Abington Heights School Board members discuss bullying, budget

By Robert Tomkavage - rtomkavage@timesleader.com

CLARKS GREEN — Abington Heights Director of Special Education Elizabeth Shivock outlined programs the district has implemented to help students develop throughout their school years during a meeting April 18.

According to Shivock, the district started an emotional support program this year at the elementary level.

“We identified there was a need for students to have that type of support,” she said. “A lot of students were having issues with mental health and we’d like to start implementing the program across the district.”

Shivock is also excited about ways the district is working to help special education students become ready for life after high school.

“One of the big things we’re trying to do is getting the kids ready to live by themselves,” she said. “We’re working with a lot of community agencies to help our kids be prepared. We’re putting a lot of attention in transition.”

Per Shivock, the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation allows an opportunity for students to work.

“They are out and about, and they’re learning how to be part of the community,”Shivock said.

Shivock announced the district started a Unified Track and Field team this year that consists of Special Olympics-eligible athletes, general education athletes and volunteers.

“It’s an opportunity for all our students to get together and interact in a way that they haven’t been able to do before,” Shivock said.

During a budget update, Abington Heights Business Manager James Mirabelli announced that 77 percent of the district’s expenses consist of salaries and benefits due to an increase in pension costs and a decrease in the amount of debt service.

The board is scheduled to pass a preliminary 2018-19 budget May 16 and a final budget June 27.

Mirabelli is projecting a deficit of $226,097, if there is no tax increase.

Per Mirabelli, if the district raised taxes to the Act 1 index of 2.4 percent, it would generate an additional $630,000 for the district and equate to an additional cost of $58 per homeowner.

Abington Heights Superintendent Michael Mahon discussed ways the district approaches bullying after a report of threats made on a school bus against a special education student during the public comment portion of the meeting.

“Every day, every administratior is dealing with lots of bullying and every case is investigated,” Mahon said. “Our focus to limit bullying is to develop structures in our positive behavior program that we hope will prevent the occasion of bullying by increasing and improving the structures we have in place at the schools. We’re working to stop bullying by preventing it in the first place.”

In other business …

• Members of the board voted, 8-0, to appoint Colleen Leonard as Abington Heights Middle School principal, upon her release from her current employer. Leonard, who is expected to begin working for the district in June, currently serves as principal at McNichols Plaza Elementary School.

• Members of the board voted, 8-0, to approve the resignations of guidance counselor Deanna Klingman and teacher Patricia Swarts, effective at the end of the 2017-18 school year, personal care aide Alicia Olivetti, retroactive to April 6, and aide Joann Stankowski, effective April 27.

• Members of the board approved a revised 2017-18 school calendar. The graduation date is set for Friday, June 22 and seniors will have mandatory graduation practices June 9 and June 16. The last day for all other students is June 26.


By Robert Tomkavage


Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.

Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.