PAEA pledges to fight budget cuts alongside school board

PUNXSUTAWNEY — The Punxsutawney Area Education Association (PAEA) has pledged to stand beside the school board as both board and union members fight cuts in Gov. Tom Corbett's proposed budget.

During the public comment portion of the Punxsutawney Area School Board's agenda last Monday, PAEA President Don Gill read a prepared statement, saying the PAEA "will stand beside you to fight" the proposed cuts.

He said Corbett "is not committed to public education" as evidenced in his proposals that would eliminate programs such as dual enrollment, in which high school students can earn college credits.

Gill said Corbett pledged not to raise taxes, and in theory, that holds true. But rather, Corbett's proposals would shift the burdens elsewhere — namely forcing school boards' hands to raise taxes to make up for cuts in funding.

Gill also said that over the course of recent meetings with the board, the PAEA has discussed the future of education and the best interests of students.

"We wish to meet to continue the process in which we are partners," he said.

March 8, Corbett proposed cutting about $550 million, or 10 percent, in funds for instruction in K-12 public schools and eliminating all $260 million in grants that will be given this year to school districts to invest in learning, including pre-kindergarten, full-day kindergarten and class-size reduction in kindergarten through third grade.

Superintendent Dr. Keith Wolfe said following Corbett's budget address that the Punxsutawney Area School District would be looking at a loss of at least $2 million.

In other business:

• Student board representatives Erin Butler and Kendall Neal said PAHS' Key Club won an honorable mention for a scrapbook project at a recent convention.

Neal explained that Key Club is a service organization based from the Kiwanis Club of Punxsutawney.

"Key Club is community service; that's all we do," Butler added.
Neal also said a team from PAHS took first place in the 24th annual DuBois Area Senior Scholastic Challenge March 9. It was the first time that a team from PAHS took first place in the event.

• Board member Jack White said he is again soliciting ideas on how to save energy in the district among students.

• During a review of the district's work-in-progress budget, board member Roberta Dinsmore asked about $58,000 in a "miscellaneous" fund in the athletic budget.

Business Administrator Susan Robertson said according to Athletic Director John Knopick, that figure takes into account entry and tournament fees; meals; dues; rooms; team meals and other expenses, sometimes during travel.

Wolfe said it is hard to predict how well a team may perform in its season, and thus, how far it may advance toward a championship. An extended season could mean extended travel and expenses for the team.
But Dinsmore replied about the fund, "'Miscellaneous' can be a lot of different things."

Also last Monday, the board:

• Accepted a $1,190 gift from the Punxsutawney Area Coalition Against Drugs for the purpose of funding student presentations about self-esteem and bullying at the high school and middle school.

• Approved continuing the summer feeding program with a 6-1 vote, with board member Bob Pascuzzo voting again the motion.

Board Vice-President Francis Molinaro and board member Penny Pierce were excused from the meeting.

• Approved accepting a bid for a vinyl cutter from ProVeer at a cost of $21,250. The funds were provided by the Weber Club.

The Punxsutawney Area School Board approved the following personnel items during its meeting March 14:

• Approved Kerri Reagle as a van monitor.
• Accepted the resignation of John Knopick as athletic director, effective at the end of the 2010-11 school year.
• Accepted the resignation of Michael Beer as a van monitor. He requested to remain active on the substitute list.
• Approved Denise Burkett, school nurse, as an addition to the substitute list.

The board approved the following hires with a 6-1 vote, with board member Bob Pascuzzo voting against the motion:
• Kyle Barilar, assistant boys’ track coach.
• Buddy Young, assistant boys’ soccer coach.
• Thomas Zimmerman and Dan Furman, volunteer baseball coaches.
• Lisa Good, volunteer volleyball coach.
• Alan Nichol, volunteer boys’ track coach.