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Cheddar succeeds Stellar as MCA superintendent

MOUNT CARMEL — “Passionate, extremely organized, driven and hungry for Mount Carmel Area to succeed.”

That’s how Bernie Stellar described Pete Cheddar, who officially succeeded him today as Mount Carmel Area superintendent.

Stellar, who retired as the head administrator in the district, will return to the classroom as a music teacher while remaining as director of the Big Red Marching Band.

Cheddar was promoted to the post by the school board after serving as junior high school principal at his alma mater since 2012.

Like Stellar, Cheddar has a lot of pride in serving his home district.

Cheddar, a 1996 graduate of Mount Carmel Area, stated, “The Mount Carmel Area families and learning community have always meant a great deal to me. Being able to lead and plan with our administration for the continued and future success of our schools as superintendent is truly an honor.”

Cheddar thanked Stellar for his dedication to the school district during his term as superintendent. He said, “Mr. Stellar has much to be proud of and I am glad he is able to finish his career continuing as the band instructor at Mount Carmel Area.”

He added, “I am excited to begin this new journey in leading the school district with our excellent administration team and school board. We have an amazing staff at Mount Carmel Area that continues to go above and beyond in terms of the best interests of our students.”

The new superintendent said his goals include placing student achievement at the forefront of what district administrators and teachers do on a daily basis, providing a safe learning environment for all students and staff as well as encouraging students to get involved in extracurricular activities.

“What I learned over the years is students involved with extracurriculars are much less likely to have attendance, behavior and academic achievement issues,” he said.

Cheddar is very proud of the programs that have evolved in the district such as the Tornado Buddy Bag Program that sends food home weekly to needy families. Cheddar and others have been very instrumental in the success of the program that raises $10,000 per year to send food home to 80 students each week.

“This program would not exist without the generosity and hard work of many individuals in our local community and school district,” he said. “It is truly a team effort to keep this program continuing.”

He’s also proud of the district’s ability to create a middle school after-school program in conjunction with the Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way. The goal of the program is to encourage students who may not be involved with extracurricular activities or have parents at home due to their work schedule to stay after school to work on homework, physical activity, emotional and physical wellness exercises, as well as participate in community partnered-based recreational opportunities.

Another project Cheddar is heavily involved with is the annual summer Kaupas Camp held on MCA’s campus in conjunction with the Mother Maria Kaupas Center in Mount Carmel and Bucknell University.

Cheddar said the camp is a great way for at-risk students to take part in many activities that are highlighted by community service opportunities with Mount Carmel as well as the opportunity to visit and participate in athletic and education camps hosted by Bucknell University staff.

Unfortunately, this year’s summer camp had to be canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cheddar said many of his former teachers, coaches and administrators have had a positive influence on his career including the last three superintendents — Stellar, Cheryl Latorre and the late Richard Beierschmitt.

Cheddar earned undergraduate degrees in business administration and education from Bloomsburg University in 2000 and 2002 and obtained a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from Bloomsburg University in 2008.

He received his superintendent letter of eligibility from Edinboro University in 2016.

He started his career in education as a middle school social studies teacher in Shamokin Area School District from 2004 to 2009. He served in multiple administrative roles at Mount Carmel Area, West Shore School District in Camp Hill and Milton Hershey School from 2009 to 2012 before returning to Mount Carmel Area in 2012.

In addition to his educational career, Cheddar has been very successful as a football player and coach for the Red Tornadoes over the years.

He played on the 1994 PIAA Class AA state championship football team under Coach Whitey Williams and served as a captain his senior year on the 1995 squad that captured an Eastern Conference title.

Cheddar has coached football at Mount Carmel Area for over 12 years. He has been an assistant under head coaches Mike Brennan, Bob Chesney, Carmen DeFrancesco and John Darrah.

He will not serve as a coach in his new role as superintendent, but would love to find time to stay involved with the football team.

He and his wife, Andrea, reside in Elysburg with their two sons, Caleb, 7, and Isaac, 4.

As for dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic in the future, Cheddar said the administration team is meeting daily to plan for the start of the 2020-2021 school year and encourages input from the community.

He said citizens can complete a short survey found on the district’s main website www.mca.k12.pa.us. Cheddar also encouraged parents or guardians who have questions concerning the start of the new school year to contact him at the district office or email him at cheddarp@mca.k12.pa.us.

He said updates will be provided on the website as the summer progresses.

Stellar is a 1977 graduate of Mount Carmel Area, which was the last class to graduate from the old high school at Third and Market streets. Stellar’s class also has the distinction of being the last class to hold graduation ceremonies in the famed Silver Bowl. Ironically, the 2020 graduating class, which is Stellar’s last as superintendent, may also hold commencement exercises in the Silver Bowl if the COVID-19 situation improves.

Stellar earned a Bachelor of Science in music education from Lebanon Valley College in 1981 and obtained a master of science in educational leadership with principal certification in 2003 from Wilkes University.

He earned his superintendent letter of eligibility in 2012 from Edinboro University.

Stellar, who has taught drum lessons since he was a senior in high school, was a member of the well-known Mount Carmel Area Marching Band known as the “Mounties” for seven years under legendary band directors Paul “Prof” Semicek and Sam Rovito.

He said musically, Semicek and Rovito had a great influence on his career. Administratively, Stellar said Beierschmitt and Latorre served as great role models for him.

He served as a music teacher in the district prior to becoming high school principal in 2007 and has been the director of the high school marching band since 1989.

Stellar was acting superintendent in 2011 before being named superintendent in 2012.

Born and raised in Kulpmont, he and his wife, Michele, reside in Den-Mar Gardens with their two sons, Christopher and Matthew, who are 2015 and 2020 Mount Carmel Area graduates, respectively. Christopher currently is a music and marching instructor with the Big Red Band.

