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Stretching New York’s Public Education Dollar

Oct 15, 2012 (pdf)
        CBC President Carol Kellermann pens an opinion piece on how New York State’s education dollars are spread inequitably among school districts and spent disproportionately on employee benefits, not on improving the quality of education.         Read more

How Spending per Pupil in New York State Varies Among Districts: An Interactive Map

Citizens Budget Commission Sep 20, 2012

As the school year begins in the 682 school districts in New York State, the CBC has created an interactive map to enable taxpayers to see how much is spent per student and compare spending among districts.  New York school spending is, on average, well above the national norm – $18,825 per student per year compared to $10,292 nationally. (See Table 1.) But the statewide average masks wide variation among districts. With education budgets under continuing pressure, it is instructive to compare the spending patterns of districts to identify policy changes which might allocate more resources to the classroom.

The interactive map documents the spending variations among and within the state’s 10 economic regions, outlined by colored borders. Within the regions costs are likely to be similar, especially with respect to labor, making intraregional comparisons particularly noteworthy.  Click on the map or search for an individual district to see total spending per pupil and a breakdown of spending by category.

Key findings:

  • On average the highest spending regions are – New York City, Long Island and the Hudson Valley. In the Long Island and Hudson Valley regions average spending per pupil is $20,706 and $20,230, respectively. New York City spends $20,276. Average spending per pupil in the other regions ranges from a low of $15,014 in the Mohawk Valley to $15,997 in the Southern Tier with some districts in those regions spending far less. Waverly – in the Southern Tier – spends $12,095 per pupil, for example. And Broadalbin-Perth in the Mohawk Valley spends $11,599 per pupil.
  • Within the highest spending regions there is also a high degree of variation. For example, Montauk in Long Island spends $36,700 per pupil while Floral Park spends $13,950. In the Hudson Valley, Elmsford spends $27,868 per pupil and  Wappingers Falls spends $14,210.

  • On average districts across the state spend $13,578 per pupil, or 72 percent of the total, on instructional services. This compares favorably with a national average of 64 percent. However, individual districts range from lows of 54 percent in Wyoming in the Finger Lakes and 57 percent in Garrison in the Hudson Valley, to a high of 80 percent in New York City.
  • Although the statewide percentage spent on instructional salaries is  close to the national average – 44 percent in New York versus 42 percent in the U.S., school districts in Long Island spend the highest percentage on instructional salaries – 47 percent. In Long Island, however, Valley Stream Union Free School District 13 spends the highest percentage on instructional salaries and Wyandanch the lowest – 54 percent versus 39 percent.
  • The percentage spent on fringe benefits including pensions and health insurance in New York is much higher than the national figure – 20 percent compared to 13 percent. This amounts to a per student cost nearly three times the U.S. average – $3,688 versus $1,330. In New York City, a district in which most employees make no contribution to their health insurance premiums, the fringe benefit costs per pupil reaches 24 percent.

Districts that spend above statewide and regional norms on support services should consider how and why districts nearby are able to spend less. Fringe benefits, especially health insurance, should be reexamined. One way to bring down costs is to share a greater percentage of premium costs with employees. (For a fuller discussion of the regional variation in health insurance premium sharing arrangements see Citizens Budget Commission, School Districts Should Achieve Substantial Savings by Following State Practices for Employee Health Insurance Premiums)

By Elizabeth Lynam and Gal Fix

Attachment Size
Press Release 276.45 KB
           CBC –   “An influential, nonpartisan watchdog group.” The Wall Street Journal

Interactive School District Maps

School Districts Should Achieve Substantial Savings by Following State Practices for Employee Health Insurance Premiums

Citizens Budget Commission Feb 02, 2011

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposals to cap property taxes and reduce education aid mean that New York State’s 676 school districts will need to manage with fewer resources; their biggest challenge is to reduce spending without hurting services for the more than 2.7 million public school children. One way to help accomplish this is to change the way taxpayers and school employees share the cost of health insurance premiums.

School districts in New York State, including New York City, spent $4.7 billion on health insurance for employees and retirees in 2009.[1]  These costs have been rising rapidly and will likely continue to do so; over the past decade expenditures for health insurance increased an average of 10 percent annually.[2]  Negotiating increases in premium sharing with school employee unions would provide immediate savings and reduce future costs. Specifically, districts should bring their widely divergent premium-sharing policies into line with those established by New York State for its employees; they pay 10 percent of the premium for single policies and 25 percent for family policies.[3]

School Districts’ Current Premium Sharing Arrangements

The CBC staff constructed a database (available here) of health insurance premium sharing arrangements by examining teacher contracts for 2009-10 for 517 school districts. These contracts are made available online at SeeThroughNY, a project of The Empire Center for New York State Policy. The school districts are grouped into the ten regions established by the New York State Department of Labor — Capital; Western New York; Southern Tier; Central New York; North Country, Mid-Hudson; Finger Lakes, Mohawk Valley; Long Island; and New York City — to reflect regional labor markets. Teachers are typically the most numerous employees of a school district. The contracts often have separate premium sharing arrangements for newly hired (or non-tenured) teachers and for more senior teachers; often separate arrangements also exist for retired teachers.

The premium sharing arrangements vary widely among regions and among districts within the same region. Districts in some regions on average have premium sharing requirements for single coverage that equal or exceed State employee requirements, but the school districts in all regions are on average well below State requirements for family coverage. (See Figure 1.)

Statewide, for single coverage for the newly-hired teachers, 30 percent of districts are sharing less than 10 percent of the premium with teachers, 25 percent are sharing 10 percent, and the rest share more than 10 percent. (See Table 1.) Some districts have more favorable arrangements for more experienced senior teachers; including senior teachers increases the percent of districts that share less than 10 percent of premium costs for single policies from 30 to 33 percent. About 8 percent of districts have other types of arrangements such as fixed dollar or income-based requirements.

Statewide, the distribution among districts of premium sharing arrangements for family policies is similar to that for single policies. About 22 percent of districts share less than 10 percent, 22 percent require 10 percent, 45 percent require  more than 10 percent, and 8 percent have other types of arrangements. (See Table 2.) However, the vast majority, 88 percent, of districts share a smaller percent of premium costs than the State’s 25 percent. Only 19, or 4 percent, of the 517 districts required premium sharing of 25 percent or more for family coverage.

About 50 districts have premium sharing arrangements for family policies that are more generous for senior teachers. The arrangements in these districts lower the extent of cost sharing among all districts. When those provisions are included in the analysis, 24 percent of districts overall require less than 10 percent premium sharing, compared to 22 percent of districts with this limited sharing for newer hires. A slightly higher percentage (89 versus 88) of all districts share less than the 25 percent required of State employees with more senior teachers’ contract provisions included.

Estimated Savings from New Premium Sharing Arrangements

If New York City and school districts across the State changed their health insurance premium sharing arrangements to match those of the State of New York and its employees, the annual savings would exceed $500 million annually including $310 million for the New York City Department of Education (DOE) and at least $220 million for school districts in the rest of the state. For New York City a reasonable estimate of the taxpayers’ annual health insurance premium costs for DOE employees under current arrangements is $1,083 million; retirees cost another $488 million.[4] If the City imposed cost-sharing arrangements for current workers parallel to those established by the State, then the estimated savings for current employees would be $214 million; a similar arrangement for retirees would save $96 million annually for a total of $310 million[5]

For school districts in the rest of the state, the estimated savings for current employees from new premium sharing arrangements is between $221 million and $246 million annually.[6] Savings from new arrangements for retirees in these districts cannot be estimated accurately because data on current cost-sharing among this group was not collected as part of the CBC staff analysis of contracts. However, it is likely that current school district arrangements for retirees are more generous than the State’s current arrangements (which are the same as for current employees), and substantial additional savings likely are available to school districts by applying the State’s practice to retirees.

School districts in New York State are paying more for employee health insurance than other public sector employers because they are not sharing enough of the costs with their employees and retirees, particularly for family coverage. New York State government employees are required to pay 10 percent and 25 percent for single and family policies, respectively, and the standards are similar for other state and local government employees around the U.S. At this time of fiscal hardship and school aid cuts it is reasonable to seek the same cost sharing for school district employees and retirees as preferable to reducing public school services.

By Elizabeth Lynam and Selma Mustovic

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Most school districts in Chautauqua County will receive more school aid

2011-2012 School Aid Run Changes released by Senator Young

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Upstate Schools Salaries Report:

http://blog.timesunion.com/capitol/archives/165481/database-shows-salaries-for-upstate-school-employees/

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***Current News***

Districts in decline get state rewards

Publisher’s Notebook

April 26, 2013 By John D’Agostino , The OBSERVER Save | Comments (4) | Post a comment |

Despite some glowing reviews by the governor of the New York state budget for 2013-14, some conservatives were not as optimistic.

Downstate, both The Wall Street Journal and New York Post were critical of the state budget plan for its inclusion of an increased minimum wage, additional funding for Buffalo Bills’ stadium improvements and overall higher spending. But that is only part of the story.

What the approved budget also did was increase state aid to area schools, especially those districts that are hanging on by a thread and should no longer be in existence.

Locally, all school districts will always be in need of additional aid. Where the problem begins, however, is with the smaller schools that continue to be rewarded by the state despite lower enrollment numbers.

Here is a list of area districts and the percentage of state aid received compared to its 2013-14 overall budget projections, some of which are still being finalized in some districts:

Brocton – 73 percent.

Cassadaga Valley – 68 percent.

Chautauqua Lake – 35 percent.

Dunkirk – 59 percent.

Forestville – 55 percent.

Fredonia – 40 percent.

Gowanda – 65 percent.

Pine Valley – 68 percent.

Ripley – 72 percent.

Silver Creek – 60 percent.

Westfield – 68 percent.

What stands out in the list is Chautauqua Lake’s percentage, which is much lower than most schools in our area. A major reason for that percentage has to do with the wealth of the Chautauqua Lake district.

By state property evaluations, CLCS is the richest district in our county, thus it receives the least aid.

The poorer districts are the smaller ones, which is part of a double-edged sword. Part of the reason the districts are poor is because they support – through high taxes – a school district that is no longer viable in the 21st century.

Ripley has at least acknowledged its shortcomings by agreeing to tuition their seventh- to 12th-grade students to CLCS. The agreement allows Ripley secondary students to have more choices in their electives, athletics and extra-curricular activities.

Smaller schools that continue to maintain the status quo, but fail to work with other schools are short-changing their students despite the high price tag that comes with an education in this county. It’s an expensive and intentional mistake that keeps getting more expensive for those who live in the rural districts.

 

Cuts Create Tension

Southwestern Board Member Responds To Criticism From STA?President

April 24, 2013 By Dennis Phillips (dphillips@post-journal.com) , Save | Comments (4) | Post a comment |

LAKEWOOD – Tension is high when it comes to debating the 2013-14 Southwestern Central School District budget.

On April 16, the school district’s board of education heard from Mary Jane Price, Southwestern Teachers Association president, about the proposed cuts in teacher positions in the 2013-14 budget proposal. The budget proposes a staff reduction of one full-time equivalent administrator and 5.5 full-time teaching positions.

After the meeting, Price then addressed a letter, dated April 17, to David Turnbull, Southwestern Central School District board of education member. In the letter, Price accuses Turnbull of being rude and disrespectful during the meeting.

“Several members have approached me today regarding the smirking and eye rolling they observed you display as I was speaking on behalf of the union,” she states. “It was insulting to me personally, to the people who are losing their jobs particularly and to their peers who were there in support of their colleagues. Such cavalier and demeaning behavior on behalf of a member of the board of education, especially in that setting, is extremely disturbing.”

On Tuesday during a Southwestern Central School District board of education work session, Turnbull responded to Price’s letter with a written statement he read during the meeting. He said Price’s letter can only be characterized as a personal attack on his character and integrity.

“I want to state unequivocally that I did not smirk or roll my eyes at you (Price) during your presentation at last week’s board meeting,” he said. “Even if I had wanted to smirk at you, I am physically unable to do so as a result of permanent paralysis on one side of my face that allows for very limited facial movement or expression.”

Turnbull said he wouldn’t disrespect the teacher’s union because his father was a teacher in Jamestown for 35 years, he received his teaching credentials in social studies and his wife is a teacher at Jamestown Community College.

“I have many friends that are teachers in this school system, and I have the utmost respect for all of our teachers here at Southwestern Central School District,” he said. “I do not take lightly any of the cuts that this board has had to consider over the last several years.”

After Turnbull read his statement, several members of the board verbally supported Turnbull as a board member, and said none of them enjoy having to cut teacher positions. Price did not attend the work session meeting Tuesday.

Later in the meeting when discussing the positions being cut in the budget, James Butler, board president, said no one enjoys having to make tough decisions when it comes to people losing their job.

“I’m seriously getting tired of it,” he said about the board having to cut positions years after year.

The school board then passed a resolution to abolish positions: one FTE elementary music; one FTE high school social studies; one FTE high school science; one FTE high school English; one FTE foreign language; .5 pre-k; and one FTE administrator. Butler said, after the meeting, of the positions being cut, one person is retiring, one is taking a leave of absence and four people will be laid off.

Maureen Donahue, district superintendent, said the district has eliminated 26.1 positions since 2006.

 

Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

April 27, 2013 The Post-Journal Save | Post a comment |

Thumbs down to those who seem to be taking things a bit too personally. At a recent Southwestern Central School board meeting, Mary Jane Price, president of the school’s teacher’s union, took offense at “smirking and eye rolling” by board member David Turnbull when Price was discussing the union’s concerns about proposed job cuts in the district’s budget. Turnbull responded Tuesday that not only did he not smirk or roll his eyes during Price’s comments, he is physically unable to do so because of permanent paralysis on one side of his face. Education is a tough enough business, especially in these days of declining enrollments, rising costs, tougher state mandates and the state’s 2 percent tax cap. This sort of childish back-and-forth does nothing to help us make the tough decisions we may have to make and should serve as an example of what public conduct to be avoided.

 

Petition Deadline For JPS Vote Is Wednesday

April 28, 2013 The Post-Journal Save | Post a comment |

Any individuals interested in becoming Jamestown Public School board member candidates must submit completed petitions in the Superintendent’s Office by 5 p.m. on Wednesday.

For each candidate, completed petitions must contain the names of 100 or more qualified voters within the school district.

Jamestown Public Schools’ voter registration day will be May 7 from noon to 6 p.m. In order to be entitled to vote, people must present themselves personally for registration before the district clerk, with proper identification and proof of residency at the Administration Building at 197 Martin Road, Jamestown.

To be eligible to vote in the Jamestown Public School District budget and board of education election, an individual must meet the following conditions: be at least 18 years of age, a United States citizen, a resident of the Jamestown Public School District for at least 30 days prior to May 21 and a registered voter. All qualified voters residing within the city of Jamestown, and who were registered for the preceding general election, and still reside in the same school election district, or all qualified voters residing outside the city of Jamestown but within the confines of school districts formerly known as Kiantone Number Three and Busti Number Seven, who voted or were qualified to vote in the preceding general election, and still reside in the same school election district are entitled to vote in the annual school board election and budget vote on May 21.

Registered voters who are not able to vote in person on election day may be eligible to vote by absentee ballot. Applications can be obtained through the district clerk, in person, by mail or by phone at 483-4420. Those wishing to receive the ballot by mail must apply at least seven days before the vote. Absentee ballots must be received by the district clerk by 5 p.m. on May 21.

The complete Jamestown Public School District 2013-14 budget document will be available to the public beginning on Friday and can be reviewed at the Board of Education administration building at 197 Martin Road, Jamestown or on the district’s website under “2013-14 Budget Information” button on the home page.

Jamestown Public Schools will hold its public hearing on its 2013-14 budget on Tuesday, May 14, at 7 p.m. in the Persell Middle School auditorium. The public is welcome to attend.

The JPS budget and board of education vote will be held May 21 from noon until 9 p.m. Polling places will be located at three Jamestown Public Schools: Jefferson, Lincoln and Washington. Call the district clerk at the administration building at 483-4420 for any questions on voter registration, polling locations or where one should vote.

JPS Board Approves Final 2013-14 Budget Proposal

April 24, 2013 By Gavin Paterniti (gpaterniti@post-journal.com) , Save | Comments (2) | Post a comment |

The Jamestown Public Schools District’s final proposed budget for the 2013-14 school year has been approved by the board of education.

On Tuesday, the board approved a resolution to officially adopt, pending voter results next month, a district budget in the amount of $75,369,680.

Due in large part to a state aid decrease of $3,749,965, the budget would constitute $1,426,012, or 1.86 percent, less than the 2012-13 budget. This year, the district faced an overall budget gap of $4,603,312, which had to be closed through a series of recommended equipment and personnel modifications.

“We’ve got the best of a not-so-great situation,” said Joe DiMaio, president of the board. “The most difficult thing to is, when you look at that budget gap, not to panic. We worked hard to get (the budget) to where we felt we need it to be.”

The expenditure and revenue budgets were presented by Dale Weatherlow, assistant superintendent for administration. In order to make up for the budget gap, the expenditure budget indicated cuts to areas including: certified salaries, support staff salaries, equipment, contractual expenses, materials and supplies, employee benefits, principle and interest debt service and interfund transfers.

Textbook expenditures reflected no change, while BOCES services showed a $709,010 increase. According to Deke Kathman, JPS superintendent, that number was originally well over the $1 million mark.

The budget gap was also mitigated through miscellaneous revenues, of which Weatherlow attributed mostly to debt service reserve funds, as well as a proposed increase of $500,000 in appropriated fund balance.

The 2013-14 budget will be presented at a 7 p.m. public hearing at Persell Middle School on May 14, and will be up for public vote on May 21.

In other business, the board recognized the Jamestown High School Express Winter Guard for its second-place finish at the Winter Guard International’s regional championships, which took place in Dayton, Ohio, on April 11-12. Marc Lentsch, Express coach, made a brief presentation, which was followed by video of Express performing at the competition. In gratitude for this recognition, four members of Express, which missed out on first-place by .005 of a point, also presented medals to board members.

Kathman also announced an extensive review process that the district will be undertaking as the result of “troubling gaps” in the student achievement of some of the district’s subgroups. The process is based on the state Education Department’s “Diagnotic Tool for School and District Effectiveness” and its six tenets. It involves the surveying of staff, students and parents, requires individual school communities to conduct a formal self-assessment and culminates with the development of an extensive and formal school improvement plan.

“(With JPS’) designation as a focus district, and each of our schools being focus schools, we have to be very deliberate about assessing our weaknesses, program strengths and making a plan to improve. So, this is a substantial process that’s about to unfold,” said Kathman.

Kathman said the district’s focus district designation came about through the academic performance of two subgroups: students with disabilities and limited English proficient students.

 

Public decision

Dunkirk School District budget ready for vote

April 24, 2013 By GIB SNYDER – OBSERVER City Editor , Save | Comments (23) | Post a comment |

It’s set to go to the voters.

The Dunkirk City School District Board of Education approved sending a proposed 2013-2014 budget of $40,923,396 for a yes or no from voters on May 21 during its meeting Tuesday.

Superintendent Gary Cerne said the district will have a flat tax rate for the sixth straight year as the $9.6 million levy on school tax payers remains the same. The budget will increase 1.79 percent over last year however, as the 2012-2013 budget totaled $40,204,152. That figure was up $2.1 million from the prior year. The final bill for taxpayers is reduced as the state covers the district’s debt service.

“Again, it’s another challenging budget season but I’m really thrilled the way this turned out. Thanks to a lot of retirements throughout the district we will not have to lay anyone off this year,” Cerne continued. “I’m pretty certain that we’re the only district around that will have no tax increase and certainly not have to lay anybody off. Of course, I always have to mention when I say no tax increase, the levy will be the same. If the assessed valuation in the city changes, or in the towns, or if equalization rates change, those are all things out of our control that the Office of Real Property Services controls. As far as we know we’re going to ask for the same amount to be collected.”

The district will receive more aid but Cerne said the amount was not significant.

“We thought when the legislature met we would do better but we didn’t. The increase was negligible and it was kind of disappointing for us,” he added. “I know some of our neighboring districts did much better when the legislature finally approved things, but it was a routine effort putting this budget together.

“I think the retirement incentive we put forward early on in the year really helped us get through and make ends meet this year. Actually, thanks to a grant we’re receiving we’re probably going to net out adding some positions. We’re probably, again, one of the few districts around that will be hiring.”

A resolution on the agenda created four positions in the Middle School, all funded by the $400,000 annual grant.

“It was supposed to come this year, it was late so we spent a lot of it on technology this year. For the next year we’ll be looking to add personnel,” Cerne explained. “They will be considered temporary positions for two more years. They’ll be geared around (Academic Intervention Services), one for each grade level, then a teacher on special assignment to do data work.

“We’ll run some ads this weekend and like to get a jump on things and get people hired as quick as we can.”

Cerne was asked what the major challenges were in putting the budget proposal together. He cited payments for the employee and teacher retirement systems.

“The thing that was very difficult is ERS and TRS rates are increasing and they’re huge numbers. The TRS is tied to the stock market on a 5-year average,” he explained. “It’s starting to rebound a little bit but we’re still paying for all those years when there was a down market, and those were tremendous numbers to overcome and there’s no way around them. Almost 80 percent of our budget is in personnel and benefits so it’s a tough thing.”

The budget presentation will be given at the board’s May 9 meeting with the budget vote set for May 21. Three board seats, two for three-year terms and one for a one-year term, will also be up for a vote. The deadline for school board candidates to file nominating petitions is April 30.

Cerne said the vote will be canvassed May 21 after the election. The board set July 3 as the date for its reorganizational meeting.

The proposed budget will be available online at www.dunkirkcsd.org. by following the departments tab to the business office page where these and other documents can be found.

The board also appointed Kayla Barberich, Jeremiah Dloniak, Alexander Knapp, Jeannette Montalvo, Richard Pickens, Zachary Torain, Vincent Barreto, Andrew Douglas, Bryan McCoy, Rico Nelson, Edgar Sanchez and Edward Torres Jr. as temporary summer custodial workers. Alternates were listed as their names were pulled by board members.

Fredonia outlines its cut list

April 24, 2013 By NICOLE GUGINO – OBSERVER Assistant News Editor , Save | Comments (31) | Post a comment |

Cuts were laid on the table with the final draft of the Fredonia School District Budget Tuesday.

The board of education meeting was held in the auditorium, where around 30 residents, parents, teachers students and members of the parent teacher association waited for the news of cuts in the budget.

Business Administrator John Forbes said after other measures to realize savings like shared services and moving salaries to grants, the district had to cut many line items which came to include a 1.0 FTE career development and occupational studies teacher, a 1.0 FTE English language arts teacher, a 0.18 FTE art teacher, a 0.5 FTE speech teacher and a 0.5 and 1.0 FTE English as a second language teachers.

“We didn’t want to have to cut teachers in the budget but under these circumstances they had to be part of the budget,” Superintendent Paul DiFonzo said.

DiFonzo explained the ELA teacher was eliminated so two small academic intervention services classes can be combined and the ESL classes will be organized so elementary will have a half-time teacher and middle and high school students will share a full-time teacher.

“The decisions ultimately proposed by the board in this draft were based around what is best for students. If you want to help, the only ones that can change this are our legislators. I have met with Senator Cathy Young and Assemblyman Andy Goodell before the state budget for several years now and they know we are operating at 2009-10 aid levels. You see it in the news all the time now that districts have run out of fund balance and are now forced to reduce their program. Over the past five, six and seven years we have done our best to maintain programs and staff but the only ones who can change the direction of these things are the legislators,” DiFonzo added.

Forbes backed up what DiFonzo said by showing that since state aid was cut in 2010-11 the district has lost over $7.6 million in state aid funding.

“Just imagine what we could do if we had those funds,” he said.

The board voted to approve the proposed budget for $28,754,508, a 2.99 percent spending increase. This translates to a 2.98 percent in the tax levy and a tax rate increase of $3.29 per $1,000 assessed valuation for Pomfret, $1.21 for Arkwright, $1.23 for Portland, $0.95 for Sheridan and $0.90 for the town of Dunkirk. This increase is also under the district’s tax cap calculation of 3.49 percent.

Several people stood to speak about the proposed cuts. Parent Teacher Association President Roger Pacos thanked the board for replacing two elementary school teachers, a speech teacher and a teacher aide, but asked they reconsider the other positions cut in the budget.

“The staff cuts will mean middle and high school students will be in the same ESL classes. That with the elimination of an English AIS class will make it more difficult for students to pass the English regents. This is going to affect the graduation numbers and not in a good way,” he said.

DiFonzo responded saying, “Any staffing reductions are not going to be helpful.”

High School Math Teacher Darrin Paschke said he doesn’t think teachers should be cut after previous teacher concessions, the hiring of additional administrative staff and retention of sports.

“I can’t fathom cutting teachers before sports,” he said to applause.

DiFonzo said sports funding has stayed at the same level of funding for 12 years, which means the district has made cuts to modified sports. Coaches also made concessions and the district shares transportation and is looking into sharing more sports with neighboring schools.

Fredonia Student Chris Rivera also received applause for asking the ESL teachers be reinstated because as one of the fastest growing programs in the district, it will affect many students if it is reduced.

The board thanked him for his comment. Board Member Michael Bobseine said it has been a tough budget year.

“It has been a difficult budget. The school board is recommending this budget to the district, but asking people to pay more in taxes is not easy and getting this budget to pass will not be easy,” he said.

The budget vote will be held May 21 from 2 to 9 p.m. in the high school cafeteria.

The board will hold the public hearing for the budget at its next meeting on May 14 at 6:30 p.m. with the meeting to follow at 7 p.m. in high school room 636.

The budget presentation is available online on the school’s website www.fredonia.wnyric.org.

Sheridan hears Silver Creek budget presentation

April 26, 2013 By SAMANTHA MCDONNELL – OBSERVER Staff Writer ,Save | Comments (1) | Post a comment |

SHERIDAN – The town of Sheridan heard a presentation on the Silver Creek Central Schools budget at its monthly board meeting. Superintendent Daniel Ljiljanich led the presentation about the upcoming fiscal year’s budget for the district.

Ljiljanich said the district is receiving an increase in state aid of 4.09 percent, which is $213,516 more than the district had budgeted. The proposed budget is $20,477,618 which is a 3.25 percent increase. The proposed tax rate will increase $0.47. When the public votes on the budget, there will be two other propositions in addition to the budget.

The public will have to vote on an authorization to expend $118,978 from the vehicle reserve for a 66-passenger bus purchase and authorization to establish an additional vehicle reserve in an amount to not exceed $850,000. The amount may be lower depending on what the unappropriated fund balance is at the end of June. The board has $350,000 to place in the account already. None of these propositions has an impact on the tax levy.

“The $500,000 will just depend on what our unappropriated fund balance is at the end of June. If it holds where we believe it’s going to hold, we’ll be putting the full amount in. If it drops a little bit below that, we’ll be putting a little less,” Ljiljanich said.

The town also swore in John Reardon as planning board chairman for a term to expire in 2017. Supervisor Louis Delmonte also presented Reardon with a plaque for his service to the town.

“Thank you for all your service and dedication to the community,” Delmonte said.

The town is also declaring 17 church pews surplus. Anyone interested in purchasing a pew is asked to contact the town clerk Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 672-4174. Pews are 12 feet in length and they may be cut shorter. The Muldowney Brothers Lawn Care was awarded the lawn mowing bid for the 2013 season for a total of $3,400. The board will hold a workshop meeting on May 6 at 7 p.m. with the regular town board meeting being held May 16 at 7:30 p.m.

CLCS Board Welcomes Tuitioning Agreement

April 28, 2013 By Dave O’Connor (editorial@post-journal.com) , Westfield Republican Save | Post a comment |

MAYVILLE – “Welcome Ripley,” was the way Chautauqua Lake Central School Board of Education member Jason Delcamp reacted when the board approved a contract with the Ripley Central School District at Chautauqua Lake’s recent meeting.

Approximately 130 seventh- through 12th-graders from Ripley will start attending Chautauqua Lake in September under a tuition arrangement, which was also approved by the Ripley Central School board earlier in March. Voters in the Ripley district granted permission for tuitioning students to other districts on Feb. 5.

Action by the Chautauqua Lake board was six in favor and none against. Jay Baker, board vice president, was absent. Board member Michael Ludwig voted, “Enthusiastically yes,” when his name was called.

The contract is for the next five school years, and the initial tuition rate of $7,219 per student was accepted by both boards.

In other action, the board approved a $19,535,232 budget for the next school year, but did not set a tax rate pending further developments.

The resignation of utility employee Gordan Carris was approved effective March 31. Also approved were the resignations of science teacher Priscilla Marsh and English teacher Marlea Brown, effective Monday, July 1.

Linda Mawhir was approved for recall from laid-off status to resume her cleaning position as of Monday, April 1. Mike Fessel was approved as varsity golf coach, and Matt Cummings was approved as assistant baseball coach, an unpaid position. Michael Cummings was named driver’s education instructor for a term running from Monday, June 24 to Friday. Aug. 9.

Goodell will continue push for regional high schools

April 22, 2013 By GAVIN PATERNITI – Special to the OBSERVER , Save | Comments (22) | Post a comment |

Some members of the New York State Senate and Assembly are hoping the bill for regional schools will not be blocked this year as it has been for the past two years.

Despite the inclusion of a regional schools bill within budget proposals from both the Senate and Assembly, the bill was blocked from vote both times by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, according to state Assemblyman Andy Goodell.

“It’s just frustrating when the Senate has approved it for the past two years, the Assembly’s Education Committee has unanimously approved it, and it is blocked from vote for, essentially, political reasons,” said Goodell.

Goodell said one of the reasons for the blockage of the bill is that it doesn’t have the support of New York State United Teachers.

“There were concerns raised by NYSUT, and there were issues over the amount of funding that would be attached to a regional high school. The teachers’ union is concerned because, even though (regional schools) significantly expand course opportunities for students, (they) have consolidated on some staffing levels; and that’s part of where the savings come from,” he said.

According to state Sen. Cathy Young, R-Olean, the benefits of regional schools are manifold, and the bill has received approval from Gov. Cuo-mo’s Education Reform Commission, the New York State Education Department Board of Regents.

“Regional high schools would allow students in rural areas to gain enhanced academic, sports and enrichment opportunities that they don’t have now, including advanced placement courses and extracurricular clubs and activities,” she said. “The Senate and I will continue to work with the governor’s office and the assembly to get a positive result before the end of the session.”

To illustrate the benefits of regional schools, Goodell pointed to the recent tuition agreement between Ripley Central School and Chautauqua Lake Central School; in which 131 Ripley students in grades seven through 12 will be attending Chautauqua Lake for the 2013-14 academic year. He said the agreement will make for an empty Ripley High School building and the loss of several teaching positions, and could have been structured differently in a regional high school.

“If you don’t allow for regional schools, then what happens is you run into the same situation as Ripley, where they just don’t have enough students,” he said. “You can’t provide opportunities for electives unless everyone wants to take the same class at the same time, and all the Ripley teachers got laid off. If you had a regional high school, you would negotiate over how you’d structure it.”

He added: “Cathy Young really led the fight (for regional schools), and we were disappointed that it wasn’t included in the budget. It’s a win-win for both students and taxpayers, and Young has provided strong, effective leadership in trying to push this forward.”

Examining the Common Core State Standards

April 28, 2013 The OBSERVER Save | Post a comment |

Special to the OBSERVER

Parents of children in elementary, middle or high school have undoubtedly heard about Common Core State Standards. Even if people do not have school-age children, most likely they have run across articles in the OBSERVER or other publications addressing this massive shift in education.

What are Common Core State Standards (CCSS), exactly? According to Education Northwest, an organization whose purpose is to provide research and data analysis to educational organizations, they are a “progression of learning expectations in English language arts (ELA) and mathematics designed to prepare K-12 students for college and career success.” The standards specifically outline a curriculum for each grade level, so that everyone involved in a child’s educational process will literally be on the same page, sharing common goals. Until now, individual states had their own academic expectations. CCSS was developed after considerable research and input from educators here and abroad to provide coherent and equivalent standards for students, no matter where they may live.

Thanks in large measure to the Internet and ever-more sophisticated information and communication systems, the entire focus of education has shifted. ELA standards encourage thoughtful interpretation of information, extensive verbal and written language skills (increased vocabulary and grammar usage), and collaborative efforts with others. These skills also transfer over into social studies and the sciences.

Math curriculum has moved away from the old days of memorizing and reciting facts to a deeper understanding of mathematical principals and how they apply to everyday situations. It is not enough to know how to do the equation or the problem; students must be able to explain the process and why it is applicable in a particular situation.

Many parents and educators have found the implementation of the new standards frustrating, since they are very comprehensive, and there is almost always a “learning curve” when initiating significant change. Trying to keep an open mind, trying to be patient, and trying to stay engaged with teachers in support of student needs is difficult but definitely possible with a positive outlook. Helpful websites to explore are: www.engageny.org, www.educationnorthwest.org and www.jamestownpublicschools.org (or similar school district websites for surrounding areas.) The National PTA Guides to Student Success at www.pta.org are very easy to understand and the Common Core Parent Roadmaps located online at Council of the Great City Schools, “provide parent roadmaps in English language arts/literacy and mathematics giving guidance to parents about what their children will be learning and how they can support that learning in grades K-12.” Each grade level parent roadmap also furnishes three-year “snapshots,” explaining how selected standards progress from year to year so students will be college and career ready upon high school graduation.

These sites supply a great deal of information, explanation, example, and instruction. They give a detailed overview of how CCSS was adopted and the research behind it. Further, there is discussion about the continuity it gives from one school district to another, educational preparation in a global economy, accountability for administrators and teachers alike, and shared teaching techniques, assessment methods, and approaches for parental support and learning after school.

Much is at stake as the first full year under CCSS comes soon to a close. Children are on spring break in early April but will be tested within a week or two of their return on ELA and math skills. While they are home, parents can help children support what they have learned by practicing skills described under CCSS. Read news articles together; talk about their content; look for vocabulary, and ask questions to prompt thoughtful discussion. Look at newspaper and online advertisements and calculate the differences between sale and regular prices; have children figure out what they can afford at a restaurant given a predetermined amount of money, or reinforce everyday experiences by stretching imaginations in a fun and practical way. Chautauqua Striders tutoring is available for every grade level once students return to school, helping them make adjustments to the new curriculum and providing test strategies and review.

Many lament the loss of “the way we used to do it,” but today’s world is no longer the world of even 10, short years ago. Each passing day brings with it rapid changes in every fabric of a global society. Will today’s children be ready to meet new and ongoing challenges? Will they be able to grasp ever-changing technology and innovation? Will they be ready to move into roles of leadership and entrepreneurship as adults? It is the long-term goal of CCSS to provide the answer, “Yes” to all these questions.

Educational changes

Drop in enrollment, state funding forcing schools to do things differently

April 7, 2013 The OBSERVER Save | Comments (6) | Post a comment |

By NICOLE GUGINO OBSERVER Assistant News Editor

Times have changed in New York state and especially in Chautauqua County over the past several years. With it, schools must change as well.

In the face of declining enrollment and reduced state aid, schools have found ways to share services, investigate mergers and tuition students to other districts in order to maintain opportunities and keep cost down.

“For sure things have changed. You can see right now Ripley is tuitioning their kids to Chautauqua Lake, Chautauqua Lake is going to play football with Bemus Point, Forestville is sharing their football and sports program with Silver Creek. We are looking at a merger (with Westfield Academy and Central School.) Dunkirk and Fredonia is combining their pre-k program. It is survival at this point and districts have to come up with some shared or cooperative agreements in order to survive and to continue with the programs they have,” Brocton Superintendent John Hertlein explained.

SHARED SERVICES

Virtually all schools are sharing services in one way or another in this time of tough budgets. The most commonly shared services range from sports to transportation to professional training and special education.

“We currently share with a number of different districts services related to special education, some academic offerings, certainly some athletics and we have had conversations in the past and have shared some transportation depending on where we may have kids attending out-of-district programs. We are actively pursuing the opportunity to share services with neighboring districts and we are really encouraged by that opportunity because it enhances the program for both schools,” Forestville Superintendent Charles Leichner said.

Silver Creek Superintendent Daniel Ljiljanich said districts share services for two reasons.

“It’s done two things for all of the school’s involved, it’s saved some money and it’s also provided some opportunities that perhaps some students wouldn’t have had had we not shared the services. That’s a really important point, in some of the cases where we are sharing services there may not be a huge financial savings but if we didn’t share the service, those students wouldn’t be provided the same opportunity that they are because we do share the service,” he explained.

Dunkirk and Fredonia School districts are taking shared services a step further by applying for a local efficiency grant which would allow the districts to look at all opportunities to share programs and services.

“We are looking at combining some sports teams, down the road we are looking to see if we can get into some combined bidding for things like transportation. Pretty much anything we can do to save some dollars we are going to try,” Dunkirk Superintendent Gary Cerne said.

“If we get this efficiency grant it would allow us to get some experts to look at our two operations and advise us what would be most cost effective,” Fredonia Superintendent Paul DiFonzo added.

Right now the two districts have only agreed to share a universal pre-kindergarten program, but have said everything is on the table.

“I think we are into a situation where change is needed and we have to look to make changes so we can save on our expenses anywhere we can. I definitely think it’s a movement we are going to see more of,” Cerne explained.

Although there has been a rise in individual districts seeking out shared services with other districts, it was noted that shared services offered by BOCES are also on the rise.

“We still share many services through BOCES. BOCES offers all of our school districts in Erie-2 different kinds of academic programs and services at a cost and then we receive aid back on those things … It’s cost effective to do a lot of work with BOCES,” DiFonzo said.

In addition to pre-k, Dunkirk shares wrestling and girls’ swimming with Silver Creek and last year shared drivers’ education and summer school as well. Silver Creek also shares football, track and modified soccer with Forestville. In addition to Fredonia sharing track with Westfield, the district also shares fuel services with the village, works cooperatively with the village and town of Pomfret to provide a school resource officer and is part of a health insurance consortium and energy consortium.

BOCES aids all districts who choose to participate in the areas of professional development, special education, alternative and vocational education as well as cooperative bidding and central business office services.

MERGER

Merger votes are nothing new to the area but the pressure on districts to find cost saving solutions for taxpayers and program opportunities for students was the driving force behind the talks between Westfield and Brocton school districts.

“There’s two factors, our student population in both districts are declining every year and so is our revenue. So a combination of a smaller student population and a declining economic environment, we said it may be a good idea to combine our schools so then the population would go up and then we could share our financial resources as well. Plus with a merger we get incentive aid for that for the first 14 years,” Hertlein explained.

Nearly six months ago both districts approved the Western New York Educational Service Council with the assistance of a 24 member Joint District Advisory Committee to do a feasibility study.

“A merger has to do two things: it has to show we can increase programs for students and also do it more economically than we can by ourselves,” Hertlein said.

The district recently received the report stating it is feasible to proceed to a straw vote of school district residents before a referendum vote is called.

“The financial position that most districts are in is leading all of us to look at more economical ways to deliver education to our kids … I think as everyone looks to be more economically efficient we will be looking at sharing more services,” Westfield Superintendent David Davison said.

Brocton and Westfield currently share football, a ski club, soccer and next year will share volleyball. The districts also share a social worker with Ripley.

TUITIONING

Although the issue of declining enrollment is not unique, Ripley School District may have been hit the hardest in Chautauqua County.

Superintendent Karen Krause explained declining enrollment in addition to several failed merger votes in the past led the district to search for another option.

“Twenty years of looking for ways to either merge and expand the way we share and try to reduce costs and bring more programs to the kids because as our numbers have declined consequently so have our programs. Absent a successful vote to consolidate and absent the passage of a regional high school bill, tuitioning is the only other thing allowed under law currently which would allow districts to reorganize and do business differently,” she said.

In the past 20 years Ripley’s student enrollment has declined by 224 students, leaving the district with just over 300 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. During that time four votes to merge, annex or centralize failed in one of the two communities.

After the regional high school bill was not passed by the state legislature, Ripley faced the challenge of how to best provide for its students. The vote in February for the school board to go forward with tuitioning narrowly passed 282 to 262.

Chautauqua Lake Board of Education has also approved the contract to tuition Ripley students to its school on March 27. The contract will send students in seventh through 12th grade to Chautauqua Lake.

“I believe schools will have to change based upon the changes that are going on outside of the school systems. You can’t not change if everything else around you is changing,” Krause added.

FUTURE

The movement of sharing services appears to be on the rise with more and more districts looking to their neighbors to help maintain programs and save money.

“The problem is almost every school district in Western New York but especially in our area in (E2CCB) school districts are losing student population. Student populations are decreasing and then you lose school aid because a lot of your aid is based on student population and obviously the state is in fiscal crisis so aid to schools in general has been reduced over the last three or four years so in order to offer the students all of the programs they need so they can compete when they leave high school, school really need to work together and work with their local communities – the village, the town – for whatever services they can combine,” DiFonzo explained.

Leichner agreed, saying sharing services is what schools will have to do in order to do the same things with less.

“I really think the way schools do business will look quite different in five years than it does today and I think a big part of that change is going to be sharing services. I think that it’s a little early to predict what that may look like exactly but I don’t think that there is any area of school as we know it that is off the table in terms of this conversation. I think that it’s the way to go, I am a big proponent of sharing services as opposed to eliminating services or limiting opportunities for kids. I think that sharing services is the wave of the future for small rural schools,” Leichner said.

He said sharing services has not only helped maintain programs but has expanded opportunities at Forestville schools.

“I feel like it’s something we have to embrace. I think people may get a little nervous when they think of districts sharing but I think we have to change the way we look at school and recognize if we work together with neighboring districts we are going to be able to do more than if we try to do everything on our own. I don’t think there is any problem with that, there isn’t any weakness in it, I think it’s wise for us to consider, ‘how can we help each other? And what does one district have to offer that another doesn’t? And vice versa,'” he explained.

Going forward one of the obstacles to districts sharing is a common calendar and bell schedule. Ljiljanich said superintendents in E2CCB are talking about a common schedule and how they can increase shared service in the future.

“It is certainly something that we are talking about now. But there are so many little caveats that go into our schedules, many of which are tied to busing. That’s one of the things holding us back in being able to adjust our schedules is transportation of our students to school … I think it’s a sign of progress that as superintendents we are talking about the possibility of a common schedule,” he said.

CLCS OKs tuitioning contract

April 6, 2013 By DAVE O’CONNOR  – CORRESPONDENT Save | Comments (9) | Post a comment |

MAYVILLE – “Welcome Ripley,” was the way Chautauqua Lake Central School Board of Education member Jason Delcamp reacted when the board approved a contract with the Ripley Central School District at Chautauqua Lake’s meeting.

Approximately 130 seventh through 12th graders from Ripley will start attending Chautauqua Lake in September under a tuition arrangement, which was also approved by the Ripley Board earlier in March. Voters in the Ripley district granted permission for tuitioning students to other districts on Tuesday, Feb. 5.

Action by the Chautauqua Lake board was six in favor and none against. Board Vice President Jay Baker was absent. Board member Michael Ludwig voted, “Enthusiastically yes,” when his name was called.

The contract is for the next five school years, and the initial tuition rate of $7,219 per student was accepted by both boards.

Based on developments in other districts, including Westfield and Brocton, it seems likely similar deals will be cut throughout the county in the next year or two. Another indication of this is the cooperation among local schools regarding the joining of athletic teams.

In other action, the board approved a $19,535,232 budget for the next school year, but did not set a tax rate pending further developments.

The resignation of utility employee Gordan Carris was approved effective Sunday, March 31. Also approved were the resignations of science teacher Priscilla Marsh and English teacher Marlea Brown, effective Monday, July 1.

Linda Mawhir was approved for recall from laid-off status to resume her cleaning position as of Monday, April 1. Mike Fessel was approved as varsity golf coach, and Matt Cummings was approved as assistant baseball coach, an unpaid position. Michael Cummings was named drivers education instructor for a term running from Monday, June 24 to Friday Aug. 9 this summer.

State Must Act On Regional High Schools

April 7, 2013 the Post-Journal Save | Comments (8) | Post a comment |

Months of hard work by Ripley and Chautauqua Lake school officials have paid off with a tuition agreement between the two school districts that allow 131 Ripley students in seventh through 12th grades to attend Chautauqua Lake Central School in the 2013-14 school year.

It is good that Ripley students will have the opportunity to take more electives while Ripley taxpayers could see a 4.1 percent decrease in taxes when the 2013-14 budget is finished. Meanwhile, Chautauqua Lake was built with room to grow – something that hasn’t happened over the years as the district’s population has decreased. The tuitioning agreement means the school receives a needed influx of money while picking up little additional cost.

It’s safe to say the tuitioning agreement is good for both sides.

It is also safe to say the tuitioning agreement almost didn’t happen. Ripley residents had to make a tough decision to send many of their children to a neighboring school district. If 10 Ripley residents voted differently in February, the whole agreement would have fallen apart. The process didn’t get any easier once Ripley residents gave the authority for the district to pursue a tuitioning plan. The process has been difficult because there wasn’t an existing process to follow, which made negotiations painstaking. We’re sure there were times, behind closed doors, when Ripley and Chautauqua Lake officials felt like ending these discussions.

