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Nanticoke Area graduates urged to live life of service

Dr. Ronald Grevera, the superintendent of Greater Nanticoke Area, invoked the words of President John F. Kennedy on Wednesday in challenging the Class of 2016 graduates to live a life of service.
He told them to look no further than the 65-year-old man on stage, dressed in a blue cap and gown.
Dennis Horwath quit school early at age 17 to fight in the Vietnam war and never returned to school. He later served 20 years in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. After the Sept. 11 attacks, he tried to reenlist, but was told he was too old.
That's the epitome of service, Grevera said.
The superintendent read excerpts of JFK's 1961 inaugural address, including the "ask not" portion where he challenged Americans to serve the country.
"It's my hope you live your life in such a manner you practice servant leadership," Grevera said.
Jennifer Lopez, salutatorian and class secretary, reminded the class of all the memorable things they did together. That bond will always be even as they grow apart and embark on different careers, she said.
"We are a close-knit family who will always be together in spirit," she said.
And, of course, graduates of the technology era have an easier time keeping in touch than graduates in the past, Lopez said.
"Thank goodness for social media," she said.

Greater Nanticoke Area conducts ‘graduation walk’ as a new tradition

One area school started a new tradition that the administration hopes will inspire younger students to stay in school — a graduation walk.
Students, who were already in caps and gowns at the Greater Nanticoke Area High School for graduation practice, took 20 minutes from their day on Wednesday to walk the halls of three of the districts buildings. They walked through the educational center (grades six and seven), elementary center (grades three, four and five) and Kennedy Elementary (grade two).
GNA Superintendent Dr. Ronald Grevera said the students didn’t walk in the K.M. Smith building because the building isn’t part of education center.
Grevera said board member Wendy Wiaterowski brought the idea to Grevera’s attention after seeing the tradition on social media about a high school in Texas.
“It’s a nice little tradition; great idea,” Grevera said. “It’s surprising that nobody really thought of it before.”
Grevera hopes the walk will “show the importance of education to the younger kids.”
Alexis Selli, 18, president of the senior class, agreed with Grevera.
“They’ll see us and want to work to be like us,” Selli said.
Matthew Schwenk, principal of Greater Nanticoke Area High School, said he “was at the end of the (senior) line” and saw that the younger kids were just as inspired as the older kids were.
“It was a win-win” Schwenk said noting that the younger kids were motivated to stay in school and the older kids were recognized by adults and former teachers. Schwenk called the atmosphere similar to a “pep rally.”
“I saw young kids clapping, hands outstretched for high-fives,” Schwenk said
“The kids faces light up,” Selli remembered.
Selli was the first person in line while walking though the halls. She said the seniors were “so happy” they received the approval from the administration to do it.
“It’s not an option (to not continue),” Selli said.
Selli called the “graduation walk” one of her “fondest memories” of high school that she’ll take with her to the University of Florida.
Nanticoke will graduate 141 graduates Wednesday with 58 students reporting that they will be attending two-year schools and technical institutes and 61 students reporting they will be attending four-year colleges or universities.

Area school officials breathe easier as budget stalemate ends
By Michael P. Buffer - Citizens Voice

