ELDRED — The Otto-Eldred School board had approximately 25 attendees at their meeting Tuesday evening. Some were students attending as part of their government class; others included parents, a few of whom asked to address the board.

Attendees were reminded that during their speaking time they could not specifically discuss individual students.     

Eldred Borough resident Beth Freer questioned why the current athletic discipline policy was not in the printed handbook that is distributed at the beginning of the school year.

The board explained that the policy update appears on the extracurricular rules and guidelines paperwork that is handed out to all athletes before the beginning of their seasons and is required to be read and signed before they are allowed to participate. The update can also be found in the policies that are available online. The policy handbooks were sent to print before the policy change was approved.

Another resident, Susan Magee, also asked for similar policy clarification on a revision she had a hand in making. She also asked if “vaping” was part of the tobacco policy at the school. After a brief explanation from board about the growing issues in society with vaping, it was stated that vaping is addressed in the tobacco policy.

It was new policies that prompted the resignation of longtime athletic director Ed Reitler.

The board concluded the evening with a letter of resignation from Reitler. He expressed that due to recent changes and decisions regarding athletic policies, he feels he cannot ethically stay in his position as athletic director.

Reitler requested that his resignation be effective June 1, 2019. The board accepted his resignation.  

Splain gave this comment on his resignation: “After 19 years, Ed Reitler will be stepping down from his position as activities director. It has been a pleasure working Mr. Reitler during that time. With the increasing demands of interscholastic sports, he has always focused on the needs and priorities of O-E and our students. I personally want to express my appreciation for his dedication and efforts for the O-E community. Finding a replacement for Mr. Reitler will not be easy.”

Also at the meeting, past school board member Stephen Bell spoke to the board.

He said if he was still part of the board, his number one goal would be strategic planning for the school and where it is heading. Keeping in mind that the school needs to be run as a business, and with declining enrollment, the board’s focus needs to be on the challenges of combining education, athletics and finances, he said. He noted he wants the students to be successful and experience success and be challenged.

“Otto-Eldred is a special place — we all know that — we’ve seen a lot of things that demonstrate that,” Bell commented. “How do we keep that going five to 10 years down the line and gain resources to keep giving kids those opportunities? Those are questions to be thought of.”

School board president Cynthia Murphy said she agreed with many of his statements.

Director of curriculum and instruction Melissa Merry reported on state data highlights from spring 2018 Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) testing. All science PSSA tested grades (fourth and eighth grades) had higher proficiency percentages than the state average. English Language Arts (ELA) PSSA proficiency percentages in grades six and seven were higher than the state average. Math PSSA proficiency percentages in third, fifth, sixth and eighth grades were all higher than the state average.

Merry also announced that parent-teacher conferences have been slated for the evening of Nov. 1 and morning of Nov. 2. Students will have an Act 80 day on Nov. 2. More details will be coming home soon.  

Principal of elementary and special education Lindsay Burns provided Chapter 14 updates. The Otto-Eldred School District will focus on reviewing and improving transition planning for students with disabilities due to being part of the PA Post Secondary Outcome Survey.

In elementary news, Burns reports an elementary student assistance program (SAP) will be started at the elementary school. Also, benchmark testing is complete as well as data team meetings. These meetings help teachers to review data and further plan for appropriate instruction and interventions. Lastly, October kicks off a busy month focusing on safety with visits from the bus garage, fire department and Red Cross.

High school principal Harley Ramsey gave his congratulations to the Junior Envirothon-winning team of Zeb Raught, Taylor Estes, Killian Ramsey, Hayley Dubetsky and Heidi Gordon. The team competed with other teams at a competition held at the Kinzua Bridge learning center earlier this month.  

Ramsey said Team Minard donated T-shirts for the sixth grade students that attended a trip to Washington, D.C., last week. The trip was funded by an anonymous donor.

Ramsey also reported that Otto-Eldred’s #oesdmatters campaign continues to grow.

Superintendent Matthew Splain gave updates on a various of topics and how they impact the school district.

Splain announced that Senate Bill 1095 passed in the state House and will likely be signed quickly by the governor once the bill returns to the Senate for concurrence. The Otto-Eldred district will need to review its current local graduation requirements to see how it will align with the new state standards.

In building and grounds updates, Splain explained that after previously approved transfers are made, Otto-Eldred will have about $500,000 in capital reserve funds. The next focus will be on replacing or restoring elementary roofs. The roof above the addition will need replaced, while the roof above the original borough school is a candidate for restoration.

Splain also gave an update on the current gas line repair that is underway outside the school.

“We expect to see significant progress in the high school gas line repair this Wednesday,” he said. “Hopefully the building will be back to ‘normal’ by end of the week.”

The board approved an updated job description for a behavioral support paraeducator who will serve in the emotional support classrooms.

Meanwhile, updates to substitute lists were made. Mindi Carley, Jacob Domes and Tyler Smith were added to the substitute teacher list. Allison Krott and Suzanne Evens were approved as hourly substitute aides.

Kera Bradt was approved as a volunteer for the remainder of the volleyball season and for the upcoming basketball season. Duane Wolfe was approved as a volunteer for the spring softball season.

Field trips for all grades and different classes were approved.

The next board meeting will be held on Nov. 13 at the Otto-Eldred High School library.

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