South Side’s proposed cellphone policy gets 3-2 vote, awaits final vote

The South Williamsport Area School Board took the first step toward a new cellphone policy for administrators Monday night, but the vote on the first reading was close — 3 to 2.

In the past, the district has provided cellphones and service to around a dozen personnel in specific positions. After questions were raised during the budget season, a new policy was drafted under which the administrators in question would either have a portion of their personal cellphone plans reimbursed, or would only be able to use district-issued phones for work-related purposes. Under the first option, the superintendent, principals, the director of buildings and grounds, director of information systems, network technician and athletic director would have 80 percent of their phone costs reimbursed and assistant principals, director of transportation and director of special education would have 30 percent reimbursed. Reimbursement would only apply up to a limit set by the district based on common business plans offered for cellphone service and under such an option the employee would be responsible for the cost of the phone itself and any related equipment like batteries or chargers.

District Superintendent Mark Stamm said the number of administrators benefitting from the coverage has been declining on its own and that the proposed policy was based on similar policies in four neighboring school districts. He said one example of the uses of the phones is the athletic director’s updates to social media about the performance of school sports teams.

School board member Erica Molino, who asked many of the initial questions about the existing policy during the budget process, objected to the new proposal. She said she believes providing cellphones should be a contractual matter and not a board policy, and also objects to the district providing text or internet access on cellphones for which the district pays. She noted the classroom supplies budget has not been increased in several years and said the district is not reimbursing teachers for supplies they purchases out of their own pockets.

“I’m not okay with it,” Molino said.

She also noted the district provides many of the same administrators with laptops and tablets.

“They don’t need a phone on top of that,” she said.

Board President Chris Branton and members Gregg Anthony and Steve Persun voted for the policy. Molino and board member Sue Bowman voted against it. Cathy Bachman abstained while Nathan Miller, Airneezer Page and Sue Davenport were absent. The policy can be amended before a second reading and final vote.

The board also accepted the resignation of nurse Samantha Carey. Stamm said the district already is advertsing to fill the position. In other personnel matters, the district accepted 27 coaches. For football, the board approved head coach Chris Eiswerth at a stipend of $5,725; assistant coaches Chris Lusk at a stipend of $3,899, Chris Engler, $2,733; Randy Boone, $2,451; Sam Buch; Junior High head coach Alex Peluso at a stipend of $2,897; assistant coaches Connor Rutan, $2,451; Rocco Bausinger, $2,451; and Rich Schonewolf, Barth Carson and Ryan Barnes, all volunteers; girls’ tennis head coach Theresa Summerson, $2,978; assistant coach Kent Young, $2,172; and assistant coach Leslee Rundio, volunteer; Junior High softball coach Scott Stugart, $2,173; assistant coach Todd Snyder, $1,839; girls’ soccer coach Dan Solley, $4,094; assistant coaches Tony Yerger, $2,507; and Mark Lovecchio, $1,839; assistant cheerleading coach Mackenzie Miller, $2,507; Junior High cheerleading head coach Heather Bower, $2,173; assistant coach Heather Hicks, $1,839; boys soccer head coach Chris Vanaskie, $3,436; assistant coach Adam Rubert, $2,507; assistant coach Manny Tsikitas, volunteer; cross country head coach Matt DeBlander, $2,896; and assistant coach Kerry Taylor, volunteer.

Branton gave an update to the board from a meeting regarding the Sylvan Dell conservation proposal. He said while the plan continues to gain support, any concrete action is at least a year away.

“At this point it’s just organizational,” Branton said.

A community member asked about low-income dental services. Matt Fisher, director of student services and elementary school principal, said the district is looking at two different programs, but one would be off-site and there are concerns about adequately supervising the number of students that might participate if it was offered. The community member recommended a public forum to explain the opportunities to district residents.

In other business, board members voted:

• To approve a behavorial support services contract with Justice Works Youthcare, funded in part with federal revenues

• To approve an agreement with Intermediate Unit No. 17 for services for students with disabilities

• To pursue federal and other grants to support district initiatives. Stamm said two grant applications already are being written.