School board officials tout success of new academic year

At Monday's meeting of the St. Marys Area School Board, principals from the area's elementary, middle, and high schools declared the 2011- 2012 school year off to a good start. Christine Kuhar, principal at Bennetts Valley and Fox Township Elementary schools, said the numbers are holding steady, with 123 students at Bennetts Valley and 209 students at Fox Township.Robert Grumley, principal of South St. Marys Street Elementary School, said the school has 99 new kindergarten students and 27 new students and transfers. James Wortman, principal of St. Marys Area Middle School, emphasized creating a culture of consistency and stability and said the students have responded well. He said 36 eighth graders are running for class office this year. Josh Williams, principal of St. Marys Area High School, said that this school year is off to a better start than they have had in quite some time. He has set in motion a program designed to cultivate a more positive school environment. He stressed the importance of respect, honor, and potential. Williams also said that compared with the first 10 days of the last school year, disciplinary referrals are down 60 percent. Superintendent Anne Kearney echoed the sentiments set forth by the area's principals. Kearney said the district is off to a good start and expressed her wishes for a school year filled with health, happiness and academic success. The principals also addressed their school's respective commemorations of 9/11. Kuhar said with the elementary-aged children, they focused on honoring the heroes of yesterday, today, and tomorrow, with each student left to consider how they could be everyday heroes someday. Grumley said South St. Marys Street Elementary held three separate, "age-appropriate" programs, with presentations from local police as well as two parents who have served in Iraq. With regard to a proposed rental facilities fee waiver for the use of Dutch Country Stadium, school board members opposed the proposal. Terry Straub, the district's student activities director, said the proposed maintenance and light usage fees would be in the amount of $200 each per day for use of the stadium. Straub said the two main entities affected by the introduction of these fees are the Elk County Catholic School System and the St. Marys Stallions. With Elk County Catholic High School's five home football games, the school is looking at $2,000 in additional costs. Likewise, the St. Marys Stallions, with five or six home football games scheduled, would incur additional costs of $2,000 to $2,500. Straub said that the St. Marys Stallions have already elected not to play night games due to the additional light usage fee. Straub also said the schools would also have pay a preparation fee if the field needs lines or painted. He did not specify a cost for these items. Up until this year, neither organization paid for maintenance or rental fees in using the facility. The school district, which recently replaced the stadium lights at a cost of $26,000, is attempting to recoup some of the expense through the implementation of light usage fees.