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Trial turnout disappoints Bellefonte business owners

December 21, 2011 Leave a comment

Caption: West High Street in front of the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte is blocked off for the preliminary hearing of Jerry Sandusky on Tuesday, December 13, 2011. Nabil K. Mark CENTRE DAILY TIMES 

PUBLISHED IN THE CENTRE DAILY TIMES

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 14, 2011

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BY CHRIS ROSENBLUM, ED MAHON AND JESSICA VANDERKOLK

From the story:

Arlene Milton stayed at her restaurant, The Diamond Deli, until 11:30 p.m. Monday night and arrived at 3:45 a.m. Tuesday to finish preparing a breakfast buffett.

She opened at 5 a.m. offering a spread that included eggs, home fries, fruit salad, sausage, and sausage gravy with homemade muffins.But by 7 a.m., the shop — which she has owned for nine years and is adorned with old photographs and other Bellefonte memorabilia — only had about five customers.

“I’m disappointed. Where are these people?” she said. “You know, they come into town here, now they ought to be in here to eat.”

But she figured things would pick up.When Sandusky waived his preliminary hearing an hour-and-a-half later, those hopes faded.“All this food! As if it grows on your back,” she said. “Forget it. If it goes to trial, I’m closing the doors.”

Read more here: Trial turnout disappoints Bellefonte business owners.

Categories: Bellefonte, December 2011

The Second Mile, a charity in crisis, may not recover

November 21, 2011 Leave a comment

Caption: The Second Mile charity offices are located at 1402 S. Atherton St., December 2, 2011. Nabil K. Mark 

PUBLISHED IN THE CENTRE DAILY TIMES

FRIDAY NOVEMBER 11, 2011

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BY ED MAHON

Guidance counselors in the State College Area schools have stopped referring students to The Second Mile’s early intervention youth programs.

Educators in the Bald Eagle Area, for now at least, don’t plan to hand out trading cards, with positive messages and the images of Penn State football players, that the organization distributes.

And whether a significant number of schools will continue to participate in the nonprofit’s leadership conferences is one of many uncertainties.

“We don’t know the status of that organization going forward,” said Dena Cipriano, spokeswoman for the Philipsburg- Osceola Area School District.

The future of The Second Mile has come into question since the Attorney General’s Office released a grand jury report Saturday, alleging that the organization’s founder,

Jerry Sandusky, sexually abused eight boys over 15 years. The report said he was introduced to the boys through The Second Mile programs.

Some educators said they felt betrayed by the news.

“I have been a public school teacher for 23 years. During that time I have referred many children to The Second Mile,” Bellefonte resident Susan Munnell wrote in a letter to the Centre Daily Times. “It makes me sick to now know that I could have been throwing them to the wolves — wolves that prey on innocent, at-risk children seeking acceptance and positive role models.”

Others cautioned against punishing an entire organization because of accusations against one person.

“We’re not going to paint everyone with the same brush,” said Penns Valley Area School District Superintendent Brian Griffith.

Solar Savings: Deals net local schools green energy, learning tools

November 21, 2011 Leave a comment

Caption: Project Manager Rick Vilello talks about the 2152 individual solar panels on the roof of Bald Eagle Area High School and Wingate Elementary Schools combined October 11, 2011. CDT/Nabil K. Mark

PUBLISHED IN THE CENTRE DAILY TIMES

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 23, 2011

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BY ED MAHON

WINGATE — At one Bald Eagle Area School District building, solar panels cover more than half the roof. That’s equal to about two-and-a-half football fields— end zones included.

“It’s funny to think, Bald Eagle Area, in the middle of Centre County, one of the most rural school districts — and this is one of the most high-tech buildings in Pennsylvania,” district construction manager Rick Vilello said while standing atop the roof on a foggy day recently.

Lots of districts have tried to lower their energy bills — from building biomass boilers

to turning off teachers’ coffee pots in classrooms. But Bald Eagle Area and Bellefonte Area school districts have taken an unusual approach through a private partnership:

Solar panels provide about half the energy for the Bald Eagle Area middle and high school building, as well as the connected Wingate Elementary School. In the neighboring Bellefonte Area School District, two elementary schools — Pleasant Gap and Marion-Walker — and the high school have solar energy systems, too.

So far the savings from solar energy are modest — about $12,000 at Bald Eagle Area, and less than that in Bellefonte, based on an analysis of data provided by the districts.

But leaders there say the panels didn’t cost the districts or local taxpayers any money, serve as an education tool for students, provide certainty for future budgets, and could become bigger cost savers in future years.

“Really it was just an opportunity that came up during the renovation,” said Dan Fisher, superintendent for Bald Eagle Area, which has nearly finished a $26 million construction project at Wingate Elementary School and the middle and high school building. “And everything fit together.”

But not many Pennsylvania school districts are in a position to imitate Bellefonte and Bald Eagle Area.

“Solar, right now, is not attractive,” Damion Spahr, vice president of business development for the Harris-burg- based Reynolds Construction Management company, told Philipsburg-Osceola Area school board members during a meeting this month.

Two main barriers exist for schools. Federal and solar energy grants have diminished. And the market for solar renewable energy credits — which provide revenue for owners of solar panels — has plunged by about 90 percent since last year.

Carlisle Area School District leaders, for instance, told community members that their $2.35 million investment in a solar system would pay for itself within four years. But in today’s market, the system is bringing in less money than expected. As a result, the payback is looking closer to 10 years.

