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GLSD's 'Sixth Grade Camp' stronger than ever

The Greater Latrobe School District’s annual “Sixth Grade Camp” is stronger than ever as it fast approaches its 45th year of existence.

Melissa Boerio, camp director, offered school board members a recap of this past year’s sixth grade camp during Tuesday’s Committee of the Whole meeting. The board is anticipated to vote on the camp program and dates at next week’s regular meeting, noting Latrobe Elementary School is expected to meet from May 11-13, Mountain View on May 13-15 and Baggaley Elementary on May 18-20 at Heritage Reservation in Farmington.

Greater Latrobe Assistant Superintendent Michael Porembka noted that camp originally started in 1975.

“Camp has endured different directors and changes in location, but camp is a living breathing thing, and while we honor the tradition of camp, we also look for ways to make it more relevant and modern for kids,” Porembka said.

Porembka credited Boerio, who took over in 2015 after longtime camp director Dawna Bates retired.

“Under Melissa’s leadership, she has truly re-examined everything that goes on in camp,” Porembka said. “She’s been willing to make changes and put in the time. Every year we lament the loss of someone at camp because ‘so-and-so is retiring,’ or ‘I don’t know how we’re going to do it without him or her,’ but the spirit of camp just lives on and creates one of the greatest experiences our students have as part of their 13 years at Greater Latrobe. You just get sucked into what happens and it’s awesome for our kids.”

Boerio said Tuesday that 284 of the district’s 307 sixth-grade students, 92.5% of students across all three schools, attended sixth-grade camp, including some who are in special support classrooms. There were 105 students from Mountain View (96%), 79 from Baggaley (92%) and 100 from Latrobe Elementary School, which equates to 89% of the sixth-grade class.

“It’s wonderful to allow all of our students to come up to camp, so they can get to experience those activities at their own level,” Boerio said.

During the day, students continue to participate in basic academic work, including language arts, science and stream study, math, social students, art, music and physical education. Students also participated in tie-dye and leaf-rubbing activities, in addition to games, relays, kayaking, hiking, an outdoor cooking station, rifle and archery.

“All these things that we have had ongoing for years, we continue to do at camp,” Boerio said.

There’s also a newly-introduced board game night, which was started several years ago, in addition to a “Wreck This Journal” book, also recently introduced.

“Students love it, and once we use it, it’s sometimes not even recognizable as a book,” Boerio said. “There are a number of different pages, some are blank, and some have directions on it. I’ve seen students dragging it with a string, I’ve seen them shooting it at the archery and rifle range, and dunking it into the lake when they kayak. It sounds crazy, but they absolutely love it.”

School board member Merle Musick also helped at the rifle station, in addition to officer Robert Daerr, the district’s school resource officer. Musick said he’s never experienced any issues at the rifle station.

“It’s so important to me that we keep strict safety at that station,” Boerio said. “It gives me a lot of peace of mind knowing that it’s a safe station where students are learning about gun safety while they’re there. We give a presentation on gun safety, and they get some information there at the station as well.”

Boerio also added that staff members made new song books, adding the school’s alma mater, “America The Beautiful,” and another camp song the students knew from “Spongebob Squarepants.” She said that camp officials also plan to replace kayaking lifejackets in the future.

The district also offers sale of 8-by-10 photos specific to each school in addition to DVDs. Boerio noticed there are people who don’t have a DVD player or a laptop with a DVD drive. Boerio thought about going to a thumb drive, which would cost more to purchase, even in bulk, so she’s still looking for an alternative to DVDs, but something that would still be secure.

“We’d like to look into that further,” she said.

Boerio said that she’s happy and proud with the most recent edition of the district’s sixth grade camp, and thanked board members for their support.

“It’s such an important experience for our students and something they remember forever,” Boerio said. “It’s singularly one of the best things that we do.”

