SHENANDOAH - The Shenandoah Borough Council held its rescheduled February meeting on Monday night, February 27th. On the agenda was a list of properties to be submitted to the Schuylkill County Demolition Program.
On the list was a set of properties at the corner of West Coal and North Race Streets in the borough's Glover's Hill section, which have been the subject of discussion at borough council meetings regularly since 2014, and the center of an ongoing legal battle. Neighbors are concerned for their health and safety, due to the property's deteriorating condition and a broken sewer line on the premises.
One condition of the county Demolition Program is that the municipality must own the property, but an exception exists if the property's demolition is court-ordered, which may soon be the case with the Race Street properties, pending an appeal in Commonwealth Court.
Also included on the list were
"That's what we're hoping, we get the court order, and that would be, believe me, the first one. It's been too long." Council Vice-President Leo Pietkiewicz stated, following the vote.
Absent from the meeting was Councilman Paul Holland, Council President Don Segal, and Mayor Andrew Szczyglak.
In other business, borough council
MAHANOY TOWNSHIP - The Mahanoy Area Middle School will be no more in the 2017-2018 school year. The Mahanoy Area School Board approved a resolution to reconfigure the school district into a two-school district, with a K-6 Elementary and a 7-12 Junior/Senior High School.
This change comes in response to falling enrollment - 260 students in the past 10 years - and under-utilization of district facilities, according to district Superintendent Joie Green.
Mahanoy Area was one of six school districts in Schuylkill County with a middle school, and was the smallest district of that group. The other two schools in upper Schuylkill County, Shenandoah Valley and North Schuylkill, have Junior/Senior High Schools.
In other business, the Mahanoy Area School Board approved the following:
Shen. Valley Board fails to meet quorum; honors Students of the Month and hears comments from concerned band parents, staff, and alumni
SHENANDOAH - Five makes a quorum for the Shenandoah Valley School Board, but only four members were present for Wednesday's meeting. Despite this, a larger-than-usual crowd was present, many to support the Elementary and High School Students of the Month from December and January who were to be honored, and many to confront the board about a plan regarding the replacement of the Elementary Music Teacher, following her resignation.
The meeting began with an explanation from Board President Daniel Salvadore of the situation. Five members were required for a quorum, but only four were present.
"Unfortunately, this will not be an official meeting, but we will conduct the meeting for the sake of the student of the months" Salvadore said.
Shenandoah Valley Elementary Vice Principal Ms. Lesley Matus introduced the Elementary Students of the Month for December and January.
Afterward, Shenandoah Valley High School Principal Mr. Phillip Andras introduced the High School Student of the Month Marisol Velazquez, who gave a report on happenings in the high school.
Shenandoah Valley Superintendent Mr. Brian Waite then introduced two Shenandoah Valley students from the Schuylkill Technology Center, Kat Quick and Justice Swartz, who competed at SkillsUSA recently. Waite commended the two for their hard work and dedication to their respective programs.
Waite also reported that March 20th will be used as a snow make-up day. The day was previously scheduled as an ACT 80 Day, a day off for students.
Salvadore recognized that there was a large group of band parents at the meeting, and invited them to bring their concerns up to the board, if they had any.
"If you have anything to talk to the board about, or suggestions, or whatever, you're free to do so. It's not an official meeting, but we don't want you to come here for no reason" said Salvadore.
Shenandoah Valley Band Director Mr. Walter Choplick approached the podium, and brought up concerns about a plan to replace the Elementary Music Teacher position with an Elementary Physical Education/Health Teacher.
The Music Teacher position opened up recently, as Ms. Kayla Stiely, who currently holds the position, informed the school and band that she would be resigning. Stiely is also the High School Assistant Band Director.
"As you may know, there have been countless studies that show correlation between music classes in school and students having a higher IQ score" Choplick said, citing a 2006 study by the American Psychological Association.
"This has a direct correlation to the students here at Shenandoah Valley. Of my students that receive as class rank, which are grades 9-12 only, 40% of the band ranks in the Top 10% of their class, and 60% of the band ranked in the Top 20%. All of the band students in the senior class are in the Top 23% of their class, with all but one having a cumulative average about 100%." Choplick explained.
Choplick went on to explain how the position change would further strain the music program, and explained his current slate of classes and extracurricular activities.
Choplick also cited that no other public school in Schuylkill County has only one music teacher for the entire district.
Choplick also referenced a situation in April 2013 where one music teacher had to cover the entire music program at Shenandoah Valley.
