School Board Approves Motion, Moves Forward with High School Project
Dr. Jim Pawelczyk was the only member of the State College Area Board of Directors who did not vote in favor motion to approve the preliminary high school project to referendum on Monday night.
The referendum will ultimately ask State College residents to vote on one question that will determine in which direction the high school project moves. The vote will be for or against the project.
It will be held either on Election Day in 2013 or the district can pay for it to happen on a separate day.
Pawelczyk said he made his stance on the referendum clear at least six months ago. If the board is going to move forward with major high school renovations, he wants to see some other factors fall into place first, such as reconciling cost disparities, developing cost scenarios for the renovations and updating the Master Plan from 2009.
"We need to recognize the need to reconcile the cost of the project," Pawelczyk said. "When I look at this process as it's laid out, I don't see that ... at all.
"Something needs to happen early to establish the budget of this process.
The district's financial challenges have changed as well," Pawelczyk said.
One issue Pawelczyk said he had with the referendum is that, according to his assumption, it 'would all be done in one fell swoop' – but without a cost estimate, that causes a problem.
"I don't see this process giving us the sufficient time and information to do that. I want us to focus on what we can achieve and get it done," he said.
Other board members expressed their hope that a top priority moving toward the referendum will be focused on engaging the community and making sure all State College residents are very much included in the entire process.
"The idea would be that 100 percent say this is the way to go," Laurel Zydney said. "At the end of the day, they'll feel like they've been heard.
To me, what a successful referendum is one that gets us a good high school. If the referendum fails it means we have not succeeded in our goal," Zydney said.
A key component of keeping the public up to speed on the creation of the referendum will be the Community Engagement Action Team, Superintendent Bob O'Donnell said. Included in community engagement will be workshops moving through the process and surveys to gauge public opinion.
"It will help everyone understand the thinking as we address the question, 'Why?'" O'Donnell said.
Director of Physical Plant Ed Poprik said the referendum could be ready by early October 2013.
The board voted to approve the Memorial Field agreement with the State College Borough to fill in the sinkhole underneath the stadium. The motion passed unanimously and State College Borough Council will vote on the motion at their regular meeting on Dec. 3.
Monday night's meeting was Ann MGlaughlin's last as board president. She thanked her colleagues and said she's looking forward to moving on.
"I've been very privileged to serve in this role for five years," McGlaughlin said. "It is time for us to have a transition – I trust it will be a very smooth transition – I just want to thank everyone, it really as been a pleasure working with you all.
A temporary president will be appointed on Dec. 3 and a subsequent appointment of a new board president and vice president will be announced later in December.
The board discussed budget planning and development for the 2013-14 fiscal year.
Upcoming dates include:
- Feb. 11: The board will vote to approve the 2013-14 budget
- Feb. 25: Discussions of the governor's proposed budget
- March 11: The refined State College Area School District budget proposal, as necessitated from the governor's proposal
O'Donnell said at the beginning of the meeting on Monday that the two days the district was closed because of Hurricane Sandy will be made up on Dec. 21 and Feb. 18.
The board meeting concluded around 10 p.m. on Monday and classes resume on Tuesday for State College Area School District students.