Items to be approved at next week’s regular meeting include:

  • Janice Humes (elementary, special education), Rachael Obsenica (English), Patrick Pushic (special education), Alesha Susman (mathematics) and Jessica Williams (science, technology, engineering, math) as substitute teachers;
  • Susanna Dunn as substitute classroom assistant; Victoria Poska, substitute food service; Steven Williams, substitute personal care assistant and personal care assistant; Jessica Williams, classroom assistant;
  • Kayla Scott as science and social studies teacher leader at Baggaley Elementary School;
  • Salary correction for Diane Godwin, healthroom assistant from $15.25 to $17.25 an hour;
  • Host the Westmoreland Architectural Design Challenge Thursday and Friday, April 2-3;
  • Seton Hill University Dual Credit agreement and the St. Vincent College Bearcat BEST Transition program;
  • Ignite Educational Solutions agreement and the Merakey Pennsylvania Rate Agreement and ESY for Merakey Jeannette School;
  • St. Vincent College Prevention Projects and a letter of agreement for Outside In School of Experiential Education;
  • Westmoreland Intermediate Unit ACCESS Billing Services agreement, and EL Services rate agreement;
  • Holly Ann Gray/HA Gray Speech and Language, LLC Independent Contractor Therapy/Consultant Agreement
  • Boy Scouts of America Learning for Life Memorandum of Understanding;
  • St. Vincent Prevention Projects alcohol, tobacco and other drug use survey;
  • Hilton M. Bricker (Hempfield Area) and Payton Rimany (Greensburg Salem) as tuition students;
  • Gifts, grants and donations from the Greater Latrobe Partners in Education Foundation;
  • Dental Examiners and exam costs from Latrobe Dental Arts, LLC;
  • PSBA officer elections;
  • Approval of a board policy involving crowdfunding.

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'Dr. G' coming back to Greater Latrobe next month

“Dr. G” is coming back to Greater Latrobe.

Dr. Deborah Gilboa, known popularly as “Dr. G,” will speak to students, parents and the local school community at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 10, at the senior high auditorium. Gilboa already spoke to the Greater Latrobe School District staff in August on the topic of building resilience in young people, while also offering strategies to support that goal during small group breakout sessions.

“We’re really looking forward to that,” Greater Latrobe Superintendent Dr. Georgia Teppert said during Tuesday’s Committee of the Whole meeting. “It’s a phenomenal presentation.”

Gilboa, a board-certified attending family physician at Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill Health Center, is a regular on NBC’s “Today” show and has appeared on numerous other local and national television talk shows and news programs throughout the U.S., including “The Doctors,” The Hallmark Channel’s “Home and Family,” “Good Morning America,” “The Rachel Ray Show” and Fox News. She also regularly contributes to, Huffington Post Parents, Your Teen magazine, Parents magazine and

Teppert said that Gilboa will present to junior and senior high students during the morning of Oct. 10. She will give a keynote presentation to the students before breaking into small groups. Later that evening, Gilboa will present to the entire school community.

In August, Gilboa offered a presentation titled “Recent Societal Shifts and Their Impact on Youth Development – and How to Build Resilience in Our Young People.” She outlined some of the obstacles that are keeping this generation of young people from learning to preserve through adversity.

Greater Latrobe first learned of Gilboa when she spoke at the student council state convention and district students who attended enjoyed the presentation. Gilboa’s message was also well received from staff when she spoke in August.

Teppert is excited for Gilboa’s return, adding that she intends to partner with the Derry Area School District, inviting parents, teachers and community members to also attend.

“It’s nice to have Derry come out, too,” Teppert said. “Just to have the community together and hearing the same message, we’re looking forward to that.”

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Ligonier supervisors approve helping homeowners apply for grant funds

The Ligonier Township Supervisors approved stepping in to assist a group of homeowners in seeking state grant funding to replace a private water line serving 19 homes with a line that would meet specifications to be taken over by the Municipal Authority of Westmoreland County (MAWC) after it’s installed.

The township would apply for and administer the potential Commonwealth Financing Authority grant on behalf of the homeowners, Carcella said, but the group of property owners would be solely responsible for financing the matching funds required for the grant as well as any additional project costs.

“We feel that the water line has become a health and safety issue, and it’s only getting worse because it’s not being maintained,” resident Shari Shannon said of the failing line serving homes along Hi Acre and Charlotte drives. “Frankly, it’s taking down the values of our homes. We’re looking for any solution possible. We’ve held several neighborhood meetings and we also had a public meeting... that gave us a chance to ask questions and find out where we can go with this. We’re asking for your help in any way possible in finding a solution to the problem.”

The CFA grant would require a 15% match from the property owners, Carcella said.

