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Frontier Central School District taps Dr. Bret Apthorpe as its new superintendent of schools

AT THE HELM — Dr. Bret Apthorpe was appointed April 22 as the new superintendent of the Frontier Central School District, starting in July with a three-year contract. He brings 26 years of administrative experience, including his present position as assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction in the Fairport Central School District. Photos by Steve Dlugosz.
HAMBURG — Frontier Central School District officials appointed Dr. Bret Apthorpe as the new district superintendent of schools during the board’s April 22 meeting; the new school chief will have a three-year contract paying $165,000, annually.

Board members unanimously approved the measure, as district officials noted Apthorpe’s 26 years of instructional leadership. He currently serves as the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in the Fairport Central School District.

Board Member Larry Albert expressed confidence in the final candidate, who emerged from an initial list of 29. “I personally feel that he comes with life skills necessary to be successful as superintendent,” Albert said, adding that Apthorpe ranks at the top of candidates and administrators he has interviewed during four decades. “Let the Apthorpe Affirmation begin.”

Paul Hashem has served as interim superintendent at Frontier since former Superintendent James Bodziak retired in early September.

In addition to his current duties, Apthorpe has previously served as director of technology in the Fairport School District, as well as director of instructional technology for Monroe 1 Boards of Cooperative Educational Services, senior high school assistant principal for the Churchville-Chili Central School District and a social studies teacher for 12 years in the Southwestern Central and Honeoye-Falls-Lima Central school districts.

Apthorpe is originally from Mayville and was accompanied at the board meeting by his wife Tracy and two daughters.

“I have deep roots in Western New York and it is exciting to be part of the Frontier Central School District and community,” Apthorpe said. “This community embodies the highest ideals of WNY, in having high expectations for educating the whole child. I look forward to collaborating with all stakeholders, in laying out a positive future for our school district.

“It’s great to see you all here,” he added, as he addressed the audience. “I look forward to the Apthorpe Affirmation,” he said, with a laugh. “No pressure, right?”

Board Member Thomas Best Jr. described the appointment as “a new day in Frontier, with new ideas and a new start.”

Apthorpe will assume his position as school chief in July. The April 22 meeting gave him a peek at the ongoing budget process, as board members passed a “ceiling,” proposed expenditure budget for 2014 – 2015 of $74,271,938, to be brought as Proposition 1 to voters on May 20. This was approved by a 4-to-3 margin.

Best, Jack Chiappone and Lynn Szalkowski cast dissenting votes; Best noted that he was against cuts in the proposed budget, not the ceiling expenditures themselves.

Audience members who spoke during the public comment session stated their opposition to proposed cuts that include two speech language pathologists, 1.0 full time-equivalent social worker at Frontier High School and 1.6 FTE positions and five clubs from the language other than English area.

Several students asked that the board keep the position of Social Worker Michele Taberski, noting her skills at the high school.

Chiappone said that the proposed budget’s expenditures “do not justify the revenues.”

Board President Janet Plarr said that the expenditure budget is simply a maximum dollar amount, and is a fiscal plan with contingencies that allow district officials the ability to restore positions or tweak various areas. Board Member Patrick Boyle added that no district officials are in favor of position cuts, and said to audience members, “Please work with us. Stay tuned.”

Albert said that, by law, district officials had until April 26 to adopt an expenditure budget.

During their April 14 meeting, the Frontier Board members had considered the possibility of appropriating an additional $1.5 million, combined from the district’s fund balance and worker’s compensation reserve funds, to narrow the budget gap. That possibility did not come to fruition, as the fiscal shortfall was reported to not be as severe as first thought.

Cuts totaling about $150,000 were made, including subtracting $49,000 from the superintendent’s line.

Approximately $1.4 million has already been appropriated from the fund balance/reserves fund toward the 2014 – 2015 budget. District officials had discussed the possibility of eliminating night athletic outdoor athletic events, before nixing that idea.

It was noted that the district’s fund balance has been depleted from using approximately $14 million in such monies during the last five years, partly offsetting lost funding from the New York State Gap Elimination Adjustment.

State Sen. Mark Grisanti stated his wish to clarify misnomers about the Senate’s role regarding the GEA. Grisanti said that the state’s budget gap does not currently exist, and he added that the Senate has fulfilled its promise to assist in obtaining bullet aid for school districts (including Frontier) and assisting in the tax process.

The senator also mentioned the possibility of advertising on school buses and athletic fields, with the school board’s having the power to make the advertising parameters.

Grisanti said that he empathizes with those who have lost positions in Frontier and local districts, because of budget cuts. “I know the frustration. I’m sorry for all the cuts made in the past,” said Grisanti, who was first elected as senator in 2011. “We have a great team in our Senate conference.”

In other action, it was announced that three candidates are vying for two board seats in Frontier.

Incumbents Plarr and Chiappone will seek reelection against Davis Podkuksi, a Frontier High School graduate.

A meet the candidates night will take place at 7 p.m. on May 5 at the Frontier Educational Center, located at 5120 Orchard Ave.
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