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Accusations fly again at board meeting

HAMBURG HIGH SCHOOL


Allegations of defamation characterized a considerable portion of Tuesday’s (August 14) contentious meeting of the Hamburg Central School Board, as both district officials and community members criticized the actions of specific individuals.

In statements Tuesday during a fiery public session that followed a similarly disagreeable slate at a July 17 special meeting, Board Member Holly Balaya asked that the district consider introducing a policy that enforces the resignation of any person found to be in violation of district regulations that forbid school officials from mentioning or insinuating of names of specific individuals on public message boards or Hamburg’s district website. Board Member Sally Stephenson had filed at the July 17 meeting misconduct charges against attorneys of Harris Beach, which represents the Hamburg School District, also introducing a resolution stating that an allocation of more than $400,000 in district funds over the past two years to Harris Beach were essentially a misuse of taxpayer dollars.

The district had brought a lawsuit against Stephenson for allegedly, illegally taping a private executive session at a district meeting in September 2010.

Audience member Chris Cerrone, a social studies teacher at Hamburg Middle School, suggested that alleged emails sent between officials in the Springville School District and those in the Hamburg district could have contained slanderous material regarding employees in Hamburg schools, which he said can be construed as a violation of privacy.

The exchanged emails, Cerrone said, should be released for interpretation, to – if for no other reason – dispel the notion of such alleged defamation, adding that he believes that at minimum, Springville officials had committed violations by mentioning his name.

“We need some consistency here,” said Cerrone, himself a resident of Springville.

Hamburg High School teacher Martha Kavanaugh furthered allegations by stating that she had been the subject of alleged defamation in a public letter Cavanaugh said was authored by Board President Dr. Joan Calkins. The letter, Kavanaugh said, contains material that implicates the Hamburg High teacher was engaging in criminal activity such as taunting police officers, suggestions she said are completely untrue and lacks basis.

“You’ve taken this to another level and destroyed my reputation,” Kavanaugh said to Calkins, alleging that she has been harassed by the district and moved between teaching positions several times. “I will not tolerate my name (being mentioned) on the district website. Your personal agenda against me will stop.” Kavanaugh went as far as to say that Calkins should resign from the board. She added she will continue teaching in the Hamburg district during the 2012-13 year.

The board voted during agenda action items to approve the denial of grievance brought from the Hamburg Central Teachers Association. When the motion to deny the grievance was announced by Calkins, Kavanaugh laughed in mock reaction. The district had included Kavanaugh in the lawsuit for her role in allegedly participating in distributing the taped executive session.

Other audience members suggested that attacking district officials in an unbridled manner is not proper. District resident Blair Webster, speaking to Stephenson, said that conducting what he stated to be a “violent and vicious” Internet blog of district criticism is inappropriate. Also, Jo Ann Johnson, who described herself as Hamburg High English teacher from 1975-90, said community relations have been a major issue for the last two years in Hamburg, mainly due to illogical actions and statements made by individuals against the district. Johnson added that she “applauds” district officials in trying to maintain the private nature of executive session material, stating, “I can only hope that the good community members of Hamburg support (district officials) in this matter.”

The board voted to approve personnel changes on the agenda, with one item being the increase of $5,800 in annual salary for the district clerk, a hike said by district Superintendent Steven A. Achramovitch to be included as part of the clerk’s expanded duties for 2012-13. Such duties are stated to entail notable hours required and added on top of the already full-time status of the position. It was also said that the salary raise comes through the transfer of monies from a position that had previously handled such duties that will now be given to the district clerk.

Other approved items included the board approving a new policy regarding concussion management in the district, as well as a resolution to incorporate both the town and village police departments in Hamburg to work with school officials in bringing about community awareness of drug and alcohol abuse. Achramovitch said the policy regarding concussions involves Bulldogs sports teams and Athletic Director Greg Witman, incorporating related data gathering, analyzing and benchmarking in prevention and treating of such occurrence. Meanwhile, the latter resolution makes note of both police departments within Hamburg being available to use resources – notably the Town of Hamburg PD’s narcotics unit – in helping the FCSD address the issue of drug and alcohol usage by students.

School officials will be expected to seek law enforcement assistance in furthering along a community forum that will inform parents and locals about trends regarding substance abuse by students, along with common signs and symptoms.

“We can’t do enough for our kids,” Stephenson said about prevention and treatment of substance abuse.

Also Tuesday, the board approved the creation of two full-time teaching positions in the area of elementary education, one servicing the first grade level at Charlotte Avenue Elementary, and the other at fifth grade in Armor Elementary. It was stated that swelled student enrollment within the two elementary classes had created the need for such positions.

Several audience members spoke in favor of additionally adding another position and accompanying class section of third grade at Charlotte Avenue Elementary, stating that the existing classes include as many as 25 students. Creating a learning environment with more-manageable class sizes, two parents stated, would be beneficial in responding to required state testing, which is slated to be initiated to students in the level of third grade.

Achramovitch said that although the district does not have additional staff at its current disposal to install at the requested areas, Hamburg officials are constantly studying enrollment trends that would create the need for a retroactive staff member to be brought along. The superintendent added that the district is always seeking alternate ways to provide new learning opportunities for students.


