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Board: Principal to divide time between two Mercersburg-area schools

Dozens of parents storm out of meeting after Tuscarora School Board's 7-0 vote

June 19, 2013|By ROXANN MILLER | roxann.miller@herald-mail.com

MERCERSBURG, Pa. — The Tuscarora School Board’s decision to have Mercersburg Elementary School Principal Lura Hanks oversee two elementary schools caused a firestorm after Tuesday’s meeting.

Starting next year, Hanks will divide her time between Mercersburg and Montgomery elementary schools.

That decision came after school board members voted 7-0 to approve the administrative change in order to free up Brett Kagarise, who currently serves as principal at Montgomery and Mountain View elementary schools, to serve full-time at Mountain View.

Board members Thomas Black and Erich Hawbaker were absent Tuesday. Dozens of parents stormed out of the meeting in protest of the vote.

As board member Daryl Hunsberger left the building, parents demanded answers from him.

“I made the choice as a board member for what is good for the whole of all the children of the district,” Hunsberger said to them.

Hunsberger said new Schools Superintendent Charles Prijatelj was brought into the district to study the numbers, and the decision was based on data.

Beth Willander was shocked by the board’s unanimous vote.

“We felt like we had some people who understood the emotional side of it. We were hoping this wasn’t a numbers-based decision because our children are not just a number,” Willander said.

“I think it was a very rushed decision. Our numbers don’t come out until August, and I think (school board members) are going to be pleasantly surprised. Don’t fix something that isn’t broken,” she said.

“I feel the kids here at Mercersburg need to get the special attention that they’ve gotten from Lura Hanks over the past years that she’s been here,” said Jennifer Konchalski, parent of three children in the district.

She credits Hanks with getting her oldest son to sixth grade.

Konchalski said school officials have argued that the move is for the betterment of all the district’s students.

Mountain View and Montgomery elementary schools recently made “adequate yearly progress” as determined by the state and Mercersburg did not, she said.

Former PTO president Laura Patterson said Hanks has been the third principal at Mercersburg Elementary School in seven years.

“Our school has gone through such transition, and it has been at risk for many years for not meeting the state standards,” Patterson said.

It’s a shame to move someone who is moving the school upward, she said.

“What we did was in the best interest of all children in the district. That has to be our major focus and our major concern,” board President Clifford Smith Jr. said.

In other business, the board approved the 2013-14 final budget with three-fourths of a mill real estate tax increase.

A mill represents $1 of every $1,000 assessed property value.

The tax increase would cost the average property owner $14.18 more next year, according to district Business Administrator Eric Holtzman.

Even with the tax increase, the district will have to pull approximately $330,000 from its savings to balance expenditures ($34.5 million) and revenues ($34.1 million), Holtzman said.

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