“We would have to have full participation,” from the 19 homeowners affected, Carcella noted.

Shannon said the homeowners in the area hope for MAWC to take over the private line, but the authority won’t accept the water line until it’s replaced. There have been three breaks in the line in recent years, but repairs to the breaks have just resulted in the line breaking in another spot later on.

“It’s a projected cost of $360,000,” Shannon said of the line replacement. “As private individuals, we can’t apply for grants or anything to help us with that process.”

“We’re going to going to try our best to find a way to solve it, but obviously we can’t spend public dollars here other than the fact we’re assisting our residents to apply for the grant dollars,” Carcella said.

The supervisors also approved an ordinance in the works for several months granting the township’s volunteer fire departments the ability to assess fees to insurance companies for services provided during emergency and non-emergency calls.

The ordinance gives the fire departments leeway to set a fee schedule for the emergency services. Ligonier Borough passed a similar ordinance in May without a set fee schedule.

The supervisors also approved an extension to Coal Loaders Inc. for its coal reclamation work along Myers School Road, although the extension doesn’t change the total amount of time the company is permitted to have the road closed to traffic.

Initially, the supervisors approved two six-month closures of Myers School Road. The company requested an extension allowing a single 12-month closure instead.

The supervisors approved the change contingent upon Coal Loaders placing signs on three existing posts marking road detours to indicate that the detour was for Myers School Road. The company was instructed to work with township engineer Dorothy Boring of Markosky Engineering Group Inc. to determine where the three signs should be added.

In other business, the supervisors approved:

  • Carcella’s request to attend the Pennsylvania Municipal Conference on Oct. 4 in Gettysburg;
  • Listing the township’s 1987 Rex 10-ton roller for sale on the online auction site MuniciBid. Carcella said the machine isn’t operational;
  • A resolution certifying confidentiality compliance with Act 32 and Berkheimer Collections Service, the township’s tax collection firm, as required under Act 32;
  • Sending letters to Ligonier and Laurel Mountain boroughs, Cook Township and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) in hopes of collaborating on a study into contributors to and potential remedies for stormwater and flash flooding issues affecting the region.

The supervisors also:

  • Learned from zoning and code enforcement officer James Nieusma that the township received 18 submissions for its contest to design a new township logo. The supervisors directed Nieusma to print the submissions that don’t include depictions of the bandstand at the center of Ligonier Borough’s Diamond Park for review by the supervisors, who will then pick their finalists;
  • Heard from public works director Russ Morgan that contractor Russell Standard is behind on road resurfacing work because of inclement weather and may not complete its contracted work on township roads on time. If the company can’t finish the work by Sept. 15, barring the township being granted an extension for use of its Liquid Fuels funds in 2019, the project would likely be put off until the spring. In that case, township crews would seal cracks and make temporary fixes to the roads and the township could seek reimbursement for that work from Russell Standard under the terms of the contract.

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Airport officials still awaiting FAA funding for Palmer runway work

Plans are lining up for a runaway widening project at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport, but officials are still waiting on approval of federal funding for work to begin.

At Tuesday’s Westmoreland County Airport Authority meeting, the authority awarded a $11.9-million contract to Golden Triangle Construction for work related to the long-discussed project. If funding is approved, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will pay for 95% of the project, with the authority covering the other 5%.

Gabe Monzo, the authority’s executive director, hopes to get an answer on funding sometime this month.

The two-phase project will widen the runway from 100 feet to 150 feet, which officials said will help pilots land during inclement weather events and enable the airport to avoid diverting flights to other facilities. Removing snow from behind the runway lights will be aided with new 20-foot shoulders.

Work is expected to stretch into 2020, officials said.

Monzo said the current construction schedule for the project is “tentative.” In June, authority engineer Scott Kunselman of GAI Consultants said runway work would shut down airport traffic for two 15-day phases that have yet to be finalized; one such schedule included possible closures in July 2020 and September 2020.

The project also calls for periodic nighttime closures, which Monzo said will allow the contractor to widen the northwest portion of the runaway — located farthest from the terminal building.

On Tuesday, Monzo reminded authority members that the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) popular PreCheck program will return to the Unity Township facility later this month.

