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North Allegheny

The board accepted the retirements Feb. 27 of 31 employees -- 28 of them teachers -- with a combined 835 years of service. Some of the teachers have more than 40 years of experience.

The district is in the middle of a three-year early retirement incentive to reduce personnel costs. Staffing decreased by nearly 48 full-time equivalent employees as of January. Most of the newest retirees will be replaced, administrators said.

• The school board held a public hearing Jan. 30 on the proposal to close Peebles Elementary School, and can vote on the proposal after April 30. Elementary parents, in the meantime, continue to lobby the board to keep all seven elementary schools open.

"I implore you to rethink this entire process," said Inez Duchi, noting that the gap between revenues and expenditures in the proposed 2013-14 budget is less than $1 million. "Closing Peebles is a drop of water in a real ocean."

Mrs. Duchi said that any redistricting proposals, which are scheduled to be revealed March 20, will not leave parents with enough time to adjust.

"Our children and parents need planning time. Children with special needs need time for transition," she said. "Children are resilient but special needs children, especially, need more time for transition."

Allison Minton, parent of a second-grader at McKnight Elementary School, said that closing a well-loved, high-performing school "should always be a last resort. "There are many, many precious little lives in your hands as you make these decisions. Our children are not data points on a chart. Please make these decisions with your eyes wide open."

Laurie Nelson, a mortgage broker in a real estate office, said she does not see enrollment declining in the future, citing seven new housing plans that are planned, mostly in Franklin Park and Marshall. In one plan, there will be nine elementary-age children moving into the six homes that have been pre-sold, she said.

Existing homes are also turning over to young families, she said. "There is a huge demand for homes right now. Sales were up 33 percent here in 2012."

n The school board is accepting applications from residents interesting in filling the seat vacated by the resignation last month of Beth Ludwig. Applications are available on the district's Website, and will be accepted through March 14. Candidates will be interviewed after the March 20 board meeting.

Quaker Valley

The school board has received the D. Richard Wynn Distinguished School Board Award from the Tri-State Area School Study Council at the University of Pittsburgh.

The award, initiated during the 1988-89 school year, recognizes the board's accomplishments during the 2010-11 and 2011-12 school years.

"Our Quaker Valley community is fortunate to have such extraordinary leaders and visionaries among its school board," superintendent Joseph H. Clapper said. "They continually make decisions -- both short and long term -- based on the best interests of our students."

The award was based on the board during the last two years expanding curricular and career exploration and co-curricular opportunities for students; completing the middle school renovation; addressing safety and security issues; and maintaining its fiscal responsibility through long-term budget planning and revenue development.

• The district is creating a parent guide to elementary curriculum. Still in draft form, the guide should be ready by the end of the year, according to Jillian Bichsel, director of academic services.

The curriculum guide will be a "comprehensive package of what our students are learning while they are with us in elementary school," she said.

Teachers and administrators have been focusing on curriculum mapping -- putting curriculum into a system that identifies what the content is that should be taught to students and how it will be assessed, Ms. Bichsel added.

With the curriculum guide, teachers will identify subjects such as math, language arts, social studies, science, and even art and music, and then list the skills that students should be able to do in that content area.

"It is a road map for what is taught in each subject area, in each grade level," Ms. Bichsel said.

"It is such an essential piece," said Quaker Valley school board member Kausalai Wijekumar. "I think it's phenomenal."

According to Ms. Bichsel, a lot of the curriculum work that Quaker Valley teachers and administrators have been doing came about because of feedback from parent focus groups. There was an interest in wanting to see what the students were learning in elementary school beyond the typical one-page brochure that is often provided to parents of elementary-aged children.

Ms. Bichsel believes that many parents will appreciate seeing the skills listed with such specificity. "It's very detailed for parents," she said.

"It was important for us to listen to those parents and respond with the work that's been done."

Sewickley Academy

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl will present the Green Champion Award to senior Amy Kolor and a group of students from other local high schools today as part of a group honor of being Pittsburgh "champions" of environmental sustainability for their work regarding water conservation.

Shaler Area

Superintendent Wesley Shipley used the phrase "insignificant progress" to describe the negotiating session with the teachers' union last Thursday.

While some progress was made on the language of minor tentative agreements made at an earlier mediation session held in January, the outstanding issues of health benefits, salaries and working conditions remain in dispute, Mr. Shipley said.

"The signs of communication remain open," he said. "We're still working on the process and making slow progress."

The latest negotiation session took place with a mediator facilitating communications between the teachers' union, district administrators and a school board member.

Domenic Donovan, school board vice president, attended the session along with Mr. Shipley, Charles Bennett, director of business services, and Gary Mignogna, director of human resources.

Shaler Area Education Association was represented by president Melissa Ravas, high school math teacher; Shauna Hunt, counselor at Rogers and Burchfield primary schools; Nancy Kraft, elementary math and science teacher; Dante Orsini, high school math; and Holly Sabino, high school math teacher. Mrs. Ravas did not return calls requesting a comment on the session.

The next sessions will be Monday and Tuesday.

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