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The Progress Home >> Tuesday, March 26, 2013 - West Branch hires new superintendent

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West Branch hires new superintendent
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
By Tyler Kolesar Staff Writer
ALLPORT - The West Branch School District ended its search for a superintendent and said goodbye to another administrator at last night's school board meeting.
Michelle Dutrow was approved by a 7-1 vote as the new superintendent at an annual salary of $105,000. Dutrow's term will be from May 28, 2013 through June 30, 2016. Mel Smeal cast the lone vote against Dutrow while Robert Seprish was absent. Solicitor David Consiglio said because the contract goes on a "year to year fiscal basis," the annual salary will not start until July 1. Dutrow said she currently resides in Tyrone and is coming from the West Perry School District where she is the assistant superintendent. Prior to that, she was Assistant Superintendent at Chestnut Ridge School District in Bedford County and was employed by the Tyrone School District for 19 years under a number of job descriptions, including special education teacher and elementary principal. Dutrow said she realizes the current issues the district is facing, especially with the budget, and is ready to get to work.
"I'm eager to get started and see how I can make a positive impact," said Dutrow.
In the meantime, High School Principal J.R. Holenchik will continue in the acting superintendent role and will be given an extra $100 per day starting today.
During the meeting, the board unanimously accepted the resignation of Elementary Principal Joanna Santilli effective yesterday. A motion was then approved to have Special Education Supervisor Wendy Fernburg take the role of acting elementary principal effective today at a rate of $100 per day.
A handful of residents and former school board members spoke out during the meeting about the district's financial situation. Mary Ann Couteret spoke to the board during three separate instances, with mainly budget concerns as the topic. Couteret asked if teacher raises were budgeted in, to which Business Manager Jason McMillen said no because the latest teacher's contract had not yet been approved. Couteret asked if the board members knew line by line what is currently being proposed in the budget, to which board member Tim Kephart said they've gone over what's what for the last year or so for during budget meetings.
"We have gone through every section of the budget," said Kephart. "And we have reviewed all expenditures."
After asking numerous questions, including the proposed joint time schedule, teachers spending on supplies, and small class sizes, Kephart said all of these topics were discussed during the budget meetings.
Couteret said she didn't regularly attend these meetings because she had kids involved with sports, stating they're her "first priority." Couteret asked McMillen to give a "definite" answer on the bus savings by going to the same start time, stating the $300,000 number previously discussed was incorrect.
"How do you know that?" asked McMillen.
"Because you're not sure if they're (bus company) is going to add any charges," said Couteret.
"There's nothing in the contract that allows them to add charges," said McMillen, but admitted technically a same start time would in effect be a breach of contract.
Couteret said she felt McMillen isn't taking the budget situation seriously, stating she feels McMillen and Holenchik should be working together "constantly" to find ways to save money in the district and to keep costs at a minimum. She also said McMillen should be proposing his budget savings ideas to the board rather than asking for public input during budget meetings.
Former board member Ron Mollura was very critical of the board's attendance during budget meetings, especially with the March meeting in which Gerald Coble was the only one in attendance. However at February's meeting, seven of the nine board members were in attendance after that. Minutes of these meetings dating back to September can be found on the district's website.
Mollura said in all of his years, the current board is the "poorest performance" by any board that he's ever seen. Mollura said the board hasn't accomplished anything during these budget meetings, and asked if they had a plan. President Joe Kovalcin said the plan is to have the budget in place at the proper time.
Mollura said a 10-mill tax increase won't do anything, and said he hopes the voters "vote the right way." He also questioned Kovalcin being a board representative during negotiations for the teacher's contract, as Kovalcin was once a West Branch teacher himself.
In other news, the board approved the following:
• Laurie Hoffman as High School Secretary starting April 2. She will first be on a 90-day working trial period with an evaluation to follow. The position is full-time at the current contractual rate of $13.10 an hour.
• advertising bids for salt, milk, bread, heating oil and wood for wood shop classes.
• various teacher/administrator conferences and field trips.
• fireworks to be set off by Kneppy's Fireworks during this year's prom, pending receiving a permit from Graham Township.
• the 2013-14 school calendar.
The next regular meeting will be on April 22 at 7 p.m., while the next budget meeting takes place on April 10 at 7 p.m.
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