Money on school board’s mind runs from sums of $2,500 to $20 million

Before the South Williamport Area School District’s board heard more details about the proposed annual budget — with a deficit of about $735,000 at this stage — one immediate expenditure led to a divided vote.

The board decided on a 5-2 vote to spend $2,500 on having the Pennsylvania School Board Association draft job descriptions for administrative and support staff positions.

Board members Erica Molino and Nathan Miller, who both voted against the measure, questioned the necessity of the expenditure when the work could be done entirely by district staff. Miller noted that even with the association drafting the templates for the job descriptions the district’s administrators would revise and finalize the descriptions, while Molino also questioned if the task could be put off as there is no mandated deadline for having the descriptions written.

Board member Sue Bowman, who chose to abstain from the vote, questioned if such determinations were better left in the hands of the administrators who know the district.

“The needs of the school district are best known by the district,” Bowman said.

Superintendent Mark Stamm said the district still would lead on defining employees’ actual responsibilities and the association would focus on legal and regulatory compliance.

Solicitor Jeffrey Rowe confirmed that if the district developed its own descriptions, a legal review of the material likely would fall outside the district’s agreement for legal counsel and would be assessed at additional legal fees.

“It’s a massive, time-consuming process,” Stamm said.

Board President Chris Branton and board members Gregg Anthony, Sue Davenport, Airneezer Page and Steve Persun approved the $2,500 expenditure.

Board secretary Denny Artley updated the board on the 2017-18 budget, which is projected to be about $20 million. Artley said as it stands now the budget has a deficit of about $735,000, and salaries and benefits account for about three-quarters of the spending.

Teachers, Artley noted, are covered by a five-year contract ending in 2020. Custodians are in the first year of a three-year contract while support staff are in the second year of their three-year contract. The contract for administrators ends this year and the superintendent has one year left of his five-year contract.

After Artley noted that children residing in the district who enroll in independent charter or cyber schools divert between $10,000 and $20,000 from the school coffers, Stamm detailed plans to encourage such students either to return to conventional schools or enroll in Mountie Academy, the district-managed alternative cyber school.

The board accepted the retirement of elementary school guidance counselor Lou Ann Zeigler.

“Lou Ann’s done an excellent job for the district,” Stamm said, detailing her involvement in shepherding state-mandated testing among other accomplishments. Saying the district would begin to advertise her position, Stam added she would leave “big shoes to fill.”

Before the board unanimously approved an affiliation agreement for Mountie Quest, Molino questioned if the organization would compete for donations with the South Williamsport Education Foundation.

Stamm said the foundation mostly focuses on donations tied to a tax-credit program that it uses to fund grants for teachers. He cited as examples of the latter as a field trip by an art class for a behind-the-scenes tour of a Philadelphia art museum and supplies for a forensics class. Mountie Quest, Stamm said, will assist students in the district more directly.

“It’s really more of a bottoms-up, how do we help the kids approach,” Stamm said.

“I love that it directly affects the students,” Molino said.

In other business:

• The board unanimously approved a letter of intent with South Williamsport Borough for a borough police presence in the schools. Stamm said the police department and district officials continue to meet weekly to iron out details.

• The board approved spending nearly $128,000 from capital reserve funds on building projects. School officials said about $62,000 of that is related to the high school’s heating and air control system.

• The board agreed on the school calendar for 2018-19, bringing teachers back two more days ahead of students so facilities and maintenance staff can fulfill requests related to classrooms.

• Anthony told the board that new weight room equipment should arrive within a month and said the district’s athletics committee is considering the feasibility of adding a cross-country team.

• The board approved assistant junior varsity baseball coach Tyler Askey for a stipend of $1,671, and volunteer assistant coaches Mike Bachman for track and field, Emmanuel Tsikitas for junior high soccer and Leslee Rundio for boys tennis.

• The board approved a guest teacher list submitted by Intermediate Unit 17 and re-appointed Fred Holland as district solicitor.

• The board approved faculty members Jessica Kaledas and Robyn Rummings to attend the state Music Educators Association conference in Lancaster in late April.