The Pittston Area School Board hired a technology director at its monthly meeting on Jan. 15.
Christy Savakinas, of Pittston, is currently the Educational Technology Coordinator at Northeastern Educational Intermediate Unit 19 in Scranton.
Pittston Area Superintendent Dr. Michael Garzella said Savakinas was an extremely qualified candidate and is glad she's coming to Pittston Area.
She's the best, Garzella said. She's been working for the IU 19 for six years. She's been overseeing their cyber services program since its inception. That's exactly the qualification we're looking for.
We're spending $800,000 on students going to cyber and charter schools, Garzella added. If we can stop that from happening, we could recoup hundreds of thousands of dollars. This position will pay for itself 10-fold.
Savakinas will be paid $75,000 a year.
She holds a bachelor's degree in computer information systems, a master's degree in instructional technology and a doctorate in educational/instructional technology, all from Wilkes University.
She said her heart will really be in the job because her child attends Pittston Area.
It's a great opportunity, Savakinas said. I have a son here in first grade, so it really works out for me and my family.
The district hasn't had someone in that position since James Kupetz, the district's technology coordinator, was moved to a math position in the high school last year.
The board voted 7-2 in favor of the hire with board members Bob Linskey and Marilyn Starna voting no.
Before the board hired Savakinas, members argued over the job title.
The job was advertised as Technology Integrator/Online Learning Coordinator, but the board voted to change the title to Director of Technology/Online Learning Coordinator.
Linskey took exception to the change.
We advertised for a Technology Integrator/Online Coordinator, we did not advertise for a Director of Technology, he said. This has not been discussed with us at all. This is absolutely ridiculous.
District Solicitor Joseph Saporito said he researched the issued and requested the change.
We needed to clarify the job title, Saporito said. The job responsibility is not changing. Nor are the advertised job duties.
Saporito conferred with the Pennsylvania School Boards Association and officials there suggested amending the title.
There's nothing underhanded about it at all, he said.
Linskey said the perception is that it is a different position.
Why does it have to be a director rather than a coordinator? he said. This whole thing should be tabled and re-advertised.
Board President Charles Sciandra said the change boils down to accountability.
This position has always been head of technology, he said. Our issue with technology is that a lot of different people have responsibilities. But with all that responsibility, somebody has to have the authority to orchestrate the entire plan.
Garzella said Savakinas' primary responsibilities will be to promote the use of technology in classrooms by teachers and students and to run the district's cyber services program.
We need to stop the bleeding, Garzella said. We need to stop kids from enrolling in cyber schools and bring them back with our own cyber program.
Last year, the district transferred its cyber services to Seneca Valley School District. If a student utilizes the in-house service run by Seneca, a student can still participate in sports, still go to the prom, dances and participate in extra curricular activities.
In a push to go paperless, Garzella said the district started using an e-governance program called BoardDocs.
Each week, board members get a stack of papers several inches thick hand delivered to their home. BoardDocs would eliminate that. The documents would be available online immediately through a cloud-based system.
It allows us to share information with the board in a more expedient manner, he said. And we don't have a person driving around delivering documents. It will be more timely. And we won't be killing 1,000 trees.
Sciandra said the public will be able to access many of the documents that aren't confidential.
Are we stopping paper immediately? The answer is no. Sciandra said. We'll still have agendas available in the back of the room. But in the future, we want to get as paperless as we can.
In another technology matter, Garzella said the district's new website will be online prior to the next board meeting.
The board also discussed bringing back Dr. Janet Donovan as district principal of curriculum.
In August, the board voted to move Donovan to principal at the Intermediate Center. The plan eliminated principal of curriculum post and had the district's school principals and Garzella assuming those responsibilities.
Dr. Garzella is drawn in 15 different directions, Kelly said. I saw it myself the last few times I was up here.
He suggested the district may be losing out on grants and funding. Several board members questioned if there is money available to make such a move.
District business manager Al Melone said he should have a better picture of the districts' finances in 60 days and urged the board to wait until then.
No action was taken.
In other business, the board:
• Hired attorney John Dean from the Elliott Greenleaf Law Firm as a special counsel for upcoming contract negotiations.
• Approved Sciandra, board vice president Kent Bratlee and Garzella to attend the Pennsylvania School Board Association Training Camp on Jan. 26 in Mechanicsburg.
• Hired Christine Dunn and Michelle Welter as part-time cafeteria employees.
• Hired Lynn Lee as part-time cafeteria employee at the Oblates of St. Joseph Seminary. The district will be reimbursed by the Luzerne Intermediate Unit.
• Hired Melody Galonis as a Health Room Technician at the Kindergarten Center.
• Voted to create a study group to intensify security in district schools and convene a meeting of all police chiefs, mayors/head supervisors of all towns in the school district to be arranged by Garzella and the school board.
• The school board's next regular meeting will be at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 12.