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Paint and Play teachers celebrate 25 years

DuBOIS — Both Carol Anne Smith and Peggy Wilson are celebrating 25 years of teaching at Paint and Play School and they can’t imagine teaching anywhere else.

Speaking of her students, she said, “When they have that light bulb moment, and it clicks for them, and their faces light up, there’s nothing that compares to that. They’re working so hard and when they get it, it’s just amazing.”

Smith is also the executive director of the school, which was the first academic pre-kindergarten in the DuBois area and is the only pre-kindergarten school licensed by the state Department of Education State Board of Private Academic Schools in Clearfield County.

Wilson agreed — those light bulb moments make it all worth it.

“They’ll say, cutting’s hard for me. Well, you know we’ve been stringing beads, we’ve been doing puzzles, we’ve been doing the Legos. I bet it’s going to be easier for you,” Wilson said. “And then they’ll start cutting, and it’s like, look how much easier that is, I’m doing better, I can stay on the line. It’s so much fun to be part of that.”

Smith said a lot of work goes into trying to meet the needs of the children at this level.

“This is their first organized educational experience,” said Smith. “Just seeing the impact, the bonds we make with the families and with the students is special.”

Smith said she doesn’t think she can walk into a store and not see a former family and have a parent come up to her and say their child is finishing their doctorate, and that they loved school because of the great foundation Paint and Play gave them.

“That’s the reward,” Smith said.

The school has evolved and changed over the years to meet the needs of the families and provide the service that they need, Smith said.

A lot more is expected of the students by the time they start kindergarten.

“When I student taught in kindergarten, they wanted the kids to count to 100 by the end of kindergarten,” Smith said. “Now many of our kids are counting to 100, over 100, before they leave us.”

There are a few students who are reading independently before they leave the school, Smith said.

“They are capable of so much. We still play, we still socialize, and nothing is stressful or pushed,” Smith said. “They’re excited, they’re inspired, they’re interested.”

Smith said the school is going to have parent-teacher conferences soon and she can’t wait for the parents to see the student portfolios — where they started in September and where they are now.

“They just grow and mature so much,” Smith said.

Not only has Wilson been teaching at the school for 25 years, but her own children attended Paint and Play before she became a teacher.

“The school has really grown over the years. We keep trying to look forward and see how we can improve,” Wilson said.

The children are what Wilson likes most about teaching.

“They’re all very special and unique and they’re all fun to work with. The days go very fast,” she said.

Photo by Chris Wechtenhiser 

DuBois Central Catholic's Ashley Wruble delivers a pitch Thursday against Elk County Catholic at City Park. Wruble tossed a four-hit shutout as DCC beat the Lady Crusaders, 10-0 in six innings.

Brockway watershed returning to previous state after years of drilling

BROCKWAY — Clean water advocates in Brockway say they feel as if the battle has been won.

That battle has spanned nearly a decade, starting around 2009 when the Colorado-based company Flatirons Development, LLC bought the mineral rights to land on Brockway’s watershed.

Despite warnings from the borough’s water authority and the team of lawyers it employed in response to the development, the company drilled an unconventional gas well within view of the reservoir from which the town and surrounding areas received their drinking water.

In a public meeting in 2012, when impassioned residents asked “why,” representatives of Flatirons said it was all business — they had leases to access the gas beneath the watershed, pipeline access to get it to market, and other wells drilled successfully in the area showed promise for theirs.

Since drilling on the watershed began, members of the Brockway Borough Municipal Authority had been waiting for something to go wrong.

And in February 2011 it did.

Flatirons drilled into the aquifer to make way for its first Marcellus Shale gas well on the watershed, causing a nearby BBMA artesian water well to go dry for about 29 hours. At that moment, one of the authority’s worst fears were realized.

The fight would continue until around 2016, when DEP received and approved the request to transfer the Flatirons well to Alliance Petroleum Corp.

Of the shift in ownership, Bill Sabatose, president of the Toby Creek Watershed Association, said that Alliance is a good neighbor, who has agreed to keep the existing well in production but has made strides to restore the watershed to its former state. Two sizable water impoundment ponds have been backfilled and planted with trees, the well pad lay quiet and will also be covered and planted when it is no longer producing, and the pipelines and compressor station have been removed.

“I’m not against industry,” Sabatose said as he bent over a sapling recently planted on a 12-acre tract of land once used to impound water for fracking. “But you just can’t do this (fracking) on a watershed.”

Sabatose, who has long been an environmental champion for the region, said that he was particularly incensed by the drilling on the watershed because it was determined that the Rattlesnake and Whetstone creeks that feed the drinking water reservoirs were “exceptional value.”

“There’s no manganese or iron in this water, which makes it one of the purest water sources in the area,” said Sabatose.

He added that the current situation on the watershed is due to the BBMA’s tenacity and persistence to fight a gas company for many years, despite all odds.

While Sabatose believes the fight is over, others like Tino Genevro, of the BBMA, are cautiously optimistic.

“The new company says they’re not interested in drilling anymore, so we’re happy about that,” Genevro said. “It’s taken a lot of hard work to get this to happen.”

Genevro added that despite the calm, the authority is retaining its legal counsel and continues to keep an eye on the happenings on its watershed.

“When it happens, all you can do is use every avenue you can to stop it,” Genevro said. “You just don’t give up the fight.”

St. Marys mock crash brings real results

ST. MARYS — In the decade since the St. Marys Prom Promise and mock crash program were instituted in St. Marys there have been no serious incidents on prom night.

The process in St. Marys is that the public school presents the mock crash program one year and the Catholic school the next year.

“We invite any junior or senior student to audition for this presentation because the presentation is for the junior and senior students in the school. Students who were interested partake in an audition process and the “cast” is selected by me (Ann Defilippi) and Mr. Matt Frank. This year, there are 15 student actors and five film crew members,” Defillippi said.

Defillippi said the mock crash is “a rather involved endeavor,” with students auditioning at the end of March and spending April filming scenes and editing the videos together for the presentation which takes 20-30 hours in editing time alone.

“This is definitely quite an emotional presentation,” Defillippi said. “The realism of the live accident and the aftermath has a visible impact on many of our students and faculty.”

When students watch their peers being transported to ambulances and the Mercy Flight, which volunteered this year, land, there is a tangible impact. Students also watch one of their peers be placed in a body bag, the parents as they come to identify their child, and the arrest of the drunk driver.

“You can hear crying, but for the most part, the entire audience stands in silence. This feeling will continue as students return to the auditorium to watch videos of what happened after the accident and watch a live memorial service,” Difillippi said.

Of the work and the event, Difillippi said its purpose is to bring a realization to students that driving under the influence (or distracted) has serious consequences.

“We don’t want our students to have to experience this. We are aware that students will drink; our message is for them not to drive,” said Difillippi, who added that the prom is this Saturday, May 12, at The Red Fern.

Of the event, Difillippi thanks all of the community members who take time out of their day, and often off of work, to participate and make it meaningful, including St. Marys and Fox Township Ambulances, Crystal Fire Department, St. Marys Police, Elk County Sheriff, Elk County Prison, D&T Towing, Mercy Flight, Michelle Muccio, Dr. Wonderling and Penn Highlands Elk, the Edgewood, John Salter Communications, St. Marys Area School District and Aramark Services.