Kiski Area School District

Kiski Area School District

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Kiski Area School District
District typePublic
Religious affiliationNone
LocationVandergrift, Pennsylvania, USA
Enrollment 2006-2007Approx. 4,800 students
GradesK-12
District locationrural
District MascotCavalier
District colorsGold, White and Navy Blue
Student/Teacher Ratio18.4:1

The Kiski Area School District is one of 501 public school systems in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Encompassing a total of nine municipalities in Armstrong and Westmoreland counties, the Kiski Area School District is headquartered in Allegheny Township, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania.

History: The Merger of Five Districts

The creation of the Kiski Area School District arose out of a mandate in the late 1950s requiring hometown schools to join their neighboring municipalities and merge, with the intent of sharing resources with state funds. The municipalities of Allegheny Township, Bell Township/Avonmore, East Vandergrift, Parks Township, and Vandergrift all joined their respective buildings to form the district, with the merger being finalized in 1958.

With the merger came the task of finding an appropriate site for building a centrally-located school. The offer presented itself later in the decade, when a plot of 107 acres along what is now known as Melwood-DoBi Road in Allegheny Township became available. This site had been used for an airport until it had been decommissioned in the early 1950s. Because of this, this stretch of road for many years would be known as "Old Airport Road".

Prior to the groundbreaking, the district's high school was on the outskirts of downtown Vandergrift and then known as Vandergrift Junior-Senior High School, which would graduate its last class in 1962

1960: The Construction of Kiski Area High School

By use of a $2,345,000 30-year loan, the purchase of the property was negotiated in 1960, with the building's construction beginning later that same year. The new school was considered by many to be one of the most modern, state-of-the-art educational facilities in Pennsylvania. It would resemble a college campus atmosphere with five single-story buildings and a two-story building. The single story buildings would be three classroom buildings with grade-level homerooms in three of the buildings, which would be known as the sophomore, junior and senior buildings; an administration building, and an auditorium/industrial and performing arts/home economics building. The single two story building would be the cafeteria and balcony spectator area for the gymnasium, with the gym and locker rooms below.

In addition to the campus setting, was the unique architecture of the buildings, which would use a limited amount of brick, augmented with glass and steel framing, with painted aluminum classroom interior walls. It was a concept in architecture that would come to be the accepted standard by the 1970s. An underground tunnel would connect the corridor between the junior and sophomore buildings with the enclosed stairwell connecting the cafeteria and gymnasium.

The school opened its doors in September 1962 to some 1300 students following a ribbon cutting ceremony by two new administrators, principal Harold J. Bush and superintendent Dr. Mearl F. Gerheim. The Class of 1963 was the first to graduate from the new Kiski Area Senior High School. In homage to the new school's campus atmosphere, the school's first yearbook was named "The Campus 1963".

Bush retired from the district the following year, but would return as an as-needed substitute teacher for many years after. Gerheim retired in 1969, and was succeeded by James R. Daniels.

High school students from the new neighboring Burrell School District would also attend the Kiski Area Senior High School building pending the completion of their own new high school building, which was completed in the fall of 1965. Despite the close relationship, a rivalry would exist between the two high schools for many years.

In 1966, the municipality of Washington Township was merged into the Kiski Area School District. Its high school building became a junior high school building, with the high school students attending the Kiski Area Senior High School campus.

1972: Additions and Alterations

As part of long-range planning, the district made the decision to expand the school by the end of the 1960s in response to a possible spike in enrollment, due in part to recent new home construction in the area and an overall boom in the local economy.

Construction began in 1970 on two new buildings and an expansion project was started for the existing senior building. The expansion to the senior building included the addition of six additional classrooms, a teacher's lounge, and an enclosed walkway connecting the rear of the senior building to the rear of the junior building to reduce hall traffic congestion. The new senior building classrooms were built for specialty class instruction, equipped with typewriters and office machines for the school's expanding business curriculum.

One of the two new two-story buildings was built north of the new senior building. This new building would have three additional classrooms and an additional cafeteria on the ground floor, which led to the designation of the cafeterias as the "lower" and "upper" cafeteria, differentiated by their location. The new cafeteria became known as the "upper" cafeteria. On the top floor, which was accessible by a new parking lot, was a new, expanded library, almost four times the size of the original one. This new library offered a private classroom, audio equipment for private listening, and a much larger selection of books and periodicals. Also on the top floor were district administration offices, a television production studio, and office space for Westmoreland County Community College, which began operations of a satellite campus on the school grounds.

The second building was built adjoining the gymnasium. The upper floor was an auxiliary gymnasium with a then-state-of-the-art rubber surface, which would later become the accepted standard for all-weather outdoor track. Also on the upper floor were gender-segregated locker rooms opening up to a regulation-size mosaic tile swimming pool with two diving boards, a balcony spectator area and six starter platforms. The ground floor of this building bore a weight training room, physical therapy room, and office space for the athletic director and coaching staff. The additions were completed in 1972.

