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Patti Slaughter 

First-graders who will be in Jill McLaughlin’s room played a “Getting To Know You” game Thursday morning during an orientation program at Pinecreek Elementary School.

Alex Nelson 

Natalie and Ana Gee make a stop at Means and Lauf to tell Santa and Mrs. Claus what they want for Christmas this year.

Victorian Christmas celebration kicks off in Brookville

BROOKVILLE — Brookville’s three-day holiday celebration brought the downtown alive this weekend as area residents and visitors flocked to the historic downtown to listen to holiday music and take in the sights and activities.

Carols and holiday music could be heard downtown as the annual Victorian Christmas celebration began.

Several retailers got into the spirit of the celebration by dressing in Victorian style on Friday afternoon. Then at 5 p.m. the festivities really took off as the Nativity procession strolled along Main Street and carolers and musicians began to gather.

People gathered in groups on the sidewalks as well as in the Jefferson County Courthouse to listen to children and adults as they played musical instruments or sang carols.

It seemed as one group was finishing up another was starting in a different location. As families walked along the Main Street they could stop and watch the live window displays. Children of all ages took part in the displays this year. A young girl played with a doll in one window, two young ladies painted holiday pictures in another. Each window was unique and offered a glimpse of a different time.

As the evening progressed there was the annual Ghosts, Myths and Legends tour. Guided tours were led around town to hear eerie (but true) tales from the past.

There were even sightings of Santa and Mrs. Claus Friday night and Santa revisited on Saturday.

The Brookville Chamber of Commerce’s annual Wine Walk drew almost 400 people this year. There were 13 wineries participating, housed in various businesses along Main Street. The crowds provided a steady flow of customers for the participating wineries. Some of those participating came as far as Rochester, N.Y. Dressed in holiday style, they noted that they had come to the wine walk several years in a row, ever since one family member had worked in the area and the family had fell in love with Brookville during a visit. There was a group of “reindeer” ladies in the wine walk as well.

Friends and family members made a holiday event out of the annual fundraiser and those who had attended previous wine walks had definite plans in place such as designated drivers, who would stop and pick up any wine purchases so the group could continue on to the next stop unfettered by packages. One group even carried small color-coated rubberbands to place around the bottle necks of the wine they purchased so that they could determine who bought what at the end of the day.

Saturday also offered a Children’s Shopping Mart at the Brookville Volunteer Fire Co. and a craft and vendor show at Chateau d’Argy. The slight rain didn’t seem to dampen anyone’s holiday enthusiasm as Christmas music sounded from the Town Square. The day also included soup sales, a book and bake sale at the Rebecca M. Arthurs Memorial Library, a dine and wine after party, a paint and sip event, a model train display and more. The festivities included Open House Tours and Church Tours on Sunday afternoon.

While the festival is done for another year, people can still view Christmas Tree Lane in the lobby and first floor hallway of the Jefferson County Courthouse. The trees will be available for viewing throughout the month of December from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

Santa is scheduled to be visiting Brookville throughout the month as well. His cottage is located in front of the courthouse. He is next scheduled to be there Friday from 6-8 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Joy Norwood / Joy Norwood 

This Brass Ensemble performed holiday tunes Friday night in front of the Jefferson County Courthouse.

Alex Nelson 

An old classic in a sleek black is brought out to be shown off in the Ohl Community Day Parade. 

Superintendent search debate becomes heated

BROOKVILLE — The Brookville Area School Board voted Monday night to hire Rodney Green of Roaring Spring and Thomas Frantz of Punxsutawney to conduct a superintendent search for the school district.

The board agreed to pay Green and Frantz no more than $15,000 to conduct the search. Because it was not included in this year’s budget, business manager Ellen Newman said the money would have to come from the contingency fund.

The board voted in October to accept applications for the position. Superintendent Robin Fillman’s contract ends June 30, 2019. Monday night’s motion led to a discussion which became heated at times.

“I don’t think this is a responsible use of taxpayer dollars,” board member Kerith Strano Taylor said. “We’ve never been clear with the public why we are conducting a search and I think we have an obligation to tell the public why we are spending this money. When we measure our school and the performance of our administration, they’ve accomplished all that we hoped our superintendent would accomplish.”

She said, “Last week we heard that our scores are improving. Looking over the grievances the past five years with our union, we’ve settled the lion’s share of them without outrageous sums, we have had practically zero special education settlements, and if you look back 10 years in our district we had a lot of those and they cost us a heck of a lot of money. Under Dr. Fillman’s leadership we have been very responsible with our funds and we have a perfectly competent leader that isn’t going to cost us $15,000 to search for someone new and we don’t know what we’ll get. We’re talking about how we can’t afford to take care of the things that we need and yet we are going to engage in a search which I believe is a luxury we can’t afford. We are spending taxpayer dollars and no one has ever talked about why. We’re not being sued, we’re not paying out settlements, we’re not getting our rear ends kicked by grievances from the union, we are doing everything right and our kids are learning and our scores are improving, so I don’t know how we justify spending this money, especially without justifying to the public why we are spending it.”

Board member Melinda Hall said, “I want to register my entire distaste with this entire process, with anyone wanting to let go of someone who has proven to be a value to the district.”

Fillman asked the board’s permission to speak in her own defense. “I have been bombarded by the community asking me questions, asking if I have done anything wrong,” she said. “I have been an administrator in the district 13 years. Every year I have met my goals that the board has set. I am in the average salary range of superintendents in Jefferson and Clarion counties. When I was hired by the board my directive was to improve test scores. To improve test scores in five years and really transform the district in the area of curriculum is really a very lofty task.

“In the IU (Intermediate Unit) on the PSSAs, we went from a ranking of eighth or ninth to third. I’m very proud of the curriculum work our teachers have done; our teachers are the leaders here. While some board members want me to be more authoritative, I want to lead by example,” she said.

“In response to the questions I get from the community, as a whole board I have not gotten any feedback on what I should do better or differently,” Fillman said.

Voting by roll call in favor of the motion were board members Frank Bartley, Roberta Ganoe, Don Gill, Fred Park and Rick Ortz, with Hall and Strano Taylor voting no. Board members Carol Schindler and John Pozza were absent.

At the close of the meeting, during community comments, Brookville resident Sandra Snyder told the board, “I think you are going to find that the majority of your district is going to be very upset that you are spending $15,000 to do a job that perhaps you can do. If you’re not satisfied with Dr. Fillman and you want to go out and search from somebody, that’s fine. I guess we don’t need to know why.”

Gill re-elected as Brookville Area School Board president during reorganization meeting

BROOKVILLE — Re-elected to lead the Brookville Area School Board during 2019 were Don Gill, president, and Fred Park, vice-president. The board held its annual reorganization meeting Monday night.

Meetings will continue to be held as a work session on the second Monday of each month and the voting meeting on the third Monday. There is no work session scheduled for July 2019, and the December meetings will be combined with the reorganization meeting on Tuesday, December 3. All meetings will begin at 7 p.m. in the LGI room at Hickory Grove.

Special meetings and executive sessions may be called at the discretion of the president.

Several appointments were also approved during the meeting. Reappointed for one-year terms were Frank Bartley, PSBA Liaison, and John Pozza, Brookville Area Raider Scholastic Foundation. Fred Park was reappointed to serve a three-year term on the Jeff Tech board.

After a lengthy discussion, the board voted to set up buildings and grounds, finance and transportation committees for the coming year. Members who are interested in serving on the committees were asked to contact the president.

After discussion with solicitor Chris Sennett, the board did not set up a security committee. Instead security discussions will be held during executive and administrative sessions.