Category: Armstrong School District

Ford City Benefactor Honored by School

Lenape Elementary Band Director Bob Skamai unveiled this portrait of local musician and benefactor Wallace Tylinski at last night’s holiday music concert at the school. Tylinski donated money following his death last year toward a new school sound system. Wallace’s family – including (on left) son, Don (with wife, Doreen) and (behind Skamai) daughter, Lori – were invited to the unveiling.

By Jonathan Weaver

While last night will be remembered by dozens of Lenape Elementary 5th and 6th grade band and chorus students as their holiday concert, something that happened in the last five minutes will be what sticks with the Tylinski Family.

The Ford City-based family was invited to attend not because they had a relative on stage, but because of a generous monetary donation given earlier this semester.

Through use of funds in the Edna F. Tylinski Memorial Fund, husband, Wallace -who died last December at the age of 92 – donated money toward the school music program.

About a dozen members of the Tylinski Family attended the band and chorus concert – including Wallace’s two children, Lori and Don.

Lori, a corporate attorney in New York, and Don, a former local school superintendent turned business co-founder in South Carolina, both played piano briefly as well, but said they didn’t have their father’s skill.

“We tried to follow in Dad’s footsteps, but I don’t think either one of us were as talented. Dad could sit down, listen to music and play it – he was unbelievable,” Lori said. “He was just gifted.”

Don – who lives close to Lenape Elementary – said Wallace started playing piano when he was five years old and continued into his late-80’s and was devoted to education through both the Armstrong School District board of directors and through music.

“He was quite a pianist, loved children and wanted to express his love by giving back to the kids, whether it be a sound system or instruments,” Don said.

With memorial fund donations, books have also been donated annually in memory of Wallace’s late wife and Ford City teacher for 50 years, Edna, since her passing in August 2011.

Elementary Band Director Bob Skamai was told about the donation opportunity before Don’s wife, Doreen, retired last school year.

“She came into my room (before she retired effective in March) and said, ‘Bob, my father-in-law left some money for the music program in the Ford City area and since he played in big bands, (the family) might choose the band this year and maybe chorus next year to benefit the students – is there anything you could use?’”

The music teacher’s thoughts immediately went to replacing a 15-17 year old antiquated stereo system with a $1,500 surround sound system.

“I use it every day, every class, every school year – it’s just worn out. The ‘on’ button is stuck from a constant amount of use that I have to use the remote!”

“I’m humbled – in my 30-some years of teaching, they’ve been extra generous. I’m touched with the kindness of all of them,” Bob said. “(The Tylinski Family) are good, generous caring people.

“Christmas is a time for giving,” Bob said before the portrait was unveiled.

Bob also was fond of his brother, George’s, portrait art and figured it would be a great way to honor the Ford City donor.

“I’d seen my brother’s artwork before, and it’s absolutely amazing what he does.”

George – also Chief Clerk at the Armstrong County Courthouse – said the portrait took more than 15 hours and three “significant” revisions to complete.

“When I was asked to do it, I thought it was an honor to commemorate Mr. Tylinski – I’ve always heard very good things about him,” George said.

A portrait artist for 30 years, George sketches about 10-15 photos each year – especially as birthday, graduation or Christmas gifts. In each portrait, a Bible verse from the Book of 1 Corinthians 10:31 – which ends “In all things, give glory to God” – is hidden.

Lori and Don were amazed by the details emphasized in the portrait last night.

“He had a very mischievous side to him, and his eyes were always glistening – that’s a very appropriate portrait of him,” Don said.

Bob – who knew Wallace based on when he would sub in at trumpet with the Johnny Murphy Orchestra in Leechburg – only recognized Wallace’s human nature. He saw a rough outline of the portrait at Thanksgiving and the final work Sunday.
“He was always an advocate for the benefit of children – always a positive person,” Bob said. “And, his family still carries on what they were taught.”

Bob remembered that even Doreen’s students were courteous and polite.

School Principal Brian Thimons and Lenape Elementary PTO parents agreed that purchasing framing for the portrait of Wallace would be an appropriate sign of generosity.

The portrait unveiling also sparked a wave of applause from parents and guests in the crowded auditorium.