1982: Strike

The district's long standing of good employee relations was compromised in September 1982, when teacher contract negotiations erupted in a district-wide strike that kept students out of the classrooms for 37 days. Upperclassmen were not affected by the strike, as substitute teachers were brought in to enable seniors to finish their instruction on time in order to meet military and post-secondary educational obligations.

In mid-October, the deadline had passed guaranteeing students a full 180 days of instruction as per state Department of Education mandate. In response, Westmoreland County Judge Daniel Ackerman ordered both sides into round-the-clock negotiations until a settlement could be reached. The court order was a success, as both sides reached a tentative four-year agreement less than a week later. The contract was ratified on November 1, 1982, the belated first day of school for students. The new school year also marked the beginning of the tenure of new district superintendent Dr. Stephen M. Vak, who succeeded the retiring James R. Daniels.

Years later, Pennsylvania's legislature signed a bill into law (known as Act 88) that would require teachers to return to class if students were in danger of not meeting their mandated 180 days of instruction in a timely manner, as this did not happen with the students of Kiski Area during the 1982-83 academic year. Only 170 days were completed, with students attending class until June 30th on weekdays, also forcing teachers to work holidays like Thanksgiving, New Year's Day, and Christmas Eve.

1985: "Senior" is dropped from High School name

In late winter of 1985, district officials announced that the freshmen classes of the three district junior high school buildings would be moved up to the high school. The move would bring the estimated student body at the high school from approximately 1200 to 1620...just 30 students shy of the school's maximum student capacity.

The district made the decision based on student enrollment, which had been on a steady decline since the collapse of the Pittsburgh steel industry in the early 1980s, which had a domino effect on the smaller steel factories in the boroughs within the district. Because of the resulting effects of the steel industry collapse, families with school age children were moving into cities or towns with greater economic opportunities, affecting the district's tax base.

To facilitate the move, two of the district's three junior high buildings, Allegheny-Hyde Park and Vandergrift, would be reclassified as "Intermediate" schools instructing students grades 7 and 8, and reclassifying Washington Junior High as an elementary school. The building shuffles allowed three elementary schools in the district to close, with the buildings later being sold to private owners.

To accommodate the dramatically-increased student population, the three classroom buildings were stripped of their grade-level identities, specialty classrooms for business classes use were also turned into regular classrooms, and desks and chairs were added to every classroom, increasing the average class size from approximately 20 to 30 students. An antiquated rule governing cafeteria use was also being enforced, ordering students to their respective cafeteria by the first letter of their last names. Prior to this, students ate wherever they pleased, usually within close proximity of their next class.

Today, the enrollment of the highschool has been on an increase, compared to the senior class which has mostly been between the numbers of 350-370, the current freshman class has 393 students and the population of the high school student body is currently 1,494.

1987: Kiski Area Intermediate School

In 1987, the silver anniversary year of the high school, school officials announced the plans for a new intermediate school building, built on the same concept of the high school. It too would be a part of the high school campus, but be for the most part, keep the younger students segregated from the older students. The intermediate school students would benefit by sharing some of the high school amenities currently enjoyed by their older counterparts.

Groundbreaking for the new project began in 1988, with the completion of the new building the following year in time for the 1989-90 school year. The former intermediate school buildings were then converted into elementary school buildings, allowing the closure of four more older elementary school buildings. The former Allegheny Intermediate school building was also expanded to allow more students.

Athletics

The Kiski Area Cavaliers are part of what's known as the WPIAL, or PIAA District 7 [http://www.piaa.org/schools/directory/details.aspx?ID=11344] . The football, basketball, baseball, softball and golf programs are in the Quad-A class, while all other sports are part of class Triple-A.

Fine Arts

Wind Ensemble, Conducted by Mr. Shawn PitykThe Kiski Area High School Wind Ensemble is Kiski’s elite concert performance ensemble. The Wind Ensemble rehearses daily and has various sectional rehearsals once a week after school. The group is composed of students primarily 10-12 and an audition only group. Auditions are held at the beginning of each school year. The difficulty of literature performed by this group is advanced-insane. The Wind Ensemble performs a minimum of 3 concerts each year and also participates in a PMEA (Pennsylvania Music Educators Association) sponsored Adjudication Festival each spring. This ensemble has continuously received Superior ratings at theses festivals and has been selected several times over the years to perform at the PMEA All-State Music Conference.

Symphonic Band, Conducted by Mr. Chad HeinyThe Kiski Area Symphonic Band is another outstanding performance ensemble that consists of students primarily grades10-12. This group rehearses daily. The difficulty of literature performed by this group is medium-advanced. The Symphonic Band performs a minimum of 2 concerts each year and also participates in a PMEA (Pennsylvania Music Educators Association) sponsored Adjudication Festival each spring. This ensemble has continuously received Superior ratings at theses festivals.

