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Two districts approve funding for STEM center

On a divided vote Monday, the Indiana Area school board approved a cash contribution to help close a gap in funding for construction of the Central Allegheny Challenger Learning Center and the Indiana County STEM Academy at Indiana County Technology Center. The directors voted 5 to 3, with one abstaining, to donate $722,800 toward the $9 million project. At the same time last night, the Purchase Line school board passed its motion to commit to the project. The initial price tag for the district to buy into the two programs is $146,800. ICTC representatives first asked the Indiana board for funds on Aug. 24, the first of a series of requests to the seven member school districts to underwrite $2 million for the center. Over the past seven weeks, and in the minutes before the vote, Indiana board members and residents debated the academic opportunities for students versus the financial burden on the budget. Proponents argued the center would help develop an employable workforce while opponents questioned how it would fit into Indiana’s curriculum. Dave Coleman, of White Township, representing the Indiana County Manufacturers Consortium, and Scott Deutsch, of the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining in Burrell Township, supported the STEM and Challenger project during the public comment period. “I look for technically sound people and I think you need to find a way to bring around a new business-learning model as a catalyst to the Indiana economy,” Coleman said. “I hope you’ll endorse and embrace it and grow the county … and show western Pennsylvania how to grow.” “One of the things we see in manufacturing all over the nation is the importance of this STEM tidal wave that is overcoming all of us,” Deutsch said. “It’s having an impact on the next-generation workforce that we’re developing in our schools. Having that ability to have hands-on learning in STEM Academy learning is fantastic.” Indiana resident Ben Ford — the husband of school board member Hilliary Creely — said the project would create jobs for teachers and provide opportunities for students. “It’s easy to argue for the status quo, but standing still never won a race or changed the life of a child,” Ford said. “The benefit that it would bring to the region would be cheap at twice the proposed Indiana Area School District investment.” Former school board member Walter Schroth, a candidate for re-election on...

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INDIANA AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT: Union opposes STEM academy funding

The teachers’ union at Indiana Area School District has gone on record against a request for more than $722,000 to support construction of a Challenger Learning Center and STEM Academy at Indiana County Technology Center. The Indiana Area school board on Monday pushed the vote back to its Oct. 12 meeting after hearing a round of opposition, mainly for economic but also for academic reasons. The delay also would give directors a chance to consider a summary of an extensive discussion held Sept. 22 by the board’s Academic and Extracurricular Committee. The Challenger/STEM project is estimated to cost $9 million, and ICTC officials say they have $5 million in grants and $2 million anticipated from interested corporate and foundation donors. ICTC Executive Director Eric Palmer and education consultant Rodney Green have asked the tech center’s seven member districts to pledge shares of the remaining $2 million to convince the grant and donation sources to commit funds to the project. Social studies teacher Michael Tshudy, the president of Indiana Area Education Association, said Indiana’s actual cost for a long-term loan to cover its contribution would be more than $985,000. The district also would pay an estimated $688,000 of tuition to send up to 30 students to the STEM Academy in the first three years of operation. “This request comes at the eleventh hour for the organizers of this project and with the warning that if not received from our district, the project and all of its merits will be lost for good,” Tshudy said. “This request comes nearly a year after the organizers of this project stated that funding for this center would be paid for without need for additional taxpayer dollars, that it would be funded through corporate donations and grants.”     Read More   Courtesy...

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Indiana County districts asked to commit funds, students for STEM facility

Seven school districts in Indiana County are being asked to make a combined capital investment of $2 million to help the proposed county STEM Academy and Central Allegheny Challenger Learning Center take flight. At this month’s school board meetings, two local districts got an accounting of what their shares of the cost would be, based on the number of students each sends to the Indiana County Technology Center. Blairsville-Saltsburg School District received a request for $322,600, representing 16.13 percent of the total. A commitment of $172,600, or 8.63 percent, is sought from Homer-Center School District. Eric Palmer, recently promoted to executive director of the Indiana County Technology Center, told Blairsville-Saltsburg and Homer-Center school directors in respective Sept. 16 and 17 meetings that the seven districts’ proposed investments would leverage a much larger combination of funding from other sources to pay for the combined STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) academy and Challenger Center — representing 22 cents on the dollar. ICTC has committed $600,000 from its adult education funds toward the estimated $9 million cost of the facility, which is to be constructed as an addition to the existing ICTC building. Read More Courtesy of http://triblive.com/news/indiana/9136903-74/stem-districts-center#axzz3okdAu2f9...

