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Mastillo outlines Redbank plans

NEW BETHLEHEM – On the same night that the President of the United States gave his State of the Union address, the superintendent of the Redbank Valley School District also looked to the future as he presented his plans and goals to a small crowd gathered at the high school.

Dr. John Mastillo spoke for a little more than a half hour Tuesday evening, addressing the crowd of about 13 local residents in the school auditorium.

“Everything is a domino, everything’s a spiderweb — nothing can operate in isolation,” Mastillo said near the end of a presentation that looked at what he described as his three main focal points: budget, curriculum and security.

With half of the school year under his belt, the new superintendent said that as he and the district move forward, changes, large and small, are already happening.

“There are some big paradigm shifts taking place,” he told one resident who asked if his plan is different from how the district has operated in recent years.

Mastillo broke down his presentation into six areas: student growth and achievement; organizational leadership; operations and financial management; communication and community relations; human resources management; and professionalism.

On the topic of student growth and achievement, the superintendent said school officials would work on curriculum mapping, including how to help those who are gifted and advanced, while also improving the “child find” process of identifying students who are struggling and in need of additional help.

Collaboration with all staff across the district’s three school campuses was listed as a goal in the organizational leadership portion of the presentation. Mastillo said it was important for teachers to not only work with fellow teachers at their own grade level, but to talk with the teachers their students had in previous grades, as well as the teachers they will send their students on to in future years.

Mastillo also addressed staff alignment, saying that “there’s too many hands in the pot” currently when it comes to people entering data about students, which has led to inconsistencies and errors. He also said he wants to look at how the district can utilize its three guidance counselors more effectively.

“We’re going to work together to figure out how we’re going to do that,” he said.

He also said he would like to see the district move toward enhancing and expanding the reach of its federal programs so that more students can benefit.

In the third portion of his goals, operations and financial management, the superintendent said he is “very optimistic” that the final preliminary budget that will be presented in May will show a reduction in spending from the current school year.

School safety and security are also issues being addressed, he said, as officials look at restructuring the school entryways, updating the telephone system, enhancing security camera systems and updating emergency operations plans.

When it comes to communication and community relations, Mastillo said he wants to encourage two-way dialog, and pointed to an upcoming “Coffee & Conversation” time he has scheduled on Feb. 19 at the Redbank Valley Community Center from 6:30 to 7:30 a.m. and 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. He also said he supports monthly meetings with teachers and district support staff, as well as open communication with local media.

As part of his human resources management goals, Mastillo said he wants to focus on empowering staff members and delegating duties.

“They’re in the trenches day in and day out,” he said of the importance of listening to teachers and staff. He said he encourages taking a different view to tackling an issue, rather then just sticking with the same old idea simply because that’s the way it has always been done.

Finally, on the topic of professionalism, Mastillo touted the importance of daily reflection and growth. He said that when educators stop wanting to learn and grow, they stop being beneficial to the people they are there to help.

“Every day is a learning experience,” he said, adding that it’s important to keep asking, “How are we impacting our community?”

Moving forward, Mastillo said he hopes to hold similar public meetings, and noted that Tuesday evening’s presentation was being recorded and would be posted on the district’s website.


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Moo-muffs, coats keep calves warm at area farm

NEW SALEM – The most fashionable cows in the area might just be living outside the small village of New Salem.

At least when it comes to winter fashions.

Jan Snyder of J&J Farms said that after the severe cold several years ago caused frost bite on the ears of some of the calves born during the winter, she decided to bundle up the little ones.

Several weeks ago, little Coker, a female, was born, and has been sporting a pink and black winter coat with colorful cow images all over. She is also making the most of her pink and purple “moo-muffs” to keep her little ears warm.

“She enjoys being fashionable in her coat and moo-muffs,” Snyder said.

And just last week, Booger was born. He can be seen wearing a blue coat with red and green earmuffs.

“They don’t seem to mind them at all,” Snyder said. “When I first put them on, the mother [cow] will look at them like, ‘What’s this?’”

But then, she said, the mama cow and the others in the herd accept the dolled up youngsters.

Her husband, Jim Snyder, said that the school bus stops near the farm and the kids love to see what the calves are wearing.

