Wolfe: Verizon thought text messages were spam

PUNXSUTAWNEY — The Punxsutawney Area School District’s use of the SchoolReach program hit a snag during a recent snow day, but should be on its way back to working properly.

During the school board’s voting meeting Monday, Super-intendent Dr. Keith Wolfe said because there were so many text messages being sent from School-Reach, the Verizon system blocked them as spam.

SchoolReach is a telephone notification system used to broadcast school closings/delays and to inform parents of student attendance information. It is utilized by more than 5,000 educational institutions in the United States, Canada and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Wolfe said the solution for this kind of problem is a premium service that must be purchased by SchoolReach, which the company is now investigating.

“In the meantime, instead of sending a text, they will be sending voicemail. That way, they won’t be blocked,” Wolfe said. “So instead of seeing a text, you’ll have a voicemail.”

He said for as big as both the SchoolReach and Verizon systems are, he was surprised this sort of issue was occurring in the Punxsy district.

On another SchoolReach-related issue, board member Bob Pascuzzo asked how long it takes to inform a parent via SchoolReach that a student is not in school. Wolfe replied that would depend on when attendance is taken, and thus, the contact could come about 30 to 60 minutes after school starts.

Pascuzzo said his son was home sick from school Monday, and while SchoolReach contacts a parent if his or her student is not in school, he said he didn’t receive a notification until around 12:30 p.m. Monday, which he described as “quite late.”

Wolfe said that was the first he had heard of notifications coming so late.

Also Monday:
• The board approved a parent contract for transportation.
Wolfe explained that this issue arose through transporting a special needs student — which by law, the district is required to do — with two aides. There were issues when the student was injuring one of the aides, creating a hazard for other people in the vehicle.
Rather than paying a driver to transport the student to school, the district will pay the parent $0.51 per mile, which, according to Transportation Director Cheryl Repik, is cheaper than paying an aide to drive.
When questions about the issue arose among board members, Repik said there is an existing parent transportation contract that dates back to the 2007-08 school year.
“It’s odd, but it has been done before,” Pascuzzo added.
Wolfe said the proposal is not for disciplinary purposes, but for safety.

• With a 5-3 vote, the board approved the business office entering into a two-year agreement with TruGreen for services related to care of the football and practice fields for $8,455 each year.
Board President Gary Conrad and board members Lesa Conner, Jack White, Penny Pifer and Roberta Dinsmore supported the motion, while Pascuzzo, board Vice-President Francis Molinaro and board member Jeff Martz voted against the motion.
Board member Penny Pierce was excused from the meeting.
“I think we have people here that can do this for a lot less money,” Pascuzzo said. Molinaro said he agreed.
Conrad said the motion was based on a recommendation by the building and grounds committee.

• The board approved billing the Mathog Wrestling Club $845 in accordance with the current fee structure for all facility use up to and including Jan. 10. All future facility use fees for the Mathog club will be calculated at the appropriate fee level at the time of use.

• Longview PTA President Tracy Pearce asked why the group was billed $50 for a recent book fair at the school.
Wolfe said that was a miscommunication, and he was told that the event was a fund-raiser, when it was actually a chance for students to pick out books for free. There will be no bill.