Stellar said he’s most proud of moving the district forward through some tough financial challenges over the years, especially a few years ago when the district was forced to borrow $5 million to maintain operations. He said the district was able to pay back the loan in one year.

Through his years as superintendent, he said Mount Carmel Area has been “fiscally conservative,” which he credited as the major reason the district was able to avoid a tax increase this year while neighboring school districts were forced to raise taxes.

His motto through the years as an educator, administrator and band director has been — “Work hard and good things will happen.”

Stellar praised all the administrators, teachers, staff, coaches, school board members and students he has worked with over the years. He especially commended business manager Corrina Lesko, the business office staff and the entire administration team.

“I want to particularly thank high school Principal Lisa Varano and athletic director/dean of students Greg Sacavage who have served with me and supported me throughout my career as superintendent,” he said.

He said Cheddar is a great choice to be his successor and believes he will do extremely well in leading a “great team at MCA.”

Stellar said retiring as superintendent is “bittersweet” in some ways, but he is excited about returning to the classroom, working with students full time and watching them grow into fine young men and women.

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15-year-old victim of Upper Mahanoy Township fatal crash identified

UPPER MAHANOY TOWNSHIP — A 15-year-old Rebuck boy died Monday morning after suffering injuries in a bicycle-truck accident along Schwaben Creek Road in this Northumberland County township.

Montour County Coroner Scott Lynn reported Lloyd King was pronounced dead at 10:24 a.m. in a trauma bay in the emergency room at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, where he had been airlifted by Life Flight helicopter.

Lynn said King died from multiple blunt force trauma.

Trooper Austin Bennett, of state police at Stonington, reported King was riding a bicycle north on Sliding Hill Road at 7:05 a.m. when he failed to stop at a “T” intersection with Schwaben Creek Road. The teen then entered the eastbound lane of Schwaben Creek Road and struck a 2011 Chevrolet Silverado operated by Daniel J. Ferster, 51, of Dornsife, who was traveling east at approximately 40 miles per hour.

Bennett said Ferster attempted to avoid the bike by swerving to the left, but was unable to avoid a collision.

The bicycle hit the front passenger side of the truck. The truck came to rest in the westbound lane of the road, facing east, Bennett said.

Ferster escaped injury. His truck sustained minor damage.

Assisting state police at the scene were firefighters from Klingerstown Fire Company and Mahantongo Valley Ambulance personnel.

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SCA board needs to meet again to pass budget due to motion not being properly worded

FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP — After voting twice Monday to pass a $22.7 million budget to avoid shutting down operations, Southern Columbia Area School Board will have to vote again because a motion to adopt the spending plan wasn’t worded correctly.

Superintendent James Becker said board members realized after Monday’s meeting that a revote on the budget wasn’t worded as a motion to pass the 2020-2021 spending plan in the amount of $22,783,341. He said the motion must be properly worded and voted on again at a special meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday.

“It was a technicality regarding the motion and hopefully, we will get the budget passed Thursday,” Becker said Tuesday.

The superintendent explained that no programs, classes, athletic practices or other events can be held in the district until the budget passes since adoption of the spending plan won’t come until after July 1, which is the start of the fiscal year.

The budget passed 6-2 on a revote Monday after the initial vote ended in a 4-4 deadlock The budget includes a maximum 3.3% school tax increase and no layoffs.

The budget is about the same as the one ($22,666,385) presented last week that the board failed to pass on a 4-4 vote.

The budget contains a $116,896 deficit. The proposed budget last week contained a $218,000 deficit. The deficit was reduced due to several cuts including a decision by the administration not to replace a retired paraprofessional.

Hospital outlines COVID-19 recovery plan

LEWISBURG — In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Evangelical Community Hospital has formulated a plan to maintain its financial position while recovering from the unexpected costs the virus has had on its operations.

“During the COVID-19 response and at present, the hospital has prudently managed expenses and remains stable and solid,” said Kendra Aucker, President and CEO of Evangelical Community Hospital. “By taking decisive action with the workforce, seeking out federal and state grants, and matching the recall of furloughed employees with patient volumes, the Hospital has mitigated some of the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on operations.”

With the organization’s new fiscal year beginning July 1, hospital leaders have worked to forge a realistic, yet ambitious budget and waded through some tough choices.

“We have a shared responsibility to continue meeting the health and wellness needs of our community,” said Aucker. “Our friends, families, and neighbors have come to trust the care they receive from the Hospital and our goal in all of these difficult financial decisions has been to find ways to ensure the hospital remains an access point for care long into the future.”

Already the hospital has significantly reduced expenditures and reduced capital spending, deferring some planned projects to later years.

To maintain fiscal health for the long-term, the Hospital announced other steps related to employee compensation, including: Delaying market adjustment and merit increases until January; reducing hourly staffing incentives; reducing training hours; reducing the discretionary 401K employer contribution; reducing salaries and benefits by not filling 15.7 open full-time positions.

In June, 27 employees opted for voluntary early retirement, aiding in bridging budget gaps for the coming fiscal year and positioning the Hospital to better manage the entire workforce.

Effective June 30, the hospital reduced its workforce by 15 employees, which equates to less than 1%. These reductions were determined an essential part of the recovery plan in order to ensure the hospital can continue to live out its mission to the community.

The hospital is working with the impacted employees to attempt to align them with open positions within the organization that match their skill sets and providing resources to help them find other employment outside the organization.

Hospital leadership continues to monitor operational needs, fiscal responsibility and ways to reduce cost while not impacting the quality of care patients deserve to receive from its community hospital.