Two heads sometimes are better than one.

That’s what the New Castle Area School Board learned when three sets of district teachers teamed up for the betterment of the programs they teach and their students.

The school board at its meeting Monday honored cross-country coaches Susan Harlan and Jeffrey Shaftic, band directors Nick Yoho and John Onufrak, and art teachers Kaycee Aubel and Season Nogay, three “dynamic duos” of teachers who partnered in a subject or program, bringing positive results.

Also honored was custodian Bill Jones who played a major role readying the newly-remodeled George Washington Intermediate School for school’s opening last month.

Senior high assistant principal Ralph Blundo “prided” Harlan and Shaftic for building the district’s cross-country program to 62 runners this year.

“Nine years ago we had just come off two years without a cross-country team,” Blundo said.

The first year after that, there were six runners.

Harlan was hired in 2009, and the team has had better than moderate success with winning, he said. He noted that student athletes run eight miles a day, 30 miles a week.

“In my opinion, this is the most challenging sport we offer in the school,” Blundo said.

Several participants are also academic winners, he noted with several racking up grade-point averages of 3.75 and six with 4.0 grade averages. This year’s team also has 15 to 20 ninth graders, who do not yet have grade-point averages.

“That may be unprecedented in the history of New Castle sports,” Blundo said.

Harlan shifted the credit to the students and parents.

“We have great kids,” she said. “They’re fantastic.”

“I derive a lot of pride from the work our kids put in every day,” Shaftic added. “We’ve developed a family unit here with the cross-country program.”

High school principal Richard Litrenta recognized Yoho and Onufrak, noting the number of high school students playing musical instruments has jumped from 48 in the 2010-11 school year to 76 this year.

“They team-teach the junior high band,” he said. While one is up front directing, the other works one-on-one with the young musicians.

The marching band attends many activities, and the district this year sponsored the county band festival, showcasing the band’s new uniforms.

In addition to playing at football games, the band performed at a Duquesne University game and marches in the downtown parades.

The band’s drum line has been invited this year to perform in the B.E. Taylor Christmas concert at the Scottish Rite Cathedral, Litrenta said.

Aubel and Nogay were introduced by assistant high school principal Tabitha Marino. She highlighting their efforts in working together for the district’s art program.

This year, they collaborated with art teachers in other buildings in the district to host a pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade art show.

“It was a huge success,” she said.

George Washington principal Joe Anderson nominated Jones for the award saying the custodian is always the first in the building each morning and the last one out.

“He wants our kids to be number one and wants them to be safe and functional,” Anderson said.

Jones’ work in getting the school ready for the first day of school included the headache of a water main break the week before classes began. Jones coordinated contractors and worked with administrators to get the line repaired and the place cleaned up in time for opening day.

“He’s more to this district than just a custodian,” Anderson said. “He’s a Red Hurricane.”


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