Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Wellsville Board of Education Special Meeting

Friday – April 1: After the birthday party for the high school there was a Special Board of Education meeting with three items on the agenda. The meeting was held in the high school Conference Room. Present at the meeting was Board President Tom Brophey and Board members Karen Dash & Bill Miller. Also attending was School District Treasurer Coleen Wickham and Superintendent Rich Bereschik. The three items covered and passed unanimously were a new contract for the Wellsville Teachers Association (WTA), renovation of the Nicholson Stadium grandstand and purchase of a piece of the old Sterling China property.

Effective next September, with the start of the new school year, the WTA will get a 2% raise in salary every year for the next three years. In return the WTA have agreed to a change in platform for health insurance coverage. Starting in September Wellsville School District (WSD) employees share for insurance will double along with other changes in Emergency Room usage and hospital stays. The annual deductible will remain at 0%. There will also be a flexible account established which will allow employees to take ownership of costs and make good decisions that will save them and the district money according to the Superintendent. Flexible accounts are similar to savings accounts which the employee can decide to set aside money to be used for future medical costs. Until next fall the WTA will continue under the current contract.

Bereschik noted that insurance costs were strangling the district financially. At the beginning of the school year officials were told that insurance costs would increase 27%. That was negotiated down to 19% by shopping around with different carriers. WSD insurance is with Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield and the new policy will still be with that company. The current policy is the “Cadillac” of policies with some items no longer available.

The negotiated changes in the insurance platform is considered a “major step” which is estimated to financially allow the district to stay solvent until at least 2015. Bereschik thanked the WTA for their cooperation in agreeing to changes in the insurance issues. Both the Superintendent and Mrs. Dash agreed that insurance was the biggest issue in negotiating this contract.

Bereschik noted that the teachers deserved a raise, stating the WSD teachers are some of the lowest paid in the area. With a Bachelor's degree, Wellsville teachers start out around $26,000 per year. Salaries range from that amount to a maximum of approximately $55,000 a year. After five years or 150 hours teachers move to a different pay scale. Teachers that earn a Masters Degree are placed on a higher pay scale. It takes 13 years to reach the top of the pay scale. Bereschik said that school officials are very satisfied with the new contract and feel it was an equitable settlement. Mrs. Dash added that the teachers are the back bone of the WSD. Retired teacher and former BOE member Mrs. Marge Dysert remarked that salaries and benefits have come a long way over the years. When she retired from teaching she was earning $22,000 a year.

WTA President Darlene Allison did not call when asked for a comment.

A $16,000 contract was given to A&I Architecture & Interiors Studio for engineering to replace the east side grandstands. A&I is located in East Liverpool. The approved contract was retroactive back to March 24. The east side grandstands were recently demolished after being declared unsafe last fall. Workers from FDR's WPA program started building the grandstands in Nicholson Stadium in 1935 and were first used by Wellsville football fans in 1936 for the annual Turkey Bowl, when the Bengals hosted East Liverpool for the Thanksgiving Day tradition. Grandstands on each side of the field had a seating capacity of 2,040.

The western side grandstands were demolished in 1995 and replaced with the aluminum bleachers that are in place today. Through the efforts of the late Jerome Gitschier repairs were made to save the eastern side stands. Gitschier was a WHS alumni and former board member for the WSD. He was also the father of Mrs. Karen Dash. With his determination, and that of a corp of volunteer workers, the historic stands on that side of the field lasted another 15 years.

Bereschik stated stands similar to the western side ones with a seating capacity of 800 to 850 is planned to replace the old concrete ones. The cost of the recent demolition was $7,000 less than what it cost in 1995. School officials are anticipating that the cost for the new stands will be close to what was paid in 1995 with the reduced seating capacity. It is expected to have the new stands erected in time for the opening home football game next August. That game will be the “WTOV game of the week” versus Toronto. Once engineering specifications are finalized bids will be advertised for the purchase and installation of the new stands. Test borings were scheduled for this past Monday.

