LEWISTOWN - It was a changing of the guard of sorts on Thursday for the Mifflin County School District Board of Directors.
New faces were sworn into office and others were elected to leadership positions during the board's annual reorganization meeting. Elected as president for 2014 was Mary Lou Sigler, who was the only board member nominated for the top position and was elected unanimously by a show of hands. Elected vice-president was AnneMarie Swineford, who also was the only member nominated.
Prior to the election, four new members and one returning member were sworn into office by Dr. Ruth Armstrong, who was elected to serve as temporary president to conduct the reorganization. New members joining the board included Robert Hammond, John Knepp, Neil Russler and Richard Smeltz. Returning for another four year term was Kristen Sharp. All of the above will serve four year terms with the exception of Russler, whose term is for two years.
Also during the reorganization, the board agreed to continue to hold its workshops and voting meetings on the third and fourth Thursdays of each month, respectively, at 7:30 p.m. at the school district administration building. The exceptions to that schedule will be November and December, when those meetings will take place on the first and third Thursdays to accommodate the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
Also during the reorganization, the board:
Re-elected Swineford to be the board's liaison to the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.
Thoughts from the superintendent
After welcoming the school board's new members, Superintendent Jim Estep took a few minutes to outline his vision for the district moving forward:
"Everything we do is based on the premise of what's best for the kids."
"A system that continually, as it already does, seeks ways to provide the best service and control costs."
"With regard to budgeting, look more at long-term issues, especially in the collective bargaining process with the district's numerous unions."
Estep also said the district needs:
"... a system that is flexible enough to recognize that every child's needs can't be met strictly by brick and mortar buildings alone."
"... (to) develop a system where professional development is valued and not degraded."
"... (to) develop instruction where a vast majority of children are reading at grade level through the third grade. We're only as strong as our elementary program."
"... (to) develop a system that acknowledges social-economic environments that are challenging but should not matter where a child comes from. There's no excuse to not expect more from ourselves and the kids."
"... (to) develop a system that supports music and the arts even though those programs are usually the first to be cut during budget crises. Our boards have been supportive enough to keep them going and we believe having arts and music improves the chances for students' successes in core instructional areas."
"... (to) develop a system that supports adequate elective offerings for secondary students."
"... (to) develop a system that strives to customize and personalize every child's learning experience."
"... (to) develop a system that has truly adequate personnel, even if it means more restructuring and adding staff."
Elected Smeltz, Knepp, Beth Laughlin and Sharp to the Joint Operating Committee of the Mifflin-Juniata Career and Technology Center. Armstrong was elected as an alternate to the committee.
"I would like to welcome our four new members to the task ahead in the coming years," Superintendent James Estep said. "Also, welcome back to Kristen. The administrative team looks forward to working with you. If at any point, you would like to come in with questions on budgeting or how the process works, Sean (Daubert) and I will make ourselves available. It's an increasingly challenging task ahead of us. And it continually becomes more complex due to many factors beyond our control."
During a brief workshop session following the board meeting, the board went over the following items up for consideration at the board's Dec. 19 voting meeting:
The hiring of Krystal Fultz as a full time paraprofessional at Lewistown Elementary School effective Nov. 25.
Consideration of a fee waiver for use of East Derry Elementary School's cafeteria for a benefit auction for a family who recently lost their home and belongings to a fire. Estep said the fee would be approximately $100.
The addition to Michelle Groce to the cafeteria substitute list.
The resignation of Andrea Kuykendall from a cafeteria position at the junior high school.
The retirement of Marcia Leister, learning support teacher at Indian Valley Elementary School, effective at the end of the current school year.
The deletion of Nancy Norton from the substitute teacher list.