Flyers will be able to enroll in the program from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Sept. 23-27, as TSA officials will hold temporary “pop-up” enrollment at the airport terminal, 148 Aviation Lane, Unity Township.

Travelers are asked to come to the terminal’s main ticket counter to enroll. As always, parking at the airport is free. The airport last held PreCheck enrollment sessions in November.

In 2018, Spirit Airlines was one of 11 airlines added to the list of airlines participating in the PreCheck program, which allows “trusted travelers” who enroll in advance and pay $85 for a five-year membership to, among other things, leave their shoes, belts and light jackets on at checkpoints.

PreCheck passengers are not required to remove their shoes, belts or light jackets and can leave laptops and TSA-compliant clear quart-sized bags containing liquids, aerosols, gels or creams in containers of 3.4 ounces or less inside their carry-on bags.

Travelers can submit an online application for enrollment in the PreCheck program at and schedule an in-person appointment at an enrollment center. The online application takes about five minutes, according to the TSA website. The in-person appointment includes a background check and fingerprinting.

Monzo said walk-ins are welcome for the PreCheck program but registration is encouraged.

According to the TSA website, more than seven million people have enrolled in the program since it launched in 2011. According to the latest TSA figures from July, 93% of PreCheck passengers waited fewer than five minutes to enroll.

In all, more than 200 airports and 73 airlines nationwide participate in the program, TSA officials said.

Travelers can take advantage of their PreCheck status when booking flights by adding their Known Traveler Number, or KTN, to their tickets during the booking process or after booking under the Manage Travel section of the Spirit website.

There is no age restriction to apply for the PreCheck program. However, family members ages 12 and under traveling with an eligible parent or guardian with a PreCheck indicator on their boarding pass can participate in expedited screening, according to TSA officials.

Spirit Airlines offers flights from Arnold Palmer Regional Airport to Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Fort Myers and Tampa in Florida and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

For more on the PreCheck program, visit

In other business at Tuesday’s meeting:

  • Chairman Don Rossi said some authority members attended a recent meeting regarding the Laurel Valley Transportation Improvement Project. Local and state officials have long touted the project, involving the Route 981 corridor between Route 819 and the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport, as a way to improve access for the 10-plus miles from the Pennsylvania Turnpike to Route 30 in Unity Township not far from the airport;
  • An executive session was held regarding property issues;
  • According to figures provided by the airport, the facility served 27,173 passengers in August and 221,432 passengers for the year to date.

Photos by Ernie Sistek 

Ninety St. Vincent College students volunteered to hold color-changing LED umbrellas designed by MIT on Tuesday night to celebrate Arnold Palmer's 90th birthday. Arnold Palmer Enterprises is coordinating celebrations across the country this year to highlight the legendary Latrobe golfer's positive impact on the world.

Livia Wentworth, a senior at St. Vincent College, tries out her multi-colored umbrella before the show got underway.

A choreographed display of 90 lit umbrellas, run by the acclaimed Pilobolus dance company and St. Vincent student volunteers, honored Arnold Palmer just after sunset Tuesday at UPMC Field on the SVC campus in Unity Township.

US to commemorate 9/11 as its aftermath extends and evolves

NEW YORK (AP) — Americans are commemorating 9/11 with mournful ceremonies, volunteering, appeals to “never forget” and rising attention to the terror attacks’ extended toll on responders.

A crowd of victims’ relatives is expected at ground zero Wednesday, while President Donald Trump is scheduled to join an observance at the Pentagon.

Vice President Mike Pence is to speak at the third attack site, near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Former President George W. Bush, the commander-in-chief at the time of the 2001 attacks, is due at an afternoon wreath-laying at the Pentagon.

Eighteen years after the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil, the nation is still grappling with the aftermath at ground zero, in Congress and beyond. The attacks’ aftermath is visible from airport security checkpoints to Afghanistan. A rocket exploded at the U.S. embassy as the anniversary began in Afghanistan, where a post-9/11 invasion has become America’s longest war.

“People say, ‘Why do you stand here, year after year?’” Chundera Epps, a sister of Sept. 11 victim Christopher Epps, said at last year’s ceremony at the World Trade Center. “Because soldiers are still dying for our freedom. First responders are still dying and being ill.”

“We can’t forget. Life won’t let us forget,” she added.

