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Action taken to sustain Frontier’s intramural weight room

HAMBURG — Frontier High School students, parents and community members said they understand the process of building strong, healthy bodies, as well as positive mental attitudes. The foundation for those qualities, these individuals said, is developed in Frontier’s after-school, intramural weight room.

When the possibility came to light that the weight room was at risk of being closed, as a budget casualty, the response at the school board’s Nov. 19 meeting was unanimous.

Individuals speaking during the public comment session stated their opposition to the possible closing, citing what they said they believed to be the essential needs that are satisfied through the weight room’s availability.

District officials initially responded to these sentiments with assurances that monies would be transferred from an allocated item, to that of sustaining the weight room. Interim District Superintendent Paul Hashem said, on Nov. 20, that approximately $2,700 would be taken from an equipment line fund – typically used for similar items – to keep the weight room open. The funding timeline is said to run through next May.

The intramural weight room was described, by those in attendance at the meeting, as an essential strength of the Falcons’ varsity football team that, this year, completed one of the best seasons in school history, advancing to the Section VI Class AA finals at Ralph Wilson Stadium, before losing to Jamestown. The facility was cited by district officials as initially being a last-minute casualty of the 2013 – 2014 budget planning process.

“We need that weight room to get to the same point that we [achieved] this year,” said one varsity player. “We need it, to reach our full potential.”

Frontier parent Kim Finley thanked district officials for seeking ways to save the facility. “[The weight room] affects our whole student body,” she said. “Sometimes, it’s the only place that they can go [for workout purposes].”

Attendees also said that the facility is typically available for use after school hours, from 2:10 p.m. to some time between 3:30 and 5. Facilitators will be on hand to assist those working out. Even non-athletes in attendance praised the weight room for its health benefits. Student William Ballisteri said that he has used the facility to help improve his physical and mental wellbeing.

“I’ve been going extensively since school started, and people are there helping us,” Ballisteri said. “I don’t have any other place to go [for fitness], if the weight room was shut down.”

Parent Barbara Barrett added that her son and his friends use the facility as a way to keep active, adding that Falcon gridironers were able to make their postseason run by “staying strong, with an ability to compete.”

District resident Mark Rickle described the weight room as an alternative to obesity-causing habits at home, such as excessive video game-playing. Fellow resident Joe Rich spoke about the facility’s benefits of helping students maintain strength and avoid injuries.

Hashem said that district officials and administrators recognize the importance of sustaining the facility. “We have a viable option to keep [the facility] open, by redirecting funds,” he said. “We’re trying to be fiscally responsible, but we understand the needs of the kids.”

In another matter, the board passed a resolution to approve a contract with S&D Lalka Corporation at a rate of $560 per session, in providing five one-hour training sessions about healthy lifestyle choices to Frontier elementary and middle school students, during the 2013 – 2014 academic year.

The annual contract will not exceed a total of $2,800. Some district officials expressed disagreement about the parameters of the contract, with the board’s passing the item by a vote of 4 – 2; Board Member Jack Chiappone abstained.

Board Vice President Martin Lalka, Board President Janet Plarr and board members Patrick Boyle and Thomas Best Jr. voted in favor of the item, while members Larry Albert and Lynn Szalkowski cast dissenting votes.

Albert disagreed with the amount of funds allocated for this program and also questioned the measure because Lalka is the brother of the contractee.

“With the hard freeze [in district spending] that we have in place, I’m conflicted on giving $560 per session [as part of the contract],” Albert said, additionally asking if a super board majority vote was required to approve the contract. “We’ve also let go of employees, such as lunch monitors, who don’t make [$560 per session].”

It was explained, later in the meeting, that a super majority board vote was not needed for that specific item. It was additionally said that the training sessions about healthy lifestyle choices are “essential” tools used in communicating anti-bullying and other material to students, as the sessions serve as a follow-up to the former Drug Abuse Resistance Education program that had previously been offered in the school.

In other board news:
– Hashem said that district officials were still examining the Frontier High School auditorium’s stage-rigging issue, one that could cost nearly $8,000, but is not expected to force administrators to relocate concerts and drama club presentations.

– Hashem listed various budget planning expectations for next year, including gap-closing priorities of staff, program and savings, as well as the hope of installing long-term financial planning to benefit the person who will assume permanent superintendent duties next year.

“What we do this year will affect, positively or negatively, what happens when the new superintendent [takes over],” the interim superintendent said. “We’d like [the permanent superintendent] to serve here for at least six to seven years.”

– School Business Manager Richard Calipari said that new capital project updates include the expectation that the district’s bus garage security will be installed by the end of the week, along with local police and alarm coordination’s being aligned.

The next meeting of the Frontier Central School Board will take place at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 17 at the Frontier Educational Center board room, located at 5120 Orchard Ave. in Hamburg.
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