Back to school/South: So what's new in as students head back to class?
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School is back in session for a new school year and in many South Hills public school districts that means new faces, programs, curricula and technology. For some, it means new or updated buildings.
Here are some highlights of this new school year, along with key facts -- including tax information -- about each district.
Note that student enrollment figures are still in flux.
Not all districts could provide complete information. For details on a district, contact that district's business office.
Baldwin Borough, Baldwin Township, Whitehall
Buildings: 5 -- 1 high school, 1 middle, 3 elementary
2012-13 budget: $66.18 million; no tax hike; no program cuts
Average tax bill: $3,510
New this year: Randal A. Lutz is the new superintendent and Denise Sedlacek is new assistant superintendent.
Two positions were created and filled: Andrea Huffman, director of curriculum; Darlene DeFilippo, director of programs.
The district replaced Aramark with Tammy Caponi as the new in-house food service director.
Buildings: 8; 1 high school, 2 middle, 5 elementary
2012-13 budget: $73.26 million; tax rate increased from 24.97 mills in 2011-12 to 25.49 in 2012-13; no program cuts
Average tax bill: $3,905
New this year: The district plans to complete the final phase of the high school project. The new high school's 375-space parking lot was finished in time for students' return Tuesday. The adjoining athletic complex with tennis courts, practice fields, softball field and lighting is to be completed by November.
A new McGraw-Hill social studies curriculum is being rolled out for grades K-12. Students in grades 5-12 will participate in a new online career planning program called Naviance.
Buildings: 3; 1 middle/senior high, 2 elementary
Budget: $19.46 million; no tax hikes or program cuts.
Average tax bill: $3,061
New this year: The district is implementing a revised English and Language Arts curriculum for students in grades K-12. Also, the new iSafe program teaches appropriate online behavior.
There will also be menu changes in cafeterias throughout the district to comply with new nutrition standards.
Canonsburg, North Strabane, Cecil
Employees: information unavailable
Buildings: 11; 1 high school, 1 middle school, 2 intermediate schools for fifth and sixth grades, and 7 elementary, K-4
Budget: $62.6 million; tax rate increased by 1.59 mills from 105.41 in 2011 to 107 in 2012. No program cuts.
Average tax bill: information unavailable
New this year: The district added a few more special education classes and replaced teachers who retired or resigned resulting in the hiring of more than 23 teachers.
Extended-day kindergarten has been reinstituted thanks to additional Accountability Block Grant funding.
Teachers are preparing high school students to take three state-required Keystone Exams and have begun teaching the Pennsylvania Common Core State Standards.
District libraries updated the cataloging/resource management system. New Spanish and French textbook series are in place and AP biology texts.
Buildings: 1; Clairton Education Center serves grades K-12
Budget: $14.06 million; tax rate increased by 4 mills from 3.5 in 2011 to 7.5 in 2012. There were no program cuts.
Average tax bill: $1,741
New this year: The district received a four-year grant from the Consortium for Public Education to launch its new After School Teaching and Learning Experience. The program is free for students in grades 5-8 until 6 p.m. every Monday through Thursday. Students are tutored in math and reading, then participate in activities contracted through local vendors, such as hip/hop music production, art, bicycling, conflict resolution, and health, nutrition and wellness. Snacks and dinner are provided.
The district's 486 students started Aug. 27.
Budget: $16.13 million.
Average tax bill: Not available
New this year: Partnership formed with the Duquesne Boys and Girls Club to operate Duquesne's Extended Day program at both the district and the club's offices. The free program is open to Duquesne students starting Monday. It features tutoring, homework help, social and leadership activities. A snack and dinner will be provided. Registration forms are available at district offices or call 412-466-9600, ext. 7020, or 412-466-3626.
Castle Shannon, Dormont and Green Tree
Buildings: 5; 3 elementary, 1 middle, 1 high
Budget: $34.31 million; no tax hike or program cuts
Average tax bill: $2,848
New this year: William P. Stropkaj is new superintendent. Acting superintendent Kathy Foster will resume her role as assistant superintendent and oversee curriculum.