Despite all the good that has been done and the hard work put into these talks, Ripley and Chautauqua Lake officials believe enough in the concept of regional high schools to build an opt-out clause into their eight-year agreement in case regional high school legislation is ever approved by the state Legislature.

Everyone seems to think regional high schools are a good idea. The same economies of scale that are making the tuitioning agreement fiscally responsible are behind the idea of regional high schools. School officials have been behind the idea for years because of the potential to improve education and save money. The state Board of Regents approved the concept in 2012 as a concept that may keep the existing state’s education structure viable until such a time as mergers and consolidations are accepted by the general public.

State legislators seemed to be on board last year, too, before talks fell apart in July. Dozens of state legislators, for reasons known only to them and their friends in the teachers’ unions, can’t wrap their heads around the idea of regional high schools.

That must change.

Now that the state budget is finalized, state legislators need to approve bills allowing the creation of regional high schools.

Education: State Continues To Make Same Mistakes

April 3, 2013 The Post-Journal Save | Comments (8) | Post a comment |

Early on, it looks as if the Common Core standards will find itself in the same place as No Child Left Behind – a rushed, underfunded road to the perfect education paved with good intentions that led nowhere.

The idea behind the Common Core Standards is a good one – have students reach the same educational benchmarks, taught in roughly the same way, regardless of school district or state lines.

Adopted by 45 states, the Common Core does not set in stone the specific curriculum a school should use, but has several key concepts every student should learn each year. Those concepts are aligned to a rigorous set of standards. Common Core advocates say students will learn more if lesson plans and textbooks are all made more complex and difficult through required high standards – and that the best way to improve education across the United States is to have the same standards and guidelines for as many school districts as possible.

A story in Monday’s Post-Journal detailed some of the problems area schools are having implementing curriculums that meet the Common Core standards. School officials say they can’t afford to buy enough new textbooks and library materials because the state reimbursement for textbooks is far too low. Falconer officials say getting some recommended novels will be difficult because they are out of print. Jamestown is looking at the possibility of putting off textbook replacement in other areas to buy Common Core-applicable books.

The quality of education is only as good as the books schools use and the teachers who teach the material. September seems too early to move to the Common Core system. It’s unfair to teachers and the children they educate to rush a new system when schools can’t get textbooks and when teachers haven’t been properly trained in the new standards.

The higher standards are wonderful, but fall prey to the same problems that have befallen education for the last 20 years – too little money, too little planning and rushed implementation.

This is a mistake New York doesn’t have to make again.

Cuomo Outlines Plans For More Efficient State Education System

January 10, 2013 By Gavin Paterniti (gpaterniti@post-journal.com) , Save | Comments (7) | Post a comment

ALBANY – The topic of education reform was anything but glossed over by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in his State of the State address Wednesday.

During his third address, Cuomo outlined several plans designed to improve the quality of education throughout the state.

The points presented by Cuomo in his speech were not overly varied from the preliminary recommendations that were made by the Education Reform Commission earlier this month. The commission was formed by Cuomo in April in order to combat the serious issues that have been facing the state’s public education system.

According to information the governor’s website, New York state spends more money on education than any other state in the nation, but ranks 39th in high school graduation rates. Only 73 percent of New York’s students graduate from high school and, of that percentage, only 37 percent are college ready.

THE PROPOSAL

One of the more notable proposals put forth by the commission is the need for more education through an extended academic year. In his speech, Cuomo suggested that this could be achieved via three possibilities: a longer school day, a longer school year or a combination of the two.

While the adoption of such a program would be entirely voluntary for school districts, it would carry enormous costs in teacher and administration salaries. According to Cuomo, however, if a district does decide to opt into the extended education year, the state would pay for 100 percent of those costs. He did not elaborate on how that would be accomplished.

Both Cuomo and the committee have outlined the need for an increase in pre-kindergarten. In his speech, Cuomo mentioned that only 67 percent of school districts offer pre-kindergarten, and for those that do, the average school day is two and a half hours. He has proposed an increase in pre-kindergarten availability and in the length of the pre-kindergarten school day.

Another committee recommendation that was brought up in Cuomo’s speech was the proposal of a “bar-type” exam that all new public school teachers would be required to pass. This proposed test would be in addition to the Annual Professional Performance Review plans that districts were required to submit in order to receive an additional 4 percent in state funding. The elements of these APPR plans, which were submitted by 99 percent of schools throughout the state, are to be phased in this year.

Cuomo also mentioned that he would give a $15,000 stipend to top teachers that are selected to instruct other teachers on classroom education performance. In a nutshell, he has proposed to do away with an equal baseline salary for educators, choosing to instead to make their pay performance-based.

Finally, Cuomo proposed that the state’s education system be largely financed through the establishment of three new non-Indian casinos in undisclosed locations throughout Upstate New York. He explained that 90 percent of these casinos’ proceeds, whether from an up front franchise fee or through revenue-sharing money from slot machines, go toward helping to fund state aid for public schools.

IN RETROSPECT

Billy Easton, executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education, believes that these proposals are a step in the right direction.

“Gov. Cuomo’s State of the State provides positive educational initiatives, including a proposal for full-day (pre-kindergarten), longer school days, a longer school year and community schools,” he said. “Reforms of this type have a track record of success. We look to the state budget to see how the proposals can move from ideas to reality.”

Timothy Kremer, executive director of the New York State School Boards Association, was also eager to throw his support behind the governor’s proposals.

“Gov. Cuomo deserves high marks for putting forth solid proposals that will help raise student achievement,” he said. “Proposals to provide full-day pre-kindergarten, extend the school day and offer ‘wrap around’ community services in schools all make perfect sense. We support them whole-heartedly.”

Kremer did note that Cuomo did not mention anything in the way of mandate relief.

“We realize that the State of the State is a time of vision,” he said. “That’s why we eagerly await the governor’s upcoming budget proposal to see if these initiatives are supported with adequate resources.”

Chuck Leichner, superintendent of Forestville Central School, has his own hopes and fears for the proposed reforms.

“We can’t afford to have unfunded mandates,” said Leichner. “The big question is, ‘How are we going to pay for these things?’ But we are in favor of increased rigor and opportunities for students at the elementary and high school level. I like that they’re going to make some adjustments to teacher and principal preparation programs at the college level. Because it really is a million-dollar investment for us to hire someone. We’re here to provide an education for kids, not to be a teacher-training institution.”

“Another thing that I thought was good is an emphasis on community schools and how they would be a real service provider for the community,” he continued. “In rural areas like Forestville, agencies are so widely distributed that families have a tough time getting to the services they need. What we’d like to do is serve as a resource for parents as early as the elementary level by partnering with these agencies.”

IN REALITY

It remains to be seen how these proposals can be feasibly implemented. Many of them have been presented before but have been blocked by politics or lack of funding.

Cuomo is expected to release the details behind funding for these programs in his proposed budget later this month, while New York state is already facing a $1 billion deficit in the coming fiscal year starting on April 1.

Dunkirk school board approves admin raises

January 11, 2013 By NICOLE GUGINO OBSERVER Assistant News Editor Save | Comments (20) | Post a comment |

Approving contracts and reviewing the budget were on the agenda at the Dunkirk Board of Education meeting Thursday.

The board approved the extension of contracts for Superintendent Gary Cerne, Business Manager William Thiel and Buildings and Grounds Director Tim Abbey through January 2018. According to Cerne, all the administrators received a 2.25 percent raise, however exact salary information was not available.

Cerne said he has been with the district for six years and is looking forward to the future.

“I’ve been here six years now and I’ve loved every minute of it. I am thankful to the board of education for having the confidence in me to keep me around until 2018. It sounds like a long time away but time flies and I love working for this board of education, I love working for this community and I’m thankful I was given this opportunity,” he said.

The board also heard a presentation from Thiel on the budgets for athletics, transportation and buildings and grounds.

Thiel said the goal for these budget areas was to keep costs pretty much flat.

He explained there was a $6,000 decrease in the athletics budget because of previous overbudgeting for supervision. Modified sports were still included in the budget except for modified football because of conflicts with other football programs. The savings from this was used to offset the cost of a wrestling coach.

The buildings and grounds budget was also cut by $6,619. Thiel primarily focused on utilities, which he said are still at record low rates. He noted there are plans to upgrade the phone system at a cost of $15,000, which will be reimbursed to the district through E-Rate.

Thiel said there was an increase in the transportation budget but this is based on predictions of the Consumer Price Index increase of around 3.5 percent.

Thiel explained there are other portions of the budget with much higher increases than these three categories – specifically payroll and benefits. As stated at the last meeting, the district hopes the early retirement incentive will lower the increases which together are over a $2.2 million increase.

Thiel said he will report on the effect of the retirement incentive on that number at the next board meeting on Feb. 12.

In other business:

The board went in to executive session twice to discuss contractual and personnel matters.

Cerne reported going to the presentation by Rick Timbs on schools’ combined wealth ratio. He said a 1.0 ration is normal, and where Dunkirk’s ratio is .414, some schools in New York state have a ratio of 40.0.

He also said if the foundation aid formula was still the same, the district would have received $1.3 million more in aid this school year, explaining Timbs called for an overhaul of the aid formula.

Cerne also addressed school safety, saying the district had been enforcing safety measures before the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary and has recently conducted several safety drills as well as working closely with Dunkirk Police.

Assistant High School Principal Christopher Bulger resigned. Frank Jagoda was appointed as middle school intramural basketball coach for this year and Timothy Majka was appointed head football coach for the next school year.

A bid from Ahlstrom Schaeffer was accepted for a generator at the middle school.

Public Hearing Held On CLCS, Maple Grove Football ‘Merger’

January 9, 2013 By Gavin Paterniti (gpaterniti@post-journal.com) Save | Comments (12) | Post a comment |

Last month’s proposal that the football programs at Chautauqua Lake Central School and Maple Grove Junior-Senior High School be merged is anything but finalized.

The proposal has aroused much concern and skepticism among Maple Grove’s community members who are faithful to the Red Dragon football program.

On Tuesday, a public hearing was held in the cafeteria at Maple Grove Junior-Senior High School to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of a merger with CLCS. The pros and cons were presented by Jacqueline Latshaw, superintendent of the Bemus Point Central School district, in a slideshow format. A committee, which was formed by the Bemus Point Board of Education in the wake of CLCS’ proposal, had gathered the information based on responses from community members.

The initial proposal was made by Josh Liddell, Chautauqua Lake’s secondary school principal and director of athletics, at a CLCS Board of Education meeting last month. Liddell’s proposal is largely influenced by decreasing numbers threatening the loss of Chautauqua Lake’s JV football program, a problem that Maple Grove’s JV program may also be facing.

The proposal calls for a sharing of home games, two at each district as well as two total homecoming games, one at each district. Practices would be split evenly and include coaches representing both districts. It would also bump the team up to Section 6 Class C, which includes the combined teams of Westfield-Brocton and Forestville-Silver Creek as well as Fredonia and Southwestern. One major benefit is that it would allow for separate JV and varsity programs, reducing the number of injuries that have occurred as a result of combined JV and varsity practices.

Response to the proposal by the Maple Grove community has been varied but largely unfavorable. Some of the advantages given were: improved safety by being able to separate JV and varsity practices and scrimmages, the merger would not be a long-term commitment as it would be evaluated on a yearly basis, better overall competition for players and a cost savings for the district of approximately $5,000.

Fact Box

A sticking point in the discussion focused on the stigma surrounding the word “merger.”

Some of the disadvantages given were: inconvenience due to extra travel for practices, loss of sports booster funds and community interaction by losing two home games, loss of the Maple Grove Dragon identity and loss of study time for the players on both teams due to an alternating practice schedule.

A real point of consideration comes from the fact that Maple Grove may not have the numbers to sustain a JV football team next year. Regardless, the tone of the hearing seemed to indicate that most would rather take the risk than submit to the terms of the CLCS proposal.

“I’m all for sticking to our guns if (the consensus is) that we have to stay Maple Grove,” said Curt Fisher, Maple Grove’s varsity head coach. “But we have to be prepared to possibly not have a JV schedule, (parents) can’t be mad about their kid’s playing time if there is no JV (program). And you may see a few years where we won’t look like Maple Grove. You’ve got to be patient because we don’t have the size.”

A sticking point in the discussion focused on the stigma surrounding the word “merger.” When it was suggested that Maple Grove allow Chautauqua Lake players to play on its team, rather than accepting the proposal terms of an even split, the attendees became much more receptive. The suggestion entails all home games being played at Maple Grove, with the exception of a possible homecoming game on Chautauqua Lake turf, as well as retaining the Maple Grove uniforms and signature Red Dragon logo.

This new suggestion will be brought before the Board of Education at its meeting on Monday. Pending approval by the board, Latshaw will then contact Ben Spitzer, superintendent at Chautauqua Lake, with these new terms and await a response.

Should Maple Grove decide against the proposed merger, Chautauqua Lake has also expressed interest in a merger with the already combined Sherman-Ripley football program.

Cassadaga Village Board Opposes Closure Of Elementary School

January 7, 2013

By Diane R. Chodan (editorial@post-journal.com) , Dunkirk ObserverSave | Post a comment |

CASSADAGA – The Cassadaga Village Board went on record in its opposition to closing the Cassadaga Elementary School.

Village attorney Michael Norris drew up a simple resolution for the board’s consideration. It read: “Whereas it has been under deliberation by the Cassadaga Valley Central School District to close the Cassadaga Valley Elementary School; and

Whereas, the Cassadaga Valley Elementary School is an integral part of the Village and provides substantial benefit to its quality of life; and now therefore be it

Resolved, that the Board of Trustees of the Village of Cassadaga does hereby urge the Cassadaga Valley Central School District to keep the Cassadaga Valley Elementary School open.”

The resolution passed unanimously. Deputy Mayor Rodney Waite was absent from this meeting.

Norris suggested that the resolution be sent to Cassadaga Valley Central School’s Superintendent of Schools and the Board of Education president.

In other news, Thomas Fetter, street supervisor, noted that the sidewalk plow in the village is not working as of last week. He is waiting for parts so that plowing of sidewalks may be done. “I appreciate the people who have taken care of shoveling in front of their homes,” he said.

During the public comment section of the meeting, Charlene DeChard asked to speak. She noted that the crosswalk across the street from the school is not plowed and said she can never remember it being done. “There are lots of people who walk,” she said.

Fetter said that the crosswalk was taken care of last year. DeChard disputed this. “It will be taken care of,” Fetter said.

During Trustee Ronald DeChard’s report, he said snowmobiles were “tearing up (speeding on) Maple Avenue.”

“The trail is well-marked,” he said. After the meeting he added, “The snowmobilers are good for the economy, and the clubs work hard to keep the trails marked. But the snowmobilers have to abide by the rules.” He said the map of the trails in the Cassadaga area is available on the Cherry Creek Club website at cherrycreeksnogoers.com.

Trustee Michael Lehnen, who is the liaison with the Cassadaga Fire Department, reported the number of calls the department answered last year. Including mutual aid calls, the department responded to 19 fire calls, 119 rescue calls and 230 other calls. Lehnen also urged that village residents help by clearing snow from around hydrants near their homes.

The board set some dates for upcoming meetings, which will be held at the village offices.

A budget workshop will be held on Jan. 30 from 7-8:30 p.m.

Village caucuses will be held on Jan. 22. The Taxpayers Party will meet at 7 p.m., and the Progressive Party will meet at 7:30 p.m. The purpose of the caucuses are to select candidates for the village election, which will be held on March 19.

Voting for the village election will be held on March 19 from noon to 9 p.m. Those people who are registered with the county are eligible to vote.

Work Session Held To Discuss School Building Use

January 7, 2013

By Diane R. Chodan (editorial@post-journal.com) , Dunkirk Observer

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SINCLAIRVILLE – The future of the Cassadaga Elementary School is in question, and the Cassadaga Valley Central School Board members, David Christy, William Carlson, Jeanne Oag and S. Carl Perry, will have to make the decision about its fate.

Recently the Cassadaga Valley Central School Board of Education held a work session to discuss the use of the buildings in the district. Superintendent Scott Smith has been reporting the enrollment figures compared to building capacity for each of the district’s buildings at board of education meetings. At its November meeting, Smith recommended before the board does any “heavy lifting” on the budget, it hold a work session, not a budget workshop, to discuss building utilization.

At the beginning of the session Smith called it “a continuation of the conversations we have had at board meetings.”

Explaining the nature of a work session, he said, “No motions are taken or approved. It is not required to have public comment, but in line with past practice, we will.”

Using Power Point, Smith and Business Manager Debra McAvoy presented numbers to set the stage. No copies of the presentation were given to the board, the public or the press.

Some numbers were concrete. Total enrollment figures were given starting with 1992 and continuing at five-year intervals. These showed a decline in total enrollment of 211 students over five years and 419 over 10 years.

Current enrollment figures and capacity of each building were reiterated: the Cassadaga Elementary School has 95 students in a building with a capacity of 510; Sinclairville Elementary has 371 students in a building with a capacity of 500 and the middle/high school has 585 students (grades 6-12) in a building with a capacity of 800. These numbers were similar to the numbers presented at board meetings. Figures of current numbers enrolled in each grade were also presented. Students in classes of grade 7 through 12 number 79 to 93. In contrast, in the lower grades, most class numbers are in the 60 to 70 range. If the trend continues, total enrollment will continue to decline.

State aid revenue decreases, which were said to be tied to enrollment, were presented. Starting with the 2008-09 figure ($12,036,768), figures showed a decrease each year to $10,991,745 for the current year.

Smith said, “Educational insolvency is when a district can no longer pay for all the mandated services and instruction for its students. … I fear we are very close to educational insolvency.”

One opportunity to cut costs would be a closure of the Cassadaga Elementary School. This was where the numbers were less concrete. If the building were closed, according to current state funding standards, the district would continue to get building aid until the building was sold. For example, the district could lease all or part of the building to a nonprofit and continue to receive aid.

Some factors used to estimate cost savings were salaries and building upkeep. Members of the public questioned these.

Lily Dale resident Robert Reuther questioned the basis of the figure estimated as a decrease in salary. Smith said the figure was based on “positions replicated in both buildings and the combining of what positions would no longer be needed.” Smith did not and would not provide information about specific positions or how he and McAvoy reached the number cited.

In response to Reuther’s efforts to elicit details, Smith said, “Any projection is not 100 percent.”

Smith said that the school board would be the entity that would vote whether or not to close the school. The board could appoint an advisory committee to assess the educational impact of closing the building. He advised that if the board decided to do that it should give a very specific charge to the committee including the time frame.

One resident noted that once a building is closed, the construction is not grandfathered. That means that if it is reopened, it would have to be brought up to the present building code.

Another wondered, “Is this the only option? To me this seems like a Band Aid.”

In response to a committee, another said, “I would hope it (the committee) would have a bit of latitude to explore the options.”

Board member William Carlson reported he attended a meeting for school board members and superintendents with the New York state Commissioner of Education Dr. John B. King, Jr. Carlson said he asked whether the state is trying through its aid policies to force districts to consolidate. Carlson said King was very candid in his answer, saying the Education Department would like to see 200 less districts in the state.

Carlson noted the geographic size of the current district and said, “I would hope we could take measures that could take us (through) the next five years.”

The next meeting of the Board of Education is scheduled for Jan. 14 in the middle/high school multipurpose room at 7 p.m. The board may take further action on the school at that meeting.

SWCS Hires Superintendent

Donahue, Former Head Of Friendship School District, Will Start Jan. 22

January 5, 2013

The Post-Journal

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The Southwestern Board of Education has announced the appointment of Maureen Donahue as the superintendent of schools for the Southwestern Central School District, effective Jan. 22.

Donahue currently serves as the superintendent of schools for the Friendship Central School District, a position that she has held since 2005. She brings an extensive administrative career background to Southwestern’s schools.

She began her career in public education as a teacher of special education at the Cattaraugus-Allegany BOCES in 1984. Throughout her career, Donahue has served as a special education teacher in the Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools in Charlotte, N.C.; a behavior specialist for the Cattaraugus-Allegany BOCES; and an administrative supervisor for the BOCES. Prior to her appointment in 2005 as superintendent at Friendship, she also held the positions of middle school assistant principal and elementary principal/director of special education for the Olean City School District.

Donahue has maintained a focus on student achievement throughout her career. She has initiated systemic change efforts, which led to increased student performance. She has extensive experience developing and managing school budgets. She has had experience and success in capital construction projects. And, most recently, she has fully implemented the New York State APPR initiative. Donahue maintains a highly visible presence within the community at school and community events within the schools she serves.

Donahue earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary/special education from Slippery Rock University, her master’s in exceptional education from Buffalo State College, her school administration degree from St. Bonaventure University and she was an associate of the Superintendent Development Program sponsored by SUNY Oswego. Donahue is a member of many professional organizations and boards, and presently serves as treasurer of the executive board of the New York State Council of School Superintendents.

Jim Butler, president of Southwestern’s Board of Education, commented on behalf of the board, “Mrs. Donahue will be a wonderful asset to our school district. Her professional background and track record of improving student performance will serve our students well. We are excited about her positive outlook, her leadership style and record of achievement.”

Donahue stated, “I am energized by the opportunity to serve the Southwestern Central School staff, students and school community as the superintendent of schools. Southwestern is an outstanding school system and a great place to live. The pride and enthusiasm exhibited by all stakeholders during the interviews was clearly evident. I look forward to making contributions that will benefit students and the entire community.This is a great place to work and to learn at all levels. I truly am looking forward to becoming a member of this fine school system and community.”

The Board of Education conducted an extensive search for an individual to replace Daniel George. George will retire from the district effective Jan. 23.

The Board of Education requested the services of the office of the district superintendent for the Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES in its quest to hire a new superintendent of schools. David O’Rourke served as the board’s search consultant and worked with the board on all aspects of the search.

“You have a wonderful, caring and family-oriented community,” said O’Rourke. “Maureen Donahue has a tremendous background to share with the district and has experiences that will benefit the school district for years to come. I am personally looking forward to working with Maureen. She is an enthusiastic, knowledgeable and talented educational leader.”

Silver Creek residents voice concerns on school safety

January 10, 2013

By NICOLE GUGINO – OBSERVER Assistant News Editor , The OBSERVER

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SILVER CREEK – It has been almost a month since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., and some parents in Silver Creek worry as time passes it will be forgotten.

Several parents and residents attended the Silver Creek Board of Education meeting Wednesday to voice concerns about safety in the school.

“This is the first board meeting since the Sandy Hook shooting and I came to express concern for the safety at the school. I want to be reassured the safety policies the school has will and are being enforced,” concerned parent Tina Farley said. “If they didn’t think it could happen there, it could happen here. I have a 12 year old and a 7 year old in the district and after that it was hard to bring my kids back to school.”

Farley said when she went to the elementary orientation for her son she thought some of the safety measures would be “a pain,” but after the tragedy she supports the school’s efforts 100 percent.

However, she pointed out several instances that she has had concerns about including the doors being propped open when gym classes go outside, passersby will let in people waiting to be buzzed in if there is no one in the office and students entering school from a side door after school has started.

“The kids are our future and their safety should be our number one priority,” she added.

Superintendent Daniel Ljiljanich said one of the first things he did after he was hired in July was review and update the school’s safety plan. He said he encourages anyone who sees something and has a safety concern, like Farley, to point it out because sometimes it isn’t seen by others.

Also brought up in the conversation was the matter of the school resource officer.

Resident Anna Frederickson said she is continuing her quest to get funding from the four entities involved in the school to see that the SRO program is funded. She said she has reached out to Seneca Nation President Barry Snyder who said he will present the letters to the council for consideration.

Ljiljanich also reassured residents measures are being made to make the school safer, including recent changes to the safety plan as a result of a conference he attended with Silver Creek Police Chief Timothy Roche and New York State Troopers. Ljiljanich said other things the school is doing also include informing substitutes of emergency procedures with a packet and also capital project changes.

He said one of the changes in the high school will be to convert the superintendent’s office into the main office so that people can be greeted through a sliding glass window before entering the building. He said security cameras are also included in this, but reminded residents the cameras that are in place are connected to the police station for quick response if there are problems.

Ljiljanich said the school is also always looking at how to balance security and openness to the community after school.

The school board will meet for a budget workshop on Saturday at 8 a.m. The next school board meeting will be Jan. 23 with a workshop on technology, transportation and buildings and grounds budgets.

Topic of school resource officer comes up in Hanover

December 28, 2012 The OBSERVER Save | Comments (8) | Post a comment |

By NICOLE GUGINO OBSERVER Assistant News Editor

HANOVER – True to her promise to go to all four entities involved in the Silver Creek School Resource Officer Agreement, resident Anna Frederickson attended Monday’s Hanover Town Board meeting to ask the town to consider funding the program in the future.

“I spoke up at the village board meeting about the SRO officer and I made a point to say there are four entities that make up the school district. The only entity to put any money toward that program was the school and I was hoping – I’m sure you’re not going to find it in the coming (2013) budget – that each one of these entities could share a portion of that so we can have an officer in that school. I don’t care what officer it is, I just want to see an officer in the school. I do not want what happened in Connecticut to happen here,” she said.

Supervisor Todd Johnson responded to Frederickson’s comments, speaking for himself and not the board.

“I feel at this point in time the school needs to take a hard look at what they have in their school system – three principals, a superintendent, a dean of students. I know when I went to school there they had an elementary school principal, a high school principal and a superintendent and that was it. They have a middle school principal that is responsible for three grades and with a salary and a benefits package I assume that is somewhere between $90,000 to $110,000 annually. … I’m not looking to put people out of jobs but they could fund two school resource officers by elimination of a principal position at the school that is unnecessary,” Johnson said.

Frederickson said although she sees Johnson’s point, she has heard at board of education meetings the administrators have a lot of responsibilities.

Silver Creek Trustee Nick Piccolo, who is the village’s liaison to the town, added the village’s decision not to fund the SRO program this year was a budgetary one.

He also brought up security concerns at the town’s other school district – Forestville Elementary School – because anyone can just walk in, without obstruction.

Johnson said he has had similar concerns and is planning on addressing it in the coming year.

He reiterated that safety at schools is very important to him and he and the board will continue to work with the other entities involved with the program.

“I feel that in light of all the things that are happening within the school that it is very necessary that we do have some protection within our schools,” he added.

The board will next meet Jan. 2 at 7 p.m. for its reorganizational meeting.

In other business:

The board retroactively approved payment of $637.50 per month for Dog Control Officer Wally Baker for the months of October, November and December. At its last meeting, the board extended Baker’s contract for January through March at the same rate.

Resident Barry Russell issued a complaint about the drainage in Sunset Bay. He asked the board to have attorney Jeffrey Passafaro contact the lawyer of the individual holding up the drainage project so the project can begin in the spring. He also expressed concerns about additional drainage problems from proposed development on Route 5/20 and thanked the board members and Highway Superintendent Steve D’Angelo for their support.

At its last meeting the board approved expenditures of $6,352 for a snowplow, $4,980 for a road-cutting saw, both for the highway department, $9,749 for a document management program for the clerk’s office and $27,500 for an engineering agreement with GHD for improvements to the wastewater treatment plant.

Comments on this story may be sent to ngugino@observertoday.com

Ripley school board postpones discussion of survey

January 2, 2013

By DAVID PRENATT – Special to the OBSERVER , The OBSERVER

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RIPLEY – Students from Ripley Central School who came forward at the recent Board of Education meeting to present a schoolwide survey concerning the possibility of tuitioning, were asked to postpone their presentation until the January meeting.

The survey had been initiated and conducted by Ripley students led by junior Allison Fisher, who obtained permission from school superintendent Karen Krause and principal Lauren Ormsby. The survey collected responses from 128 students in sixth through 11th grades regarding the possibility of those grades being tuitioned to Chautauqua Lake Central School next year.

“I just want to show everyone what we what to say, because we have a stake in this,” Fisher said at the beginning of the presentation. “We don’t have a vote but our parents do and they should know what we think.”

At that point, board President Robert Bentley asked the students if they would mind waiting until the January board meeting to make their presentation. “I just received this survey about 10 minutes ago and would like some time to review it,” he said.

The students agreed, but when contacted later, Fisher said she and other students were upset about being postponed. “We immediately felt shut down,” she said. “Our results should have been showed because our voices matter too. We may be kids, but we are important.”

Fisher said it took a week to develop the survey. Then she spent more than a week getting approval, distributing and collecting the survey. She said the students involved with be sure to be at the next meeting.

“Our survey should have been shown at the board meeting. Our results are great and people need to know what we, as the students, have to say. I’m up for a challenge at the next board meeting. I’m not going to be afraid and step down. I and all the other kids will stand our ground and make sure people know our results. We really do matter.”

Those taking the surveys responded to eight questions. The results are as follows:

1: Do you want the District to do tuition? Yes-35. No-83. No opinion-10.

2: Should Elementary also (tuition?) Yes-48. No-62. No Opinion-17.

3: If tuitioned, where would you prefer? Westfield-27. Sherman-63. Chautauqua Lake-36

4: Are you able to take the classes you want at RCS? Yes-56. No-61. No opinion-11.

5: Is there a class not offered at RCS that you would like to take? Yes-72. No-37. No opinion-19.

6: Do you feel that having a larger student class would benefit you? Yes-47. No-64. No opinion-17.

7: Would you be interested in taking college level or advance placement classes? Yes-67. No-39. No opinion-22.

8: Is there a club or sport not offered at RCS that you would like to take? – Variety of answers.

Is appeal worth $10,000 at SUNY

January 2, 2013

The OBSERVER

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Editor, OBSERVER:

The article Dec. 5 about the Fredonia State Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Queer, Transgender and Transsexual diversity campus climate index provided some much needed comedic relief what with the world situation and all.

I had a question. If a person who suffers great persecution on campus, let’s say a conservative, Christian person for example, were to approach the school administration requesting $10,000 seed money to be used to promote Conservative causes, what would the answer be? Being such a non-person on campus they would not be feeling the recognition they’re entitled to.

The students who don’t show the required love and affirmation must have their minds made right by being forced to listen to and accept conservative dogma. This person should not be satisfied until SUNY Fredonia reaches a “campus conservative climate” of 5. There should also be safe rooms for this person to flee to when they’re not feeling the love.

Maybe they could hang a cross on the door to let them know they’re safe. This would protect them from the night-riders who apparently infest the campus. The school should also strive to include more courses on things like white male studies, Conservatism 101, accepting Jesus as your Savior 101, etc.

Maybe after all this is accomplished campus conservatives – all five of them – will leave the rest of you alone.

TOM REIGELMAN,

Fredonia

Brocton Board Discusses Merger Vote

December 28, 2012

By Diane R. Chodan (editorial@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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BROCTON – David Hazelton, Brocton Board of Education member, has expressed concern about the public voting that may happen in connection with the merger of the Brocton and Westfield central school districts.

He said there should be some requirement for identifying voters as eligible to vote.

At its recent meeting, John Hertlein, district superintendent, told board members he had researched the issue starting with the school’s attorney, Jeff Swiatek. Hertlein said the policy committee will look into policy for conducting the election soon.

To vote in a school district election, a person must be a citizen of the United States, be at least 18 years old and be a district resident for at least the last 30 days before the vote. For school district elections, it is not necessary to be registered to vote in municipal elections. Hertlein said Brocton and other districts practice poll registration, meaning the registration and voting takes place at the same time. In that case, it is a matter of district policy to decide what if any verification is needed to vote.

A district could also institute a permanent registration system, but the district would be responsible for the labor to maintain such a system. Voters can be challenged, either by the election inspectors or members of the public. Bases for challenge would include not living in the district or not being old enough to vote. A person who fraudulently votes is subject to severe penalties.

Thomas DeJoe, board president, said some people prefer not to register to vote in municipal elections because that is the list used to select people for jury duty.

“It is important to know what Westfield is doing. During that vote in June it is important that both are doing the same thing,” he said.

Hertlein assured Hazelton he would talk to David Davison, Westfield superintendent, about the matter and that the policy committee will be meeting soon and will discuss the matter.

In other business, Doug Walter, board member, discussed his experience attending the Chautauqua County School Boards Association’s meeting on Nov. 29, when Sen. Catharine Young spoke about regional high schools and the state budget. The regional high school bill passed the state Senate but is stalled in the Assembly.

DeJoe reported on the CCSBA meeting on Dec. 3. The speaker at the meeting was John King Jr., state education commissioner, who was elected to the position by the Board of Regents in May 2011.

“We have an education commissioner who has been there and done that,” DeJoe said. “He has been in the classroom.”

DeJoe also said King realized the value of education from his own experience with schools whose teachers helped him succeed.

Support grows for regional high schools

December 26, 2012

By DAVID PRENATT – Special to the OBSERVER , The OBSERVER

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RIPLEY – Support for creating regional high schools is growing among state legislators, Ripley School Board members learned at their regular meeting.

Board President Robert Bentley reported on two meetings members of Chautauqua County schools had with New York State Senator Catharine Young and New York State Commissioner of Education John B. King Jr. – both of whom indicated increasing support for regionalism among state schools.

Bentley said Senator Young indicated at a Dec. 2 meeting regionalism was gaining support in the legislature. At a Dec. 9 meeting with Chautauqua County School Board Association, Dr. King expressed a great interest in regionalism, not just in the rural, western schools, but even in Long Island, Bentley said.

“He spoke very highly of regionalism in schools,” Bentley said. “He seems to have a handle on problems in education.”

In other matters, Superintendent Karen Krause said the financial information regarding the possibility of tuitioning students to Chautauqua Lake Central School had been submitted to auditors who would make a presentation at the January board meeting.

Principal Lauren Ormsby gave a presentation to the board about the changes in education coming about through the Common Core Learning Standards and the Annual Professional Performance Review.

The APPR will evaluate teachers on a 100-point scale. Twenty percent will be based on student growth through assessments; 20 percent will be from teacher-submitted data, such as lesson plans and self-reflections; and 60 percent will be based on observations, both formal (announced) and informal.

Ripley school began initiating the Common Core standards in 2010, Ormsby said. The key change will be in the way students are taught math, English and language arts, she said.

“Instead of being a mile wide and one inch deep, the curriculum is much more in depth,” she said.

Ormsby said both programs will work together to improve the educational process.

“This is a work in progress and we are going to keep progressing,” she said. “I believe in the process. I love it.”

Ripley Students Flex Their Voices

December 25, 2012

By David Prenatt (editorial@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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Ripley students will have to wait another month before making their case about tuitioning to the district Board of Education.

The students came forward with their survey at a recent board meeting, but were asked to postpone their presentation until the January meeting. The survey had been initiated and conducted by Ripley students led by junior Allison Fisher, who got permission from Karen Krause, district superintendent, and Lauren Ormsby, school principal. The survey collected responses from 128 students in sixth through 11th grades about the possibility of those grades being tuitioned to Chautauqua Lake Central School starting in the fall.

“I just want to show everyone what we have to say because we have a stake in this,” Fisher said at the beginning of the presentation. “We don’t have a vote, but our parents do and they should know what we think.”

At that point, Robert Bentley, board president, asked the students if they would mind waiting until the January board meeting to make their presentation.

“I just received this survey about 10 minutes ago and would like some time to review it,” he said.

The students agreed, but when contacted later, Fisher said she and the other students were upset about being postponed.

Fact Box

The survey had eight questions. The results are:

1. Do you want the district to tuition? Yes – 35. No – 83. No opinion – 10.

2. Should elementary also tuition? Yes – 48. No – 62. No opinion – 17.

3. If tuitioned, where would you prefer? Westfield – 27. Sherman – 63. Chautauqua Lake – 36.

4. Are you able to take the classes you want at (Ripley Central School)? Yes – 56. No – 61. No opinion – 11.

5. Is there a class not offered at (Ripley Central School) that you would like to take? Yes – 72. No – 37. No opinion – 19.

6. Do you feel that having a larger student class would benefit you? Yes – 47. No – 64. No opinion – 17.

7. Would you be interested in taking college level or advance placement classes? Yes – 67. No – 39. No opinion – 22.

8. Is there a club or sport not offered at (Ripley Central School) that you would like to take? A variety of answers were given.

“We immediately felt shut down,” she said. “Our results should have been showed because our voices matter too. We may be kids, but we are important.”

Fisher said it took a week to develop the survey. Then she spent more than a week getting approval, distributing and collecting the survey. She said the students involved will be sure to be at the next board meeting.

“Our survey should have been shown at the board meeting,” she said. “Our results are great and people need to know what we, as the students, have to say. I’m up for a challenge at the next board meeting. I’m not going to be afraid and step down. I and all the other kids will stand our ground and make sure people know our results. We really do matter.”

Think out of the box, but keep it realistic

December 26, 2012

By DIANE R. CHODAN – OBSERVER Staff Writer , The OBSERVER

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BROCTON – After the tension at the Nov. 29 meeting of the District Advisory Committee for the Brocton Westfield feasibility study, Gary Planty from Brocton found a way to make everyone laugh at its December meeting. Following a suggestion from Consultant David Kurzawa, he thought outside of the box.

During a serious discussion about what transportation would look like in a new district, he said, “The name ‘bus run’ should be changed to ‘rolling study hall.'” After the meeting was over he said even though it was funny, there was also a serious intent behind his words. “There are things that could be done during a bus ride that there may not be time for in school such as character education.”

The consultant group conducting the feasibility study has distributed many sheets of information to, answered many questions from, and been challenged by the advisory committee made up of residents of the two districts.

At the most recent meeting of the group, the consultants tried to structure the meeting to allow more input by committee members. Kurzawa even gave the group a homework assignment. By drawing on the information that had been presented in the committee meetings, each participant was asked to respond in writing (which could be anonymous) before the next meeting to the following:

Based on all of the data provided to date, do you believe that Brocton and Westfield should merge? (Please answer this from your informed point of view, not from the perspectives of those you know.)

Completion of an Administrative Staffing worksheet, recommending numbers of administrator for a combined district.

A recommendation for student to teacher ratio various levels, including a maximum and minimum for courses in the high school.

A suggested building configuration.

A transportation solution.

Recommendations for future use of the buildings.

The impact of the building configuration on the community.

Kurzawa urged committee members to “think out of the box, but think realistically.”

The consultants are to take the input into consideration when writing the final report.

After the explanation of the assignment, a question submitted for the committee’s response during that meeting was: If you learn that the high school is to be located in the other district (that you do not live in) would you support the merger. Members were asked to write their response and then move to a corner of the room indicated whether they strongly agreed, agreed, disagreed or strongly disagreed. Those in each area discussed their reasoning and a presenter from each area spoke to the group as a whole.

Doug Kaltenbach, reporting for the largest group which strongly agreed said, “The positives outweigh the negatives. … A new school is exciting. It’s a new situation wherever it goes. … The distance is only eight miles. … A regional high school is a lot worse than what is proposed here.”

Consultant Marilyn Kurzawa stressed that the closure of either building was not a given at this time, but the answers do suggest there is wide support for a merger within the committee whose members have become highly informed about the status of both districts.

Other topics considered were budget and tax history of the district; student achievement and high school programming; high school graduation data and post graduation outcomes; athletic, music and art facilities; support staff contracts and questions; and transportation and enrollment.

Complete notes released by the committee are available on each district’s website.

A joint meeting of the Westfield and Brocton Boards of Education is scheduled for Jan. 16 at 5 p.m. in Westfield. A meeting of the joint committee is to follow at 6 p.m.

Comments on this article may be directed to dchodan@observertoday.com

Lessons Of A Tragedy

Local School Administrators Review Security Plans In Wake Of Sandy Hook Shootings

December 23, 2012

By Gavin Paterniti (gpaterniti@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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With the nation still in shock over the events that transpired last week in Newtown, Conn., school security has once again resurfaced as a hot topic.

After the tragic loss of 27 lives at Sandy Hook Elementary School, school districts in the region and around the country are taking time to reflect and re-evaluate. The universal consensus among the districts is that a review of safety plans and procedures is needed, however some are taking a more direct and immediate approach to ensuring safety in their buildings.

Danielle O’Connor, superintendent of the Frewsburg Central School district, has been active in the reviewing of her district’s safety plans and has taken steps toward making adjustments and improvements.

“It is important that we always remain vigilant and that we always review with people the importance of school security,” said O’Connor. “It is hard to say that I’m comfortable because so many unanticipated things can happen. We want to be well prepared and we never want our ego to be big enough to think that (an event like Sandy Hook) would ever happen here.”

According to O’Connor, Frewsburg has been working with state police in determining the quality of its safety procedures. Troopers have been doing walkthroughs of the buildings and reviewing Frewsburg’s safety security program.

“Many ideas (for improvement) have been brought forward and so we will be asking for support from law enforcement to help us determine which measures are most appropriate for Frewsburg,” she said. “At this point, our roles are changing in that we do need to be more aware of what’s happening and what steps are appropriate to take.”

‘NO CREDIBLE EVIDENCE’

The increased presence of law enforcement personnel has already been felt at Jamestown High School. On Friday morning, following a police report regarding an unsubstantiated rumor of a threat against JHS, members of the Jamestown Police Department could be seen patrolling hallways and entrances throughout the building as the student body participated in its Penny Wars assembly.

Daniel Kathman, superintendent of Jamestown Public Schools, released a statement on Thursday regarding the rumor.

“Over the last two days, several stories have been shared between students and community members regarding possible threats at Jamestown High School,” said Kathman, in his statement. “It is very important for the public to know that we have uncovered no credible evidence of any threat to the students or staff at Jamestown High School.”

He added: “We will continue in our collaborative effort (with JPD) to investigate any and all future reports and, of course, immediately respond should we uncover a genuine threat.”

According to detective Lt. Paul Abbott of the JPD, school safety is a top priority.

“The safety of students and staff is paramount to both the Jamestown Police and Jamestown Public Schools,” said Abbott. “We want to send a clear message that we are in the schools and around the schools. We want people to feel as safe as possible.”

BACK TO BASICS

Most of the other school districts in the area are also in the process of reviewing their safety plans with law enforcement. The importance of safety has not been lost on anyone.

“Safety is our No. 1 priority,” said Karen Moon, superintendent of the Clymer Central School district. “As all districts in the country are doing, Clymer is looking at our school security and safety plans – always trying to improve them. We are working with state and county law enforcement and with other resources to review our plans. Our staff is active in being aware and diligent about what needs to happen to keep our school as safe as we can.”

Steve Penhollow, superintendent of the Falconer Central School district, had similar sentiments.

“The physical and emotional safety of our students is our top priority,” Penhollow said. “We have safety committee meetings in each building and also at the district level. We have included our school resource officer, as well as local emergency management personnel, in the development and continuous review of our district safety plan.”

In a statement to parents, Kimberly Moritz, Randolph Central School superintendent, pinpointed specific actions taken by her district. In addition to reviewing Randolph’s emergency plans with law enforcement, Randolph has conducted additional drills to ensure the safe and efficient implementation of these plans.

“On Friday, we have our annual emergency drills planned,” Moritz said in her Monday statement. “We will conduct more than just our annual lock-down, take cover, and emergency-go-home-early drills. We have a planned evacuation drill for Friday, a drill we haven’t conducted in many years.”

She continued: “Also, I’ve had several meetings this year with Lt. Edward Kennedy and others from the NYS Police about how we can work together to improve safety at RCS. Lt. Kennedy has extended an invitation for greater involvement in our schools that we have embraced. We have a longstanding good relationship with the Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Department and they have supported us as a community and a school district for many years.”

Also on Monday, parents in the Chautauqua Lake Central School district received a statement from Ben Spitzer, district superintendent. In his statement, Spitzer included steps taken by the district to review its safety plan as well as tips for parents to help their children understand and cope with the tragedy at Sandy Hook.

According to Spitzer’s statement, some of the actions taken by the district include: a review of the district safety plans by the district’s School Safety Committee, the instruction of staff to review the district safety procedures and be more vigilant in their implementation, the monitoring of students for extreme reactions or concerns and subsequent referral to counselors as necessary.

“In addition to the above, staff have been asked to provide a sense of normalcy to our students,” Spitzer said in his statement. “Families are encouraged to spend time together, validate children’s feelings, ask for help as needed and find calm and relaxing activities to do at home. It is very important to limit children’s exposure to media coverage. If children are watching the news or accessing information online, parents and caregivers should be available to talk to their children about it.”

He added: “Over the next few weeks and months we will be evaluating and adjusting our safety procedures as appropriate and necessary. We will also be working closely with local law enforcement officials and neighboring school districts to discuss and share ideas on school safety.”

Superintendents See Bleak Financial Future

WGRZ News 12:07 AM, Dec 4, 2012

The future is getting grimmer and grimmer for school districts here in Western New York and across the state.

The New York State Council of School Superintendents surveyed district leaders around the state and found that four in ten think their district will be out of money in four years.

Another one in ten says that will happen in just two years.

More than 75 percent of them think their district won’t be able to fund all required education and student services within four years.

