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Southmoreland board lauds schools' achievements

Southmoreland School Board on Thursday recognized the accomplishments of three district schools:

• The elementary school was lauded for its achievement as a National Blue Ribbon School.

• The primary center was recognized as a national Model Professional Learning Community at Work.

• The high school was awarded a $10,000 America's Farmers Grow Rural Education Grant, one of four schools in the state to win the grant.

Schools are recognized by the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program for students who perform at very high levels or make significant improvements in academic achievement. Assistant Superintendent Timothy Scott said seeing the elementary school reach the achievement is special since the school was deemed to be performing at a substandard level in 2008.

“We had to brutally and honestly confront our reality, which wasn't good,” Scott said. “This is the proudest I've ever been in my career.”

Scott and John Lee, principal of the elementary school, will attend a recognition ceremony in Washington on Nov. 18 and 19.

Dan Clara, primary center principal, explained that the school's recognition came from the Professional Learning Communities at Work program, which calls for strong leadership in increasing student achievement and use of the most rigorous curriculum.

“(The program) has become a widely accepted best practice for education,” Clara said after the meeting. “They evaluate schools that are implementing that program as a way of measuring the most appropriate way to increase student achievement.”

The high school's grant is sponsored by the Monsanto Fund, which was designed to help farmers positively impact communities by supporting school districts. Farmers nominate school districts in their communities to compete for a merit-based grant to enhance education in math and science.

A group of local farmers nominated Southmoreland High. The grant will be used toward a science, technology, engineering and math curriculum in earth and space science and technology education classes. Thirty-five laptops will be purchased for students to use in classrooms.

“The goal was to purchase technology so kids all have consistent access to this STEM curriculum,” said teacher Lindsay DiCasolo.

“Things like this make it fun to work at Southmoreland,” Superintendent John Molnar said.

In other business, Molnar updated the board on Russ Grimm Field, which was severely damaged by August storms.

Resident Fred Collins asked whether there were options other than California University of Pennsylvania's Adamson Stadium for home football games and how much of the replacement costs will be carried by the district.

“It is now October. Exactly what progress has been made besides hiring more people to study the problem?” Collins asked.

The field will need to be replaced. Insurance will cover the cost, but there is a $25,000 deductible.

Molnar said it has not been determined whether insurance will cover design work by an architectural engineer.

“I believe it's incumbent upon us to fight for that design work or for some oversight … so (the field) will last in the case of another catastrophic flood,” Molnar said.

Molnar and Scott said California University costs less than using a neighboring high school and there is more normalcy with the use of one field.

“It's been professionally run each time,” Scott said. “These kids are getting a college experience each time out.”

Paul Paterra is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-887-6101 or [email protected].


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