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ICTC DIRECTOR APPROACHES PURCHASE LINE SCHOOL BOARD

ICTC Director, Eric Palmer, and Educational Liaison, Rod Green, gave an ICTCSTEM/Central Allegheny Challenger Learning Center (CACLC) presentation at last night’s Purchase Line School Board meeting.  Palmer needs local investment before bigger corporations will invest. Palmer describes the investment as a, “true once in a lifetime opportunity for students.” The CACLC is a newly organized PA non profit organization and will be located inWhiteTownship.  Palmer and Green are asking Purchase Line for a capital contribution of $146,800.  So far, Purchase Line and Indiana have been their only presentations.  They need to acquire $2 million combined from the seven districts (Blairsville-Saltsburg, Homer Center, Indiana,MarionCenter, Penns Manor, Purchase Line, United). For the first year of the STEM program, Palmer is looking to enroll 40 students, at least 4 from Purchase Line in grades 11th and 12th, at a cost of $8,500 per student.  Palmer is also asking PL for a commitment of 6 missions for the CACLC, 25-30 students and $750 per mission. Purchase Line has sometime before they make a decision on whether or not to invest. After much discussion, the board decided to table the establishment of a Pre-K classroom with a potential start date of January, 2016 until their October meeting.  Superintendent, Joseph Bradley, wants a furniture evaluation, enrollment count, curriculum embedment, and the opportunity to see if previously interviewed teachers are still available before the board takes a vote. The board also discussed the possibility of creating a capital reserve fund.  This is an investment, typically funded monthly, to build funds necessary to pay for the replacement of common element capital items and would eliminate payments from the general budget.  Business Manager, Abbey Romagna, strongly suggested waiting to build a capital reserve fund until they have received state funding.  The board will also look at this at their October meeting after looking at their finances. The board also approved the resignation of 5-Hour Custodian, Michele Pearce. The next regular monthly meeting is Monday, October 12 at 7 p.m.   Courtesy...

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What Does STEM Have to do with Indiana County?

What Does STEM Have to do with Indiana County?

The need for STEM in Indiana County is outlined by several key members of the community including: Jim Struzzi (Indiana County Chamber President), Rodney Ruddock (County Commissioner), Steve Wolfe (IRMC President), Byron Stauffer (County Planning Office) and Carol Fry (Director of the Indiana County Technology Center and home of the new Allegheny County Challenger Learning Center and the STEM...

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Regional Challenger Learning Center Gaining Support

The opportunity for local students to train on experiments like NASA astronauts, as well as learn Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (also known as STEM) skills is picking up speed in the region. In April 2013, three Indiana County educators received support from the Armstrong County Commissioners via proclamation for a regional Challenger Learning Center to entice students – particularly middle-schoolers – to become more interested in higher-level courses. Now dubbed the Central Allegheny Challenger Learning Center, Indiana Area School District Board Director Julia Trimarchi said more than $2.5 million in grant funding has been dedicated to the educational program since. “There are a lot of new things going on: we did raise enough money to hire a developer to finish fundraising for the project,” Trimarchi said. “This thing has just snowballed in Indiana County – there has been a lot of cooperation and excitement around this.” As of October, community supporters estimated they were about 50 percent complete with fundraising efforts. Supporters received a nearly-$1.4 million RCAP, or Redevelopment Capital Assistance Program, grant from then-Governor Tom Corbett in February 2014. They celebrated the grant announcement with national Challenger Center CEO Dr. Lance Bush and NASA Astronaut Leland Melvin. “It’s wonderful – (Bush) was from Homer City, Pa. originally, which has had a lot to do with us getting the franchise in our county,” Trimarchi said.     Read More     Courtesy of The Kittanning...

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