And since she started dressing the young ones for the cold weather, all has been good.

“We’ve had pretty healthy calves,” she said.

Jan Snyder said the beef cattle farm, operated by her son, Beau Snyder, will have about 17 births this year, including eight before spring sets in.

“I do a herd check several times a day” to see who might be calving, she said.

And when the temperatures dip and the winter garments come out, she said those who pass along Salem Road enjoy the view.

“They create quite a bit of interest as people drive by and if they’re in the paddock for a while,” she said, noting that she purchases the winter wear from a livestock catalog.


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New police chief, staff attend meet-and-greet

NEW BETHLEHEM – New Bethlehem area residents had the opportunity to interact with the new police chief and two of his officers on Saturday at the Redbank Valley Community Center. Hosted by New Bethlehem Borough Council, the event was aimed at improving the public’s perception of the police department.

Chief Robert Malnofsky and officers Seth Taylor and Nick Hawk were on hand to socialize with members of the public. Malnofsky said that interfacing with residents outside of everyday law-enforcement activities was key in getting to know the community.

“I expected my first month here to be one of getting acquainted with the area and people. I also knew that after that, things would get a little harder,” Malnofsky said. “We are not here to ruin anyone’s day, and we just want a fair shake while we are getting things in place.”

Taylor, one of the chief’s new hires, echoed the fair-shake theme.

“This is why we want to do more of these meet-and-greets with the public. We see you, you see us and we think your perception will change,” he said. Taylor came to the department from the Shelocta area and has family members in the Redbank Valley area. He brought his wife, children and aunt to Saturday’s program.

Nick Hawk, the other new officer in attendance, is more used to the Redbank Valley area. He grew up in Clarion and this is his second stint with the New Bethlehem Police Department. Hawk found it easy to chat with attendees.

“I came back again on Oct. 31 last year,” he said. “I liked the department before and I like it even more now.”

While area residents may find adjusting to Malnofsky’s law enforcement outlook a bit rocky, the chief is also getting used to working in a different town.

“Before taking this new job, I lived in a rural area outside Seward [Westmoreland County]. I am living in town now and have to get used to having neighbors. Every little noise at night wakes me up,” he said.

Malnofsky said that he and his department are not doing anything extreme and out of the ordinary. They are simply doing their jobs.

“We are enforcing the law, period,” he said. “We are not out to get anybody. It is just that this is the way that things are meant to be done and we are doing it.”

The chief said that future meet-and-greet events are planned in the area.

“We want people to get to know who we are,” he said. “It might change the way they look at us.”

Jeffrey Miller, the district magistrate in southern Clarion County, shared his thoughts during the event.

“What the chief is doing is nothing new. The laws have always been there and they are being enforced like they are supposed to be,” he said.

During the meet-and-greet, attendees enjoyed a selection of cheeses, vegetables and beverages, and refreshments provided by the New Bethlehem Borough Council. Doughnuts were noticeably absent.


Local
Council fills vacant seat in Rimersburg

RIMERSBURG – Rimersburg Borough Council brought its membership back up to a full complement of seven council members with the appointment of local businessman Tim Yeany on Monday night.

Yeany, who operates the Rimersburg Mercantile antique shop along Main Street, will serve until the end of the year in a seat previously held by council member Lark Palm, who stepped down from the position last month.

The council began Monday’s meeting with nominations for the vacant post. Member Pam Curry said that she had talked with three residents who were each willing to finish out Palm’s term, but only two who said they would also be interested in placing their name on the election ballots this year.

Curry said that Yeany and Matt Davis both said they would run for the office, while John Corsini said he would fill in for the remainder of the year only.

“All three are very qualified,” council president Roger Crick said, lamenting the fact that the council would go from having three female members just a short time ago, down to one woman. He also said he had hoped some younger residents would have shown an interest in the open seat since Palm was among the group’s younger members.

Member T.L. Stewart nominated Yeany for the position, noting that Yeany operated a business in town, would likely be available since he worked in town, and he has shown over the years that he loves the Rimersburg community.