The school board hired Mark Iampietro as new principal at Fred L. Aiken Elementary School, and Eric Brandenburg was hired as the district business manager.
Dravosburg, Versailles, White Oak, McKeesport and South Versailles
Buildings: 6; 1 high, 1 middle, 1 intermediate, 3 elementary
Budget: $55.95 million; tax rate increased from 17.05 mills in 2011 to 17.49 mills in 2012. No programs were cut.
Average tax bill: $9001
New this year: The district completed a renovation project on the Francis McClure Intermediate School.
A new dress code was implemented for all students. Details are on the district's website.
Breakfast prices increased from $0.65 to $0.75 and lunch prices increased from $1.05 to $1.15, elementary; and $1.15 to $1.25, secondary.
The new PLATO online learning software was launched for students in grades K-12. In addition, K-6 students have a new math curriculum; wireless Internet is available in all district buildings.
Buildings: 10; 1 high, 2 middle, 7 elementary
Budget: $80.58 million; tax rate increased from 26.63 mills in 2011 to 27.13 mills in 2012. No programs were cut.
Average tax bill: $5,579
New this year: Students at all schools are building floats for the Mt. Lebanon Centennial Parade at 3 p.m. Saturday.
Work continues on the high school project.
New principals this year are: Marybeth Irvin, Lincoln Elementary; Jason Ramsey, Foster Elementary; Erin Wright, unit principal at the high school; Jeffrey Zeiders, assistant principal at Jefferson Middle.
The district implemented new arrival and dismissal times for elementary schools. School days now start at 8:30 a.m. Lunch /recess is from noon to 1 p.m., and the elementary school day will end at 3:30 p.m.
Buildings: 5; 1 high, 1 middle; 3 elementary
Budget: $50.87 million; tax rate increased from 96.51 mills in 2011 to 100.3 mills in 2012. No programs were cut.
Average tax bill: $3,272
New this year: The high school pilots Bring Your Own Device technology initiative: Students are permitted to use their own technology in the classroom.
The high school now aligns curricula to the new Pennsylvania Common Core Standards and prepare students for the subject area Keystone Exams. Additionally, several courses have been added that support the STEM initiative (Honors Organic Chemistry, Agile Robotics II), and the district will be working to develop more (Honors Linear Algebra and additional engineering courses).
Vince Belczyk is new business manager; Mara Linaberger, director of staff development; and Patricia Kelly, director of special education.
Two new iPad mobile labs have been purchased for McMurray Elementary.
Valedictorian and graduates of distinction classifications have been eliminated at the high school this year. Instead, students will be recognized for academic achievement with the distinctions of cum laude, magna cum laude, summa cum laude, and PT scholar.
The class of 2014 will be the first to take Keystone Exams in place of the PSSA exams.
South Fayette. McDonald, Cecil, parts of Bridgeville, Morgan, Cuddy, Presto, Oakdale
Buildings: 6; 1 high, 2 middle, 3 elementary
Budget: $37.5 million. Tax rate increased from 27.83 mills in 2011 to 28.82 mills in 2012. No program cuts.
Average tax bill: $3,892
New this year: A new intermediate elementary building for grades 3, 4 and 5 is targeted for completion by August 2013.
Enrollment is up by 108 students. To accommodate the influx, the district hired 5.5 new teachers and one contingent teacher at the elementary level.
The district has implemented a new digital atlas system; there is a new reading series in the elementary; a pre-AP initiative has been launched in the middle schools and new mathematical concepts are being introduced throughout the district.
The Robot Diaries program is continuing as part of the district's higher education partnership with Carnegie Mellon University as is the Project Based Learning Initiative that provides students with real world experiences in partnership with businesses.
Website: The district launched a newly designed website: www.southfayette.org
Homestead, Munhall and West Homestead
Buildings: 5; 1 high, 1 middle, 3 elementary
Budget: $25.69 million. No tax hikes or program cuts.
