Former member returns to North Hills school board

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The North Hills school board is up to full strength again — and it's a familiar face.

Directors voted last Thursday to appoint former member Tom Kelly to the seat vacated when Tom Baker was elected to Allegheny County Council.

“I want to assure the staff and residents that I’ve always tried to move the district forward, yet keep it within our financial means and I certainly want to continue to do that,” he said.

Voting for Mr. Kelly, who had served on the board for eight years but was defeated in the May 2013 primary election, were Jeff Meyer, Annette Giovengo Nolish, Lou Nudi, Mike Yeomans and President Ed Wielgus.

Arlene Bender, Joe Muha and Kathy Reid abstained, saying that the board should choose one of the three unsuccessful candidates from the November election — all of whom applied for the open seat.

Mr. Kelly will serve until December 2015. The seat will be on the ballot for the May 2015 primary election.

He said that school directors make decisions that please some and displease others, but their decisions “need to be based on what is best for the vast majority. I've always tried to do that and I intend to continue to do that.”

In other action, the board approved the 2014-15 school calendar. Students will start on Aug. 26 and end on June 4. Winter break will run from Dec. 24 through Jan. 2 and spring break from April 1-6. Snow makeup days will be Feb. 16, April 1 and 2.

The board also approved a subscription to BoardDocs, a service for paperless government documents. Cost is a startup fee of $1,000 and an annual subscription cost of $8,000.

The district’s current paperless software is outdated.

A contract with Ross police for traffic and other duties was approved. Off-duty officers who help with district functions will be paid $62.82 an hour — double the normal hourly rate. The district also has a contract with West View police.

And, superintendent Patrick Mannarino urged residents to write to their state legislators to oppose Senate Bill 1085, which purports to reform charter and cyber charter schools but instead will remove local government control and accountability, he said.

Mr. Mannarino said the bill will allow charter schools to be paid directly by the state for each student from the subsidies slated for public school districts. Currently, each district pays the charter schools for the tuition for resident students, $1 million a year in North Hills. But, “the invoices the district receives are frequently inaccurate,” he said and, if the state pays the invoices directly, the schools will receive more funds than they should.

The bill also changes a charter school's renewal term from five years to 10 years and allows them to assess student achievement using different tests than regular public schools, he said.

Mr. Mannarino noted that students in charter schools do not perform as well on state assessment tests as those who attend public school.

Mr. Wielgus said he does not have a problem with the existence of charter schools, but “all we ask is just for a level playing field, that charter schools ... are treated like we are and regulated like we are.”

Sandy Trozzo, freelance writer:

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