The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Latest News

February 24, 2013

Ferndale against consolidation

JOHNSTOWN — Ferndale Area School District’s geographic outline looks a little like buckshot pattern on a map.

Youngsters from five non-contiguous municipalities comprise the student body: Ferndale Borough, Dale Borough, Brownstown Borough, Lorain Borough and Middle Taylor Township. The little islands are surrounded by four bordering school districts: Greater Johnstown, Westmont Hilltop, Conemaugh Valley and Central Cambria.

Only 800 students in kindergarten through 12th grade attend Ferndale. So, whenever talk of school consolidation arises, the district is often mentioned as one that could easily be folded in with its neighbors.

But the Yellow Jackets want to remain on their own.

“We are doing very well,” said Ferndale Area School District Superintendent Carole Kakabar. “We do not need to consolidate. We are holding our own in terms of finances.”

Despite being geographically separated, Kakabar feels the district is a tight-knit community.

“The advantage is the smallness of the district,” she said. “Every teacher knows every student. It’s a small-town feel. It’s kind of a Mayberry R.F.D. feel.”

Ferndale is one of 32 school districts in the local area – Bedford, Cambria, Somerset, part of Westmoreland and part of Indiana counties – and 500 across the commonwealth. There were about 2,700 districts in Pennsylvania as recently as the 1950s. Some want the number decreased further. In 2009, then-Gov. Ed Rendell wanted to study the possibility of cutting the total to 100, which would have reduced the need for superintendents, principals, etc. The idea of countywide school districts has been floated by some state officials.

State Sen. John Wozniak, D-Westmont, is to put forth two proposals to the Legislature: Outright consolidation or shared services between districts without actual consolidation.

But resistance to such changes is often fierce and rooted in small-town school pride.

“You know how to kill a vampire, you know how to kill a werewolf, but getting rid of that school mascot is nearly impossible,” said Wozniak.

Opposition is not only local. “It’s all over the state,” said Ron Cowell, president of the Education Policy and Leadership Center, which helps develop commonwealth-level education policies.

Gerald Zahorchak has experienced the debate from multiple perspectives. He is a current and former Greater Johnstown superintendent who served as state Education Secretary. He has been involved with the Inspired Leadership Initiative and Mid-Atlantic States Laboratory for Student Success.

“I, like most, would say that the idea of consolidation is one that we really should give careful consideration to because I believe we could become much more efficient in ‘back office’ activities,” he said. Assessing consolidation, he said, “Without the state Legislature acting on this, the chances of it happening with a large number of schools is zero. It just won’t happen.”

Two inner-district mergers have been attempted locally.

Bedford Area School District wanted to close Hyndman Middle-Senior High School and send students on daily round-trip bus rides of 40-plus miles to their new classrooms. In response, the Hyndman community opted to leave the district and open HOPE for Hyndman Charter School during the 2011-12 academic year. Now, since Bedford has closed the local elementary school, too, HOPE is the only education system in Hyndman.

“The reward is being able to offer the community a school of their own,” said HOPE CEO and Principal Malynda Maurer. “For the first time in many years, it is locally operated.”

Ligonier Valley School District merged its two high schools – Ligonier Valley and Laurel Valley – in 2010.

In the last year of operating two high schools, the district’s audited expenses were nearly $27 million, said Ligonier Valley Superintendent Christine Oldham. The total for 2011-12 dropped to $24.5 million. “I believe we are offering strong programs to all our students,” said Oldham. “We’ve continued to experience success, athletically and academically.”

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat print edition.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat e-edition.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Latest News
  • Consumer spending on health care jumps as Affordable Care Act takes hold

    Nancy Beigel has known since September that she would need hernia surgery. She couldn't afford it on her $11,000 yearly income until she became eligible for Medicaid in January through President Barack Obama's signature health care law.

    April 19, 2014

  • VIDEO | Boston bomb scare defendant appears in court

    The man accused of carrying a backpack containing a rice cooker near the Boston Marathon finish line on the anniversary of the bombings was arraigned Wednesday. He's being held on $100,000 bail.

    April 19, 2014

  • Denne, Williams & Stanton Records hearing scheduled

    A Cambria County judge will consider complaints filed by two Johnstown residents seeking documents related to the city’s municipal waste water operation at hearing at the end of this month.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Sen. Bob Casey Casey targets heroin

    The heroin trade has brought addiction, death, violence and theft to Johnstown and other Pennsylvania communities.
    Figuring out how to deal with those issues is difficult for local, state and federal officials.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Drive-in to open with high-tech projector

    Drive-in movie theaters and the term “state of the art” seldom share the same sentence.
    But that will soon be the case for the Silver Drive-In, it’s owner said. The Scalp Avenue site, often marketed as a nostalgic summer night escape, soon will boast a high-end projector capable of displaying the latest and greatest blockbusters in razor sharp high-definition, theater owner Rick Rosco said.

    April 18, 2014

  • Sheetz work underway

    Earthmoving is underway at Richland Town Centre for a nearly 6,500-square-foot Sheetz store.
    And the real estate broker marketing the land says a 3,000-square-foot retail building will be built next door.

    April 18, 2014

  • Smith, Shakir Mosi Police seize heroin, money in Prospect

    Johnstown police reported that several bricks of heroin, along with $4,000 in cash and a handgun, were discovered in the city's Prospect neighborhood around 4 a.m. Friday. An arrest warrant has been issued for the man be­lieved to be the owner or renter of the two homes raided.

    April 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • Comedy night targets serious problem

    Animal advocates are using comedy to take aim at a serious problem.
    The third annual Funny Fundraiser to benefit the Nardecchia Spay and Neuter Fund will be held at 8 p.m. May 16 at Ace’s, 316 Chestnut St. in the Cambria City section of Johnstown.

    April 18, 2014

  • Local briefs 4/19/2014

    April 18, 2014

  • Early morning police raid in Prospect area leads to arrest warrant

    Johnstown police reported that several bricks of heroin, along with $4,000 in cash and a handgun, were discovered in the city's Prospect neighborhood around 4 a.m. this morning.

    April 18, 2014

Poll

Do you think that Jack Williams will get the 270 signatures from city residents needed in order to have a referendum placed on a municipal ballot to have the city's pressure test mandate repealed?

Yes
No
I'm not sure
     View Results
Order Photos


Photo Slideshow

House Ads