The final item on the agenda was the approval to purchase a parcel of the old Sterling China land directly behind the high school pictured above. An agreement has been reached with Landmark Realty of Youngstown and once the survey and title search is completed the deal will be closed.

That parcel is estimated to be nearly two acres with a 30X60 metal building. The property is entirely fenced in and the open ground is mostly covered with gravel under all those weeds. When the new high school was being constructed WSD rented that building for storage and paid for the fencing around the lot. Although looking rough in appearance any repairs needed is mostly cosmetic. There are a few roof panels that need replaced and painting to be done but basically the building is in good condition. Included in that parcel of land is an outdoor, black topped basketball court.

Originally it was planned to construct a new building for equipment storage and maintenance on school vehicles. When the Sterling property first went on the auction block WSD bid $20,000 for that piece of property before pulling out of the bidding. Today's agreed upon price is $20,000.

Before closing the meeting it was emphasized that the funds for both Nicholson Stadium and the parcel of land will come out of the Capitol Improvement, General Set-asides Fund. No money from the General Fund will be spent on these expenditures.

The meeting was adjourned at 1:13 PM. The next regularly scheduled Board of Education meeting is Monday, April 18 at 6:30 PM. The meeting will be held in the Superintendent's Office at 929 Center St.

ole nib


Anonymous said...

Are they going to fix the track at the football field? If Wellsville can't provide adequate facilities on which to practice, we should seriously consider consolidation.

************* said...

We were told last year that they are in search of grant money to do that and, as you know, there's not much grant money available in this recession. If anything the grant situation has gotten worse since then. A year ago we asked why there was never any home meets for track.

We've also been told by some school officials that they believe consolidation of school districts is the long range goal of some our state legislators. There are many financial benefits in favor of that argument. You've have just added another one.


Anonymous said...

Nib, what about the $3,000,000 plus in the bank? If the school/ community can't help provide good, wholesome activities for the children then what good are they? What about town hall dances or soc hops at McDonald School? What about the recreation time provided when the school system opened the gym for the kids to have a safe place to enjoy themselves? What about the Jim Kenney Community Center? We can find grant money for police officers in schools, but none to provide a safe alternative for the kids? Preventative maintenance saves money!

************* said...

We weren't able to make the March regular meeting so we don't have the latest financial report. However, that "$3,000,000 plus in the bank" you mention is a total of 35 different funds. Out of that, at the end of January, $1.8 million was in the General Fund that can't be used for track improvements. Believe the Gen. Fund is used mostly for salaries. Another $271 thousand is in a Scholarship Fund and $266 thousand in Capital Maintenance. By law there are 33 different funds for WSD that can not be used for anything other than that which they are intended. In other words the BOE is restricted for what they spend money on.

When checking out the home meets for track we were told that they were going for a "Cadillac" in getting a new track surface - something similar to Astro turf, etc, with all the bells & whistles. It was estimated to be in the range of $1 million alone. Back in my day cinders on a graded track was the standard for most schools.

Being on the conservative side ourselves we have much respect for the BOE and their spending habits. They look down the road, into the future before spending the big bucks. In light of the Governor's cut backs it is an extremely necessary thing to do. Who can really say what the future holds and be 100% certain? Survival of a top notch education system for our children has to be the foremost consideration.


************* said...

You mentioned MacDonald. It is now private property. There is no Towne Hall. It is now a preschool. In fact there is not a whole lot in town in the way of really big banquet facilities and kids shunned the Kenney Center when they tried to provide activities for our children. The same thing probably happened with planned activities on school property. After the newness wears off most kids these days would rather stay home in front of the brain numbing television or play video games, etc.

Lastly, we believe that "grant money" used for a police officer is being funded by the stimulus money which has to be used, by law, by the end of the year.

Using sound, legal economics what solution would you suggest?