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Extracurricular Activities Eligibility Discussed Again in Baldwin-Whitehall

And plenty more from Wednesday night's school board meeting.

Extracurricular Activities Eligibility

Confusion over what makes students eligible to participate in extracurricular activities in the should come to an end next week. At least, that's the plan.

New Superintendent Dr. Randal A. Lutz told the B-W School Board at a meeting on Wednesday night that he will submit a revised extracurricular participation policy for the board to vote on next week.

That revised policy is expected to enforce a uniform standard for not only student-athletes in grades 7-12 but also for any student in those grades who wishes to participate in other activities, such as German Club, student newspaper, et al.

During the 2011-12 school year, district officials attempted to enforce a policy that would have done just that, but confusion over the as well as enforced by the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association caused the district policy to .

Dr. Lutz explained on Wednesday that the revised policy that he plans to implement would only be made available for the general public to view if and when it becomes an official district policy as deemed by the board. 

Check back with the Baldwin-Whitehall Patch for updates.

Shorter Theater Schedule This School Year

Lutz relayed the wishes on Wednesday of Kris Tranter, director of music and theater at , that Baldwin High's theater arts productions have shorter schedules for the 2012-13 school year than they've had in years past.

Despite earning a for its production of in 2012, Baldwin still did not draw big enough crowds to justify a nine-day run of six shows, Lutz said of Tranter's analysis.

Thus, to alleviate costs, Tranter's wish is for tighter schedules of five shows in seven days for theater productions this school year.

His wish was not met with resistance and is expected to be approved by the school board next week.

New Alternative Education Program

Lutz and new Assistant Superintendent Denise Sedlacek recommended to the school board on Wednesday the approval of a contract with The Online Academy for use of its software program aimed at instructing the district's alternative education students.

The Online Academy program would be an improvement to the district's current educational practices with those students, Sedlacek said.

"In the past, one teacher has attempted to teach all the courses in one subject area," she said. "With The Online Academy, each child would be able to go in and work at their level, so that, after their 45-day placement (in the district's alternative education program) or semester placement, they'll be able to return back into a regular high school setting and at the pace of where the other students are."

Lutz explained that the district's current alternative education practice expects teachers to, in the subject of math, for example, instruct a group of students in a variety of courses—from geometry to algebra—at the same time.

Alternative education students include those with extreme and/or repeated disciplinary issues.

The board will vote next week on whether or not to approve The Online Academy program.

Add More Rental Fees?

School board member Larry Pantuso asked district administrators and his fellow board members to consider adding fees into the district's policy of renting its facilities to nonprofit groups.

While Pantuso agreed that the district has been commendable for allowing such groups to use places like athletics fields and the Baldwin High auditorium free of charge, he suggested that the district should at least recoup the expenses of maintaining those areas, such as custodial and utility costs.

"At the minimum, we should be recovering what it's costing us," he said, emphasizing that the "us" are district taxpayers.

Board member George L. Pry agreed with some of what Pantuso said but argued that the district should continue to be a good neighbor by allowing its facilities to be used free of charge for events like municipal meetings that may see oversized crowds.

Board member Nancy Sciulli DiNardo pointed out that the district has rented its facilities out free of charge, in the past, to local coaches running sports camps and clinics. Those camps can be lucrative, Sciulli DiNardo said, and she wondered aloud if the district should be charging for those types of events.

"I'm not saying we're OK with it (renting space to coaches for free)," Lutz said. "We just haven't dug into it."

Board President John B. Schmotzer said that he and his colleagues will revisit this topic in September or October.

New Student Board Rep; Fischer Unhappy with Process

Not content with just three student board representatives for the 2012-13 school year, the B-W School Board on Wednesday added Baldwin High senior Joseph Doyle to that list by an 8-0 vote. (Board member Ray Rosing did not vote, as he left the meeting early with an undisclosed illness, Schmotzer said.)

Doyle was added so that the board can hear from at least one male student this school year. He joins Jaclyn Sirc (the other senior class rep), junior Victoria Schmotzer and sophomore Jennifer Yanko.

Board member Kevin J. Fischer, though respectful of Doyle, was displeased with the district's overall selection process.

"If you really want true representation," Fischer said, "the student body, it should be their pick. It should be their election.

"By (the board) picking them, we might as well have the monarchy of England."

Transparency and Accountability?

Brian Rampolla, of Southvue Drive in , used public comments time at the end of Wednesday's meeting to urge the school board to be more transparent and "accountable."

Among Rampolla's suggestions were that the board formally announce its goals on a frequent basis so as to publically measure itself; adopt a strategic plan; broadcast meetings; establish a budget review committee; and make working documents available for public view.

"Everything that's non-classified, that the board sees, I think the public should see," he said. "You guys talked 20 minutes tonight about a policy on rental issues, but none of us had any idea what that policy said, how it was being revised. Put that up on the website. We can look at it before the meeting. We can come here with comments. We can pull them up on computers and laptops at the meetings and see that information."

