Category: Armstrong School District

Toy Collection Challenges School Service Organizations

Each year, Ford City Lions and Leo Club members donate hundreds of toys to the Kittanning Salvation Army, but this year, many more are expected during a toy collection challenge between the three district high schools (KP File Photo)

by Jonathan Weaver


Children benefiting from the Kittanning Salvation Army toy distribution won’t know it, but many of their toys will be donated by many local teenage Santas.

Students at Ford City, Kittanning and West Shamokin High Schools have accepted a challenge set forth by the Ford City Lions to collect the most toys during the annual toy drive to benefit underprivileged children.

King Lion Brad Baillie said the toy collection, originally founded in the organization by Lion Joe Alese in the 1990’s, has been a tradition annually and 2014 was a perfect time for a massive collection – before Ford City and Kittanning combine to form Armstrong Junior/Senior High in August.

Alese’s grandchildren also attend West Shamokin.

“Before he passed away in 2007, when I joined the Lions Club, (Alese) thought it was important that every kid in Armstrong County had a toy for Christmas,” Baillie said. “I’m just following through with what he thought was right.

“Kids that are underprivileged need help this time of year.”

The idea was thought up in September.

Baillie’s niece, Maddie, (a sophomore) and nephew, Nate, (a freshman) are in the last school year of Ford City High and part of the school’s Leo Club as well. The Ford City Lions volunteers in conjunction with the Ford City Leo Club on several occasions throughout the school year.

Alese’s daughter, Carla, said the Lions primarily collected toys through local churches in the past, but is thankful for this year’s opportunity to help out more children. She hopes to collect more toys than ever before while uniting the students.

“This year, we are fortunate enough that we have all three high schools donating,” Carla said.

Carla – a 1983 Elderton High graduate – works as a school nurse at Shannock Valley and Dayton Elementary schools and collects toys from teachers in her schools annually that goes toward Armstrong County youth.

“I’m reaching out to different people I know locally, but I think with the Lions and the Leo Clubs, that’s what these kids do – community service. This is a great initiative for them – to serve, to donate toys and give back through a challenge,” Carla said.

“Hopefully next year we can ask the new school and keep this tradition going – just as my dad did all these years.”

Carla said donations will still be accepted by the Kittanning Salvation Army directly through Lieutenants Jason and Amber Imhoff.

“For people who are already involved in the Salvation Army, for somebody’s house that burns down, whatever the case may be, if somebody wants to take a toy to the school that’s fine, but if they just want to take it to the Salvation Army directly, they can do that too,” Carla said. “Anybody can donate.”

The school that donates the most toys before their annual Christmas party December 9 will be served a pizza party – but Baillie said it is tough to judge a true winner.

“It’s a win-win situation. The kids in Armstrong County are going to be the winners and the (students) collecting toys are going to be winners because they’re learning what serving the community means,” Baillie said. “It’s something every (student) should do.”

Kittanning Lion Ted Croyle, a member for 11 years with his wife (Delores – who also serves as the Kittanning High Leo Club Advisor), said Kittanning Lions will help the Kittanning Leo Club with the school challenge – either through their own member donations or donations from the community.

“The challenge is on,” Ted said.

Carla knows her parents will be proud, no matter who the winner.

“They would just be elated,” Alese said. “I’m sure they know we’re doing this.”


More Money Allocated toward ASD Security Officer

By Jonathan Weaver

Armstrong School District students will be watched over again next year thanks to a state grant.

Earlier this year, school administrators were issued a $40,000 Pennsylvania Department of Education grant to fund district-wide police officers and they were issued another $20,000 officially last week.

In February, Student Transportation, Child Accounting and Safe Schools Director Jon Fair said Armstrong applied for the initial grant to provide safety to all 10 of the district schools.

“It’s just an added layer of security. We’re very fortunate in getting this grant, and we’re just looking at it as an additional layer of security that we’ll be able to have throughout our district,” Fair said in February.

Nearly $4 million was awarded to 114 schools and municipalities to fund the hiring of police and resource officers in schools across Pennsylvania.

“The safety and security of our students is a top priority,” Governor Tom Corbett said with the press release Friday. “Students who feel safe while in school are able to focus on learning, which impacts their academic growth. This funding will provide schools with the financial resources to secure the necessary personnel to ensure our students are protected while attending school.”

Last year, Gov. Corbett signed into law legislation – sponsored by Sen. Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) – that created a new grant program for schools and municipalities to receive funding through the Department of Education to cover the cost of hiring a school resource officer or school police officer.

Schools and municipalities can receive up to $60,000 for a school resource officer and up to $40,000 for a school police officer.

Grantees are required to fund these positions for at least two years, and will be eligible to receive 50 percent of their 2014-15 grant award during the 2015-16 school year.

Of the 114 awards, 39 are new applicants and 75 are continuation grants for schools and municipalities that received an award during the 2013-14 school year.
Continuation grants are funded at 50 percent of the amount received in the prior year.

This year, the 39 new applications were reviewed based on guidelines of the grant program, with each applicant being awarded a grant.

According to the Department of Education, priority for funding was given to schools and municipalities that employ officers who have completed additional training related to interaction with children and adolescents within a school setting.

Armstrong School District wasn’t the only grant recipient locally, as three other county districts (Apollo-Ridge, Freeport Area and Leechburg Area) all received continuation grants. Apollo-Ridge received $10,000 more than the other three districts.

Freeport Area was also awarded a $40,000 new grant

Continuation grants were also allocated to Kiski Area School District to monitor Allegheny Township, as well as New Kensington-Arnold School District to monitor schools in nearby-New Kensington.