Mountain View positions in jeopardy

BY VIRGINIA CODY

Correspondent

Mountain View School Board voted 6-1 to authorize its superintendent to go to the State Department of Education with a recommendation of possibly cutting positions for 2011-12 to reflect continuing enrollment declines.

Superintendent Andrew Chichura said, “There will be some alterations and curtailments.  They may affect some elementary positions, some high school positions, some special education, and possibly some federal programs.”

The vote followed an executive session after the bulk of the night’s meeting was over.

Chichura said, “There is so much uncertainty taking place at the state and federal levels, it’s too hard to gauge right now just what we’ll do.”

At a previous meeting, the board had been given enrollment numbers that showed a more than 20 percent decline for grades K-12, with a peak of 1,595 students reported in 1996-1997 down to 1,226 in 2009-10.

And current  trends for 2010-11, show K-12 enrollment down to 1,184.

The board did approve Monday night two expenditures designed to save the district money in the long run. 

The first was to replace the district’s eight copiers at a rate of $4,715 per month.

“We will be saving $1,357 a month by replacing them now,” Business Manager James Mirabelli said.

The copiers will be provided by Topp Copy of Scranton.

The second expenditure approved Monday was the purchase of padding for the school gym. 

The padding, which is designed to protect the gym’s parquet floor from wear and tear, is being donated to the school district.  The district, however, must pay the $1,900 cost of hemming the material.

The district hopes that through careful use of the padding the gym floor will only need to be varnished once a year.  Currently, the district spends $3,200 each time it restores it.

“So we pay $1,900 once in order to save the $3,200 more than once,” said First Vice-President Ellen B. Aherne.

In addition to these expenses, the board voted to authorize advertising for bids for a pull behind finish mower.  This advertising will take place for three consecutive weeks and bids will be due in the district business office by 3 p.m. on March 16.

Three federal programs were also discussed on Monday.

The board agreed to apply for the Federal Fruit and Vegetable Program which will make fruit and vegetable snacks available to elementary school children and their teachers three days a week. 

“I feel comfortable we’ll get the grant for this,” Chichura said. 

The program requires that more than 50 per cent of the district’s students qualify for free or reduced lunch fees.

Mirabelli expressed concern about another federal program, the Healthy Kids Act and advised the board to act cautiously before embracing it fully.

“There are a lot of unfunded mandates,” he told the board.  “We’ll get an extra six cents per meal for every meal we provide, but the costs will be 20-30 cents extra per meal.  And we’ll have to raise the price of a normal meal to $2.40.”

Board member Dava Rinehart-Cowan asked whether the district was required to participate in the program.  In response, Mirabelli said he is still examining the new program and will keep the board apprised of his findings.

Another federal program that is going to cost the district more money is the Health Care Reform Act.

“Our 12-15 percent increase in medical insurance is due to the mandates of the National Health Care bill,” Chichura advised.

Chichura explained that the district now has to add more dependents up to the age of 26 to its insurance plan, and with more people participating, the price is higher.”

On the personnel side of the house, the board voted to hire six more substitute teachers, a part-time monitor for in-school suspensions, and a part-time food service employee for the elementary school.  In addition, Vice-President Aherne is to serve as the NEIU #19 representative.

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