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Frontier Board acts quickly, to reinstate stipend positions

GETTING INVOLVED — Frontier High School students at Tuesday’s school board meeting speak out against several late, proposed cuts to positions in the performing arts and yearbook clubs. Photo by Steve Dlugosz.
The threat of cuts to several stipend advisory positions at Frontier High School was described by many district students at the Sept. 17 school board meeting as being detrimental to the creative learning process of pupils in the areas of various traditional extracurriculars.

Turnaround planning by district officials, later that evening, generated a plan that allocated funding the board called necessary to reinstate these positions and sustain related after-school programs.

Interim District Superintendent Paul Hashem said that discussion following the regular meeting produced a unanimous board resolution that allotted $8,550 to reinstate the school’s “Gateway Yearbook” printing advisor, assistant director for drama, assistant director for choreography, ski club advisor and in-flight (printing) advisor.

The funding was said to be represented in “bullet aid” from New York State Sen. Mark Grisanti’s office, as well as monies from the district’s contingency fund.

Proposed cuts to the aforementioned stipend positions were described by district officials as trickling down from the 2013 – 2014 budget planning process, rearing themselves as an unintended consequence, five months later.

Various board members explained that they were not made aware of such specific cuts until the day of the meeting. Larry Albert said he was “appalled” at the lateness of the announcements. Patrick Boyle said that he wondered, last spring, how specific line item cuts as part of the budget would affect the district’s moving forward, adding that it was not the intention of district officials, during budget planning, to present a scenario that would cause turmoil or distress for students or staff.

Tom Best Jr. said that the board felt “duped” by the proposed cuts.

Several district officials also credited students for speaking to district officials about the issue. Upperclassmen who spoke at the standing-room-only meeting stressed the importance of keeping the positions in place, to maintain traditional extracurriculars. “What you spoke of is close to my heart and the hearts of the administrators,” Hashem said.

During the public comment session, senior students expressed frustration and sadness with the announcement that several of the programs could be adversely affected or removed altogether.

Chantelle Guido, who served as the leading actress in last year’s “Legally Blonde” performance, said that the school’s performing arts program has motivated her to pursue a musical theater major. Also noting the hundreds of hours of service compiled by advisory staff, as well as the many community members who attend Frontier’s annual student performances, Guido implored district officials to not allow such cuts.

Senior Robert Filipski noted that approximately one-fourth of all National Honor Society members are involved in at least one of the advocated-for activities. Emily Lotecki described Frontier’s performing arts club as one the key tools of her successful integration into the district when she was in sixth grade and performed in “Annie.”

Fourth-year yearbook club member Garrett Brody explained the importance of allowing a school yearbook to be assembled.

“[The yearbook] is not just a picture book,” he said. “It’s something to be reflected on, for years to come. It’d be odd for the 2014 yearbook to be missing from the high school library or from the Hamburg Historical Society.”

According to the board, budget finalizations last spring for the 2013 – 2014 academic year did not seem to directly indicate specific cuts brought up at the meeting.

Hashem, who was appointed as interim superintendent following the retirement of former Superintendent James Bodziak, had not been present, during the budget planning process. The emergence of noted stipend position cuts forced district officials to formulate a quick plan to prevent the elimination of extracurricular activities.

In other news:

– Increases from a 0.5 FTE guidance counselor at Frontier High School to a 0.6 FTE, and from a 0.5 teacher’s aide to a 1.0 FTE, as well as the creation of a 0.75 FTE registered nurse in the district, all of which are based on student needs, were approved. This went along with the amended reinstatement of a part-time clerk-typist position at the Frontier Educational Center from four to seven hours, per day.

– The board recalled the following individuals from the preferred eligibility list to positions: Domenica Fiorello, teacher’s aide; Ann Marie Pezone, teacher’s aide; Jennifer Schneider, food service helper; Karen Krempa and Benay Barady, school lunch monitors, as part of a specified position reinstatements and Sharon Lauder, clerk-typist.

– The following individuals were appointed to staff positions: Patricia Martin RN at St. Mary’s of the Lake; Donna Friedman RN, personal care to the district and Matthew Kelschenbach, part-time laborer.

The next Frontier Central School Board meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Oct. 1 in the Frontier Educational Center boardroom.

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