Jan. 8, 2020  -- As school board members, we hear this question often:  “How does the district decide two-hour delays or cancel school because of snow?”

    We’ve been lucky not to have been disrupted by bad weather so far during the 2019-2020 academic year. Nevertheless, luck is likely to run out before winter ends.

    When snow and icy road conditions are forecast, Transportation Director Dave Bashada starts at 4 a.m., using his computer and watching media reports to check on highways and see what other districts are doing.

    He calls Tom Godzak, who heads the Rostraver Township Roads Department, and local PennDOT maintenance supervisors, for their opinions. He contacts Jason Zadrozny, BVA’s Director of Buildings and Grounds, to determine progress on clearing school sidewalks, steps and parking lots. He calls neighboring school districts to determine their status and plans and then he heads out to check road conditions himself.

    After gathering the information, Bashada calls BVA Superintendent Dr. Michele Dowell around 5:15 a.m. to discuss the situation and “make a call” no later than 5:30 a.m., so the district can implement  procedures for delaying or postponing classes ASAP.

    BVA informs students, parents and its approximately 250 employees via Pittsburgh television stations, using its “School Messenger” site and posting on our website, www.bvasd.net.

    When school is delayed or postponed, the district realizes this can cause inconvenience.

    BVA covers an area of 42 square miles and embraces five municipalities. While it may be snowing heavily in Van Meter or Collinsburg in Rostraver, there may be little or no snow at all at the other end of the district around Fayette City or Belle Vernon, given the fickle nature of weather.

    Transportation is a big part of the school district, which uses 25 buses and 14 vans not only to take young people to and from the Rostraver and Bellmar campuses but also to transport special needs students as far as Bridgeville, parochial students as far as Monongahela and career-and-technology students to New Stanton and Speers.



    Dec. 16, 2019 – School Board committees and representatives have been appointed for the 2020 calendar year.

    Several committees have been restructured or re-set in order to best address needs, carry out policies and provide for the orderly operation of the Belle Vernon Area School District.

    Executive Group – Joe Grata, board president; Dan Engstrom, board vice president; Dr. Michele Dowell, school superintendent. They will met as needed to assess ongoing issues and overall performance; provide oversight on finances, personnel and contractual matters; direct matters to committees; and confer on emergency and discipline measures requiring immediate attention.

    Committee of the Whole – Consisting of all members of the board of education, coinciding with the monthly “workshop/agenda planning” meeting held each month. Members may convene in “executive session” on matters permissible under state law.

    Governance, Finance and Operations Committee -- Discontinued. Matters will be taken up by the Committee of the Whole in order that all board members will have an opportunity to participate in discussions and decisions relating to budget, policy, operations and other items relating to school business.

    Personnel Committee -- This succeeds the Human Recourses Committee, which also is being discontinued. Because the committee will deal with personnel issues not subject to public discussion, members will convene in executive session.

    Meeting dates for these following committees will be publicly advertised in the spirit of transparency, according to law, and in order that all board members can attend, if desired. Committee members will be charged with conducting the meetings and carrying out committee functions, including gathering information, making assessments and recommending board action. Committee chairs, in consultation with the superintendent, may request appropriate staff personnel to attend meetings as well as to prepare information helpful to participants.

    Each committee shall designate a member to take notes of proceedings, capsulizing information and/or recommendations and sharing same with all board members.

    Mr. Grata has asked Mr. Engstrom, as vice president, to oversee and coordinate the work of the committees.

    Facilities, Grounds and Transportation Committee – Joel Whiteko, chair; Dan Kovatch, Stacey Livengood, Justin Kosanko.

    Athletics and Activities Committee -- Dan Kovatch, Chair; Kathy Forte, Rob Harhai, Michelle Callaway-Rodriguez.

    Personnel Committee – Kathy Forte, Chair; Stacey Livengood, Michelle Callaway-Rodriguez, Dan Engstrom.

    Curriculum, Technology and Arts Committee – Dan Engstrom, Chair; Kathy Forte, Rob Harhai, Justin Kosanko.

    BVA Representative to Westmoreland Intermedite Unit – Michelle Callaway-Rodriguez

    BVA Representative to Central Westmoreland Career and Technology Centre – Stacey Livengood.

    COLA (Legislative Liaison) Representative – Stacey Livengood.



    Dec. 3, 2019 -- Congratulations are in order for our newest colleagues, Rob Harhai and Justin Kosanko. Last night, they were sworn into office, becoming  part of a hard-working, decision-making team responsible not only for the education of our young people but also for actions that will impact the future of Belle Vernon Area School District and its five component municipalities.

    It is noteworthy that three other board members have been here less than the one year but have proven themselves worthy of appointment to board vacancies earlier this year: Dan Engstrom, Dan Kovatch and Stacey Livengood.

    Congratulations are extended to them as well for having been duly elected to full terms of office, along with incumbent Joel Whiteko, now second in seniority on this board of “newbies,” compared to me.

    We are fortunate to have such public stewards, along with Michelle Callaway-Rodriguez and Kathy Forte, who put the best interests of students, staff and community at the top of their agendas.

    Major challenges await this new, proactive and determined board, including resolving labor contracts with our unionized employees, finding ways to fund needed maintenance and facility upgrades, reckoning with fragile operating budgets, improving academics, the arts, activities and athletics and, lastly, gaining public support.

    This board has already been instrumental in making major changes by resetting the administration, finances and overall operations to continue the mission of creating “A Better BVA.”


    Besides five new faces on the board, here’s a partial list of what else is new:

    Superintendent, business manager, bond counsel, high school principal, assistant high school principal, Marion elementary principal, Marion assistant principal, school psychologist, coordinator of student services, cafeteria manager, school resource officers, security measures, five-year strategic plan, state performance and board leadership.


    I believe I speak for many, and that I can say with confidence: It’s A New Day at BVA!