District opposes Senate voucher program bill

Proposed initiative would fund private school tuition

LEWISTOWN — Citing the potential to lose considerable amounts of basic education subsidy, the Mifflin County School District Board of Directors on Thursday adopted a resolution in opposition of Senate Bill 2, which proposes to establish a school voucher program to fund private schools.

“This is another bill put forth that proposes putting money into the budget to siphon money away from public schools to pay for private school tuition,” Superintendent James Estep stated.

Estep said the bill, if passed, would take approximately $500 million from public school districts and give that to parents to help pay for private school educations if they so wish.

“I’m opposed to that,” Estep said. “It’s your taxpayer dollars going to fund people’s private education.”

The board voted 6-2 in favor of adopting the resolution with members Beth Laughlin and Noah Wise voting against. Laughlin said she didn’t feel comfortable voting against the Senate bill without having had the opportunity to read it in full. Wise said he believes parents should be able to have choices in regard to their children’s education.

Estep said he didn’t have a problem with parents having a choice.

“There already was choice,” he noted. “There’s always been families that choose private school. Now they want to take money from public schools to fund it. That’s what I’m opposed to.”

Board member Kristen Sharp, who along with Robert Hammond, Mary Lou Sigler, Terry Styers, Julie Maidens and John Knepp, voted in favor of the resolution, said, “It’s all about accountability.” Hammond agreed, stating, “This would be a significant impact on our budget.”

Styers, the board president, was even more adamant. “This is public education,” he stressed. “If we don’t fight like hell to protect it, then why are we here?”

Also during the special voting meeting, the board, following a recommendation by Joe Gagliardo, director of buildings and grounds, voted to approve the McClure Company as an energy savings contractor for the air conditioning system at Lewistown Intermediate School, as well as to incorporate the energy saving aspect into a list of potential future building projects.

Gagliardo said he recommended the project be expanded in a “phase-in” format that would encumber multiple buildings with pressing needs. They include Strodes Mills Elementary School, Mifflin County Middle School, the district’s administration building, and Indian Valley Elementary School. “These needs cover things from boilers, chillers, central plan upgrades, secured vestibules, flooring and paving, among others,” Gagliardo reported. “At the end of the day, McClure will get us a list with costs. Then we can pick and choose and decide which ones to do. I recommend we start by picking things based on what funds are available and then developing a schedule over the next three to five years to finish out those items that have been identified.”

The third item on the special meeting agenda was approval of a resolution indicating, should the need arise, that the district will not raise the rate of any tax for the support of public schools for 2018-19 fiscal year by more than the 3.4 percent index rate as set by the state.

Following the special meeting, the board heard a brief presentation on the district’s 339 plan, which states there must be a written plan on file for the development of a comprehensive sequential program of guidance services for kindergarten through 12th grade. The plan leans heavily on career development at a very young age, including a system called “Career Cruising,” which goes from kindergarten through 12th grade offering programs for career exploration and portfolio completion.

“This is a requirement to have a plan in place,” Estep said, adding, “The focus is on preparing kids for careers.” Estep said the final plan will be placed on next Thursday’s regular business meeting agenda.

Other items scheduled for a vote during that meeting include:

¯ Approval to waive the $125 fee for the use of the cafeteria and restrooms at the Mifflin County High School for an end-of-the-year banquet held in November by the Burnham Bulldog Football and Cheerleaders with the understanding to pay for the event staff.

¯ Approval to waive the $50 fee for use of the cafeteria at the middle school based on the charitable organization status for a Halloween party held Oct. 30 by Supportive Concepts, with the understanding to pay for the event staff.

¯ Approval of Alina Schlieter of Germany be approved as a foreign exchange student at the high school beginning of August of this year.

¯ The resignation of Nicole Allamon-Minear, learning support teacher at Lewistown Elementary School, effective Jan. 12.

¯ The addition of Scott Miller as a van driver for KV Bus Line.

¯ The addition of Brian Goss as a van driver for the school district.

¯ The resignation of Larry Reed, full-time custodian at Indian Valley Elementary School effective June 1.

¯ The transfer of Jamie Fisher as a custodian at the junior high school to the middle school.

The hiring of Lindsay Curry as full-time confidential secretary to the superintendent effective Jan. 29 at a salary of $37,000.

¯ A recommendation to allow Megan Herbster to continue her long-term substitute fifth grade teacher position at Lewistown Intermediate School for the second semester of the 2017-18 school year or less at a prorated salary of $40,432 based on the number of days worked.

¯ The transfer of Joan Patterson from displacement to paraprofessional at Lewistown Elementary School primarily working in autistic support effective Jan. 11.

¯ Approval of Ben Webber as a volunteer baseball coach.

¯ The addition of Kristen Neavling to the event staff.

¯ Approval of the following fall coaching re-appointments: Deanna Russler, Richard Yearick, Jen Neavling and Seth Yearick, volunteer assistant cross country; Chelsea Zook, assistant field hockey; Isaac Suydam, volunteer assistant field hockey; Steve Searer, first assistant football; Joab Carter, assistant boys soccer; Scott Predix, Alex Leight, Daniel Shoemaker, and Justin Mayo, volunteer assistant boys soccer; Jeff Mazurek, assistant girls tennis; Steve Hugendubler, volunteer girls tennis; Heather Adams, Roy Bucher and Gene Wolfkill, volunteer volleyball; Nate Barnhart, head junior high softball; Kat Klein, assistant junior high softball; Natalie Faith, head junior high field hockey; and Paige Johnson, assistant junior high field hockey.

¯ Approval of the following coaches: Christian Hassinger, Brian Yeager and Harry Aultz, assistant varsity football; Steve Poche and Derek Yoder, volunteer varsity assistant football; Kyle Baublitz, head junior high baseball; Josh Grimes, assistant junior high football; Carolyn Kline, assistant girls soccer coach; Jennifer Myers, assistant volleyball; and Jessica Smith, volunteer volleyball.

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