Schools trim spending to get new math series

PAT FRIDGEN
GERALD CRABLE

The stimulus money isn't in and therefore the Greencastle-Antrim School District school board had to wrestle with how to pay for an unbudgeted math series at its Aug. 6 meeting. Bob Crider, Director of Education, said the district had been promised money from state and federal sources, but none had yet been received. He expected it whenever Pennsylvania passed its budget. In the interim, he wanted to purchase an updated math curriculum for grades kindergarten through sixth, and had already made concessions to get the textbooks and accessories into a more affordable package.

Crider said he had reduced the cost from $135,000 to $85,000 by eliminating manipulatives, the hands-on items children use to work out math concepts. Elementary school principal Chad Stover directed his teachers to store similar materials already owned in one location, and they can check them out as needed, rather than keeping the items in each classroom.

Calling the math order "bare bones," Crider said, "Math hasn't changed. Two plus two still equals four. But the way students are being tested has. The newer series are designed to help kids in that arena."

The principals in the three affected schools made cuts in other areas to help free up money for the purchase. Stover trimmed $24,000 from his budget, Angela Singer $30,000 from the primary school and Mark Herman, $8,000 from the middle school. Spending for general supplies, art, travel and conferences were reduced.

Crider also negotiated a split payment to the vendor, and slashed shipping charges by ordering online. The board members present unanimously approved the purchase. They were Paul Politis, Arnie Jansen, Mike Shindle, Dan Fisher, Howard Ritchey, William Thorne and Eric Holtzman.

New hires

Crider, sitting in for superintendent C. Gregory Hoover, introduced the new middle school assistant principal, Gerald Crable. He replaces Maria Tucker, who resigned effective June 19. Crable's salary was approved at $71,849. The Waynesboro resident taught in Washington County for six years and then interned at Western Heights Middle School. He has a B.S. in social studies and a master's in administration, both from California University of Pennsylvania. Approximately a dozen candidates applied for the position.

The board also hired Aftan Francis as half-time longterm sub primary school art teacher, zero years of experience; Shelia Keller, middle school longterm sub language arts/reading specialist, eight years of experience; and Jeanette Monteith, primary learning support teacher, six years of experience.

The board heard from Ginny Lays, who for the past six years was an employee of G-ASD, serving as grant writer and executive director of the Greencastle Education Foundation. She resigned the position to start her own business, and presented a proposal to become the district's contracted grant writer. Her former salary, including benefits, cost the school system an average of $83,586 per year, and she brought in over $3.2 million in grant monies during her tenure.

Lays proposed a retainer of $2,500 per month for grant research, development and writing services. She would provide 60 days of service during the year. She was registered with the PA Bureau of Charitable Organizations, which did not allow a consultant to accept a percentage fee for funded proposals.

"I was hoping to stay with Greencastle," she said. "This is my home. I have 20 years of experience doing this. I'd like to continue to support the good work the school district does."

In response to questions, she said she had two clients, the Mt. Union school district and a non-profit business. She did not intend to work with similar clients, to avoid pitting them against the same grants. Crider said she would do the research and administors would decide which grants to pursue, based on the availability of faculty to participate in the programs.

The board will vote on the matter at a later date.

Other business

The school board approved a resolution to transfer the deed for the Lilian S. Besore Memorial Library to the Besore library board.

It also agreed to a resolution to sell 4.36 acres of land for $187,468 to the Greencastle Area Franklin County Water Authority. Solicitor Jerry Weigle said the action formalized the Nov. 6 decision and a petition could be presented to the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas seeking approval to sell based on the fact that the tract was presently unused and unnecessary to the school district.

Gregg McLanahan, senior managing consultant with The Public Financial Management Group in Harrisburg, shared information on selling the school's 2002 and 2004 bonds for 2009 bonds. The board said yes to the Aug. 20 sale as long as at least $100,000 was saved after expenses.

The fee for Driver's Education was lowered from $20 to $16 because of eligible reimbursement expenses from the state, and the admission fees for athletic events will remain the same as last year.

The tax reassessment appeal settlement stipulation for Anvil International was approved. Business manager Richard Lipella said  it would mean a $4,850 refund for last year's taxes. Weigle said appeals would not end until the county addressed the issue, since assessments were still based on 1961 figures.

"Commercial and industrial get out of whack," he said. "They properly ask the county to reassess them. This one looks reasonable from the county's perspective."

Lipella said it would not be worth it to challenge the settlement compared to a past experience. "It is not as ridiculous as Food Lion's was. We spent $10,000 for an appraiser and two days in court." Weigle added that it still ended up money well-spent because of the final ruling.