Monessen board approves agreement with IU

March 17, 2017
Exterior of Monessen High School.

On Wednesday, the Monessen school board voted to approve the Westmoreland Intermediate Unit 2017-2018 budget, approved a one-year contract extension with Source4 Teachers and heard a presentation from Monessen Education Reform Group.

The board voted unanimously to approve the intermediate unit’s 2017-2018 general operating budget. Business manager Jeff Festor said the district’s contribution went down from their current figure of $3,627.90 to $3,440.34 for the 2017-2018 school year.

The board approved a one-year contract extension with Source4Teachers. Superintendent Dr. Leanne Spazak said Source4Teachers, of Greensburg, assists the district in finding substitute teachers. Spazak said the program has its advantages, and she said this will be their fourth year using the service. Spazak said district officials have been trying to tweak the system for hiring substitutes, and by using this service they have seen some improvement. She said the district was asked to agree to a four-year contract, but Spazak said the district prefers to “just try it again, take it day by day or year by year.”

Spazak said there will be another Targeting Excellence Academically Monessen meeting at 6 p.m. March 22 in the elementary center cafeteria.

Chris Paglia, a founding member of Monessen Education Reform Group, presented the idea for the district to have an Arbor Day celebration on April 28. He said the group would like to involve students from the class of 2017 and the class of 2029 and also would like to invite school alumni to get involved as a way to connect generations. He said the project would have students work together to plant a tree at the corner of Grand and Watkins.

Paglia said the project would be of no cost to the district. He said the Monessen Education Reform Group will contact Joseph’s Nursery to secure materials for the project. Paglia said he has contacted Monessen city government in order to have total community involvement. “I think any school district has to be connected to their city, with their community,” Paglia said.

Paglia said he got the idea from his time as a high school English teacher in State College School District, where the district started an annual program at the middle school, similar to what is being proposed at Monessen. “I think it’s a really awesome project,” Paglia said.

Spazak said she has presented the Arbor Day idea to the administration, and they are very excited about it. Spazak said she agrees with Paglia regarding the importance of the district having a connection with the community and the municipal government. “That’s something that we need to work on, and I think that if we are all on the same page and working positively together we can find solutions,” Spazak said.

Elementary Principal Bethanne Natali announced the school will hold an assembly called “Kindness Adventure” on April 20. The assembly takes students on a “trip” to Kenya and teaches lessons through music, interactive videos and storytelling. Natali said guidance counselor Julie Thieser brought the program to her attention.

Natali said the purpose of this free presentation is to teach children acceptance and kindness. She said it will feature Skype video calls with children from Kenya, among other activities.

Natali said the organization will have handmade items made in Kenya for sale at the school the week after the assembly, ranging in price from $1 to $7. Natali said proceeds from the sale of the items helps to support these assemblies and also goes toward helping with programs such as water-purification systems in Kenya. She said she will open the sale to the community.

Natali said the school also will be holding two sessions, one for kindergarten to second grade and one for students of grades three to five, of the “No Bullying: Stand up - Step In!” program by David Jack on May 25. Natali said this anti-bullying assembly will be presented to students in a magic show format and also will include a curriculum that teachers can implement in the classroom.

She said the PTA presented a variety of ideas to her for assemblies and she decided this one would be best for the students, based on reviews from other school districts. Natali said many people are confused about what bullying is. “Let’s teach what bullying is and what it is not,” Natali said.

Natali also announced that the high school will be presenting the musical “Rock of Ages” at 7 p.m. March 23, 24 and 25 and 1 p.m. March 25. Tickets are available in advance, at the door, or online at Tickets can be printed or picked up at the box office.

High school/middle school Assistant Principal Donald Madzey said he had students in sixth, seventh and eighth grades sign anti-bullying pledges that they plan to hang up in the hallway. Madzey said he was approached by two high school seniors who wanted to start an anti-bullying club in the district. He said he would like to have five to 10 students from each grade level participating. Madzey said the club will meet monthly to discuss topics on bullying and to help “increase the bystander power” to help motivate students to jump in when they see bullying.

Supervisor of psychological services Tiffany Jamieson said she was contacted by a retired teacher from the district about using her certified therapy dog. Jamieson said the school is thinking about bringing the therapy dog into special education classrooms, then potentially expanding throughout the district. “It’s just such a great therapy tool,” Jamieson said.

She said Norwin School District currently uses this therapy dog. She said Norwin will be contacted for more information about what insurance is required, permission slips needed, dealing with student allergies and costs.

In other business, the board approved a 60-month lease with Pitney Bowes for the postage meter.

The board also approved an agreement with Centerville Clinic for medical services from July 2017 to June 2018 for students in kindergarten, sixth grade and 11th grade. The cost will be $9 per exam.

The board also approved Lisa Mauro as a volunteer middle school softball coach.

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