Price of School Lunches Expected to Increase in Baldwin-Whitehall

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Brian Rampolla August 02, 2012 at 05:02 PM
My comments were not just suggestions, they were challenges that the board simply follow the requirements in their own policy 011, Board Governance Standards/Code of Conduct. It's all there in black and white on just over 4 pages. And it's not complicated. Yet, this board seems not to even know this policy exists. They focus on day to day trivial issues and totally lack any long term, strategic vision. Case in point was this first meeting during which there was not one statement to the community as to any specific, new board initaitives for the year. Nothing addressing our continual rankings slide compare to other districts. Nothing addressing means to encourage community participation. Just business as usual, which means we will fall further behind the other local districts, even though we have our own, $20K DVD. I was told last week about a young woman who was living in the city of Pgh right near the Baldwin Township and Mt. Lebanon borders. She wanted to move out of the city with her kids, so researched the two adjacent school districts by looking at the quantitative, unbiased rankings in the Pgh Business Times with these results: Baldwin: #56 in SW PA, #219 in the state vs Mt. Lebanon: #2 in SW PA, #5 in the state. Guess where she moved? I firmly believe this district can be competitive with any other district in the area, but this will require decisive, specific, aggressive action and out of the box thinking from this board. That's the challenge.
Purple Power August 03, 2012 at 01:01 PM
I agree with you Brian, this district could be so much better. There are many changes they can support Dr. Lutz on, one of the first things they need to do is clean house in the Business Office and get people who are actually qualified to do the jobs they were "hired" (read handed). If you look on the website under staff directory in the business office, I could cut 5 of the nine positions and maybe replace with 1 or 2. This board needs to quit hiring no qualified individuals and get to the task at hand which is bettering the education and value for the children and tax payers.
bd August 03, 2012 at 05:45 PM
Brian - but the new high school was going to bring new families in by the droves. Just ask John Schmotzer, Pry, Fischer, DiNardo. I guess that didn't work. Oh well, let's waste more money on something and claim that will improve our results.
JustMe August 03, 2012 at 07:26 PM
Though the video they make was going to do the same thing, didn't happen.
Brian Rampolla August 03, 2012 at 09:49 PM
Right, the new high school was supposed to be the draw, and then the video. The high school had to be renovated, and I personnally give John Schmotzer and the other long time board members full credit for getting the job done at a reasonable cost. But that's were the credit stops because they totally ignored academic issues as reflected by our rankings. Bethel Park now has a new high school and their SW PA and state rankings are 12 and 41, respectively, vs. 56 and 210 for BW (and for the high schools, 10 and 33 respectively), so even though Bethel taxes are 2 mils more than BW, many people with kids will likely choose to pay a few hundred dollars more per year to be in a better performing district with an even newer high school. Further, we've been told time and time again how carefully the board has managed district finances, but Bethel ended last year with a capital projects/reserve fund of $15M vs only $3M for BW, and is projected to have an ending fund balance next year of about $700K more than BW, with almost the same annual debt service payments. So, Bethel sure appears to be in a much better position to weather future financial uncertainties. So the fundamental question to Mr. Schmotzer and every board member is this: What are you going to do to make the BW district stand out compared to the other local districts? And another DVD won't cut it.
bd August 03, 2012 at 10:18 PM
Which proves that it is not all about improving facilities as many board members think. New buildings and new fields do not make the kids smarter. And, it does not bring in new families since the census figures prove that we are still losing population. Maybe they need to pay attention to improving the curriculum and the teaching staff. Maybe administration needs to do a few performance assessments of the teachers as well. I wonder if that is beng done?
JustMe August 03, 2012 at 10:47 PM
The school board needs to give the students and parents a questionnaire and ask what we see is wrong with the school. The administration and school board doesn't get it that parents are unhappy with them. Cutting technology wasn't a way to go to save money. They should be investing more money into it like other school district. Students use computers in school but their passwords don't work, more than a quarter of the computers in classrooms don't work but lets cut the technology budget. Instead lets make Dean of student positions for coaches because they aren't qualified to be Vice Principles. We had 4 families move off our street this summer because of the lousy school district we have. 2 of my daughters friends are going to Cyber School for 11th grade because of the school. Baldwin is doing g great job of pushing people out of the school district.
bd August 04, 2012 at 12:33 AM
JustMe - What you say is true yet the same people will be re-elected to the school board. This school district has been in a death spiral for some time now yet the voters keep putting the same sorry crew back in charge of the Titanic.
cc August 11, 2012 at 01:30 AM
bd, I can honestly say when I went to vote, I had the names of everyone on the school board and voted for everyone that was running against them. Our school Board is a joke and I know I will keep on voting against them till they are gone. I don't care if they are democrats or republicans, I just know we need to get rid of all of them.

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