Sixty percent blame the state’s recent property tax cap for forcing greater cuts to programs. But almost the same amount say it helped them negotiate cost savings with their teacher’s union.

See the full report here.

Fredonia school board mulls ‘fiscal cliff’

December 12, 2012

By SHIRLEY PULAWSKI – OBSERVER Staff Writer , The OBSERVER

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Consequences of the “fiscal cliff” could hit home for local students, and students at Fredonia Central Schools are no exception.

Superintendent Paul DiFonzo told the board at a meeting on Tuesday the National School Board Association (NSBA) supports a resolution to oppose what is called sequestration in the budget control act (BCA) of 2011. The BCA is a round of automatic, broad-sweeping cuts by the government to federal programs, also known as the “fiscal cliff” of budget impacts set for Jan. 2 unless Congress takes action.

DiFonzo said the impact could be significant to FCS. “We could lose federal aid – up to $500,000 toward salaries,” and other costs, DiFonzo explained.

According to the resolution created by the NSBA, sequestration “would impact almost every public school system in the nation” and “would be impacted nationwide by an estimated $2.7 billion loss from just three programs alone” including Head Start and programs for disabled and disadvantaged students, which serve a total of 30.7 million children nationally.

The NSBA website states for every $1 million of federal aid a district receives, it would lose $82,000 and on average, for every 5,000 students enrolled, districts would lose about $300,000 in aid.

Over the summer, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan addressed Congress on the possible impact of sequestration of fiscal year 2013 funds under the BCA.

Duncan told Congress the Congressional Budget Office estimated sequestration would require a 7.8 percent reduction in funding for non-defense discretionary programs which would be applied to funding available in fiscal year 2013. “This means that if sequestration occurs, states and school districts would have roughly the first half of (2013) to plan for the impact of reduced federal funding beginning in the 2013-2014 school year,” Duncan stated.

However, in New York, tax cap legislation and calculations done in Albany limit how much revenue districts can raise via property taxes, so it is unclear as to how districts might work around increased deficits in federal aid. Further, reductions in state aid have also impacted schools, and DiFonzo said Governor Andrew Cuomo’s budget initially suggested 3 percent of the budget may be allocated for school spending but the figure, while not final, has been lowered to 2 percent.

“As a district, it’s a good idea to support this resolution,” DiFonzo told the board.

A petition regarding school funding inequity was also discussed at the meeting. DiFonzo said he was contacted by Stephen Putnam, superintendent of Brasher Falls Central School, regarding a petition online to Governor Cuomo, the New York State Assembly, and the state Senate, asking to “remove the gap elimination adjustment. Remove the artificial low wealth floor in distributing foundation aid that severely penalizes the poorest districts.”

DiFonzo explained inequity of aid distribution is a problem in Fredonia because, “In a place like Long Island, they might have 1 percent of their district relying on aid, but here in Fredonia, we are at 42 percent. We got that down from 52 percent.”

DiFonzo said Putnam’s original goal for petition signatures was 3,000 signatures, but once that number was exceeded, a new goal of 7,500 was set. DiFonzo urged board members and others to sign the petition at signon.org/sign/governor-cuomo-address.

Ripley School Board approves two-year contract

December 12, 2012

By DAVID PRENATT – Special to the OBSERVER , The OBSERVER

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RIPLEY – The Ripley Central School District ratified a two-year contract with its teachers at a recent special meeting.

The board and the Ripley Education Association agreed on a contract that includes approximately a 3 percent increase in salaries for teachers each year, said school superintendent Karen Krause. The contract covers a time period from July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2014.

In the first year, teachers will receive an incremental raise depending on their position and experience. Salaries will include raises ranging from 2 to 4 percent. All other salaries, such as coaches and bus drivers, are frozen for this year, Krause said. The second year, teacher salaries will see a flat increase of 3 percent.

“We know times are tough and we wanted to be fair to the taxpayer and the teachers,” Krause said. “In a few years we will know better what is going to happen in the economic climate.”

Krause said the issue of job security was not discussed. Ripley is currently considering the possibility of tuitioning students to Chautauqua Lake Central School in the future, which would result in a loss of teacher positions at Ripley.

“There is nothing in writing about job security,” Krause said. “We can’t guarantee jobs in light of what’s going in our area and in the economy.”

In other business, the board rescinded a contract with Eagle Radio Technologies of Jamestown to replace and update the district’s radio equipment to comply with a Federal Communication Committee mandate. The board will pursue another contract with the same company for the equipment.

The district also announced it has completed the state-mandated Annual Professional Performance Review.

A Passing Grade

Audit Shows WACS Finances Are Good; Inventory, Cafeteria In Need Of Improvement

December 12, 2012 By Diane R. Chodan (editorial@post-journal.com) Save | Post a comment |

WESTFIELD – Westfield Academy and Central School’s finances are in good shape, according to a recent audit.

Michael Corey, a certified public accountant, presented the audit during a recent school board meeting.

“The books are in good shape,” he said.

Corey complimented Alan Holbrook, business manager and district clerk, for the job he does.

Corey said the assets for the district are decreasing. He gave several reasons: capital depreciation over time, decreases in state aid and the district using its assets to pay off its debts.

While there were no serious faults, there is room for improvement.

“A physical inventory should be done more often,” Corey said.

He also noted the school lunch program was running a small deficit.

“I appreciate the report was positive,” said Jeffrey Graebell, board president.

The board adopted a resolution to accept the 2011-12 audit as prepared.

During the public comment section of the meeting, former board member Mark Winslow said, “I am disappointed the internal audit wasn’t done on time. I said it for a number of years while I was on the board and I will say it again.”

After the meeting Winslow said many school districts do not get their audits done on time and that it has no consequence on awarding of state aid. He still felt it should be done by Oct. 15, the date specified by the state Education Department.

During his report, David Davison, district superintendent, thanked board member Steve Cockram and Winslow for their work reviewing the policy manual and hoped the manual will be available for the next board meeting.

He also said that information about the consolidation study is available on the website.

“We want to make it as user-friendly as possible,” he said.

In addition, Westfield and Brocton are working together to see that sites are presenting consistent information. Davison urged anyone who had questions about the consolidation study to contact him through the website or at the district office.

District faces harsh reality

December 9, 2012

The OBSERVER

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It must be getting serious in Ripley. The smallest of the 18 county school districts – about 320 students – is continuing to explore the option of tuitioning students in grades seven to 12 to Chautauqua Lake Central.

Obviously, this is an emotional issue for students, school board members and teachers. How else do you provide some 170 students with improved educational access? When it comes to Ripley, it is almost to a point when it is no longer a “bare bones” educational curriculum. It is almost bare.

But traditions are hard habits to break, and that is when it becomes personal.

“We have poured our heart and our soul into every one of our students and we are told that we are not giving the students a good education,” one teacher said at a recent school board meeting. “This is very hurtful.”

It may be “hurtful,” but it also is reality.

School educators, it must be noted, are not the problem when it comes to the lack of opportunities being offered in the district. When only 320 students attend a district that costs more than $8.5 million for a dwindling number of taxpayers to maintain, there is going to be a shortage of extracurricular activities and educational programming when compared to almost any other district.

But teachers are a part of the problem when you look at total compensation costs. As the district has shrunk, educator salaries and benefits in the district with one of the highest free and reduced lunch programs – 65 percent – have continued to climb.

Upping taxes annually in a town where there is no true economic engine will not bring prosperity, thus the low enrollment figure and high number participating in lunch programs.

Ripley has a strong history of wrestling and girls basketball programs. But it does not pack a punch when it comes to academic offerings.

Merging, for now, is not an option. A tuitioning plan will soon be on the table for district voters.

It needs to move forward. If not for the students of today, then definitely for the decreased number of students in the future.

JCC To Screen Film On Fracking

December 9, 2012

The Post-Journal

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Filmmaker Jon Bowermaster will introduce the screening of his film, “Dear Governor Cuomo,” at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Carnahan Center Theatre at Jamestown Community College.

The event, free and open to the public, is sponsored by the college program committee of JCC’s Faculty Student Association. Bowermaster will be available for questions after the screening.

“Dear Governor Cuomo” documents the activity of New Yorkers Against Fracking, a diverse coalition of citizens, musicians, and scientists fighting for a state ban of hydrofracking, and highlights their advocacy at the state Capitol.

The film was written and directed by Bowermaster, a noted oceans expert, filmmaker, journalist, author, and six-time National Geographic Expeditions Council grant recipient.

“Dear Governor Cuomo” includes concert footage directed by Academy Award-winning director Alex Gibney and features biologist Sandra Steingraber, actor Mark Ruffalo, actress Melissa Leo, and musicians Natalie Merchant, Joan Osborne, Citizen Cope, Medeski Martin, and Wood and The Felice Brothers.

Regents Board Finalizes Aid Proposal

December 9, 2012

By Gavin Paterniti (gpaterniti@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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Later this week, the New York State Education Department’s Board of Regents will be submitting for approval its final state aid proposal for the upcoming 2013-14 school year.

The final proposal is being developed from elements of the Regents’ conceptual proposal, which was presented in November. The state aid proposal is intended to address the issue of providing quality educational equality in the midst of an economic recession by suggesting modifications to the existing funding structure in support of a productive and efficient system.

The proposal cites many problems facing school districts as consequences of the recession of 2008. The Board of Regents say that in 2007, the state had enacted a new Foundation Aid formula which would consolidate approximately 30 categories of aid into a single formula and provide a more equitable approach to distributing state aid. More than $5 billion in new operating aid was to be phased in over a four-year period.

After the economic collapse in late 2008, increases in the Foundation Aid were frozen and enacted state budgets further reduced state funding through gap elimination adjustments. These adjustments were alleviated through funds provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, but now those funds have been exhausted as well. This resulted in levels of state support for public schools in the 2012-13 school year being lower than in the 2008-09 school year, as well as Foundation Aid being $5.5 billion below its full implementation target.

As a result of reduced state and local funding, school districts have lowered the rate of spending increases. However, the rate of increasing costs such as district contributions for employee health care, retirement costs and energy utilization are challenging to the districts’ efforts to maintain a balanced budget. Studies show that districts are using increasing amounts of their unrestricted surplus, or fund balance, to cover these costs, with an overall fund balance decrease of 55 percent between the 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years.

In an attempt to rebound from this downward spiral, a process that is projected to take at least a decade, the Board of Regents has made recommendations for improving student learning in these fiscally challenging times. The Board places a large importance on prioritizing support for school districts with the greatest need and the least local fiscal resources through a Foundation Aid construct and a modification to the gap elimination adjustment.

Other strategies put forth in the proposal include: adjusting the Personal Income Growth Index, encouraging multi-year fiscal planning, investing in a consistent statewide universal pre-kindergarten program, incentivizing the merging of school districts to counter the issue of declining enrollment throughout most of the state, instituting reforms to building aid and pupil transportation, promoting mandate relief and promoting flexibility relating to curriculum, transportation, educational management services and containing special education costs while protecting educational opportunities.

The 2013-14 Regents state aid conceptual proposal will be submitted for approval before Board of Regents at its meetings Monday and Tuesday.

SUNY Fredonia indicates support for diversity in Campus Climate Index

December 5, 2012

The OBSERVER

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“Reaping the Harvest of Reaching OUT to SUNY,” a 2012 grant initiative conducted at SUNY Fredonia, has achieved several of its goals of gathering information and developing initiatives to promote awareness related to diversity in LGBTQ issues.

Funding for the 2012 effort was $10,000, which included $5,000 from the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs, matched by an anonymous donor through the Fredonia College Foundation.

Leading the year’s efforts are Dr. Jennifer Dyck of the Department of Psychology, and Julie Bezek of Fredonia’s Counseling Center, along with Center for Multicultural Affairs graduate assistant Carolyn Laurenzi, student and web developer Erica Nelson, and departments of history and English adjunct instructor Jeff Iovannone. Former faculty member and assistant dean Dr. Ingrid Johnston-Robledo originally headed the grant team.

Projects slated for the grant included conducting research for the Campus Climate Index, a national ranking system of colleges and universities indicating how LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer)-friendly a campus is by focusing on categories including Student Life, Academic Life, Policy and Inclusion, Residence Life, Campus Safety, Recruitment and Retention, Support and Institutional Commitment, and Counseling and Health. Laurenzi and student and Pride Alliance President Tyler Williams interviewed campus administration and staff to collect information for participation in the index. Following submission of the data to Campus Pride, a non-profit organization administering the climate index, SUNY Fredonia received an overall score of 3.5 out of 5 stars, which Dr. Dyck noted is better than average for a university of Fredonia’s size and geographic location. It also provides a starting point for discussion of enhancement of services and outreach to LGBTQ students and the campus community.

Essentially an assessment tool, Dr. Dyck and Bezek noted that the Campus Climate Index rankings in each category, available on the Campus Pride website at www.campuspride.org/, are valuable not only to the campus community, but to potential students, faculty and staff, who are looking for LGBTQ-friendly campuses in their college and career paths.

Also developed as part of the grant is a conference call informational session slated for Dec. 19 with members of the State University of New York College Admissions Professionals (SUNYCAP), the statewide organization of offices of admissions, and a “Reaching OUT” website with links for Safe Zone information for faculty and professional staff. The Safe Zone Committee, chaired by Bezek, provides the campus community with education and training to promote the understanding of issues affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender/transsexual individuals. It also provides Safe Space training with the goal of providing a welcoming environment on campus for these individuals by establishing an identifiable network of supportive persons within the campus community. Safe Space training, another goal of the grant, was held earlier this month and will be offered again during the spring semester for students, faculty and staff. For information on future training dates and registration, visit www.fredonia.edu/safezone/training.asp.

A future goal of the “Reaping the Harvest” group will be to encourage and gain financial support from the administration for the inclusion of more gender studies into the curriculum with the hopes of incorporating the courses into a Gender and Sexualities minor under the existing Women’s and Gender Studies.

The grant project extends the goals of a 2011 grant to Fredonia through former faculty member Dr. Beez Schell from what is now called the SUNY Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, called “Reaching OUT to SUNY,” which included a statewide summer institute held at SUNY Fredonia in June 2011 to discuss LGBTQ issues and strategies.

5 states to increase class time in some schools

December 3, 2012 Associated Press Save |

JOSH LEDERMAN, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Open your notebooks and sharpen your pencils. School for thousands of public school students is about to get quite a bit longer.

Five states were to announce Monday that they will add at least 300 hours of learning time to the calendar in some schools starting in 2013. Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Tennessee will take part in the initiative, which is intended to boost student achievement and make U.S. schools more competitive on a global level.

The three-year pilot program will affect almost 20,000 students in 40 schools, with long-term hopes of expanding the program to include additional schools — especially those that serve low-income communities. Schools, working in concert with districts, parents and teachers, will decide whether to make the school day longer, add more days to the school year or both.

A mix of federal, state and district funds will cover the costs of expanded learning time, with the Ford Foundation and the National Center on Time & Learning also chipping in resources. In Massachusetts, the program builds on the state’s existing expanded-learning program. In Connecticut, Gov. Dannel Malloy is hailing it as a natural outgrowth of an education reform law the state passed in May that included about $100 million in new funding, much of it to help the neediest schools.

Spending more time in the classroom, education officials said, will give students access to a more well-rounded curriculum that includes arts and music, individualized help for students who fall behind and opportunities to reinforce critical math and science skills.

“Whether educators have more time to enrich instruction or students have more time to learn how to play an instrument and write computer code, adding meaningful in-school hours is a critical investment that better prepares children to be successful in the 21st century,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement.

The project comes as educators across the U.S. struggle to identify the best ways to strengthen a public education system that many fear has fallen behind other nations. Student testing, teacher evaluations, charter schools and voucher programs join longer school days on the list of reforms that have been put forward with varying degrees of success.

The report from the center, which advocates for extending instruction time, cites research suggesting students who spend more hours learning perform better. One such study, from Harvard economist Roland Fryer, argues that of all the factors affecting educational outcomes, two are the best predictors of success: intensive tutoring and adding at least 300 hours to the standard school calendar.

More classroom time has long been a priority for Duncan, who warned a congressional committee in May 2009 — just months after becoming education secretary — that American students were at a disadvantage compared to their peers in India and China. That same year, he suggested schools should be open six or seven days per week and should run 11 or 12 months out of the year.

But not everyone agrees that shorter school days are to blame. A report last year from the National School Boards Association’s Center for Public Education disputed the notion that American schools have fallen behind in classroom time, pointing out that students in high-performing countries like South Korea, Finland and Japan actually spend less time in school than most U.S. students.

The broader push to extend classroom time could also run up against concerns from teachers unions. Longer school days became a major sticking point in a seven-day teachers strike in September in Chicago. Mayor Rahm Emanuel eventually won an extension of the school day but paid the price in other concessions granted to teachers.

Just over 1,000 U.S. schools already operate on expanded schedules, an increase of 53 percent over 2009, according to a report being released Monday in connection with the announcement by the National Center on Time & Learning. The nonprofit group said more schools should follow suit but stressed that expanded learning time isn’t the right strategy for every school.

Some of the funds required to add 300 or more hours to the school calendar will come from shifting resources from existing federal programs, making use of the flexibility granted by waivers to No Child Left Behind. All five states taking part in the initiative have received waivers from the Education Department.

___

Reach Josh Lederman on Twitter at http://twitter.com/joshledermanAP

Coming clean on flawed vote

December 3, 2012  The OBSERVER Save | Comments (5) | Post a comment |

Three years later, Brocton Central Schools is willing to address the chaos and disorder from a past straw vote to consider the next step in talks for a potential merger.

It is about time.

Anyone with a clear, unbiased recollection of the vote that day in the district remembers how rigged it was. Confusion reigned, identification was not always necessary and there were even reports of students – not yet age 18 – being allowed in the voting booths.

At a Board of Education meeting last month, member Dave Hazelton said he has been contacted by a resident about future voting procedures because the 2009 edition was such a fiasco. Hazelton, a board member then, admitted when 1,351 district residents cast votes in 2009 that there was no identification mechanism used.

How convenient for those anti-merger residents.

Was the election rigged? We will never know for sure since those running the polls in Brocton were so lax. But if more than 1,800 residents voted in Fredonia – and had to present identification – and 1,351 residents – with non-residents as well – voting in Brocton, there was definitely an issue of impropriety.

Was it illegal. Yes. Did the board know? Apparently so.

Final outcome: a tainted vote and plenty of money still being spent on running a district and more merger studies.

Meeting attracts interest in Ripley

December 3, 2012

By DAVID PRENATT – OBSERVER Correspondent , The OBSERVER

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RIPLEY – Nearly 50 parents, students and residents attended a recent meeting of the Ripley Central School District Board of Education to ask questions and voice concerns regarding the possibility that students might be tuitioned to Chautauqua Lake Central School District next year.

Administrators at Ripley have been examining a proposal to send students in grades seven through 12 to Chautauqua Lake since August, when a parent-led group petitioned the board to seek a public referendum vote on the matter. The vote is expected to take place in mid-February, according to Ripley Superintendent Karen Krause.

The district has discussed the matter with Chautauqua Lake, BOCES II and financial advisers, said school business administrator Louann Bahgat.

Article Photos

OBSERVER Photo by David Prenatt
Ripley Central School junior Allison Fischer demonstrates a point to the Board of Education.

“The determining factor will be the effect it would have on the tax base and the taxpayer,” she said. “We are trying to figure out if we send grades seven through 12 elsewhere, how much we can afford to pay so that it does not negatively affect our tax base. It’s not an easy process to develop. … We just can’t come up with a number and say let’s go with that.”

Ripley’s enrollment has declined steadily in recent years, forcing it to look at other options to continue to survive.

The possibility to form a regional high school with Brocton, Westfield and Chautauqua was dashed when the New York State Assembly failed to vote on the necessary legislation before its regular session closed in June. Ripley has approximately 130 students in grades seven through 12. Six of these currently attend Chautauqua Lake as part of a pilot program.

Before taking public comments, board president Robert Bentley stressed nothing has been decided.

“The board is not moving anywhere on tuitioning at this point. … The vote is what’s going to take us forward,” he said. “This board looks at this as an opportunity for this community. It also looks at it as a responsibility to the students to provide a better way of educating them.”

Those who attended Thursday’s meeting raised several concerns. Christine Houle asked if the board had considered sending all of Ripley’s students and closing the school completely. She noted she wants to keep the school open, but wonders if the district could afford to send grades seven through 12 to Chautauqua and still afford to keep the building open.

Bentley answered there has been no discussion of sending students in kindergarten through sixth grade.

“We want to keep the little kids at home,” he said.

Several parents expressed concerns the study was taking too long and wanted to know how soon a vote could be taken.

“What is the next step, how soon can that happen and what can we as parents do to expedite it,” David Adam asked.

Krause answered the district hopes to have the financial information gathered and reviewed by auditors in January.

“All taxpayers need to vote,” she said. “We need to know how it will affect each tax payer.”

David Hart also expressed frustration that the process was moving too slowly.

“Where is the cut-off point when you say it’s no longer financially feasible to run this school,” he asked. “In the future I see this school shrinking and shrinking.”

Bentley stressed this is a process that takes, “patience and participation.” He noted the district has looked into several mergers and annexations in the past two decades only to have those possibilities remain unrealized.

“It can be frustrating, but we need to go through the process to let the community know what it needs to know,” Bentley said.

Ripley junior Allison Fischer asked if the board had polled the students to see how they felt.

“I know dozens of kids who do not want to go to Chautauqua Lake and would rather go to Sherman,” she said.

Bentley answered the district has not polled the students, but they have met with administrators from Sherman Central School District and they are not offering to receive students at this time. Furthermore, the district would end up paying more if students could choose the school they want to attend.

“I don’t believe we want to entertain the idea of splitting the kids up as we would get into comparing educational opportunities,” he said. “There is a lot more bargaining power with sending 130 students than 60 or 70.”

Ripley science teacher Jeremy Wilson responded he felt the students deserved to have their voice heard.

“Our seventh through 12th grade students are not dumb, they are just young. … They ought to have the question put to them, ‘Where do they want to go?’.”

Ripley teacher Rhonda Thompson stated she was not in favor of tuitioning students.

“We have poured our heart and our soul into every one of our students and we are told that we are not giving the students a good education,” she said. “This is very hurtful.”

Bentley replied the board is in complete support of Ripley’s teachers and has publicly stated this support several times. He noted he fought for a merger with Westfield that would have saved the teachers’ jobs.

“I am a fan of the teachers,” he said.

Ripley resident Wanda Bentley asked how long of a bus ride the students would be facing and how could the board guarantee a tax break for Ripley residents if students are tuitioned to Chautauqua. Krause answered the ride could take up to an hour, and a tax break could not be guaranteed until all the numbers were worked out.

Wendy Graham emphasized that, no matter what one’s position on tuitioning, everyone need to realize they are on the same side.

“I want everybody to remember there isn’t any one here or in this district that doesn’t want what’s best for our kids,” she said.

In other business:

The board approved a contract with Eagle Radio Technologies of Jamestown to replace and update the district’s radio equipment to comply with a Federal Communications Committee mandate. The mandate requires all private land mobile licensees switch to narrow band technologies.

Rhonda Nelson, Ripley’s head bus driver, told the board the mandate would require the district to purchase a new base station, new controls and new or re-programmed hand-held radios for its buses. The transition will cost the district $12,959, which will come from the undesignated fund balance. If the district fails to comply by Jan. 1, 2013, it could be fined anywhere from $16,000 to $112,500.

School reduced as taxes increased

November 29, 2012  The OBSERVER Save | Comments (35) | Post a comment |

By JAMES WALTER

This is an open letter to all Brocton-Portland school taxpayers:

In rebuttal to what some newspaper letters and articles have stated by the school board, here is a copy of the school budget numbers over four years. This was mailed to everyone on May 15.

In 2009-10, the budget was $14.79 million with state aid being $10.18 million. The local amount to be raised was $4.6 million.

In 2012-13, the budget was $14.71 million with state aid being $10.31 million. The local amount to be raised was $4.39 million.

When you take out the state aid, you see the real local amount that the residents are paying in taxes.

For 2010-11, a contingency budget of $14.36 million raised district taxes by 13 percent. That same year, the layoff of nine teachers took $200,000 off of the budget, plus another $200,000 less from the state. That totals a $400,000. But the district still had a tax increase.

For 2011-12, we are paying for teachers who don’t exist anymore as the total budget increased $450,000 – to $14.71 million – in one year.

Some other questions taxpayer must ask include:

Why are we paying $900,000 a year for an addition that was paid off four years ago?

Why are we paying $350,000 a year for a bus house that has been paid off for 20 years?

I’ve been trying for four years to get answers to these questions! Time and again I get shut off. Why?

James Walter is a Portland resident.

Local Schools Polishing APPRs

Deadline To Finalize Plans Is Jan. 17

December 2, 2012 By Gavin Paterniti (gpaterniti@post-journal.comSave | Comments (4) | Post a comment |

With a deadline of Jan. 17 looming on the horizon, area school districts are working to finalize the process of getting their Annual Professional Performance Review plans approved.

The majority of school districts in Chautauqua County and surrounding areas are still under review by the New York State Education Department to have their APPR plans approved and thus securing state aid for the following year. For those involved in the negotiations and submissions of these plans, the APPR process has been nothing short of taxing.

“We calculated that (the APPR process) would take one person working eight-hour days, with no breaks or holidays, a total of 18 weeks to do this on their own,” said Robert Breidenstein, superintendent of the Salamanca City Central School district.

The APPR plans have been compiled as part of a state mandate that requires an agreement between each district’s teachers’ union and principal’s union regarding a yearly evaluation process. The state mandate is rooted in the federal government’s Race to the Top program, which granted New York state with close to $700 million in funding.

Roughly half of the money is being allocated to individual school districts in order to implement the regents reform agenda and its distribution is performance-based. The Race to the Top program, first announced in 2009 by President Obama, is funded by the ED Recovery Act, which is part of the American Recovery and Investment Act of 2009.

Currently, eight school districts have successfully completed the APPR process including: Cattaraugus-Little Valley, Dunkirk, Fredonia, Frewsburg, Pine Valley, Randolph, Sherman and Silver Creek. The Frewsburg Central School district was the most recent to be added to this list, receiving an official seal of approval by the state Education Department on Friday morning.

Meanwhile, the remaining school districts are playing the waiting game. While all of the districts have made their original plan submission, some are waiting to hear feedback from the state Education Department and most are in the process of negotiating changes with their individual representatives. The concensus from those who have had feedback is that the finalization process is coming down largely to language and phrasing.

“Most of the issues have been semantics with very few concerns about the overall plan,” said Breidenstein.

“It’s almost to the point of being typos,” said Bert Lictus, superintendent of the Panama Central School district.

Fact Box

“We’ve had three phone conferences with our review team and are putting the finishing touches on our revisions as a result of those conversations.”

Deke Kathman, Jamestown Public Schools superintendent

“We’ve had three phone conferences with our review team and are putting the finishing touches on our revisions as a result of those conversations,” said Deke Kathman, superintendent of Jamestown Public Schools. “We have three pages of line items involving semantics and we had to add to our appendices, but there’s only one item requiring us to get back to (union) negotiations.”

The review process is being considered by most districts to be helpful, if a bit tedious.

“The state Education Department is being very cooperative in getting us to where we need to be so I’m confident we’ll have this done by (the deadline),” said David Davison, superintendent of Westfield Academy and Central School.

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Sherman Central School’s approved APPR plan

“(The APPR process) was a positive experience,” said Danielle O’Connor, superintendent at Frewsburg Central School. “The person I worked with was very helpful. They were wanting more detail with each submission but once I developed a collaborative relationship with the person following our plan, it went smoothly.”

The list of districts currently undergoing the review process with the state Education Department include: Bemus Point, Brocton, Chautauqua Lake, Falconer, Forestville, Jamestown, Panama, Salamanca and Westfield. Ripley Central School made its initial APPR submission earlier this week and is waiting to hear from the State Education Department.

The Cassadaga Valley, Clymer and Southwestern school districts were unavailable for comment.

An updated list of districts with approved APPR plans can be found on the state Education Department’s website at: usny.nysed.gov/rttt/teachers-leaders/plans/home.html. The website provides a link to each individual approved plan which includes a cover letter of congratulations from John B. King, Jr., the state Education Department commissioner.

Westfield Board of Education gets financial lesson

November 27, 2012

By DIANE R. CHODAN OBSERVER Staff Writer , The OBSERVER

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WESTFIELD – Business manager/district clerk Alan Holbrook tried to make understanding financial matters easier for the board of education.

Holbrook created documents he called a “cheat sheet” or an overview of financial information. He reviewed that with the board, explaining how the code numbers are used to identify different accounts. He also explained while at the last meeting the board heard from an external auditor, there are other audits the district does.

One is an internal audit, which includes risk assessment and an audit of a system that the audit committee chooses. In Westfield, there is also a claims auditor who looks at the payments that the district makes.

Holbrook told the board, “If you ever have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. If you want to come in so I can go over this with you, I can do that. Anyone who wants information should call. This is everyone’s budget and should be open, transparent, and understandable.”

Holbrook had also prepared information for the board concerning the reserve funds the district used or continues to use. Information includes how funds were established, maintained and (if applicable) closed out. He noted that Westfield is starting to “burn” its reserves and that will lead to fiscal concerns in the future. He told the board that the state has changed its outlook on reserves and feels districts should use them. He also explained some reserves can only be used for specific items.

Michelle Helms, a staff development specialist at Erie 2 BOCES, also had a presentation for the board. She explained to the board about local assessments and how these fit into the APPR (Annual Professional Performance Review). The local portion of the assessment accounts for 20 percent of the entire assessment.

“Assessments have to be valid, reliable, and rigorous,” she said. She explained that depending on the type of teacher, the methods of review will be different.

Another acronym that was introduced was SLO meaning student learning objective. These can be developed for the local assessments by individual teachers or by groups or teams. Another method of local assessment is a third party assessment.

Superintendent David Davison said, “In the end when we work through this (APPR) it will be a powerful tool for evaluation.”

Under new business, the board accepted the tax collector’s report for 2012-13. They also approved a number of personnel items:

Dana Williams was appointed a substitute groundskeeper for 2012-13 school year.

Nolan Swanson was approved as a volunteer assistant boys’ basketball coach.

An unpaid leave of absence from Dec. 17 through Feb. 8 was approved for Karen Swank, daily substitute teacher.

Colleen Myers was appointed a substitute cafeteria helper for the 2012-13 school year effective Nov. 27.

Laurie Stottele was approved as a substitute clerical worker, teaching assistant and teacher’s aid for the 2012-13 school year effective Nov. 27.

Brenda Paternosh received a probationary appointment as custodian effective Dec. 3.

Cassadaga Board To Examine Use Of Facilities

November 27, 2012

By Diane R. Chodan (editorial@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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SINCLAIRVILLE – The future of the Cassadaga Elementary School is in question.

The Cassadaga Valley Central School board voted to hold a “work session” to explore the use of the building at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 17, in the multi-purpose room at the middle/high school. The public is encouraged to attend.

At the September and October school board meetings, Scott Smith, district superintendent, reported the number of students in each building and the building capacity. At Monday’s meeting, Smith again reported the numbers of students. The district has experienced some loss since opening day in September.

“I continue to be very concerned with the under-utilization of the buildings. … At the Cassadaga Elementary School nine out of 24 classrooms are in use,” Smith said. “Under 30 percent is not effective use of the building.”

Putting it into a budgetary context, Smith noted the governor is recommending a 2.2 percent increase in state aid, but the contribution to the teacher retirement system is projected to increase by 4.66 percent. Smith had calculated if the increase in aid is applied to the retirement system, that would leave about $1,000. Health insurance is also projected to increase. Without adjustment the budget would show a $250,000 deficit.

Smith recommended before the board does any “heavy lifting” on the budget, it hold a work session, not a budget workshop, to discuss building utilization.

William Carlson moved to set up the work session and the board unanimously agreed.

Smith then asked the board members to let him know what information they thought was important to have before the session. He took notes as the board members came up with ideas.

Board member Jeanne Oag wanted to know what costs would remain if the building is no longer use.

“There would be costs to maintain it … costs we would be left with,” she said.

Other suggestions for research were: preliminary figures on savings, whether their were options to use part of the building as a revenue source, legal issues involved and what the district is allowed to do with the building.

Smith recognized that board members might think of other concerns, and asked them to let him know. The board will meet again Dec. 10.

Leadership on the outside

November 25, 2012

The OBSERVER

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When the shrinking Forestville Central Schools appointed Patrick Moses as its new secondary school principal, it followed an unfortunate and unwelcome trend.

In announcing the hiring, the school found a person who could be a community leader for a prominent, very well paid and compensated position. There is, however, one major problem. This person does not live in the district – or even the county.

Moses, right, a Lancaster resident, could still move into the area. If he does, he would be doing better than the previous Forestville superintendent, who lived in the Buffalo area during his tenure of leadership.

It turns out our county of 134,000 has so many school districts – 18 – that we are begging for leaders. We beg so much that we allow people in positions of community influence to not even live in the counties where they work.

What does this say about our schools? It says a couple of harsh things.

First, some of those non-residents who are hired for some of the highest-paying, compensated positions in our area seem to want no part of the Chautauqua County lifestyle. They are thrilled to be working here, moving up the educational ladder while earning our public dollars and spending them elsewhere.

Secondly, it says something that is even more alarming: these administrators do not have the confidence to send their own children to the tiny school districts they lead. Instead, they would rather keep them in suburban Buffalo schools where there are a plethora of educational opportunities in the program and course offerings as well as extracurricular activities.

The unsaid reality of this decision? The new leaders of these miniscule districts know their children will receive a better education elsewhere.

Think about that. Some of the highest paid people in our small communities, in a public position and they do not even live in the county where they work.

How does that benefit our area property owners? It does not – and taxes keep going up as we support schools that are on life support and another day closer to insolvency.

So while merger and consolidation suggestions for our small districts are often scoffed at by the “save our schools” crowd, those same residents accept an outsider’s decisions for its district.

Try figuring that one out.

Forestville did, however, celebrate a notable achievement. Its modified football team members joined with Silver Creek in an undefeated season.

If sports teams can be shared, we are certainly at a point where districts can share administrators. Especially those who are commited to living in this county while also being paid to work here.

Education Foundation Dontes To Parents As Teachers Program

November 23, 2012

The Post-Journal

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The Southwestern Schools Education Foundation has donated $1,000 to the Parents As Teachers program at Southwestern Central School.

Parents As Teachers is an international early childhood parent education and family support program serving families throughout pregnancy until their child enters first grade. The organization focuses on the formative years of a child’s development, by encouraging family involvement, including reading and writing, has proven to enhance the child’s performance assessment upon entering school. Periodic screenings also help to indentify early developmental delays for health, speech, vision and hearing problems that may require follow-up services or referrals.

“These types of programs are exactly what our foundation is for,” said Lori Radack, foundation president. “We felt this program was extremely valuable in making sure that our UPK children being school with the best possible chance for success. This program has been operating for four years and statistics are becoming available as the inaugural “class” of children begins school. These statistics prove very encouraging that this program is indeed a valuable tool and we wanted to assist in their funding to make sure they will continue to provide these benefits to our district’s children. ”

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The Southwestern Schools Education Foundation has donated $1,000 to the Parents As Teachers program at Southwestern Central School.

Parents As Teachers is part of the Jamestown Community Learning Council. Its primary funding source is a Chautauqua County Tapestry Grant, which has allowed the organization to branch out into school districts other than Jamestown and Southwestern was the first to benefit. The executive director of the Jamestown Community Learning Council is Rosary Kolivas and the Southwestern Home Visitor is Michele Hoden.

CVCS Reviews Clean Audit

November 23, 2012

By Diane R. Chodan (editorial@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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SINCLAIRVILLE – There are no issues with Cassadaga Valley Central School’s finances, according to a recently completed audit.

Wayne Rishell, an independent auditor from Buffamante Whipple, P.C., presented information to the board and the public about the three audit reports he prepared for the district. According to generally accepted accounting principles, Rishell said he could give a “clean unqualified opinion.” That is good news for the district because it means he has full faith and confidence in the numbers presented.

Rishell also audited special funds: IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Educational Act), the lunch program, and the education jobs fund. Rishell said that audits of those funds went well.

“There was nothing (adverse) that we needed to report,” he said.

During Rishell’s presentation, he showed a line graph tracking expenses and revenues over a number of years.

“If you don’t remember anything else, remember this graph,” he said. “The revenues and expenses matched very well. Administration is able to manage expenses well. This is not an easy job.”

The school board passed a motion to refinance bonds coming due in 2013 through 2015. The amount is not to exceed $2.4 million. Refinancing means the district will save about $46,408 on its debt service, according to Debra McAvoy, business manager.

During his report, Scott Smith, district superintendent, again spoke about use of the school buildings in the district. Cassadaga Elementary has a capacity of 510 students. Currently 97 are enrolled; 17 of whom are half day pre-kindergarten students. Sinclairville elementary has a capacity of 500. Currently 372 are enrolled; 30 of whom are half-day pre-kindergarten students. The middle/high school has a capacity of 800 students. Current enrollment is 588. The middle school (grades 6 through 8) has 235 students and the high school has 353.

In October, Smith was asked if the Sinclairville elementary building could absorb the students from Cassadaga. Smith said the building can handle the students from Cassadaga because of the number of half-day students.

No further comment was made by the board or the superintendent about the issue.

District advisory committee meets

November 23, 2012

By DIANE R.CHODAN , The OBSERVER

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BROCTON – Members of the district advisory committee for the possible merger of Brocton and Westfield schools were given a guided tour of the Brocton building and then settled down to meet in the Brocton cafeteria.

Ed Schober, lead architect for Sandberg Kessler Architecture & Engineering, and John Hertlein, superintendent of Brocton schools, conducted the tour. At this time, the district is working on a capital project approved by Brocton residents in February 2011.

Color-coded maps detailed the areas where contractors are making or plan to make renovations.

The committee viewed the mechanical/electrical upgrades going on in the halls. New wiring and insulation were clearly visible. The committee looked at classrooms which now have smart boards, refurbished computer labs, a new nurse’s suite nearly completed, libraries and two gymnasiums. The pool was not viewed because the electricity was off in the area. However, Schober told the group the pool is being deepened to permit diving and renovated to provide handicapped access. He also noted that the pool will no longer use chlorine but a salt-based substance.

When the committee members returned to the cafeteria to meet, the first order of business was to discuss what they had seen. Members were impressed with the cleanliness, bright space, athletic facilities, library, historical nature of the building and state-of-the-art facilities.

The group reviewed focus group input from students, senior citizens, agricultural group, and faculty and support staff. Those groups had been completed for both districts. Reports for other groups will be considered at upcoming meetings.

Marilyn Kurzawa, consultant for the Western New York Educational Service Council, which compiled the reports and conducted some of the focus groups, commented about the process.

“The attendance was not outstanding,” she said. “We were hoping more people would come than we had.”

She also commented on her favorable experiences with the student groups. In Brocton 51 students participated, while in Westfield 36 students did. Kurzawa said she was concerned about dealing with so many students at once.

“I have to comment on the exemplary student behavior and the candidness of the students.” she said.

She noted the two groups had many common responses. Members of both groups told her they already knew students from the other district so a merger is not that scary.

Students thought the merger would provide more opportunities in classes, sports and extracurricular activities.

Other topics looked at by the committee included enrollment projections, board make-up and budget vote history, technology and course comparisons, property tax, expenses per enrolled pupil, preliminary figures of reorganization incentive operating aid and building aid that would be available in the event of a merger, and a plan to get the information out to the community.

It was agreed a summary of the meeting would be placed on each school’s website. In addition, the members of the committee would post a link to that summary and possibly newspaper items on their own personal Facebook accounts so more people would be informed.

A committee member from each district will visit their respective public library to provide information about the links there. Another suggestion was to provide information to the Cable Access channel.

The Westfield district has scheduled a focus group Monday at 7 p.m. in the Auditorium at Westfield High School for parents of athletes and boosters. The meeting is open to the public.

On Nov. 29, a tour of the Westfield facility for Advisory Group members will be held at 5 p.m. At 6 p.m., the group will meet in the Large Group Instruction Room. On Dec. 11, a meeting of the advisory committee will be held at 6 p.m. in the cafeteria at Brocton. Advisory group meetings are open to the public.

Comments on this article may be directed to dchodan@observertoday.com

Brocton school board member criticizes state

November 16, 2012

By DIANE R. CHODAN OBSERVER Staff Writer , The OBSERVER

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BROCTON – Board member David Hazelton thinks the State of New York should pay interest to Brocton School District.

Business Executive Betty DeLand reported about tax collection which has been completed for the district. A total of $2,844,575.54 was collected. The unpaid amount of $419,794 will be sent to the county for collection, and $8,395 in interest and penalties will be added.

DeLand also explained that STAR monies in the amount of about 35,000 has been received from the state, but the district is due $1,135,215.

Article Photos

OBSERVER Photo by Diane R. Chodan
David Hazelton, board member asks that a letter be written concerning charging the state a penalty for paying the Brocton district late. Left to right: Linda Miller, district clerk; Sandra Olson, elementary principal, Hazelton, and Steve Smith, board member.

“It is ridiculous and we are being penalized,”said Hazelton. He said if taxpayers are penalized for not paying on time, the state should be penalized for not paying on time.

Superintendent John Hertlein said he would write a letter to state legislators even though it probably wouldn’t make a difference.

At this point District Clerk Linda Miller reported the Chautauqua County School Boards Association would be having its meeting on Nov. 29 and State Senator Catharine Young would be the speaker. Miller said that the board members could take the opportunity to talk to Young about the topic. Several board members as well as Hertlein will attend the meeting.

A number of policies were updated. Board member Susan Hardy reported, “This is mostly to bring the policies into line.”

Policies accepted after the first reading were: regular board meetings and rules, curriculum development resources and evaluation, internet safety/internet content filtering policy, credential options for students with disabilities, school bus safety program, and family and medical leave act. The policy on the use of surveillance cameras in the school district was referred for a second reading.

The board approved a resolution to dispose of surplus items. Teachers’ metal desks, two-drawer metal files, large metal storage cabinets, old broken brass French horns, wooden teachers’ desks, and an old steel sink, iMacs and an overhead projector. District residents can purchase these items for a cost approximating the scrap value.

Hertlein reported that the consolidation study focus group process is nearly complete and that the Advisory Committee will meet at the Brocton School at 5 p.m. on Nov. 20 for a tour and then meet at 6 p.m. This meeting is open to the public.

During his report, Hazelton said that a concerned citizen contacted him about the
election procedure that was followed during the last consolidation vote, pointing out that there was no identification mechanism. He said that if there is a straw vote it is eight months in the future. He said the districts should make sure the same policy is followed in both districts, and now was a good time to start thinking about it.

Hertlein said he would call David Davison, the superintendent of Westfield and check into the situation.

Comments on this article may be directed to dchodan@observertoday.com

More technology needed at Fredonia Central School

November 16, 2012 More technology in the classroom is the most common request Grants Management and Professional Development Director Joseph Reyda receives from teachers, and new state teaching standards make… more »»

Next meeting tonight

November 19, 2012

The OBSERVER

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Tyler Pett, a Brocton resident and a member of the District Advisory Committee to look into the consolidation of Brocton and Westfield school districts, takes notes at the community focus group meeting held for Brocton residents Wednesday evening. Pett, a graduate of SUNY Fredonia, has attended a number of focus group meetings to hear for himself what people are saying at the groups. About 25 people attended the meeting. That number included committee members from both districts. Westfield’s community focus group is scheduled today at 7 p.m. at the Westfield High School auditorium. All are invited to attend to give their input about the possible consolidation.

On Schedule

Exterior Construction At Persell Slated For Completion By Month’s End

November 17, 2012

By Gavin Paterniti (gpaterniti@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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The exterior construction project taking place at Persell Middle School is on schedule to be finished by the end of this month.

The project is one facet of the school’s capital improvement project that was voted on by the public two years ago. Construction began last week on the Baker Street side of the school and is anticipated to be finished by Nov. 30. Funding for the project comes largely through state aid due to Persell’s free and reduced lunch status as a district and the degree of improvement that the project will bring to the school. According to Phil Cammarata, principal of Persell, the benefits of having the project finished are numerous.

“It’s going to be a bus dropoff and student dropoff because the congestion on Hazeltine Street in the morning is just insane,” said Cammarata. “One of the things that was problematic for a lot of the kids is that the sixth grade, if they got dropped off on Hazeltine in the winter, would have to walk all the way around the building, and that’s chilly. Or if it was raining, the kids would get all wet and be tracking mud into the building. But now we’ll have sidewalks going all the way around the building, which will be nice.”

Article Photos

Pictured is work being done at the Baker Street entrance to Persell Middle School’s main parking lot. The exit is being converted into a one-way exit.
P-J photos by Gavin Paterniti

Above is the new student dropoff area on Baker Street.

In addition to building a new student dropoff on Baker Street, the construction project will also change the Baker Street parking lot entrance into a one-way exit, with the only parking lot entrance now being on Connecticut Avenue.

