WILKES-BARRE — The Wilkes-Barre Area School board made a string of unexpected hires at Tuesday’s meeting, appointing six special education teachers and a speech pathologist to accommodate a program that one board member described as “busting out at the seams.”
The board also got an earful from parents frustrated with the decision to stop transporting students to and from day care centers.
Board Member Ned Evans used the surge in special education enrollment to repeat his request for a return of the Instructional Support Teacher positions eliminated two years ago. Those teachers tried to identify and help at risk students early enough to avoid entry into special education.
Evans argued the move would cost the district money at first but save millions in special education costs. The board rejected his motion 5-4, with opponents citing the unexpected need to hire special education teachers that night. Board Member Dino Galella suggested revisiting the issue in August.
Several parents questioned the decision to stop transporting students to and from day care centers. Superintendent Bernard Prevuznak said it was also a cost-cutting move, noting so many parents were taking advantage of the option the district had to contract another bus.
Prevuznak also said parents outside the attendance boundaries for Solomon Elementary were enrolling students in day care centers inside those boundaries to get their children into the school, causing overcrowding.
Prevuznak noted the district contracted with Mountain Top-based Olive Branch BP, Inc, which does business as Building Blocks Afterschool Enrichment Program, to provide day care at Solomon Plains and Kistler elementary schools before and after classes at Solomon Plains and Kistler Elementary schools this year. If the program succeeds, he added, it could be expanded.
The board approved the following appointments:
Courtney Sawicki and Leah Zelinka as elementary teachers; Gerry McGoarty as secondary school guidance counselor; Karen Coyne, Jill Hall, Samantha Kishbaugh, Meghan Buckley, Dora Szmartzis and Maria Deno as special education teachers; Megan Petrylak as speech pathologist; Alissa Lukasavage as library teacher; Molly Gorman as long-term math substitute teacher; Inez Weinstock as elementary assistant principal; Justin Correl as elementary dean of students; and Melissa Myers as secondary dean of students.
And the board approved three other actions:
• A contract with Mark J. Sobeck Roof Consulting to inspect and prepare designs for re-roofing at Flood Elementary for $7,200, inspect and prepare an on-site report on the roof at Mackin Elementary for $1,400 plus core samplings at $108 per core, and to prepare a core-sampling study to determine condition of the roof at Heights/Murray school for $2,040.
• A contract to Dunmore Roofing and Supply, Inc., to perform test cores of 20 to 30 samples and patch the same on the Height’s Murray Roof at $85 an hour not to exceed 16 hours.
• Approval for district project manager Apollo Group, Inc., to seek proposals from three district-approved companies to inspect and prepare design work for replacement of the water line and boiler at Mackin Elementary, which has not been used as a school for years.