Local school officials can relax now that additional state funding is on the way.
The Pittston and Hanover area school districts were going to run out of money next month.
“I’m relieved that we will finally be receiving funding from the state,” Pittston Area Superintendent Kevin Booth said. “I’m extremely happy for our students, especially the seniors who were worried about graduation. Parents and teachers can rest easy for now. However, I do believe this is a temporary fix to a much larger problem. Much work still must be done in Harrisburg.”
Hanover Area Superintendent Andrew Kuhl was in Harrisburg Wednesday morning for an event sponsored by the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials. The association called on Gov. Tom Wolf to sign a $6 billion supplemental budget bill sent to him by Republican lawmakers last week that provides missing state aid to school districts.
Kuhl was on his way back from Harrisburg when he learned Wolf announced he wouldn’t sign the budget bill, but will let it become law by not vetoing it.
“It’s a life preserver in the middle of a choppy ocean,” Kuhl said. “We live to fight another day now.”
More than 900 concerned parents and taxpayers attended a meeting Monday at Hanover Area High School on the impact of the ongoing budget impasse.
The state fiscal year began July 1, 2015, without a budget in place.
In January, school districts received about 45 percent of 2015-16 funding from the state after Wolf unlocked emergency funding to school districts with partial vetoes of a $30 billion budget.
Last week’s budget bill includes a $200 million increase for education, according to the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.
“While we appreciate the governor’s persistence with pushing for much-needed education funding increases, the $200 million in HB 1801 will keep doors open and allow schools to focus on educating children,” PSBA Executive Director Nathan Mains said in a news release. “There are still challenges ahead on the 2016-17 budget, which must be passed by June 30 to ensure that schools can enter into the next academic year with confidence.”
The Greater Nanticoke Area School District was going to start paying bills from its reserve fund, and Greater Nanticoke Area Superintendent Ronald Grevera was concerned the district would cease operations by the end of May.
On Wednesday, Grevera said this year’s funding increase “falls short” but he said, “it is a relief because we will be able to continue to educate our children and keep our doors open.”
On March 14, Wilkes-Barre Area Superintendent Bernard Prevuznak called the state budget impasse “an apocalyptic crisis.”
The Wilkes-Barre Area School District was going to run out of money in mid-May without additional state funding.
“I’m sure this was a difficult decision for the governor, but school districts were on fumes, struggling to finish this year,” Prevuznak said Wednesday. “This allows the funding to keep our schools going to finish the year. But realize the struggle continues and the fight goes on. The new budget is just around the corner, and we could be faced with same predicament. Our stakeholders must unite and continue pushing for the needed reforms that will bring educational funding back to where it belongs.”
Wolf on Wednesday announced he will veto the fiscal code, a separate budget document that included a formula on how the extra money on education would be spent.
The state Department of Education “is working with the governor’s office to ensure funding is distributed in a timely manner to school districts across the commonwealth,” said Casey Smith, deputy communications director for the department.
A fiscal-code veto could also hold up state aid to reimburse school districts for construction costs. Hanover Area will now not get $250,000 in the current budget year from the state in construction reimbursements, Kuhl said.

Glory days: Nanticoke Area celebrates 1989-90 state title run
Matt Bufano - Citizens Voice

