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Discussing the future of the North Collins School District

According to North Collins School Board Member Martin Niefergold, the district’s future should be a topic of discussion.

During the body’s July 23 meeting, Niefergold said that he “was sorry he had to be the one to bring this up,” but added that recent events have led to his discussing this idea.

He pointed to a recently-announced plan by two Niagara County school districts, to share a superintendent. He suggested that the North Collins School monitor those districts’ progress.

Additionally, the board member said that conversations in the community have recently come back to the high cost per student, in North Collins.

Board Vice President Mark Snow said that it is “not hard to see why that cost is high,” as North Collins is the smallest district in the county. Board President Shannon Locking said that collaborative efforts could potentially allow the district to be able to function with a part-time superintendent.

Later in the meeting, the board agreed to post a vacancy for a part-time school business administrator. While advertising the job, the board is also keeping its options open, to possibly share that position with another district.

The board is also tasked with filling additional district positions.

The board accepted, “with regret,” Edith Chmiel’s request to retire on Jan. 31. The employee is a long-standing senior clerk stenographer based at the elementary school.

Additionally, a one-year substitute teacher will need to be found, to take the place of fourth grade teacher Maria DeFeo. The board approved a memorandum of agreement, allowing DeFeo to teach in Abu Dhabi, next year.

DeFeo first requested the unpaid leave of absence in June. While the administration was joined by Boards of Cooperative Educational Services’ legal advice in recommending against the leave, the board solicited a second, outside legal opinion said that it that found no problem with granting DeFeo’s request.

The current teachers’ collective agreement does not cover the type of leave requested, leading to the negotiations which also involved local and regional teacher union personnel.

The leave agreement, which guarantees DeFeo’s spot on the staff through Aug. 31, 2014, added the option for DeFeo to purchase continued health insurance for the year through the district, if she so desires.

In other matters:

– Elementary Principal John Cataldo provided a review of the first year of implementation of the new state standards. Reflecting on early concerns that students were being tested on subject matter they had not yet learned, Cataldo said that, by repeating similar tests in the middle and end of the year, a clearer portrait of student progress could be gathered.

He also reported that the tests have been used as tools, to address specific areas of concern as the year progresses. Cataldo said the growth experienced by students in the new standards was a reason the district placed eighth in the region, during a recent school ranking survey.

He also credited the pre-kindergarten program the district offers as providing a firm base for further study. Noting that 35 percent of the student body qualifies for free or reduced-cost lunches, Cataldo restated studies that showed that pre-kindergarten programs are most helpful for children coming from lower income households.

– Niefergold reminded the board that induction of the first class into the North Collins Sports Hall of Fame will take place at the senior center in the Fricano Town Park at 2 p.m. on Aug. 4. The event will precede the annual all-class reunion for district alumni, which will begin at 4, in the same location.

The next North Collins School Board meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 13 in the junior/senior high school.

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