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Athens School Board President: No current talks on merging with Sayre

ATHENS — Athens School Board President John Johnson discussed the status of the merger discussions between the Athens and Sayre school districts following Tuesday’s board meeting.

The two school districts voted in the fall of 2018 to begin talks on a potential merger — whether it was combining resources or completely merging the two school districts.

Johnson told the Morning Times on Tuesday that the discussions have been put on hold.

“As of right now, there is nothing officially going on (with the) merger talks,” Johnson said. “We left it that we would be neighborly and help out where we could and share little things here and there.”

One thing that came out of those discussions was the sharing of a Pennsylvania Information Management Systems Coordinator (PIMS), according to Johnson.

“We are currently sharing a PIMS coordinator. That is the student information management system. Sayre’s (PIMS coordinator) retired and (they) wanted to know if we could share and we worked out an agreement,” Johnson said.

Johnson noted that the two school districts decided against hiring a firm to do a professional study on whether it would make sense to merge the districts.

“We figured we would look into it and at least talk about it and see where everybody stood. It came down to that it was going to cost a fair amount of money to do a professional evaluation and study. Neither of us was willing to cough up the money to do that,” Johnson said.

If the conversation had progressed, Johnson believes one of the next steps would be to loop in the public and gain their input.

“That was part of the discussion — that there needed to be a lot more education. It’s not a 100 percent given that there would be savings. There’s a lot of things that needed to come into play and part of that discussion was that need to educate the public on a bunch of these things,” he said. “If we went farther down the road, we had discussed that we might have public question-and-answer periods to answer these questions, but we just never got that far.”

While no discussions are currently taking place, Johnson noted that the two districts maintain a strong relationship with open lines of communication.

“Nothing else is scheduled, but (Athens Superintendent) Craig (Stage) has great communication with (Sayre Superintendent Dr.) Jill (Daloisio) and I know (Sayre School Board President) Pete (Quattrini) on a personal level so we communicate all the time. If it ever comes back up again, the (line of) communication is open,” Johnson said.

Editor's Note: This is a SOUNDOFF STORY which is a new feature where the Morning Times will look to answer questions from the public that are relayed to us through Soundoff, which runs every Tuesday on the opinion page (A4). To contact Soundoff, you can call 570-888-4562 and leave your statement on the voicemail or email soundoff@morning-times.com.

editor / Dave Post/Morning Times  

Athens senior Aaron Lane joined the exclusive 1,000 point club on Tuesday night during the Wildcats’ game at Troy. Lane went into the game needing just one point to get his 1,000th career point and he would get that early on in the game to reach the milestone. Lane finished with 29 points as he helped Athens pick up a 65-47 win.

Athens teacher involved in unemployment battle is back at work

ATHENS — The Athens teacher who lost a battle for unemployment benefits last week was reinstated at Lynch-Bustin Elementary before the start of this school year, according to Athens Superintendent Craig Stage.

Stage said that Krista Satterly is currently teaching second grade at Lynch-Bustin after she won an arbitration hearing over her termination, which took place in 2018.

“The district took action in June of 2018. They submitted a statement of charges ... through that process it usually ends up through a grievance arbitration. We were unsuccessful in our arbitration which required us to bring that person back,” said Stage.

The superintendent noted that the school district has put policies in place to prevent further incidents.

“That person has been in since the start of the year. We set up a lot of procedural supports to ensure the safety of everybody,” Stage said.

According to court documents, Satterly was fired in 2018 for inappropriately contacting two male fifth-grade students after school hours.

A parent and another teacher shared their concerns with Lynch-Bustin Principal John Toscano regarding after-school communications between Satterly and two of her students, according to Toscano’s testimony.

Toscano started an investigation and spoke with Satterly, her students, other teachers, both of the students involved in the case and their parents.

“Over the course of the investigation, Toscano obtained text messages from (Satterly) that (Satterly sent to Student 2. (Satterly) admitted she initiated contact and text messaged with Student 2 after school hours. Included in these messages, (Satterly) asked Student 2 if it was okay if she texted him, how his day was going and if he was still happy,” court documents show.

Satterly texted both students and asked if she “could come to their houses and if they wanted to see another movie, and she sent them music with explicit lyrics,” according to court documents.

“(Satterly) failed to provide any reason as to why she repeatedly contacted these two students after hours on a personal level that was outside of the normal student and teacher relationship. Additionally, (Satterly) gave Student 1 and Student 2 candy and $10 iTunes gift cards, but she did not give these same gifts to the rest of her students,” court documents show.

According to the court documents, Toscano believed “(Satterly’s) behavior to be inappropriate and an unacceptable and unprofessional standard of practice for a teacher.”

Toscano testified that “at the conclusion of his investigation, he determined that (Satterly) ‘went above and beyond the scope of her job responsibilities, and acted inappropriately’ by contacting students via text message and by looking for students’ contact information.”

A Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania panel upheld a lower board’s decision to deny Satterly any unemployment benefits for the work she missed due to the termination in 2018.

The Athens Area Education Association responded to the court ruling in a statement to the Morning Times on Tuesday night.

