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Frontier officials: now is not the time to accept Buffalo transfers

FRONTIER — Despite expressing sympathy about the plight of Buffalo students who are reported to be enduring difficult academic circumstances, Frontier School District officials said that the time is not conducive to accept late-transferring pupils from the city’s school district.

Frontier Superintendent James Bodziak, whose last district meeting before his retirement took place on Aug. 20, outlined a letter received recently from Buffalo School Superintendent Pamela Brown.

Bodziak said that letters had been sent to suburban school districts, requesting collaborative assistance in accepting Buffalo students’ looking to transfer from failing Buffalo schools, including Lafayette and Buffalo East. The urban schools’ academic performance and leadership has been recently criticized by New York State Education Department officials. Plans are still being discussed between state and Buffalo School District officials, to resolve future issues at failing urban schools.

The superintendent said that he felt it is not currently in Frontier’s best interest to take on transfers, adding that Brown’s request came in too late.

Bodziak said that Frontier’s academic year starts in two weeks, with scheduling and classroom capacities mostly locked in. The departing superintendent also said that questions remain as to whether Buffalo students’ 2012/2013 state assessment scores would be attributed to Buffalo or another district’s guidanceship.

“I’m disturbed that [Buffalo] students wouldn’t be getting equal treatment, but [Brown’s request] should’ve been made earlier,” Bodziak said. “There’s not enough information to say yes or no. The variables are very gray and nebulous. It’s my recommendation to not accept Buffalo students until more information is shared.”

Frontier’s district policy does not allow non-resident students to attend Frontier schools. Permitting Buffalo or outside students to attend district schools would require Frontier’s officials to change the policy.

Bodziak said that Erie 1 Boards of Cooperative Educational Services Superintendent Donald Ogilvie is in the process of setting up a meeting of suburban school district officials, to further address the situation facing struggling Buffalo schools and their students. Frontier’s interim superintendent, Paul Hashem, will report some of these issues and findings at the board’s next meeting in September.

Board Member Patrick Boyle described the hypothetical Buffalo student-transfer situation as “a logistics nightmare.

“How’s transportation going to work?” he asked. “I’d like to help, but how can we say yes, at this point?”

Board President Janet Plarr said that she would also like to see all area students succeed and have an equal opportunity as pupils, in more stable academic districts. However, she added that she believes it is shortsighted of Buffalo officials to deflect the blame.

In other board news:
– A resolution to raise students’ meal prices by 50 cents, for at least the first half of the upcoming school year, was approved.

The new costs will be $1.75 for breakfast in kindergarten – 12th grade; $2.50 for lunch in kindergarten – fifth grade and $2.75 for lunch in grades six – 12. Although she voted in favor of the resolution for immediate lunch cost increases, Plarr said that she will not support an additional 50-cent price raise for meals at the mid-year point.

– The board approved teaching positions of reinstatement within the district from the preferred eligibility list for Kathleen Woods, full-time equivalent, remedial reading; Sean Morrisey, FTE, elementary education; Brendan McDermott, 0.5 FTE, school counseling and guidance and Jill Martinez, FTE, elementary education.

By a 6 – 1 vote, the board also approved Faith Catarella, FTE, elementary education.

– The board approved the reinstatement of a 0.5 FTE clerk-typist position at the Frontier Education Center/personnel office. The job will be funded through a title grant, and not the general fund.

– For Bodziak, Tuesday marked the end of a 40-plus year administrative career. He previously served as superintendent in the East Aurora School District, as well as an administrator in Orchard Park. He described his 2 1/2 years at Frontier as a quality experience.

“I’m very, very thankful to have been an education leader in this school district,” he said, joking, “I will be watching and listening, but not giving any more advice.”

Plarr wished Bodziak the best of times ahead, in the company of Bodziak’s wife Diane and children. Board Vice President Martin Lalka quipped that Bodziak will now have time to master his golf game.

“Remember, Jim, every day is now a Saturday,” added Board Member Jack Chiappone who, along with fellow Board Member Lynn Szalkowski, will serve on the newly-created district food service committee.

The next meeting of the Frontier Central School Board of Education will be held at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 3 in the Frontier Educational Center board room, located at 5120 Orchard Ave. in Hamburg.
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