School board addresses cyber charter school funding issue

The Williamsport Area School board approved a resolution supporting two bills in the state legislature dealing with cyber charter school funding, sending a clear message to the legislators on where they stand on the issue.

If passed, the bills would place funding on the parents of students who choose to attend cyber charter schools instead of on the district, provided that the district has its own cyber school program.

In his report to the board, Dr. Timothy S. Bowers, district superintendent, told them he had met with legislators about Senate Bill 34 and House Bill 526 and the importance of passing the bills which would alleviate some of the budgetary concerns of districts. He noted the bills are currently stalled in committee.

“These bills actually will finally, for the first time in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, put an end to this craziness of wasting money on cyber schools. If we can get these to the house floor and the senate floor, we think there is a chance that these would finally make their way through and it would finally control the cost,” he said.

The resolution detailed how funding cyber charter schools cost the district’s taxpayers $2.13 million during the 2017-2018 school year. The cost to the district per student who chooses to attend a cyber charter school is $11,679 for regular education and $26,522 for special education.

A copy of the resolution will be sent to elected officials in the state government and to the governor.

In an update of the 2019-2020 budget, Wanda M. Erb, the district’s business administrator, reported that the finance committee is continuing to work at alleviating the district’s budget deficit. Erb told the board that the administration is looking at various options to reduce that figure.

“The goal will be at our next finance committee meeting will be to flesh out those possible solutions and try to get to a set of solutions that the finance committee could support,” Bowers said, adding that the committee would then bring those solutions before the board for their approval.

Erb noted that at the next board meeting in May, a proposed final budget should be approved so that there is enough time between the first meeting next month and the second June meeting for the budget to be on display before the final approval.

In other business, the board heard a report from Sean McCann, athletics director, on the possibility of the district getting involved in an elementary football program. McCann was joined by Chuck Crews, head football coach, who had advocated at a board meeting earlier this year for the district to offer a program for younger youth in order to have a feeder program for the middle and high school teams.

The board told Mc Cann and Crews that they needed more information regarding the cost to the district before making a decision. They assured the board that they would come up with a plan to present the board at an upcoming meeting.

Following an executive session, the board approved authorizing the administration to retain an engineering firm to act as inspector for the project involving repair and reconstruction of Millionaire Drive at a fee not to exceed $70,000 and to commence their work no later than April 24, 2019.

Under personnel items, the board approved:

• Appointing Brandon C. Coleman, the district’s transportation and school safety supervisor, as a school police office. According to public school code, this action is required so that Coleman can carry a firearm in the district as an employee while carrying out the duties of his position.

• Sarah R. Caffas as a part-time food service worker at the high school at a rate of $12.57 an hour.

• Stephanie M. Rumsey as a substitute food service worker at a rate of $9.00 per hour.

• Carinne J. Beiter as a substitute administrative aide at a rate of $9.00 per hour.

• Krisite Martin as a part-time aide at a rate of $13.46 per hour.

• Shawn E. Brister and Kelly S. Grassmyer as regular part-time custodians at a rate of $12.88 per hour.

• Lori Roupp as a temporary part-time administrative support position at a rate of $13.55 per hour.

The board approved Fred A. Holland as district solicitor for the 2019-2020 school year at a retainer of $20,000 and an hourly rate of $150 for matters that fall outside of the scope of the retainer.

They also approved a contract with Baker Tilly Virchow Krause, LLP to provide professional audit services for the Municipal and School Earned Income Tax Office for the year ending December 31, 2018 at a cost of $24,575.

Prior to the business portion of the meeting, the board honored the following outstanding students: Kaylee Rogers, Hepburn-Lycoming Primary School; Elizabeth Kirk, Jackson Primary School and Pablo Kalamafoni, Lycoming Valley Intermediate School.

The next meeting of the board will be at 6 p.m. May 7 at the District Center, 2780 West Fourth St.