The anniversary ceremonies center on remembering the nearly 3,000 people killed when hijacked planes rammed into the trade center, the Pentagon and a field near Shanksville on Sept. 11, 2001. All those victims’ names are read aloud at the ground zero ceremony, where moments of silence and tolling bells mark the moments when the aircraft crashed and the trade center’s twin towers fell.

But there has been growing awareness in recent years of the suffering of another group of people tied to the tragedy: firefighters, police and others who died or fell ill after exposure to the wreckage and the toxins unleashed in it.

While research continues into whether those illnesses are tied to 9/11 toxins, a victims compensation fund for people with potentially Sept. 11-related health problems has awarded more than $5.5 billion so far. Over 51,000 people have applied.

After years of legislative gridlock, dwindling money in the fund and fervent activism by ailing first responders and their advocates, Congress this summer made sure the fund won’t run dry . Trump, a Republican and a New Yorker who was in the city on 9/11, signed the measure in July.

The sick gained new recognition this year at the memorial plaza at ground zero, where the new 9/11 Memorial Glade was dedicated this spring.

The tribute features six large stacks of granite inlaid with salvaged trade center steel, with a dedication “to those whose actions in our time of need led to their injury, sickness, and death.” No one is named specifically.

Some 9/11 memorials elsewhere already included sickened rescue, recovery and cleanup workers, and there is a remembrance wall entirely focused on them in Nesconset, on Long Island. But those who fell ill or were injured, and their families, say having a tribute at ground zero carries special significance.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon announced Monday that its 9/11 memorial will close next week for electrical and lighting work. The project, expected to take until late May, includes repairs to lighting glitches in the shallow reflecting pools under the memorial benches.

Sept. 11 is known not only as a day for remembrance and patriotism, but also as a day of service. People around the country continue to volunteer at food banks, schools, home-building projects, park cleanups and other charitable endeavors on and near the anniversary.

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Family escapes Donegal Twp. mobile home fire

A Donegal Township family escaped from a fire in their mobile home Tuesday morning after a 10-year-old girl roused her parents and alerted them to the blaze.

Stephen Roadman’s daughter Abbagail woke him around 7:30 a.m. and the family rushed from the home on Roadman Lane. Two of the family’s teenage sons had already left for school when the fire broke out.

Firefighters from Chestnut Ridge, Bullskin Township, Saltlick Township, Kecksburg, East Huntingdon Township, Mount Pleasant, Darlington and Ligonier were summoned to the scene to battle the blaze.

The family’s pet dog died in the fire. Stephen Roadman was treated for smoke inhalation, but no other injuries were reported.

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Former state prison up for sheriff's sale in Hempfield Twp.

The shuttered former state prison along Route 119 in Hempfield Township is set to be sold at a Westmoreland County sheriff’s sale early next year.

According to a notice issued Tuesday announcing the property is scheduled to be sold at the sheriff’s sale in January, First Commonwealth Bank foreclosed against Verdant Holdings LLC for $894,336 in past-due payments and costs. The bank in 2016 had extended an $850,000 line of credit to the company.

Carlisle businessman David H. Goldsmith, who had built a steam energy plant at the prison that was contracted to supply electricity to the facility through 2024, purchased the 96-acre property in February 2015 for $950,000 after the state closed the prison in 2013.

After purchasing the prison, Goldsmith transferred it to Verdant Holdings, then collected $7.6 million under the terms of the agreement to provide electricity to the prison, which required the state to buy out the contract if it was terminated before its 2024 expiration date.

Verdant had touted plans to convert the prison site into a $150 million veterans center as recently at 2018, but court records show a history of financial difficulties for the company.

StanTec Architecture and Engineering in August 2018 filed a lien against Verdant for unpaid bills for preliminary work at the prison site.

A few months later, Midwest Bank of Detroit Lakes filed a foreclosure action against Verdant, claiming payment on a $5 million mortgage for the prison property that was due May 16, 2018, hadn’t been made.

According to tax records, Verdant owes Hempfield Area School District $15,936 in back taxes and fees from 2018.

Goldsmith did not respond to requests for comment.

“Verdant is in the process of seeking financing to allow them to address each of those situations, but nothing has been finalized yet,” attorney Martin Cerullo said.