9th Grade Concert Band, Directed by Mr. Shawn Pityk and Mr. Chad Heiny

The Kiski Area 9th Grade Concert Band is another outstanding performance ensemble that consists of students in 9th grade. This group rehearses daily. The difficulty of literature performed by this group is medium. The 9th Grade Concert Band performs a minimum of 2 concerts each year and also participates in a PMEA (Pennsylvania Music Educators Association) sponsored Adjudication Festival each spring. This ensemble has continuously received Superior ratings at theses festivals.

Jazz Ensemble A, Directed by Mr. Shawn Pityk

The Kiski Area Jazz Ensemble has developed a rich and proud tradition of excellence over the last three decades. Highlighted performances include concerts with Bob Mintzer, the Lew Soloff Quartet, The Maynard Ferguson Band, the Buddy Rich Band, Richard Stolzman, and the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Band. In addition, the Band has been named the Outstanding Ensemble at numerous University Festivals over the years including: Villanova, Morehead, California University of PA., Ohio State, Duquesne, West Virginia, and Mansfield. Conference and Clinic performances include: The Mid-West and Mid-East Conventions, PMEA, and the MENC All Eastern. Alumni have gone on to perform with The Glen Miller Orchestra, the US Navy Commodores, and the New York Metropolitan Opera.

The ensemble is an audition only group and rehearses once a week the first semester and every day during the second semester. Many students participate in combos throughout the year. Most students study privately and participate in a school district sponsored summer Jazz Camp. Improvisation begins in the 5th grade. Numerous students have been selected for the Pennsylvania All State Jazz Ensemble over the years and several participate in the Pittsburgh Jazz Society Student Big Band.

Jazz Ensemble B, Directed by Mr. Chad Heiny

The Jazz Ensemble “B” rehearses once a week the first semester and every day during the second semester. This ensemble performs a minimum of two concerts each year and also performs at a variety of Jazz Festivals around the Pittsburgh area. Such festivals include the California University Jazz Festival and the Slippery Rock Jazz Festival. This group has continuously received superior ratings at these festivals.

Music Theory

This ½ credit course meets daily and is an advanced study of music theory and harmony. The students will develop listening and aural skills as well as acquire knowledge in music notation, keys, scales, basic and advanced harmony, harmonic progressions, dictation, part-writing, and basic composition. Appreciation of the aesthetic values of music will also be emphasized. This course is designed specifically for students interested in studying music in college. This course is for 11th and 12th grade students only. Students must be in band or chorus.

"Extra-Curricular Activities"

Percussion Ensemble, Directed by Mr. Chad Heiny

The Percussion Ensemble is composed of students from grades 9-12. An extra-curricular ensemble at Kiski, Percussion Ensemble meets from the months of December through the first of April, twice a week and during the evening hours. All of the students in Percussion Ensemble are actively involved in the music program at Kiski High School. Each student is a member of one of the three concert bands and many are involved in the jazz ensembles, the school musical and even the choir ensembles. The ensemble is dedicated to exposing the All-Kiski community to both the aesthetic and education possibilities of the Percussion Ensemble genre. Most recently the ensemble performed a showcase concert at the Percussive Arts Society sponsored “Pennsylvania Day of Percussion” on the IUP campus in Indiana, PA.

Pit Orchestra, Directed by Mr. Shawn Pityk

The Pit Orchestra is made up of students in the Wind Ensemble and Symphonic Band who are interested in performing for the high school musicals.

Marching Band, Directed by Mr. Shawn Pityk and Mr. Chad Heiny

The Kiski Area High School Marching Band is a nationally acclaimed group who has built a reputation for high achievement and excellence. The marching band is composed of students grades 9-12 and an extra-curricular activity. In addition to strongly supporting our high school athletics, this group competes locally and nationally in various arenas. This includes local PIMBA (Pennsylvania Interscholastic Marching Band Association) competitions and regional and national BOA (Bands of America) competitions. Accomplishments include:

-1991 Bands of America Class "AA" Grand National Champion

-1994 Bands of America Class "AA" Grand National Champion

-12-time Bands of America Regional Grand Champion

-Twenty-six-time Bands of America Regional Class "AA" Champion

-Eight-time Bands of America Grand National Finalist

-Nine-time P.F.C.J./PIMBA State Champion

-1992 Florida Citrus Bowl Parade and Festival Participant

-1991 and 1996 James Madison "Parade of Champions" Grand Champion

-Orange Bowl Parade Participant

Choral MusicAll choral groups are under the direction of Mrs. Tammy Hampshire.

Cavalier Choir - consists of male and female students in grades 10-12. Students perform variou styles of music for concert, community and festival programs. The choir meets daily for a 43 minute rehearsal period. Small group vocal lessons are also scheduled to help develop music reading, theory and vocal skills A choral adjudication is a part of the annual spring choir trip.

KAndesence Show Choir - consists of male and female students in grades 10-12. Students perform music primarily of a Broadway or Jazz/Swing style with choreographed dance movement added. Students perform for various community activities, provide music for athletic events and senior recognition night, assemblies for elementary schools as well as annual concerts. The choir meets daily for a 43 minute rehearsal period. Small group vocal lessons are also scheduled to help develop music reading, theory and vocal skills. A choral adjudication is a part of the annual spring choir trip. This group is selected by audition only.

Center Stage Show Choir - consists of female students in grades 10-12. Women perform music specifically written for three or four part women’s voicing primarily in the Broadway or Jazz/Swing style with choreographed dance movement added. Students perform for various community activities as well as annual concerts. Small group vocal lessons are also scheduled to help develop music reading, theory and vocal skills. A choral adjudication is a part of the annual spring choir trip. This group is selected by audition only.

Women’s Choir - consists of female students in grades 10-11. Women perform music specifically written for four part women’s voicing consisting of a variety of styles. Performances are usually limited to the annual concerts. Small group vocal lessons are also scheduled to help develop music reading, theory and vocal skills A choral adjudication is a part of the annual spring choir trip.

Freshman Choir - consists of male and female student in grade 9. Students perform various styles of music for annual concerts. Small group vocal lessons are also scheduled to help develop music reading, theory and vocal skills Students also participate in the Pennsylvania State Music Educators Choral Adjudication Festival in the spring.

"All of the choirs have achieved outstanding ratings over the past several years. The choral program has a long tradition of excellence."

chool Board

*Gary R. Haag, President
*Susan H. Hartford, Vice-President
*Rebecca A. Dunmire, Secretary
*First Commonwealth Bank, Treasurer
*Andrew G. Uncapher, Solicitor
*James Summerville, member
*Patrick Leyland, member
*Ron Ferrara, member
*Monika McKillop, member
*Benjamin Sylvestri, member
*Dr. Elaine Geris, member
*Robert Keibler, member
*Dr. John Meighan, Superintendent

Notable alumni

*Phil Nevin, Class of 1985, and star center of the Kiski Area Cavaliers basketball team. At 6 feet 11 inches tall, his height at the time rivaled that of most NBA players. He would later play the same position for the University of Maryland Terrapins after being awarded a basketball scholarship. He is not to be confused with the baseball player of the same name. Nevin was sharing a dormitory suite with teammate Len Bias at the time of Bias' death, [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/sports/longterm/memories/bias/launch/bias1.htm] which reached world headlines. Upon the arrival of Coach Bob Wade, his scholarship was rescinded and he later transferred to Millersville University (Division II) in Pennsylvania.
*Michael Chioldi, Class of 1987, operatic baritone and Broadway actor [http://www.michaelchioldi.com/] .
*Michael J. Travaglia, Class of 1976, one of two convicted murderers in the fabled 1979-80 "Kill for Thrill" murder spree in western Pennsylvania that left four dead during the New Year's Eve holiday between 1979 and 1980. He is currently awaiting execution on Pennsylvania's Death Row [http://www.digitalduke.duq.edu/justice/travagl2.htm] .
*Scott Long, Class of 1997, Star of CBS Big Brother 5 and 7. Actor and reality TV star. Played football in college for the University of Pittsburgh.
*George W. Oberdorf, Class of 1996, International opera singer based out of Phoenix, Arizona. Also a noted conductor.

Trivia

Two Kiskis

Sometimes Kiski Area High School is confused with The Kiski School, located in Loyalhanna Township, Pennsylvania, also known as Kiskiminetas Springs School and often referred to as "Kiski Prep". This is an exclusive private all-boys prep school, located just outside of the Kiski Area School District borders. The two schools are not connected in any way other than in name, though Kiski Prep has awarded academic and athletic scholarships to Kiski Area High School students who excel in both.

Dress Code

Kiski students for many years enjoyed a reputation for being well-dressed and groomed while on campus. In the district's early years, male students were forbidden from growing facial hair or sideburns, and growing their hair long. Males were not permitted to wear jeans until 1971, and women not until almost the end of the decade.

Teacher in Space

Late astronomy and earth science teacher Robert Yajko applied in 1985 to become part of NASA's new Teacher in Space program announced by the space program that year. Had Yajko's effort been successful, he would have perished in the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion that happened the winter of 1986, taking the life of Christa McAuliffe.

District website

*Kiski Area School District [http://www.kiskiarea.com]
*Kiski Area Band [http://www.kiskiareaband.com]

External links

Pennsylvania Act 88 [http://www.dli.state.pa.us/landi/CWP/view.asp?a=185&Q=181940]


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