-- This year's race for five open seats on the Carlynton school board most likely began in November 2009. That's when school directors approved the creation of a feasibility study by L. Robert Kimball & Associates that almost two years later has led to the possible shutdown of the district's two elementary schools and the proposed construction of a new building in Carnegie.
Jim Schriver who is running with three current and one former board member in this year's election said he initially "applauded" the study examining the district's elementary and junior-senior high schools. "We thought it was the right thing to do to go out and objectively look at the buildings to see their conditions and needs of students and teachers. "It was not an open process, objectively looking at the options and objectively looking at the needs. It was a vehicle to advance an agenda of a few people. It took a few months to realize that was what's going on." Schriver is teaming with current school directors Betsy Tassaro, Ray Walkowiak, Sharon Wilson and former board member David Roussos.
Newcomer Ray Broglie and incumbents Ronald McCartney and President Tom Brown are also seeking seats. All are crossfiled on the Democrat and Republican tickets to seek nominations in the May 17 primary.
School directors voted 5-4 on Feb. 17 to shut down the two elementary schools in Carnegie and Crafton before placing a moratorium on its building project earlier this month. A new, consolidated building is proposed to be constructed in Carnegie on a site near the current school and Honus Wagner Field. The project was suspended until more information is received about Gov. Tom Corbett's proposed state budget that cuts education funding by $1.2 billion. Carlynton could potentially lose $656,000. Brown, who voted against suspending the project, said he believes the district can financially support a new school. "I believe the project should go forward and I believe this district will be able to afford the project," he said.
Broglie and McCartney, who has served almost 16 years on the school board, are also in favor of constructing a new building. McCartney said district money would be better spent constructing a new building for $27 million than renovating the district's current elementary schools for $37 million. "I'm trying to help continue what we've been doing, which is to get the best education possible for our students and get the most from every tax dollar we spend. Broglie agrees putting money into current schools is not the proper course of action. "I think the school board has done a fabulous job the past eight years. They get a poor rap for wanting to build a new school. I believe a new school would be great and it would be great for it to be in Crafton, but people against it kind of swayed the school board to go the other way. "If that doesn't happen because of government cuts, it doesn't happen, but I still don't see pouring money into old schools."
Walkowiak said pursuing the elementary building project would put a 20-year "stranglehold" on financing improvements to the high school. He would like to see the school district develop a strategic plan to address education and facility needs outlined in the feasibility and cost modeling studies. "I don't see a need to focus on a building alone because what goes on within the walls of the building, the programs and the people, are what really set the standards for education. "We know, through the feasibility study, that there are issues with the buildings, not just the elementary schools. It's been 15 years since we've done an upgrade to the high school."
"I'm in support of the community schools. I saw no real benefit of a consolidation and the thought of having of a K-6 elementary school with 800 kids," Tassaro said. "I felt all along finances were going to be an issue and it just seems like with the governor's budget now, some of those folks who were for building and consolidation are finally getting it.' "It's disturbing to me they were not sensitive to all facts prior. They were a little overzealous in promoting consolidation," Tassaro said.
Wilson said the proposed building project is not in the best interest of the school district, as research indicates students benefit from attending small schools. "One of my concerns is that to fund such a thing, you're not going to be able to maintain the same educational programs, the same staff. I really think people are more important. That's only become more true. I don't know what's going to happen but I'm not in favor of the building project." She's also concerned with addressing needs at the high school and maintaining arts, music, and other educational support programs. "Those things, when you don't have money, get a lot harder to do."
-- School director Nyra Schell is unhappy that the balcony has remained closed in the auditorium of Crafton Elementary School. "The balcony issue still has not been addressed," she said at a recent school board meeting. "I am irritated that it has taken this long." Mrs. Schell said the sixth-grade graduation is coming up and it's important to the children to have their graduation in the auditorium.
Superintendent Dr. Michael Panza said the district insurance carrier notified the district that the balcony is not safe. "This is not the first time that we've talked about the balcony at Crafton," Mrs. Schell said. "We were told in December. Then in February we received an email saying that the balcony was closed." One of the options that the board will have to consider is whether they want to redesign the platform of the balcony. The steps of the balcony are too steep and too close to the railing of the balcony.
