PUNXSUTAWNEY — A Punxsutawney school board member and administrator recently learned that while public education business and issues may be challenges, that’s also the case for those who work, raise families and serve their countries in the National Guard or Reserve.
Monday, Del Spafford, northwest area Ombudsman for the Pennsylvania Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), recognized board member Penny Pifer and PAMS Principal Richard Britten for taking part in a program in May called Boss Lift, which helps civilian employers and supervisors see first-hand how employees in the National Guard and Reserve work and train as citizen soldiers.
In Pennsylvania, Boss Lift is held at Fort Indiantown Gap, Annville.
Established in 1972, the ESGR is a Department of Defense organization that promotes cooperation and understanding between Guard and Reserve members and their civilian employers and assists in the resolution of conflicts arising from an employee’s military commitment.
At Boss Lift, Pifer and Britten took part in a number of activities and simulations, such as touring facilities; looking at armored vehicles, heavy equipment and more; both flight and tank simulators; and computer-simulated operations in which they were part of a force performing patrol in a Middle Eastern-type town — complete with teams fighting back against enemy fire.
Britten said the technology used in today’s military is astounding, from helicopters communicating with units on the ground and in the air, to the precision of an Apache helicopter locked onto a target that has nowhere to run.
Board President Gary Conrad, who has also taken part in the Boss Lift program, said about the simulators, “I can tell you, you crash in the helicopter simulators.”
Both Pifer and Britten also said the experience gave them a greater appreciation for America’s civilian soldiers.
“It made me feel like I don’t do much for the world,” Pifer said.
Spafford, himself retired from a 34-year military career, said part of his volunteer duty with ESGR is to talk to groups and employers that hire Guard and Reserve members.
There are certain laws that employers must abide by when a Guard or Reserve employee is called to duty:
• Employers must grant leave to Guard and Reserve employees for military activation.
• Employers must promptly reemploy Guard and Reserve employees upon satisfactory completion of military service.
• Guard and Reserve employees may not be required to use personal leave or vacation for military service.
Spafford said the Guard or Reserve employee departing his or her job for military service must be afford the rights of what’s called an “escalator clause:” That if the person is required to leave for military service, he or she must have the same position or level for promotion as when he or she left.
He said Guard or Reserve members never know when they could be called in the middle of the night for military service — it could be three months, six months, or even 18 months.
“It’s so important that we get a good relationship with businesses and the military,” Spafford said.
He said he ends his presentations by showing groups a picture of his grandchildren, for whom he said he has been “working for 76 years.”
“For these troops, their jobs guarantee that kids will grow up in a free country, where they are not raped or murdered. That’s what happens in other countries,” such as Kuwait, Spafford said.
• The board opened 11 bids to sell the maintenance department’s 1994 GMC truck. The highest bidder was board member Bob Pascuzzo, through his business, Bob’s Sales & Service, with a bid of $6,785.
The lowest bid was $587.
The board approved Pascuzzo’s bid with an 8-0 vote, with Pascuzzo abstaining.
• As he does annually — usually during the board’s December reorganizational meeting — board member Jack White made a motion to televise the board’s voting meetings. Board Vice-President Francis Molinaro seconded the motion.
White said in discussions with the public, people want to know what goes on and how money is spent at the meetings. Televising the meetings again via the district’s cable channel is a step in that direction.
And as it does annually, the board defeated White’s motion, this time with a 7-2 vote.
White and Molinaro supported the motions, with Conrad, Pascuzzo, Pifer and board members Lesa Conner, Roberta Dinsmore, Jeff Martz and Penny Pearce voting against the motion.
“I think you’re cheating the public,” White said after the vote.
Superintendent Dr. Keith Wolfe and Solicitor David Young were excused from the meeting.