"Some of you may remember, back in April of 2013, when the high school band director was unable to perform his duties at the time, and the elementary director Emily Volek tried to take care of both of the elementary and high school positions at the same time. That was very quickly found to be impossible, and the superintendent at the time, Dr. Rakowsky, called me and asked if I can come in and help get the band through concert season and the rest of the school year. We should not have to relive history" Choplick stated.
However, research by the Sentinel revealed that the Shenandoah Valley band director from 2008 to 2013 Mr. Robert Stoner was in charge of instrumental music from 2008 until 2010-2011 when Emily Volek was hired for the Elementary side.
"Between football games, parades, competitions, and concerts, the band is the most visible aspect of this school to the public, reaching hundreds, if not thousands of people throughout the school year. I would hope that the administration and board would not approve a motion that would negate the progress that has been made over these past years of having multiple music teachers in the district" Choplick concluded.
Waite stated he would not refute Choplick's points on the studies or band visibility.
"I'm not looking to get rid of music. I'm looking to help expand our opportunities for our students in the elementary as well. I know what this gentleman can do and does" Waite said referring to Choplick.
Waite explained Choplick's schedule, and how he believes there is enough space in his schedule to allow Choplick to cover fifth and sixth grade music.
"I believe in him. I believe in what he can do. I've seen what he does with our high school kids." Waite said, stating he believes Choplick's musical instruction would benefit the elementary students.
"(Choplick teaching Elementary Instrumental Music) would give us an opportunity to provide Health and PE to our elementary students. We don't offer right now Health and PE in the elementary at all." Waite explained. "We have students who don't know how to get along dynamically, socially, physical movement, motor movements. Those types of things are studies as well. The only thing that happened here was we had someone who resigned. This would not have been a thought at all if it wasn't for that situation. We have an opportunity now to help our students even more. We can get the best of both worlds. I have somebody I know can do the job 5-12 grade, we can put it in his schedule, I believe it's there to fit now, he has it now, he can do it."
Waite explained how a Health and PE teacher would benefit K-6 grades, and give elementary teachers more instructional time by removing the responsibility of teaching health and PE.
Choplick countered by asking how, if Elementary teachers would then have to teach general music, how they would gain more instructional time. Waite explained that teachers in grades 3-6 have to teach both Health and PE, which they would no longer have to do.
Following Choplick's statement, the board took comments from other attendees concerned about the band program which included: Eric James, SV graduate; and Jordan Franko, SV Band. Percussion Instructor.
The official meeting will be rescheduled to a later date due to the failure to reach a quorum.
Keep a check on this page for our video story from the school board meeting.
MAHANOY TOWNSHIP - Pending the school board's decision on Thursday, February 23rd, the Mahanoy Area Middle School may be no more.
Mahanoy Area is looking at integrating the current middle school grades into the Elementary and High Schools as part of a reconfiguration, intended to better utilize facilities and deal with falling enrollment.
The current system Mahanoy Area has is unique for Schuylkill County's smaller school districts, having grades K-4 in Elementary School, 5-8 in Middle School, and 9-12 in High School. Mahanoy Area is one of 6 school districts in Schuylkill County with a stand-alone middle school, and is the smallest of those six.
Under the proposed system, grades K-6 would be in the Elementary School, and grades 7-12 would be in the Mahanoy Area Junior/Senior High School, in a system similar to Shenandoah Valley and North Schuylkill.
The reconfiguration plan aims to avoid furloughs by moving current staff to new positions, although a High School Guidance Counselor position will not be replaced.
On Thursday, February 23rd, at 6:00pm, the Mahanoy Area School Board will decide whether they will accept, reject, or table the plan for a future meeting.
MAHANOY CITY - Mahanoy City will join the likes of Girardville, Ashland, Frackville, Mahanoy Township, and West Mahanoy Township by allowing PP&L to replace the borough's street lights with LED lights.
Borough Council approved a resolution to enter into the agreement with PP&L, with the cost to the borough being $168.00.
Through the program, which has been offered to municipalities since the beginning of 2016, PP&L will replace all street lights which are older than 10 years at no cost to the municipality.
Mahanoy City becomes the second borough in upper Schuylkill County so far this year to opt into PP&L's program, the first being Frackville earlier this month. Municipalities such as Mahanoy Township, West Mahanoy Township, Girardville, Ashland, Ringtown, and Saint Clair have already had their light systems upgraded to LEDs.