The safety issue was discovered when L. R. Kimball and Associates walked through Crafton to determine whether to renovate the school or to build a new one. The district's insurance carrier, The Gleason Agency agreed that the balcony was dangerous. The Crafton Borough building inspector said that the steps and the balcony were dangerous but did not cite them as unsafe.
School directors agreed to have the district maintenance foreman John Recchio, a representative from Kimball and Associates, a few board members and the district solicitor meet and discuss the balcony and make recommendations for repairs. Crafton resident Michael Artascos asked the board if the parents could sign a waiver and if the children could use the balcony. Solicitor Janet Burkardt said that the district could still be sued if the parents signed a waiver because the district knew about the danger.
-- Runners may have an extra lane on the high school track under a plan to add a sixth lane. The board unanimously agreed at its recent meeting to modify their requests for proposals for repaving and expanding the track to six lanes. The board will not know what the proposal will cost until the bids are received.
-- Crafton officials are concerned about a garbage dump in the City of Pittsburgh located near the borough's border. President Dan Cindric said dumping began earlier this month at a site on Hall Avenue near Third Street. The borough's public works department took video and photos, which were forwarded to the Allegheny County Health Department. "They made a site visit to the facility and issued a compliance order to the property owner and realty company that manages apartments on the property," Cindric said. "They are to clean up the dump by May 2 or face a fine of $1,000 and every day they do not clean it up after that is a $500 fine." Cindric said the compliance order was filed on April 5 and another truck was observed dumping at the site on April 11. Additional videos and photos were taken and submitted to the Health Department. "Along with it being an eyesore, I made a personal visit there and saw blue bags with writing on it that said soiled linen," which as far as I know, is not household waste. "The Health Department is taking this very seriously. Hopefully, that will be cleaned up. The owners have to not only clean it up but provide verification and receipts that it was all sent to a regulated landfill for disposal." Cindric said vehicles are not traveling through Crafton to reach the dumping site. "It does border property that borders Crafton, so it is of some concern to us."
-- Crafton will hold a "Redd-Up Day" on April 30 starting at 9 a.m. Residents are asked to gather in front of the Crafton Borough Building on Stotz Avenue to receive supplies and be dispatched to clean-up locations. Call 412-921-0572, ext. 10.
-- Crafton Boulevard trees - Cindric said officials should take action to cut down some tree limbs dangerously hanging low above Crafton Boulevard. "We really need to do something with the trees on Crafton Boulevard. They're hanging over the street from the right-of-way." he said. "Some of those trees look like they're going to fall at any point." Cindric said the borough could hire an outside contractor to come in and cut them down so they can be quickly removed. "We could do that before they do cause an accident." Last July, council approved a contract with Olander Tree and Landscape to remove some damaged and brittle Bradford pear trees on Steuben Street that were knocked down during February storms.
-- The Youth Group of St. Matthew's Lutheran Church, East Steuben Street and Lincoln Avenue, will hold a MAYDAY! SOS spaghetti dinner from 3 to 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Cost: $6, $3 for children, free for infants. Takeout available. Proceeds benefit disaster relief. Information: 412-921-1125.
-- Volunteers will meet at 9 a.m. Saturday at the borough building for instructions and directions on how and where to clean up litter and debris for the "Redd-Up Crafton" program. All ages are welcome, although children must be accompanied by an adult. Volunteers should bring rakes and garden gloves. Light snacks will be served. Information: http://www.crafton.org
-- The Ingram Civic Club is offering its annual $1,000 scholarship to a borough student. The scholarship will be awarded to an individual entering the first year of a four-year college, two-year junior college, trade, secretarial or other program, which leads to a certificate or degree. The application deadline is May 2. Scholarship criteria are available at the school guidance offices. Information: 412-458-1543.
* St. Philip
-- Visitors can tour the school and teachers will discuss curriculum during an open house from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday at 52 W. Crafton Ave. There will be displays and presentations of extra curricular activities by the students and free refreshments. A $100 tuition voucher that can be applied at registration will be presented to each new family that attends. Information: 412-928-2742.