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Ligonier Valley Staff Saves Money for District

August 20, 2008

By AJ Panian

The Ligonier Valley school district has developed a special way of saving money.

Because the district started making use of its employees and independent hires to teach special needs education in 2005 instead of doing so through the Westmoreland Intermediate Unit, it has saved about one-third of the cost of using the regional education service agency to provide it, said Mary Beth Rauch, the district’s special needs education coordinator, in a presentation Monday to the school board.

During the 2004-05 school year, the last that the district employed instructors and secretaries out of the IU, the district doled out $882,586 in salaries and program costs, Rauch said. For the 2005-06 school year, the first in which the district relied on its own staff to teach special education and also hired new officials independent from the Westmoreland IU, the cost was $580,187.

“We saved more than $300,000, and we were also able to add a full- time secretary at $25,000 per year to manage the special needs program,” Rauch said.

Rauch could not readily quantify savings in subsequent school years. She estimated that the district’s annual savings percentage has remained consistent.

“That type of savings really allows us to offer other kinds of programs to help our special needs students, like assisted technology and individual specialized counseling, so that’s really invaluable,” Rauch said.

The district recently received a $149,383 Classrooms for the Future grant to be used during the coming academic year. The program enables teachers to use technology as an effective tool for educating students.

The district also received a $60,000 Title II grant to hire a Classrooms for the Future coach for the coming year responsible for the coordination, management, training and deployment of the program grant as established by the state Department of Education. The district plans to hire a member of its current staff as the program coach and hire a full-time substitute to fill any vacancy created by the move, said district Superintendent Christine Oldham.

“This is a critical position that will really help in successfully implementing this grant program,” Oldham said.

The board voted to give the district approval to solicit proposals for a market analysis and sale of the district administration building and site at 339 W. Main St. in Ligonier. The board voted to give the district approval to solicit bids for the recoating and relining of the track surface at Weller Field.

The next meeting is 7 p.m. Sept. 15 at Laurel Valley Middle/High School.

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