Construction projects, new leadership top 2016 education stories

The fate of four State College elementary schools was one of 2016’s top education stories in Centre County.
The fate of four State College elementary schools was one of 2016’s top education stories in Centre County. Centre Daily Times, file

It was a busy year for news in education.

From leadership changing hands to school constructions and everything in between, here are the five top read stories of 2016.

Superintendent situation

The Bellefonte Area School District is under new leadership.

Michelle Saylor replaced Cheryl Potteiger as superintendent. Potteiger left the district in the middle of the 2015-16 school year after her contract was not renewed by the school board.

Saylor, the former assistant superintendent, was approved in April to act as interim superintendent. She was unanimously approved as superintendent in September.

According to school documents, Saylor is slated to serve a four-year term that will last through the end of the 2019-20 school year.

In the summer, Tammie Burnaford, a former elementary school principal, was appointed as acting assistant superintendent until officially approved for the position in December.

Elementary school project

After several months of evaluations, the State College Area school board is working to determine project options for the district’s elementary school master plan.

Affected schools are Corl Street, Radio Park, Lemont and Houserville.

The elementary master plan comes after district administrators reviewed a demographic study to determine needs of the schools and the community.

At its height, there were eight project scenarios. The board has narrowed them down to three.

In November, the board approved an addition/renovation project at Corl Street Elementary School that advances the development process to a three-classroom-per-grade configuration, estimated to cost $15.15 million.

In the same month, the school board also approved advancement to a similar design to Radio Park Elementary School at a cost of $16.02 million and Houserville Elementary School — which will be merged with the nearby Lemont Elementary School — at a cost of $16.65 million.

An alternate bid including a four-classroom-per-grade addition for Radio Park was also approved, which would increase that total by more than $1 million.

Penns Valley Area transportation crisis

Penns Valley Area School District administrators aren’t budging when it comes to its transportation policy.

Earlier in the school year, some families who live within the Penns Valley Area School District but send their children to charter schools — specifically Sugar Valley Rural Charter School in Loganton — said they’re concerned with how their children get to and from school.

The biggest concern, according to one mother and the charter school’s leader, is that the transportation system from Penns Valley Area doesn’t always align with the charter school’s daily schedule, specifically on days when the charter school has late arrival or early dismissal.

Unless they arrange for other means of transportation, children could arrive up to two hours before school starts and/or have to stay about two hours after school ends — of course with school staff on hand.

Penn Valley Area administrators said they have “fielded concerns” but are sticking with their policy.

A piano from Barry Manilow

The Bald Eagle Area School District got a surprise from a celebrity.

In advance of his concert in March at the Bryce Jordan Center, singer-songwriter Barry Manilow announced that — through the Manilow Music Project — he would donate a new Yamaha piano to the district.

Choir director Ryan Wade said the new piano is helping him enhance students’ music lessons.

“Because of its digital nature, it allows me to step out from behind the piano and assist students,” he said.

District business manager Craig Livergood said Manilow’s management company approached the BJC and asked about a local school or organization that would benefit from his program.

P-O football fields

A new football field at Philispburg-Osceola Area High School might have come with a dose of good luck this season.

The first time P-O played on the turf field in October was also the team’s first win in more than three years.

The Mounties beat St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy 34-14, which lead to student fans rushing the field.

But it also meant they had to say farewell to the longtime field where they used to play.

Veteran’s Memorial Field, which was dedicated on Nov. 11, 1930, is adjacent to the Moshannon Valley YMCA.

It can accommodate about 2,500 guests but will need to be used sparingly because it’s on a flood plain with nearby Moshannon Creek and Cold Stream Dam, now-retired athletic director Lee Fisher said.

The new facility, located on high school grounds, is only partially done, but when completed, will include bleachers, fencing, concession stands, parking and team rooms.

Britney Milazzo: 814-231-4648, @M11azzo