2012-08-02 / Local & State

SFSD Receives Praise, Criticism

By Chanin Rotz-Mountz

The Southern Fulton School District received praise as well as criticism last Tuesday evening as part of the board’s public comment period.

Scott and Terri Shaffer stood before the board to give lavish praise on the district’s special education program headed by Director Diane Younker. The parents of a special needs child, the Shaffers have been sending their son Nicholas to Southern Fulton Elementary for the last three years instead of to their home district in Bedford County.

Terri Shaffer said the family’s comments during the July 24 meeting were to show both gratitude and appreciation for all of the hard work done at the district.

Shaffer went on to say parents of special needs children have to show trust in the individuals caring for their child. She noted from their initial meeting with school officials, Younker was interested in her son’s likes and dislikes and was excited to welcome him into the program.

“She was with us every step of the way,” said Shaffer, who went on to praise the aides involved in special education, the school nurse and various staff. Shaffer also applauded former teacher Jenn Miller and her son’s most recent teacher, Aaron Harris, who she deemed an “amazing teacher.”

“You should be proud of what’s going on at your school,” Shaffer said.

Southern Fulton County resident Daniel Peck appeared before the board to deliver a message on behalf of several fellow taxpayers. Peck said in order for the board to make any difference it needed to fire the superintendent and then go home that night and write their own letters of resignation. “We need to start from scratch,” said Peck, who then asked for copies of the dress code as it pertains to students and staff as well as a copy of last month’s board meeting minutes. Board President Tim Mellott assured Peck he would help obtain the documents.

In response to Peck’s criticism of Superintendent Kendra Trail, board member Mark Mosemann announced he felt she is doing “the best job ever.” He said anyone contradicting his statement has a lot to learn.

Fellow board member Patrick Bard agreed with Mosemann as did Allen Morton, who said he has been through five or six superintendents during his time on the board. Morton added he feels more comfortable as a taxpayer with the administration that is now in place.

President Mellott noted that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but asked Peck to look at issues such as student achievement. “You’re looking at the numbers but not the whole picture,” Peck responded.

Contractor Dave Smith said he has seen a lot of board members and administrators come and go over the years. He said he would be willing to put Trail against any other superintendent in terms of job performance. Smith said Trail is fair in her dealings, and he did not believe Peck’s statement is representative of the entire community.

Bill Peck spoke to the board on potential cost-saving measures and asked what types of savings have been looked at besides personnel. Bill Peck’s wife recently lost her position due to the declining number of students. He pointed out that there are two art teachers currently on staff as well as additional nurses and teacher aides. He also touched on how much money is spent mailing home report cards.

“Why should it cost taxpayers money just because a couple kids don’t take their report cards home,” he asked.

Longtime bus contractor Glenn Ward talked to the board regarding bus Route #13 that transports students between Buck Valley and Whips Cove. Due to last year’s reconfiguring of routes through Bus Tracks, Ward currently picks up students 1 ½ miles from his home on Hendershot Road, continues picking up to Whips Cove and then drives the loaded bus back to school. Ward questioned if it was possible to change the route so he would begin picking up kids in Whips Cove, thereby lessening the amount of time kids are on the bus.

Prior to appearing before the board, Ward had discussed the matter with the superintendent. The board president thanked Ward for airing his concern.

Also as part of public comment, the board was presented with a Year In Review report by the administration. Highlights at a district level included the use of the Alert Now notification system for attendance and surveys; updating 57 board policies; 1 of 20 schools in state considered for PA LEADS; completing PlanCon Part A; working on energy costsavings project; and instituting the Olweus bullying program.

Elementary and high school administrators gave an overview of activities in their facilities such as the high school being named a bronze award winner through U.S. World News and Report; holding their first artist-inresidency program; the Special Olympics came to Fulton County; the purchase of nine Ipads with stimulus money; five students attended the PATH program at Allegheny College; 30 new laptops were purchased for the elementary; and paperless board meetings.

Future goals, according to Trail, include increasing the use of technology, increasing student achievement and student safety/well-being.

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