The other portion of the capital improvement project includes interior work, which will take place after school hours and over holiday breaks. According to Cammarata, the interior project involves hazardous materials that would pose a safety concern to students and staff at Persell.

“The other parts of the project can’t be done during the school year,” he said. “For example, there’s asbestos abatement that will have to happen and we’ve got some new walls being built in two different rooms. So there’s a lot of things that can’t be done because it would disturb the classroom setting. They’ll start prep work on a lot of the interior things during second shift, so they’ll be removing ceiling tiles and doing electrical wiring after school hours.”

Based on previous experience, Cammarata said the crews will come in around 4 p.m. and work until midnight, at which point they clean up before the start of classes the next morning.

The large portions of interior construction project such as walls and flooring will take place over Christmas and spring breaks as well as next summer.

Homeless Veterans Need Assistance

November 18, 2012

The Post-Journal

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To the Readers’ Forum:

The national, state and local elections are over. The TV ads are done and all of those running for office spent $6 billing to get elected.

Yet here in Chautauqua County, we have over 50 homeless vets and some of them have wives and children. There are over 350,000 homeless vets nationwide. The veterans their families are living in their cars, tents or any other shelter they can find.

If you took all the money spent on getting elected on every homeless veteran in the United States, that person would receive $18,000, which is enough to rent an apartment ($500 per month) for three years. Now I realize that rents are much different depending on where you live, but you get my idea.

Also, why not use our empty schools and office buildings to house the veterans and their families.

Let us all help our homeless vets when we can. The Chautauqua County VA office can be reached at 661-8255. The VA office helps those that they know about.

If you know a homeless veteran, give them a call and if you want to help, ask them how you can.

From this Vietnam vet, thank you to all vets past and present.

Neville Messinger

1st Vice Commander

Herman Kent Post 777 American Legion

Ashville

Teacher salaries continue climb, report says

November 13, 2012

The OBSERVER

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The average salary of a Western New York teacher is more than $45,000, according to a report issued by the Empire Center for New York State Policy.

The report, released this morning, shows the average salary in the region increased about $1,000 from 2011. The state average is $55,000.

But salaries here are nowhere close to what is being offered downstate. Long Island schools had the highest average pay by region at $73,949.

The Mohawk Valley has the lowest average pay at $36,394.

Seven regions average pay increased over the four-year period while only the Capital Region and Mohawk Valley have decreased average pay over that period, which includes the worst period of the recession.

For the third consecutive year, Scarsdale School District had the highest average educator pay at $115,659. Scarsdale was followed by Bronxville, Jericho and Byram Hills, all of which reported average educator salaries above $100,000. The averages in many cases are depressed by the inclusion on the list of numerous substitute teachers and part-timers whose reported salaries came to only a few thousand dollars per year.

According to the data, the highest paid school employee was Dr. William Johnson, superintendent of the Rockville Centre Union Free School District, who was paid $567,248. According to recent news reports, that sum includes access to a lump sum “bonus.”

The salaries do not include additional benefits, including pension and health care plans, which would make the total average teacher compensation about $60,000 in Western New York.

Click on the link for all updated salaries included with this article for all updated salaries.

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Focusing on feasibility of centralization

November 12, 2012

By DIANE R. CHODAN – OBSERVER Staff Writer , The OBSERVER

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Thursday was a day to focus. Consultants from Western New York Educational Service Council presented information and asked questions of a number of people in connection with the feasibility study for centralizing the Brocton and Westfield school districts. Participants met based on what group represented them – senior citizens, students, parents and boosters, for example.

The essential question for the consultants to answer in their study is “Will creating a new school district via the merger process in New York state provide enhanced or maintained educational opportunities and at the same time increase long term efficiencies and lower costs for the taxpayers of both Brocton Central School District and Westfield Academy and Central School?” In other words, will a merger help the schools provide the students with a better selection of classes and extra-curricular activities (or at least prevent more cuts) while lowering operating costs and taxes?

The consultants had already conducted a number of focus groups in Westfield. The process is the same for all groups with the exception of students who are asked questions geared to their status and interests.

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Technological improvements

November 13, 2012

The OBSERVER

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OBSERVER Photo by Nicole Gugino

At the most recent Dunkirk Board of Education meeting technological improvements to the large group instruction room, where the meeting was held, were noted. Superintendent Gary Cerne said the improvements were a part of the district’s capital project, which make the room the “most advanced distance learning classroom in the county.” Pictured behind Cerne (left), Board President Kenneth Kozlowski (center) and board member David Damico are the new addition of a large flat screen TV and one of two cameras used for distance learning.

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Dunkirk school district students offered new opportunities

November 12, 2012

By NICOLE GUGINO – OBSERVER Assistant News Editor , The OBSERVER

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Dunkirk students will be offered several new opportunities in coming years.

One of these was announced at the recent board of education meeting. Superintendent Gary Cerne reported as part of the district’s capital projects, the shop classroom will be renovated to allow for welding to be offered for students.

He said the interest from students and demand from employers inspired the project.

“What we worked into the capital project was to revamp a lot of the woodworking areas with the dust collecting systems and things like that. In conversations with our technology teachers … they see a real demand the children to learn how to weld. It goes along with things we have talked about the past several months in getting kids career-ready. Not all of our children are going to go to college and we want them to be able to walk out into a career. From what I understand in the economy there is a demand for welders. If we can we can teach children to weld and they walk out into a nice job I think we’ve done a good job,” Cerne explained.

He added this goes along with the school’s partnership with Cummins to teach students to use CNC machines which is being worked out for the future.

The other opportunity approved at the board meeting is for several groups of students to travel to Europe in 2014. The board approved four trips: for 15 students and five chaperones in the German club to go to Germany, Switzerland and Austria in July 2014; for 10 students and four chaperones in the French club to go to Paris, the Riviera and Rome in April 2014; for 15 students and five chaperones to travel to France, London and Paris in July 2014; and for 15 students and five chaperones to travel to Spain in July 2014.

All trips were approved provided that Homeland Security does not issue any travel warnings at the time of the trip.

There is also no cost to the district for any of the trips. Cerne explained the board approved the trips so early because students receive a discount in booking and have ample time to fundraise.

The next board of education meeting will be Dec. 13.

Fundraiser to support anti-bullying campaign

November 14, 2012

The OBSERVER

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On Friday from 5 to 9 p.m., the Fredonia Masonic Hall will host The Runway to Hope Foundation and Project 15th anti-bullying campaign fundraiser. Organic stir fry take-out dinners, furnished by Nomad’s House, will be available for $5 per plate. The Runway to Hope Foundation provides free psychological support, legal aid, and statistical monitoring of school bullying. The annual cost per school is $1,500. Project 15th is a campaign which aims to offset costs to provide these services to the students of Fredonia and Forestville schools. For more information, visit www.hateisugly.com.

Transgender Day of Remembrance Memorial

Sat, November 17, 2012 @ 5:00PM

The Southern Tier Trans Network (STTN) and the Interweave Gay Straight Alliance of Jamestown Community College have announced they will be conducting a memorial commemorating the Transgender Day of Remembrance, 5:00pm, November 17, 2012 at the Lenna Theater (Hultquist Building) on the Jamestown Community College campus.

The Transgender Day of Remembrance is an annual commemoration of those transgender people who were murdered during the previous 12 months because of anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. It was first held in Boston in 1999, commemorating the violent death of Rita Hester, a local transgender woman. It has since become an international annual event.

The memorial will last about an hour with refreshments to be served afterward.

School board gets good audit, bad news

November 9, 2012

By NICOLE GUGINO OBSERVER Assistant News Editor , The OBSERVER

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The Dunkirk City School Board of Education received a clean audit and a warning about a tough budget season ahead at its meeting Thursday.

The board heard a presentation on the audit results from Tom Malecki of Drescher & Malecki LLP. Malecki explained the district’s revenues have been higher than the expenditures for the past several years, that the district has a stable fund balance, both appropriated in reserves and unappropriated under the 4 percent state requirement.

“The best thing that I heard during the audit report is that it is all highlights and that’s good to hear,” Board President and audit committee member Kenneth Kozlowski said.

However, Malecki ended with a warning about the budget climate for next year.

“Health care continues to increase at a rate above inflation at about 8 to 10 percent, the employee retirement system (ERS) is projected to increase at about 10 to 12 percent over the next year but the teacher retirement system (TRS) is going to have a big jump probably in the 30 to 40 percent range … and these are mandated charges. So while we are in a good position now, we have to be on the look out for these economic conditions,” he said.

The board approved the annual compliance audit unanimously with board member Amy Ahlstrom absent.

After the meeting Cerne said he is pleased with the audit report and thanked Business Administrator William Thiel for his hard work.

“In the six years we have been doing this this is the best audit we’ve ever had. The firm Drescher & Malecki has been very complimentary of what we’re doing. And the good news is our fund balance is solid and we are in a good financial state as a district. So, we are very, very pleased with the audit report,” Cerne said.

He said the district is aware of the increases in expenses and will start planning early to make the budget work.

“We’re about to get into budget development, Mr. Thiel and I have already made some guesses on where we need to be and as you know we have some pretty healthy reserves. It is going to be a difficult budget time because TRS rates are going up ERS rates are going up, health insurance is going up so a lot of the stuff you hear us say every year you will hear us say again. All these things that are outside our control are increasing at a rapid pace and we are going to have to find a way to make ends meet,” he explained.

He added the district does not expect additional state aid and will start planning for the budget after the winter break.

The board ended the meeting with an executive session to discuss contractual matters. It will meet again Dec. 13.

In other business:

The board approved the collection of unpaid taxes in the amount of $512,955 from the city of Dunkirk, $118,840 from the town of Dunkirk and $82,699 from the town of Sheridan. Thiel said these numbers are about normal for the district.

The board approved increases in salaries for pool employees.

The board appointed William Osinski as the girls’ modified basketball coach and the boys’ modified basketball assistant coach as well as Michelle Poweski as the girls’ modified basketball assistant coach, Bryan Westling as the boys’ varsity swim coach, Jack O’Brien as the unpaid boys’ jayvee and varsity basketball coach and Alisha White as the unpaid girls’ basketball coach.

The board sent condolences to the family of Catherine Wojcinski, who served the district as a teachers aide.

Ripley Board Reviews Audit

November 13, 2012

By Dave Prenatt (editorial@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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RIPLEY – An independent auditing firm has given the Ripley Central School District good marks for its financial management during the 2011-12 fiscal year.

Wayne Rischell of Buffamante Whipple Buttafaro, P.C., reviewed of the district’s external audit with school board members recently. The firm discovered “no weaknesses in internal control (how the school conducts business)” and “no instances where the administration was out of compliance with its reporting,” he said.

Rischell said Ripley has $13 million worth of assets, a decrease from $13.8 million the previous year. These are largely capital assets, such as buildings and grounds, and the decline is due largely to depreciation, he said. The district’s liabilities, which mostly involve bonds and loans, have also decreased from $8.7 million to $8.1 million. The reduction came about because the district was able to pay more than $600,000 of the principal of its loans. Another cause of the fluctuation in liability was changes in accounting rules regarding how post-retirement benefits can be projected, he said.

Rischell also commended the district for saving a projected $865,000 over the next 20 years by refinancing several of its bonds.

Rischell told the board overall revenue declined during the year from $9.3 million to $7.4 million due to decreasing population within the district and reductions in state aid. Revenue from Erie-2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES II decreased from $1.5 to $1.1 million. Overall expenses decreased from $8.3 to $7 million, he said.

Looking over the past five years, Rischell told the board the district’s surpluses have offset its deficits.

“Keep doing what you’re doing,” he said. “You, as a district, have been very progressive as a small school trying to meet the challenges of these times.”

Robert Bentley, board president, asked Rischell to explain the school’s fund balance and why members of the public may misinterpret it.

“I think there is a huge misconception that the district has more funds it can use,” Bentley said.

Rischell said the fund balance is like a savings account holding some money available for use and some money earmarked for particular uses. Ripley’s general fund stands at about $3 million, down from $3.3 million the year before, he said. Of this, about $2 million in cash is left over at the end of the year. This is the fund balance.

Most of that amount is earmarked for various reserve funds, however, Rischell said. When a person collects unemployment, for instance, the state bills the district dollar for dollar so the school has “appropriately and responsibly” set aside $600,000 as unemployment reserve, he said.

Other reserve accounts in the fund balance include: retirement reserve, $300,000; worker’s compensation, $200,000; capital needs for projected purchases, $170,000; employee benefit, $150,000; and tax certiorari when taxpayers challenge their property assessments, $150,000.

This leaves $540,000 to balance the budget and $280,000 left available for “what the board decides needs doing,” Rischell said.

Rischell also said the district’s food service budget contains a deficit, prompting the board to move $5,000 from the general fund to support it. Decreasing enrollment played a part in the deficit, but increased costs based on new state nutritional guidelines have also driven up costs, he said.

“What you’re experiencing in food service is what everyone is experiencing,” Rischell said.

The new guidelines call for more fresh vegetables and fruit as well as more healthy options. This has driven up costs, but driven down demand.

“What you’re dealing with is maybe a little more unique than other districts, but it’s basically the same problem,” Rischell said.

Financial matters dominate CVCS board meeting

November 7, 2012

By DIANE R. CHODAN – OBSERVER Staff Writer , The OBSERVER

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SINCLAIRVILLE – Finances were in the forefront of the most recent meeting of the Cassadaga Valley Central School District Board of Education.

Wayne Rishell, an independent auditor from Buffamante Whipple, P.C., presented information to the board and the public about the three audit reports he prepared for the district.

According to generally accepted accounting principles, Rishell said he could give a “clean unqualified opinion.” That is good news for the district because it means he has full faith and confidence in the numbers presented.

In the matter of internal controls, there was one matter that Rishell had to disclose. The auditors assist in the way reports are presented to the state. Most school districts follow the same procedure of having auditors assist with the report, but it still has to be mentioned.

Rishell also audited special funds: IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Educational Act), the lunch program, and the education jobs fund. Rishell said that this audit went well.

“There was nothing (adverse) that we needed to report,” he said.

During Rishell’s power point presentation, he showed a line graph tracking expenses and revenues over a number of years.

“If you don’t remember anything else, remember this graph,” he said. “The revenues and expenses matched very well. Administration is able to manage expenses well. This is not an easy job.”

The school board passed a motion authorizing the issuance of refunding bonds in an aggregate principal amount not to exceed $2,400,000. Essentially this means that bonds scheduled to come due in the years 2013 to 2015 will be refinanced.

The purpose of this is to realize some debt service savings. Business manager Debra McAvoy, in response to questions by school board members, said that the district would save about $46,408 by taking this action.

The board unanimously approved the resolution.

During his report, superintendent Scott Smith again spoke about use of the school buildings in the district. Cassadaga Elementary has a capacity of 510 students. Currently 97 are enrolled; 17 of whom are half day pre-kindergarten students.

Sinclairville elementary has a capacity of 500. Currently 372 are enrolled; 30 of whom are half-day pre-kindergarten students.

The middle/high school has a capacity of 800 students. Current enrollment is 588. The middle school (grades 6 through 8) has 235 students and the high school has 353.

Last month, Smith was asked if the Sinclairville elementary building could absorb the students from Cassadaga. Smith said the answer was yes and explained it was possible because of the number of half-day students.

No further comment was made by the board or the superintendent concerning any plans to deal with the situation.

Shared services spawn success

November 5, 2012

By SHIRLEY PULAWSKI – OBSERVER Staff Writer , The OBSERVER

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FORESTVILLE – Forestville students participated with the Silver Creek Boys’ Modified Football team this year. The result was an undefeated season.

At the Forestville School Board meeting, board President Sylvester Cleary expressed his happiness with result.

“This is a first for us,” he said of shared services with Silver Creek’s football team. “We’re really proud of these young men.”

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OBSERVER Photo by Shirley Pulawski
Forestville students participated in shared services with the Silver Creek Boys’ Modified Football program in an undefeated season and were congratulated at a recent meeting. Left to right: School Board President Sylvester Cleary, team members Eric Anders, Trent Hartloff, Brett Bushman, Matthew Newman, Kyle Goodrich, Austin Pierce. Missing are Hector Figueroa, Joseph Parisio Jr., and Jerrod Locke.

Cleary noted in addition to playing an undefeated season, the boys were expected to maintain good grades, keep a “can-do” attitude and good work ethic, and to share some of what they learned in Silver Creek with other Forestville students.

“We charge you with being Forestville’s Student Ambassadors,” he said. “This is a great opportunity for all of you to make your parents, teachers, staff, the entire Forestville District, and most importantly, yourselves, proud.”

Parents were also thanked by Superintendent Charles Leichner for their dedication to transporting the boys and the extra time spent helping the boys play and practice out of town.

Cake was served in celebration, and Cleary shook each of the boys hands. “I’m going to show you how to give a good handshake. You look the other person in the eye, smile just a little, and give a good, firm shake,” he said, before shaking each of their hands.

Sean Helmer, who is the Silver Creek athletic director and varsity football coach said, “The adults worried more about (playing at a different school) than the boys did. Once they started playing, they immediately became a real team. It didn’t matter what it said on the jersey.”

Cleary said more shared services are being discussed with Silver Creek. At the meeting a resolution passed to share Boys’ and Girls’ track.

“Because of limited funding in education, shared services will become increasingly more important as a creative means to provide educational opportunities that otherwise would not exist at Forestville,” he stated.

State School Boards Association Issues Report On Tax Cap

November 5, 2012

The Post-Journal

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School districts around the state should take note of four key lessons from the first year of the property tax cap, according to a new research brief by the New York State School Boards Association.

“As school districts begin community budget forums and planning sessions, now is an opportune time to reflect back and ask, ‘What can we learn from our first go-round with the cap?'” said Timothy G. Kremer, association executive director.

The report, entitled “Lessons from Year 1 of the Tax Levy Cap” identifies four takeaways from the first year of the cap. They are:

Less is more. Voters were one and a half times more likely to approve budgets with tax levy increases at or below the tax cap. Specifically, 99 percent of budgets at or below the cap were approved, compared to 60 percent passage rate of budgets exceeding the cap and requiring approval by a supermajority of voters.

Not all overrides are created equal. Districts that attempted to override their tax levy cap were more likely to succeed if they could show that their cap was caused by unusual circumstances and was overly restrictive.

Opposites attract. In general, voter turnout increased in districts seeking tax cap overrides and decreased in districts requiring only simple majorities. The tax cap did not result in an increase in overall voter turnout statewide – in fact, overall voter turnout decreased by 8.4 percent compared with 2011.

Higher means lower. There appears to be an inverse relationship between voter turnout and budget passage: the greater the turnout, the less likely the budget was to pass.

“Based on year one of the cap, the old adage that people vote with their pocketbook rings true,” Kremer said. “Whether quality public schools and the tax cap can peacefully coexist on a long-term basis remains to be seen.”

The research brief can be found at www.nyssba.org.

CLCS Gets Rave Reviews

Ripley Students Say Time At CLCS Is Positive

November 5, 2012

By David Prenatt (editorial@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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RIPLEY – Chautauqua Lake Central School is getting rave reviews from a group of Ripley Central School students.

The six Ripley freshmen taking part in a pilot program in which they take most of their classes at Chautauqua Lake Central School say their experience has been anywhere from “no problems” to “awesome.”

The freshmen discussed their experience with Ripley Central School Board of Education members recently.

“There is definitely a lot more opportunity there,” said Dax Spacht. “Where there is one door open at Ripley, there are five or six open there.”

She said she enjoyed meeting the people there and the classes are much more organized, but, “I don’t like the bus ride. I think they’re trying to torture me,” she said with a laugh, noting she is first on and last off of the bus, making it a 45-minute ride for her.

Olivia Adams also has to ride the bus for nearly 45 minutes, but, “I actually like it,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity. The classes are challenging, and the students there seem to know so much more than us. I would rather take math over there, but I like the hand bells at Ripley and they don’t have that.”

Amber McKenery told the board she was thrilled with her experience.

“I wish we could spend the whole day over there,” she said. “In the first week I got lost, but I found my way, and I really enjoy it. I like all the classes, the teachers are nice, and there is a lot of opportunities.”

Tanner McCutcheon said the teachers seem to really try to help the Ripley students fit in.

“It’s hard to get around, but they help you, and they understand that,” he said.

Tessa Mosier described her experience as “awesome,” and said she liked all of her classes there more than at Ripley.

“The freshman class is so big,” she said. “I’m not with the same people all day, every day. I have no complaint whatever.”

Kira Mellors attended the homecoming and said she finds the experience “challenging.”

“I love almost all of my classes there,” she said. “The teachers are great, and there is a lot of activities. It was hard with so many people. It was everyone’s first day, but when I asked for help, everyone was willing to help me.”

Annalise Mellors, who attended Chautauqua Lake last year on her own, returned there again this year.

“I love taking advance classes,” she said. “They challenge me more, and the classes are a little more organized and structured.”

The Ripley district is looking into the possibility of tuitioning students in seventh through 12th grades to Chautauqua Lake.

Acting In A Dignified Manner

Law Requires Schools To Document Bullying

November 4, 2012

By Gavin Paterniti (gpaterniti@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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Bullying is now being targeted by the state in a new legislative measure.

The most recent step taken in the fight against bullying is New York State’s Dignity for All Students Act. The Dignity Act was signed into law in 2010 and went into effect in all NYS public schools on July 1.

According to its official website, the Dignity Act seeks to provide the state’s public elementary and secondary school students with a safe and supportive environment free from discrimination, intimidation, taunting, harassment, and bullying on school property, a school bus and/or at a school function. According to Deke Kathman, superintendent of Jamestown Public Schools, the new legislation has had a minimal impact on JPS’ code of conduct.

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A young girl weeps during a memorial honoring teen Amanda Todd in Maple Ridge, B.C., Canada on Oct. 15. Todd, who was a victim of bullying, took her own life.
AP photo

“Our codes of conduct haven’t changed much as they covered about 98 percent of what Dignity brought forward,” said Kathman. “The main difference is that we’ve become much more detail-oriented in our recordkeeping of infractions. There have been some tweaks (to the code of conduct) and certainly a change in recordkeeping, but disciplinary procedures have not been overhauled.”

One requirement of the Dignity Act is that all schools provide detailed reports of all bullying and harassment incidents occurring throughout the year. These reports are looking at not only the quantity of incidents but where the incident occurred, whether on school property or at a school function, who the victims are and the nature of the incident such as: race, religion, gender or disability.

According to Kathman, Jamestown is moving forward with interventional processes to prevent bullying before it starts.

“We have an initiative called Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports,” Kathman said. “What that does is intervene before an incident occurs by teaching positive behaviors to accommodate and encourage a healthy atmosphere and dissuade harassment, discrimination and bullying. We have some schools who have formed committees around PBIS and some who are just becoming aware of it.”

Pete Morgante, superintendent of Pine Valley Central School, attests that the Dignity Act has reinforced the school’s stance against bullying.

“Even though Dignity has been in place for over a year, we’ve always been addressing the issues of bullying and name-calling,” said Morgante. “We have an anti-bullying program called Creating a Safe School, which has been serving grades K through 6 for the past four to five years.”

Now that the legislation is in effect, the Pine Valley district is looking at creating new preventative measures.

“Our discipline referral forms now include a bullying option to help us track incidents and increase our discipline,” said Morgante. “We’re also going to have an assembly to discuss other steps we can take such as having students dress up and give public service announcements, maybe have a day for students to wear purple and take a color-coded stance against bullying. We really want to keep mentioning it every month and keep it at the forefront of everyone’s mind.”

Students at Clymer Central School are also seeing the effects of the Dignity Act in the hallways and on school buses.

“We have fully implemented the Dignity Act into our bullying-prevention program,” said Ed Bailey, Clymer principal. “If anybody in the building, student or adult, is feeling like they are being threatened or bullied, they can grab a form from our website and turn it in to our coordinators, and then there will be a follow-up investigation.”

The PBIS initiative is also being implemented in Clymer. According to Scott Aikens, chairman of the PBIS committee, the target area of PBIS at Clymer is school buses.

“This October was National School Bus Safety month,” said Aikens. “We’ve tried to reinforce bus rules by actually going on the buses and talking to kids about proper and improper behaviors, with some demonstration involved. We also have a Pirate Pride committee, which encourages positive behaviors.”

Brocton Central School receives unqualified audit

November 2, 2012

By DIANE R. CHODAN OBSERVER Staff Writer , The OBSERVER

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BROCTON – The Brocton Board of Education was happy with the results of the district’s audit. The audit, performed by Bahgat & Laurito-Bahgat, was presented to the board by Louann Laurito-Bahgat, Certified Public Accountant, at its meeting on Thursday.

The unqualified audit opinion, also called a “clean” audit, means that the auditor believes that the school’s financial statements give a true picture of the district’s finances.

The auditor also looked at several federal programs to see whether the funds granted were spent in compliance with the grantor’s specifications. Here too Laurito-Bahgat found no problems.

She noted the district did not spend as much as budgeted in several categories such as central services, media and transportation that helped the district’s financial position.

The one suggestion the auditor had for the district dealt with computer accesses. The report stated, “The School Business Administrator/Treasurer, Central Business office staff, and other clerical staff currently have access to financial areas that could compromise internal controls. We recommend that the District review user’s accesses and put further restrictions in place to tighten the internal controls of the District.”

The District responded that it will review the computer accesses and modify the accesses as necessary.

Laurito-Bahgat carefully explained that this did not mean the district or its employees had done anything wrong. She also said that this type of finding is often found in a small district where employees have to do a variety of jobs.

Board member Susan Hardy said, “It is wonderful that we have an unqualified report.”

Superintendent John Hertlein thanked Betty DeLand, the School Business Executive/District Treasurer and her staff for the hard work.

Board member David Hazelton noted, “Control of expenditures didn’t just happen.” As an example, he cited the purchase of a van that allowed the district to provide transportation in-house instead of contracting out. This resulted in a cost savings to the district.

In another financial matter, Hertlein reported to the board that he had met with James Wolter and Larry Spicer. Wolter had questioned the finances of the district at a board meeting in September and providing copies of his figures to members of the public. Hertlein said the meeting went well, and he believed the two had a better understanding of the figures.

Comments on this article may be directed to dchodan@observertoday.com

Less free speech on campus

October 31, 2012

By STEPHEN KERSHNAR , The OBSERVER

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In higher education, state colleges and universities have a troubling tendency to restrict free speech far beyond what the Constitution allows or what is morally right. This is troubling because these institutions are central to the free market of ideas and to people freely shaping their own lives.

The right to free speech is the right that others refrain from interfering with you when you express your ideas. This right is crucial to the marketplace of ideas. The underlying notion here is that just as in a free market of goods, the best goods tend to win out, in a free market of ideas, the best ones tend to win out. Entries into the marketplace need not be intellectual treatises but can also include emotional appeals, art, and parodies.

In On Liberty (1859), philosopher John Stuart Mill argued that there are strong reasons to allow people to present and discuss disfavored views. First, such views are sometimes true or contain true ideas within them. Discussing them can bring out these truths. Second, even when such views are false, discussing them enables people to see why they are false and thereby gain a better understanding of what justifies their own views. On this theory, for example, by freely discussing the pros and cons of difficult issues (for example, Christianity, homosexuality, and promiscuity), people are more likely to have true ideas and to understand the basis for their own beliefs.

In addition to these benefits, more recent writers, such as Harvard University professor Tim Scanlon, have argued that people have more opportunity to shape their own lives when they are able to freely discuss ideas. Discussing ideas allows them to better decide what sort of people they want to be and how they should act. This is because they are better able to consider and assess different principles that might guide their lives.

Writing recently in The New York Times, Greg Lukianoff, the president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, noted that 65 percent of colleges had policies that violated the First Amendment’s right of free speech. He further noted a 2010 study by the American Association of Colleges and Universities that found that 19 percent of faculty and 36 percent of students strongly agreed that it was safe to hold unpopular positions on campus. Administrations are chilling controversial speech and the people who are best in the know (faculty) are ones most chilled. Lukianoff argues that this chilling has resulted from the dramatic expansion in the number of administrators and staff as well as the culture of political correctness that wants to suppress what it takes to be racially insensitive speech and sexual harassment.

SUNY Fredonia’s policies nicely illustrate the problem with its unconstitutional restrictions on free speech, although to be fair many other campuses provide just as good an illustration. The campus’ diversity policy prohibits “(Creating) a situation that results in the discomfort of, or harassment or excessive ridicule of a member of the college community.” This policy might be used to punish a faculty member, student, or visitor who argues that because the Bible condemns homosexuality, gay sex is wrong, if gay activists claim that this causes them discomfort. Similarly, someone who argues that because modern Muslim countries trample on liberty, keep women down, and engage in endless sectarian fighting, Islam is likely bad and false, if Muslim activist claim that it causes them excessive ridicule.

This restriction does not fit into an exception to the First Amendment protection of free speech. It is not narrowly targeted toward fighting words because these words must be directed at individuals and tend to provoke violence. Nor is it narrowly targeted toward obscenity because it is not narrowly targeted at sexually explicit speech. In addition, the Supreme Court has held that indecent speech (sexually explicit, tasteless, or offensive speech) is stringently protected on campuses. See Papish v. Board of Curators of the University of Missouri (1973).

This restriction is overbroad in that it can be used to punish constitutionally protected speech as well as unprotected fighting words and obscenity. It is also vague in that faculty and students have to guess as to when such a rule applies. Both features make a state campus policy unconstitutional. See, for example, Doe v. University of Michigan (1989).

SUNY Fredonia’s sexual harassment policy is also unconstitutional. It bans “(A)ny repeated or unwanted verbal or physical sexual advance, sexually explicit derogatory statement, or sexually discriminatory remark made by someone in the workplace or educational setting. … This behavior constitutes sexual harassment when … such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working or learning environment.” A faculty member might run afoul of this rule if he argues (as did former Harvard president Larry Summers) that due to parental duties or genetics, women will be underrepresented in science and this deeply offends women’s groups on campus. A student might get impaled on this rule if he argues that the current hookup culture makes too many college women unclean in the eyes of God and this deeply offends women’s groups who are famously thin skinned.

Sexual harassment codes on state campuses must satisfy the First Amendment and the standard is narrow. To be banned, the conduct must be so severe, pervasive, and objectionably offensive that it effectively bars the victim’s access to an educational opportunity or benefit. As the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education points out that, this standard, from Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education (1999), has been relied on by courts, colleges, and legal counsel for more than a decade. In addition, it is the standard adopted by the relevant part of the federal government (Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights). Fredonia and far too many other campuses have not adopted such a narrow ban even though courts have consistently shot down broader bans. See, for example, DeJohn v. Temple University (2008).

SUNY Fredonia’s internet policy bans content that is “vulgar, racist, sexist, homophobic ” This policy also wouldn’t survive constitutional challenge in part because vulgar is overbroad and vague and in part because in banning only some views (racist, sexist, and homophobic ones), the campus engages in viewpoint discrimination. Courts take a very harsh view of the state discriminating against certain viewpoints and this has been applied at the campus level (see, for example, Rosenberger v. University of Virginia (1995)). Other Fredonia policies, such as that requiring orderly and dignified expression, also run afoul of the yet other protections of free speech. The courts have given strong protection of parodies even when they are neither orderly nor dignified.

Justice Robert Jackson famously said that “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion.” State colleges and universities should protect free speech rather than allowing the orthodoxy of political correctness to constrict the marketplace of ideas.

Stephen Kershnar is a philosophy professor at Fredonia State University. Send comments to editorial@observertoday.com

SWCS Approves Performance Review; Awaits State Response

October 27, 2012

By Gavin Paterniti (gpaterniti@ post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal Save | Comments (2) | Post a comment

The administration staff at Southwestern Central School can sit back and relax, for now.

On Tuesday, the Board of Education approved the district’s teacher and principal Annual Professional Performance Review plans. Upon submission, the New York State Education Department will review the plans and respond to the district. The APPR plans were compiled as part of a state mandate that requires an agreement between the teachers’ union and the principal’s union regarding a yearly evaluation process.

The state mandate is rooted in the federal Race to the Top program, which granted New York state with close to $700 million in funds. Roughly half of the money has been allocated to individual school districts in order to implement the regents reform agenda and its distribution is performance-based.

The Race to the Top program, which was announced by President Obama on July 24, 2009, is funded by the ED Recovery Act as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. It has since received its fair share of criticism from several parties and the funding it provides to individual school districts has been described as minimal.

“We hope that the payoff from this process is going to make it all worthwhile,” said Daniel George, superintendent of schools. “I’m not convinced that it will. It’s going to be very difficult for the administrators in the future because we’re pretty small in terms of staffing and they’re going to have to devote a considerable amount of time to this APPR process.”

Southwestern, which is slated to receive $362,000, must have its APPR plan approved by the Education Department by Jan. 17. According to George, the submission of the plan is only the first step, as the approval process is very rigorous.

“In all likelihood (the state will) find a number of places where they think it doesn’t meet their standards,” said George. “Then they’ll tell us what we need to do to make it reach that. But then we’ll have to turn to the administrators and teachers again to negotiate those changes.”

In the interest of timeliness, the board also approved a motion that will allow James Butler, the president of the board, to approve the expected adjustments to the presented plans. This will prevent the board from needing to call special meetings and save countless amounts of time and money that would have been otherwise spent in negotiations.

On Wednesday, the APPR plans and the Memorandum of Agreement between the principal’s and teachers’ unions were submitted to the state Education Department. The review process is expected to take four to six weeks.

Sherman And Ripley Boards Discuss Continuation Of Joint Programs

October 27, 2012

By David Prenatt (editorial@post-journal.com) , Westfield Republican

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SHERMAN – School superintendents from Sherman and Ripley will continue to meet to discuss services and programs that can be “immediately shared,” Sherman Central School Board of Education members were told recently.

Kaine Kelly, Sherman superintendent, said he and Karen Krause, Ripley superintendent, met along with the presidents of both school boards and discussed everything from the history of the districts, enrollment, tuition, consolidation efforts and the issue of a regional high school.

“At the end of it, we all agreed it was a fruitful discussion,” Kelly said.

Ripley’s school district is considering options for its future, one of which may be sending students full-time to other districts. At Sherman’s September board meeting, Kelly promised to reach out to Ripley with an offer of assistance. Currently, the districts have an agreement in which Ripley students can play football as part of the Sherman team.

“We are going to look at services and programs that we can share immediately,” Kelly said.

In other Sherman school business, the board reviewed new policies for busing students in pre-kindergarten through sixth grades.

“We are trying to simplify things for teachers and drivers so we know what kids are on what bus,” Kelly said.

One change is buses will be identified with a symbol rather than a number, Kelly said. Students in pre-kindergarten through fourth grades will have a corresponding card attached to their backpacks in identification sleeves so drivers can easily identify who belongs on each bus.

Kelly said Sherman still allows parents to call and ask their child ride a different bus on a given day. In such an instance, the student would receive a pass for that day to go on that bus.

“We want to make it safe and seamless for everyone,” he said.

Students in pre-kindergarten through fourth grade will be walked to the bus by teachers, staff or aides, Kelly said. Also, a student in those grades will not be dropped off unless there is an adult visible to pick them up.

No bus will leave in the afternoon until attendance for pre-kindergarten through sixth grades is counted.

The board also discussed the use of the parent broadcast system. Members asked Kelly to look into customizing the broadcast so it can be used for reasons other than emergencies. When the broadcast system was first created, it was used only for emergencies, However, it became used for more and more announcements until several parents requested it be used less, so it was restored to emergency use only, Kelly said. Now, members of the community have requested it be used to disseminate information about school events.

Kelly suggested a biweekly message to update parents. The system can be customized to use only one phone or parents can opt out of it completely, except for emergency situations.

Kelly also reported the school safety committee will be reconvened to work out a complete overhaul of the school’s safety policies. Board members Brian Bates and Colleen Meeder will represent the board on that committee with Gary DeLellis as an alternate

The board also voted to create a ski and board club. About 20 students have signed up for the club, which will practice at Peek’n Peak resort.

New ‘insolvency’ threatens schools

October 26, 2012

By JOHN D’AGOSTINO – OBSERVER Publisher , The OBSERVER

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Call it a trickle-down effect. When U.S. Census population figures decrease as they have for the past three decades in Erie, Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties, ultimately fewer students are being served by area schools.

David O’Rourke, Erie-2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Board of Cooperative Educational Services superintendent, is well aware of those numbers. During a presentation this week to the Rotary Club of Dunkirk, O’Rourke noted that in the last five years, enrollment numbers have decreased by 7 percent for the 27 school districts his BOCES represents.

In 2008-09, O’Rourke said the student population of the districts, which begin in the Holland, Iroquois and Orchard Park and work west through Chautauqua County and the Pennsylvania border, was 44,802. This school year, that number had decreased by 3,200 students.

More alarming than the enrollment decrease is what the superintendent calls the “increasing gaps in academic opportunity.”

Most of those gaps, according to O’Rourke, come from a flawed funding system based out of Albany. “We provide an excellent quality of education in New York state, but the gap between ‘have communities’ and ‘have-not communities’ has become wider,” he said.

For the record, our county school districts are not included in the “haves.” Those districts, based on high wealth and property values, come from the metropolitan New York City suburbs. Even districts such as affluent Williamsville and Clarence in the Buffalo region are no match for the glitzy, high-rent districts of Long Island.

Add in an annual 2 percent state tax cap – as well growing salaries, benefits and pension plans at all schools – and you have a formula for fiscal headaches.

Those cash problems have forced districts to share more resources and to think about some sort of reorganization, whether it be in a regional high school or the joining of two districts. “Although there may be some savings in reorganization, the number one reason to consider reorganizing schools is to sustain and improve academic opportunities for children,” O’Rourke said.

But change does not come easy. Residents in small schools such as Ripley, who pay the highest tax rates to keep the county’s tiniest district open, grapple with the loss of an identity, questions over who will ultimately run the new school board and if their district may be dominated by its new, larger partner.

Those pride issues, however, are going to have to take a back seat as aid continues to dwindle and the courses and programs offered to students decrease.

“There are districts that are absolutely down to the bare minimum and really facing, because of revenue pressures, the possibility of a new concept … that’s academic insolvency where the school district is unable to even finance the basic programs for the children.”

Some area schools are not far from this “insolvency,” which adds to the urgency of reorganization plans for districts with less than 1,000 students.

“It has definitely been on the front burner in our region,” O’Rourke said. “It may not be as fast as some might like it, but it certainly has been happening.”

John D’Agostino is the OBSERVER publisher. Send comments to jdagostino@observertoday.com or call 366-3000, ext. 401.

Captain

Oct-26-12 10:17 AM

Agree | Disagree

“…There are districts that are absolutely down to the bare minimum…because of revenue pressures… (some) school districts are unable to finance basic programs for the children.” And why is this?

Look at what the avg cost per pupil is in this area and you’ll have the answer. Yes, student enrollments have declined as people leave, and state aid is less, but in the same respect, salaries continue to rise. Now the popular solution is to merge districts, allowing even higher salaries. Public Ed is pricing itself right out of business, yet school officials & BOE members will not accept any blame.

I just wish they would stop leveraging our kids as a tool to constantly drive up salaries.

1 Agrees | 0 Disagrees | Report Abuse »

DunkirkRFD

Oct-26-12   8:54 AM

Agree | Disagree

Our 18 county school districts all have vastly under utilized building space. If just the 16 rural districts were merged into one district and students placed in the most modern and centrally located buildings, over 1/3 of the buildings could be closed saving staff, maintenance and utility costs. We could have one superintendant with 4 assistants directly working in the schools and reporting to the superintendant.

School ‘insolvency’

In our neighborhood

October 26, 2012 – John D’Agostino

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A day of reckoning is facing area schools.

David O’Rourke, superintendent of the Erie-2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Board of Cooperative Educational Services, spoke to the Rotary Club of Dunkirk this week about a number of issues facing districts. At the top of the agenda was reorganization, distribution of aid and the struggle schools face to provide a basic education.

He also mentioned many times that his job is to support the 27-member districts in his BOCES.

Here is a portion of his speech — regarding mergers — and the “insolvency” issue. There is also a link, at right, to today’s Publisher’s notebook.

Blog Links

  • Audio from speech
  • Notebook

Brocton, Westfield merger group holds first meeting

October 19, 2012

By DIANE R. CHODAN OBSERVER Staff Writer , The OBSERVER

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WESTFIELD – The 24 members of the district advisory committee for the feasibility study for centralizing the Brocton and Westfield districts had their first meeting on Thursday in the large group instruction room at the Westfield Academy and Central School.

Each district selected 12 members for the committee, including two students. Consultants from Western New York Educational Service Council (WNYESC) lead the committee through a three-hour session.

The first order of business was an icebreaker, meant to help committee members learn about each other, so the group would act more effectively. Tom Schmidt asked each member to choose a partner, “preferably someone from the other district you do not know.”

Each committee member was given a binder with information. One item included was a tentative timeline prepared by the State Education Department Office of Management. This department has control of the dates. Other items included a guide to the reorganization of schools, names of committee members, ground rules for the way the committee members will work with each other, ground rules for the consultants’ work with the committee, and proposed focus groups.

Marilyn Kurzawa, a member of the consulting team, explained the purpose of the focus groups. “A focus group is a data collection tool,” she said.

The focus group pulls together a group of people who have similar interests. Examples of focus groups are senior citizens, students, faculty, support staff, community, fire departments and parents. In this area another group will be an agricultural group.

The committee members suggested other types of groups for consideration, and other times for meetings to reach out to more members of the community. The consultants will be finalizing the groups and the times for each meeting shortly.

The meetings of the advisory committee were set. The next meeting will be Nov. 20 at Brocton. The committee will walk through the school to learn about its facilities at 5 p.m. and then meet at 6 p.m.

On Nov. 29, the committee will return to Westfield with a walk through at 5 p.m. and a meeting at 6 p.m.

The Committee will meet on Dec. 11 at Brocton at 6 p.m.

All meetings are open to the public.

CLCS Board Of Education Talks Tax Cap, Regional High School

October 19, 2012

By Dave O’Connor (editorial@post-journal.com) , Westfield Republican

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MAYVILLE – During a focused discussion about future school district budgets, members of the Chautauqua Lake Central School Board of Education say the state’s 2 percent tax cap helps ensure voter approval.

“There’s just a weariness out there with taxes, especially in New York,” board Vice President Jay Baker said. “People out there just see all these taxes.”

“I would suggest we keep the tax cap,” board member Timothy Hill said.

He explained future budgets should be designed to strictly limit property tax increases at 2 percent or less.

As in previous sessions, members agreed the state Legislature must soon deal with consolidation among small, mostly rural school districts. Chautauqua Lake and other upstate school districts have expressed unhappiness with the state Assembly’s refusal earlier this year to even consider legislation for so-called regional schools.

Chautauqua Lake employs 84 teachers, 16 fewer than seven years ago. However, the district’s student population this September declined to less than 800 for the first time in the school’s history. Other local districts also have smaller student populations. Under a regional high school the idea is class sizes could be increased at little or no extra cost while taxpayers would be freed from the burden of fixed costs caused by too many schools serving too few students.

In other business the board approved presentation of the musical “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” but not without a discussion about Dorcas, the name of one of the brides’ names in the script.

Board member Michael Ludwig believes the name will be a “distraction” when the musical is presented March 8-9, 2013. Ludwig thinks the “dorc” in Dorcas will be an unintended laugh line.

Benjamin Spitzer, district superintendent, promised to look into it.

Workforce Investment Board Holds Series To Connect Schools With County Needs

October 17, 2012

By Liz Skoczylas (lskoczylas@ post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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Finding skilled workers with a good work ethic who will be on the job on a consistent basis is not as easy as it once was.

That was the consensus at the quarterly Workforce Investment Board conference Tuesday afternoon. The meeting was the third in a series aimed at connecting and aligning school systems with the needs of the workforce in Chautauqua County.

The first conference addressed developing the workforce business and industries in Chautauqua County need. The second in the series asked how to align Chautauqua County school systems with the needs of the economy.

Article Photos

Bill Daly, IDA administrative director, speaks during the quarterly Workforce Investment Board conference.
P-J photo by Liz Skoczylas

The conference had a panel discussion consisting of Bill Daly, IDA administrative director; Andrew Johnson, director of human resources for TitanX Engine Cooling; Todd Tranum, president and CEO of the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce; and Grant Umberger, director of the Center for Continuing Education at Jamestown Community College. Additionally, the conference allowed for a question and answer session with the people in attendance.

While each man spoke about their area of expertise, a common theme was unveiled.

“You go to all these good manufacturers around here, and you know what they want?” Daly asked. “They want someone with a brain, who will show up at 7 in the morning, understand that they will stay there until 3 that day, and every other day, unless it’s a vacation day or a holiday.”

Johnson, Tranum and Umberger each echoed the words of Daly, expressing how difficult it is to find skilled workers, with the understanding of work ethic.

“Doing the capital improvements, raising money, installing equipment frankly, that is the easy part,” Tranum said. “The hardest part has been the recruitment side.”

