SHENANDOAH - A Shenandoah Valley parent attended Wednesday's board meeting to question extracurricular activity buyouts in the district.
Renee Buchanan, the mother of two students in the district, both of whom are involved in extracurricular activities, says some buyouts for activity fundraisers can cost as much as $250.
"It's very difficult for me, with two children, and I don't think they should have to feel the stress of what I'm feeling in order to participate in these sports." Buchanan said.
Buchanan's daughter Alyssa, a sophomore, is involved in the Drama Club, Cheerleading, Volleyball, Basketball, Student Council, Cross Country, and Track.
In discussion between the board and Buchanan during the public portion, one potential conclusion drawn is the purchase of "extras" - bags, jackets, fan buses, and other items not necessary for the activity.
"My whole thing is, Alyssa's involved in all of these (activities). Does she need a jacket for every single one? No. She doesn't. Does she need a duffel bag for every sport, that I'm paying for? No. We have so many bags, we have so many jackets, so many different things, when they can just do a 'Shenandoah Valley' bag, she can use it for track, she can use it for volleyball, she can use it for cheerleading." Buchanan added.
Buchanan noted the buyouts correspond with fundraising quotas, which are generally out-of-reach in a small community where many parents and children participate in the same activity.
"Are these buyouts approved?" Buchanan asked.
"You should be able to opt out on any of this... as a parent, I think you have to sit down with your kids and say 'Get one jacket, one bag'--" Board President Daniel Salvadore added.
"But it wasn't offered like that, I don't even know what I'm selling for" Buchanan responded.
"As a board, our responsibility is to provide governance over the district's activities, set boundaries and conditions and make rules, and we can't settle this here today, and we're taking a drink from a fire hose with you giving us all this data. We're going to want all that detail, for a lot of activities throughout the school, to get a scope of what we've got to try to reign in." Board member Tom Twardzik noted.
Another note was that all fundraisers are approved through the superintendent's office, but all requirements aren't presented there.
"What they're getting approved is 'We're selling Krispy Kreme Donuts.' 'Okay, Approved.' What you're not getting is the letter that I'm getting, that you have to sell 12 dozen donuts or the buyout is $45." Buchanan said.
"What's the 12 dozen donuts getting you, Renee?" District Business Manager Anthony Demalis asked.
"I didn't know. I did not know, until today." Buchanan responded.
"I'm going to go back to 'broad governance.' Here is 'superintendent has to authorize fundraiser request' So he gets a fundraiser request from another one, and another one, and another one, and another one, and Brian, I don't know that you have a grand view of every activity in the school." Twardzik added.
"I think this board is definitely going to review all that. There's really no reason you should have to fundraise all that money for two children who are so involved. It's over the top, I think we all agree with that." Salvadore said. "Parents should be able to opt out without effecting participation, then the kid doesn't get a jacket."
"It's one thing for a group to say to say 'we're going to have a fundraiser. We're going to go out and sell these things, and that's going to raise money for the group. If we fail to sell, well then you just need to pay." Twardzik said. "There’s a fine line of it turning into a pay-for-play. And we’re not pay-for-play."
"We will have many discussions" Salvadore added. "Something has to be addressed."
The board also heard a comment from Cindy Huss, parent of 2013 Shenandoah Valley graduate Ahna Huss, who was the first student to qualify for states in Track & Field as a freshman, and first to qualify in all four years of eligibility.
She noted how Ahna was told she could potentially have a banner honoring her achievement, but was denied that, as well as a banner recognizing all track state qualifiers, under the premise that she didn't medal.
Then a banner recognizing all Cross Country state qualifiers was hung.
"If we decide that we're not going to put up banners for qualifiers, then why have a banner with a qualifier, if that's true?" Twardzik said.
"I feel that there's a double-standard. Ahna is asking for nothing other than equal (recognition." Cindy Huss said.
The board said it will re-investigate the matter at its public workshop, to be held September 18 at 6pm.
During Superintendent Brian Waite's report, he noted the first day of school for Schuylkill Technology Center students would be on August 28, and September 6 for all other district students.
Also noted, the football team's season opener would be held of Friday, August 25 at Veterans Memorial Stadium (a 41-0 loss for the Blue Devils), and homecoming would be held on September 29 against Minersville.
"I'd also like to remind parents to refer to our Shenandoah Valley website for information regarding new school vaccination requirements... This is a friendly reminder to please look at the information on our website... If students do not have all of their vaccinations, they could be excluded after the first five days of school." Waite noted.
Waite announced a new provider for the school's Virtual Academy as well.
VLN Partners, Pittsburgh, is now the school's partner for its Virtual Academy, at a cost of $18,750 per year. Its previous partner, Blended Schools/GPA had an annual fee of $8,141.
"I’d like to announce a new program we’re offering here. It’s an online provider, VLN. We’re working collaboratively with them to offer options for our students who are enrolled in cyber schools and schools like Gillingham, and to encourage those students to come back to Shenandoah Valley,” Waite said. "Schools like cyber schools and schools like Gillingham purport that they are offering free education for our students in Shenandoah Valley, which is a misnomer. You, as taxpayers, pay the bill for those students attending charter and cyber charter schools including the parents who send their kids there. Some cyber charter schools use money to help with advertisement. One of them we have information on used over $4 million just last year of their funding that comes from public schools for advertisement. So, it's very important that our students who attend online cyber charter school, and Gillingham, we have other options for you."
"Another thing I'd like to recognize is, this year, for the first time in Shenandoah Valley, we'll have 14 students participating in college courses, working collaboratively with LCCC, and the professor will be coming right here on campus and offering those courses for our students." Waite added.
Waite also took the time to recognize this reporter, Sentinel Publisher/Editor/Multimedia Journalist David Lindenmuth, after receiving a scholarship from the National Press Club, Washington, DC.
"David has a passion for news and journalism. He is going off to Kutztown, leaving (Thursday), and David has represented Shenandoah Valley very well in his endeavors in what he's doing in moving off to Kutztown with his future, but he has recently been recognized by the National Press Club in Washington, DC." Waite noted.
"You have the initiative and the passion, and we wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors." Waite concluded.
Present at Wednesday's meeting were board members Joseph Alshefski, Joseph Buchanan, Helene Creasy, Karen Kayes, Anita Monahan, John Petritsch, Margaret Shustack, Tom Twardzik, board president Daniel Salvadore, High School principal Stuart Tripler, Elementary Principal Brooke Wowak, High School Vice-Principal John Brennan, Maintenance Supervisor David Lukashunas, Solicitor Michael O'Pake, Director of Special Education Michelle Zinkus, and Business Manager Anthony Demalis.
In other business, the Shenandoah Valley School Board: