School district to retain IT department

Estep warns of major funding cuts due to a recent Trump adminstration proposal

LEWISTOWN — Information technology services will remain in house in the Mifflin County School District

following action taken Thursday by the district’s

board of directors.

Several members of the IT department were present at Thursday’s meeting to urge the board not to outsource IT services to a company that proposed to do so during the board’s February meeting.

IT Director Kevin Cunningham and several of his colleagues gave a PowerPoint presentation highlighting the advantages of keeping the department within the district.

“We work as a team,” Cunningham said. “The jobs cannot be done without each other. “

Cunningham noted the company proposing to do the service, Questeq, a Coraopolis firm that provides outsourced education technology management services to school districts, alluded to the fact that the in-house department doesn’t have the resources to reach out properly.

“Not true,” he stated. “We don’t need an outsource to get outside services. We have dozens of vendors right now. Our network uptime is 99.95 percent. All the computers and servers are communicating.”

Cunningham said outsourcing would allow the district to lose ownership in equipment, personnel decisions and hours worked.

“They (workers) would no longer be our (the district’s) employees,” Cunningham said.

Cunningham said if the department remains intact, he proposed improved communication by attending principal meetings, curriculum meetings and school board meetings.

“I’m suggesting we have a tech committee and ask board members to meet quarterly and we will provide the board with a report,” he said.

During the roll call portion of the meeting, board member Mary Lou Sigler made a motion to retain the current IT department and continue to work with it as noted during Thursday’s IT department presentation.

Board member Beth Laughlin proposed an amendment to form a subcommittee of the board to give input and have more of a say with budgeting decisions and where the department is heading.

Several board members disagreed with the amendment, saying it amounted to “micro-managing” and defeated the measure by a 6-2 margin.

Then, the original motion by Sigler was voted on and approved by a 7-1 vote, with Laughlin voting no.

In other business, during his superintendent’s report, James Estep updated the board on the budget process, which is currently underway. He said he has been hearing some disturbing news from both the federal and state level that could result in the district receiving less funding.

“There is a proposal from the Trump administration with regard to education dollars that could have a significant impact on our district,” Estep said. “It’s a long way to approval but if it happens it looks to eliminate Title 2-A funding entirely. We get $350,000 a year from that, which is used for class size reduction teachers. If that disappears we will have decisions to make on how to compensate for that loss.”

Estep said the potential for larger class sizes is there if the district loses those funds.

On the state side, he said the budget proposal in Harrisburg shows a $270,000 reduction in transportation funding for Mifflin County.

“That’s a big deal for rural school districts because of greater busing needs,” he said. “Mifflin and Juniata County are among the biggest losers of that funding.”

Estep urged everyone in the room and the community to contact their state and federal legislators about the possible loss of this critical funding.

“From a budget standpoint, we’ve built up some savings with the fund balance but if we start the process $800,000 to $1 million less, that’s a rough starting point,” Estep said. “I can use part of the savings for a couple of years but the inherent danger in doing that is it will only work for a short while and get us back to where we were six or seven years ago. I’m as creative as the next guy but I don’t have any more rabbits to pull out of my hat.”

Vance Varner, director of secondary education, also announced the date for commencement exercises for Mifflin County High School during the meeting

Varner said pending no more school cancellations, graduation has been scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 31 at Mitchell Field in Lewistown.

Should it rain on Wednesday, Varner said the ceremony would be held Thursday, June 1 at the same place and time. Should it rain that day, graduation would be moved to the high school gymnasium. In the event that scenario takes place, parents would be notified by Skylert, Varner said.

In other action Thursday, the board:

¯ Following lengthy discussions with Director of Buildings and Grounds Joe Gagliardo, approved starting the bidding process on a number of maintenance and safety projects that are being planned for the future, including playground updates at East Derry and Lewistown Elementary Schools; patio concrete, re-design of the main entrance and parking lot paving at Lewistown Middle School; a new divider in the junior high school gymnasium; and demolition of the former Highland Park Elementary School.

¯ Following a presentation by Chief Financial Officer Autumn Fiscus, approved a proposal by Kish Bank to open a new municipal advantage money market account for district funds that provide the best interest rates. Fiscus also reviewed proposals from Juniata Valley Bank and First National Bank and recommended the Kish Bank proposal.

¯ Approved the selling of three district-owned trucks, two 1996 Ford F-350s and a 1985 International dump truck.

¯ Approved the following drivers: Jeanne Bush, van driver for Fisher Brothers; and Sharon Patton, bus driver for J&D’s.

¯ Approved the high school marching band’s request to participate in an overnight trip on Friday, April 7 to Sunday, April 9 to Annapolis, Maryland and Washington, D.C. Music boosters will pay the entire cost including transportation, tourist attractions and meals.

¯ Approved the resignation of Alexa Gregory, guidance counselor at the junior high school, effective June 21 due to relocation.

¯ Approved the resignation of Lori Saltzer, math teacher at the high school, effective at the end of the current school year due to personal reasons.

¯ Approved the resignation of Andrea Baker, MCO teacher, effective March 24, due to other employment.

¯ Accepted the resignations of M. Margaret Seay, MTO teacher, and Anna Saylor, learning support teacher, due to retirement effective at the end of the current school year.

¯ Accepted the resignation of Kathryn Adolfo, learning support teacher, effective at the end of the current school year due to relocation.

¯ Removed Deanna Long from the custodian substitute list.

¯ Added Caleb Beers to the custodian substitute list effective March 24.

¯ Removed the following from the cafeteria substitute list: Patricia Bumgardner, Jennifer Johnson, Pamela Retherford and Kathryn Bubb.

¯ Added Karen Reigle to the cafeteria substitute list.

¯ Hired Kimerly Oburn, Amber Brannon and Cherrie McMahon as part time cafeteria workers.

¯ Dissolved four part-time cafeteria positions, two at the middle school and two at Lewistown Elementary School.

¯ Created a new combined 4.75 hour cafeteria position at the middle school effective March 24.

¯ Created a new combined 5.25 hour cafeteria position at Lewistown Elementary School effective March 24.

¯ Granted tenure to the following teachers: Nikki Bailey, Sarah Walters and Lisa Andrews.

¯ Added the following to the event staff: Jamie Beeler, Steve Poche, Nelson Reiffannacht, Banks Bennett and Gayle Schifano.

¯ Accepted the resignation of Collette Bender, head varsity fall and cheerleading coach, effective March 7.

¯ Reappointed the following coaches for the 2017-18 school year: Brent Hartman, head varsity football; Steve Searer, first assistant varsity football; Tyler Fink and Charles Douglas, assistant varsity football; Christian Hassinger, junior high head football; Bryan Yeager and Steve Himes, junior high assistant football.

¯ Hired the following coaches for the 2017-18 school year: Scot Sechler and Steve Poche, assistant varsity football; Nathan Barnhart, head junior high softball; and Katurah Klein, assistant junior high softball.

¯ Gave approval for the high school varsity and junior varsity volleyball teams to travel on Sept. 23 to Alexandria, Virginia to participate in a Mid-Atlantic Regional Tournament.

¯ Approved the following volunteer coaches: B. Jay Hartman, Sean Gingrich, Chris Kaniecki, Donald Bender, Connor Muir, Harry Rhodes, and David Galbraith, football; and Jeff Mazurek, tennis.

¯ Approved the Tuscarora Intermediate Unit 2017-18 general operating budget in the amount of $3,122,568.

¯ Approved the agreement between the board of education and the Mifflin County Support Association effective July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2022.