The group discussed different ways to address the issue, which is being felt all over. It talked about ways to encourage children to entertain the idea of working in a job fueled by science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Additionally, it spoke about how to encourage people who grew up in the area to return to or remain in the area to work as adults.

Benjamin Spitzer, superintendent of Chautauqua Lake Central School, spoke about the difficulty schools have, attempting to teach children the “soft skills” needed in the work place, on top of the state-mandated lessons.

“The soft skills, frankly, I think are hard skills to teach,” Spitzer said. “Those kids that come to school and have them, I think the way the education system works with those students, they can define and develop those skills. For the kids who don’t have those skills, it is a challenge and it is a challenge that requires time.”

Spitzer continued to say schools no longer have the amount time to teach those skills that they once did. He suggested working on a better partnership between manufacturing and public education, as well as rethinking what it means to be partners in those fields.

The Workforce Investment Board will continue to work on ways to address the issues brought up during the conference.

Commission Discusses Aid To Small City Schools

October 15, 2012

The Post-Journal

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UTICA – William Lynch, Fulton City School District superintendent and New York State Association of Small City School Districts president, testified at the Governor’s New York Education Reform Commission hearing recently at the Mohawk Valley Community College in Utica.

Lynch asked the commission to consider school funding reforms to correct the large student performance gap between poorer and wealthier districts. He named insufficient targeting of state aid as the most pressing issue in New York public education. Lynch stated that New York is ranked the 6th worst state in education funding equity and low performing schools spend nearly $2,000 per student less than schools designated as successful by the state education department.

Lynch said $5 billion in education aid cuts since 2010 have exacerbated the problem by disproportionately hurting districts with higher student need and lower community wealth. He noted that small city school districts rely on state aid for a greater proportion of their budgets and thus last year’s cuts took almost twice as much from these needier districts as from average wealth districts. Small city school districts as a result have had to make cuts to staff and programs.

Dr. Peggy Wozniak, Binghamton City School District superintendent, attended the August meeting with commission members and said for students attending higher need schools, addressing education reform without confronting funding issues ,”Would be like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.”

The commission, chaired by Richard Parsons, was created by the governor to review teacher performance, new technologies, mandate relief, parent involvement and possible efficiencies as ways of improving student performance without increasing spending.

The association represents school districts in the 57 small cities throughout the state, including Dunkirk, Jamestown and Salamanca, which serve more than 240,000 children and 20,000 teachers and staff. Small city school districts contain nearly 1.5 million residents and more than 60 percent of the urban students outside of New York City.

Silver Creek Central School to share another sport

October 11, 2012

By NICOLE GUGINO – OBSERVER Assistant News Editor , The OBSERVER

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SILVER CREEK – More and more small school districts are looking to save money and maintain programs by sharing with other districts. That is the case at Silver Creek Central School.

At Wednesday’s Board of Education meeting, a contract to share girls and boys track with Forestville was approved.

This is the fourth sport the district will be sharing with another district.

Superintendent Daniel Ljiljanich explained the reason for the contract was because both schools did not have enough students to participate to make competitive teams. By sharing the program, both districts are able to maintain the offering for students.

“This gives our students the opportunity to participate instead of seeing it not offered. It is also another instance of shared services,” Ljiljanich said.

He also highlighted a savings for the district in splitting transportation costs and the costs for officials and coaches.

He said the agreement still has some things to be worked out such as how often each school will host the team on its track. When asked if one would host the team to save the costs of track maintenance, Ljiljanich said that may be discussed in the future but now both districts plan to use their tracks.

In addition to the girls and boys track team, Silver Creek also shares football with Forestville and wrestling and girls swimming with Dunkirk.

Ljiljanich said the district is also looking into sharing boys swimming with Dunkirk. He said in a few weeks he will meet with Athletic Director Sean Helmer to go over the school’s athletic offerings and explore opportunities for further shared services.

He said there will be a workshop for the board after that meeting for the board to see where the school is with shared services in athletics and where it would like to be in the future.

“I think a lot of people think if you can break the ice with sharing sports, you’re more apt to bring the schools together,” board member Irene Blakely said.

Ljiljanich said the benefits of shared services are maintaining or increasing offerings for students, even in these tough economic times.

“When you put all the different factors together – the continuation of unfunded mandates, the 2 percent tax cap, the New York state budget and the national economy – when you put all those things together, it cannot be business as usual. Here’s the sad piece, school districts will become academically bankrupt before they become financially bankrupt because you can keep cutting until all you have left is the services you have to provide,” he said.

Board President Martha Howard said she sees shared services as a way to help raise the bar for students by increasing offerings the district cannot provide on its own.

The board will meet again Oct. 28 for a workshop on Comprehensive School Education Plans at 6 p.m. and a meeting at 7 p.m.

Time For Prayer

Sherman Students Participate In Meet You At The Pole Day

October 10, 2012

By Elaine Cole (editorial@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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SHERMAN – Sherman Central School students recently participated in Meet You at the Pole day.

Students gathered to pray for their school, its staff, the students and their country. Since it was raining, 50 students gathered around the Sherman Wildcats circle in the center of the gym instead of outside. A few parents and Michael Ginestre, the new school principal, also attended.

Kevin Gleason and Holly Eliason spoke briefly to the youth about their purpose. Gleason then instructed them as to how they would spend the time praying. All those attending held hands and formed a circle around the Sherman Wildcats design on the floor and began to pray. Students undoubtedly focused their prayer on Clymer Central School administration, teachers, staff, students, village and the family of Keith Reed Jr., the Clymer superintendent who was recently killed. Then the students gathered in separate groups and continued praying.

Article Photos

Pictured below at top, student Kevin Gleason gives instruction to Sherman students at Meet You At the Pole in the school gym. Sherman students gather in groups to pray at meet you at the pole recently in the school auditorium. Pictured at bottom, Sherman students enjoy doughnuts and cocoa after praying at meet me at the pole recently in the school gym.
Photos by Elaine Cole

Following the prayer time, the students gathered in the foyer for doughnuts and hot cocoa before going to their classrooms.

See You at the Pole is a student-led event in which students meet at their school’s flagpole before school on the fourth Wednesday of every September to pray for their school, the students, teacher, government and the nation. The event began in 1990 with some teens in Burleson, Texas. One Saturday night, they felt compelled to pray and went to three different schools and prayed at each school’s flagpole. Then a challenge was issued to students throughout Texas to meet at their flagpoles and pray simultaneously. At 7 a.m. Sept. 12, 1999, more than 45,000 students met at their flagpoles to pray before school.

The concept grew from there. Word spread quickly across the country and youth ministers reported that students outside of Texas had heard about the event and were feeling the same burden for their schools as those Texas students had. Today, that number has grown to 3 million students in the U.S. and there are also students in 20 other countries that participate in the event.

Lost art shows in test scores

September 30, 2012

The OBSERVER

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New reports show that SAT reading scores are the lowest they’ve been in 40 years. Down one point from last year and 34 points since 1972, 2012’s graduating seniors’ average reading or “verbal” score is 496. Additionally unsettling are their writing scores, which have dropped to 488, a decrease of nine points since the College Board (the organization that administers the test) started testing for it in 2006.

My friends in education explained there are several reasons for these numbers.

In part they reflect the ever-widening pool of students who take the SAT. First administered in 1926, there were only a few thousand. Last year more than 1.66 million graduating seniors took the test, the highest number in history. Nearly half were minorities and about a quarter reported that English was not exclusively their first language.

Additionally, not enough parents are involved in their children’s education. According to my friend Stacy, a high school English teacher in New Jersey, encouraging a child to keep a calendar, a journal, or a schedule keeps kids focused on what their job is: to do well in school. “It gives them a goal,” she said.

The way kids are reading and writing are also affecting scores. Humans store content and location in different ways in the brain. Studies show that increasing dependence on digital information sources means that humans are having difficulty remembering “location,” since it has no physical presence.

“Getting lost in a series of menus in an Internet search is a good example of this,” said another friend Amanda, an elementary school history teacher in Rochester. “Compare that to contents contained in a book, which are physically accessible. Chances are, kids will remember what’s in the book.”

The above is true. But I think it boils down to this: future generations are illiterate because kids don’t write and read enough. Looking broadly across the U.S., this will require a major change.

When my parents went to grade school, they spent hours on language workbooks, learning the parts of speech and proper usage. This was separate from reading period, which focused more on comprehension and decoding. Today, public school kids are lucky if they get an hour a day of either. The high-stakes tests that drive curricula in most states require very little writing and reading, and that in turn has driven out both in many classrooms.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress reported earlier this month that in 2011, 40 to 41 percent of public school students at grades 8 and 12 were given less than a page of writing homework in a typical week. In fact, some 14 percent of 12th-graders reported being asked to do no writing for homework at all. Instead, they are asked to fill in blanks, copy notes, or choose among multiple-choice responses.

The majority of states are on their way to adopting the Common Core Standards, a set of reforms that will dramatically change the way many schools teach writing, and subsequently reading, across all subject areas.

For the first time, elementary students will be required to write informative and persuasive essays. By high school, they’ll be expected to produce mature and thoughtful essays, not just in English class but in history and science classes as well.

This is great. But teaching expository text and dialogue is just the first step.

There also needs to be a strong support from the school administration – writing and reading has to be high on a school-wide agenda. Similarly, teachers should be involved in initiatives that go beyond their own classrooms, such as the National Writing Project or collaborating with local universities.

In whatever way they can, teachers need to be part of a professional learning community, sharing ideas, and changing curriculum and instruction in response to what they’re learning. Pretty much anything to get these scores up, because an uneducated populace is bad news for the future.

Sarah T. Schwab is a Sunday OBSERVER contributor and Fredonia State graduate. Send comments to editoral@observer-today.com or view her Web site at http://www.SarahTSchwab.com

Lower-Wealth Districts Face Fiscal Insolvency

September 30, 2012

By Nicholena Moon (nmoon@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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Paying the bills is becoming harder for everyone under the current economic climate – and school districts are no exception.

Some school districts in New York state could face the possibility of failing to meet educational mandates sooner rather than later. A recent report released by the state Association of School Business Officials suggests that lower-wealth schools districts may lose their savings, or unrestricted funds, much sooner than average-wealth or higher-wealth school districts. According to the report, if current trends continue, 215 lower-wealth school districts could begin to lose their savings by 2015.

“Portions of the school fund balance may be restricted or assigned, therefore, limiting their ability for use other than for the reasons created, as reserve funds,” said Dale Weatherlow, assistant superintendent for Jamestown Public Schools. “The assigned and unassigned fund balance can be used to manage taxes and balance the budget. Using funds for this purpose is a useful tool as long as everyone understands that the funds are eventually exhausted if used too aggressively.”

According to the report, lower-wealth school districts such as Jamestown are more likely to utilize their savings, or unrestricted funds, than higher-wealth school districts. This could result in fiscal insolvency, leaving districts unable to pay their bills, and educational insolvency, in which schools find themselves unable to provide a sound education that complies with state mandates.

“The Foundation Aid formula created about six years ago attempted to correct the problems, but it has many flaws and has not been financed according to the original plan due to economic conditions,” said Weatherlow.

According to Weatherlow, the state has now allowed some districts to receive more than their original Foundation Aid projection, while many others have been frozen at significantly less. For example, Jamestown is $19,115,458 short of the promised calculation. This is a problem because lower-wealth districts are dependent on state aid, and do not benefit as much as higher-wealth districts from modest tax increases.

“[Lower-wealth] schools are typically highly dependent upon state aid as a revenue source versus relying on property tax income for most of their revenue,” explained Weatherlow. “A major factor is the tax base, or assessed value, and tax levy of the district. A school with a large tax base and levy can generate more revenue from a modest increase in taxes, whereas a school with a smaller tax base/levy generates less revenue from the same percentage increase in the tax levy.”

According to Weatherlow, an example of this situation would be that if Jamestown increased the tax rate by 1 percent (about 20 cents per 1,000), it would generate approximately $140,000 in additional revenue. However, in a higher-income district, this same 1 percent increase in the tax rate would generate significantly more. For example, according to Weatherlow, in Syosset, N.Y., this same 1 percent increase would generate over $1.8 million in revenue.

“The larger property wealth school can more easily absorb expenditure increases and state aid decreases,” said Weatherlow. “Since the tax levy in these ‘smaller’ schools may not generate adequate revenues without significant tax rate increases, these schools must wisely use their fund balance as another revenue source in order to balance the budget.”

However, it may be difficult for schools to remain prudent as they face an unprecedented number of unfunded state educational mandates. Additionally, the options schools facing fiscal insolvency have are less than ideal. Schools may borrow money from the state for ongoing operational expenses, receive an advance of their scheduled state aid, accept a bailout of extra state aid in the current year, or submit to a state education department takeover.

According to Weatherlow, the best way to prevent insolvency is with thorough financial planning.

“The best way to try and avoid the problem is by forecasting budgets out three to five years in advance, including fund balance implications,” he said. “You also need to reduce expenditures while using fund balance as it allows the fund balance to help buffer tax increases and help control program cuts. Albeit, this use of the fund balance is not infinite.”

Of course, districts have expenditures that cannot be reliably predicted. According to Weatherlow, some of these expenses include employee and teacher retirement contribution rates, health insurance costs, fuel costs, utility costs, students with disabilities enrollment/costs, negotiated labor contracts, debt service rates and new state mandates. Larger revenue factors include state aid, Medicaid reimbursements, interest earnings, penalties on taxes, new payments in lieu of taxes, etc.

Weatherlow explained that the state could improve policies to combat the uneven distribution of state aid between lower-wealth and higher-wealth districts. He suggested that the state make changes to the way it calculates need.

“[State aid] needs to be distributed better based upon the needs of the school using factors such as income/wealth, property values, student demographics, free and reduced lunch percentages, English language learner population, students with disabilities population, geographical size, regional costs, etc.,” he said.

Westfield Addresses Regional High School Debate

September 30, 2012

By Jenna Loughlin (editorial@post-journal.com) , Westfield Republican

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WESTFIELD – Mark Winslow, former Westfield Academy and Central School board member, attended a recent school board meeting and spoke up during public comment regarding a resolution on the agenda stating the board supported the creation of a regional high school bill.

Board member Marie Edwards said the goal of the resolution was to see how much support there was across the state, and Jeff Greabell, board president, said while the option might be on the back burner for Westfield, it was important to other districts. Both Edwards and board member Phyllis Hagen noted it was important to keep all options open for the future. The resolution did not mean it is mandatory for Westfield to be part of a regional high school if a bill passes.

Westfield and Brocton are in the process of having a study done regarding the merger of the two school districts.

Winslow said he knows the board wrote the resolution to be generic, but he reminded newer board members the option of a regional high school was available for years. What the new law attempted to do was allow such a school by board vote only and add in state aid.

“Technically, we have had this available to us forever,” Winslow said. “To me, to have (state aid) as the biggest reason that we want a regional high school always gets me because we should be able to be more efficient and not less efficient. So why would we be so hung up on state aid rather than what is best for the students?”

He also suggested the board keep the option of tuitioning students, which he believes the board has not addressed enough, on the back burner along with the regional high school option.

Edwards responded to his statement during board member commentary when she said with the regional high school option teachers would have Pell rights, or first hiring rights, whereas if Westfield tuitioned its students, teachers would have no rights at the new school. Additionally, she said the point for the board versus popular vote was an attempt to take emotion out of the decision, adding the most recent bill had the popular vote as a requirement.

“There are some really deep differences besides the fact that there’s state aid tied to that that are better than … just tuitioning,” Edwards said.

In her board commentary on Aug. 13, Edwards talked about how much she has learned about the legislative process while working on the regional high school bill.

“It has been very, very eye-opening,” she said. “We think we can just do something, we come up with an idea and … literally three years, four years later and we still have more of a process to go through. … We can’t start the year we think we need it. We need to start three years before we think we need it.”

Greabell also said recently that the bill introduced in the state Legislature may be completely different from those introduced up to this point.

“It’s an ongoing process,” he said.

NYC schools dispensing morning-after pill to girls

September 26, 2012

Associated Press

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KAREN MATTHEWS and LINDSEY TANNER, Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — It’s a campaign believed to be unprecedented in its size and aggressiveness: New York City is dispensing the morning-after pill to girls as young as 14 at more than 50 public high schools, sometimes even before they have had sex.

The effort to combat teen pregnancy in the nation’s largest city contrasts sharply with the views of politicians and school systems in more conservative parts of the country.

Valerie Huber, president of the National Abstinence Education Association in Washington, calls it “a terrible case once again of bigotry of low expectations” — presuming that teen girls will have sex anyway, and effectively endorsing that.

But some doctors say more schools should follow New York’s lead.

Emergency contraception is safe and effective “if you use it in a timely fashion. It provides relief or solace to a young woman or man who has made a mistake but doesn’t want to have to live with that mistake for the rest of their lives,” said Dr. Cora Breuner, a Seattle physician and member of an American Academy of Pediatrics’ committee on teen health.

Plan B emergency contraception is about 90 percent effective at preventing pregnancy if taken within 72 hours after unprotected sex.

New York’s program was phased in at health clinics at about 40 schools in the 1-million-student school system starting about four years ago. Since January 2011, it has expanded to 13 additional schools that don’t have clinics. The little-known program was reported on Sunday by the New York Post.

Nurse practitioners or physicians dispense the pills, and parents can sign an opt-out form preventing their daughters from taking part. Only about 1 to 2 percent of parents have opted out, according to the city Health Department.

The program is seen as a way to reduce a startling number: More than 7,000 New York City girls ages 15 to 17 get pregnant each year. More than two-thirds of those pregnancies end in abortions.

“We are committed to trying new approaches … to improve a situation that can have lifelong consequences,” the Health Department said in a statement.

In the 2011-12 school year, 576 girls got the pills at the 13 added schools, said Deborah Kaplan, an assistant health commissioner.

Felicia Regina, Parent Association president at Port Richmond High on Staten Island, has two teens at the school, a junior and a senior, and said she has never heard any parents voice objections.

“I do think it’s a good idea,” she said. “The children nowadays are not going to abstain from sexual intercourse. How many unwed mothers do we need?”

But Mona Davids, president of the New York City Parents Union, a volunteer group, opposes the program. She has a daughter who attends Laguardia High, not among the schools where Plan B is available.

She said parents should have to sign an “opt-in” form granting permission for Plan B instead. “When your daughter has gone on a trip, didn’t you have to sign that it’s OK for her to go on a trip?” she said.

Davids said emergency contraceptive is too serious a drug to give without parents’ permission: “They can’t even give our kids aspirin or Motrin without informed consent. This is a chemical hormonal drug cocktail.”

Anne Leary, a conservative blogger in Chicago whose children are in their 20s, also said the idea is ill-advised and undermines parents’ authority. Her own children attended high school in a Chicago suburb and were not offered emergency contraception at school.

“These kids are under 16, which is the age for statutory rape in most states. I just think it’s subsidizing and encouraging behavior that’s probably not healthy for kids that age,” Leary said.

New York City’s schools already offer regular birth control pills and condoms, just as many other schools around the country do. But emergency contraception is especially controversial.

Many scientists say Plan B works by blocking ovulation or fertilization. But Plan B’s label says it may also prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus, and conservative activists who believe life begins at conception contend it amounts to an abortion pill.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says Plan B does not cause abortion or encourage risky sex, and it has called for the sale of the morning-after pill over the counter to help prevent teen pregnancies.

Last year, however, the Obama administration blocked plans to put the pills on drugstore shelves, keeping them behind the pharmacy counter. The contraceptive requires a prescription for those under 17 but is available to older women without a prescription if they show pharmacists proof of age.

Opposition to making Plan B available over the counter came mostly from conservatives and religious groups who said such a step would promote underage sex.

At least one high school in a Los Angeles neighborhood with a high teen pregnancy rate also offers emergency contraception in a partnership with Planned Parenthood.

Teen pregnancies have declined in recent years nationwide, a trend attributed partly to increased use of birth control.

The most recent government figures show the rate was about 70 pregnancies per 1,000 girls ages 15 through 19 in 2008. New York City’s rate was 82 per 1,000 girls that year, and dropped to 73 per 1,000 in 2010. Nationwide, about 43 percent of girls ages 15 to 19 have had sex.

Some students on their way Tuesday to New York’s Fashion Industries High School said they knew emergency contraception was available there, while others did not.

Glenesha Fernandez, a ninth-grader, said her mother opted out. “I said ‘OK, I don’t care,'” Glenesha said.

Yerenia Aybar, another ninth-grader, said girls her age shouldn’t get the pill. “It might make students think it’s OK to have sex,” she said.

___

AP Medical Writer Lindsey Tanner reported from Chicago.

___

Online:

Teen pregnancy: http://tinyurl.com/3k2xcsh

State Continues Review Of Schools’ APPR Plans

September 27, 2012

By Nicholena Moon (nmoon@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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State Education Commissioner John B. King, Jr announced Wednesday that he has approved teacher and principal Annual Professional Performance Review evaluation plans for 10 school districts.

The approved plans, which include those of Binghamton and Syracuse, are posted on his website to be used as models for other districts. The commissioner provided feedback to more than 100 districts regarding their proposed plans.

The website contains a lists of districts with submitted evaluation plans. Bemus Point, Cattaraugus-Little Valley, Chautauqua Lake, Clymer, Falconer, Frewsburg, Jamestown, Panama, Randolph, Salamanca, Sherman and Southwestern have all submitted their APPR plans for review. However, their plans have not yet been approved.

Jamestown was not one of the 100 districts who received feedback.

“Because it took us some time to complete the required negotiations and to finalize the details, Jamestown was not able to submit our plan in early July, as did the districts who have received feedback,” said Jessie Joy, director of curriculum for Jamestown public schools.

Commissioner King said he expects more plans to be approved in the coming weeks, which he will then post to his website. In addition to working directly with districts and BOCES to identify and correct issues in plan submissions, the state education department has developed and provided extensive APPR information and guidance on EngageNY.org.

“I’m cautiously optimistic about the development, submission, review and approval of the remaining APPR plans,” said King. “The model plans approved today come from districts and teacher and principal unions that rolled up their sleeves and got the job done. There is a lot of work ahead but these plans will help generate positive momentum for other districts to send us approvable APPR plans.”

Joy does not expect to hear back from the state office regarding Jamestown’s plan any time in the immediate future, as the state has indicated that the review process will take some time.

“It appears that [the state is] scrutinizing every detail of the plans submitted, which is an indication of their high expectation for schools to demonstrate a high level of commitment to ensuring that all pieces are in place for an effective teacher and principal evaluation system,” she said. “I do not expect to hear anything for at least eight weeks, unfortunately.”

However, districts must have their fully approved APPR plans by January 17, 2013 in order to receive their 2012-13 state financial aid increase.

“We will proceed with implementation of our APPR beginning this September 1, as is required,” said Joy. “If our plan is not approved as submitted, we will review the feedback and make the adjustments requested.”

A list of the districts with submitted plans can be found at: usny.nysed.gov/rttt/teachers-leaders/plans/home.html, along with the 10 approved plans, which will continue to be updated as more plans are approved.

Silver Creek finds money for school resource officer

September 27, 2012

By NICOLE GUGINO OBSERVER Assistant News Editor , The OBSERVER

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SILVER CREEK – As was promised, Superintendent Daniel Ljiljanich presented the Silver Creek Board of Education with a way to fund the school resource officer (SRO) program at Wednesday’s meeting.

Last year the district budgeted $3,000 for the program and Ljiljanich estimated the cost for one and a half days with the SRO to cost about $12,000.

The resolution called for a budget transfer of $3,000 from each of the Curriculum Services budget lines for k-3, 4-6, and 7-12.

The resolution was unanimously passed.

“I am glad you found the money for this program,” resident Anna Frederickson said. “I think this is a very important program and not a lot of schools have an SRO.”

Ljiljanich agreed with another resident who said the SRO program helps students respect law enforcement and not fear police.

“I would agree, an important piece of our SRO program is them getting into the classrooms and educating the kids and meeting the kids and building some nice relationships and positive bonds with law enforcement,” he said.

The SRO agreement still has to be worked out between Silver Creek and Forestville schools along with the villages of Silver Creek and Forestville and the town of Hanover as well as possibly the Seneca Nation.

The board will next meet Oct. 10 at 7 p.m. with a workshop on CDEP planning in the district and a reoprt on recent conference Ljiljanich attended at 6 p.m.

In other business:

The district received its outside audit report from Buffamonte, Whipple and Buttafaro. BWB manager James Alexander reported a clean unqualified audit with only a few minor recommendations.

Business Administrator Cindy Mackowiak gave the treasurer’s report for the end of last year and reported receiving an unanticipated increase in Native American aid. She said because the federal government decided to retroactively increase the amount it pays the district for Native American tuition the district received almost twice what it had expected. Because the aid was received in August it was reported as a surplus from last year.

The board approved a resolution to share girls varsity swimming with Dunkirk. Ljiljanich said this is the third sport the district is sharing, along with wrestling with Dunkirk and football with Forestville. He said if some boys are interested the district may also look to share that with Dunkirk as well.

Cassadaga Valley to examine issue of space

September 26, 2012

By DIANE R. CHODAN – OBSERVER Staff Writer , The OBSERVER

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SINCLAIRVILLE – Scott Smith, the superintendent at Cassadaga Valley Central School, wants to study whether there is “inadequate use of our facilities.”

During his report at the recent school board meeting, Smith compared the enrollment of each school to its capacity. He also noted the number of vacant rooms in each building. This is the second month that Smith has reported on the subject.

The Cassadaga Elementary School has 100 students, 17 of whom are half-day pre-kindergarten students. The capacity of the building is 510 students. At the school nine out of 24 rooms are being used. This building houses students up through second grade.

Article Photos

OBSERVER Photo by Diane R. Chodan
Board member William Carlson questions district principals during the recent meeting of the Cassadaga Valley Central School Board of Education. Left to right: Carlson, District Clerk Kristen Aldinger and David Christy, school board president.

Sinclairville Elementary has 373 students, 30 of whom are half-day pre-kindergarten students. The building could house 500 students. At present, three rooms are vacant in the building. Pre-kindergarten through fifth grade programs are run in this building.

The middle/high school has 586 students, 235 of whom are in middle school and 351 of whom are in high school. The building houses grades six through 12. Two rooms are vacant in this building.

“Five others (rooms) are used sparingly,” said Smith.

Student population figures can change. Middle school principal Richard Seigel said, “The number changes daily; stay tuned.”

Numbers also do not tell the full story. There are many more factors involved if the building use pattern is changed. Beside classrooms, rooms are needed to house special services. The number of students in each particular grade or taking particular subjects would also have an impact on any change. At this point, no recommendations for change have been offered.

Smith also commented on opening day of school saying it went very well, thanking the teachers, principals and staff for everything they did to make a success of opening day.

The four principals in the district, John Kwietniewski, Sinclairville Elementary; Richard Seigel, middle school, Dr. Tara Domenico-Sorrento, high school; and Josh Gilevski, Cassadaga Elementary, reported to the board.

Board member William Carlson asked a number of questions of the principals. One of his concerns was whether the curriculum at the schools was aligned with the Core Curriculum as defined by the state. One reason for his concern was some honor students did not perform well on assessments.

When asked directly for his opinion, Kwietniewski said that lack of alignment may account for some of this, especially in science. Teachers are working to bring the curriculum into alignment he said. Another reason was that sometimes a good student may have a bad day or even have repeated problems in a testing situation.

Carlson concluded the discussion by noting, “We will strive to do better whether we like it (state assessments and curriculum) or not.”

Domenico-Sorrento just started her first year as high school principal. She reported, “I enjoyed getting to know the students and staff. … I went into the English classes to talk about the student handbook.”

She noted that it seemed to work well to have a smaller group. Board member Jeanne Oag agreed saying that her daughter was impressed by that.

Carlson asked Domenico-Sorrento what the students call her. Domenico-Sorrento said that some students call her Dr. D. and that is absolutely fine. She also said she will give a piece of candy to any student who can say her name.

Board president David Christy noted he had learned to pronounce her name. She invited him to stop into her office where she keeps the candy.

Send comments to dchodan@observertoday.com

Westfield athletes to participate in FHS program

September 26, 2012

By SHIRLEY PULAWSKI – OBSERVER Staff Writer , The OBSERVER

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Two or more Westfield Academy and Central School (WACS) students will be allowed to participate in Fredonia Central School’s indoor track program, after some contention over the question earlier in the month. At that time, the decision was tabled.

During Tuesday’s regular Fredonia Board of Education meeting, the issue was removed from the table. Superintendent Paul DiFonzo said he had a conversation with WACS Superintendent David Davison, who assured him WACS would cover student costs if either or both of the two interested students were to compete in state finals.

At the earlier meeting, it was explained the addition of the two students would not result in costs to FCS. However, board member Karen Mosier asked what would happen if either of the students or both made it to the playoffs.

High school principal Todd Crandall explained additional costs would be required to support travel and other related expenses. Concerns remained among board members as to who would be responsible for those costs.

Currently, only two WACS students are known to be interested in participating, but enrollment will be open and more than two students may want to participate.

Board member Edith Byrne, who expressed concerns about large enrollment at the earlier meeting, asked if the end of the enrollment period was known. DiFonzo replied a date had not been set, but the period would likely be short so the total number of interested WACS students would be known shortly.

Board member David Giambrone asked if the terms discussed at the last meeting, including some coaching assistance pledged by WACS, had changed. “Are they the same parameters we talked about last time?” he asked.

DiFonzo said they were, and expressed satisfaction with his conversation with Davison of WACS regarding coaching support and other factors. “We would set up the contract the same way other districts (such as Dunkirk) have set up sports-sharing contracts,” DiFonzo explained.

The WACS students would provide their own transportation to FCS, then travel to competitions along with FCS students on FCS buses. DiFonzo said if enough students join the program to warrant the need for a second bus, then a cut-off would need to be set for enrollment. “We need to serve Fredonia students first,” DiFonzo noted.

Board member Tom Hawk, who expressed support for allowing the students to participate at the earlier meeting, made a motion to allow WACS students to participate. At the earlier meeting, he said “This is for the kids. That’s who we’re here for,” of the request, and called it an “opportunity” for students.

Board member Michael Bobseine seconded the motion, which then passed unanimously. Bobseine noted at the beginning of the discussion he had been hired once to act as lawyer to one of the WACS students, but said he did not feel that affected his ability to vote on the matter.

WACS student Miranda Warner, one of the two students who initiated the request, was present throughout the meeting. During the final public portion of the meeting, she stood up and thanked the board. “I would just like to thank you for all of your time and consideration. This is a great opportunity and I am so very glad to be able to enjoy this with Fredonia. Thank you,” she told the board before it adjourned.

Consultant clarifies procedure for centralization study

September 24, 2012

The OBSERVER

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David Kurzawa, one of the consultants with Western New York Educational Service Council (WNYESC), recently contacted the OBSERVER to clarify three important points about the centralization study between Brocton and Westfield.

He requested that three points be presented to the public.

1. Each district will select an advisory group consisting of 10 citizens. This joint advisory committee will meet together at all times.

2. Interviews with internal district staff are between the staff member and the member of the WNYESC team only. There are not others present at these interviews.

3. Focus groups for designated members of the public are held in each district for district residents. For example, there will be a focus group for parents in Brocton, and another focus group parent meeting in Westfield.

Silver Creek discusses new teacher eval system

September 25, 2012

By NICOLE GUGINO OBSERVER Assistant News Editor , The OBSERVER

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SILVER CREEK – The Silver Creek board of Education recently held a workshop on the new teacher evaluation system.

Superintendent Daniel Ljiljanich explained the evaluation is based on a 100 point scale – 60 points from observations, 20 points from the group growth measurement and 20 points from locally selected student measures.

He said the school will continue to use the Danielson Model for observations as well as investing in new software called Teachscape provided through BOCES. He said one of the benefits of the software is it emphasizes teacher’s reflection on their observation scores.

The school has agreed to have tenured teachers observed with one announced visit per year and untenured teachers with two unannounced visits per year.

The group growth measure has three categories for teachers; those measured with state assessments in grades 4-8, those measured with state post-assessments (regents) and everyone else.

Ljiljanich explained teachers without pre- and post-assessments from the state will be given a growth measure based upon the average of assessments in their grade level.

He explained how School Learning Objectives (SLOs) play into this by focusing on another subject, for example art and history.

“Everyone else in our district, it was decided administratively, we were going to use a group growth measure by each building. In other words, we are in this together more so now than ever. Our elementary school, our middle school and our high school, what is going to happen at each of those levels, all of the state assessments are going to be combined and students do on those assessments will determine all the teachers’ (in this category) group growth measure,” Ljiljanich explained. “The first thing that would come out of most people’s mouths when they hear this is ‘wait, so I don’t teach a regents exam, so I’m going to be graded on all regents exams at my level?’ and the answer is yes. Our reasoning is our school have districts have been measured forever by how our students do on state exams, so all the teachers who don’t have state assessments, their learning objectives they set for the year will be set around helping other teachers who have state assessments. Say I am an art teacher in the high school, one of those SLOs has to focus on a regents exam in the high school, what about history – art history, makes sense.”

He explained the final part, which was locally negotiated, also has three categories for teachers: state assessments scores, regents scores and a district-created assessment scores.

The achievement scores, which are also negotiated, will be based on the points and will be in a “HEDI” format, meaning highly effective, effective, developing and ineffective.

“I was really impressed with the way our teachers handled this … Our teachers responded really well. I thought some people would be pretty unhappy especially with the 20 percent combined growth score being measured by how your colleagues did, but I did not hear any negative feed back,” Ljiljanich added.

He said the school’s Annual Professional Performance Review evaluation system has yet to be approved by the state.

The next board of education meeting is Wednesday at 7 p.m. following a reception to welcome Ljiljanich to the district at 6 p.m.

Silver Creek board discusses SRO agreement

September 24, 2012

By NICOLE GUGINO – OBSERVER Assistant News Editor , The OBSERVER

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SILVER CREEK – The school resource officer agreement is a hot topic in Silver Creek.

At the recent Silver Creek Board of Education meeting Superinten-dent Daniel Ljiljanich gave an update on the status of the agreement.

He explained the district sent a letter to the Seneca Nation last spring asking for help supporting the SRO program. In that letter he said the district estimated a cost of $20,000 for one and a half days and asked the Nation to fund the other three and a half for an estimated $59,000.

However, Ljiljanich said after researching the cost to the district last year for one and a half days of coverage and looking at the proposed contract, he said the district will only need $12,000 for the one and a half days.

“Last year the program cost us just over $11,000 … the contract has the officer paid about $29 per hour at 10 hours per week and 40 weeks in the school year, that comes out to about $12,000,” he explained.

He said the district budgeted $3,000 for the program in last May’s budget, so the district just needs to find $9,000. He said he believes he can find the money in the budget codes because of a savings in the new 2-year contract. He said he will make the recommendation for the transfer at the next board of education meeting on Sept. 26.

Ljiljanich said he heard the Nation voted to support the program but had not heard in what way – monetarily or by offering a Marshal for the remaining days.

He also reported meeting with village of Silver Creek Mayor Kurt Lindstrom, Vil-lage Trustee Nick Piccolo and Forestville Superinten-dent John O’Connor. He said Forestville had budgeted for a day and a half with the SRO, but the village had not set aside money in its budget for the program. He said because of this the town of Hanover will be organizing a meeting with the schools and the villages to see what can be done.

He said the school’s options are open, whether to have a full-time SRO or a part-time one like last year and said SRO is beneficial for the school.

“They provide education and really benefit the community,” he added.

Chief Roche weighs in on future of SRO

September 24, 2012

By NICOLE GUGINO – OBSERVER Assistant News Editor , The OBSERVER

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SILVER CREEK – Silver Creek Police Chief Timothy Roche recently sat down with the OBSERVER to explain why the School Resource Officer program is important and that there are plans to make it work in the future.

He said there have been meetings during which funding of the program has been the main topic.

“What we have been talking about primarily is the funding. This problem came around in the last three years. In years past funding was not an issue, so now we are meeting with all the individual partners and we are trying to get together where each municipality that has children will share in the cost of the entire program,” he explained.

Roche said because Seneca students attend Silver Creek, the Seneca Nation is one of the partners involved in financial discussions.

“Because the Seneca Nation has about 13 percent of students in the Silver Creek school population, they are now included as a partner. … What we are doing going forward is the school districts are bound by the (tax) cap so it makes it difficult for them to find the extra money to maintain the program. The village has for several years used their money to supplement the program but they no longer have the funds. That’s why we are trying to get together with all the partners and put together a program that would benefit all the children,” he said.

He said meetings of many involved entities will be “the way we have to solve problems in the future.”

Roche explained the SRO program used to be offered in conjunction with D.A.R.E, but funds for this have dried up.

“There is no training, there is no recertification that I know of. That’s why you see so few D.A.R.E. programs now because there is no support for them,” he said.

He said schools are looking into a community-based program with the same ob-jectives as D.A.R.E.

“The school districts have taken over it now and are doing something we are looking into called the Michigan Model. This would be a replacement for D.A.R.E. It teaches the same kind of objectives but it’s done by teachers, policemen, by lawyers, by different individuals in the community. It’s more of a community based program than a law enforcement program and that’s where I think where we are going to be going,” he added.

He did confirm that currently there are no officers trained to be an SRO, but he and Sgt. Stephen Romanik are trained instructors.

He said the required SRO training takes about a week and is usually offered in the fall. The Michigan Model training may be offered through BOCES, which is separate from the SRO training. The costs for the training have not been negotiated.

He added there is a need for the program.

“I think if you look at the amount of calls we take in the individual schools and the amount of activity there, there is definitely a need and the school recognize that need,” he said.

He said there were calls for the police the first week of school and the teachers definitely noticed the absence of the SRO at the beginning of the school year.

Mock presidential elections coming to 11 school districts

September 24, 2012

The OBSERVER

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MAYVILLE – Eleven of the 18 Chautauqua County school districts will participate in Mock Presidential elections this fall, announ-ced Board of Elections Commissioners Brian Abram and Norman Green.

In partnership with the non-partisan Chautauqua County League of Women Voters, the mock election schedule will kick off at Forestville Middle and High Schools on Wednesday.

The remaining schedule of schools is Maple Grove High School, Oct. 3; Clymer High School, Oct. 4; Dunkirk High School, Oct. 5; Falconer High School, Oct. 10; Southwest-ern High School, Oct. 11; Sherman High School, Oct. 12; Jefferson Middle School (Jamestown), Oct. 17; Cassa-daga Valley Middle and High School, Oct. 18; Frewsburg Elementary School, Oct. 19; Fredonia (all grades), Oct. 24; and Jamestown High School, Oct. 26.

“We invited all county schools to take advantage of our in-school mock presidential election program and we’re excited that eleven schools are participating,” Green said. “We are thrilled to be part of the electoral education process, and happy to offer our young voters the opportunity to vote on the optical scan voting machines.”

“We are the very first Board of Elections in New York state to offer this service to our schools,” Abram said. “We are able to do this because our voting machine and ballot printing costs have dramatically decreased with the advent of optical scan balloting coupled with the county’s in-house ballot printing.”

“As just one of five counties out of 62 in New York state,” added Green, “we are able to print ballots for 15 cents each compared to pricing of 57 cents per ballot that 57 other counties in New York are currently paying to outside vendors. Chautauqua County’s ballots look and work like any other ballot in New York, but our taxpayers will be paying $50,000 less per year than what would have been paid using outside contract printers.

“Along with the fact that the county’s optical scanner is programmed in-house on a data disc compared to the labor intensive programming of the old lever voting machine, doing mock elections for schools is a piece of cake,” Green concluded.

The Board of Elections is required by state law to do voter outreach programs and the school visitation for mock presidential voting is part of the county’s compliance. Personnel to assist the student voters will be provided at no charge by the Chautauqua County League of Women Voters.

“The League of Women Voters welcomes the Board of Elections’ effort to engage high school students in the political process through a mock election for president. We look forward to partnering with the Board to make it happen,” said Minda Rae Amiran, League of Women Voters of Chautauqua County’s voter service chairwoman.

Process begins after Chicago strike

September 25, 2012

The OBSERVER

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Chicago mayor and former chief of staff for Barack Obama, Rahm Emanuel, is reportedly taking a “victory lap,” after winning his fight to stop a city teachers strike. Emanuel was all smiles as he shook hands with parents and teachers at an elementary school, proclaiming, “This is an exciting day.”

Obama’s former aide had ordered his general counsel to file an injunction to force the teachers union to end their strike. Teachers then agreed to a compromise contract, which has not yet been formally approved by the union. Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis has called Emanuel a bully, and said she hopes he “carries out this contract in good faith.”

And, while Emanuel was posing for cameras as he moves on from his defeat of the union, he made another statement that probably made his former employer cringe.

“In past negotiations, taxpayers paid more, but our kids got less. This time, our taxpayers are paying less, and our kids are getting more,” he said.

That is right, the man the New York Times called “perhaps the most influential chief of staff of a generation,” in 2010, has come to understand it is possible to ask taxpayers to hand over less to the government, and to deliver services that meet a higher standard.

Should the Chicago teachers’ union have continued its strike?

  1. 1.    Yes

27%

  1. 2.          No

73%

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FedUpL8ly

Sep-17-12 8:42 PM

Agree | Disagree

Unions, the old saying goes, you can’t live with them and you can’t live without them. Unions are good only so long as they are reasonable. As long as their members can produce a quality product in a competitive manner without unjustified demands, they are good for everyone. The Chicago teachers have an average salary of $76K a year. They want an exhorbitant pay raise because Rahm Emanuel added an hour to their 5-hour work day. 45% of Chicago students drop-out and only 6% go on to college. Hardly a quality product from overpaid teachers who work close to 100 fewer days per year than a lot of Americans. Instead of serious, sober picketers, I see a bunch of spoiled adults acting like rowdy children on TV. I have to believe Chicago children would be much better off if most of them were fired.

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recycler

Sep-17-12 7:58 PM

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There’s a reason I don’t like unions. If one gets a raise, so does everyone else. Is this right? I come to work on time, leave when I am suppose to and go above and beyond, while say, Joe slacks off, has to have help in staying caught up, is repeatedly late, calls off constantly..but yet we both share raises. It was awesome that meat packing plants and automakers of yesteryear got those things because they deserved some of those perks, and the ones the unions fought for. Better wages and healthcare? Yea right. Wages are what’s sending jobs out of this country. And if we don’t watch it, our childrens education will come from China too

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MyRushie

Sep-17-12 7:10 PM

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Please re-read my 1st 2 sentences UNTIL YOU GET IT!!

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MyRushie

Sep-17-12 7:07 PM

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Chicago teachers make $70,000/year. The average PRIVATE SECTOR worker in CHICAGO makes $47,000/year. Who do you think is paying for the teachers’ wages? Please re-read my 1st 2 sentences.

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realitybites

Sep-17-12 6:13 PM

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Michael, you present your case well. You are proof the teachers deserve more for a job well done.

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edk1166

Sep-17-12 4:12 PM

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after listening to some of this story and the $70k/ year they make (and not at the top of their pay scale either), they know good and well they are overpaid to begin with!!!

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ru4real

Sep-17-12 3:53 PM

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pedrov wrong again, the teachers want an 17 percent pay raise for 5 hour days and 60 plus drop out percentile,no accountability on their performance,and more,look it up not enough time here to show Chicago teachers demands.

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pedrov

Sep-17-12 3:45 PM

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school teachers are under attack for the failure of their students,they are defending their own from these attacks. students come to school not willing ,and able to learn and the teachers are held accountable for the failings of society, especially those teachers in the inner city.

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Yankees1

Sep-17-12 10:57 AM

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It’s all about the kids, remember?

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patriot012

Sep-17-12 10:28 AM

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public unions run a muck

Teacher Quits Amid Sex Abuse Charges

September 21, 2012

By Ryan Atkins (ratkins@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

SALAMANCA – Shane Riethmiller, a former middle school science teacher, has officially resigned from the Salamanca City Central School District.

Riethmiller, a tenured teacher from Dunkirk who was recently reinstated by the Salamanca school board, was the central figure in a scandal involving a student from the district, in which he was charged with multiple counts of sexual abuse. He had previously been placed on paid leave, but the resolution allowed him to return to the district as an employee in the district office where he would not be in contact with students.

In January, he was charged with multiple misdemeanor and felony charges after an investigation found that he had allegedly had sexual contact with a female student. He was eventually charged with eight counts of first-degree disseminating indecent material to minors, one count of promoting sexual performance of a child, third-degree sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child.

According to Robert Breidenstein, Salamanca superintendent, tenured teachers in New York state retain rights to their position, pay, retirement and other benefits while they are out on leave.

“Tenure teachers keep these rights when an investigation and formal charges are still pending. Similarly, the school district retains the right to reassign that person if it’s something that we can accommodate,” said Breidenstein. “We felt that we could do that and still maintain the appropriate level of separation between Riethmiller and the students that may or may not have been impacted by his alleged behavior.”

Shortly after the resolution was passed however, Riethmiller turned in his resignation. The school board held a special meeting on Wednesday, during which time they officially accepted his resignation from the district, according to Breidenstein.