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2012-08-16 | 12:52:31
Why?
Why doesn't one of your reporters go back to the beginning of all this and find out what the whole story is? Why would someone tape the executive session? Seems to me that why someone did it is as important as who. Why did a teacher get moved around? What would cause an alleged personal agenda against Ms. Kavanaugh? Why was a teacher fired? What are the end results of the legal actions and grievances filed against the district? Who is filing them? Who is behind what is in my opinion, the most disrespectful blog I've ever seen? We, the taxpayers, seem to be hearing about the aftermath but not about what caused all the conflict to start with. If district officials are in the wrong we should know that. If the teachers or board members involved are in the wrong we should know that. Also, what will it take to end it? Our schools, and our community are being dragged not just through the courts but also through the mud. Every dollar spent on this is a dollar less spent on our kids.
2012-08-16 | 17:04:49
wrong again sun...
once again your News paper has it wrong. Ms. Balaya DID NOT "asked that the district consider introducing a policy that enforces the resignation of any person found to be in violation of district regulations that forbid school officials from mentioning or insinuating of names of specific individuals on public message boards or Hamburg’s district website." Ms. Balaya simply asked that anyone who that may have violated the districts policy 3180R which only deals with the districts website be removed or disciplined , this was after I informed the Board that Dr. Calkins violated policy 3180R. The policy reads ."The full name ,photo,video and or other personally identifiable information for a staff member or school- related community member may be used with their signed permission. The section editor must obtain a copy of the signed consent form before the information is published."This is something the district did not do.As I had foil requested the singed consent forms. The superintendent had emailed teachers and staff about this issue in December of 2010. It's also something the district has been caught doing in the past and had to correct . The reason for policy 3081R to to protect the district for Libel lawsuits.
2012-08-16 | 19:17:14
What is a retroactive staff member???? It's not an increase in 5,800 for the district clerk. It was a motion to pay the person assigned as district clerk, 5800 on top of her salary as business manager. I think the sun needs a new reporter. This is a horrible article.
2012-08-16 | 22:06:55
Why this is going on!
The problem is that Hamburg has a history of creating lies to fire non-tenured teachers who upset them. The administration could not use what the teachers actually "did" to fire them, because what they actually "did" was minimal. Therefore, these administrators manufactured lies against these teachers in order to "pad the bill" and influence the board to fire these teachers. In these cases though the teachers who were being fired refused to back down and got the evidence, one way or another. They have proof that they were fired for lies and they will not stop until justice is done. DO YOU THINK THEY WOULD CONTINUE TO FIGHT IF THEY WERE NOT LIED ABOUT? This is the United States of America, get a clue.
2012-08-16 | 23:06:34
or better yet.
Or better yet, GET A BOOK!
2012-08-17 | 00:09:58
JUSTICE
Maybe you should worry about your own homes and problems? If you think that it's better somewhere else Go to CLARENCE
2012-08-17 | 12:45:23
I just received word that the attorney general is looking into Joan posting that letter on the district website. My sources tell me she is going to have to go to Albany to answer for that.
2012-08-17 | 15:13:25
TAPES
If the tape truly was sent anonymously, then it should have been destroyed, turned over to proper authorities, etc. If someone other than the people in the executive session knows what was said due to the use of this tape, then they are just as guilty as the person who taped it. Grow children or find a real job or something to keep you busy!!!!!
2012-08-17 | 17:39:14
Why the fear?
If you don't want To read the hamburg educational ethics blog, don't go on it. Disrespect???? I think it's informative. I read more about the truth of what goes on in Hamburg on that blog than I do in the Sun. Who is this reporter?? he cant spell the teachers name right! I read the blog, and I think it is attempting to keep the school district on the up and up. Why no mention of the 1.3 owed to the state of ny, because the over paid administrators can not do their jobs??? Does Hamburg know the superintendent makes more than Cuomo, or Mr. Gallagher is one highest paid principals in NYS? The Sun should hire the blogger he seems to get the story straight.
2012-08-17 | 17:49:19
AT least Clarence high school is top ten, not Hamburg. Hey taxpayer your property value is dropping because the schools are messed up. Since Joan has been BOE presidident, we have been sinking. Dils and Brunner are do nothings.
2012-08-19 | 12:10:20
So let me get this right, those who know what was said on the watergate tapes ares as guilty as those who taped them??? It those who have been on wiki leaks website are guilty too??? I think the commentators need a history lesson. The village police have the recording and the mayor Moses heard it. Judge Fleming knows about it too. There are many people who know....too many to fit in Alden or Collins. Sorry chump, this tape has gone viral. Joan calkins and achramovitch lie on the tape. Why do you think they are working so hard?????
2012-08-19 | 12:52:49
Wow
Wow, do you people have too much time on your hands.. Instead of caring about the important things, such as the education of your children, you are caught up in ridiculous, petty items..Good luck in your quest
2012-08-19 | 13:03:05
why lie?
A school district has the authority to terminate a non-tenured teacher for just about any reason. Non-tenured teachers know this and realize that they need to be above reproach. Read the court case. There's no reason to lie.
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