Peters school board criticized for spending on band

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Peters school board members got an earful Monday night from a resident who criticized them for spending $2,514 for high school band camp while at the same time raising property taxes by more than 5 mills.

“What kind of fiscal responsibility is that?” asked resident Robert Speshock. 

“The band is an important part of district morale,” said superintendent Jeannine French, who said booster groups and students pay much more for students to attend the summer camp at California University of Pennsylvania.

The district’s share of the expenses was for required items, such as an on-site nurse and related obligations.

“We would still incur those expenses if the band camp was here,” Ms. French said.  “Cost was not an issue.”

But Mr. Speshock said he was bewildered that the district continued discretionary spending while the average township homeowner earns about $141,000 per year.

“We’ve all got to live by a budget,” he said.  “If you’re making $141,000 per year, you shouldn’t come to the school board for help.”

Mr. Speshock was critical of band members who came to the June 30 meeting wearing their red band shirts, asking  -- he thought -- for money from the board.

But band members who attended said they were there to support the board’s unanimous decision to appoint Jeremy Olisar as the marching band director with Leslie Chabala as assistant. The board also voted to spend $68,375 for new band uniforms during that meeting.

“It’s a mischaracterization,” said board member Jamison Hardy of Mr. Speshock’s accusation regarding band members.  “Your information is wrong.  They weren’t here for the money.”

“Any money given to groups goes through the budget process,” said board member Thomas McMurray.  “Just because someone comes here doesn’t mean they got it.”

During the process to approve the $56.5 million budget for next year, which raised tax rates to 107.142 mills, no member of the public spoke at budget workshops or when the board voted to raise taxes.

The board heard a friendlier message from high school Spanish teacher Dulce Miller, who said teacher morale was at an all-time high due to leadership from Ms. French.

“It was very exciting,” said Ms. Miller about Monday, teachers first day back to school.  Students are expected to return next week.  “We have never felt like today before.  We cannot wait to come back the next day.”

The board unanimously approved Jason Marvin as assistant high school principal at a pay rate of $82,000 per year.  Mr. Marvin will be replacing former assistant principal Emily Sanders, who accepted a position last month as information technology director at New Castle School District.

Mr. Marvin is assistant high school principal at Ringgold High School, where he has served for five years.  Prior to that, Mr. Marvin worked as special education teacher for four years in the Brownsville Area School District.

Board members also voted unanimously to dissolve the district’s Sports Programs and Activities Committee.  Created two years ago, the committee was tasked with overseeing the creation of bylaws for the dozens of district booster groups.  All of the groups have submitted bylaws that comply with changes in district policy and state law, chairwoman Lynn Erenberg said.

Janice Crompton: jcrompton@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1159.


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