The most serious of the charges are classified as class D felonies in New York state, which can carry a maximum penalty of up to seven years per count, depending on a suspect’s previous convictions.

Renovations Approved For Jamestown Schools

September 20, 2012  By Nicholena Moon (nmoon@post-journal.com) Save | Comments (2) | Post a comment |

Several Jamestown public schools will be receiving a makeover in the coming years.

The district just finished up a project at Fletcher School, and is now setting its sights toward the high school, Persell Middle School, and the bus garage. The projects were approved by the New York state Education Department’s Facilities Planning division. The next step for the district is to go out to bid with all three projects.

The proposed projects include complete rehauls of the hot water heating and ventilation networks, introducing modular hot water heating and demand control ventilation, which is a system that ventilates a room according to how many occupants it has.

The plans also call for demonstration solar panels, which provide an educational tool for students to learn about the sun, more energy-efficient lighting in the form of LEDs and completely wireless computer networks. These changes move toward making the buildings more environmentally friendly while also saving the district money. Additionally, all of the proposed changes will be funded entirely by state aid.

“Contrary to our operating aid, our capital project aid, or our building aid and construction aid, is highly aided, to the point where we expect to have all of our school projects approved by state (Education Department),” said Daniel Kathman, superintendent of JPS.

“We will receive 100 percent reimbursement, no local funds necessary, to make all these improvements to our facilities. So I call it a home run when we improve our heating, hot water and ventilation systems though fully reimbursed state building aid, and that improvement results in a reduction of our operating expenses like our gas bill, electric bill and water bill.

“And that’s what we are achieving with these demand-controlled ventilation initiatives,” Kathman continued. “The remote hot water heating designs that we are pursuing, it’s really tremendous. The prospect of the savings our district will have at no local expense – it’s a great thing.”

JPS doesn’t plan on stopping there, however. The board is already planning future proposals for renovations to Ring Elementary School, Bush Elementary School, and Lincoln Elementary School.

“All three are in the design stage now, and we expect that as the winter evolves, we will submit those to facilities planning and move our focus to those schools next.”

The board does not require additional approval from the public to move forward with its building proposals between now and then.

“Our November referendum was approved by the community, so that opens the door for us to submit another $68 million worth of projects to facilities planning in Albany,” explained Kathman. “I fully expect it will be seven, eight, nine years before we are finished with that next phase.”

There Are No Free Lunches

September 19, 2012  The Post-Journal Save | Comments (42) | Post a comment |

To the Readers’ Forum:

In response to Mr. Gaczewski’s article in The Post-Journal on Saturday, Sept. 8, our country is in deep financial trouble and to correct it, every government organization has got to cut corners severely!

Can you explain why all the students in six of the Jamestown Schools have to be given free breakfasts and lunches? Why not supper also? Shouldn’t the parents shoulder some of the responsibility for raising and feeding their own children? All of the parents aren’t destitute. Some can afford to feed their children. A tuna or bologna sandwich and a drink aren’t that expensive. The ones who really need it should get it.

In your article, you failed to mention the cost to Uncle Sam.

David Meredith

Sugar Grove

Should the federal government be able to regulate school lunches?

  1. 1.    Yes

29%

  1. 2.          No

71%

Sep-11-12 5:37 PM

Concessions are necessity

September 16, 2012  The OBSERVER Save | Comments (23) | Post a comment |

What’s next for the city of Dunkirk, its school district and Chautauqua County?

NRG Energy Inc., which is currently on a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement, is in the process of mothballing two of its largest units, meaning it is running at about one-third of its capacity. What that equates to for three taxing entities is the potential for less revenue in the PILOT.

With that being the case, the three taxing entities are already facing a shortfall in 2013. A sum of money – about $8.2 million combined – that was expected to be there at this time last year, may not be.

In addition, there is a tax cap of 2 percent that was enacted last year by New York state. Raising property taxes, however, does not seem as though it can be answer.

So who is willing to step up?

Residents and businesses in this community have for years. They already pay some of the highest taxes in the nation.

That is why it is time for all parties affected – city, school and county leadership – to meet with management and union employees to discuss some sort of concessions or givebacks. Automatic pay raises for another year of work cannot happen while tax revenue that is continuously – and drastically this year – decreasing.

Dunkirk firefighters are already a part of the solution. They agreed to a contract that held the line on wages for two years. They deserve the community’s thanks.

But if concessions do not happen elsewhere, personnel cuts will be made. That does nothing to help the local economy, though it will pad the wages of those top-tier earners – the $80,000 to $100,000 per year employees – for all three taxing entities.

Reducing the work force so those at the top can make more money was not the premise that unions were founded on, but that has become the way it is in the public sector.

Take a look at the Chautauqua County Home. Some of the biggest savings in expenses would be in union concessions, as stated in the Center for Government Research report. But David Fagerstrom, CSEA Unit 6300 president, would rather send out a press release last week complaining about politics behind the possible sale of the Home than talk about what the union can do to help with future cost savings.

Community residents have paid “their fair share” for many years. They cannot afford any more tax or fee increases in the coming year.

All who work for the city, its schools and county must be ready to come to the table and plan for less in the future. The current path is not sustainable.

Six Jamestown Schools To Provide Free Breakfast, Lunch

September 8, 2012 By Nicholena Moon (nmoon@post-journal.comSave | Comments (79) | Post a comment |

The United States and New York state departments of education have approved six Jamestown schools to serve free breakfast and lunch to all students.

All students who attend Washington Middle, Ring Elementary, Bush Elementary, Love Elementary, Fletcher Elementary and Lincoln Elementary are now automatically eligible to participate in the program without submitting a Free Meal Application.

“We are thrilled that the Education Department has approved six Jamestown Schools as community eligible. This will obviously benefit our students because good nutrition is essential in preparing students to learn,” said Walt Gaczewski, JPS Food Services Director.

Most of Jamestown schools’ food is stored at Washington Middle.
P-J photo by Nicholena Moon

In order to reap the benefits of this program, Food Services submitted an application to the United States Department of Agriculture. While six Jamestown schools were approved, the remaining three were not. Students attending Jefferson Middle, Persell Middle and Jamestown High schools will still need to submit a Free Meal Application in order to receive free or reduced meals.

The six schools deemed eligible for the program had a higher percentage of students already receiving free and reduced meals than the remaining schools. Ninety percent of Washington’s students were participants of the program in 2011, along with 111.95 percent of Love’s students, 78.61 percent of Fletcher’s, 78.18 percent of Ring’s, 83.1 percent of Bush’s and 68.18 percent of Lincoln’s. By contrast, only 65.92 percent of the high school’s students were on the program, with Jefferson’s total at 68.53 percent and Persell’s total at 71.18 percent. The reason Lincoln is included in the program and not Jefferson or Persell is because Lincoln’s total number of students is 399, whereas Jefferson’s is 488 and Persell’s is 517, making it easier to feed Lincoln’s student body than those of the other two. Additionally, as the system is structured now, the district receives $2.79 in reimbursement money for each student lunch. If the remaining three schools were included, the number would drop to $2.22.

District officials want to include all its schools in the program, said Gaczewski, but would have to operate at a loss in order to do so.

“That’s often the question people have: ‘Why don’t you include the other schools?'” he said. “Well, we have to run the school system kind of like a business. We always try to break even, and in that case we would lose money. We either do what we are doing now or we don’t do it at all.”

The program is sponsored by the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which uses census data to determine student need in high-poverty areas rather than relying on paper applications for each student. Under the program, the federal government will reimburse 95 percent of Jamestown’s breakfast and lunch costs. The remaining 5 percent are still fed under the program, however.

“We still feed them, we just don’t get reimbursed for it,” said Gaczewski.

However, only federal tax and state money, not county tax money, is used for the purpose of reimbursing school lunches.

“Many people don’t realize that this is not funded by local tax money and only 3 percent of it is funded by state tax money,” said Gaczewski.

If the remaining three schools were to be added, the reimbursement percentage would drop from 95 percent to only 75.4 percent, at which point the plan would cease to become equitable for the district. However, the numbers may change in the future.

“We will be looking at the remaining three schools each year to see if it would be equitable to add them,” said Gaczewski.

The application holds for four years, and New York state is one of four states that the program is currently open to, but that number is also subject to change in the near future.

“In two years the whole country will be able to take advantage of this program,” said Gaczewski.

Healthy Options

More Fruits And Veggies Offered, Smaller Portion Sizes For School Lunches

September 11, 2012  By Nicholena Moon (nmoon@post-journal.comSave | Comments (22) | Post a comment |

This year, students will notice some major changes in the cafeteria.

The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, signed into law in 2010, calls for changes in student nutrition. First Lady Michelle Obama championed the law as part of her crusade against childhood obesity. The statute gives the United State Department of Agriculture the authority to set new standards for food sold in school lunches, authorizes additional money for federally subsidized school meals and provides resources for schools and communities to use local food sources. The bill also aims to increase the nutritional quality of food provided by the USDA, increases access to drinking water in schools and sets minimum standards for school wellness policies.

Additionally, the bill takes steps to ensure that schools are following the new guidelines set by the USDA. It requires school districts to be audited every three years to confirm that they have met nutrition standards. It also provides for easier access for students and parents regarding nutritional facts of school meals, improves recall procedures for school food and provides training for school lunch providers. Overall, the statute allocates $4.5 billion dollars for the implementation of its requirements.

CHANGES AT THE LUNCH TABLE

But will students actually see any of these changes at their table? The answer is yes, according to Walt Gaczewski, food services director for Jamestown Public Schools.

“The biggest change that students will notice is now at lunch time they are going to have to take a minimum of a half-cup of fruit or vegetable,” he said. “But, they can also take more.”

The more obvious effort will be in the kitchen and in the food administration offices. Officials must change school menus to reflect higher nutritional standards. For example, iceberg lettuce no longer counts as a vegetable, so all Jamestown’s salads are now made with romaine lettuce.

“As far as me planning the menus, I have to make sure there is, offered in the middle schools here, at least a half of cup of fruit every day,” said Gaczewski, “and in the high school one full cup. For elementary and middle school vegetables I have to offer three-quarters of a cup and at the high school one full cup a day. And I have different color vegetables I have to offer.”

In addition to the higher vegetable requirements, schools can no longer serve high-calorie meals, and must watch the amount of protein, grains and sodium they offer.

“The biggest thing for us in making the menus is that they never used to have maximums on the amount of grain or protein you could serve,” said Gaczewski. “Now for elementary schools, I can only serve 8 to 9 ounces of meat per week, or cheese or meat equivalent. There are also calorie maximums, which we didn’t have before, and that’s a big issue.”

Elementary schools can have a minimum of 550 and a maximum of 650 calories on average for the week, while the high school menu goes up to 750 to 850 calories. Additionally, certain items must be on the menu daily, such as milk.

“Milk has to be offered every day,” said Gaczewski, “and another big change is that flavored milk, like chocolate milk, can only be fat free. The highest milk fat we can offer is 1 percent white.”

Each meal’s nutrient levels are put into a software program that calculates resulting calorie levels. This information is posted online under the heading “Nutrient Analysis” on the school district’s website. According to Gaczewski, the new standards are helping to improve the health of students by forcing the administration to carefully consider its menu choices.

“We are thinking about the menu a lot differently than we used to,” he said. “I think it’s a step in the right direction. Right now it can be difficult for us because a lot of the products aren’t manufactured to meet our meal pattern. An example would be sodium. Some foods like pizza are high in sodium, so the factories where we have these products made, they are going to have to work with us to lower that, and also the grains.”

The crust from one typical slice of pizza counts as three grains under the new system, and the most that can be served in one week is 10 grains. Schools must offer at least one grain per day. As a result, portions of meals such as pizza will be decreased.

“You may see the entrees a little bit smaller, but you’re going to see more fruits and vegetables,” said Gaczewski. “It’s like all-you-can-eat fruits and vegetables.”

This decrease in portion size may not go over well with the student body, which has grown used to large slices on pizza day. Few complaints have been registered thus far, but the school year has only just begun.

A similar overhaul of the breakfast menu is the next step, says Gaczewski.

New Focus In City Schools

State Deems JPS ‘Focus District,’ Cites ESL And Disabled Student Performance As Reason

September 12, 2012

By Nicholena Moon (nmoon@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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According to the state Education Department, Jamestown is now considered a “focus district.”

A school district may be designated as such if a number of its subgroups, as defined by the state, fail to perform up to state standards. Subgroups include but are not limited to low income, white, Hispanic, black, Asian, students with disabilities and limited English proficiency students. The latter two have been pointed out by the state as subgroups that underperform at Jamestown schools.

Previous state school designations were based on school level reviews of student performance. However, the new set of accountability designations are derived from the districtwide performance of all students and subgroups. Jamestown’s “focus district'” designation stems from its students with disabilities and limited English proficiency subgroups’ performances on the English Language Arts and mathematics state exams from the 2010-11 school year.

“The state saw that those two particular subgroups were not making adequate progress on our college and career readiness goals,” said Daniel Kathman, superintendent.

As a focus district, Jamestown must designate schools within the district as specific focus schools. Jamestown has decided to label all its schools with this designation, in order to “conduct a co-ordinated improvement effort for all its underachieving students, regardless as to the particular building that they may be attending,” said Kathman.

Dunkirk and Ripley were also designated as focus districts, along with many other small city schools throughout the state.

Focus districts are required to create a “District Comprehensive Improvement Plan.” JPS will not receive any monetary aid from the state to implement new policies, but will be provided with advisory assistance. The school will be able to shed the focus district designation if significant improvement is made within two successive years.

“School-based improvement planning will be initiated promptly, as will the over-arching districtwide planning effort,” Kathman said.

That planning effort has yet to be defined, according to Kathman.

“We need to get some more guidance from state ed as to what a good planning process would include, so we are gathering that information and then we will move ahead,” he said.

However, the two subgroups, as designated by the state, will not be the districts only focus.

“The way I’m looking at this is we are continuing the overall improvement process with renewed vigor, and it will be augmented by a specific focus on the improvement of the achievement of those two student groups,” said Kathman.

When it comes to bolstering the schools’ performance levels, the district administration isn’t the only responsible party. Jessie Joy, curriculum director, encouraged parents to remain active and involved in their children’s education.

“Parent involvement has always been important and now continues to be more important,” she said. “Each school will be required to develop their own school-based plan, and I would invite and encourage parents to be active participants in that process.”

New program to track Pine Valley graduates

September 16, 2012

The OBSERVER

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By SAMANTHA MCDONNELL

OBSERVER Staff Writer

SOUTH DAYTON – Pine Valley High School has a new way to track graduates after graduation. High School Principal Cathy Fabiatos announced the program LifeTrack Report at a recent board meeting.

“It’s something that gives a survey at the end of the year to our seniors,” Fabiatos said.

The program was purchased for graduates of 2011. The program gives the end of the year survey then gives two additional surveys to students so they have three surveys in three years. According to Fabiatos, the survey given to the 2011 and 2012 graduates at the end of the year saw no significant changes between the two sets of results.

The next survey is sent out 18 months after graduation and then a final survey is sent out five years after graduation. The company keeps tracks of the students and sends out letters and emails to keep in contact with them.

“I’m very eager to see where these kids end up and how these kids turn out,” Fabiatos said.

The program costs the district $12 per student in each graduating class. The next report for the 2011 graduates will be sent out in December to 2011 graduates. According to Fabiatos, she should have the results at the February meeting.

Fabiatos also said the first day of school went smooth.

“This year went the smoothest for opening day,” she said.

Elementary Principal Scott Burdick said a lot of new students were in attendance for the first day and the day went smoothly. The elementary school ended last year with 339 students and started the new school year with 330 students.

Superintendent Pete Morgante brought up the issue regarding if volunteer coaches should pay for their own training. After discussion, the board will revisit the issue at the next meeting on Sept. 20 at 7 p.m.

FCS piloting work-based learning program

September 16, 2012

The OBSERVER

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By SHIRLEY PULAWSKI

OBSERVER Staff Writer

Fredonia Central Schools special education teachers have been pounding the pavement seeking support for a work-based learning pilot program to begin in the high school this school year.

Teacher Kristin Tomaszewski says the goal of work-based learning is to prepare students to successfully enter the world of work and preparing them with skills required in the 21st century upon graduation. In addition to the board of education at the school, Tomaszewski and Transition Coordinator Geri Workoff have been meeting with area business leaders, the Fredonia Village Board of Trustees and others.

The program is beginning in Tomaszewski’s Functional Life Skills Classroom with students who have a range of abilities, but ultimately, the program is being designed to benefit all students. “Yes, there will be a strong focus on connecting students with disabilities with local businesses and establishing relationships, but I think with time, patience, and persistence we will be able to make this a reality for many of our students,” she said.

The pilot in the 2012-13 school year will pair one student who teachers feel is a good candidate for the program with a job coach and a local place of employment. Keeping the student to one will allow time for working out details and preparing learning materials for the student and others.

Over the summer, Workoff and Tomaszewski attended a conference in Rochester titled “Engaging Youth for the 21st Century,” which was hosted by the Council for Exceptional Children.

“It was a program at this conference that sparked our interest,” Tomaszewski said, and explained the Northern Adirondack Central School District in Ellenburg Depot, New York presented their “Career and Life Links” program. She quoted from the PowerPoint presentation shown at the conference: “A unique learning experience which focuses on preparing each student for the real world, where knowledge of community resources, employment opportunities and living independently become ‘links’ to a productive life.”

Tomaszewski said she’s beginning with a particularly well-suited special education student, in part, because the credentials with which special education students will graduate is going to change in the following school year. “As far as the special education population that we will be working with to start, these students are alternately assessed and will be getting an IEP (Individualized Education Program) diploma. This year will be the last year for the IEP diploma and starting with the 2013-2014 school year students and teachers will work together to complete an exit credential, which is largely focused on work based and independent living skills,” she explained.

Those involved with the program along with Tomaszewski have a time line under development. “We will be piloting this program this year with one student. We are planning to consider the idea of adding a second student this year depending on the time we have available and the success of the program. Personally, I would like to have at least 20 business on board by the end of our second year with at least eight to 10 students involved. If we could continue to grow at this rate, I think we would have a highly successful program at the end of about 5 years,” Tomaszewski said, but noted at the moment, all involved in the program also teach at the school, so are unable to dedicate to the program full time. However, approval to hire a dedicated job coach was given by the board of education at the last meeting. The funds will come from the special education budget.

Tomaszewski asks that any are business leaders interested in becoming involved with the program contact her directly at 679-1581 or via email at ktomaszewski@fcsd.wnyric.org for more information.

Highs and lows: Some of the best, worst of the week

September 15, 2012

The OBSERVER

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Here are some of the best – and worst – of the week:

WORST

CONTRACT EXTENSION – The Brocton Central School extended Superintendent John Hertlein’s contract by three years. There was no public discussion regarding the decision. But what happens if Brocton and Westfield Academy merge districts? Don’t extend Hertlein’s contract without knowing if there’s going to be a school there. And if you have it in the contract that Brocton school taxpayers will not owe Hertlein any money should the district merge, then announce that to the public.

WACS hears overview on performance review plan

September 12, 2012

By JENNA LOUGHLIN – Special to the OBSERVER , The OBSERVER

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WESTFIELD – In addition to a new group of students and the new Common Core State Standards, teachers will also have to deal with new performance reviews.

Westfield Academy and Central School Superintendent David Davison gave the board an overview of the new Annual Professional Performance Reviews, or APPR, at the Board of Education meeting.

APPR, which was adopted by WACS on May 16, 2011, was one of four mandatory steps New York schools needed to implement in order to get Race to the Top funding. The breakdown of how the review is scored gives 20 percent for student growth on state assessments, 20 percent for locally selected measures of student achievement and 60 percent for other measures of a teacher or principal effectiveness. This last category breaks down even further into classroom observations, other local measurements such as portfolios and self or peer assessments or surveys.

Students will be given a baseline assessment at the beginning of the school year and then another one every 10 weeks with a formative test at the end of the school year. This will help schools and teachers see where the students are over the course of the year.

Any teacher or a principal receiving a score of ineffective or developing will have a Teacher or Principal Improvement Plan formulated and implemented. These plans must include the areas of improvement, a timeline, how the improvement will be assessed and activities to support the improvement.

Some of the decisions left up to individual school districts include an appeal procedure, the TIP process, classroom observation tools, determining a local scale for the 60 percent of the review, assessing all seven New York State Teaching Standards and providing feedback to teachers.

So far Davidson and Secondary Principal Ivana Hite are both qualified as lead evaluators for the district and were approved as such in a resolution later in the meeting.

Also in his superintendent report, Davison reported the state’s Dignity Act 2013 is going to have cyberbullying added to it as the responsibility of schools to investigate and handle. Additionally, he said he expects the consolidation study results.

In other news, Primary Principal and Director of Special Education Paula Troutman has accepted the job of middle school principal at Silver Creek Central Schools. The board accepted her resignation, effective on or about Sept. 7, at its meeting on Monday, Aug. 13 and on Aug. 27 accepted the appointment of elementary teacher Heath Forester as interim elementary school principal at the per diem rate of $343 per day and Ashley Raynor as chair of special education meetings at a compensated lump sum of $312.

Board member Marie Edwards said she was sorry to see Troutman go.

“We will miss you,” board Vice President Steve Cockram said.

“We wish you well in your new position,” board President Jeff Greabell said. “All the best to you.”

Board member Roger Jopek asked Davison how quickly he thought the new elementary principal could be qualified as an evaluator for APPR once hired. Davison responded it depended on the availability of workshops and trainers, but he estimated around 15 to 20 days total. He added evaluations will not start until October or November.

Running around the issue

September 17, 2012

The OBSERVER

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There is no quick answer to the dilemma brought to the Fredonia Board of Education last week. Should the district allow two Westfield Academy and Central School students to participate on the district’s indoor track team?

While many questions remain regarding numbers and potential costs, there were two comments made during the discussion that stood out in our eyes. Board member Tom Hawk saw the issue as an “opportunity” for students. “This is for the kids,” he said. “That’s who we’re here for.”

In opposition, board member Edith Byrne called Hawk’s statement an “emotional argument,” later noting, “I’m here for the taxpayers too.”

That is where we shook our heads.

Schools – even before the major economic crisis of 2008 – are below an even mediocre record when it comes to controlling costs for area taxpayers. Byrne, we believe, already knows this. The longtime board member and area tax increaser for more than a decade has been involved in financial decisions at the district since 1999. So we do question her statement of being “here for the taxpayers.”

Hawk, in the meantime, has been a strong merger advocate and is looking at the bigger picture. If Fredonia picks up two Westfield athletes – at no cost – it could help in future relations with neighboring school districts as economic times will continue to get tougher.

Continuing to draw a divide if there is little or no cost involved does not help matters or “taxpayers.” We need to find ways to work together.

Maybe this is one way. Adding two Westfield students to a Fredonia team could provide a win for two local school districts, not just one. And winning changes everything.

WACS students spurs Fredonia debate

September 12, 2012

By SHIRLEY PULAWSKI – OBSERVER Staff Writer , The OBSERVER

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Fredonia Central School has been approached by Westfield Academy and Central School to allow two WACS students to participate in the FCS indoor track program, and the ensuing discussion raised many questions at a regular board of education meeting Tuesday evening.

Superintendent Paul DiFonzo told the board two students currently want to participate in Fredonia’s program, and there would be no cost impact on the school if the students were allowed.

“They would be providing their own transportation,” he said.

FCS Athletic Director Tammy Rea said if the school took on the students, the team would play as Fredonia, but be called the Fredonia-Westfield team. She noted competition is individual with indoor track, not as a team.

“There is no team score with indoor track,” she said.

Member Edith Byrne said she had concerns.

“I feel bad for the students who live in districts that can’t provide the kinds of services that we do at Fredonia, but I don’t think it’s fair to ask our community to take them on. We ask a lot from our community,” she said.

Member Karen Mosier presented a hypothetical situation that drew concern from many on the board. “What if they (WACS students) qualify for state (to compete in the playoffs)?” she asked, and questioned what expenses would be incurred by travel and other costs associated with playing outside of the regular local season.

High School Principal Todd Crandall said a bus is usually not used for travel for fewer than five students, but hotel rooms and game fees and mileage expenses, along with the potential cost of sending teachers and coaches along to events could add up.

Member Michael Bob-seine asked if the request was strictly for two students, or if that number could change. Rea said enrollment for the track had not yet been opened, so it could be more than two students and potentially a much larger number of students.

Board member Tom Hawk said he felt the request should not be about money and saw the request as an “opportunity” for students and the school. “This is for the kids. That’s who we’re here for,” he said.

Byrne replied Hawk’s was an “emotional argument and said “Yes, but I’m here for the taxpayers, too.”

Mosier noted indoor track has been a target for budget cuts in the past, and in consideration of state budget cuts to school districts, she felt FCS should not bear the entirety of the costs. She said the cost of the program was several thousand dollars per season, and is disproportionately higher than some other sports.

Mosier also cited concerns regarding precedent. “If we tell Westfield they can do it without charging them, what happens if someone else comes along and wants the same deal?”

Member David Giam-brone asked if WACS had made any offers for coaching or other assistance. Crandall said some discussion had taken place regarding coaching help.

Bobseine initially moved to agree to allow the students to play during the regular season, pending board action regarding any playoffs or other games outside of the season. He later withdrew the request after others expressed a desire to table the decision.

A decision on the request was tabled pending more information and further discussion regarding concerns over cost sharing.

Comments on this article may be sent to spulawski@observertoday.com

Making history at Cassadaga Valley Central School

September 17, 2012

By DIANE R. CHODAN OBSERVER Staff Writer , The OBSERVER

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SINCLAIRVILLE – The Cassadaga Valley Central School Football Boosters are well into their planning for a history-making event at the middle/high school.

If all goes well, the Cougar varsity football team will play Westfield Academy and Central School at 7 p.m. on Sept. 28. The game will be “under the lights,” the first evening game played in the history of the school. About 13 portable diesel powered lights will be brought onto the field to illuminate it.

After the Board of Education voted at its July meeting to allow the boosters to go ahead with their plans, the boosters have been working on the event. They are selling tickets to a chicken barbecue scheduled for 4-6 p.m. before the game. Tickets cost $8. Those wishing to buy tickets may contact any booster, football player, or cheerleader. The barbecue will be held in the back parking lot near the entrance to the football field.

Boosters including Lori Johnson and John and Julie Dunderdale manned a table at the recent history fair in Sinclairville, taking donations, selling tickets to the barbecue, and answering questions. A number of junior varsity football players assisted.

Beside the game and barbecue, the boosters plan to have a bake sale, and hope non-profit organizations will staff booths. For example, Officer Quattrone from the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Department has committed to bringing materials concerning the Stop DWI (driving while intoxicated) campaign.

Booster Christin Degolier said, “The start to the game will bring CVCS Alumni and Cassadaga Midget Football players on to the field to acknowledge our varsity players/cheerleaders. Half time allows us to bring our Homecoming Court on to the field. This is such a big event for us.”

“The money generated will be used to help with expenses like equipment that boys and girls use. We would also like to donate to midget football. They have switched leagues and are short on finances,” Johnson explained.

The boosters hope Cassadaga Valley Alumni will turn out for the event. Those who do not have a local contact can call either Mary Jo Bauer at 679-5512, Lori Johnson at 969-2725, or Tara Gugino at 640-2437 for tickets. People who have questions or would like to volunteer may also call.

The boosters hope the community and alumni support the event.

Comments on this article may be directed to dchodan@observertoday.com

‘Expectations’ at low levels

September 9, 2012

The OBSERVER

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A group of Ripley parents and community members get high marks for it telling like it is at a Board of Education meeting in August.

In a petition to the school board, 147 residents agreed with this premise: “We … demand that the Ripley Central School District Board of Education bring a referendum to the Ripley community on tuitioning of students in grades seven through 12. We believe that this option will bring more opportunities for the Ripley students. We the undersigned are concerned citizens who urge our leaders to act now to bring this to a vote.”

The urgency behind the petition, according to Allen Mellors who spoke for the group, is due to the school’s lack of educational opportunities. “Ripley is below expectations of being able to provide the classes its students need,” he said.

“What the group is hoping for is not what the school is hoping for.”

Fortunately for the group, the school board seems to be open to the idea at this time. President Robert Bentley said the board might seek a vote on the tuitioning option in October or November.

Later in the meeting, Bentley took a shot at state policies. But how can Ripley officials complain? Its district receives 74 percent of its aid from Albany.

Board members must remember to not bite the hand that keeps its tiny district in existence.

Brocton unsure of hosting Chautauqua County Stampede

September 7, 2012

By DIANE R. CHODAN OBSERVER Staff Writer , The OBSERVER

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BROCTON – The Brocton Board of Education held its first meeting of the new school year on Thursday. Unfortunately some members of the public missed the beginning of the meeting. The doors at the School Street entrance were locked. One woman said that she had tried all the doors and was unable to find one that was unlocked. Finally, a passing maintenance worker unlocked the door.

When the locked-out public members entered, the board was beginning a discussion of a request by the Chautauqua County Stampede, an amateur adult football team, to rent the football field for five to six games. Their season would be in May through August of 2013. They proposed to pay the school $500 per game. Games would be scheduled on Saturday to fit around current high school and youth league schedules.

District superintendent John Hertlein said that he had consulted with board president Thomas DeJoe and denied the initial request.

“I have had experience with this in two different districts, and it was not favorable,” he said.

Hertlein went on to describe that the locker rooms were in need of cleaning after the games and the fields were damaged.

The current information from the group was more complete and included a promise to clean the locker rooms, if supplies were provided, as well as clean the field and the stands.

The Stampede stated a willingness to help with marking the field.

The organization wants to create an opportunity for local players to continue to play football.

“The Stampede will be committed to the Chautauqua County region through community service in the areas of youth mentoring, community cleanups, and outreach for young men. It will also hold special events such as a Breast Cancer Awareness game, a night to honor veterans, and a youth football night,” the information provided said.

The members of the board had a number of thoughts.

Susan Hardy liked the idea of the regional nature of the organization.

“They are willing to keep the field up,” Todd Mcfadden pointed out.

Mike Riforgiato noted, “Barry (Wright, one of the coaches and contact person) is not a bad guy. I would have no problem telling him we would go on a game-by-game basis.”

David Hazelton outlined his three major concerns.

“First, there is the liability issue. Second I am concerned about the comportment with the event. … This is a school ground and I don’t want to hear the language we don’t allow from the children. Third, there are more possible injuries in an adult game,” he said.

Betty DeLand, district treasurer, said that she was surprised that the Stampede were going to carry insurance of $3 million. She also pointed out that the field was very hard and dry this summer, and playing on it could “destroy the field.” She suggested the field might need to be reseeded and watered.

DeJoe summed up the discussion, “There are issues that need to be addressed.” Nevertheless the consensus was that the idea would be discussed with the coaches listed on the letter, and the results would be brought back to a future meeting of the board.

On Sept. 20, the board will conduct a joint meeting with Westfield. It will be held in the auditorium at Brocton at 6 p.m. At that time, the team of consultants for the merger study will attend. A timeline for the study will be discussed. Afterward a meeting of the Brocton School Board to conduct its business is scheduled to take place.

Farm To School

Districts Incorporate Local Produce In Menus

September 6, 2012

By Remington Whitcomb (rwhitcomb@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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In June, a handful of representatives from various schools, farms and other organizations gathered at the Athenaeum Hotel in the Chautauqua Institution to discuss the plausibility of a new idea: incorporating locally grown produce into high school cafeteria lunches.

Often parodied in television sitcoms and movies, high school lunches do not have an outstanding reputation for quality and nutrition. The average Chautauqua County high-school cafeteria might need to serve an average of 300-500 kids every day, often times meals were prepared based on economy rather than nutrition.

While high school lunches have always needed to meet certain criteria established by the USDA, parents have heard horror stories about nutrition loopholes caused by ambiguous criteria, such as ketchup counting as a serving of vegetables, or a slice of pizza counting as a vegetable because of the tomato sauce.

An exhibit created by Sherman Central School educating its students about grapes and where they are grown locally.

A radish grows in a school garden at Sherman Central School.

And although there are no such high-school cafeterias in Chautauqua County, there have been occasions where schools in large cities have outsourced their cafeterias to fast-food restaurants such as Burger King and Taco Bell. Foods served by such restaurants are often high in fat and calories and low in vitamins and minerals. While eating meals from fast-food restaurants on occasion can fit into a dietary budget, eating such meals every day would be considered detrimental to overall health by most doctors.

However, as child obesity and diabetes becomes a larger issue, more and more schools have taken steps to keep the diseases at bay, including a large number of schools in Chautauqua County.

Now that the summer is waning and a new school year is starting for high-schoolers across the county, schools are looking to pick up where they left off last spring with regard to integrating locally grown produce into cafeteria lunches. More specifically, schools are looking to incorporate fresh and nutritious produce more so than they’ve ever done before.

MEETING AT THE ATHENAEUM

Much like what is protocol for most new ideas, the schools that decided to give farm to school a try last school year did their best to ease into it rather than dive in head first.

Many schools made an attempt to incorporate farm to school into practice by focusing on a single product, such as apples for Pine Valley Central School, grapes for Sherman Central School and salad for Westfield Academy and Central School. These schools did their best to incorporate their respective products into their curriculum as well, to teach the value of eating fresher, locally grown produce instead of processed foods.

“Each farm to school program is very different,” said Breeanne Agett, representative from the Chautauqua County Health Department. “It’s based on the community you live in … it’s a national movement and everywhere across the country there are programs like this going on and the USDA fully supports them.”

According to Agett, farm to school is broadly defined as a program that connects schools and local farms with the objectives of serving healthy meals in schools’ cafeterias, improving student nutrition, providing agriculture, health and nutrition education opportunities and supporting local and regional farmers and farms.

“If you’re getting food locally from your farmers, that food didn’t need to travel across the country, so it helps to reduce our carbon footprint,” said Agett. “It’s environmentally friendly and it also increases sales for local farmers, which helps our local economy.”

WESTFIELD TRIES SALAD

The first school to speak at the gathering at the Athenaeum was Westfield. Christina Marsh, operations manager for the Brick Walk Cafe, represented the school.

Marsh spoke about Westfield’s decision to abolish sugary snacks from the lunchroom and install a salad bar instead.

“The power of the salad bar – increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables by children – encourages children to try new items,” said Marsh. “Increased fruit-and-vegetable intake is linked to improved classroom behavior. Children learn to make decisions that carry over outside of school, providing for a lifetime of healthy snack and meal choices. Research has shown us that actual experience in schools across the country demonstrate that school children can increase their consumption of fruits and vegetables when given these choices on the salad bar. When offered multiple fruit and vegetable choices, children responded by trying new items. It helps to incorporate a greater variety of fruits and vegetables into their diet, and it increases their daily consumption of fruits and vegetables.”

PINE VALLEY PROMOTES APPLES

Pete Morgante, Pine Valley superintendent and Terry Brown, cafeteria manager spoke next about the fun ways Pine Valley intended to incorporate apples into their lunches.

“When I thought about apples, I thought of Johnny Appleseed,” said Morgante. “I thought to myself, ‘we’ve got to tie this into literature.’ So what we did was develop a program around apples and Johnny Appleseed. We purchased books for all the kids (about Appleseed) and the classrooms read them.”

“So far we’ve gone through 155 bushels of apples,” said Brown. “I had a hard time figuring out what the difference was because we’ve always purchased apples before – the children just simply weren’t taking them. I think part of it is the pride of the apples being locally grown.”

SHERMAN GOES GRAPES

Representing Sherman, Deanie Thorsell, school nurse, spoke about why she was so excited about farm to school.

“I can’t tell you how excited I am to be here,” said Thorsell. “Farm to school is something that has been a personal passion of mine for a long time. I’ve been watching the Internet and looking at all the things that were out there and I thought to myself, ‘this is a community that could really benefit from this type of a program.’ I found out eventually that there were other schools in the area that were practicing it and I’m glad we’re finally communicating with the people that we need to. To be in the same room with all the farmers and the other schools … I’m really excited that we’re all here.”

Thorsell explained all the ways Sherman incorporated grapes into their curriculum, much like how Pine Valley incorporated apples.

“We tried to find a way we could talk about grapes in every class,” said Thorsell. “Our math teachers came up with ‘the grapes of math’ and we showed in our science classes that we have something that looks like grapes in our lungs.”

Additionally, Sherman Central School created a video about how eating healthier food and eating local food can go hand in hand. The video promoted being a “locavore.”

A NEW YEAR OF FARM TO SCHOOL

Morgante was happy to announce that Pine Valley plans go beyond apples for the 2012-13 school year and provide a greater array of local fruits and vegetables for students as part of the farm to school program.

“Breeanne Agett secured a grant for all the districts in Chautauqua County to become involved in farm to school this year,” said Morgante. “We’re going to continue buying produce from local farms and this year we’re going to expand it. With regards to incorporating it into our curriculum, we’re going to continue to use nonfiction books. This year, however, we’re going to start classroom gardens.”

Morgante said that the grant afforded Pine Valley the opportunity to purchase hydroponic systems so in-class gardens can become a possibility.

“The goal is to have a classroom garden in every room,” said Morgante. “We’re going to try to address a new science curriculum that way. The goal is that our (Future Farmers of America) would help us out with that. … We have an excellent FFA following. It reaches kids that don’t play sports and gives kids that don’t do other extracurricular activities something to do. They have regular meetings where they learn the rules of parliamentary procedure and they run their own meetings. It’s probably our most active club and it certainly helps us further our farm to school program.”

According to Morgante, Pine Valley, which graduates 50 to 60 students a year, say that almost the entire student population is very excited about the farm to school program.

“It’s really neat to see that, as you go through the lunch line, there are fruits and vegetables available there and the kids are actually eating them. One of our staff members pointed out that we do a lot of neat things at Pine Valley, but none of it would mean anything without the outstanding participant we get from our students.”

SHERMAN EXPANDS

Much like Pine Valley, Thorsell was excited to talk about how Sherman plans on expanding their farm to school program this school year.

“In October we will be having a wellness week and the wellness week will be completely focused on farm foods,” said Thorsell. “It will end with a fall harvest dinner which will be open to the entire community. We’ll focus on the farm to school concept and eating healthy.”

And much like Pine Valley’s apples, Sherman will go beyond grapes this year.

“The grapes served as an introduction for the students,” said Thorsell. “It gave them an example of something that was grown locally, however this year we’ll be branching out. This year we’ll be working with local foods and we’ll focus on potatoes, onions, garlic, squash and carrots. This way, students will learn difference recipes with those items and it will give them a chance to explore with foods their familiar with. The overall idea is that we want to have a healthy student body.”

Schools Ready To Deal With Changes

September 4, 2012

By Nicholena Moon (nmoon@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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School districts have a lot on their plate this year.

New York state is requiring schools to implement new Common Core math and English/language arts standards for third through eighth grades, new teacher and principal evaluation systems and more bullying prevention efforts this year.

Additionally, the federal government has changed school lunch guidelines to make meals healthier for students.

“The start of the new school year often brings many new initiatives, but this year is notable for the breadth and complexity of them,” said Timothy G. Kremer, executive director of the New York State School Board Association. “School board members are poised to raise academic standards, put the best possible teachers in the classroom and create a safe school environment. They certainly have their work cut out for them, but they are up to the challenge.”

According to 583 respondents to NYSSBA’s monthly poll, 45 percent believed the adoption of the Common Core Learning Standards is likely to have the greatest positive impact on students. It will realign classroom work so more students are ready for college or a career when they graduate from high school.

School board members are worried about the cost of implementing the new programs. Forty percent of school board members that responded to NYSSBA’s poll said their top priority for the 2012-13 school year was to make sure their schools can continue to provide quality education with fewer dollars.

“Schools continue to be hamstrung by an economy that has yet to rebound fully from the recession and by myriad state-imposed mandates,” said Kremer. “Despite these fiscal pressures, this is an opportune time for reform-minded school leaders to promote student achievement and a safe school environment.”

Daniel Kathman, Jamestown Public Schools superintendent, is particularly concerned about the new mandates’ cost. While Jamestown did receive funding through the federal Race to the Top program, the award will not be enough to cover all of the new expenses, including the creation of a new position.

“Our federal ‘Race to the Top’ award will cover many of our expenses related to the implementation of the Common Core but will not come close to covering the expense and time required to implement the new teacher evaluation system,” said Kathman. “While some of our incidental Annual Professional Performance Review training expenses are covered, our actual/new expenses far exceed that Race to the Top award. For example, after hearing of our pressing need for teacher and administrative training to properly implement the new APPR, our Board of Education endorsed a new position: coordinator of teacher development. The expenses associated with that new position will not be covered by our Race to the Top money.”

Fact Box

School opens throughout Chautauqua County today with several notable changes, including:

  • Further Common Core changes to math and English language arts for third through eighth grades to better align curriculum with college and career readiness standards;
  • New statewide teacher and principal evaluation systems are being implemented;
  • New bullying prevention efforts; and
  • New federal guidelines that make lunches healthier.

Additionally, the policies required by the state will force the district to spend many more hours on observation, possibly spreading resources thin by reallocating administrative time.

Despite the challenges, Kathman said the district is committed to the Common Core standards realignment and evaluation of teachers and principals.

“However, despite these extraordinary burdens, we are obliged to overcome them,” Kathman said. “The research shows that attention to a clearly defined curriculum (common core) and the ‘best instructional practices’ (APPR) will result in improved student learning outcomes. And because student learning is our number one priority, we proceed with interest and enthusiasm.”

New year of opportunity

September 3, 2012

By DR. ROBERT L. HEICHBERGER , The OBSERVER

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A new school year is about to begin and a fresh start is about to unfold. My friends, opportunity is knocking.

This piece is for all interested parties within the community, and particularly … students, the home, and the school … a powerful triangulation when working together.

In short, to the students we say: be prepared, positive, ambitious and there.

Going back to school may be, for most, a sense of “anticipation.” And, for those who are entering school for the very first time, there may be a sense of “wonderment.” Positive “anticipation” and exuberant “wonderment” … ah yes, a spirit of motivation at its best!

Education plays a keystone role in the life of every learner. Make no mistake about it, every student – age related of course – is responsible for his or her own actions and has a responsibility to help to make productive things happen. The student has a right to learn and an obligation to be responsible. Mastering the basic skills and developing positive work habits are essential. Acquiring a sense of achievement is cardinal to a solid education.

Most experts recognize that parental support plays a vital role toward the academic success and the emergence of a positive learning experience. In fact, the foundation of a child’s being is so importantly, positively or negatively, home-centered. Most all agree, parents and significant care givers are or should be the child’s best cheerleading supporters and tone setters. The parental role is a special privilege and a vital home responsibility.

Good organization, sensible routines and a respect for a solid work ethic is essential foundational starters. A productive day at school begins six hours before a student’s head hits the pillow the night before. One can help a child become a better student with desirable management skills. For example, assist your young child – and older students have self-responsibility in this regard – to organize their time effectively and efficiently. For starters: limit television, interactive computer games, idle chatter on the telephone, and endless loud background music.

Eliminate distractions. Getting enough physical exercise is essential for providing a person with a healthy lifestyle. There are four watch words that hold a vital key: sleep, eat, work, and play. It is essential that young minds and bodies have enough sleep every night to perform at their best. Also, young minds require a healthy breakfast to start off a good work day. Good food gives a body and brain the energy it needs to function properly. When these two power-houses … enough rest and good food … are combined with sufficient exercise and responsibility for completion of home or work chores, the learner is off to a great start for a healthy “learning workday.”

We believe work to learn and learn to work are essential prime lifelong success skills.

Effective communication between school and home is essential in the education of a learner. The communication channel must go both ways. The school and the home … EACH have a piece of the picture of a student’s development, and EACH can be most effective when essential pertinent information is shared. Clear communication between school and home helps ensure that the teacher and parents are responsive to the unique needs of each student. There are few things more hurtful to a student than an uncaring or overbearing attitude of a parent or a “vindictively unfair” attitude of a teacher.

Working together as full partners – the home and the school – can create a caring and sensitive school climate which respects and responds to the students’ individual needs. The centrality of this partnership is the student. The focus of the partnership is to maximize the potential within each learner so he or she may achieve all of which she or he is capable. This, we believe, is the essential underpinning of a quality educational experience.

John Locke, a great American forefather said it nobly, “The improvement of understanding is for two ends: first, our own increase of knowledge; secondly, to enable us to deliver that knowledge to others.” America’s noble experiment, universal education for all citizens, is the cornerstone of our representative democracy. And it is through excellence in education that we help to maintain the freedoms and liberties we know and treasure. Indeed, education opens doors to successfulness, and it opens our minds to the truths of virtue, freedom and security. It has been said “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” How true that is.

Clearly, the essentiality of maintaining high educational performance expectations and action standards is the necessary cornerstone for a free and enduring society. Winston Churchill said it well, “Never flinch, never weary, never despair.” And you know, that is great advice for all of us to follow. And that is how I see it FROM THIS PERSPECTIVE.

