The Derry Area School District is moving closer toward updating its aging computer-based student management system.
At Thursday’s regular meeting, the Derry Area School Board heard proposed plans to update the district’s Student Information System (SIS) from the Rediker software to the popular PowerSchool system.
Johnathan Kim, the district’s director of technology, noted that Derry Area began using the Rediker system on a full-time basis during the 2008-09 school year.
“As far as we can tell, Derry is the last school in Pennsylvania utilizing this system,” Superintendent Eric Curry said. “It’s been long overdue that the district look into a new system,” he added, noting that a new system will be “more user friendly” and “more efficient in helping us run the school district.”
“This leaves us on an island for any troubles we may run into,” Kim said of the district’s use of Rediker.
Aside from a lack of in-person support during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Kim noted that the current system doesn’t allow teachers to directly interface with special education software and that the Rediker system is a potential cyber security risk because it is housed on-site rather than being stored in the cloud.
Kim noted that the class management system handles everything from students’ grades, to reporting for state funding, student record keeping regarding medical and discipline information and more. The new system, he noted, will allow district parents to receive notifications how they choose, such as via text message.
All involved in the transition process recommended the switch to PowerSchool, which is known as the top provider in K-12 software and is used in more than 50% of school districts in the state. Locally, the system is currently being used at Greater Latrobe, Ligonier Valley, Mount Pleasant Area and Jeannette, among other Westmoreland County school districts.
Kim said PowerSchool will carry a 10-year cost of just over $332,000. He noted that two other options, Skyward (just over $327,000) and Rediker (just over $400,000), were also considered.
“This is going to be a major undertaking with a lot of man hours to get everything together,” he said.
“Since this is a major software (change), we can’t just look at the price. We have to look at what provides us the most benefits for our school district.”
Kim said the district is under contract with Rediker through the end of the 2021-22 school year, so the new system wouldn’t go live until July 1, 2022.
The school board could consider voting on a new system at its June 24 work session.
“Once it is up and running, it’s a great thing,” Curry said of implementing a new system. “But the process to get from start to that point is quite long and arduous and at times, extremely frustrating ... It is long overdue and we are confident it will meet the needs for the school district for a long time going forward.”
Also Thursday, Curry said Derry Area expects a more normal school year in 2021-22, with the pandemic easing locally and statewide pandemic-related restrictions being lifted. Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam said Pennsylvania will revoke its mask mandate on June 28 or when 70% of the state’s adult population has been vaccinated.
Curry added that district parents and families will soon be receiving an additional survey asking for their intentions regarding educational options for the fall.
“I’m happy to say, as of now, we are planning to return to normal,” he said. “We are also going to continue to follow the governor’s guidance with face masks, which means as of June 28, we don’t have to wear them anymore. As long as we don’t have an edict from the governor, we will be moving forward without face coverings, social distancing, any of those things, as far as next school year goes.”
Also at the meeting, the board heard from district parent Mary Kott, who called for the board to “encourage people to speak” and “express passions” about several retiring teachers who won’t be replaced. The board noted that they let Kott’s daughter read a letter to the board during a recent meeting.
The board also defended claims by some community members that they take board-related decisions lightly.
“We do take this seriously,” longtime school director Kevin Liberoni said. “We have more dialogue now than I’ve seen in a lot of years. We don’t expect to get praise ... but this board does care.”
Added school board president David Krinock: “These decisions are not made in an hour — it’s months and months of work for the people sitting up here.”
The district also highlighted its summer food program, which begins Monday, June 7, and runs through the first week of August. The free lunch program will not be provided the week of July 5, district officials said.
Meals will be available from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. daily this summer for lunch that day and breakfast the next day, free of charge, at various locations.
Any questions about the program, contact director of food services Gwen Kozar at 724-694-1401, ext. 1442.
The school board also held an executive session Thursday for personnel and legal matters.