In Bald Eagle Area and Bellefonte, a partnership with a private finance and investment company, Smart Energy Capital, let the district avoid those barriers. They also aren’t affected by the downturn in the solar renewable energy credit market.

Both school districts don’t own the panels, didn’t pay to have them installed and aren’t responsible for maintaining them.

Instead, Smart Energy paid for the solar panels with help from about $2.2 million in state grants. The private company then installed the solar panels on district roofs.

“In essence, what we’re doing is leasing our roof space,” said Ken Bean, director of fiscal affairs for the Bellefonte Area School District.

Residents lament loss of former Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church steeple

November 21, 2011 Leave a comment

 

 

Caption: The old Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church steeple is in the process of being removed October 10, 2011. CDT/Nabil K. Mark 

PUBLISHED IN THE CENTRE DAILY TIMES

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 11, 2011

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BY ED MAHON

ZION — A 35-foot steeple on a former church, originally built in the 1880s, is being removed by construction workers.

“You either tear it down or it’s going to fall down,” said Rick Walk, who was hired by the property’s owner to do the demolition work. “It’s been leaking for 20 years. We’ve been trying to patch it, and … it was too much money to fix it.”

Walk, whose crew began work last week, said rotting wood was the problem.

Categories: Bellefonte, October 2011

Bellefonte school board OKs $4.5 million land purchase for athletic facilities

October 5, 2011 Leave a comment

Caption: The Bellefonte Red Raiders run out onto the field through a tunnel of cheerleaders for the game against Penns Valley to kick off their season at Rogers Stadium on Friday, September 2, 2011. CDT/Abby Drey 

PUBLISHED IN THE CENTRE DAILY TIMES

OCTOBER 5, 2011

BY ED MAHON

BELLEFONTE — School board members approved buying about 107 acres of land behind the Bellefonte Area High School building, a $4.5 million purchase that the district’s been trying to make for years and which could clear the path for a long sought-after track facility.

“This is a bold, historical decision tonight you’ll be making tonight,” board member Keith Hamilton told his colleagues before the vote. “I think it’s a sound decision. I endorse it a hundred percent. … And it will give the community a wonderful new foundation to work with.”

The district said $2.5 million for the purchase will come from its capital reserve fund and $2 million will come from taking on new debt. The district plans to start a capital campaign to finance the land purchase and the construction of new facilities.

Exactly what those new facilities will be hasn’t been decided, and board members said they’ll seek community input.

The vote to approve the land purchase was 8-0 in favor with board member David Van Buskirk absent. Members then approved borrowing $2 million debt at a fixed interest rate of 2.75 percent.

The need for more land has been a point of contention in the district since at least the late 1980s.

Read more: Bellefonte school board OKs $4.5 million land purchase.

Bellefonte, State College schools to pilot teacher evaluation plan

October 3, 2011 Leave a comment

BY ED MAHON

PUBLISHED IN THE CENTRE DAILY TIMES

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2011

Educators in the Bellefonte and State College area school districts have signed up to pilot a new teacher-evaluation program being pushed by the Corbett administration.

“We want to see what they look like and smell like,” said Bellefonte Area School District Superintendent Cheryl Potteiger, “to see what they actually want us to evaluate.”

The state Department of Education said a little more than 100 kindergarten through 12th-grade school entities, including career and technical centers and charter schools, volunteered to pilot the program, which won’t judge teachers solely on classroom observation. Student performance on tests will be a large factor.

In arguing that the overhaul is necessary, the administration of Gov. Tom Corbett has pointed to the fact that 99.4 percent of all teachers and 99.2 percent of principals received a satisfactory rating on reviews in the 2009-10 school year.

“How can virtually 100 percent of educators be evaluated as satisfactory, yet, based on statewide assessments, 1 in 4 students are scoring below proficient in reading and 1 in 3 are scoring below proficient in math?” Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis said in a written statement last week. “It just does not add up.”

Read more: Bellefonte, State College schools to pilot new teacher evaluation plan.

School districts roll out changes on first day of classes

September 9, 2011 Leave a comment

 

Caption: Bellefonte Area High School’s new principal Jennifer Brown waves to students as they make their way to class, September 6, 2011. CDT/Nabil K. Mark 

BY ED MAHON

PUBLISHED IN THE CENTRE DAILY TIMES

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 2011

BELLEFONTE — As she walked the hallways before the homeroom bell, Jennifer Brown reminded one student to remove his cap, introduced herself to a student she had spotted the other day on a sports field, told some ninth-graders it was natural to feel nervous, and helped several more find their way around a new building.

“All right, honey, go in,” she said to a ninth-grade student who was looking for directions in Bellefonte Area High School.

Brown and that ninth-grade student she helped guide were two of the many people tackling new challenges as the first day of school began in the Bald Eagle Area, Bellefonte and Penns Valley school districts Tuesday.

Brown, the high school’s new principal, has spent most of her life either as a student or as an educator in the Bellefonte schools. As a high school student, she served as class president, participated on the cheer-leading team, played softball and tutored peers with learning disabilities. She graduated in 1995, attended Lock Haven University, then returned to her alma mater as a learning support teacher. She has served as vice principal at the high school and middle school.

“She has a lot of energy and sincere enthusiasm for helping students,” said middle school Principal Karen Krisch.

Read more: School districts roll out changes on first day of classes.