Dr. Robert L. Heichberger is professor emeritus at the State University of New York at Fredonia and distinguished professor at Capella University in Minneapolis. All of the past columns can be viewed on Send comments to: Rheich@aol.com

CLCS Talks Tuition

August 29, 2012 The Post-Journal Save | Post a comment |

By Dave O’Connor editorial@post-journal.com

MAYVILLE – After determining in July that tuition rates for out-of-district students calculated using the Seneca Falls formula are too high and would adversely affect possible integration with Ripley, the Chautauqua Lake school board sent a clear message at its latest meeting.

“Ripley knows we will negotiate,” board member Kim Weborg-Benson said during the board’s August session.

Chautauqua Lake Central School thus joined Ripley Central School with rates “under review” while two other local districts, Brocton and Clymer, will not accept tuition students in 2012-13. Clymer will, however, continue instruction of previously accepted students from other districts who will pay $200 for tuition.

So far among the six local districts only Westfield and Sherman have announced tuition rates for nonresident students who want to attend either of their respective schools in the coming school year.

Westfield will charge $3,025 tuition for kindergarten through fifth grade and $7,437 for grades six through 12. Sherman will ask $2,743 for kindergarten through sixth grade and $2,005 for grades seven through 12.

If Chautauqua Lake uses the Seneca Falls formula, its tuition would be $1,200 for pre-kindergarten, $6,500 for kindergarten through sixth grade and $9,500 for grades seven through 12.

“Nobody’s sending their kids here at $9,500 a year,” said Jay Baker, CLCS board vice president, at a July 25 meeting.

Board member Deborah Cross-Fuller agreed.

“At this point we’re pricing ourselves out of the market,” she said.

Jason Delcamp suggested his fellow board members look to actual school taxes paid by an average homeowner as a more realistic basis for tuition.

Baker again noted that, for small rural schools, adding students would generally be financially constructive since most classes can easily add students with very little additional expense. However, Dave Thomas, business manager, warned other districts can send special needs students with very high attached costs to schools which accept tuition. This practice, he said, has already caused some school districts to not accept tuition students.

Regarding Ripley, CLCS Superintendent Benjamin Spitzer said he believes a contract between the two districts would have to take into account the number of students Ripley could send to Chautauqua Lake which would allow CLCS to offer a low average rate.

“Generally speaking, Ripley is very interested, but the tuition formula might be different because of the amount of students,” Spitzer said at the July business session.

Delcamp noted Ripley’s incoming eighth grade class is reportedly only 14 students, which portends extremely small high school classes going forward.

Baker added it is now inevitable that at least some small rural school districts will, “close their doors in the next two or three years because they are broke.”

Much of the problem, Baker maintained, continues to be the state’s educational hierarchy which piles so-called unfunded mandates on all of New York’s public schools no matter the number of students or tax base. These mandates, according to Baker, mean districts like many in Chautauqua County spend time and money trying to comply with them and actual educational resources become more and more limited.

“I’m not in the mood to kowtow to anything the state is saying anymore,” Baker said.

Bureaucracy

Why our schools are top notch

August 27, 2012

Paul Christopher , The OBSERVER

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I couldn’t be prouder of the recent landing on Mars via procedures and devices that looked like a Rube Goldberg cartoon via Ray Bradbury beforehand. I wonder how many appreciate the science and engineering behind it all?

Some people resent the money spent on the entire space program, but I’m not one of them, I think it reflects the best of what and who we are. I think it also puts to rest the lie about our educational system.

These were American engineers and scientists, educated in America in that same disrespected educational system everyone seems to have an opinion on. Unfortunately a huge percentage of that opinion seems to have a negative bent to it. I’d like to take this opportunity to dispute at least some of that.

I have said before and will continue to make the point that the comparative methods between our countries educational system and those of other countries has one glaring error that nobody seems to ever address. That error is that our schools are compared with only the top 50 percent or higher of all of the students in those countries. China, Japan, all of Europe, all those countries separates children by ability at roughly the middle school level.

In no way, shape or form is every child guaranteed a place in regular high school, let alone college. Testing separates at somewhere between 12 and 14 years of age, those who are given a chance for higher education and those funneled into various trade schools.

Behavior is at least part of it. If a student in any of those countries misbehaves to a point well below the delinquency tolerated here, they’ll be put out of school. They will not be supplied with tutors as they are here. The disabled, although taken care of in various degrees, will not be included in any statistics relative to the performance of schools on a track to higher education. They will not be “mainstreamed” if educated at all. We do all of the above then complain that on average we score lower? That’s just nuts.

We appear to invent almost everything. Other countries seem to survive by stealing our inventions and manufacturing and selling them to others, in many cases to America itself! Do you know what “outsourcing” really is? It’s American companies manufacturing our stuff overseas and selling it back to America. It’s still OUR stuff!

I doubt any country in the world could have made that Mars landing. I must repeat that those engineers and scientists were educated here, in our country, in our maligned educational system. If you compare our best to everyone else’s best I think we’re on top on any category anyone could name. How many Americans attend school in foreign countries to better their education? Even more revealing, of those who do, how many are in engineering, math or science?

Reverse that question and ask how many students in every major college in every major program are from foreign countries? Look at any of our best schools, schools like Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Stanford, and you’ll see people from India, Africa and yes, China, our so-called rival. Many of those countries manage to educate their children quite well, obviously. But just as obviously for their best and brightest America is still the “gold standard.”

We have, as a country, somehow decided that our educational system is going to be used as the great equalizer, the one tool for social engineering to assure equality for all. I have news for those who support that nonsense, and that is that statistics prove that not only doesn’t it work but that it is taking literally billions of hours of time and money from our best and brightest with little to show for it.

Schools cannot be used nor should they be used to feed the poor, to supplant poor parenting, to aid what should be social and welfare programs. Tax laws have been abused so that liberal government agencies can force their agendas on localities with the money to pay for it coming from school taxes, as unfair a way to pay for education as one could imagine, a totally regressive tax with no allowances for income as we age and become infirm. I doubt there is any discipline more saturated with a liberal mindset than education with the possible exception of social work, but with a built in support from the population at large most agencies can only dream about.

After all, who could possibly be against educating our children? I’m not either. But I am against spending my tax dollars at an ever increasing and ridiculous rate with most of that money going to hidden social engineering, not education per se. It’s not the teachers, it’s the system.

I hate to suggest that the people doing the most hand wringing are well aware of this but are using it to get more money for more programs for agendas far removed from actual education. Does Welfare pay for meals for the poor, or do the schools? Does the Office of Developmental Disabilities pay for educating the disabled, or do the schools? Who provides virtual day care for juvenile delinquents, welfare, the Probation Department or schools? If one removes the social engineering from our school systems your taxes would and could be cut in half while performance would improve.

Am I suggesting we should cut all of the above-mentioned, non-educational programs from schools? I have to say for the most part that yes, I am. If in fact there is a need for a large part of the programs currently run through our schools, they should be a separate entity and not paid for with tax money designated for education. To do otherwise, in my opinion, is fraud.

If mentally challenged individuals were educated through the Office of Mental Disabilities, a program spending billions every year, and Juvenile delinquents were educated through the criminal justice system, and the same sort of placement testing implemented that other countries seem to find acceptable, and only our top 50 percent of students were in high schools and being tested, I think you’d find a much better “product” at a much lower price. I also think an awful lot of those maligned teachers would begin to look a lot better.

Paul Christopher is a Dunkirk resident. Send comments to editorial@observertoday.com

Comments

(7)

PhilJulian

Aug-27-12 5:11 PM Agree   | Disagree

(con’t) good whack across my fanny. (I still have marks there every sixteenth of an inch). When I arrived home that day my mother was waiting for an explanation. My point is that no one called for an attorney and no one reported the incident to the ACLU. Ms. Cox had a right to punish me and I remember that punishment over 50 years later. Discipline is the missing ingredient no only in education but in society in general. Where there is appropriate punishment everyone in society gains. Just talk to a student from China and ask how much nonsense their system will tolerate. I have and the answer is that there is no tolerance.

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PhilJulian

Aug-27-12 5:06 PM Agree   | Disagree

I don’t often agree with the writer but I do in this case. The foreign countries are doing it right by teaching the trades to students who are not college material. The Americaqn system is controlled by bureaucrats and unions. Why do we expect all students to prepare for college? Just follow the money trail. Comparing the test scores of American students to scores in foreign countries is just not a fair comparison. As for handling dicipline problems we do a lousy job there too. When I was in middle school the principal was Ms. Viola Cox. On one winter day I was on school propperty, I picked up a handful of snow, made a snowball and threw it at another kid. When I arrived at my desk there was an announcement for me to report to Ms.Cox’s office. As I entered her office she said “Philip, do you know the rules about throwing snowballs on school property? I said “well, I guess so”. She said come here to my desk. She pulled out a ruler, said “bend over”, and she pro

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USMCVET

Aug-27-12 2:54 PM Agree   | Disagree

I think that we should go back to educating our children the way we did in the 50’s and 60’s. The teachers made their own tests and you passed them or failed. Also, the teachers were someone to be respected. Now the kids don’t even respect the principal or the school police officer. I subbed one time at the middle school and was totally disgusted at the behavior of the kids. My father would have used the belt on me if he even got an inkling that I screwed up in school. Teachers are told to “F” off and more by kids. Somehow the parents need to start taking responsibility of their kids.

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commentor

Aug-27-12 2:26 PM Agree   | Disagree

Our education is slipping because we are too busy doing the politically correct thing. We are too busy making everything is in English and Spanish. We are too busy tolerating bad behavior. Pretty sad when English is the Second Language.

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Bandit

Aug-27-12 1:09 PM Agree   | Disagree

It does make you wonder. I know HOW the U.S. education system became great, my question is how much longer will that be so? We are besieged with reports such as middle schoolers who cannot name the past U.S. Presidents, but can rattle off the names, occupations and home towns of the contestants on a certain reality T.V. show. DKexpat, I would be interested to know why those of which you posted came to this country? Were they the accelerated in their home countries educational system or just average? Do they have children currently enrolled in U.S. Schools so that they could make comparisons with their former academia?

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DKexpat

Aug-27-12 12:48 PM Agree   | Disagree

Paul, to your point about foreign students coming to the US – –

I host a number of weekly meetings, but one stands out – a meeting with 14 other attendees. Each of us has a graduate degree (or two), and three hold doctorates – two in electrical engineering and one in computer science. (I’m not one of those three.) Four hold patents for something related to “moving bits across the network,” although, like everywhere, the patents really belong to the company. (I’m not one of those four, either.)

I just do my best to keep up. 🙂

I’m the only native-born American in the room. The rest? 8 from India, 4 from mainland China, 1 from Hong Kong, 1 from Iran. (Although, he understandably prefers to say he’s “Persian.”)

Each of them received their advanced degrees in the US, and each chose to stay here rather than return to their counties to work. (Technical visas or green card for most; I believe three are now citizens.)

The grass is, indeed, greener here…

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DarkStar

Aug-27-12 11:29 AM Agree   | Disagree

Excellent post Paul, although I’m sure pointing this truth out will be less then popular with many as it exposes the falsehoods that have been used to justify massive increases in spending on public education.

How long have we heard claims of “…for the children” or seen anyone who opposes spending increases being against educating children?

Deal On Evaluations Is Good First Step

August 26, 2012

The Post-Journal

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If there is one thing everyone can agree on, it is the need for good teachers.

For too long, measuring the quality of education in New York state has focused on student test scores and not the teachers who are paid to educate students. The federal Race to the Top program, with its insistence on teacher evaluation in exchange for additional federal aid, puts much-needed focus on the job teachers do in the classroom.

Kudos, then, to Jamestown Public Schools officials and the Jamestown Teachers’ Association for reaching an agreement on teacher evaluations. Give credit to the teachers’ union for working with the district to devise a system the teachers can work with, especially since nearly 300 schools statewide still haven’t submitted a plan to the state. Jamestown’s compromise can only be a good thing for Jamestown Public Schools students.

Jamestown’s formula relies on a mix of test scores, student growth scores and classroom observations, which are graded on 22 scoreable components and 76 smaller elements. One formal observation is required, with the addition of at least one and as many as five informal observations. Nontenured teachers will have at least two informal observational sessions. Also included is the structured review of lesson plans, records and documents. All of that information is fed into a computer to determine if a city teacher’s students have achieved an appropriate level of growth over time. Teachers whose students aren’t showing appropriate growth will have additional training.

The information generated by teacher evaluations can be useful for district officials beyond deciding which teachers need additional training. The information can be used to grade the effectiveness of teacher training programs in colleges or to help quantify the ways teachers help students from poor backgrounds. Districts will be better able to show how well tenured teachers are reaching students. The information can help districts separate the new teachers who aren’t making the grade from the good teachers who need to be kept and serve as an evaluation tool of the district’s teacher improvement efforts.

None of those good things could happen without an agreement between the district and teacher’s union. They have taken a good first step. It’s up to them to build on that positive momentum in the coming years.

Brocton updated on consolidation study

August 24, 2012

By SAMANTHA MCDONNELL , The OBSERVER

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BROCTON – The consolidation study is moving ahead between Brocton and Westfield schools. Superintendent John Hertlein gave a brief update at the board of education meeting Thursday.

“I met yesterday with the district superintendent, the Westfield Superintendent and the consultant team. What we did at that point, we went over the legality of what you have to do for a consolidation study,” Hertlein said.

Hertlein noted the consolidation firm, Western New York Service Council still needs a list of items from the school district in order to start the study. He also spoke of the timeline for the study. Once completed, a specific period of time is required in order for the public to view the results.

“Once the study is done, it requires two months. You can’t rush it,” Hertlein said. “The school district has to do a good job to get that information out there.”

Another time limit discussed was the amount of time between the straw and regular vote. A straw vote, an unofficial vote, will be taken to gage interest on the topic. The state education commissioner will then vote on whether or not to proceed with a formal vote at that time. Two months need to pass between the two votes. The suggested time frame will take the study into early 2013, according to Hertlein.

Hertlein also asked for interest among board members for a 10 member district team that will be involved in the study. A joint meeting between the boards of education from Brocton and Westfield will meet in the coming weeks prior to a regular scheduled board meeting for Brocton. The consolidation firm will also be present at this meeting.

“They (the consultant group) will go over the district team in great depth, along with the focus groups they talked about in the interview,” Hertlein said.

The meeting will be held at Brocton on Sept. 20 at 6 p.m. prior to the regular meeting scheduled at 7 p.m. The meeting is open to the public.

MERGER PLAN: Ex-chief wrong for the job

August 20, 2012

The OBSERVER

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If ever there was a consultant to put a dagger in the Brocton Central and Westfield Academy Central Schools proposal to merge, the two boards may have found one.

More than a week ago, the districts hired the Western New York Educational Service at $35,000 for their services. One of the consultants with the agency is Thomas Schmidt, former Sherman Central School superintendent.

That’s right. That Thomas Schmidt, who while leading a tiny 525-student school district, was adamantly against the merging of his district with any neighboring school.

“It is safe to say that their proximity with us and the work that they have done in the area (was the reason for selection),” said Jeff Greabell of the Westfield school board during the selection of the firm. “They are personable, knowledgeable, and I have no doubt they will do a good job.”

They better do “a good job” if $35,000 is being spent at a time when there is no wiggle room in school budgets.

But how open will Schmidt be to merging districts? In 2008 at a forum in the Williams Center at Fredonia State on school consolidations, Schmidt made it known he was not open to the idea. One of the reasons the former Sherman superintendent may have opposed the idea was because he was being compensated by the district with pay and benefits that totaled more than $130,000 per year.

“I think the question I would have to ask is are we doing these things … to lower taxes and save money or to raise the benefits for our students?” Schmidt said at the forum in 2008. “No one has ever proved to us yet that consolidation saves money. Why are we in it? Are we in it to do what’s best for kids or save money?”

If consolidation was not best for kids, then why did Sherman students play football with Ripley students in past years?

If consolidations did not benefit students, then why are those in small schools having less educational programs and courses than students in large schools?

Finally, if consolidation is not about saving money, then why are so many small schools in Chautauqua County close to insolvency?

In 2008, Schmidt got it wrong on all points. Why reward him as a consultant today?

So cheers to Brocton and Westfield for working on a merger study. But bringing on a former school official with anti-merger sentiment is not in the schools or region’s best interest at this time.

His appointment, which is likely to be more about the money than the cause, may ultimately be a hindrance to the study, which will then lead to a waste of more time and money.

HaveANiceDay

Aug-20-12 12:12 PM Agree   | Disagree

17 school superintendents = $2,000,000 salary per year. Add the assistant superintendents, support staff, health benefits then that amount jumps to over $5,000,000 PER YEAR. Close some schools and consolidate buildings, reduce staff and the savings skyrockets!!

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HaveANiceDay

Aug-20-12 12:03 PM Agree   | Disagree

If consolidated districts don’t save money I would like someone, ANYONE to explain to me why school taxes are so cheap in states that have county school districts. Virginia has county school districts and their school taxes are about 1/3 the amount of the 17 districts in tiny chautauqua county. How anyone can defend districts like Brocton, Forestville, Sherman, Clymer, Ripley, and Frewsberg is beyond me. Those that say consolidating does not save money are a bunch of self serving liars.

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Dcronlg

Aug-20-12 11:26 AM Agree   | Disagree

One more tax note for the clueless: for every $ NYers pay in federal taxes, they receive only 74 cents in federal spending. That’s right — only 74 cents. Where does the other 26 cents go? All the red states from the Dakotas to Oklahoma and every state in Dixie, save Texas. That’s right: Every one of those red GOP-conservative states receive more in spending than they pay in taxes. They are welfare states.

Imagine how much lower your NYS taxes would be, if NY receive its fair share of federal $s??

So, go ahead: keep on supporting those so-called conservative, deficit hawk GOPers….like Paul Ryan, who paid for college with his late dad’s Social Security benefits and whose family business lives off of huge federal contracts…geez, you RW-GOPers all are so clueless…

Dcronlg

Aug-20-12 11:18 AM Agree   | Disagree

For once the OBSERVER board is correct — long term demographics of Chautauqua county schools indicates nothing but declining enrollments & a decreasing economic base for taxation. It becomes a issue of scale: certain, small select school districts will not be economically capable of being independent. There will be no choice to consolidate.

For those who argue consolidation doesn’t save $$, they couldn’t be more clueless. No need to operate as many facilities & incur operating costs. Same with transportation. Current under enrolled classes can be increased to an avg size of 24 students. Some trimming of faculty and staff will occur.

For the clueless: most school in our county receive over 50% – 75% of budget $s from NYS. The downstaters pay more in taxes $$s than the readership of the OBSERVER.

Publisher’s notebook

School chief option gains support

August 17, 2012

By JOHN D’AGOSTINO , The OBSERVER

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An interesting concept may be catching on at school districts in the northern portion of rural New York state.

It involves having a part-time school superintendent. “It’s one of the best moves we’ve made,” Alice LaRock, Westport district board president, told the Adirondack Daily Enterprise earlier this month.

Westport’s idea of a part-time school chief began in 2009 when it named Dr. John Gallagher interim superintendent. But instead of the interim tag, Gallagher wanted to work part time, only 125 days per year.

His total compensation cost to the district: $50,000, which includes no vacation, health insurance or retirement benefits. “It has saved the district much money,” LaRock said.

It is indeed a bargain for the district of 240 students – and Gallagher’s deal is working so well that neighboring district Keene Central, south of Lake Placid, is going to give the plan a chance. The Daily Enterprise reports Keene has named retired superintendent Cynthia Ford-Johnson to the part-time post for the coming year.

This plan is something that could work in a number of smaller districts in this county.

In Chautauqua County, Ripley is the smallest of the 18 districts with about 340 students enrolled. Its full-time superintendent receives a compensation package of nearly $145,000 when you add in health and retirement benefits to the salary.

Sherman’s district, with around 525 students, could have given the part-time tag a chance after outgoing Superintendent Tom Schmidt retired at the end of the last school year. It was never considered and the district hired a new superintendent, costing upward of $135,000 in total compensation.

Other local districts, including those in Silver Creek and Westfield, have already hired new superintendents, which will cost the districts a combined $300,000 for the compensation packages annually.

Our newspaper has pushed, in the past, for sharing a superintendent between districts. While that idea has never been embraced, maybe this one will.

A full-time superintendent is not state mandated, so boards cannot use that as an excuse if they choose not to place a part-timer in the post in the future.

Schools and governments need to operate as though they are in the 21st century.

Full-time superintendents for small schools, some of which should not be in existence, do not seem feasible when looking at price tags that hover around $150,000 annually per district.

John D’Agostino is the OBSERVER publisher. Send comments to editorial@observertoday.com

Marcia

Aug-17-12 8:27 AM Agree   | Disagree

That will be unlikely, although a step in the right direction. Again, we only need one or two superintendents in the county.

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Carlaw

Aug-17-12 6:53 AM Agree   | Disagree

What a great idea! Thanks for the article. I hope it plants a seed that grows and spreads!

Merger Discussions Continue For Brocton, Westfield

August 17, 2012

By Diane R. Chodan (editorial@post-journal.com) , Dunkirk Observer

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BROCTON – Two companies have stepped forward to lead a new round of consolidation talks between Westfield Academy and Central School and Brocton Central School.

A committee of board members from both districts and each district’s superintendent met last month with David O’Rourke, Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES district superintendent to study the responses to a request for proposal for a group to study and report on the feasibility of a merger between the two districts. The study must be done before there is any attempt to consolidate the districts.

Brocton was represented by board members Michael Riforgiato, Susan Hardy and David Hazelton and its superintendent John Hertlein. Jeff Greabell, board president, board member Francine Brown and David Davison, district superintendent, represented Westfield.

O’Rourke said that there were two responses to the request for proposals – one by Western New York Educational Service Council and the other by Costallo & Silky, Educational Consultants. O’Rourke said the districts could re-bid the proposal, but the group decided to interview both bidders. Interviews were held Aug. 2 in the Westfield Academy and Central School library.

The group compared and discussed the proposals and also discussed what they would want from a consulting firm.

After listening to comments and questions, O’Rourke summarized that clarification of price in each proposal and the ability of the consultants to interact with the community were items to focus on in the interviews.

Hertlein and Davison had worked together to develop a set of key questions to use in the selection of a consulting firm. Copies of the two proposals will go to all board members of each district for study. Board members in each district may send additional concerns to their respective superintendents.

Cassadaga Valley School District sets tax rates; hires staff

August 17, 2012

By DIANE R. CHODAN OBSERVER Staff Writer , The OBSERVER

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SINCLAIRVILLE – The Cassadaga Valley Board of Education passed a number of resolutions having to do with taxes at its recent meeting. Absent from the meeting was member William Carlson, so S. Carl Perry and Jeanne Oag did the voting while board president David Christy presided.

The tax warrant for 2012-2013 was approved in the amount of $4,998,000. School tax rates for the towns in the district are as follows: Arkwright, $29.80; Charlotte, $16.39; Cherry Creek, $16.39; Ellery, $16.39; Ellicott $16.39; Ellington, $16.89; Gerry, $16.39; Pomfret, $81.09; and Stockton, $16.39

Beginning on Sept. 4, taxes will be collected by mail or in person at the Cassadaga Valley Central School Business Office, 5935 Route 60 Sinclairville, NY. 14782. Taxes will not be collected at the Sinclairville Library as was the custom in past years.

Hours of collection will be Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday from noon to 4 p.m. On Thursday the hours will be later, noon to 6 p.m.

Taxes paid between Sept. 4 through Oct. 5 will be at the net amount. Taxes paid from Oct. 6 through Nov. 2 will be assessed a 2 percent penalty.

A number of resolutions concerning hiring personnel were approved.

At a special meeting held on July 26 at 7 a.m. Valerie Culverwell was appointed to the extracurricular position of varsity boys soccer coach for the 2012-2013 year while Richard Kalfas was appointed boys assistant soccer coach. Both positions were effective July 26.

At the August meeting, Ronnette Riforgiat was recalled from the preferred eligibility list established June 2011 to the position of special education consultant teacher effective Aug. 30. Janelle Lesher was appointed to the long-term substitute position of Spanish teacher for Spanish I and II, effective Aug. 30.

Teresa Paulson was appointed to the position of part-time cleaner, ten month 5.5 hours per day, effective Aug. 27.

Andrea Gierlinger was appointed as auditor for the extra-curricular fund for the 2012-2013 school year. Allen Reynolds, Mimi Francisco, and Lawrence Nutt were each appointed to part-time bus driver positions. The appointments were all part-time 10-month positions effective Aug. 30. The hourly rate was $12.40.

Advanced Planning

BOCES To Conduct Southwestern Superintendent Search

August 15, 2012

By Dennis Phillips (dphillips@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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LAKEWOOD – The search for the next superintendent for Southwestern Central School District will be conducted by BOCES.

On Tuesday, David O’Rourke, Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES district superintendent, discussed the service BOCES provides to component districts. O’Rourke said BOCES will provide the service at no charge, other than incidental costs like travel expenses for candidates and advertisement of the open position. O’Rourke said he would handle all contacts with potential candidates.

The BOCES superintendent commended the board for thinking ahead and starting the search process for the next superintendent. Daniel George, Southwestern superintendent, is planning to retire at the end of the calendar year.

”This is the position many boards like to be in,” O’Rourke said about searching for a new superintendent while the retiring school district leader continues his duties.

O’Rourke said the search process typically takes three months to complete. He said it is his understanding district officials don’t want an interim superintendent. He said the timeline to find a new superintendent will then be tight to complete in time. He said district officials could name an acting superintendent if a new superintendent has not been hired by the time George retires, but the search is almost complete. The search will be both internal and external for a new superintendent.

O’Rourke said the board should start to think about who should be involved in the selection process. He said the board should appoint members of the school district and the community to a search committee. He said typically a search committee is made up of eight to 10 people. He said more than one committee could be formed depending on how many people want to be involved in the process.

”This is the board’s decision,” he said. ”This is probably the most important responsibility of the board.”

O’Rourke said he has not led the search for a new superintendent for a school district because he was just named BOCES superintendent in July. He said he has been involved in the search process for several school administrators.

Fredonia school board passes tax rolls

August 15, 2012

By SHIRLEY PULAWSKI – OBSERVER Staff Writer , The OBSERVER

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At a regular meeting Tuesday evening, the Fredo-nia Board of Education announced its total adjusted budget will remain at $27,919,828 as outlined earlier in the year.

No revenue adjustments were made from the original budget, leaving the estimated revenues for the 2012-2013 school year at $11,977,589.

During the budget process, $1,300,000 was appropriated from the general fund to offset taxes and the board will not be appropriating any additional fund balance.

Despite some changes to the equalization rates in the towns of Portland, Arkwright and Pomfret, the amount to be collected by taxes for the 2012-2013 school year remains as voted upon by the members of the district earlier in the year. The total taxable assessed value in the district is $169,616,052, with the total true value at $657,574,361. The total amount due across all townships in the district is $14,642,239, which reflects no change since the districtwide vote. A resolution to confirm the tax rolls and authorize the 2012-2013 tax for the 2012-2013 school year passed unanimously.

Other business related to the start of the new school year was resolved during the meeting. Several teachers were hired or rehired.

Emily Klein was appointed to a 3-year regular probationary position of Grade 6 teacher. Superintendent Paul DiFonzo described her as “very dedicated to children” and told the board she rose up “against stiff competition” and that her volunteer work was an aspect which put her ahead of others competing for the position.

Linda Sentz was appointed as Grade 6-8 English Language Arts (ELA) teacher with a 2-year probationary period. DiFonzo said Sentz brings seven years of teaching experience to the school, with five from the Frontier school district.

Ashley Scudder was re-appointed as non-probationary, non-tenure Health/physical Education teacher, effective through June 2013. Jessica Cannon, certified in grades 7-12, was granted non-probationary, full-time, long-term substitute in ELA through June, 2013.

A list of per diem substitute teachers was approved, and a list of four teacher aides and three food service helpers were taken off probationary status after completing 12 months of service.

Steven Sigmund, an architect for R.W. Larson, the company contracted to repair the hole in a brick wall at the school, was at the meeting to discuss the progress of the project. Sigmund explained the permitting process began as usual, with the “standard reply” that it would take 18 weeks initially for the permit to be issued. Sigmund said he is working with officials to try and expedite the process. The project was approved by voters in the district earlier in the year, but work cannot begin until the permitting is finished.

The board also unanimously resolved to call on Governor Andrew Cuomo to veto New York State Bill #A.8291-A/S.5771-A, which the resolution claims “ties the hands of school districts in making appropriate personnel decisions that best meet the educational needs of its students, and … school districts need flexibility to efficiently manage their operations with limited resources, and … undermines the collective bargaining process by uniformly giving unions a significant benefit without school districts receiving anything in return that could improve educational programs and services for children, and … imposes an onerous mandate on school districts in direct contravention of efforts by the Mandate Relief Council to reduce state unfunded mandates on school districts.”

The next Board of Education meeting will take place on Sept. 11 at 6:30 p.m. in the high school library.

SRO?pact renewal at SCCS discussed

August 13, 2012

By NICOLE GUGINO – OBSERVER Assistant News Editor , The OBSERVER

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SILVER CREEK – Silver Creek is the only municipality in Chautauqua County to still have a School Resource Officer Program, but this may soon change.

The SRO program in which the Silver Creek Police Department supplies an officer to Silver Creek and Forestville schools was in the past funded through the villages, the town of Hanover and the schools.

According to Silver Creek Police Chief Timothy Roche, Silver Creek is the only school to maintain its SRO program in Chautauqua County, aside from BOCES.

The program has been phased out in other districts due to budget cuts and the same may happen to the Silver Creek program.

At the recent Silver Creek Village Board meeting, the board discussed a meeting of all the concerned entities to see if it is worth renewing the SRO agreement which will expire Aug. 31.

Trustee Thomas Harmon questioned why Silver Creek should have the program if no other schools do.

He also pointed out that the previous SRO has left the department, so it will be an added cost to train a new officer.

Trustee Nick Piccolo added budgets are tight and the school has had deep cuts from the tax cap, so if the Seneca Nation decides not to support the program it is likely there will not be funds available for it to continue.

“The biggest thing is if the Nation does not want to come on board, the school has made it clear this is the last year they are even going to be able to consider funding this and we are not going to be able to fund it completely here in the village … That’s why we need to get everybody on board, all the entities that are involved and we have got to be able to make them believe this is a worthwhile cause and it’s worth going forward with in order for it (to continue),” he said.

In other business:

The village authorized Lindstrom to sign a hold harmless agreement with Petri’s Baking Products for the camera grid. Roche said after this agreement is signed the project can move forward.

The next village board meeting will be held Aug. 20.

Should Silver Creek keep its School Resource Officer (SRO) Program?

  1. 1.    YES

35%

  1. 2.          NO

65%

Comments (4)

mattdillon

Aug-15-12 10:05 AM Agree   | Disagree

The SRO does alot of behind the scenes interaction with students that the general public doesn’t see. I know it probably sounds like that doesn’t mean much to the average citizen but I believe mentoring kids with their problems is a very big deal.

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Santora

Aug-14-12 10:50 AM Agree   | Disagree

It’s a Silver Creek School question. It’s their call not mine!

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Bandit

Aug-14-12 9:57 AM Agree   | Disagree

What is the purpose of the SRO? PR? We did not need school cops when I was growing up and I’ve been out of school for (wow) a NUMBER of years. Perhaps it would be better to keep the cops on patrol.

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PhilJulian

Aug-14-12 8:51 AM Agree   | Disagree

I would rather lose a resource officer than a good teacher. It’s time to make some choices.

BOCES?Students Take Advantage Of Distance Learning

August 13, 2012

The Post-Journal

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School superintendents in Western New York say the Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES Distance Learning Network is helping their students get a head start on college.

“We have had several students who have been able to enter college as sophomores. The tuition savings for their families is substantial, and the students have found themselves better prepared for the rigors of college,” said Danielle O’Connor, Frewsburg Central School superintendent.

Students from BOCES component school districts participating in the Distance Learning Program are earning hundreds of transferable college credits each year by enrolling in classes their high schools do not offer. A partnership between the BOCES and Jamestown Community College has added many classes to the list, and students in both Erie and Chautauqua counties are able to take advantage of the dual-credit opportunities without paying college tuition. Final figures are not yet available for the current school year, but in 2010-11, students from participating school districts earned a total of 1,215 transferable college credits through the partnership with JCC alone. The cost of tuition would have been $63,180 but students were able to take these courses free of charge and carry the credits with them after graduation regardless of their post-secondary plans.

“The partnership with Jamestown Community College has enabled the Distance Learning Network to facilitate a far greater number of college-level course offerings for students from our component school districts,” said Michael Bayba, Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES distance learning specialist. “Thanks to JCC and our participating districts, hundreds of students have been able to get a head start on college by graduating high school with transferable college credit and experience taking college-level classes.”

The Distance Learning Network is part of the Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES School Support Services Division. Distance Learning classes are hosted at one high school and broadcast to others via state-of-the-art videoconferencing technology. Fax machines, email, and online instructional resources such as Moodle eliminate the need for students to be physically present in the same classrooms as their instructors. This has enabled hundreds of students from participating school districts to take classes not offered at their own high schools. Through the Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES Distance Learning Network, students at Springville High School, for example, are currently taking six classes not offered at the school, such as a course on the Holocaust. Meanwhile, students from other participating school districts are taking a psychology class taught at Springville High School through the Distance Learning Network.

According to Vincent Vanderlip, Springville High School principal, his students are benefiting in two important ways from the district’s participation in the Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES Distance Learning service. For one thing, students now have access to an expanded offering of courses since they can take classes taught at other schools but not taught at Springville High School. Additionally, Springville students are currently earning college credit by taking two JCC classes taught at Falconer High School – Principles of Financial Accounting and Principles of Managerial Accounting.

“Distance Learning enables our students to get a jump-start on earning college credit, and these courses give them a taste of what college-level work is going to be like,” Vanderlip said. “Interacting with college professors while still in high school is a great benefit and the opportunity to experience college-level courses enhances their learning and prepares them for life beyond high school.”

The same applies for Frewsburg High School in Chautauqua County. Dozens of students from high schools throughout Western New York are enrolled in a college-level sociology course taught by William McFarland, a social studies teacher at Frewsburg High School. At the same time, Frewsburg students have been able to enroll in college with a substantial number of college credits through a combination of advanced placement classes taught at the school and college-level distance learning courses.

Access to college-level classes at other high schools through the Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES Distance Learning Network has helped pave the way for an opportunity for students – the ability to actually earn an associate degree at the same time they graduate high school with their Regents Diploma without spending any money on tuition, room and board and college fees.

Brocton, Westfield school boards select a consultant

August 10, 2012

By DIANE R. CHODAN OBSERVER Staff Writer , The OBSERVER

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BROCTON – The Brocton and Westfield Boards of Education took another step forward Thursday night by selecting the consulting firm for the centralization study.

Two firms had answered the Request for Proposal (RFP). The boards decided to interview both.

On Aug. 2, the boards, along with BOCES superintendent Dr. David O’Rouke and administrative assistant Cindy Marx, met in Westfield to interview the Western New York Educational Service Council. The team from the firm who would conduct the work are: Marilyn Kurzawa, David Kurzawa, Robert Christmann, and Thomas Schmidt. All but Christmann attended that meeting. Vince Coppola, who works for the firm but who would not be a team member on this study, served as lead presenter.

On Thursday, the boards met in Brocton to interview Castallo & Silky. Alan Pole and Jessica Cohen attended the interview. Pole was the primary spokesperson.

In both cases, the interview consisted of a series of questions, asked alternately by members of the Brocton and Westfield boards. The questions were developed specifically for this interview, after earlier meetings clarified what was important to both boards.

One area of concern was whether a firm could understand small rural districts. Westfield Board president Jeff Greabell asked each firm “What experience do you have working in small rural school districts?”

Other questions dealt with how the firm saw the roles of the two superintendents, the boards, and the faculties would play in the study.

In their answers to questions posed and in their presentations both firms stressed the job of the consultant was to present the data, not advocate for or against consolidation. Both noted the importance of communicating to the communities involved, employing a variety of means.

Once the interview with Castallo & Silky concluded, the boards went into executive session for approximately an hour.

When the session was reopened to the public, each board resolved to award the RFP to the Western New York Educational Service Council with Robert Christmann, David and Marilyn Kurzawa and Thomas Schmidt, with the assistance of Bren Price, Sr. as consultants at an all inclusive total cost of $35,000. The boards further authorized the group to begin the study.

Both boards passed the resolution unanimously.

Before adjournment, each board president spoke in public about the reason for the selection. Jeff Greabell of Westfield spoke first.

“It is safe to say that their proximity with us and the work that they have done in the area (was the reason for selection). They are personable, knowledgeable, and I have no doubt they will do a good job,” he said.

“From my point of view three of the four members of the team live in Chautauqua County. They can identify with us,” Brocton president Thomas DeJoe said.

Thomas Schmidt recently retired as superintendent of the Sherman School District. David Kurzawa has served as interim superintendent seven times in area schools, his last being in Silver Creek. Marilyn Kurzawa is a well-known educator as well as a volunteer for the local Habitat for Humanity.

The consultants from Castallo & Silky, while having experience in rural schools, currently live in the Syracuse area.

Dunkirk School Board announces final tax rates

August 10, 2012

By SHIRLEY PULAWSKI OBSERVER Staff Writer , The OBSERVER

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Dunkirk City Schools Business Administrator William Thiel presented the tax levy plans for the city of Dunkirk, town of Dunkirk and town of Sheridan at a meeting of the Dunkirk School Board of Education meeting on Thursday evening.

Thiel noted the equalization rate for the city of Dunkirk remained nearly flat, but just enough to cause an increase of three cents on every dollar, a .13 percent increase, of assessed value on city residents. Thiel said this reflects stable assessed value, but a declining equalization rate of 82 percent, down from 82.25 percent. The equalization rate is determined by the total assessed value as determined locally divided by the total market value as determined by the state.

The total change in actual values in the city of Dunkirk went from $284,924,440 in 2011-12 to $284,786,127 in 2012-13, a difference of about $138,000, or a .05 percent drop.

“This is about as stable as you get,” Thiel said.

He also noted the city rate has been roughly flat for about the last five years.

The town of Sheridan will see a modest decrease by 3.68 percent. The change in actual value went from $17,773,090 in 2011-12 to $17,009,808 in 2012-13, a drop of $763,282, or -4.29 percent. The equalization rate remained stable at 70 percent for both years.

However, Thiel said the town of Dunkirk would see an increase of 6.81 percent after a “dramatic fall in the equalization rate” from 81.5 percent down to 73.5 percent. The actual values declined from $101,770,719 in 2011-12 to $100,850,486 in 2012-13, a difference of $920,233 or -0.90 percent.

After all of the calculations are made, Thiel said the tax rate per $1,000 for each municipality is $23.04 in the city of Dunkirk, $25.71 for the town of Dunkirk, and $26.99 for the town of Sheridan. Each figure reflects roughly the median amount paid by each municipality since 2000.

According to the New York Offices of Real Property Services (ORPS), “a falling equalization rate means that market values are rising faster than assessed values.”

The full value tax rate per $1,000 went from $19.62 in 2011-12 to $18.90 in 2012-13 for each of the townships and city. Historically, $18.90 is a new low since 2000, when the true value in the area was $19.59. The peak in the last 13 years was in 2006-07 at $27.05.

JPS Board Votes On APPR Plan

August 8, 2012 Save | Comments (2) | Post a comment

By Nicholena Moon (nmoon@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

The future of the Jamestown Public Schools District holds massive changes.

The JPS board included the approval of the long-awaited annual professional performance review plan at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting. It has been a long journey since the state’s mandate that schools implement a teacher/principal evaluation system. The district navigated negotiations with each group’s union and has finally come to an agreement that must now be submitted to the state for approval.

Daniel Kathman, superintendent of schools, recognized the change’s significance.

“Its an extraordinarily complex, rich and important process,” he said. “In the end, the bottom line goal is to improve student learning. So as long as we keep that as our focus and motivation, it will be a very positive improvement to our kids and our teachers.”

Details of the plan will be included in a weekend edition of The Post-Journal.

The board also voted to appeal on the district’s behalf to Gov. Andrew Cuomo regarding recent legislation that has been brought to his desk.

Joe DiMaio, board president, read the district’s letter to the governor.

“This ill-conceived, onerous legislature grants tenure-status seniority rights to non-competitive and labor classes of employees,” he began. “Districts would be forced to base hiring decisions on seniority, and not the actual needs of the students.”

According to the letter, the bill would eliminate the collective bargaining process between school districts and unions, simply instituting mandates in place. Similar legislation has been vetoed by the governor’s predecessors on these grounds.

The district’s hope is for the governor to reject this bill.

“Our advisers from NYSSBA, the state school board association, has recommended that schools boards voice their displeasure at the prospect of an even more restrictive employment circumstance, making it more difficult for us to be adequately flexible in how we deploy the staff,” Kathman added.

Sources Of Information

Dunkirk Teacher Tries To Cover Wide Range Of Issues In Sex Education Course

August 6, 2012 Save | Comments (7) | Post a comment |

By Liz Skoczylas (lskoczylas@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

Despite the education happening through high school health classes, the teenage birth rate in Jamestown and Dunkirk far surpasses the rate in New York state and Chautauqua County.

New York state’s teen birth rate is 2.3 percent. In Chautauqua County, the birth rate exceeds the state average, at 3.6 percent – largely because the teen birth rate in Jamestown is 6.3 percent while the Dunkirk rate is 8.2 percent.

Recognizing a need within this area, the Jamestown Public Schools District, along with the YWCA, funds the TEAM program, which will be featured in Tuesday’s edition of The Post-Journal. The program encourages education, employment and parenting skills, though Chautauqua Family Court Judge Judith Claire said she believes the program may not be enough to solve the issues in this area.

“It is not the school district’s problem to solve society’s problems. But, no one else is going to step forward either and say, ‘These kids need their high school diplomas.’ What can we do about that?” Claire said.

Until there is an answer to that question, schools find themselves thrust into the gap.

In New York state, 42 percent of high school students have had sexual intercourse, according to recently released numbers from the 2009 New York Youth Risk Behavior survey. Nationwide, that number stretches to 46 percent.

Health education varies from state-to-state and often district-to-district. According to the 2010 New York School Health Profiles, 51 percent of New York state high schools required students to take two or more health education courses. And, 50 percent of New York state high schools had a lead health education teacher who received professional development on pregnancy prevention between 2008 and 2010.

HEALTH AND SEX EDUCATION

“Across the state, I believe it’s only a half credit of health that you have to take, but in our school, it’s a full credit. You’re not really going to find other schools, I don’t think, that offer a whole year of health,” said Kim Roque, health coordinator at Dunkirk High School, which educates around 650 students daily throughout the school year.

Roque said her class covers issues such as disease, first aid, safety, violence, drugs, alcohol, family life, sexual health, choices, contraception, STDs and parenting.

“It’s interesting, because with this group of kids, it doesn’t seem to matter what you are talking about, it always comes back to sex. I’m really glad that I’m teaching at a school that embraces comprehensive sex education and allows contraception and condoms and that kind of stuff,” Roque said.

Dunkirk High School is not alone. A 2010 New York School Health Profiles survey said 99 percent of New York state high schools taught students how to find health information, products, or services related to HIV, other STDs and pregnancy. While teens are taught where to find what they need, surveys show they may not be likely to use them. A 2009 New York Youth Risk Behavior Survey showed 32 percent of New York state high school students did not use a condom during the last time they had intercourse and 81 percent did not use birth control pills or the shot to prevent pregnancy.

“It would be difficult for me to teach at a school where we weren’t allowed to talk about anything except abstinence. Certainly, it always is a part of every discussion, it always goes back to how that is the best choice because of all of the risks involved with STDs, and pregnancy and AIDs. It’s not like we just skirt it,” Roque said.

The percentage of schools discussing the benefits of being sexually abstinent has decreased slightly between 2008 and 2010, according to a 2010 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2008, 99 percent of New York students were being taught the benefits, while in 2010, 98.9 percent of students learned the benefits of abstinence. The same survey also indicates a slight decrease in students being taught to prevent HIV, other STDs and pregnancy. In 2008, 100 percent of the high schools surveyed taught prevention, while in 2010 the number dipped to 99.5 percent.

Despite the number of high school students not using a form of contraception, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey shows an increase in the percentage of public secondary schools teaching the importance of using condoms consistently and correctly. In 2008, 92.7 percent of schools were teaching this, while in 2010 the percentage rose to 94.1 percent.

PROGRAM FUNDING

The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States reported in 2010 that New York state received Personal Responsibility Education Program funds totaling $3,236,330. According to the council, it is the first-ever dedicated funding stream for comprehensive approaches to sexuality education. The grant is administered through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families.

Additionally, a total of $2,991,440 was received by the state for Title V State Abstinence Education Programs. The program, which is also administered through the Administration for Children and Families, requires states to provide $3 state-raised dollars, or the equivalent in services, for every $4 received from the federal government. All programs funded by the program must promote abstinence from sexual activity as their exclusive purpose.

