North Hills to appoint board member

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The North Hills school board is expected tonight  to appoint a new member, adopt a calendar for 2014-15 and subscribe to new technology for its paperless meetings.

Eight residents applied for the seat vacated by Tom Baker’s resignation, and seven were interviewed with the board on Jan. 6.

“All were very well spoken and everybody brought a number of good resources and points to the discussion,” said board President Ed Wielgus.

Mr. Wielgus said he believes the front-runners are former members Timothy F. Burnett, who did not run for re-election last year, and Thomas L. Kelly, who lost his bid for re-election last May.

But board member Kathy Reid said the board should appoint Helen "Dee" Spade, who came in fifth in November’s election, losing by 32 votes.

“Who am I to appoint somebody when we just had an election and the constituents have spoken,” Mrs. Reid said. “We should have gone to the next in line on the ballot.”

Resident Chris Nolan also questioned why the board wouldn’t appoint Ms. Spade since “the public votes for the board.”

Mr. Wielgus said that, although the board is required by law to make the choice, there is nothing in the law that “suggests that any school board has to follow the election results.”

The other candidates are Patricia Coyle, Matthew "Butch" Edlinger, Jason Pirring and Sharon A. Schrim.

The proposed school calendar is very similar to this year, said superintendent Patrick Mannarino. Students will start on Aug. 26, and end with a half day on June 4. Commencement is scheduled for June 5. Christmas break will be from Dec. 24, through Jan. 2. and the snow makeup days will be Feb. 16 and April 1, 2 and 6.

The board is also being asked to vote on a subscription to BoardDocs, an iPad-based system that will update its “paperless” board meetings. The current software is no longer supported by Microsoft.

The district will purchase the subscription through the Allegheny Intermediate Unit for $8,000, a fraction of the cost to bring the current board laptops up to date, Mr. Mannarino said.

In a related discussion, new board member Mike Yeomans asked why they are allowed to bill the district for their home Internet access.

“I can’t see the justification for taxpayers to pay for home Internet,” he said. “If we weren’t serving on the board, we would all have home Internet access.”

But Arlene Bender said she had to purchase a computer when the board went paperless; Ms. Reid says she spends more each month on paper and ink to print board documents than she spends on Internet access.

“It is beneficial for the members to have the service,” Mr. Wielgus said. “Obviously, this is not a paid position. It is an important tool and cost isn’t all that much in the grand scheme of things.”

The board took action on one item Thursday, voting 8-0 to increase ticket prices for the winter musical. The new prices will be $5 for adults and $3 for students. Previous prices were $3 for adults and $2 for students.

This year’s musical, “The Wizard of Oz,” will open Jan. 30.

Sandy Trozzo:

Correction (January 17, 2014): Board member Kathy Reid made a comment about the cost of paper and ink vs. Internet access. An earlier version of the story incorrectly attributed the statement.

Sandy Trozzo, freelance writer:

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