Modeling Madame Marie: PAMS student Lizzie Neal earns national honors

PUNXSUTAWNEY — A fourth-grade student at the Punxsutawney Area Middle School (PAMS) finished third nationwide in the Samsung Superhero Contest.

"This is Madame Marie Curie, alias Lizzie Neal, a gifted student who used her technology skills, learned mostly in Scott Sallack's technology class, to enter the contest put on by Samsung," said Cindy Taylor, sixth-grade English and gifted teacher at the middle school, at Wednesday's Punxsutawney Area School Board committee meeting.

Taylor said the contest was open to all students across the United States, grades K-12.

"The applicants had to portray their favorite historical character, and produce a one- to three-minute video which was submitted to Samsung," she said.

Taylor said the students’ videos were judged on presentation, character and content.

"Lizzie was picked as one of the top 10 finalists across the nation," Taylor said, adding that the public then had the opportunity to view these top 10 videos and vote on the one they thought was best.

She said the winner was awarded a Sam Cam 860 classroom document camera and a $500 cash prize.

"Out of these 10 finalists from across the nation, Lizzie finished third," Taylor said, adding that this was a huge accomplishment for a fourth grader from PAMS.

Neal's video was shown for the school board members, displaying her use of technology to make the video look like it was a black and white film from Madame Curie's era, with Lizzie dressed in costume to look like the famous scientist performing an experiment.

Neal said on the video presentation, "Hi I'm Marie Curie, I was born in Warsaw, Poland, in 1867. I was the youngest of five," Neal said, adding that she had three older sisters and one older brother.

"I attended the University of Paris and earned 19 degrees in physics and chemistry," she said. "I married Pierre Curie July 26, 1895, we had two daughters together, their names are Irene and Eve. I discovered two different kinds of radiation polonium and radium. I was the first woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize and won many more after that.

“After my husband's death, my oldest daughter Irene took over the position as my lab partner. On July 4, 1934, I died in Passy, in Haute-Savoie, from aplastic anemia contracted from long-term exposure to radiation. After my death, all of my lab papers, clothes and even my
cookbook had to be kept in lead-lined boxes because they were so radioactive," Neal said, as the video concluded.

Gary Conrad, board president, said it was a very nice presentation, and the board applauded Neal's accomplishment.

Also, at Wednesday's meeting:
• Lesa Conner, cafeteria committee chair, said they suggested that the board approve offering a free breakfast for students on the days that students will be taking the Keystone Exams.

Conner said the cafeteria offered free breakfasts last year during the PSSA exams, and it was a big hit with students.

• The board heard a request from Holly Krug and Linda Smith regarding a bus stop on Lane Avenue.

• The tax collector commission rates were discussed by various board members.

Susan Robertson, business manager, presented another scenario for the compensation.

Melissa Snyder, board member, said she could see where there might be vacancies if the compensation was changed, although she doesn't believe that all tax collector positions would end up being vacant.

"We don't really know what will happen here. In a worst case scenario the majority of those would be vacant," Snyder said.

"I know I'm concerned about the school security issue, and I'm not sure I like the idea of having all of these people coming to a school building to pay their taxes, during a time when we are trying to have less people coming into our buildings," she said.

Snyder said she would like to know, in the worst case scenario, what would happen and if they had to fill the positions.

Robertson said not all 16 will decide not to run, so there will be tax collectors.

"The board has the opportunity to appoint someone to fill the position or have another tax collector take care of another area," she said.

"For example, we do not have a tax collector in Timblin right now," Robertson said, adding that the county treasurer's office is collecting those for the district.

"So, that is another option the board could look at," she said.

"Correct me if I'm wrong, but the board could appoint someone else to fill the position until an election is held," Robertson said, adding that would have to be done on an annual basis until someone is elected.

Another option is to have the county collect them.

Robertson said the district could also collect them.

"Taxes are mailed out in the summer when we do have some in-house staff that could be available to put the tax notices into envelopes and mail them out during the five month period of July through December," she said.

Robertson said when the taxes are brought in by the tax collectors, the district posts them and complete set of books is kept.

"Other than collecting them, going through the mail, at best, I would suggest extra hours for a current part time person or have someone come in to answer the phones if need be," she said.

"In my opinion, you're going to have your heavy time when your going to mail them and by using the staff that we have we can give them some extra hours, but I don't believe we would need to hire a full-time person to come in July through December," Robertson said.

Snyder asked when the taxes come due if there could potentially be hundreds of people lined up to pay their taxes at the school?

Ron Walker, Young Township tax collector, said he submitted a letter to the board and addressed the Timblin situation.

"I delivered my year-end reports a couple of weeks ago to the Jefferson County Treasurer's office, and Renee Murphy is the person who works with the money, and she asked me why Punxsy was considering making this change," he said.

"Unsolicited, she offered her opinion that it would take a couple of full-time employees to do the job that the 16 of us do," Walker said, adding that this is coming from a person who is doing the Timblin tax collector's job currently.

"I don't think it has been a picnic for Renee, and it is one of our smallest municipalities," Walker said.

"I think they've hit some pretty good bumps in the road, but you'd have to get that from her," he said.

"If anyone on the board wants to call her, I'm not going to call her and coach her," Walker said.

Jim Scarantine, from McCalmont Township, said for everyone to take into
consideration who this would affect by changing the way it is currently being done?

"I've only seen what I read in the newspaper. Is the savings that substantial to do away with the 16 municipalities’ tax collectors?" Scarantine asked.

"I'm not saying that they all wouldn't run, but if they don't run you're going to have a problem," he said. 'I'm asking you to please look into it."

Conrad said that is why the board is having a discussion, and that decisions are tough.