In other business, the school board approved:
- Employee No. 496 for a 12-week intermittent family medical leave, effective May 26;
- Resignation of Sarah Cutlip as a Pre-K Counts teachers aide, effective at the end of the 2020-21 school year;
- Change the status of Jennifer Lewicki from high school attendance secretary (Class I) to high school transportation/secretary (Class II), effective July 1;
- To employ Amber Platt as an ag/hort student worker at a rate of $7.25 per hour, at a schedule to be set by instructor Roy Campbell;
- To award a permanent contract to teachers Marlene Kunkle and Shannon Shrum, having completed three years of service with satisfactory ratings;
- Brody Brinker, Hayden Crawford and Zechariah Sims (maintenance/custodial), and Charlene Manuel and David Gundaker (technology) as summer interns through the Private Industry Council of Westmoreland-Fayette Inc., at no cost to the district;
- To employ Jennifer Battaglia as high school yearbook editor, effective for the 2021-22 school year, at a salary as set by the negotiated point system;
- Abby Cox and Beth Winklosky as additions to the substitute employees list;
- A $5,000 for Johnathan Kim for board technology services, effective July 1;
- Request of Molly Maga to attend the Wilson Language Virtual Course from July 20-22 at an approximate cost of $650, to be paid with ESSERS III funds;
- Request of Sadie Bartsch to attend the Wilson Language Virtual Course from July 27-29 at approximate cost of $650, to be paid with ESSERS III funds;
- Authorize the administration to make application, agree to the terms of and accept funding for available local, state and federal grants for the 2021-22 school year;
- To approve a resolution for reenactment of the per capita tax in Section 679 of Pennsylvania School Board of 1949, as amended, for the 2021-22 school year to include individuals 18 years of age or older;
- To re-enact these Act 511 taxes for the 2021-22 school year: Real estate transfer tax (0.5%), earned income tax (0.5%), per capita tax ($5) and local services tax ($5 for Derry Township, $10 for Derry and New Alexandria boroughs);
- To reappoint Act 511 tax collections and set salaries and commissions, beginning July 1, 2021, and terminating June 30, 2022, with the option to terminate with a 30-day written notice: Debra Zello, Derry Township, per capita tax (4%); Kristin Kozar, Derry Borough (4%); Margaret Graham, New Alexandria Borough ($1 per statement), and Berkheimer Associates, Derry Township, Derry Borough and New Alexandria local service tax (2.05%, current and delinquent), wage tax (1.42% for current and no charge for delinquent) and delinquent per capita tax (no cost). School director Steve Kozar abstained;
- Property tax installment resolution;
- Amtrust North America as insurer with McDowell Associates of Greensburg for workers compensation for the period of July 1, 2021, through June 30, 2022, at a cost of $171,772. Last year’s rate was $159,576.
- To award student accident/school insurance for the 2021-22 school year to U.S. Fire insurance Company as recommended by McDowell Associates of Greensburg for high school and middle school varsity/junior varsity football and all other high middle school sports, band, majorettes, cheerleaders and field trip coverage for school-sponsored, school-supervised non-overnight field trips at a cost of $15,938. The cost is the same as the previous school year;
- A voluntary school insurance program for the 2021-22 school year with U.S. Fire Insurance Company as recommended by McDowell Associates of Greensburg for $28 for school time and $124 for 24-hour coverage for grades K-12. The cost is the same as the previous school year;
- Crime bond for the 2021-22 school year with Selective Insurance Company as recommended by McDowell Associates of Greensburg at a cost of $250. The rate is the same as the previous school year;
- Award volunteers accident medical insurance to A-G Administrators LLC for the 2021-22 school year at a cost of $650. The rate is the same as the previous school year.
- Reappoint Ned Nakles Jr. as school solicitor for the 2021-22 school year at a retainer of $6,000 and a rate of $135 per hour. The rates are the same as the previous school year;
- Properly liability package with McDowell Associates of Greensburg for the period of July 1, 2021, through June 30, 2022;
- Special education agreement with Merakey for the 2021-22 school year;
- Award bid for multi-purpose paper for the 2021-22 school year and purchase the items, per the district’s quantity request, at referenced prices from W.B. Mason Inc., which the Westmoreland Intermediate Unit Joint Purchasing Consortium recommended as the lowest responsible bidder meeting or equaling specifications;
- Memorandum of understanding for the AIU 3 — Title II grant program for the 2021-22 school year;
- For Shelby Glick (grade 12, Greater Latrobe); Jasmine Hantz (grade 12, Greater Latrobe), and Makayla Rudy (grade 10, River Valley/Blairsville-Saltsburg) to enroll in the Derry Area ag/hort program, effective for the 2021-22 school year;
- Student teacher agreements with Clarion and Gwynedd Mercy universities, effective for the 2021-22 school year;
- Revised confidential secretaries agreement from 2019-20 through 2022-23, with Terri Rodgers, secretary to assistant for business affairs, to be paid a prorated salary based on a retirement date of July 5, 2021, and Caitlin Wightman, accounts payable secretary, to be paid $42,500 for the 2021-22 school year and $43,694.25 for the 2022-23 school year;
- Liquidation of the 2020-21 gasoline contract with Petroleum Traders for 3,202 unused gallons at no cost to the district;
- To advertise for bids for the replacement of a 2004 maintenance van using capital project funds;
- To advertise for bids for the replacement of a 2013 Steiner mower using capital project funds;
- To advertise for bids for a Walker Zero Turn Tractor with bagger using capital project funds;
- Three-year agreement with UPMC Sports Medicine for athletic training services for the period July 1, 2021, through June 30, 2024, with costs for one athletic trainer at $15,000 for the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years and $16,000 for the 2023-24 school year;
- Cooperative agreement between Derry Area School District and St. Francis University for College in the High School, effective for the 2021-22 school year;
- Scott Chappell (delegate), Jacob Guiher (alternate delegate) and David Krinock (alternate delegate) as Westmoreland County Tax Collection Committee delegates, effective July 1.