Private entities also received millions of dollars worth of funding in 2010. Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative funds received by private entities totaled $7,708,963, while Personal Responsibility Education Innovative Strategies funds totaled $887,211 for private entities.

The New York State Department of Health received two of the private grants, while several New York City organizations including Planned Parenthood of New York City, Inc. and the New York City Mission Society received several of the other grants.

FILLING A GAP

With millions of dollars available from the state and federal governments, at least one prior teen mother who spoke to The Post-Journal has her own solution to preventing teen pregnancy.

Jennifer, whose own mother was 16 when she had her first child, is a second-generation teen parent. Trying to break the cycle, she has been sure to talk to all three of her sons about protection.

“I know that it does take (on) a pattern. I think that parents could change that. I was very open,” she said. “I talked a lot to my boys about it. And, even if I would’ve had girls, I would have been very open. And, one of the things I would have done is put them on some kind of birth control pill.

NEA Convention Is ‘Obama Love Fest’

July 20, 2012

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Officials of the largest U.S. teachers’ union, the National Education Association, have made it very clear they support President Barack Obama’s bid for re-election. So plain is their intent that the NEA’s annual convention in Washington was an ”Obama love fest,” in the words of an Associated Press reporter.

So biased were those in charge of the event and many in attendance that the reporter was told by some Republican teachers that they felt as if they were being harassed for not supporting Obama.

Mary Kusler, the NEA’s director of government relations, said the union supports Barack Obama because of ”the incredible legacy and vision of this current administration.”

Really? Indeed, the White House has sent tens of billions of dollars in taxpayers’ money to states where budgets were managed so badly federal bailouts were needed to keep teachers from being laid off. Often some of those states’ budget woes were because of lavish benefits for educators, with no thought of how they would be funded.

What about results, however? Are students in public schools learning more as a result of that ”incredible legacy and vision”?

Few tools are available to measure academic achievement on a nationwide basis. One is the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which tests students throughout the United States.

The average NAEP fourth grade reading score in 2009, when President Obama took office, was 221. Last year the average was 221. The average fourth grade mathematics score in 2009 was 265. By last year it had gone up just one point, to 265. Other NAEP testing shows similar stagnation.

What about the brightest students, those headed to college? One way of checking on them is the SAT college entrance examinations. In 2008, the mean score on the SAT reading test was 500. By last year it had dropped to 497. In mathematics, the mean of 214 in 2008 was unchanged last year.

President Obama’s legacy in terms of public education, then, may be pleasing to NEA leaders – but it seems to have little, if any, effect on the quality of public schools. Perhaps that’s why some teachers at the union’s convention see no reason to support the president’s re-election campaign.

Funding available for Safe Routes to Schools

August 4, 2012 MAYVILLE — New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) Commissioner Joan McDonald recently announced that applications are available for $2. more »»

Distance Learning courses give students a head start on college

August 4, 2012 Special to the OBSERVER School superintendents in Western New York say the Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES Distance Learning Network has proved instrumental in helping their students get a head… more »»

New superintendent looks for improvement

August 4, 2012 SILVER CREEK — True to his promise from the last Silver Creek Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Daniel Ljiljanich gave a data-filled presentation to the board of education recently. more »»

Amended Agreement

August 6, 2012 MAYVILLE — An amended contract between Chautauqua Lake Central School and its teachers will include no pay increases for the coming school year. more »»

CLCS?Teachers Forego Pay Raises In 2012-13 School Year; No Change To Step Increases And Health Insurance

August 6, 2012 Save | Comments (5) | Post a comment |

By Dave O’Connor (editorial@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

MAYVILLE – An amended contract between Chautauqua Lake Central School and its teachers will include no pay increases for the coming school year.

The contract does include previously agreed upon step increases and teachers will make the same contribution to their health care plan.

Ben Spitzer, district superintendent, said in a statement all district employees have now agreed to work at current pay scales, which he called a “unified approach.” This, he said, “speaks well” of all employees in the district.

“We deeply appreciate all employees in the district working closely with the Board of Education to assist in providing relief to the current economic pressures,” Spitzer said.

While the district’s teachers are helping the district keep costs down, board members are criticizing New York state for its inability to help school districts cut costs. Dave Thomas, district business officer, said he doesn’t see anything changing a trend of gradual enrollment decline for Chautauqua Lake, prompting a response from Jay Baker, the board’s vice president.

“What is your level of dealing with the idiots at the state level?” Baker asked.

Thomas made his comments in the midst of a general discussion about the Chautauqua Lake school district in particular and smaller upstate school districts in general. Districts are forced to institute new programs without receiving state funding to pay for them.

Baker said local control of schools in New York is extremely limited.

“This state’s a dictatorship,” he said. “It’s not a democracy.”

Board members renewed their criticism of the state Assembly for failing to vote on legislation which would allow regional schools so smaller districts could increase offerings to their students. Earlier board meetings have showed some small schools have classes with so few students combining them would still keep the class size at 18 to 20 students, but require one rather than two instructors. This can save money or allow schools to offer a wider variety of courses, according to Chautauqua Lake board members.

Declining enrollment is another problem at many Chautauqua County districts. Jill Scott, board president, said the district’s monthly enrollment summary counted 799 students at the end of the past school year, the first time it has dropped below 800 students.

Anti-Bullying Law Comes With Strings

August 5, 2012

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Well, here we go again – forcing schools to deal with societal problems over which educators have little control.

An anti-bullying law approved by the state Legislature two years ago kicked in on July 1. It requires schools to implement a curriculum to teach students civility and tolerance in an effort to cut down on bullying in schools. But before the Dignity for All Students Act even went into the effect, the state Legislature added a component making schools specifically responsible for investigating and dealing with cyberbullying.

Said Republican Sen. Stephen Saland of Poughkeepsie, who sponsored the amendment, ”With this new law, when cyberbullying impedes a student’s ability to learn, victims and their parents will now have the ability to report the incidents to school districts to investigate. This is a critically needed step toward ensuring a safe school environment.”

He said school officials will deal with cyberbullying under authority of a federal court ruling that they are within their rights to determine a blog posting that is written off campus could create a “foreseeable risk of substantial disruption to the work and discipline of the school.”

We absolutely agree that bullying in general and cyberbullying in particular are pernicious and have driven children to kill themselves rather than suffer through any more of it.

The sad fact is, as a society, we just cannot agree on a way to stop the bullying. Experts tell us teenagers aren’t dissuaded from certain behavior on threat of punishment – and so we don’t go after the bullies. Instead, we run TV ad campaigns aimed at telling their victims, the kids whose lives are being made miserable day after day, to wait it out. Life gets better, we tell them.

Too, we know children learn about bullying from others and that their parents and peers tolerate it. You can see for yourself at, say, a youth soccer tournament or a high school basketball game that adults, by their own behavior, show kids it is OK to be bullies.

In New York, we push the responsibility for doing something, anything, about bullying and now cyberbullying onto our schools – with legislation that claims there is no financial impact, by the way.

It simply makes no more sense to expect schools to be responsible for investigating and then dealing with cyberbullying than it does to have schools responsible for investigating and then dealing with cases of suspected child abuse that are reported by teachers.

We doubt the newest law will do much more than increase costs to the schools.

Financial challenges could close Ripley schools

July 29, 2012

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By DAVID PRENATT Special to the OBSERVER

RIPLEY – With the failure of a bill to create a regional high school, Ripley Central School could be looking at less than four years before it could not continue to operate, board members learned.

Ripley School District Business Administrator Louann Bahgat told the board at its last meeting, based on current school revenue and declining state aid, “we are looking at a life of three or four years before we would have to have a dramatic tax increase that no one could afford in order to continue.”

A tax increase of this sort would be impossible however, on account of the state-mandated 2 percent tax cap, she said.

School Superintendent Karen Krause clarified this time span includes the coming year plus 2.8 years. Several factors, including the declining population of the Ripley area, decreasing state aid, a decreased town tax assessment and especially unfunded state education mandates have all contributed to the school’s financial crises.

“The impact of the APPR (Annual Professional Performance Review) mandate alone is overwhelming,” she said.

A bill, sponsored by New York State Senator Catherine Young and New York Representative Andy Goodell, passed in the senate, but was not brought to vote in the State Assembly before the end of this year’s session, thereby defeating it. School Board President Robert Bentley expressed disappointment, stating a regional high school would provide educational opportunities for area students the districts involved cannot offer alone.

“The sad part of this is that the leader of the Assembly would not even let the bill come to vote,” he said. “I would like to ask (Speaker Sheldon) Silver why he doesn’t care about the children of Western New York. Why are we not able to give our children the opportunities he can give the children of his district?”

Board member Frederick Krause also expressed frustration.

“It’s a well-known fact that we don’t exist,” he said. “The districts in the big cities all take precedence over us.”

Board member Michael Boll encouraged the board to use the district’s resources to survive.

“We are who we are and we are where we are,” he said. “We need to put our foot forward and create what we need with what we have.”

Krause said the district is considering different scheduling options as well as programs that allow students to attend neighboring districts to receive classes they cannot receive at Ripley. Another possibility would be to tuition high school students to the Chautauqua Lake district.

Boll cautioned the board about the public perception of tuitioning.

“There is a large portion of this community that feels we want to empty the building of grades seven through 12 and send them somewhere else,” he said.

Krause noted tuitioning would be a last resort to preserve the district.

“The last thing this board wants or I want is to empty this school building,” she said. “Look around this town. Without Ripley school, there is no Ripley.”

Bentley praised Young and Goodell for their efforts and said the board would continue to find ways to operate.

“We will move on,” he said. “We are resilient. We will look at all of the options.”

WACS board gets report card on 2010-11 state assessments

August 5, 2012

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By JENNA LOUGHLIN Special to the OBSERVER

WESTFIELD – In presentations on test results from the 2010-11 school year, both principals at Westfield Academy and Central School had improving numbers to report to the Board of Education.

At a recent board meeting, Primary Principal Paula Troutman and Secondary Principal Ivana Hite each showed the results of state assessments on grades three through eight as well as Regents exams. With changes in the scoring of assessments starting in the 2009-10 school year, this is the first time since scores have been comparable. The difficulty with comparing one year’s tests to another, however, is it is a completely different cohort of students taking the test.

“At both levels, I am impressed with the amount of work that’s being done organizationally within the staff to try to improve instruction, identifying gaps, identifying whatever you can in order to improve instruction,” board member Jeff Greabell said. “I would just offer my commendation to both you and the staffs for that kind of effort.”

“It looks like it’s showing,” board President Marie Edwards said.

Troutman’s report showed improvement in student proficiency in both fourth and fifth grade math and English language arts ranging from 10 to 20 percent. For a student to be considered proficient, they must score a Level 3 – meeting learning standards – or Level 4 – meeting learning standards with distinction. A Level 2 is considered partially meeting learning standards while a Level 1 is considered not meeting learning standards.

The elementary proficiency percentages for 2010-11 were as follows: third grade ELA test, no increase at 59 percent; third grade math, 1 percent decrease to 59 percent; fourth grade ELA, 10 percent increase to 63 percent; fourth grade math, 10 percent increase to 73 percent; fourth grade science, 2 percent decrease to 93.8 percent; fifth grade ELA, 14 percent increase to 59 percent; fifth grade math, 20 percent increase in proficiency to 80 percent.

“That is what we want to see,” Troutman said of the increases on the fourth grade ELA and math tests. “We’re very excited about that.

“We want to keep pushing them to that three and four level,” she said of the elementary students in general. “They’re working hard at it.”

This is the third year WACS has used the EnVision math program and Troutman said she is very happy with it. Also, the school has adopted both reading and writing programs which are designed for kindergarten through fifth grade, using the same language and terms at all levels. Finally, Troutman said it was noticed students were struggling in phonics at the kindergarten and first grade levels, so a new phonics program was implemented and she has seen a huge difference in the student’s abilities.

At the middle and high school levels, Hite reported on ELA, math and regents scores. In the middle school, Westfield’s overall accountability status is in “good standing” in ELA, math and science with proficiency percentages for 2010-11 as follows: grade six ELA, 22 percent decrease to 50 percent; grade six math, 9 percent decrease to 63 percent; grade seven ELA, five percent increase to 69 percent; grade seven math, 8 percent increase to 73 percent; grade eight ELA, 5 percent decrease to 63 percent; grade eight math, no change at 45 percent; grade eight science, 12 percent increase to 95 percent; Regents integrated algebra middle school, no change at 100 percent.

At the high school level, the following percentage of students passed the following regents tests in June of 2011: Regents ELA, a 14 percent decrease to 80 percent; Regents integrated algebra, a 14 percent increase to 85 percent; Regents geometry, a 8 percent decrease to 82 percent; Regents algebra 2/trigonometry, a 2 percent decrease to 80 percent; Regents global history, a 22 percent decrease to 69 percent; Regents U.S. history and government, a 2 percent decrease to 96 percent; Regents living environment, a 4 percent decrease to 93 percent; Regents Earth science, no change at 97 percent; Regents physics, no change at 100 percent; and Regents Spanish, a 10 percent decrease to 90 percent.

As with the middle school, the high school is in “good standing” in regards to its overall accountability status for ELA, math and graduation rate. However, WACS did not make the adequate yearly progress for its graduation rate because it did not reach the Board of Regents aspirational goal of 95 percent of students graduating within five years of entry into ninth grade. Westfield’s graduation rate for the 2006 cohort through June 2011 is 83 percent.

Hite gave a list of what is being done to help those students not meeting proficiency or passing the tests including after-school review sessions, additional academic intervention services classes for students who score a Level 1 or 2 and analysis of assessment data in order to make adjustments in instruction. Additionally, next year grades six through eight will be using a new, online math program through Pearson called Digits. The benefit to the online offering is new books will not have to be purchased every year requirements change.

“I’m just as excited as the math teachers are because actually they finally have a program that is aligned,” Hite said.

Brocton, Westfield start reviewing proposals

August 3, 2012

By DIANE R. CHODAN OBSERVER Staff Writer Save | Comments (4) | Post a comment |

WESTFIELD – The Brocton Board of Education met at an unusual place, the Westfield Academy and Central School’s auditorium.

Earlier, Brocton and Westfield school boards had convened to jointly interview Western New York Educational Service Council, one of the companies that responded to the Request for Proposal (RFP) to study and report on the feasibility of a merger between the two districts.

This was Brocton’s scheduled meeting date, so after the interview and discussion was complete, the Brocton Board reconvened to deal with a small number of items.

Board President Thomas DeJoe asked for a moment of silence to honor former Brocton Superintendent Jack Skahill who recently passed away.

The board unanimously approved four personnel appointments. Elizabeth Parra was appointed to a probationary period in secondary special education effective Aug. 30. Sandra Wiberg was appointed to a part-time cook position effective Aug. 28. She will work three and a half hours a day at a rate of $12.31 per hour. Patrick Hodge was appointed a part-time summer technology assistant from July 2 to Aug. 24. He will be paid $7.25 per hour for a work week not to exceed 30 hours. Jennifer Starcher was appointed to the position of special education/data entry secretary at a yearly salary of $23,058 effective Aug. 20.

Doug Walter was appointed to serve as legislative liaison for the 2012-2013 school year and Todd McFadden was appointed alternate.

The next meeting of the Brocton Board will be a joint meeting with Westfield to be held in the auditorium in Brocton. The purpose will be to interview Costallo & Silky, Educational Consultant, the other company that responded to the RFP.

Dunkirk Universal Pre-Kindergarten Program welcomes applicants for 2012-13 school year

July 24, 2012

The OBSERVER

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The Dunkirk Universal Pre-Kindergarten Program, which is free to participants and open to all families in the Dunkirk Public School District regardless of income, is pleased to announce that there are still slots available for the 2012-13 school year.

A limited number of spots are available, though, so interested parents and guardians are encouraged to contact the program as soon as possible to reserve space in either the morning or afternoon sessions. The Dunkirk Universal Pre-K Program, offered at the Central Avenue Community Learning Center on Central Avenue in Dun-kirk, represents a collaborative venture between the Dunkirk Public School Dis-trict and the Erie 2-Chau-tauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES.

“This program provides children with their very first classroom experience, fostering creativity and a positive learning atmosphere while building the foundation for their K-12 education,” said Pamela Belling, E2CCB pre-kindergarten teacher. “We are very excited to be able to once again offer this valuable program to families in the Dun-kirk Public School District.”

The Dunkirk Universal Pre-K Program offers a morning session from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. and an afternoon session from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. Both sessions run Monday through Friday for the duration of the school year. In addition to providing children with a foundation for the Kindergarten curriculum and strengthening their socialization skills, the program takes advantage of a variety of sites in the downtown area for fun, educational activities.

Children must be 4 years of age by Dec. 1 in order to participate. Parents or guardians interested in applying are encouraged to contact the E2CCB Adult & Community Education division at 549-4454 ext. 4060 for more information. They may also contact Pre-Kindergarten Teach-er Pamela Belling at 366-3631 ext. 222 on Tuesdays during the summer season.

School Reimbursement Bill Remains Up In The Air

YNN Nick Reisman on July 23, 2012

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been signing into law a flurry of legislation over the last several days, but an increasingly controversial measure that would give parents and guardians broader ability to seek taxpayer-funded reimbursements for private school.

The bill passed in the Legislature in the final week of the session in June and some rank-and-file lawmakers grumbled privately that it was pushed through the Republican-led Senate and Democratic-controlled Assembly with little notice.

Supporters of the bill say it’s aimed at giving greater access to schools for children with special needs in order to meet their unique educational requirements. But critics have read the bill a different way; arguing that is allows parents or guardians to place their children in schools based on religious background at the taxpayer’s expense.

It also appears aimed specifically at Orthodox Jewish families. The bill was drafted by Agudath Israel, a NYC-based Orthodox Jewish group, says Gary Stern at LoHud.

The measure has received some press since we first blogged about back on June 21.

Both the state School Boards Association and Mayor Michael Bloomberg oppose the bill, charging that it would essentially usher in New York’s first broad-based voucher system.

A Cuomo spokesman said this afternoon the bill has been forwarded to his desk, but governor continues to review the bill. Cuomo has until midnight Aug. 1 to sign it.

School merger progress

July 24, 2012

By DIANE R. CHODAN OBSERVER Staff Writer , The OBSERVER

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BROCTON – Efforts to consolidate Westfield Academy and Central School and Brocton Central School moved forward Monday.

A committee of board of education members from both Brocton and Westfield and each district’s superintendent met with David O’Rourke, district superintendent from Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES. The purpose of the meeting was to study the responses to a request for proposal (RFP) for an independent entity to study and report on the feasibility of a merger between the two districts. This study must be done before there is any attempt to consolidate the districts.

Brocton was represented by board members Michael Riforgiato, Susan Hardy and David Hazelton and its superintendent John Hertlein. Board of education president Jeff Greabell, board member Francine Brown, and Superintendent David Davison represented Westfield.

O’Rourke said that there were two responses to the RFP – one by Western New York Educational Service Council and the other by Costallo & Silky, Educational Consultants. O’Rourke explained that they could rebid the proposal, but the group decided to interview both bidders.

The group compared and discussed the proposals and also discussed what they would want from a consulting firm.

Hazelton and Hardy, who had worked on the previous merger attempt with Fredonia, in response to questions, shared their experiences.

After listening to comments and questions, O’Rourke summarized that clarification of the pricing details in each proposal, and the ability of the consultants to interact with the community were items to focus on in the interviews.

Hertlein and Davison had worked together to develop a set of key questions to use in the selection of a consulting firm. Copies of the two proposals will go to all board members of each district for study. Board members in each district may send additional concerns to their respective superintendents.

Before the meeting ended, the committee set a date for interviews of the bidders. It will be held on Aug. 2 beginning at 6 p.m. at Westfield Academy and Central School’s library. The interviews will be conducted and attended by the full board of each district.

Comments on this article may be directed to dchodan@observertoday.com

FredoniaFred

Jul-24-12 8:24 AM Agree   | Disagree

Don’t merge BCS with anyone. Dissolve the school district and merge it into the surrounding districts.

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DKexpat

Jul-24-12 8:21 AM Agree   | Disagree

Agree with @Griffen60 – bold strokes are needed because each small district in Chau Cty faces the same problems of declining enrollment and climbing costs.

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Griffen60

Jul-24-12 8:07 AM Agree   | Disagree

Good start but they need to be talking to at least 4 districts maybe 5. If Brocton & Westfield merge it won’t be long until they will be where they are today with continued declining enrollment. Do it right 1 time not kind of right several times. Merge Westfield, Brocton, Chautauqua Lake ,& Ripley.

Setting Goals

Frewsburg Board President Wants Even Higher Graduation Rates

July 23, 2012

By Nicholena Moon (nmoon@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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FREWSBURG – It’s the season for reorganization activities and school board elections.

Like all school boards in the area, Frewsburg swore in its new board members, president, vice president and superintendent recently.

Lona Carlberg, district clerk, administered the oath of office to Danielle M. O’Connor, superintendent. Larry Gauger was subsequently elected president of the board and sworn in. Randy Wiltsie accepted the position of vice president. Additionally, the board welcomed Chad Chitester to a three-year term.

After a flurry of approving routine action items, the board listened to a Building Control System presentation given by James Mistretta. Gauger said he was particularly excited about the new building plan for the Robert H. Jackson Elementary school, which will include a new roof for part of the building, a new boiler system and a revamped drop-off area for students.

“Safety will be 10 times what it is now,” said Gauger.

Students will no longer be dropped off and picked up by parents in the bus circle, but will venture to the right-side parking lot at the end of the building to meet their families.

When asked what he hoped to improve in the coming year, Gauger championed the special education department, heralding the efforts of Cynthia Johnson, head of the department, and the rest of the teachers as instrumental in the department’s high graduation rates.

The board president expressed hope that the coming school year will see even more Regents diplomas.

“I think that’s a great goal to have,” Gauger said.

County Lags On State Tests

Bemus Point Shines, Dunkirk Struggles In Math, ELA

July 22, 2012

By Nicholena Moon (nmoon@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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All schools in Chautauqua County are not created equal.

On Tuesday, results from the state’s third through eighth grade math and English Language Arts tests indicated that as a whole, the area scored under the state average on the proficiency exams. However, some schools fared better than others.

Judged against the average of state students meeting state standards, Bemus Point, Clymer, Randolph, Fredonia and Sherman were among the highest scoring, while Salamanca, Pine Valley, Dunkirk, Ripley and Jamestown’s scores were less than the state averages.

BREAKDOWN

Bemus Point was the only school district to have more students meeting state standards than the state average in all six grades in both the ELA and math exams. Jacqueline Latshaw, superintendent of Bemus Point, attributed the school’s success to the hard work of its students, teachers and parents as well as changes to this year’s curriculum.

“This year we made several changes to provide more supports to teachers in hopes that it would lead to more success with students,” she said.

According to Latshaw, Bemus Point’s elementary schedules were rearranged so that teachers had blocks of uninterrupted instruction for ELA and math, and remedial teachers provided more “push-in services” than “pull-out services.” Teachers were also supported through frequent grade level, data and instructional support team meetings.

Clymer also had six out of six grades surpassing state levels in the math Regents. It fared slightly worse in the ELA, with four out of six grades having more students than the state average surpassing state standards. Sherman’s numbers stood in a similar place, with six out of six grades surpassing state standards more than the state average in ELA and five out of six in the math Regents.

Thomas Schmidt, superintendent of Sherman Central School District, said that the school’s curriculum is always a work in progress, and that he looks at the test results as an opportunity to pinpoint what is working and what needs improvement.

“Our teachers work hard to teach what needs to be taught,” he said. “We are in a state of constant evaluation of what we do, assessing our strengths and weaknesses and adjusting our practices accordingly.”

Southwestern had five out of six grade levels exceeding state results on both tests. Chautauqua Lake and Fredonia both had four out of six grades finish above state levels on the ELA and five out of six do so on the math test.

Forestville and Frewsburg both had four out of six grade levels outperform state results on the math test. While Forestville maintained the same record for the ELA, Frewsburg’s went down to three out of six in the math exams. Four out of six of Westfield’s grade levels exceeded state levels on the ELA, while only three out of six did so on the math Regents.

Near the lower end of the spectrum, Brocton, Cassadaga Valley, Falconer, Pine Valley and Ripley all only had two out of six grade levels rise to proficiency standards on the math test. In Brocton, Ripley and Pine Valley, no grade levels met state standards on the ELA. The numbers were two of six in Falconer and one of six in Cassadaga Valley.

Silver Creek and Panama had one grade level surpass state levels on the math test, and Dunkirk had none. Dunkirk also did not have a single grade above the standard level for the ELA, while Silver Creek and Panama both had four out of six.

ELA

An examination of the test results by grade level shows fewer fifth-graders in Chautauqua County meeting state standards than the state average – except for Clymer, Silver Creek, Bemus Point, Fredonia and Sherman. Seventh grade also did not fare well, with only six out of 18 having more students meeting state standards than the state averages – with Southwestern, Clymer, Bemus Point, Fredonia, Sherman and Westfield exceeding the state average.

Half of the third and fourth grades achieved a higher proficiency compared to the state; 11 out of 18 eighth grades exceeded state averages of students meeting state standards and 12 out of 18 sixth grades exceeded the state average of students meeting state standards.

MATH

The county did better overall on the math Regents, with 10 out of 18 third, fourth and sixth grades exceeding state averages of students meeting standards. Fifth graders struggled again, with only four out of 18 districts showing more students meeting state standards than the state average.

JAMESTOWN

Individual data was provided for each elementary and middle school in Jamestown. The recently closed Rogers Elementary topped the list, with both of its third and fourth grades surpassing state results on the math test, and its third grade doing so on the ELA. The remaining elementary schools – Ring, Bush, Fletcher and Love – did not measure up to their state counterparts in either grade on both tests. Lincoln’s fourth grade beat state averages on the ELA exam, but neither grade did so on the math test.

As for the middle schools, Persell came out on top of the pack, with half of its grade levels showing more students at meeting state standards than the state average and one of four grades doing so on the math Regents. Jefferson and Washington middle schools both failed to exceed the state averages in either test.

Jesse Joy, curriculum director for the Jamestown school districts, said curriculums do not provide the final word in a school’s performance, as all Jamestown schools share a core reading and math program.

“Of course, any curriculum or textbook is just a starting point,” she said. “We continue to work as a district to see that teachers collaborate with their colleagues – within and across buildings – to be sure that the ‘intended’ curriculum and the ‘learned’ curriculum are one and the same. By comparing their results, teachers can identify which strategies are working and which ones are not, and can make needed changes to help their students to achieve at higher levels.”

A BROADER SCOPE

The average scale score on both tests was slightly higher than the 2011 tests, according to state Education Department officials. This means students had to score slightly higher to meet state standards. There was a small increase in the percentage of students meeting standards statewide.

The increase in standards is not temporary, however. John B. King Jr., state education commissioner, said the 2013 tests will be even tougher for students as they reflect new standards effected by the Common Core State Standards, which are being phased into the educational system. The program involves several states in creating a shared curriculum. Its aim is to increase educational standards while preparing students more effectively for college and entrance into the workforce.

Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Career, a key component of the common core program, is expected to launch in the 2014-15 school year. The program will mark students’ progress toward the goal of being college and career ready by the end of high school beginning in the third grade. Coupled with the teacher and principal evaluation system, or APPR, these changes are designed to raise the bar for performance on state tests.

The APPR system follows through on New York’s commitment to establish teacher evaluations as a condition of the $700 million granted through the federal Race to the Top program. The new legislation provides mandates to local school districts for the implementation of teacher and principal evaluations based on multiple measures of performance, including student achievement and classroom observations.

This represents a shift in the evaluation of schools in the direction of being even more test-based. If students at a school do not consistently score at Level 3 or Level 4 on standardized tests, the school may be considered in need of improvement. The state’s accountability system is still being refined, and as such, school officials are unsure of what possibly being designated as not meeting state standards will mean for their schools.

“We are still learning about these changes, and what they will mean for our school improvement status,” Joy said. “Whether or not we are identified by the state accountability system, we recognize that many of our students are not meeting state standards. We hold ourselves accountable for improved learning for our students, and will continue with our district improvement plan.”

carlaw

Jul-22-12 7:00 PM Agree   | Disagree

Increase in school size increases the bureaucracy. School becomes less personal, there is a loss of involvement by parents, the sense of community is diminished, and many times a loss of accountability. In 1930 there were about 130,000 school districts in this country. Today there about 13,600. Are things better? NY City is the largest with over a million and the Los Angeles district covers over 700 square miles. These huge regionalized systems are not doing well.

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carlaw

Jul-22-12 6:53 PM Agree   | Disagree

Smaller districts and smaller private schools that give more choice to parents do well. In general, larger school districts fair poorly. Moving toward greater regionalism in education is unlikely to better educate our children. Decentralization would be the better choice. The real problem is money. With consolidation, which neighborhoods should be responsible for paying the cost? Who should pay for whom? … real estate taxes or personal income taxes?

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Area students score lowest in state

July 20, 2012

The OBSERVER

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OBSERVER Staff Report

Students in Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties have some catching up to do.

Fewer third- through eighth-grade children were judged as meeting state standards in English Language Arts and math in both counties. Also, students scored lower at every grade level on ELA and math exams than their fellow students statewide, except for Cattaraugus County third-graders on the ELA test.

State Education Department officials say the average scale score on both tests is slightly higher than the 2011 tests, which means students had to score slightly higher to meet state standards. Statewide, there is a small increase in the percentage of students meeting standards.

“There is some positive momentum in these numbers,” Merryl H. Tisch, Board of Regents chancellor said. “But too many of our students, especially students of color, English Language learners and special education students, are currently not on a course for college and career readiness. That’s why we are continuing to press forward with critical reforms to ensure all of our kids are ready for college and careers. In the fall we will begin to phase in a new, more challenging, content-rich curriculum and continue to press for the implementation of a rigorous teacher evaluation system in every district across the state.”

WHAT THE GRADING SYSTEM MEANS

The results are broken down into four levels:

Level 1 – Below Standard, which means the students’ performance does not demonstrate an understanding of the subject and skills expected;

Level 2 – Meets Basic Standard, which means the students’ performance shows a partial understanding of the subject and skills expected, though it doesn’t show proficiency to be meeting state standards;

Level 3 – Meets Proficiency Standard, which means the students’ performance shows an understanding of the subject and the skills expected; and

Level 4 – Exceeds Proficiency Standard, which means students’ performance demonstrates a thorough understanding of the subject and skills expected.

Students whose test scores fall into levels 3 and 4 are deemed to be meeting state standards. According to a realignment of state standards in 2010, meeting state standards indicates those students should score a 75 percent or above on high school ELA and math Regents exams, a figure experts say means the student can pass a basic college course or contribute to the workforce.

The state is still working to implement the Common Core standards to make more students college and career ready. In 2010, the state set new elementary and middle school performance standards based on the likelihood of scoring a 75 or 80 percent on high school Regents exams and moved tests toward the end of the year to give students more time to learn. It has taken the state 2011 and 2012 to finish realigning with the Common Core standards through a process the state calls “equating,” which ensures that cut scores that determining students in each level are the same from year to year.

HOW IT AFFECTS INSTRUCTION

With that work done, a group of states are working together to develop a common set of kindergarten through twelfth-grade tests in English and math that will be a better indicator of college and career readiness. Student progress will be measured each year and provide teachers with timely information to help them better support students. Targeted for launch in the 2014-15 school year, the new assessment system will change the structure of the tests, make better use of technology and be computer-based and include testing throughout the year so teachers, parents and students have more information about whether a student is on track or needs more help.

The state is also implementing its teacher and principal evaluation system in 2012-13 as part of the federal Race to the Top program.

John B. King Jr., state education commissioner, said the 2013 tests will be tougher for students as they reflect the new standards.

“We’re building a ladder, grade by grade, to college and career readiness,” King said. “These results are a small, positive sign of growth, but not enough of our students are climbing as steadily as they should be. Next school year, we start to implement reforms to make that ladder strong enough to support all our students as they climb toward college and career readiness.”

 

CLCS?upset with state over delay on key bill

July 17, 2012

By DAVE O’CONNOR Special to the OBSERVER , The OBSERVER

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MAYVILLE – “Unconscionable” and “disheartening” are just two of the words chosen by the Chautauqua Lake Central School Board of Education to indicate the board’s unhappiness with the New York State Assembly’s refusal to act on a bill authorizing regional high schools.

Board President Jill Scott crafted what she termed “our indignant response” to the assembly’s ignoring a bill which was passed in the State Senate. Scott’s page-long salvo was offered as a resolution to the board which unanimously passed it during the Wednesday, June 27 session.

“I’d have felt better if they (the assembly) had brought it to the floor and voted it down,” Scott said, noting this would have forced members to go on record for or against the regional high school legislation.

“With declining resources and enrollment in the face of increased regulations and state mandates, our representatives owe it to the students of the state to welcome new and progressive alternatives,” Scott wrote in her response.

She charged the assembly with forcing districts like CLCS, “to deal with extreme financial pressures as state aid fails to keep pace with unfunded mandates and administrative requirements.”

CLCS is facing “almost a one million dollar shortfall between revenue and expenses for the third year in a row,” according to Scott.

Cuts in personnel and programs have been ongoing at Chautauqua Lake and other local districts and a recurring topic at their respective Boards of Education meetings. Scott’s latest statement on behalf of CLCS notes that the new state-mandated property tax cap, “looms large in restricting local economic support.”

An Indignant Response

CLCS Board President Responds To Regional High School Decision

July 18, 2012

By Dave O’Connor (editorial@post-journal.com) Save | Comments (3) | Post a comment

Do you support a regional high school?

  1. Yes

69%

  1. No

31%

Read/Post a comment

WACS prepares for merger study bidding process

July 16, 2012

By ANN BELCHER – OBSERVER Correspondent , The OBSERVER

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WESTFIELD – Westfield Academy and Central School Board of Education members intend to be prepared once bidders for a merger study begin to submit their proposals.

School board members resolved during their regular board meeting time to create a board committee to review the Requests For Proposals of potential bidders, communicate the information to the rest of the board and by majority, approve a bidder.

Addressing those chosen to serve on the committee, Roger Jopek; Jeff Greabell; and Ed LeBarron Jr., fellow school board member Marie Edwards asked “as board members, can we come up with questions so that you know what we have in mind? It may give you some idea of what we’re looking for.”

District Business Manager Al Holbrook added to that, explaining that during the previous merger attempt, BOCES held control of the Request For Proposal process, and a merger committee was non-existent.

“BOCES ran the RFP process and came up with the candidates. Then the board president, superintendent and business officials met with them to do the interviews, and BOCES basically controlled the process,” stated Holbrook.

Greabell, who was sworn in at the last school board meeting as the board’s new president, added, “I think we need to be fully armed with what we want to know, and we don’t want to just walk in cold.

“That whole scenario, when you’re not told anything, just sets things off on the wrong foot. We need to be prepared and do a good job of communicating, so that no one thinks that any part of this process is being swept under the rug.”

Board members were asked to prepare two questions and submit them to Superintendent David Davison. The RFP’s are due to Davison’s office by today, July 16. Davison added while the timetable is still flexible, it’s hoped that a contract will be awarded to the successful bidder in mid-August.

“My questions for a potential bidder would be based on their pros and cons from their previous consolidations processes, and what they have learned from any failures along the way,” he added.

There are at least 10 potential firms that could be submitting bids.

“There are some ongoing consolidation processes across New York State right now, it may just depend on who’s (what firms) involved in those, or who’s looking for a contract. Some may be full and already tied into consolidation processes,” concluded Davison.

WACS officials discuss consolidation issues

July 15, 2012

By JENNA LOUGHLIN – Special to the OBSERVER , The OBSERVER

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WESTFIELD – As consolidation plans continue, let the brainstorming begin.

As part of the discussion at a recent Westfield Academy and Central School’s Board of Education meeting, some ideas were put forth in a letter by board member Jeff Greabell.

Superintendent David Davison said he liked the theme of transparency and openness, which are both important in the process.

Some of Greabell’s suggestions included a series of community meetings open to residents of both Brocton and Westfield at places like local American Legions, fire halls or the Westfield Moose Lodge. He also suggested meeting middle and high school students from both districts to explain consolidation and its effects and also to answer any questions the students might have.

Board Vice President Steve Cockram once again brought up the importance of having a social media campaign. “It’s out there and it’s a very important factor,” he said.

Board member Joy Bodenmiller said she was exited the board was talking about and planning for consolidation even before a study is done.

“I think that gives us a head start that we didn’t have before,” Bodenmiller said.

In regards to the consolidation Request For Proposal, or RFP, it was given to both Brocton and Westfield by BOCES to see if the two districts were comfortable with the timetable and the format. Davison has started looking into getting grants to fund the centralization study, including contacting New York State Senator Catharine Young’s office.

Greabell said he was pleasantly surprised by the timetable trying to move the process right along.

“If we can get (the consolidation) done before the next school year, we really ought to so that we don’t have to go through another round of cuts such as we have just gone through,” he said. There were no other objections to the RFP made at the meeting .

Principals appointed at CVCS

July 16, 2012

By DIANE R. CHODAN – OBSERVER Staff Writer , The OBSERVER

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SINCLAIRVILLE – Two new principals will be working for the Cassadaga Valley Central School.

One principal is already familiar to many in the district. Joshua Gilevski has worked at the Sinclairville Elementary School as a counselor for the past five years. He will now be the principal of the Cassadaga Elementary School for the 2012-2013 school year. He replaces Elizabeth Rich, who recently resigned. Gilevski will be paid $75,000 for the year.

The Cassadaga Elementary School houses Pre-K through grade 2. In addition to his duties as principal, he will serve as chairperson of the committee on special education and chairperson of the committee on preschool special education.

Gilevski received his undergraduate degree from St. Bonaventure University in 2004. He also earned a master’s degree in counseling from St. Bonaventure. In addition he received a certification in school building leadership at St Bonaventure. This certification required the completion of an internship. Gilevski completed 600 hours of this requirement through the Cassadaga Valley Central School District.

Dr. Tara DiDomenico-Sorrento was appointed high school principal. She replaces Jud Foy, who retired.

For the past four years, she worked as House 1 Principal 1 at Orchard Park High School. Previous assignments included service as a school counselor at Frontier High School, Middleport Elementary School and Belmont BOCES.

DiDomenico-Sorrento recently received a doctorate from D’Youville College in Buffalo in educational leadership. Her salary will be $88,000. Her position is classified as a 12-month position. She is subject to a two-year probationary period.

In addition to her duties as principal, she will serve as faculty adviser to the extracurricular fund. She plans to begin working for the district on July 25.

In her press release, DiDomenico-Sorrento wrote, “I believe open communication is key to providing a seamless transition for students and families. My main goal for Cassadaga Valley High School is to assist students, staff, and faculty to meet the common goal of building a strong school community where the primary concern is the needs of our students. As the new principal, it is important to me to build relationships and assist students in meeting their full potential.”

Superintendent Scott Smith, during his report to the school board, welcomed both of them to their administrative positions, and anticipated that they will serve the district well.

A new contract for Smith was approved by the Board of Education effective July 11, 2012 through June 30, 2017. His salary will be not change during the next school year.

Schools Begin Submitting Evaluation Agreements

July 15, 2012

By Nicholena Moon (nmoon@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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Only six of the area’s 22 school districts have submitted negotiated teacher and principal evaluation agreements to the state Education Department.

Even state officials say it’s not entirely their fault, though.

Area school districts Cattaraugus-Little Valley, Chautauqua Lake, Dunkirk, Randolph, Randolph Academy and Sherman have all submitted negotiated teacher and principal evaluation agreements to the office of John B. King, Jr., State Education Commissioner, for review. The deadline for submitting evaluation agreements was July 1, however, King said he recognized the complexity of negotiations and will update the number of negotiations submitted periodically.

The districts are following through on New York’s commitment to establish teacher evaluations as a condition of the $700 million granted through the federal Race to the Top program, which provides mandates to local school districts for the implementation of teacher and principal evaluations based on multiple measures of performance, including student achievement and classroom observations.

Evaluation is determined by a point system. Teacher performance, which is largely based on multiple in-classroom observations, is worth 60 points. Student achievement in state and local tests is worth a total of 40 points, but is broken down with 20 percent measured by state testing and the additional 20 percent measured by third-party assessments and locally developed tests.

Daniel Kathman, Jamestown Public Schools superintendent, spoke about Jamestown’s absence from the list.

“We have reached a conceptual agreement with the (Jamestown) Teacher’s Association,” he said. “We have some details to write up, but the district APPR plan that we have to submit to the state includes other elements.”

Kathman went on to say that the terms for the evaluation of school principals have not yet been set, though the plan Kathman will most likely be submitted for review “during the month of July.”

“We have not yet fully concluded that negotiation,” he said. “It’s at 90 percent, but we have some finish-ups to do. Once that’s done then we can compile the whole plan and submit it to the state.”

In order to receive federal grant money, districts must have their individual evaluation plan approved by the governor and submitted in a final form by Jan. 16.

Back To The Chalkboard

Regional High School Bill Fails To Pass Through State Assembly

July 6, 2012

By Nicholena Moon (nmoon@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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Regional high school legislation has once again stalled in the state Legislature.

The option to regionalize is a tool in the arsenal of small rural schools facing financial hardship, such as several in Chautauqua County that are pursuing the idea. The state Assembly voted down regional high school legislation recently. The legislation, pushed through the state Senate by Sen. Cathy Young, R-Olean, and supported by Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-Chautauqua County, proposed the option for “two or more school districts in certain counties to enter into a contract to establish and operate a regional high school.”

Comprehensive plans for finances, staffing, special education, curriculum, building use, enrollment, cost savings, transportation, athletics and other extracurricular activities were included in the regional high school contract. The contract also indicated that the regional high school is responsible for each student’s academic achievement, as well as awarding diplomas upon graduation.

Regionalization can be an innovative solution to help small schools combat lack of funding and still meet state mandates. Under the proposed legislation, two or more schools could pool their resources and small-town students would reap the benefits of having a larger student body and faculty. Activities and events that may have otherwise fallen by the wayside due to low enrollment numbers could continue and students would gain expanded academic, sports and other extra-curricular offerings. In return, the school districts would save money, according to Goodell.

In Chautauqua County, the Ripley, Brocton, Chautauqua Lake and Westfield districts have discussed pursuing a regional high school.

“I support a regional high school concept,” Goodell said. “First and foremost, it improves education for a lot of our high school students. Several schools have seen a significant decrease in enrollment. With a regional high school, it allows local school districts to offer quality elective and academic courses. We’ve also heard it will save the schools $2 million to $3 million by streamlining the costs.”

Sen. Young spoke to the need for and benefits of regionalization.

“As student enrollments continue to drop, it is becoming harder to offer the level of education our kids need and deserve. This concept is a creative solution that has been embraced by many groups, including the state Board of Regents. Schools will be able to offer many more advanced placement courses and extracurricular clubs and activities now. Regional high schools also will increase our students’ abilities to compete and succeed on a higher level,” she said.

When asked about the future of regional high school legislation in the state, Goodell said he may try to pursue a separate bill to regionalize high schools in Chautauqua County in the coming year, noting previous success in pushing local legislation through the assembly.

“I may try to do that,” he said. “It’s worked in the past.”

Assembly doesn’t pass regional high school legislation

July 6, 2012 Save | Comments (6) | Post a comment |

Regional high school legislation has once again stalled in the state Legislature….

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Comments

Captain

Jul-06-12 3:10 PM Agree   | Disagree

Does anyone, other than Public ED employees, dispute that regionalism is ONE option in trying to control costs (another being the implementation of major admin reform and/or meaningful CBA modifications)?

Is it any wonder why public ED employees and the elected reps they have on their side (including some sympathetic BOE memebers), WON’T support needed reform?

In the meantime, let’s keep doing nothing while taxpayers are forced to keep funding a cancerous, dysfuntional and cost-prohibitive system.

GeorgeB67

Jul-06-12 7:56 AM Agree   | Disagree

Once again Albany proves that their number one concern is to satisfy special interests. Especially union interests.

Our state is number 1 in spending on education and we rank 34th in student performance.

Griffen60

Jul-06-12 7:42 AM Agree   | Disagree

Sheldon Silvers is an IDIOT!!!Shame on him!!

Do you support a regional high school?

  1. 1.    Yes

71%

  1. 2.          No

29%

Comments(5)

PhilJulian

Jul-06-12 9:04 AM Agree   | Disagree

There will be great resistance from unions and many parents. However, without consolidation students will lose important benefits like AP courses, sports and music. For those who believe a Dunkirk/Fredonia merger is not possible, it would require a study, school board approval and approval of voters in the adjoining district. The Fredonia district would be dissolved and annexed by the Dunkirk District. Why should this be considered? Declining enrollments and budget problems will eventually force consolidation because without it students will not get the advantages that a larger district has to offer. Add to that the savings from administrative expense and most reasonable people would say “this may be necessary”. Dunkirk alone spends over $4 million per year on just administration.

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Captain

Jul-06-12 8:53 AM Agree   | