NEW BETHLEHEM – Christmas is expected to come a week early in the Redbank Valley School District, as school cafeteria staff are planning to serve free holiday meals to the students.
School district officials last week authorized district cafeteria manager David Reitz to move forward with an idea to offer a “traditional” holiday meal to all district students free of charge before Christmas break.
“Unfortunately, not every student in our district will get a traditional holiday meal, or even half of a traditional holiday meal,” Reitz told school board members at their Dec. 4 meeting, explaining that the idea to feed the students stemmed from a conversation with his colleagues about a variety of school-related topics.
Reitz said he wants to offer the entire student body “as traditional of a holiday meal as I can” free of charge so there would be no hesitation from anyone who wanted it due to financial reasons.
After running some figures with district superintendent Dr. John Mastillo and talking to his head cooks at the three schools, Reitz said it appears pulling off the meal would be possible even with an increase in food volume and participation.
“Everything seems like it would work,” he said, suggesting the meal be held the Wednesday before Christmas break in order to reach as many students as possible. “We want to try it.”
Showing their support for Reitz’s efforts, board members approved a motion authorizing him to offer the holiday meal free of charge to all students who want it.
“It seems like a great idea to me,” said board member Dr. Chad Shaffer prior to the vote. “It could eventually become a new tradition at Redbank Valley.”
Reitz agreed, explaining that he would like to see the holiday meal grow in the future to include more food options or even additional holidays.
“One of the things we talked about was donations,” he said, noting that if the holiday meal continues to grow the district could possibly solicit additional support for the meal from area businesses in future years. “But, we have to start somewhere.”
Reitz said on Tuesday that the holiday meal will be offered at all three district buildings on Wednesday, Dec. 18. Menu items will include ham, roasted sweet potatoes, applesauce, green beans, Hawaiin rolls and a cookie. The elementary schools will also have noodles in broth.
Bulldogs’ 500th Win
Prior to last Wednesday’s work session and regular board meeting, state Rep. Donna Oberlander (R-Clarion) presented a citation to the Redbank Valley varsity football team commemorating the program’s 500th win.
The milestone occurred on Sept. 20 when the Bulldogs beat Iroquois High School in Erie with a score of 41-6 under the direction of head coach Blane Gold.
In her commendation, offered on behalf of the Pennsylvania State House, Oberlander reminded the team that their accomplishment is not one that many Pennsylvania teams achieve.
“I’m very fortunate in the 63rd District to have two teams, Clarion Area and now Redbank,” Oberlander said, pointing out that there are only seven other football programs in District 9 to achieve such success.
Redbank Valley’s first win came in 1922, and over the years the Bulldogs have won eight league championships and three District 9 championships.
Quoting the citation, Oberlander said, “The General Assembly of the Commonwealth congratulates all the players and coaches, past and present, who were a part of the Bulldog football program and contributed to their success. We wish them the best of luck in future seasons.”
• Prior to their regular meeting, board members held their reorganizational meeting for 2020. In unanimous votes, Bill Reddinger was elected board president, and Ann Kopnitsky was elected vice president.
Former board president Shaffer announced at last month’s meeting that he would be stepping down from his leadership role but would maintain his position on the board.
“I think we should offer special consideration to thank Dr. Shaffer for all the work he put in as board president,” board member Dr. Donald Nair said. “I’ve never served on a board where the president has put in as much time as he has.”
Also during the reorganizational meeting, Reddinger, Kopnitsky, Jason Barnett and Dee Bell were sworn in to begin their new terms on the board.
• Mastillo reported that the new uni-vents for the primary school were expected to ship out of Texas on Friday, Dec. 6.
Although he was not sure when the vents would arrive on site, Mastillo said installation is scheduled to begin on Dec. 16.
• Approval was given for district administration to proceed with developing Act 1 exceptions for retirement, special education and debt service for the 2020-21 school year.
When questioned by Barnett about potential qualification for any of the aforementioned exceptions, Mastillo said he believes the district has a “stronger likelihood” of qualifying for exceptions in special education.
In a separate motion, the board also directed the administration to proceed with the development of a referendum question proposal for the upcoming school year.
• Board members also approved the district’s proposed preliminary budget for the 2020-21 school year.
According to the budget, expenses are estimated to total $19,113,893. With revenues anticipated at $18,057,773, the district is facing a deficit of $1,056,120.
Bell voted against the motion.
• Justin Karam was hired as special education supervisor at an annual salary of $71,000 — for a total cost of $100,679.
• The retirement of library aide Mary Travis was accepted effective Dec. 19, and the resignation of special education aide Kathie Johnston was accepted effective Dec. 4.
• Board members approved a motion to bid general, art, industrial arts, extra-curricular and maintenance supplies for the 2020-21 school year.