“(Wallace) will be smiling forever when he hears that music – it’s a perfect tribute,” Doreen concluded.

Don and Doreen’s son, Anthony – who would often accompany his grandfather to his concerts and help him set up his keyboard– volunteered hours to try and install the new system, but it is not up and running yet.

School Bond Refinancing Could Save about $50,000

School Superintendent Stan Chapp and Business Affairs Director Sam Kirk will have up-to-the-minute say on whether the refinancing can occur based on the fluctuating marketplace.

By Jonathan Weaver

Time is running out to save any money from an Armstrong School District bond issue, so school directors took the gamble.

As soon as tomorrow – Wednesday – district bond counselors from Piper Jaffray and Company and Dinsmore and Shohl, LLP will go out to market to try and save the school district about $50,000 to paid during the next five years.

Piper-Jaffray Senior Vice President Randy Frederick said last week there was a limited opportunity to take advantage of the refunding opportunity since the bond will mature in five years. He said returns initially were more profitable.

“In today’s market, we’re looking at a present value savings of 2.2 percent – somewhere around $70,000,” Frederick said. “Unfortunately, the State reimburses you 21 percent on every dollar received during the (PlanCon) project, so when you do a savings, they want their 21 percent back – (limiting it) to about a $56,000 savings to the school district. You would receive that upfront for capital projects.

“There’s not a lot of meat on this bone – but these are tax-exempt rates, and if you can get $50,000 refinancing $3.1 million over five years, it is (bond counsel’s) recommendation that you do that. We’re trying to get you the most money we can.”

Refinancing earlier this year also netted the school district savings of about $70,000.

Solicitor Lee Price said the agreement includes the requirement that at least a $50,000 net savings be realized.

“The underwriter won’t take any action unless (School Superintendent Stan Chapp) and (Director of Business Affairs Sam Kirk) authorize the sale go through,” Price said. “They’ll be watching the market and will go from there.”

Last week, Board President Joseph Close said the agreement may never be made, but the risk had to be made.

“It’s a gamble however you look at it – it might go back down or it might go back up,” Close said. “It’s not going to be a big game-changer for our budget regardless.”

The action was unanimously approved 8-0, with Board Director Larry Robb absent.

School directors already had authorized a resolution that allowed for underwriters to notify school administrators when the bonds would reach at least two-percent savings.

An executive session to discuss personnel and real-estate was held prior to the voting meeting.

Agreements with more than 125 day-to-day substitute teachers will be officially terminated effective January 1.

In October, school directors unanimously agreed on a six-month contract to outsource substitute teachers to a New Jersey-based company.
Source4Teachers has worked with nearly 50 Pennsylvania school districts the past two school years – including several in Westmoreland County – and is in-talks with the ARIN Intermediate Unit in an effort to minimize future healthcare and retirement costs.

Current district substitutes would be recommended for hire by Source4Teachers during their initial six-month trail contract that begins in January, Kirk said. The company will also be attending career fairs to add to a pool of new substitutes available.

Kirk said the effort, coordinated with then-Assistant Superintendent Lyn Logelin, would help minimize projected district expenses toward healthcare and retirement funding for substitute teachers.

Armstrong may eventually have to be offer healthcare for anyone that works more than 30 hours per week as soon as July 1, 2015 through the Affordable Care Act.

Also in personnel documents, principal assignments and fall sports contracts for next school year were announced.

Effective this August, James Rummel – current Kittanning High School Principal – will transition to with the new Armstrong Junior-Senior High in Manor Township.

Kittanning Junior High Principal Kirk Lorigan will continue as Junior High School Principal at the new school – which will educate more than 1,700 7th-12th grade students.

Current Ford City Junior-Senior High Principal Michael Cominos will be named head of Academic Programming/Student Performance, and current Kittanning Senior High Assistant Principal Dr. Karen Fisher will be the new school’s Assistant Principal as well.

The Armstrong Riverhawks football team will be coached by Kittanning Wildcats Head Coach Frank Fabian (who is also a junior high learning support teacher).

No changes were announced at West Shamokin Junior-Senior High in Rural Valley.

The school’s iconic purple-and-gold cannon will be donated to Ford City Borough. It is intended to be placed in the community park.