Budget approved by school board

LEWISTOWN — Following emotional comments last week over the possibility of the district eliminating several paraprofessional positions and adding four new special education teachers, the Mifflin County School District Board of Directors on Thursday adopted a preliminary 2019-20 budget totaling $82,220,495 with those changes intact.

By a 5-4 vote, the board agreed with Superintendent James Estep’s recommendation to proceed with a budget eliminating nine full-time paraprofessional positions and two part-time paraprofessional positions and adding four special education teachers.

Board members voting in favor of the preliminary spending plan were Beth Laughlin, Mary Lou Sigler, Terry Styers, Robert Hammond and Julie Maidens. Voting in opposition were Kristen Sharp, Michelle Terry, Noah Wise and John Knepp.

Estep reiterated eliminating the paraprofessionals and adding the special ed teachers would still cost the district $1.5 million out of the fund balance. Had the positions been retained, Estep said $1.8 million would have had to be taken from savings.

“As your superintendent, I’m trying to look out for you fiscally,” Estep said prior to the board voting on the measure, using sled riding as an example of where he sees the district headed in the future. “If you sled ride on those thin iron runners and the snow at the top of the hill isn’t really packed down, you start off slow. But as the hill ices over, you begin to pick up speed. This is where we are fiscally going forward. I’m trying to slow down the inevitable decline we’re facing in the next several years unless there are changes in the way the federal government funds special education and if the state doesn’t fully fund basic education. The amount of money we get does not even cover half of your PSERS (retirement) level. I’m seeing a slow descent for the next two or three years and then it’s going to escalate from there. My preference is to go this way for long-term fiscal health.”

Estep said the budget reflects a 3.2 percent tax increase per the state’s Act 1 index. It will increase the district’s millage rate from 33.4511 mills to 34.5215 mills and comes out to approximately a $36.69 increase per parcel.

In other business Thursday, during the public comment period, local resident Rich Wagner, the parent of a daughter playing for the Mifflin County Husky Girls Basketball team, requested the board open up the coaching positions to other individuals, saying high school sports should be about enjoyment and development.

“We don’t think that’s going too well,” he stated. “Some girls have rejected the program. The environment is not conducive to enjoyment.”

Following a 20-minute executive session prior to voting on the consent agenda, which had several coaching positions on it for approval, including girls basketball, the board approved the consent agenda as presented.

In other business, Joe Gagliardo, director of buildings and grounds, asked the board if he could proceed with looking into the possibility of having a liquid natural gas tank installed at Indian Valley Elementary School that could, in the future, be utilized for an expansion project to bring natural gas service to a number of locations. Gagliardo said two other larger employers in Brown Township, Corvette America and Phillips Ultrasound, have expressed interest in gaining access to natural gas, but those businesses have building ownership and space issues limiting them to placing the tank on their properties.

“We already have a 10,000 gallon propane tank at the area,” Gagliardo. “Maybe siting the liquid tank there makes sense. Everything is already there and we stand to gain some perks and rebates by having the tank at IV.”

Following his presentation, the board indicated an interest in Gagliardo pursuing the matter for further information.

Also, Gagliardo said the bidding process for the Kish Street bus pull-off in Lewistown and paving at Strodes Mills Elementary School was recently completed and, per the board’s earlier approval, awarded the low bids to G&R Charles ($99,345 for the Kish Street project) and North Rock Construction (83,656 for Strodes Mills).

In other business Thursday, the board:

¯Approved the transfer of Robin French, kindergarten teacher at Lewistown Elementary, to social studies teacher at the junior high school effecting starting the 2019-20 school year, if needed.

¯Approved the transfer of Julie Yerger, kindergarten teacher at Lewistown Elementary School, to learning support teacher at East Derry Elementary School for the 2019-20 school year, if needed.

¯Approved the retirement of Judith Gearhart, fiscal technician at the administration building, effective Nov. 2.

¯Added Lisa Baitsell to the custodial substitute list for 2019 summer help.

¯Accepted the resignation of Nicholas Carolus, custodian at the high school, due to other employment, effective May 17.

¯Hired Mara Rhodes to the event staff for the current school year.

¯Approved the transfer of Rodney Wilson, full-time custodian at Lewistown Elementary School, to full-time custodian at the middle school.

¯Approved Angela Price as a part-time cashier/dish room worker at the middle school.

¯Approved Clint Aurand as assistant principal (210 days) at East Derry and Indian Valley Elementary Schools at a salary of $76,000, effective July 1.

¯Accepted the resignation of Julie Lohr, principal at Lewistown Elementary School, due to other employment, effective June 30.

¯Approved the following paraprofessionals for extended school year, effective July 9 through August 1: Kelly Scott, Jennifer Bubb, Melinda Parson, Nicole Hosler, Debra Fisher, Lisa Damicantonio, Heather Welsh and Tanja Fike.

¯Approved the following teachers for extended school year, effective July 9 through August 1: Kylie Muir, Becca Zook, Joshua Grimes, Brett Leister, Amber Scaringi, Kelsey Gill, Brandy Erb, Andrea Fosselman, Ermalinda Stephens, Angela Bubb, Amber Fuller, Melissa Zilch, Shaneen Gramley, Kaby-Ann Speck, Elizabeth Cox, Nikki Bailey, Maryann Haines, Kali Harper and Korie Bubb.

¯Re-appointed the following winter head coaches for the 2019-20 season:

Roger Herto, girls basketball; Scott Gaffey, boys basketball; Scott Gantz, indoor track and field; Gretchen Seyler, swimming; J. Kirby Martin, wrestling; Tamara Sechler, winter cheerleading; and Kevin Diven, bowling.

¯Re-appointed the following winter coaches for the 2019-20 season:

Crystal Weaver, first assistant girls basketball; Matthew Walters, volunteer girls basketball; Tona Williams and Nicholas Poche, volunteer boys basketball; Christopher Lehman, head ninth grade boys basketball; Gregory Loht, assistant track; Scot Sechler, volunteer assistant indoor track; Tamara Sechler, Floyd Ciccolini, Heather Adams, Matthew Eddy, and Richard Yearick, volunteer assistant track; Christopher Tatom, volunteer assistant; Francy Becker, assistant swim coach; Trystan Snyder, volunteer swim coach; L. Dale Searer, first assistant wrestling; Tyler Bedelyon, assistant wrestling; Garry Price, David Wray and Joseph Knarr, volunteer assistant wrestling; Timothy Davis, head junior high wrestling; Colton Spade and Anthony Everly, assistant junior high wrestling; Mark Cavanaugh, volunteer assistant junior high wrestling; Rachel Corson, assistant cheerleading; and Charles McConaughey, assistant bowling.

¯Approved Neil Breneman as a volunteer cross country coach for the 2019-20 season.

¯Approved the following coaches for 2019-20: Wade Curry, assistant eighth grade boys basketball; Jason Franklin, assistant seventh grade boys basketball; Luke Lehman, volunteer boys basketball; Cassie Swenson, volunteer assistant cheerleading; Libby Wray, junior high cheerleading; and Adrienne Witters, volunteer assistant junior high cheerleading.

¯Approved the Privit contract for online registration at a cost of $800 per year.

¯Approved the proposed athletic regulations to go into effect July 1.