After the unanimous vote to approve Yeany, he was contacted and arrived at the meeting only minutes later. Although he could not be sworn into office due to Mayor Ken Corle’s absence, Yeany took part in discussions but could not vote on agenda items.

Yeany noted that he had run for a council seat years ago, and that he was honored to be selected for the position.

In other business at the Feb. 4 meeting, the council approved the 2019 contract with New Bethlehem Borough for police services in Rimersburg. Members accepted the contract, changing one section to make it more clear that it was New Bethlehem’s responsibility to provide liability insurance for the police.

Councilman Scott Myers, who oversees the police committee, said that the borough has been pleased so far with new police chief Robert Malnofsky and the services provided over the last several months under his watch.

New Bethlehem Police Sgt. Dan Clark gave a brief report to the council, noting that during the previous month, officers issued five citations in Rimersburg during 14 traffic stops, while also handling one incident involving drugs, one domestic dispute, one sexual assault and one retail theft.

Other Business

• Attorney Sara Seidle-Patton, a candidate for judge in the Clarion County Court of Common Pleas, visited the council to introduce herself and ask for their support in the upcoming election.

• The council approved the purchase of new computers for borough secretary Dana Solida and maintenance supervisor Frank McNaughton at a cost of $3,974. Members also authorized the purchase of eight Chromebooks at a total cost of around $2,400 that will be used by council members as well as members of the Rimersburg Municipal Authority at meetings.

• Unanimous approval was given to the borough’s revised Act 537 Plan, which will be submitted to the state Department of Environmental Protection as a first step in plans to upgrade the community’s wastewater treatment plant.

• The council agreed to share the cost of the replacement of a new Rimersburg Community Building door with the Rimersburg Hose Co.


Local
UHS deals with heating, flooding issues

RIMERSBURG – Last week’s extreme cold not only caused local schools to call off for a couple of days, but it also caused damages at Union High School that resulted in an additional day off for the school district.

“Union High School experienced issues with the heating system due to the extreme winter weather we had last week,” UHS principal Kris Glosser said, noting that is is believed that a flue in one of the heating units became stuck in the open position, and the cold circulating air caused the heater to freeze up. “This resulted in the heating system malfunctioning, and some other heaters became frozen as a result.”

Glosser said school was cancelled Friday, and Mark Brown, director of Buildings and Grounds, and his crew worked to assess the damages and make repairs, with the help of Luton’s Plumbing and Heating.

“We were told that there were many businesses experiencing similar heating issues, so we were fortunate to be able to secure help,” she said.

The principal said the cafeteria heaters were able to be repaired and put back in working order Friday with the exception of one unit, which will need to be either repaired or replaced.

There are also several heating units in the music wing that are still not working, and classes are being held in alternate locations within the school, as needed. Other heating units affected include the weight room and front vestibule.

The heating problems were not the only headaches caused by the extreme cold.

“In addition, there was flooding throughout the lower level [of the high school],” Glosser said. “Water from a broken, overhead pipe, caused damage to the trophy case inside the front entrance. Thanks to Mr. Brown and his crew’s quick response, damages from the flooding were not as extensive as they could have been.”

Glosser said the gymnasium floor appears to be okay, but officials are watching for any signs of damage due to moisture.

“Mr. Brown is currently working with an adjuster from the insurance company to determine what damages are covered under the district’s insurance policy,” Glosser said. “At this point, it is not known.”


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Leisurely Visits

One week we’re in the midst of a so-called Polar Vortex with the mercury dipping to 10 below or more, the next week we’re enjoying spring-like weather with temperatures in the 50s.

As much as we want to believe that Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction of an early spring is already coming true, we doubt that Old Man Winter is done with us yet.

According to the National Weather service, temperatures could get up into the 60s by the time you read this on Thursday, but drop back down to around freezing with a chance of snow on Friday. Cold weather and possible snow are part of the forecast through Monday.

We can be optimistic and pat Phil on the back, but we’ll still keep the snow shovels handy.

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The voting for The Leader-Vindicator’s 6th Annual Readers Choice Awards is complete and the thousands of votes have been tallied. Be sure to watch for our special section listing all the winners coming up in our Feb. 27-28 issue.

In the meantime, if you still would like to recognize some local folks and businesses for their efforts in our community, the Redbank Valley Chamber of Commerce is now seeking nominations for its annual Citizen and Business of the Year awards.

The Citizen of the Year Award is designed to honor an individual for their community involvement as a volunteer, employer or employee in the Redbank Valley area during the previous year or years. Nominees will be judged on their individual contributions to the quality of life and growth of the Redbank Valley either as to recent accomplishments or for many years of service to the community. The award is open to anyone who lives or works in the Redbank Valley area.

Those nominated for the Business of the Year award should be in good standing with the chamber for at least one year, and show community involvement such as time donated for community projects. Sponsorships and contributions of financial resources or facilities, labor and equipment will also be considered. Nominees will be judged on their business’ individual contributions to the quality of life and growth of the Redbank Valley either as to recent accomplishments or for many years of service to the community.

Those making nominations should explain in writing why, in their opinion, the nominee of either award should receive the award. Any member of the community is welcome to make a nomination. Neither those nominating nor those nominated for Citizen of the Year need to be members of the Redbank Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Nominations should be sent to the Redbank Valley Chamber of Commerce, Award Nominations, 309 Broad Street, Suite 2, New Bethlehem, PA 16242, faxed to (814) 275-4269, or emailed to info@redbankchamber.com. The deadline is Feb. 12. Winners will be honored at the chamber’s Annual Dinner on Saturday, March 16.

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The Pennsylvania Great Outdoors Visitors Bureau has announced the return of the Great Outdoors Getaway Giveaway contest. The contest features the chance to win one of four $250 gift certificates redeemable at any Pennsylvania Great Outdoors Visitors Bureau lodging member through May 31, 2020. Enter online at VisitPAGO.com/Getaway through March 31, 2019.

“2018 was the first year we did this contest in the Pittsburgh market and at trade shows,” says John Straitiff, executive director of the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors Visitors Bureau. “It worked well and demonstrated that it was a great way to get travelers to visit our website as they start to make their vacation and travel plans. We’re excited to expand the markets that will receive this offer in 2019.”

The Pennsylvania Great Outdoors Visitors Bureau is a membership-based travel promotion organization serving five counties in northwestern Pennsylvania: Jefferson, Elk, Clarion, Forest and Cameron.

* * *

And speaking of getting outdoors, the Pennsylvania Campground Owners Association has released its annual Campground Directory for 2019.

The free magazine lists 226 campgrounds and RV resorts in Pennsylvania and is a must for all RVers as well as tenters.

Camping enthusiasts can order the 68-page booklet online by visiting www.pacamping.com. The 2019 directory can also be obtained by calling 1-888-660-7262 and leading your name and address.

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The Pennsylvania Tourism Office has announced the release of its annual Happy Traveler guide, a resource to inspire avid travelers to pursue their happiness in Pennsylvania. Released on National Plan for Vacation Day, the guide is full of fun-filled attractions, history-filled streets and museums, and breathtaking outdoor vistas to help travelers create their 2019 Pennsylvania bucket lists.

In Pennsylvania, 43 percent of the workforce has unused vacation days for a total of more than 23 million days. These unused days account for nearly $4.1 billion in potential economic impact which is up from $3.8 billion last year. With help from the 2019 Happy Traveler guide, visitors are encouraged to declare their time off and plan an adventure in Pennsylvania.

This year’s feature story showcases the state’s vibrant amusement parks, many of which have been in operation for more than 100 years.

Other special features in the guide include:

• A chance to experience Fred Rogers’ actual neighborhoods in his hometown of Latrobe and production home of Pittsburgh on the Fred Rogers Trail.

• A look into the marvelous machines that transported travelers from one destination to the next.

• Spectacular urban dining experiences with great views in vibrant cities.

• New wave drinks in old-school buildings.

• Lodging options found lakeside.

• Spooky museums and tours.

The Happy Traveler is available digitally at visitPA.com or in print by calling 1-800-VISIT-PA. Travelers are encouraged to share photos of their favorite Pennsylvania Happy Traveler adventures using the hashtag #PAHappySnaps across visitPA.com’s social media channels.