“In response to the recent Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania decision regarding Krista Satterly, the Athens Area Education Association (AAEA) represents all of its members equally to secure all members are ensured that their constitutional due process rights are afforded to them without passion or prejudice,” said AAEA President William Bresser.

Bresser also talked about the arbitration process which allowed Satterly to be reinstated to the Athens Area School District.

“After the Association and the School District present evidence to an independent arbitrator at discipline hearings, to include termination proceedings, the determination of the arbitrator’s findings must be adhered to by both sides. Therefore, at the end of the day, the arbitrator decides the extent of discipline, if any, that is imposed,” Bresser said.

Pickett announces grants for local fire departments, Greater Valley EMS

HARRISBURG — State Rep. Tina Pickett announced on Tuesday that several local fire departments and Greater Valley Emergency Medical Services will be receiving state thousands of dollars in grant funds.

In total, 41 fire departments and ambulance associations in the 110th Legislative District will share nearly $466,000 in state funding to tackle capital projects, train personnel and reduce debt.

“Our dedicated first responders provide life-saving services in the region, and for that we are very grateful,” said Pickett. “I am pleased we are able to support these hard-working groups with additional funding from the state so they can continue to serve our communities.”

The following fire and EMS companies in the 110th District received grants.

Bradford County

Athens Township Volunteer Fire Company — $11,920.

Athens Borough Diahoga Hose Company No. 6 — $11,920.

Athens Borough Protection Hose Company No. 1 — $11,920.

Sayre Engine Company No. 1 — $11,509.

Sayre Howard Elmer Hose Company No. 4 — $11,646.

Sayre J.E. Wheelock Hose Company No. 5 — $11,509.

South Waverly Fire Department 1 — $11,509.

Litchfield Township Volunteer Fire Company — $11,509.

Ulster Sheshequin Fire Association — $11,783.

Greater Valley EMS — $9,192.

Greater Valley Fire Company (EMS Rescue) — $12,057.

Herrick Township Volunteer Fire Company — $11,509.

Franklin Township Volunteer Fire Department — $11,509.

LeRaysville Pike Volunteer Fire Department — $11,509.

Monroe Hose Company — $12,057.

New Albany Volunteer Fire Company — $12,331.

North Towanda Fire and Rescue Volunteers Inc. — $12,331.

Towanda Fire Department — $12,057.

Vigilante Engine Company No. 1 — $11,509.

Warren Township Volunteer Fire Department Inc. — $11,509.

Wilmot Fire Company Inc. — $12,605.

Windham Township Volunteer Fire Company — $11,509.

Wyalusing Valley Volunteer Fire Department — $11,509.

Wysox Volunteer Fire Company — $12,742.

Sullivan County

Dushore Fire Company No. 1 — $12,057.

Dushore Fire Company No. 1 EMS — $9,192.

Eagles Mere Volunteer Fire Company Ambulance Association — $9,192.

Eagles Mere Volunteer Fire Company — $11,509.

Endless Winds Volunteer Fire Company Inc. — $11,783.

Forksville Volunteer Fire Company — $11,783.

Hillsgrove Volunteer Fire Company — $11,509.

Laporte Borough Volunteer Fire Company — $11,509.

Laporte Borough Volunteer Fire Company EMS — $9,192.

Mildred Ambulance Association — $9,192.

Mildred Volunteer Fire Company — $11,783.

Muncy Valley Area Volunteer Fire Company — $11,783.

Muncy Valley Area Volunteer Fire Company EMS — $9,192.

Susquehanna County

Hop Bottom Hose Company — $12,879.

Little Meadows Volunteer Fire Company and Rescue Squad — $11,509.

Little Meadows Volunteer Fire Company and Rescue Squad EMS — $9,192.

Rush Volunteer Fire Department Inc. — $11,509.

The funding is part of an ongoing grant program created by the Legislature. Projects eligible for funding include construction or renovation of a fire or ambulance company facility, purchase or repair of equipment, training or reduction of existing debt. All grants are generated from slot machine gaming proceeds, and not General Fund tax revenue.

Fire and ambulance companies are reminded that in order to receive grants and retain their eligibility for the program, paperwork must be submitted back to the Office of the State Fire Commissioner by Feb. 28.

Guthrie looking to construct daycare center in Sayre

TOWANDA — Guthrie received conditional preliminary approval from the Bradford County Planning Commission on Tuesday to build a daycare center in Sayre Borough.

The 15,261-square-foot facility, is set to be constructed on the empty parcel located at the intersection of North Elmer and North Lehigh avenues — the same lot where the Guthrie community garden is located.

According to plans presented at Tuesday’s planning commission meeting, the facility will have a playground area with a wood and mulch surface, as well as an asphalt play area. The development will also have 69 parking spots along with three handicap parking spaces.

The building would be served by the borough’s water and sewer system. A stormwater plan is waiting for approval from the Bradford County Conservation District.

The county’s preliminary approval was contingent upon the approval of the borough’s planning board along with the submission of a driveway permit, zoning compliance letter and engineering review comments and fees.

No other details about the daycare center were disclosed during Tuesday’s meeting in Towanda.