North Allegheny Goes High-tech at School Board Meetings

Pittsburg Post-Gazette 

March 31, 2017

Members of the North Allegheny school board took a technological leap last week, using electronic voting.

As they voted on each agenda item, the votes were displayed on two screens in the meeting room. The program also contained a digital timer for speakers.

“I notice our votes got faster and faster as we went through this meeting. We won’t have to cue up the 'Jeopardy’ music next time,” board president Kevin Mahler joked.

The recent switch to BoardDocs “will make agendas and policies more searchable,” he said.

Also at the March 22 meeting, the board named Matthew Buchak, who has been assistant principal of the senior high since 2011, as assistant principal of Marshall Middle School after the end of this school year.

The board awarded a $165,600 contract to R.A. Glancy and Sons to renovate the second-floor restrooms at the senior high but rejected the only bid for plumbing for the project.

Rick McClure, chair of the buildings and grounds committee, said the the plumbing contract can be re-bid while construction is ongoing.

The contract to R.A. Glancy includes an upgrade for hand dryers, which Mr. McClure said, the principals had asked for to reduce waste. The $6,600 cost will pay for itself in a few years, he said.

R.A. Glancy also received a $93,000 contract for repairs to the terrazzo tile floor at the entrance to the gym at the senior high. Both projects are in the 2017-18 capital plan.

Parent Katie Rhoten questioned the cost of administering the Iowa Test of Basic Skills and CogAt tests. The Iowa tests, which are given to second- through seventh-graders, cost between $18.67 and $25 per student, depending on the grade level.

The CogAt test measures cognitive ability and is given to second- and fourth-graders. It costs about $5 per student, and is one measure used for the gifted program.

Neither test is required by the state or federal government. When the required Pennsylvania System of School Assessment test is added in, fourth-graders have five weeks of standardized tests, Mrs. Rhoten said.

“It is a waste of students’ and teachers’ times and a waste of funds,” she said.

Another parent disagreed.

“I like the Iowa tests. It is a national test instead of just for Pennsylvania,” said Elizabeth Warner. “I appreciate getting that data on a national scale.”

Mr. Mahler said district officials are talking about cutting back on tests. The CogAt used to also be given to seventh-graders, but that grade was eliminated.

“I have a fourth-grader. The stress level permeates the house,” board member Suzanne Filiaggi said.

Resident Allyson Minton thanked board members Libby Blackburn and Scott Russell for visiting McKnight Elementary School after the board defeated an item last month to study conversion of unused space at the school.

At the time, Mrs. Minton and administrators noted that some of the rooms at McKnight are not being used for their intended purposes. Mrs. Minton had mentioned a sensory room for special education students that is being held in a supply closet.

After the board members visited, some changes were made.

“The sensory room is no longer in a closet,” she said. “On behalf of our students, thank you so very, very much.”

Sandy Trozzo, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.