Pittston Area School District: Where academic achievement and student safety come first

By Tony Callaio - For Sunday Dispatch
Pittston Area Superintendent Kevin Booth is seated at his desk in the administration suite where he oversees 3,300 students, nearly 400 staff and a $48 million budget. - Tony Callaio | For Sunday Dispatch
Members of the Pittston Area High School Class of 1967, the district’s first graduating class, were honored at the 2017 graduation at Charlie Trippi Stadium. - Tony Callaio | For Sunday Dispatch
Pittston Area conducts freshman orientation prior to the start of every school year where students and their parents get acclimated to the high school. - Tony Callaio | For Sunday Dispatch
Pittston Area excels in many sporting programs, 18 in all. Shown is Kyle Ralston delivering a pitch at a game at PNC Park, home of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders. - - Tony Callaio | For Sunday Dispatch
Pittston Area host many extracurricular activities, including a mock car crash sponsored by the Stand Tall Club. - - Tony Callaio | For Sunday Dispatch

Kevin Booth wears two hats as superintendent of the Pittston Area School District (PASD); one of an overseer of students, faculty and support staff and the other as the CEO of a $48 million corporation.

Booth, 47, has been superintendent for nearly three years now and has a lot on his plate. Not only does he have to worry about the academic achievements of 3,300 students, he also has to worry about their safety.

“It’s been a learning curve and economics is a huge challenge and what the state will give you or how much you have to raise taxes on people is a tough decision,” Booth said. He went on to say that learning about the economics involved in running a school and actually doing it are two different things.

The 1989 PASD graduate said, “When you go through all the school finance classes, you get an idea but you don’t realize the constraints and how much money is already tied up in salaries and benefits. Once you pay that, there’s not much left over.”

According to Booth, 75 to 80 percent of the school district budget is salary and benefits.

“When you get into this (superintendent position), you don’t realize you are the CEO of a $48 million company and you have 400 employees and the profit that you make is the kids that get out of here and do something with themselves,” he said. “It isn’t necessarily a monetary profit.”

With the current budget, PASD has a payroll consisting of 209 faculty and 128 support staff with an 18:1 teacher/student ratio topping the state average of 15:1. Male to female student ratio is near 50 percent. The proposed budget for 2018-2019 will top $50 million.

Pittston Area became a school district in the fall of 1966 and, in 2017 the district honored the first class of 1967 at graduation.

Pittston Area School District (PASD) is comprised of the city of Pittston, the towns of Avoca, Dupont, Duryea, Hughestown, Yatesville, and the townships of Jenkins and Pittston. Martin L. Mattei served as the first superintendent of the newly formed school district from 1966 to 1982.

According to Clairellen Hopple, PASD board secretary, superintendents that followed Mattei, in order, are: Gerard Musto (1982-1993), Frank Serino (1993-2006), Ross Scarantino (2006-2009), George Cosgrove (2009-2012), Michael Garzella (2012-2015) and Kevin Booth (2015 to present).

Today, the PASD houses 3,303 students at the senior high school in Yatesville (grades 9-12), the Martin L. Mattei Middle School in Pittston (grades 5-8), the PASD Intermediate Center in Pittston (grades 2-4), and the PASD Martin Quinn Primary Center in Hughestown (grades K-1). PASD encompasses a 42 square mile area.

The administration consists of the superintendent, director of curriculum, director of special education, director of technology, four principals, and two assistant principals.

The school district currently participates in 18 sanctioned sports programs for boys and girls on the junior and senior high school level.

PASD utilizes the Skyward Family Access program, a web-based information and communication center to provide answers to parents.

Skyward keeps teachers and administrators in touch with parents and parents are able to obtain information about their student’s daily work. Parents have access to grades, daily assignments, attendance, class schedules and more. It’s a way of making the students’ schooling transparent and making parents accountable.

Parents and teachers can respond to each other via a message center and parents are also able to pay for food services for their child. According to Booth, it is mandatory for teachers to participate in the Skyward program.

An alert system is in place through Skyward, informing parents about emergency alerts, attendance notifications, etc. through email, social media or text messages.

“The amount of information available to parents makes it very difficult for a parent to say they were not aware of their child’s schooling,” Booth said. “Schooling is no longer a mystery to parents like it was years ago when parents were not aware of their child’s progress until a report card was issued.” Set up can be done on the school’s website at https://www.pittstonarea.com/index.php/family-access.

PASD has partnered with the Pennsylvania Dept. of Education to provide a toll-free number for the prevention of bullying. The consultation number is 1-866-716-0424.

“We now have to become experts in safety drills,” Booth said. “We have instituted building level safety and security teams to do an analysis of their buildings to bring that to the larger district committee.”

PASD has a School Resource Officer and is currently looking for a second one. Booth went on to say the district is equipped with $60,000 worth of security cameras throughout all buildings.

Recently, a PASD senior reviewed the school district on Niche.com, an online school-ranking site. The review read: “The atmosphere at Pittston Area high schools is absolutely amazing. The teachers and staff go out of their way to help me with anything I need. They have a diverse option of clubs and sports that give so many people a chance to connect with other students. The staff does whatever they can do to help you and whoever needs help whether it is a tiny problem and/or a big problem. The kids are so nice and just overall great people. I love my school and I believe everyday, people in our school are so open to listen to others opinions, even when they do not agree on them. This is an amazing school and I give it a 5 star review!”

Another senior remarked, “I liked the way the teachers made themselves available to help if I needed it. They were always willing to answer any questions that I had.”

Pittston Area Superintendent Kevin Booth is seated at his desk in the administration suite where he oversees 3,300 students, nearly 400 staff and a $48 million budget.
https://www.psdispatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/web1_PASD1.jpgPittston Area Superintendent Kevin Booth is seated at his desk in the administration suite where he oversees 3,300 students, nearly 400 staff and a $48 million budget. Tony Callaio | For Sunday Dispatch

Members of the Pittston Area High School Class of 1967, the district’s first graduating class, were honored at the 2017 graduation at Charlie Trippi Stadium.
https://www.psdispatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/web1_PASD2.jpgMembers of the Pittston Area High School Class of 1967, the district’s first graduating class, were honored at the 2017 graduation at Charlie Trippi Stadium. Tony Callaio | For Sunday Dispatch

Pittston Area conducts freshman orientation prior to the start of every school year where students and their parents get acclimated to the high school.
https://www.psdispatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/web1_PASD3.jpgPittston Area conducts freshman orientation prior to the start of every school year where students and their parents get acclimated to the high school. Tony Callaio | For Sunday Dispatch

Pittston Area excels in many sporting programs, 18 in all. Shown is Kyle Ralston delivering a pitch at a game at PNC Park, home of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders.
https://www.psdispatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/web1_PASD4.jpgPittston Area excels in many sporting programs, 18 in all. Shown is Kyle Ralston delivering a pitch at a game at PNC Park, home of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders. Tony Callaio | For Sunday Dispatch

Pittston Area host many extracurricular activities, including a mock car crash sponsored by the Stand Tall Club.
https://www.psdispatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/web1_PASD5.jpgPittston Area host many extracurricular activities, including a mock car crash sponsored by the Stand Tall Club. Tony Callaio | For Sunday Dispatch

By Tony Callaio

For Sunday Dispatch

Reach the Sunday Dispatch newsroom at 570-655-1418 or by email at sd@psdispatch.com.

Reach the Sunday Dispatch newsroom at 570-655-1418 or by email at sd@psdispatch.com.