RIMERSBURG – The recent election in November brought two new faces to the Union School District Board of Education last week, while a third new member was forced to decline the office before he could even begin.
At their reorganizational meeting on Dec. 5, the Union School Board welcomed Shelly Atzeni and Tressa Smith to the nine-member panel, which is also made up by returning members Brenda Brinker, Jeff Shirey, Brade Guntrum, Jeff Kriebel, Mark Rummel and Adam Vogle.
While the new members were sworn into the office, Bill Coradi, who was also elected to a seat on the board in November, told officials he could not accept the position.
Coradi explained that due to a little known state statute, he is not legally allowed to hold office because he is employed through the Riverview Intermediate Unit and is assigned to Union High School. He said he tried to find a suitable transfer, but the only other school he could go to was in DuBois, which made little sense for the Rimersburg area resident.
“I’m feeling I’m letting a lot people down,” Coradi said of his resignation. He said he had been looking forward to serving on the board, and that he still wanted to be involved with the district in whatever capacity he could.
The board later agreed to vacate the position and advertise the opening. Interested applicants will be interviewed during a special meeting on Dec. 19, at which time the position will be filled.
With only eight members seated, the school board’s first action of the new term was to elect new leadership. Former board president Terry Rush did not seek re-election and his term ended in November.
Another former board president, Brade Guntrum, nominated Brenda Brinker for the presidency, which was approved unanimously. Jeff Shirey was also a unanimous pick for vice president.
The new board set its 2020 meeting dates for Jan. 16, Feb. 20, March 19, April 16, May 12, June 11, July 16, Aug. 20, Sept. 17, Oct. 15, Nov. 19 and Dec. 10 at 7 p.m. in the high school library. Work sessions were scheduled for the second Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. in the library. Officials noted that the Jan. 9 work session would be held at Sligo Elementary School and the Jan. 16 regular meeting would be held at Rimersburg Elementary School.
Also during the reorganization meeting, Vogle was named the board’s liaison to the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, while Smith and Atzeni were named the board’s representatives to the Clarion County Career Center. Brinker was also named the district representative to the Riverview Intermediate Unit 6 Board of Directors.
In a departure from past practices, the board opted to approve a preliminary 2020-2021 general operating budget at the December meeting, a move usually held until May.
By moving ahead with the budget now, officials said, the district would keep the door open for possible referendum exemptions that would allow the district to raise property taxes above the state approved index if needed, and without placing the matter on a ballot referendum for voters to decide.
Superintendent John Kimmel said that the $12,817,339 preliminary budget is an increase over this year’s budget.
By raising taxes to the maximum index of 3.9 percent, he said the district could bring in an additional $71,000 in revenues. Also, by applying for exemptions from the state, the district could increase taxes by another 7 percent to bring in $208,000 in additional funding.
“That doesn’t mean that’s what we’re doing,” Brinker said of the potential 11 percent tax hike.
The preliminary budget was approved in a 7-1 vote, with Kriebel casting the lone vote of opposition.
• The board approved the resignations of educational aide Melissa Deitz and recently hired junior high volleyball coach Becky Bliss. Both positions will be advertised.
• Among the student trips approved, the board approved a proposed Travel Club trip to Hawaii in June 2021.
• Committee assignments approved during the reorganization meeting included: Finance Committee: Brinker, Guntrum, Shirey and the soon-to-be appointed new member; Policy Committee: Brinker, Vogle, Kriebel and Rummel; Curriculum Committee: Smith, Atzeni, Shirey and the soon-to-be appointed new member; Buildings, Grounds and Transportation Committee: Vogle, Guntrum, Kribel and Rummel; Athletics and Extracurricular Committee: Atzeni, Guntrum, Kriebel and Shirey.