Imagine: It’s March 1990 and you are the pride of Nanticoke.
The fanfare is evident by the oversold gyms on the road, and the decorated homes and storefronts in your city of 12,267. You receive fan mail and are asked to autograph pieces of merchandise bearing your school name and, sometimes, your own.
You reward the frenzied fandom with what the entire city joins you in celebrating: a state championship.
“It was an unbelievable experience, one that I will never forget,” said Lori Scally Zaleski, one of five senior starters for the 1989-90 Nanticoke Area Trojanettes girls basketball team. “The gym was always packed. There would be a line of fans outside the gym, waiting to get tickets for playoff games.”
Getting off the bus before the Eastern Final at Pottsville’s Martz Hall, Holly Kozlowski Udzella — one of the team’s four 1,000-point scorers — recalled being greeted by “an aisle of people” five rows deep on each side.
What followed that crazed scene was the Trojanettes beating North Schuylkill, 80-68, and earning a place in the state championship game against Beaver Falls.
Then, behind the 36-point performance of future St. Bonaventure Hall of Famer Casey Comoroski Hunt, Nanticoke Area defeated Beaver Falls, 77-67, for the PIAA Class AAA title and a perfect 30-0 record.
No Class AAA boys or girls team from the Wyoming Valley Conference has since won a state title.
One of the all-time great teams produced in Luzerne County scholastics, the Trojanettes will be honored at a boys-girls doubleheader Wednesday against North Schuylkill at Nanticoke Area as part of a 25th anniversary celebration.
Admission is $4 for adults and $2 for students, and the celebration will begin after the boys game that tips off at 6 p.m.
In hindsight, members of the team are still amazed — but more aware — of what they meant to the community.
“It’s not until years later that I have realized the impact we had on our community and the accomplishments we made,” Comoroski Hunt said. “Those memories are just as vivid today as they were 25 years ago.”
On the court
The 1989-90 lineup could be pegged as something of a team of destiny.
The starting five — Comoroski Hunt, Scally Zaleski, Kozlowski Udzella, Ellen Bartuska and Holly Ryncavage — first achieved great success by winning the WVC eighth-grade title.
“I think we gelled together,” Scally Zaleski said. “We played together for a long time from when we were in seventh grade. Everyone had a role. It wasn’t that one person did everything. We all had a role within that team, and we all respected those roles. We looked to help and support each other.”
Then-head coach Rose Volpicelli and assistant Elaine DeLuca knew, at the state level, their team with an average height of about 5-foot-6 would be undersized.
So, as far as a style of play, it was scrappy.
The Trojanettes pressed and forced turnovers on defense, played “streetball” and improvised on offense, and fundamentals were paramount every step of the way.
It didn’t hurt, too, that preparation started by playing against a second-team that could have been plenty successful on its own.
“We were playing against the second-best team in the state day-in and day-out (at practice),” Kozlowski Udzella said.
Goals were set prior to each game, among them: shooting 80 percent from the free-throw line and 50 percent from the floor (not including layups), and keeping the opposition to less than 50 points.
More often than not, those goals were reached and the Trojanettes scored 100-plus points five times.
The always-lopsided scores did produce some vitriol against Nanticoke Area, but Volpicelli — who always preferred the accolades and positive recognition go to her players — took the brunt of the criticism.
“She got beat up pretty bad (in the press) and she never let it deter her. She’d tell us, ‘Don’t let it bother you,’” recalled Bartuska, who today works at the Philadelphia Zoo. “The work ethic that she instilled in us, to this day, it’s so much of who I am. I haven’t played basketball in years, but those little things that she coached us on — the fundamentals, the mental game, how we conduct ourselves — that has translated into so much of my life that I owe to her and her coaching abilities on and off the court.”
By the time the state final rolled around, the Trojanettes were an unstoppable force and led Beaver Falls at the end of each quarter.
High drama came in the final seconds, though, when a Beaver Falls player grabbed Ryncavage by the hair and pulled her to the floor.
A double-technical foul was called, and Ryncavage — bruised ribs, chipped teeth and all — made every free throw.
Local legends
The day after winning the state final at a sold out Hersheypark Arena, the Trojanettes came home to a king’s welcome.
Chet Zaremba, Vice president of the Nanticoke Historical Society, was then working as a sergeant with the state police. From inside his marked police car, he met the Trojanettes’ bus on Interstate 81 and escorted the Trojanettes into the streets of Nanticoke, where a massive parade was forming.
“Everybody felt that they were part of what was going on,” said Zaremba, who recalled former Nanticoke mayor Walter Sokolowski and U.S. Rep. Paul Kanjorski riding alongside him in the parade.
Citizens’ Voice news reporter Bob Kalinowski, a life resident of Nanticoke, remembers attending every game that season with his aunt and grandfather. They went to cheer on his cousin and team member Lisa Przekop.
“Even as a child, I knew I was witnessing something special,” Kalinowski said. “Those girls were absolutely my idols growing up. After they won the state championship, they became legends and were treated like rock stars. It was a magical time. That team brought immense pride to our city.”
The Trojanettes’ last hurrah came before a standing-room-only crowd at Bishop Hoban High School for the WVC Senior All-Star Classic.
Each member of the starting-five played, but not at the same time, until all five were inserted with 2:01 left.
“It was a really packed house, and they got a standing ovation, maybe three minutes,” said former Citizens’ Voice sports editor Neil Corbett, who hailed the Trojanettes as perhaps the best basketball team he came across in the WVC. “It was incredible to see.”
Some team members still live in the area. Some moved away but get back often.
Today, they are still recognized as members of the historic team.
“It was 25 years ago and people still talk about it. That’s how important it was to the city,” said Bartuska, the center. “Looking back in retrospect it’s amazing to see how it brought the whole town, whole area together.”

Letter to the Editor: Express gratitude to people whose jobs help to keep schools running
First Posted: 11:20 pm - November 13th, 2015 Updated: 11:20 pm - November 13th, 2015.
Times Leader

When you think about school, who comes to mind? Teachers, students, the principal, coaches?
Those are all great choices, but to keep a school running it takes many more hands than that.
Educational Support Professionals Day will be marked on Wednesday, November 18, 2015. Our support professionals play a role both behind the scenes and on the front lines. They often don’t get credit for molding the future minds of America. These people include the cafeteria workers, the custodians and maintenance workers, aides, monitors and a whole host of other staffers.
Every day these people wake up to help children across America learn in a fully functioning environment. Many of these professionals see more students than the average teacher or administrator.|
Few people consider the important role ESPs play in making sure our schools and students are successful. They are the vital link between public schools and the community. They are dedicated to public education and loyal to their school systems. More often than not, they work in communities where they live. Because of this, most school employees, students and parents know and trust them.

