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Director of MARA, which replaced Olmsted Rec Board, is on the job; youth basketball signup is now

Posted 11/14/18

By Phyllis Zimmerman

Special to the Press & Journal

and Laura Hayes

The newly established Middletown Area Recreation Alliance now has a leader.

On …

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Director of MARA, which replaced Olmsted Rec Board, is on the job; youth basketball signup is now


By Phyllis Zimmerman

Special to the Press & Journal

and Laura Hayes

The newly established Middletown Area Recreation Alliance now has a leader.

On Oct. 22, the Middletown Area School Board hired William Foster as MARA’s first recreations program supervisor at an annual salary of $51,150. His employment became effective Oct. 23.

“I’m actually really excited about it because there’s so much opportunity for this area,” Foster said in an interview with the Press & Journal on Oct. 31.

“I really want to be able to bring the community together,” Foster said.

MARA was formed to replace the Olmsted Regional Recreation Board and will include representatives from Middletown Area School District, Lower Swatara Township, and Middletown and Royalton boroughs. All four parties signed off on creating the alliance and its bylaws earlier this year.

Foster grew up in Milford. At first he planned to study psychology and human services in college, but after teaching outdoor education at a YMCA camp in the Poconos, he discovered a passion and ended up changing his major.

Now, at the helm of MARA, Foster is picking up some of the projects, including the youth basketball program.

Foster said the program, which is open to children in kindergarten through sixth grade, will focus more on developing skills instead of competition.

MARA Basketball Director Chris Hughes said children in fourth grade and older will play more games than the younger students.

“The goal is for them to love the sport so much to want to continue it at a higher level and be good enough to do so,” Foster said.

Registration is open and can be found at

According to Hughes, the league will run from December to the end of February. He plans to have high school players and coaches, former players, parents and Penn State Harrisburg students help out with the league, forming a bond between older and younger players.

“We want Little Raiders to become Big Raiders eventually,” Hughes said.

The travel league is open to boys and girls in fifth and sixth grade. Practice will be more frequent, and team members will play in travel leagues and tournaments. Hughes said the travel league will be part of a central Pennsylvania travel league, and the other teams may play against other area teams.

The deadline to register for the travel league is Nov. 16 and for other divisions is Nov. 30.

In the past, Foster worked as a school-aged child care and camp director for YWCA York, and he had interned with Mechanicsburg Area School District as a parks and recreation intern.

His supervisor in Mechanicsburg was Tonya Brown, who studied recreation needs in the area. Brown wrote in her study that some of the individuals interviewed felt that the community lacked recreation opportunities for all ages and wanted a year-round program.

“I think the big takeaway from the report is there’s a big need for an entity like this and for it to do very mindful activities,” Foster said.

His goal is to offer diverse programs –– for both adults and children and people with special needs.

Foster wants to offer adaptive programs, such as wheelchair basketball. He has a number of ideas such as “mommy and me” activities, athletic pickup leagues for adults, different types of yoga, aerobics, walking clubs and self-guided tours of the area, more festivals, cooking classes, golden oldies dances, day trips and a karaoke league.

Foster called the arts a “missed opportunity” and predicts that there will be a demand for it. He wants to bring arts — such as a theater troupe such as the Olmsted Players or plays in the park — to the community.

“I’m excited about all of it,” Foster said.

Last month, the Lower Swatara Township Board of Commissioners voted to submit a grant that would be used to fund a supervisor for MARA.  The grant request was submitted to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources for $57,500. School District Superintendent Lori Suski said Oct. 22 that officials still are awaiting word about the DCNR’s decision regarding the grant.

In a related matter, the school board tabled a discussion on Oct. 22 that was continued from the board’s Oct. 2 meeting about the school district possibly contributing up to $1,000 toward termination costs of Olmsted Regional Recreation Board. School board member Christopher A. Lupp suggested sending the matter for further review by the district’s finance committee.

Board approves goals

Also on Oct. 22, the school board approved a list of several district goals for the 2018-19 school year. Approved goals include:

• Developing the district’s new comprehensive plan for the period of July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2023.  Submission deadline to the state Department of Education is Nov. 30, 2019.

• Increase K-12 student achievement as defined by multiple measures of the Future Ready PA Index.

• Conduct an elementary feasibility study to review options for the best delivery of services for elementary students at Fink, Kunkel and Reid elementary schools based on the need for more instructional space and programs for special populations. Suski said the school board heard a presentation about all potential costs for the endeavor on Nov. 6.

• Implement three new initiatives to address student mental health behavior and wellness, Middletown Area Therapeutic Elementary Support, or MATES program, School-wide Positive Behavior Intervention Support or SA/PBIS, and Positive Action.

• Implement increased safety and security measures districtwide as recommended by risk and vulnerability assessment reports.

• Implement recommendation of the athletic field master plan within budgetary constraints and available capital reserve funds.

• Negotiate a new agreement with the Middletown Area Education Support Personnel Association before June 30, 2019 expiration date of current agreement.