Saylor named Bellefonte superintendent

Michelle Saylor was named superintendent of Bellefonte Area School District at a Tuesday night school board meeting.
Michelle Saylor was named superintendent of Bellefonte Area School District at a Tuesday night school board meeting. For the CDT, file

The Bellefonte Area school board unanimously approved Michelle Saylor as the district’s superintendent at Tuesday night’s school board meeting at the Bellefonte Area Middle School cafeteria.

Saylor was named interim superintendent in April, replacing former superintendent Cheryl Potteiger, who left the district.

She is slated to serve a four-year term that will last until June 30, 2020.

The board also unanimously approved the first reading of a plan to revise a policy regarding the school day during what the district considers extreme heat and/or extreme cold.

The policy comes on the heals of an alleged problem with the heating and air conditioning systems at Bellefonte and Benner elementary schools that left parents and guardians of students concerned.

Saylor said students could be dismissed early during days when temperatures reach a heat index of 95 degrees.

That means it could be 90 degrees, with 55 percent humidity.

Students could also be dismissed early when the wind chill dips to -20 degrees.

That means temperatures would be -10 degrees with 5 mph wind speeds.

Administration is working with the board to tweak the policy and roll it out before the end of the school year, Saylor said.

Other district news:

Administrators at Bellefonte Area School District also are soliciting feedback from the community about how the district can improve.

It was sparked as a way to help bring students back into the district from charter schools.

In a report, Saylor said, “This communication will not only enable us to better broadcast the opportunities available to our students but will also allow us to collect valuable feedback.”

The plan is also to reach out to families within the district who send their child to charter schools.

Saylor said it’s a way to make them aware of what BASD offers, and get a better understanding of why they choose charter schools.

Some reasons include smaller class sizes, and proximity to day care or work, Saylor said.

According to the report, the district spent $1,756,551 on charter school tuition in the 2015-16 school year.

It also said 118 total students from the district attend charter schools — 73 who go a brick-and-mortar charter schools, and 45 who attend cyber charter schools.

Public schools are required to provide funding to the charter school for every student who attends the school from within their district.

District Director of Fiscal Affairs Ken Bean said BASD pays about $12,000 for a regular education student to attend a charter school, and about $26,000 for a special education student.

In other news presented at the board meeting, high school Assistant Principal Mike Fedisson gave an update about the high school’s student parking situation.

To help limit the number of students who parked in unauthorized areas in the borough, the district reduced the price of a student parking pass this year from $20 to $5.

Board members and district administrators said that was because many students parked in the lots of nearby businesses, and on borough streets, including a semi-vacant lot where the old Weis Markets was located across from the high school.

Fedisson said the situation led to students sometimes parking at the M&T Bank lot in that same plaza. Weis Markets reportedly still owns land there.

Revenue from the tags last school year was $2,500, but Bean said he anticipates this year’s numbers “to be drastically reduced, but hopefully have more students using the parking lot.”

As of the third week of school in the 2016-17 school year, 125 student parking passes were sold.

Fedisson said he expects that number to increase as high school juniors become old enough to obtain a drivers license at age 16 years and 6 months.

Last year, 134 total student parking passes were sold, Fedisson said.

Student board representative Brian Feldman said he likely wouldn’t have purchased a parking pass if the price wasn’t reduced.

“The lower price is definitely an incentive,” he said.

Katelynn Walker, who graduated from BAHS in June, said she was a student driver for two years, and that the main reasons why her peers didn’t park at the high school wasn’t just because of the cost of a pass.

“First and for most, student drivers, buses, and student walkers all leave from the same exit, (which) creates ample congestion and really doesn’t feel safe, especially for an environment filled with young drivers,” she said in an email. “There were times I was unable to make a right turn for an entire green light because of the amount of people crossing the street.”

Students leaving the high school quickly could likely avoid the traffic, Walker added, but it wasn’t that easy for everyone.

“There have been times where I waited 30 minutes at the school just to leave,” she said. “As a student who sometimes worked at 4 (p.m.) at the mall, I would have to worry about being late. Many students parked down at the old Weis lot this year to avoid the traffic from the student (and) bus exit.”

Fedisson said high school administrators are still working — and communicating — with other students who are parking elsewhere.

“Some are willing to work with us; others say they’re going to take their chances with a ticket and a tow,” he said.

Britney Milazzo: 814-231-4648, @M11azzo