School board covers myriad of topics

By: 
Amy Cherry
Staff Writer

During Tuesday evening’s St. Marys Area School District Board of School Directors meeting,
St. Marys Area Middle School Principal Noel Petrosky presented information about re-vamping two of of the district’s plans involving new teachers.
Those include the teacher induction plan and the differentiated supervision plan. Petrosky took on updating the plans as part of her studies in Gannon University’s superintendent program.
Petrosky said she focused on curriculum and instruction, two subjects she is passionate about in the education field.
She noted while the district has been working hard on curriculum, they have also developed a comprehensive hiring policy and must work to ensure new teachers receive the support they need.
The district’s former induction plan was a one-year plan, however the new plan is for three years.
In Pennsylvania, teachers acquire tenure by teaching in the same school district for three years. Teachers are only required to achieve tenure once in Pennsylvania. After that, teachers hold that status in all Pennsylvania school districts.
Tenure provides protection from terminations and layoffs. State law mandates tenured teachers may only be fired when due process is followed, and a case is built against them. They may only be dismissed by a school district’s board and not by administrative staff.
Petrosky compiled an array of videos walking new teachers through various aspects of the job, including how to navigate the student management system, how to create an individualized education plan, as well as providing quick access to paperwork such as field trip forms, reimbursement forms, vacation/day-off requests and more.
Every new teacher will receive a workbook to use for all three years as they progress through the induction plan.
According to Petrosky, Gannon is interested in creating a course based on her induction plan information. It will likely be a one credit course.
Additionally, within the SMASD all new teachers are provided with a mentor, which is a fellow teacher.
“This gives us a chance to further support teachers in those first three years,” said Superintendent Brian Toth.
This year there will be four teachers in the induction phase.
Eric Wonderling, president of the SMASD board of directors, said he appreciates the special education piece of Petrosky’s plan.
The district’s differentiated supervision plan involves three models including intensive, growth, and reflection.
The board will vote on the plans during their Aug. 13 school board meeting.
During superintendent comments, Toth said board members received a letter from the Pennsylvania Senate regarding lead testing within the district’s school buildings.
Toth stated district administrators recently participated in a webinar about the Every Student Succeeds Act, signed into law in 2015, noting much of the act is taking on guidelines under the former No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 which the ESSA replaced.
According to Toth, 40 percent of the state’s school districts will have to create a plan, however, he said funding issues for the districts to do so have not been addressed.
Wonderling noted the numerous personnel changes made within the last eight weeks including resignations, transfers, and the hire of a new school psychologist.
It was also noted that freshman class schedules will be available during Thursday’s orientation. Upper classmen schedules should arrive in the mail by the end of the week, according to SMAHS Principal Joe Schlimm.
During the Aug. 13 school board meeting, Julie Boyer and Mary Kay Candalor are presenting information on STAR data, a program use to support the teacher evaluation process.
Also on the meeting agenda is a legal update from the school district’s solicitor Rick Brown, discussion of various business affairs and typical back to school items.

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