Average tax bill: $1,062
New this year: The district has been awarded a Keystones to Opportunity Grant of $600,000 a year for five years. It will be used to improve literacy and Head Start programs by establishing computer lab and literacy tutors in elementary schools, buying more projectors, whiteboards and new software, and providing professional development training. With the state enacting new requirements for literacy plans, the grant will also help underwrite the district's cost of a comprehensive plan.
The district recalled three teachers from the furlough list and welcomed two new administrators: Lauren Baughman, principal at Park Elementary, and Jill Fleming-Salopek, assistant principal at the high school.
Buildings: 6; 1 high, 2 middle, 3 elementary
Budget: $61.77 million; tax rates increased from 24.1 mills in 2011 to 25.718 in 2012. No programs were cut.
Average tax bill: $6,341
New this year: Breakfast prices increased from $1.10 to $1.20, elementary; and $1.20 to $1.30, secondary. Lunch prices increased from $1.85 to $2.05, elementary; and $2.10 to $2.30, secondary.
The curriculum has been realigned districtwide for all grades with Pennsylvania Common Core Standards; an Internet safety/cyber-bullying prevention curriculum has been implemented.
The high school is piloting the Leadership Academy Phase III and a one-week STEM summer academy for grades 9-12. The middle schools adopted the Cognitive Tutor Algebra 1 course for eighth-graders and will continue textual evaluations for grades 5-8. Elementary schools adopted enVision and Investigations math programs and will adopt or pilot new ASSET science units.
Sharon Suritsky is new assistant superintendent; Melissa Garvin, supervisor of special education; Patrick McClintock-Comeaux, principal at Baker Elementary; John Rozzo is academic principal, and Amy Pfender, assistant principal, for Boyce and Fort Couch middle schools; Lou Angelo, associate principal, and Christine Mussomeli, assistant principal, at the high school.
Two district office positions, director of human resources and director of operations, community relations and special projects; and one building level position, director of high school guidance, have been eliminated.
Jefferson, Pleasant Hills and West Elizabeth
Buildings: 5; 1 high; 1 middle; 3 elementary
Budget: $37.81 million; no tax hikes or program cuts
Average tax bill: $2,762
New this year: Christopher Very is new principal at Jefferson Elementary. Ten new faculty members have been hired.
The Move Up Day Mentoring Program is being established at the high school. Senior mentors will facilitate the transition of the Class of 2016 to the high school.
Middle school classes will focus on ancestry, studying how they are influenced by family, heritage, traditions and values. Twelve whiteboards and projectors will be installed in reading and language arts classrooms, and The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, a districtwide initiative, will be implemented.
Treasures, a new reading series aligned with Pennsylvania Academic Standards and the National Common Core Standards for students in grades K-5, will be introduced at Gill Hall Elementary.
McClellan Elementary is emphasizing positive behavior by rewarding students "caught" doing something "good."
There are new school lane restrictions at McClellan. Traffic is restricted on School Lane between 8 a.m. and 8:20 a.m. and again from 3:05 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on school days. Parents will be permitted to park in the school parking lot for the 3:10 p.m. dismissal.
This year, fifth-graders at Jefferson Elementary can enroll in programs provided by the teachers of special areas during lunchtime recess, such as physical education, art, music and library.
The district has updated curriculum and is preparing to conclude its comprehensive plan and long-range facilities review.
West Mifflin and Whitaker
Buildings: 5; 1 high, 1 middle, 3 elementary
Budget: $44.92 million. No tax hikes or program cuts
Average tax bill: $2,318
New this year: The district was re-configured after the closing of New England Elementary. Remaining elementary schools are now pre-K-3, and the middle school is grades 4-8. To accommodate, there are now staggered starts to the school day. Grades 4-5 start at 8:50 a.m. and end at the same time as the elementary. Grades 6-8 start at 7:50 a.m. and end on normal middle school schedule.
A broker has been hired to sell the New England building.
New baseball and softball complex is complete.
-- Compiled by Shannon Nass
First Published September 6, 2012 5:19 am