Board approves voting plan
Kiski Area School Board voted on two controversial issues Monday night: how to reconfigure voting districts so residents are evenly represented and whether to renovate a legendary high school football field or build a new one.
In the first matter, the school directors voted 6-3 Monday night to approve a new plan to balance the populations of the district’s voting regions by the 2005 election.
Census data from 2000 indicate Kiski Area’s regions aren’t equal. Regions I and II both have about 40 percent of the district’s population. Region III has 21 percent.
The three current regions are:
A realignment plan submitted to Westmoreland County Court in February was rescinded after five Allegheny Township residents —including two supervisors —filed a federal civil suit against the district arguing the solution didn’t adequately balance the regions or do it quickly enough.
In August , a judge rejected another plan to balance the voting regions because Avonmore was separated geographically from the other communities included in its region.
The new realignment that school directors voted to pursue on Monday calls for moving Parks and Hyde Park into Region III. It also calls for moving the North Washington voting district in Washington Township into Region I and leaving the remaining portions of Washington Township in Region II.
For the plan to be implemented, Westmoreland County Judge Daniel Ackerman must give his approval.
“It’s a sound plan,” said board member Jim Summerville. “I think it gives control locally rather than districtwide, and in a district this large, it is important that the small communities will still have a larger voice.”
School board members Debra Peppler, Patrick Leyland and Benjamin Silvestri voted against the plan, however.
Leyland opposed the redistricting even though it balances the population because he would like to see all nine directors vote in an at-large manner, where everyone in the school district votes for the same candidates regardless of where they live.
“It’s time that the district be Kiski Area rather than nine municipalities,” Leyland said.
In its second major move Monday, the school board voted 7-2 to authorize the New Kensington-based architectural firm Canzian Johnston Associates to start working on plans to renovate Davis Field in Vandergrift.
The three-year renovation could cost as much as $3 million and would include renovating the bleachers and replacing a concession stand and visiting locker rooms.
Leyland and Peppler were the two board members to oppose the motion.
Leyland said he’s in favor of building a stadium on the high school campus rather than renovating Davis Field, which was built in 1921. He said estimates show the stadium could cost about $4.2 million, but believes the extra dollars spent on the new facilities would be worthwhile to the students and community.
“Every student at the high school and intermediate school would have easy access to the field,” Leyland said. “It would be more than just a football field, too. You could use it for track, soccer games and physical education classes.”
Other school board members disagree, especially since the district is already going to spend almost $40 million on high school renovations and additions.
“I hear from the people that they would rather not spend any more money on the stadium than we have to,” Summerville said. “We’re doing a big renovation at the high school, and I think any dollars we conserve can be put into education.”
Kiski Area School Board voted Monday to pursue the realignment of the district’s three voting regions as follows:
Those changes reflect: