NEW BETHLEHEM – Thanks to grants received by the Redbank Valley School District, additional cameras and security personnel will soon be part of the district’s security system.

“I think Amy’s done a wonderful job procuring these grants,” said school board president Bill Reddinger of high school principal Amy Rupp’s efforts to obtain substantial security grants to address the security needs in the district.

At their Jan. 6 meeting, members of the Redbank Valley School Board approved three motions regarding distribution of the security funds.

The first motion authorized the purchase of exterior security cameras for the high school at a cost of $18,561 covered by the grant. The total cost is covered by a $35,000 Safe Schools Grant, which was also used to purchase security wands and the district-wide Raptor system.

“This is just the allocation from the grant funds that we had,” Rupp said of the money for the cameras. “We were able to get a bunch of stuff with that grant.”

According to Rupp, the new exterior cameras — to be purchased from MVS Security Services of Ford City — can record up to a month’s worth of footage and will serve more of an investigative than preventative purpose.

“We’ve had several incidents in the [high school] parking lot, which we have not been able to see because we don’t have any exterior cameras at this time,” she explained. She noted that while there are buzzers and cameras on the building’s doors, the parking lot is largely unmonitored.

“[They will] also give us eyes during the day for people on school property,” district superintendent Dr. John Mastillo added of the cameras.

Motion two authorized the transfer of $25,000 from the security equipment fund to the security personnel fund — both of which are items in the district’s general fund budget. Further action allowed for the available funds be used to hire two security officers through Armstrong Security for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. The security officers will be hired using $25,000 Safe School Grant funds and $25,000 general fund budget security personnel funds.

“All three campuses [will be] covered full-time for the rest of this school year,” Rupp said of the security officers.

During the discussion regarding the transfer of funds and the hiring of personnel, board member Darren Bain questioned the need to hire personnel as opposed to investing in additional security equipment.

“A security officer is short term, but equipment is long term,” Bain said, explaining his lone vote against the motions. “Equipment is here, it’s paid for and will be used every day for years to come.”

Reddinger, reporting on the position of the security committee in relation to the motions, said that committee members had considered a number of options and felt that it was best to have a full-time security officer in all three buildings.

Rupp went on to report during the meeting that the district has been awarded between $110,000 and $120,000 in security grants to date, and has applied for additional grants totaling $120,000 that will be used for exterior cameras at the high school football field and both elementary schools, as well as interior cameras for some blind spots at all three schools.

“We’re expecting to hear about the next round of grants in March,” she said.

In other business, the board discussed the need for a comprehensive plan to determine and evaluate the success of district students on state-mandated testing.

“We’ve had this same conversation every year for a lot of years, I’d like to see it in a written plan,” board member Jason Barnett said, noting that he would like to see the systematic issues identified and what is being done to fix them.

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Rupp and elementary principal Cheryl McCauley offered explanations regarding how teachers track performance and share test results with students.

Barnett said that he would like a documented system that would allow the board to measure success.

Board member Dr. Chad Shaffer attempted to explain the board’s concern by asking what distinguished higher-performing districts from Redbank Valley.

Rupp reported that through discussions with other principals in neighboring districts, the only possible distinction could be that some districts spend more on computer-based remedial programs.

Some board members suggested that the board should be presented with possible options to solve the problem.

Mastillo said that he hopes the district’s strategic plan will address the board’s concerns.

During public concerns at the end of the meeting and after being recognized by Rupp as a teacher who was performing above and beyond the norm in relation to student achievement, high school reading and special education teacher Kristen Young voiced her frustration regarding the lack of concern and support from parents, students and others when it comes to trying to help students achieve.

Other Business

• Board members approved Act I Resolution stating that the Redbank Valley School District will increase tax millage at a rate that will exceed the 3.8 percent index for the 2020-21 school year.

In a separate motion, the board also agreed to submit for exceptions for retirement, special education and debt services per the Department of Education timeline.

• Patti Musser was hired as a two-and-a-half hour cafeteria aide at an annual salary of $4,095, for a total cost of $4,624.

• The retirement of high school mathematics teacher Kathleen Wright was accepted effective Jan. 24.

Immediately following, Kara Smith was hired as the long-term substitute to fill the vacancy left by Wright’s retirement. Smith was hired at a salary of $25,784, for a total cost of $39,348.

• The following resignations were accepted: Tyler Scott, child-specific aide effective Jan. 17; Tyler Scott, assistant junior high boys basketball coach effective Jan. 17; Blane Gold, varsity baseball assistant coach effective immediately; Rodney Huffman, junior high head wrestling coach effective Dec. 5, 2019.

• Ginny Neiswonger was added to the substitute custodian list. Karla Cobbett and Jeffrey Longo were added to the substitute van driver list for Valley Lines Inc.

• In a split 5-4 vote, the board decided to continue holding its work sessions the Thursday before regular board meetings.

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