Happy Educational Support Professionals Day.
J.D. Verazin, President
Greater Nanticoke Area Support Professionals

GNA borrows $9.3M for school expansion
Michael P. Buffer - Citizens Voice

The Greater Nanticoke Area School District will borrow $9.3 million to fund a project expanding Kennedy Elementary, according to information disclosed Thursday at a hearing.
A 30-year bond issue will cost $17.9 million in principal and interest payments, and the state will provide almost $8 million in reimbursements. No one from the public addressed the board during the hearing.
The expansion will allow the district to close K.M. Smith Elementary School after the 2016-17 school year. It is currently used for kindergarten, pre-K and first grade classes and is the only district facility not on the district campus off Kosciuszko Street in Nanticoke.
It’s located on Robert Street in the Sheatown section of Nanticoke and also is the district’s oldest facility. It dates back to 1930 and has structural deficiencies, including not being compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The Kennedy expansion will save $68,400 in annual staffing costs and $50,000 in energy costs. The new debt will increase the tax rate by 0.3259 mills, and the cost savings will decrease the rate by 0.1909 mills.
The net result is an increase of 0.1350 mills. A mill is $1 on every $1,000 in property assessment.
The district gets $620,272 from each mill. The school board in June approved a $26.5 million budget that maintained a tax rate of 10.4932 mills.
Kennedy, which currently is only used for second grade, will be used for pre-K, kindergarten and first grade after the expansion is done by August 2017.
After the hearing, the school board conducted its monthly meeting and voted to hire Jeffrey Gregory as high school principal with an annual salary of $88,000. He will replace Joe Long, who will become an elementary school principal in the Wyoming Area School District.
Gregory has been working as the director of admissions at Lackawanna College and has administrative experience in the Lake-Lehman, Old Forge and Lackawanna Trail school districts. He lives in Peckville.

New School Year Brings Changes
Michael P. Buffer - Citizens Voice
Greater Nanticoke

The Greater Nanticoke Area School District is looking for a new high school principal to replace Long, Superintendent Ronald Grevera said. The district has hired Sharon Baddick as principal of the Elementary Center and Educational Center. She was assistant principal at Crestwood High School and replaced Maryellen Scott, who retired.
The district is planing to expand Kennedy Elementary School, which will be closed next year for renovations. Construction is expected to begin at the end of this school year, Grevera said.
The new building will be for pre-K through 2nd grade. It’s currently used for second grade.

Greater Nanticoke Area to put cameras on school buses
Susan Bettinger - Times Leader

The Greater Nanticoke Area School Board approved the monitoring of student activities on the district school buses at Thursday’s meeting.
The monitoring will consist of both audio and visual cameras installed on the coaches.
Only Bob Raineri and Frank Shepanski, both of whom were absent from the meeting, did not vote for the measure.
The board also approved policy changes that add cyber school attendance requirements. Cyber school requirements previously had no minimum time of attendance. Beginning with the new school year, the attendance requirement will be set at 2.5 hours per week per course.
Kenneth James, of the athletic department, asks that anyone who has knowledge of GNA’s former athletes, contribute their information to the Greater Nanticoke Area’s Committee to Honor Past Athletes. James said that he wants to make sure that “no one is forgotten.”
District Superintendent Ronald Grevera stated that how students dress needs to be discussed during the August board meeting. Grevera added that many of the students need to begin dressing “in a more appropriate manner.”
The board will meet next at 7 p.m. on Aug. 13.

Nanticoke Area graduates 179
Eric Mark - Citizens Voice

The Greater Nanticoke Area High School Class of 2015 graduated on Thursday in the school auditorium, in a ceremony so upbeat it almost felt like a pep rally.
The positive vibe permeated the school hallways in the hour before the ceremony began, as keyed-up soon-to-be graduates gathered to take photos and record videos with family and friends.
“We have a lot to look forward to,” said Macey Pudlosky, one of 179 Trojans in the graduating class.
Her friend and fellow graduate Katelyn Downs agreed.
Downs, who said her future plans include college and travel, described her time at Nanticoke High in three words: “It was nice.”
The graduation speakers, both students and adults, continued the cheery theme.
District Superintendent Ronald Grevera told the class not to fear the unknown as they head off to new places, filled with new people and experiences.
He urged the graduates to be “climbers,” people who are “persistent, tenacious and resilient” and “live their life to the fullest.” He also told them to believe in themselves and their self-worth.
“Having self-esteem in our abilities and talents is very important ... to be successful in this world,” he said.
Class valedictorian Chrislyn Cabonilas said that “each graduate here has the potential to do great things.”
Salutatorian Katie Sherman told her classmates to “carry Trojan pride with you wherever you go.”
The Class of 2015 includes 33 members of the National Honor Society.
The ceremony was broadcast live to those who gathered in the school cafeteria after being turned away from the auditorium, where every seat was filled.