In other business, Mahanoy City approved requests from the Good American Hose Company #3 associated with their annual bazaar, slated for June 23rd-25th. The requests included permission to close off the 700 and 800 blocks of E. Mahanoy Street and 8th Street from Pine Street to South Street, exemption from the brown bag law, and permission to hold a fire apparatus parade on Friday, June 23rd.
BLOOMSBURG, COLUMBIA COUNTY - The Pennsylvania State Police at Bloomsburg have issued an Amber Alert, following a child abduction in Berwick around 7:00pm on Sunday night.
State Police report Alexis Weber, a 2 year old, 3'0" 30lb white female, last seen wearing a White Coat, Blue Polka Dot Shirt, and Black Pants, was abducted from 2200 West Front Street in Berwick.
State Police report she was last seen in a yellow 2005 Ford Mustang convertible with PA License Plate #HWN-1367, heading towards Laporte, Sullivan County. The vehicle was stolen by an unknown actor.
Anyone with information is asked to call 911 immediately.
POTTSVILLE - Schuylkill County Treasurer Linda L. Marchalk and Sheriff Joseph G. Groody announced extended office hours for specific dates throughout the year for residents to purchase dog licenses, fishing & hunting licenses, and applications/renewals for firearm licenses.
The dates and extended hours are as follows:
Sheriff Groody said in a statement "To better serve County Residents, I will continue to offer Saturday and extended weekday hours to accommodate law abiding citizens with the option to apply for a license to carry firearms."
The fee for the license is $20.00 and is payable with cash, check, money order or credit card (Visa, MasterCard, Discover). Current license holders can renew up to 60 days before the expiration date. Applicants must be 21 years of age or older and must provide a current and valid Pennsylvania Driver’s License or a current PA identification card that has the applicant’s current address. Applicants must provide the name, full address and phone number of two references (references cannot be family members). Applications will be processed and mailed to the applicant’s home address. Applications can be found on the county's website, www.co.schuylkill.pa.us
State law requires that all dogs three months of age or older be licensed by January 1 and failure to license a dog can carry a fine of up to $300 for each unlicensed dog. An annual license is $8.50 and a lifetime license is $51.50. If the dog is spayed or neutered, the annual fee is $6.50 while a lifetime license is $31.50. Reduced rates are available for senior citizens and people with disabilities. Treasurer Linda L. Marchalk said “State Dog Wardens will be canvassing in the spring and continue throughout the summer. Having the option to purchase a dog license on a Saturday gives dog owners a chance to be compliant with state law and not force County Residents to take time off of work to get a dog license.” In addition to the County Treasurer’s Office, dog licenses
are available for purchase through local dog agents or by going online to www.padoglicense.com. A list of 2017 Dog Agents and downloadable applications are available online on the county's website, www.co.schuylkill.pa.us
The County Treasurer’s Office also reminds all Schuylkill County residents that 2017 Trout opens on April 1 for the Southeastern Counties and April 15 for the regular Opening Day Statewide. Fishing licenses are now available for purchase. Annual license are valid from December 1, 2016 thru December 31, 2017. The cost for an annual resident adult license is $22.90. The fee for annual senior licenses is $11.90. The cost for the Trout/Salmon permit is $9.90. Multi-year licenses and fishing license buttons are also available for purchase.
If you have any questions regarding licenses, contact the Schuylkill County Treasurer's Office at (570) 628-1433.
If you have any questions regarding gun permits, contact the Schuylkill County Sheriff's Office at (570) 628-1440.
SHEPPTON - A Weatherly man has been arrested for a vehicular incident in Sheppton on Thursday Night.
Ryan J. Lakata, 25, of Weatherly, Carbon County, has been charged by East Union Township Police with one felony count each of Flight to Avoid Apprehension, and Accidents Involving Death Or Personal Injury.
Lakata has also been charged with Resisting Arrest, Failure to Drive at a Safe Speed, Careless Driving, fleeing or Eluding Police, Driving Without Lights to Avoid Arrest, Reckless Driving, Accidents Involving Damage to Attended Vehicles or Property, and Leaving the Scene of an Accident.
Lakata was arraigned by Magisterial District Judge Anthony Kilker on Friday in Shenandoah, with bail being set at at $25,000. Lakata was unable to post bail, and was committed to Schuylkill County Prison
A Preliminary Hearing is set for February 23rd at 1:00pm in Judge Kilker's Shenandoah courtroom