North Allegheny searches for ways to cut costs

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Administrators in the North Allegheny School District are searching for ways to close the projected $5.8 million gap in the 2013-14 budget.

Superintendent Raymond Gualtieri told board members Jan. 23 that administrators are looking at a higher pupil-teacher ratio in elementary music, which costs $750,000 a year. They also are studying ways to deliver the student assistance program at less cost. That program costs nearly $400,000 a year, he said.

The district is looking at the budget with and without Peebles Elementary School, which the administration has proposed closing. The closing would save $1.2 million a year, according to the district.

He also said that eliminating kindergarten would save $1.25 million a year but that "would not be high on the list of priorities." One board member had suggested eliminating kindergarten to save money because kindergarten is not required by the state.

Board member Beth Ludwig asked Mr. Gualtieri to see what other districts are doing to cut costs, saying she preferred not to make cuts "in isolation."

"We've made some intelligent cuts in the past," she said. "I don't want to slash and burn."

Mr. Gualtieri said one school district cut high school business courses. Another eliminated physical education for high school students who play a sport and another cut art.

In other business, the board unanimously accepted the annual report of the North Allegheny Foundation, which raised $62,000 for elementary technology last year.

Parent Heidi Bodak told the board she is concerned about the lack of security at McKnight Elementary because a wall and door prevent the office staff from seeing visitors "until you are three steps away from them."

She said the office staff has never asked her or her husband for identification. She said she sent her husband to the school one day to pick up something up in the Parent-Faculty Association room, which is beyond the cafeteria.

"He wandered the halls. No one seemed to care that he was there," she said. "He was able to leave through cafeteria doors that were propped open. He could have left with someone and no one would have known."

Mr. Gualtieri said he met last week with the police chiefs of McCandless, Marshall and Franklin Park to discuss school security. "They came up with ideas. We brainstormed for hours," he said.

He said he will make recommendations for security to the board in the next few months.

According to the district's website, all schools will conduct lockdown drills with staff and students this week. Visitors who are in the buildings at the time will be expected to participate.

The process started after the Dec. 14 shootings at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.

education - neigh_north

Sandy Trozzo, freelance writer:


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