Greater Nanticoke Area plans $8.9M school expansion
Michael P. Buffer - Citizens Voice

The Greater Nanticoke Area School District plans to close K.M. Smith Elementary School and spend almost $8.9 million expanding Kennedy Elementary.
The school board approved the plan Thursday and expects a state reimbursement of more than $3.1 million. The district needed to make a decision soon because the state is imposing a July 1 moratorium on the PlanCon state funding process for school construction projects.
K.M. Smith currently hosts kindergarten, pre-K and first grade classes and is the only district facility not on the district campus off Kosciuszko Street in Nanticoke.
It’s located on Robert Street in the Sheatown section of Nanticoke and also is the district’s oldest facility. It dates back to 1930 and has structural deficiencies, including not being compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The district plans to borrow money to fund the
$8 million expansion of Kennedy, which currently is only used for second grade, Superintendent Ronald Grevera said. After the expansion is done by August 2017, Kennedy will be used for kindergarten, pre-K and first grade.
The elementary center, which is currently for grades 3, 4 and 5, will be realigned for grades 2 through 4. The education center will go from grades 6 and 7 to grades 5 through 7. The high school will remain for grades 8-12.
The district will review its options in the near future on what to do with the K.M. Smith property, school board President Ryan Verazin said.
The school board in March voted to pay EI Associate Architects $10,000 to conduct a building feasibility study. The completed study included two other options rejected by the board: spending more than $13 million to renovate both K.M. Smith and Kennedy; and closing K.M. Smith and spending more than
$16 million to build a new school on land by the high school.

Greater Nanticoke Area school expansion approved

No new school, but J.F. Kennedy would be expanded and K.M. Smith closed under a plan approved by the Greater Nanticoke Area School Board at a special meeting Thursday. If the proposal moves forward, it’s estimated to cost the district about $5 million, with ground broken this time next year.
“The total is estimated at about $8 million but we’re expecting about $3 million reimbursement from the state,” Superintendent Ronald Grevera said of the choice made after reviewing proposals in a $10,000 district-wide feasibility study.
The state reimbursement is a key reason the board held a special meeting to vote on an option. Gov. Tom Wolf has proposed a moratorium on the reimbursement program, known as “PlanCon,” and the state Department of Education has advised that any district hoping for state money should submit initial paperwork, known as PlanCon Part A, by July 1.
Wilkes-Barre Area School District is facing the same deadline, though with a much steeper price tag, on its high school project, most recently estimated to cost as much as $100 million. That board has narrowed choices to building one or two new schools on the sites where Coughlin and Meyers high schools currently sit, and expects to make a final choice as early as this Wednesday.
The Greater Nanticoke feasibility study by EI Associates offered three options for elementary schools (there were also options to partially or fully renovate the high school):
• Renovate K.M. Smith for pre-kindergarten through first grade and Kennedy for second grade for a total cost of $13.16 million, about $8.4 million after state reimbursement.
• Close Smith, renovate Kennedy with additional classrooms, and build a new pre-k through first grade school on land by the high school for a cost of about $16.26 million, $11.5 million after reimbursement.
• Close Smith and expand Kennedy to hold the students, the option selected. The expansion would occur primarily at the front of the building along Kosciuszko Street, eliminating a small parking lot but creating a courtyard surrounded by the school.
Grevera said option three made the most sense not only because it was the least expensive, but because it would merge all the schools onto a single “campus-like setting,” It also provides rooms for pre-kindergarten, assuming talk in Harrisburg about providing money for such classes becomes a reality.
“We know the research shows the earlier you help students the better, and in our community with 60 percent of our students eligible for free or reduced lunches, it makes sense to get started on that,” Grevera said.
If money doesn’t become available, the school could still be used to house other grades.
Eliminating one building also cuts down on the transitions children must make as they move up the grades.
Currently Kennedy houses only second grade, meaning students must transition to the building for a single year before moving to the elementary center. The plan would allow the school to house pre-k to first grade or kindergarten to second, with the other elementary grades split between the elementary and educational centers.
“From an educational standpoint that’s a very good thing,” Grevera said, noting research suggests more transitions reduce academic achievement.
The pre-k rooms would each have their own restrooms so students wouldn’t have to leave the rooms.
Along with the threat of a state moratorium on construction renovation, there’s another reason to do something now: Interest rates on borrowing are low.
And while state predictions — frequently proven unreliable in this area — suggest the district may see an increase in enrollment, Grevera said it looks like a small rise followed by some reductions, so a change in demand for more space seems unlikely.
“If everything goes the right way, this time next year we should be breaking ground,” Grevera said. The feasibility study estimates construction could wrap up by August 2017.

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