Regional school boards in Cambria and Somerset counties met recently for their annual reorganization meeting to welcome newly elected members and handle routine business.
At Somerset Area’s school board meeting on Monday, the group opened its doors to newly elected members Jessica Sizemore and Melissa Wilson.
John Barth again was voted in as president, and the school directors heard from Athletic Director Scott Close about leaving the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference, of which he is the executive director.
“We are looking at a situation that would be a good fit for Somerset where we can keep many of the Laurel Highlands teams together and incorporate some of the Somerset County schools together and possibly form a new league,” Close said.
Krista Mathias, Somerset Area superintendent, agreed with his recommendation.
“This is the smartest thing, I think, we can do for our students,” she said.
Also discussed was the benefit of creating local rivalries by transitioning into a different conference.
After Close’s presentation, the board voted unanimously to leave the conference at the end of the 2022-23 school year in favor of creating their own with surrounding schools, contingent on membership being secured by March.
Sizemore said she ran for school board on the platform of students’ need for access to “rigorous and balanced public education that focuses on critical thinking, problem-solving and preparation for college and careers.”
“I am extremely grateful for this opportunity to be an advocate for our students, teachers and staff, and community,” she added. “I look forward to being a voice of our community to ensure that Somerset Area School District continues to be a leader in Pennsylvania’s public schools.”
Wilson wants to help lead her community in a positive direction and make decisions that support education.
“I believe the school board is the backbone to the community,” she said. “Each piece, each person, has a special purpose and role to work together for the good of the school, students, faculty and staff.”
During its gathering on Monday, the North Star school board approved the district’s exit from the WestPAC athletic conference.
“We are leaving the WestPAC conference because it no longer meets the needs of our student athletes and coaches,” Superintendent Louis Lepley said.
The group also voted to upgrade the HVAC system at the high school.
Martin Blough was reappointed board president and there were no new members voted in during November’s general election.
Two new school directors, Michael Allen and Missy Spaugy, attended their first meeting on Monday and voted on the decision to add both stand-up and wand metal detectors to district buildings, as well as the additional security guards to operate them.
“I think it’s a shame we’ve come to that, but I think it’s a necessary evil,” Allen said about the approvals. As for his first meeting, he described it as “very interesting” but also exciting and fun. He said he’s looking forward to the progress the board will make.
Spaugy said she thought the meeting went well.
“We were welcomed with open arms,” she said.
She noted that she and Allen have some aspects of the board to learn, but overall is looking forward to her time there.
Eugene Pentz was voted in as board president again.
The Richland board’s Monday meeting was business as usual, with committee assignments remaining the same and no new members.
“Everything stayed the same,” Superintendent Arnold Nadonley said.
Raymond McCombie was, once again, voted in as president, and the four school board members who ran unopposed were reelected.
“Pretty routine stuff,” Nadonley said.
Contracts for the Price Field renovation project were handed out at Westmont Hilltop during regular business after the reorganization meeting on Dec. 2.
J.C. Orr will be the general contractor at a cost of $1,059,247 for the field house being constructed; Marc Service is handling the building’s HVAC for $133,490; K&K Plumbing, $170,900; and Hallstrom-Clark was awarded the electrical contract for $195,400.
“The bids came in a little bit over our anticipated range,” Superintendent Thomas Mitchell said.
That’s why the members also approved a reconciled budget for the whole project.
The group also welcomed new school director Joseph Podrebarac, and Robert Gleason was reappointed as president.