Two of four resolutions brought to the Frontier School Board at Tuesday’s (June 18) meeting resulted in action restoring single support staff positions that had been cut within the district, although the other two restoration items were met by contentious resistance that denied further job restitutions.
The two-and-a-half-hour meeting featured impassioned discussions from district officials and those in attendance. It was also the final meeting for departing board members Jeremey Rosen and longtime Board Vice-President and district official Nancy Wood, as the latter leaves behind 30 years of board membership. The pair departs following the end of their board terms, as downsizing of the board from nine members to seven was approved as a proposition item during the May 2012 budget vote.
Resolutions on the agenda Tuesday included measures to rescind board action taken during the June 4 meeting, at which time district officials had decided as part of budget casualties to abolish a registered professional nurse position at the middle school; seven teacher aide positions; five school lunch monitor positions; and one grounds worker position. Board members voted 6-3 in approving two resolutions that restored the aforementioned Registered Professional Nurse and grounds worker positions. However, a pair of 5-4 votes in the other direction denied the restoration of the five school lunch monitor positions, as well as two of seven teacher aide spots.
It was stated that district officials would restore the two positions by dipping into the $500,000 in reserves that had been placed in the budget for emergency purposes. The Registered Nurse position was described as representing about $38,000 in salary, including benefits; while the grounds worker position was said to have an annual salary around $23,000.
District officials offered varying opinions of voting for or against the restorations. Board President Janet Plarr offered her stance of not supporting the restorations, based on a belief that district officials need to first examine related data based on student enrollment in the area of academics, including English Language Arts and social studies. Board Member Larry Albert added that he is currently against approving restorations, simply due to the current situation not warranting bringing back positions “in a piece-meal manner.”
Rosen and fellow Board Member Thomas Best Jr. stated their support of restoring the positions. Best noted the necessity for having the grounds worker on the payroll, deadpanning, “We’ll need someone to cut the grass.” Rosen said. There have been positions cuts over the last couple of years across the district, including 32 eliminated bodies last year and 28 as part of this budget process, which Rosen feels is detrimental to the overall district needs, particularly for students.
“It’s the right thing to do,” Rosen said of restoring positions, “And I’m supporting this.”
Rosen later described a situation at the younger grade levels where the lunch monitors would not be restored as “chaos,” as well as a “health and safety issue.”
Rosen, Best, Wood, and Board Member Martin Lalka voted in favor of the resolution to restore the school lunch monitors. However, the measure was denied by the five “No” votes cast by Albert, Plarr and Board Members Jack Chiappone, Patrick Boyle and Lynn Szalkowski. Plarr and Szalkowski voted against each of the restoration items brought to resolution. Best, Rosen, Wood and Lalka, meanwhile, voted in favor of each of the measures.
Cloverbank Elementary lunch monitor Laura Hahn, speaking during public comment session, said she acknowledged the difficulty of identifying job cuts. However, Hahn added that she was “shocked” in the board’s decision Tuesday to not restore the lunch monitor positions.
Various tweaks to the positions of middle school teachers, based on student/enrollment needs, included: Kellene Morris being changed to a 1.0 Full Time Equivalent position in the area of French, upgraded from a 0.8 FTE previously; Kelly Webber being changed from 0.7 FTE to 0.4 FTE in art; and Jacqueline Kralisz being made a 0.4 FTE from her prior 1.0 FTE position in home and careers.
District officials and community members praised Wood and Rosen for their service in the district. Rosen had served on the board for the last five years and was described Tuesday as an advocate for students and their academic needs. Campaigning for and ultimately capturing a board seat along with Wood five years ago, Rosen in a parent of a district student and is described by Plarr as being extremely active in the school community.
“You may be leaving the board, but you’re not leaving the district,” Plarr said coyly to Rosen.
Rosen said it his and other board members’ goals to better the lives of students.
“We might not have all gotten along (during meetings), but we all want to do what’s best for kids,” said Rosen.
Wood, meanwhile, leaves behind a wealth of district knowledge and experience, having served on the board during the presence of eight different superintendents. She recalled various impacts upon the district during her tenure, mentioning the closing/downsizing of Bethlehem Steel, the construction of Big Tree Elementary and an asbestos scare.
“It’s been a good 30 years, and I thank everybody for their support,” said Wood, who also previously served on the Parent Teacher Association at Frontier High and Middle schools as well as at Pinehurst Elementary. Four of her children attended school in the Frontier district.
Plarr, who has served with Wood for nearly two decades on the board, described the time as productive. The board president said Wood’s enthusiasm and dedication in attending district events, including, among others, athletic, musical and artistic venues, is second to none.
“They don’t make ‘em like you anymore,” Plarr said in jest to Wood.
Best lamented the fact that Wood and Rosen will not serve on the board starting in July, citing what he believes to be a flawed intention of the item to downsize the board.
Also Tuesday, the board recognized the top ten academic achieving seniors for 2012-13 at Frontier High. Included were Valedictorian Michael DiSare, 101.74 grade point average and who is attending Cornell University in the area of chemistry and chemical biology; Salutatorian Megan Melton, 101.60 GPA, attending the University of Michigan; Lauren Courtade, 100.44 GPA, Syracuse University, marketing and advertising; Mark Antonik, 99.43 GPA, St. John’s University, actuarial science; Marissa Martin, 99.0 GPA, University of Rochester, biology pre-medical; Hannah Booth, 98.66 GPA, Binghamton University, neuroscience; Yousuf Zubairi, 98.64 GPA, University at Buffalo, engineering; Madeline Heavern, 97.68 GPA, the Ohio State University, human nutrition; Cooper Sailer, 97.44 GPA, Buffalo State College, biomedical science; and Morgan Szustak, 97.39 GPA, Canisius College, information systems.