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Frontier School Board votes against teaching cuts, then rescinds measure

A rare mid-meeting executive session, sandwiched between the voting down of a resolution that approved budgetary teaching cuts and subsequent rescinding of such action by board members, was part of Tuesday’s (June 4) contentious meeting of the Frontier Central School Board.

The executive session, which lasted 35 minutes and was said to feature heated discussion among district officials, was one of several deliberations by the board, as the usual start time of the meeting was delayed by several minutes following a pre-meeting session.

Another executive session took place following the regular meeting, an assembling that was slated to include personnel issues and four contractual matters. A major focus of contention included the elimination of 15.1 Full Time Equivalent teaching positions, a number that was reached as part of reductions in the 2013-14 budget in the area of tenure.

A resolution that included the abolishment of the positions was at first voted down by board members, as Martin Lalka, Thomas Best Jr., Jeremey Rosen, Jack Chiappone and Nancy Wood voted against the item, overriding the “Yes” votes of Patrick Boyle, Larry Albert, Lynn Szalkowski and Board President Janet Plarr. The 5-4 decision led immediately to the executive session in mid-meeting in which board members re-located to another room within the Frontier Educational Center, an occurrence that is rarely seen at meetings in the Frontier School District.

As board members emerged at 8:15 p.m. to return to regular meeting action, Plarr stated that once again district officials had “not completed all their business” in the executive session, but that the remaining matters would hopefully be fully addressed in the closed-door session following the regular meeting. Subsequently, board members voted 9-0 to rescind the decision to vote down the resolution, then reached another unanimous decision via 9-0 vote to pass the resolution to abolish the 15.1 teaching positions. Plarr noted that the rescinding of the previously voted-down item required a two-thirds board vote to pass, which was satisfied by the unanimous decision.

Best added that the mid-meeting executive session did not culminate in a resolution, adding that the matter possesses a “legal technicality,” with a “purpose behind it.”

It was stated several times during the meeting that reinstatement of some of the teaching positions will occur, although specifics of those positions is not yet determined. Teaching cuts are affirmed as having been known and stated for quite some time and then approved as part of the 2013-14 budget, which district voters passed on May 21 by a 975-558 margin. The cuts cover the elementary, middle and high school buildings and include 4.6 FTE positions in reading; 2.0 in English; 1.2 in Industrial Arts; 1.0 apiece in elementary education, music, science, social studies, guidance counseling and special education; 0.8 in home economics; 0.3 in art; and 0.2 in health.

Teachers determined to be in the least senior-tenure designation in such areas, to be excessed July 1, include Aimee LaRosa, Rita Boryszak, Carrie Gordon and Kathleen Woods, reading; Stephen Hoak, science; Dennis Hyla, Industrial Arts; Brendan McDermott, guidance counseling; Jacqueline Kralisz, home economics; KaraLe Brese and Caitlin Kujawa, special education; and Jessica Riordan, school psychology. The individuals were stated as being placed on a Preferred Eligibility List for recall within seven years.

District Superintendent James Bodziak acknowledged the difficulty in having to cut district teaching positions. However, Bodziak added that not following through in approving such cuts via resolution, following the official adoption of the 2013-14 budget, is impossible.

“They had to do this,” the superintendent said of the board’s rescinding of its originally voting down of the item, followed by its passing the resolution on the re-vote. “The budget could not fund these positions.”

Bodziak stated that discussion on re-instating certain teaching positions would take place during the next couple of weeks. However, the superintendent cautioned that although specifics of brought-back positions are yet to be decided, it could be just about one-fourth of those who were cut who end up being re-instated.

Plarr assured those in attendance that district officials do not take questions or concerns from residents lightly when it comes to teaching cuts. However, the board president added, New York State regulations create situations that dictate elimination accompanying changing core standards.

“We’ll weigh reinstatement of positions with the needs of the students,” said Plarr. “(Residents) should not go out of here thinking that you haven’t been heard. We’re faced with the reality of the fiscal crisis that not only this district is facing, but nearly every district in the state. We increased expenditures over last year’s budget, and that was just in salary in benefits…There will be reinstatements, but every one is just not possible. It’s not a happy day for any of us.”

In addition to the teaching cuts, abolished positions in the area of support staff are slated for 7.0 FTE in teacher aides; 2.0 apiece for laborers and clerk-typists; 1.62 for school lunch monitors; 1.26 for cleaners; 1.0 apiece in custodial, laborer, senior clerk-typist, Registered Professional Nurse, grounds work and Certified Occupational Therapist Assistant; 0.69 in food service help; 0.63 in cleaning; and 0.5 apiece in part time clerk typist, motor equipment operator and transition specialist.

Various individuals during public comment session spoke against such cuts, particularly in the area of read
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