In other business Thursday, the board:

¯ Adopted a resolution  to refinance the district’s 2009 bonds at a lower interest rate. During a meeting Nov. 3, the board learned the district could save approximately $2 million by refinancing the bonds;

¯ Approved administration to move forward with the “Flexible Release Program” for interested and qualified seniors, in which interested and qualified students can reduce their credits from six to five and either come to school later in the day or leave later in the day;

¯ Approved a motion by board member John Knepp to allow the district to solicit requests for proposals for an air conditioning unit and boiler system project at Lewistown Intermediate School;

¯ Approved a motion by Knepp to allow the Mifflin County Academy of Science and Technology to retain $93,000 in surplus money from its 2015-16 budget to go toward projects specifically targeted for that facility;

¯ Approved a motion by Knepp to have Fiscus put out requests for proposals for a bank loan to cover the cost of the LIS air conditioning and boiler project;

¯ Approved a motion by Knepp authorizing the solicitation of bids for the demolition of the former Highland Park Elementary School building;

¯ Defeated a recommendation authorizing administration to sell the district’s time clocks after board member Richard Smeltz expressed dismay at taking the systems out if they might be needed in the future;

¯ Approved the 2016-17 Daily Contracted Rates Comparison for student transportation;

¯ Added Angela D. Hartsock to the approved bus driver’s list for Fisher Brothers, Inc.;

¯ Recognized of the following school bus drivers with 25 years of service, all from ER Rhodes and Sons, Inc: Helen Goss,  Robert Penepacker and Julie Bearley;

¯ Added Tammy Matthews to the event staff list;

¯ Approved the resignation of Layne S. Halfpenny, 3-hour cafeteria position at LES, effective Nov. 2, and be added to the cafeteria substitute list;

¯ Approved the hiring of Tracy A. Shawver for the temporary full-time cafeteria position at MCMS effective Oct. 18, through the remainder of the 2016-17 school year or less;

¯ Added Ashley N. Crisswell to the Cafeteria Substitute List effective Nov. 4;

¯ Approved the hiring of Aaron Snook as full-time Custodian at MCHS effective Oct. 31;

¯ Approved the hiring of Zachary Snyder as full-time Custodian at IVES effective Nov. 18;

¯ Approved the appointment of Amy L. Smith as board secretary at an annual stipend of $3,090, effective Dec.16;

¯ Added the following to the custodial substitute list effective Nov. 18: Richard Purcell Jr., James Stains, Garrett Neff and Craig Bickel;

¯ Approved the following volunteer coaches: Amanda Oliver, bowling; Anthony Vega, boys’ basketball; and Jeffrey Mazurek, tennis.