NEW BETHLEHEM – Following several months of discussions and meetings, an agreement regarding extracurricular fundraising requirements has finally been reached between Redbank Valley School District officials and the district’s sports booster organization.

At their regular meeting Monday night, members of the Redbank Valley School Board approved the sports boosters’ contribution plan which was designed as an alternative to the district’s 15 percent fundraising requirement.

“I think it’s a good compromise,” district superintendent Amy Rupp said following the meeting of the contribution plan.

According to Rupp, the plan includes a cap agreement with the district’s booster clubs to regulate money spent on equipment and supplies for extra-curricular activities.

“We will pay the first $1,000 for most sports,” Rupp explained, noting that volleyball, wrestling, and boys and girls basketball will get $1,500, and football will get $2,000. “Anything else they have to pay for themselves.”

She continued that this move will save the district more than $15,000 annually.

“It has nothing to do with uniforms or travel or umpires/referees, we [still] pay for all of that,” she said.

Likewise, the boosters are responsible for tournament entry fees and overtime payments for custodians who work during weekend activities.

“If they’re doing a tournament or something, they’re going to pay their own fees and pay their own custodians,” she said, adding that the groups are also going to negotiate for lawn mowing services at Hawthorn’s Pottery Field, where the soccer teams practice. These three items will save an additional $5,000.

The agreement also allots for sponsors to purchase advertisements from RVTV Live for streamed games, as well as partnerships with sponsors for signs in the gym and around the exterior of the field.

“We can definitely get some funds that way,” Rupp said, pointing out that the sponsorship opportunities combined are estimated to bring in an extra $10,000.

All told, Rupp said, the district could save about $30,000 as per the agreement.

Rupp noted that the implementation of the agreement will eventually replace the 15 percent charge levied against extra-curricular activities that was enacted four years ago.

“We’re going to wait, and talk with the boosters a little bit more before we eliminate that policy from the policy manual,” she said. “That will most likely be done in November.”

Prior to the vote, board member Jason Barnett raised a question about the wisdom of taking action before the board had a letter of agreement from the boosters.

“I would like a letter of commitment from them that they would like to attempt to move forward with this,” he said. “I’d like it spelled out the share of responsibility of who’s going to do what, if not, we’re just wasting time.”

Board member Linda Ferringer countered by pointing out that a great deal of time and effort went into working together to formulate the plan.

“It’s kind of fish or cut bait time,” she said. “You either want to do it or you don’t.”

Ultimately, Barnett and member Darren Bain voted against the motion.

During the public comments portion of the meeting, the board heard from two district residents about the stalled negotiations and the ongoing teachers’ strike.

Madison Moore, a recent Redbank graduate and daughter of a district teacher said that she was “extremely disappointed” in the way the board chose to treat the staff.

“To halt insurance to a group of people during a pandemic is a deplorable and retaliatory decision,” she said.

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Urging the board to move to voluntary non-binding arbitration, Moore appealed to the district’s reputation.

“Every district likes to be known for the records that they hold. One record that should make the district feel a little bit embarrassed is holding the distinction of taking the most years to settle a contract,” she said, claiming that Redbank holds the record by taking six years to settle a contract.

Another resident to address the board was Julie Veronesi, a district teacher, who explained how a pay freeze affects employees.

“I’ve been teaching for 15 years and I’m currently making the wages that a teacher who has been teaching for 12 years would make,” she said, noting that that has been her salary for three years. “If we accept a two-year pay freeze, I’ll be a 17-year teacher making a 12-year teacher’s wage.”

Speaking to the board’s decision to cancel the teachers’ health insurance on Oct. 1, Veronesi said that teachers were only given a 72-hour notice of the termination of benefits.

“As of today (Monday), no teacher has received the application to apply for COBRA benefits, which would extend their coverage during this stoppage of benefits,” she said. “Since the district did not provide [a 30-day] notice, it may be held financially responsible for any costs that may have been sustained by the teachers during this window of time.”

She urged members on all sides to gage their emotions when making decisions.

School board candidate and New Bethlehem business owner Mitch Blose also addressed the board, stating that he believes the Redbank Valley community is “20 years behind the curve on the financial aspect of things.”

“The biggest problem is the financial side of things,” he said. “I think it’s important to note that the main problem here is not necessarily the relationships between the board, the community and the teachers.”

Blose also said there was confusion in the Redbank Valley community due to conflicting messages being released from the district and the teachers regarding the strike, and stated he has talked to community members who “are not in support of the strike.”

“As a board, I think you guys are doing right by the community for the most part,” he said. “Obviously, I think there are problems on both ends.”

Other Business

• The amended academic calendar for the 2021-22 school year following the strike was presented and approved. Contingent on an Oct. 20 return date for students, school will be closed Thursday, Nov. 25 for Thanksgiving Day and Friday, Dec. 24 for Christmas Eve.

The last student day is currently set as June 15, 2022. If school is canceled due to inclement weather, classes will be held remotely.

“The state directed the district to have the last day as June 15 in the event that the teachers would go out [on strike] again,” Rupp said after the meeting. “That would give us until June 30 to finish our 180 days.”

• Board members approved the spending of ESSRs III funds as presented.

Rupp pointed out that the proposal includes several educational-related purchases including costs associated with after school tutoring ($100,000), homework help ($40,000), two permanent substitutes through ESS ($130,000) and more.

• Approval was given to contracts between the district and Minich Bus Services, Valley Lines Inc. and Barrett Busing Inc. for the transportation of students for the current school year.

• The second readings of the district’s Trauma Informed Care, Threat Assessment and Title I Comparability of Services policies, as well as the first reading of the Facilities Naming/Sponsorship policy were approved.

• Accepted were the resignations of paraprofessional Kim Reichard, effective Sept. 30, and assistant boys basketball coach Dan Ion.

In a related motion, Jake Dougherty was hired as assistant boys basketball coach at a total cost of $3,632.52, and Ion and Wayne Fuller were approved a volunteers.

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