ST. MARYS — The St. Marys Area School District’s “open campus” project, which offers occupational courses to students from other Elk County schools, recently earned the district praise from the Pennsylvania Secretary of Education, administrators say.

Pedro Rivera singled out the program as an exemplary innovation at a joint conference of the Pennsylvania School Board Association and the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators.

School Board President Clythera Hornung and Vice President Stacey McKee both attended that conference in late October, and reported what they identified as its key takeaways at a regular board meeting Monday night. St. Marys, they said, was the sole school district to receive a nod from Rivera during the speech he gave at that conference.

“So out of all 501 school districts in the state of Pennsylvania, he called out one district and that was ours. So we really have a lot to be proud of with that,” Stacy McKee said.

At the leadership-themed conference, the two attended one session that dealt specifically with the state legislature’s attitude toward public school funding. The consensus among most legislators, they said, is not that schools need more money, but that schools need to be more resourceful.

“That’s a huge concern. We do need money. We can learn to be resourceful, but we do need money,” McKee said.

That attitude is something of a concern to school administrators in light of other data reported at the conference, particularly that an area’s wealth often has a direct correlation to the level of state funding it receives, something Hurning said is “not good for us.”

Transgender students

Where and how transgender students fit into a school district was another topic of discussion at the conference. No other board members or administrators the two met seemed to know how or if it’s a matter the school board should be involved with at all. As such, the advice they received was to not take up any stance or action.

“Every board member that was in that session was sort of under the same duress of, “what do we do?’ And there’s no good answer.”

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