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EDE named distinguished Title I school

East Derry honored for recent significant improvements

LEWISTOWN – After being rated one of the lowest performing elementary schools in the district, East Derry Elementary School has seen a significant uptick in its performance levels in recent years. So much so that the school was recently designated a “Distinguished Title I School,” according to information released Thursday during a committee-of-the-whole meeting of the Mifflin County School District Board of Directors.

James Estep, superintendent, made the announcement Thursday and invited Kevin O’Donnell, who was principal at the struggling school five years ago when a concerted effort was made to improve results from their students.

“This is a very big deal,” Estep said. “Kevin and his staff specifically set a goal five years ago to get on this list.”

O’Donnell said that even though he is no longer at East Derry (he works at Lewistown Elementary School today), “This is huge. This represents a lot of hard work from our teachers and support staff. This is really big news for Mifflin County. We’ve (the district) received awards for art and other things in the past, now we’re getting awards for academics. I’m happy because this shows the board, administration and staff are all marching with the same drums. Five years ago, East Derry had the lowest profile score in our district and now it is the highest. We’re very proud of this.”

In other business Thursday, board member Fredrick Nickel brought up the question of whether school board members can participate in meetings via electronic communications. For the past several months, board member Beth Laughlin has not been in attendance physically at a number of sessions, however, she has participated via speaker phone. Nickel expressed some concerns about confidentiality in the case of executive sessions, of which Laughlin said she guarantees that nobody has been in the room when she participates via speakerphone.

When questioned about official policy regarding meeting participation via speakerphone, Solicitor Orris Knepp said, “It is legal. It is dependent upon and trusting that the board member is alone and that’s acceptable.”

A question also arose about whether or not the board can vote to remove a member for not being in physical attendance. Knepp said that is not the case.

“With regard to removal of a board member for missing meetings, with regard to other elected officials such as township supervisors, you cannot do that. That’s what elections are for. Board members can be removed for malfeasance or a violation of the law,” he stated.

Estep then added, “From my perspective, if any board member wishes to participate by phone, in my view, that’s not missing the meeting.”

With those explanations, Nickel suggested the board’s policy committee revisit the issue to clear up any misconceptions that may be out there. Estep said he would put the idea of looking at the policy again on next week’s voting agenda so the board can decide to or not. Board member Mary Lou Sigler then noted, “Unless the majority of the board thinks this should be revisited, fine. I’m not sure we know if everybody wants to change the policy.”

During his regular report, Estep announced that he and several other superintendents from central Pennsylvania are planning to conduct a press conference that will be open to the public to discuss the issue of charter and cyber charter school funding.

“We will be conducting the press conference on Jan. 11 at 11 a.m. at the Tuscarora Intermediate Unit #11 office,” Estep said. “It will be held in conjunction with the kick off of School Choice Week. The purpose of the conference will be to remind legislators that they need to move to revise outdated charter and cyber charter school funding laws. I don’t think a lot of the taxpayers realize how harmful these laws are to them.”

In other business, Vance Varner, director of secondary education, reported he has scheduled a state-mandated meeting on school safety, which has been scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 24 in the auditorium of the Mifflin County Middle School.

“This will be an opportunity for the public to learn about school safety procedures and protocols from school district administration and district school resource officers,” Varner said. The meeting is open to the general public.

Varner said the following school safety topics will be covered:

¯ School protocols in the event of an emergency.

¯ Emergency notification procedures.

¯ Parent/student reunifications.

¯ School safety drills and training.

¯ Safe2Say Something.

¯ Bullying.

Varner said if the meeting is canceled due to inclement weather, parents/guardians will be notified via text and e-mail through the district’s SkyAlert System. Snow date has been set for 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 25.

In other business Thursday, the board reviewed the following agenda items slated for a vote at the Jan. 23 business meeting:

¯ Hiring of Kerry Clancy, math teacher at the high school at a prorated salary of $47,552, pending pre-employment paperwork.

¯ Retirement of Nancy Craig, coordinator of transportation, effective May 5.

¯ Retirement of Robin Hertzler, sixth grade reading teacher, effective the end of the current school year.

¯ Retirement of Kimberly Crone, guidance counselor, effective June 30.

¯ Transfer of Susan Guyer from a 3-hour to 5-hour cafeteria position.

¯ Approval of Isaac Maclay to the event staff for the current school year.

¯ Approval of Isaac Maclay as a volunteer baseball coach.

¯ Approval of David Wray as a wrestling score keeper for the current season.

¯ Approval of the following fall athletic head coaches: Tamara Sechler, fall cheerleading; Jennifer Freed, girls cross country; Gregory Loht, boys cross country; Ashley Suydam, field hockey; Scot Sechler, football; Aaron Bubb, golf; Barrett Knepp, girls soccer; Robert Lepley, boys soccer; L. Glenn Kyle, girls tennis; and Krystena Mayo, volleyball.

¯ Approval for the Mifflin County High School Indoor Drum Line and Guard groups to attend the Tournament of Bands Indoor Association Susquehanna Valley Region 4 championships on Sunday, April 26 in Bellefonte.

¯ Appointment of Kristen Stauffer as a mentor for Jennifer Manning at a pro-rated stipend of $350.

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