Number of students in classroom raises concern for Hegins-Hubley parent

By Rebecca Zemencik, Managing Editor •

HEGINS – Tri-Valley School Board Directors gathered for a committee of the whole meeting prior to the regular board meeting last Wednesday evening.
During the committee meeting, Superintendent Dr. Mark Snyder said the district will be sharing a social worker with Schuylkill Haven this year. He said in the past the district shared the spot with North Schuylkill, however they weren’t interested this year.
Tri-Valley will pay .7% of the salary while Schuylkill Haven will pay .3%.
Director Diane Dietrich questioned the percentage. She was under the impression that Tri-Valley paid .6% in the past and that was the figure agreed upon in the budget.
Snyder said the position is a full-time position in the district and .7% is what was budgeted for Tri-Valley this year.

“I was just concerned that this would be additional cost to the district since we were concerned about extra curricular positions such as with the elementary band position,” said Dietrich.
Currently there are two openings for extra curricular positions which include high school newspaper advisor and drama club advisor.
Dr. Snyder said it’s not mandatory that the positions be filled by faculty he said they can be people from the public. He said the drama club advisor position has been advertised.
Also during the committee meeting, Director Carl D. Shankweiler said he was approached by a constituent why the winners of the DK Schwartz award, which is one male and one female scholar athlete per year, aren’t given a lifetime pass to Tri-Valley sporting events.
DK Schwartz was the superintendent of the district in the 1950’s. Each year two students are recognized and an awarded given in May.
The board plans to discuss it at next month’s meeting and put it on the agenda for a vote to award the lifetime passes.
During the regular meeting of the board, Mandi Lucht, a district employee, addressed the board of directors as a parent.
“My concern is the number of students being put into a single classroom at Hegins-Hubley. Currently in third grade at Mahantongo there are 13 students, while Hegins-Hubley has 51 (25 and 26 per class); fourth grade, Mahantongo, 19 students and 59 at Hegins-Hubley (29 and 30) and sixth grade has 16 at Mahantongo and 46 at Hegins-Hubley (23 in each),” said Lucht.
“There are still two and a half weeks before school begins so the possibility of other students moving in yet is very high,” continued Lucht, as she read from a prepared statement. “This problem is not going away either. Two weeks ago I was told there are 65 first graders at Hegins-Hubley so when that first grade class gets to third grade there will be more than 30 kids per class.
The classes are heterogeneously mixed. You have your advanced/higher level kids, you have your on level/proficient (average) kids and you have kids below grade level and some with individual education programs (IEP’s) which require much attention in the learning process. Your average per classroom in upper grades with IEP’s alone is about six students. The students in your average range will not get the attention needed by a student teacher ratio of 30:1. Packing this many students into a single classroom is not educationally equal. I know our teachers do the very best they can to make sure each child in their classroom gets what they need. But more and more continue to be added with no help for these kids.
Two years ago many people expressed their concerns and emotions to keep Mahantongo open. They called board members and came to meetings. Those board members listened to their constituents and Mahantongo was fought to stay open. Now we are in a huge predicament at Hegins-Hubley shoving 28, 29, and 30 kids into a room, so I ask who is sticking up for them?
I have nieces in Mahantongo, I have close friends who have children in that building and I have great colleagues that teach in that building and I am glad for them all to be able to continue their education and teaching careers there. There is a lot of tradition and emotion in that building and I certainly get that, however the problem of putting 28, 29, and 30 kids into a classroom at Hegins-Hubley is not right. It’s just not right.
Please I ask that you take a close look at this problem. Thank you for your time.”
Also addressing the board was Micah Ulicny, a junior at Tri-Valley High School. Ulicny was seeking the boards approval for his plan to construct an inclusive playground and sensory garden for the special education department in the courtyard of the Hegins-Hubley Elementary School.
Ulicny is working on the project as his Boy Scouts of America Eagle Project. He presented a slide show depicting his plans, the equipment needed, and cost. He has a list of playground equipment that he would like to purchase for the project along with the costs. He told the board he is planning on writing many grant applications and is hoping to fund the project through various grants which he listed in his presentation.
He is estimating the cost of the project to be at least $10,000. If the grants are awarded, he would like to begin work at the site by next spring.
The board approved his preliminary plans and wished him well on the project.
Mrs. Gretchen Dingman, high school agriculture teacher, also addressed the board. Tri-Valley’s Agricultural Science program was named as the outstanding secondary agriculture education program (for the entire state) by the Pennsylvania Association of Agricultural Education.
Dingman also notified the board that Tri-Valley has been awarded a $10,000 grant from Monsanto’s “America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education” program. The funds will be used to purchase an aquaponics system and associated training and curriculum.
“We are hoping to grow some hydroponic vegetables that can be used in the cafeteria or the community,” said Dingman.
Dingman also highlighted some of Tri-Valley FFA members accomplishments at the Schuylkill County Fair held earlier this month.
The following action was approved by the board:
• Increase the daily substitute rate to $90 per day beginning in the 2016-17 school year. This enables the district to be competitive with surrounding districts.
• The following were appointed as susbtitute aides at a rate of $9 per hour, effective the start of the 2016-17 school year: Beth Bowman and Michele Cupsta.
• Matthew Wetzel was appointed as substitute custodian at a rate of $9 per hour, pending receipt of clearances.
• Accept the resignation of Dr. Naomi Scearce as school physician for the 2016-17 school year.

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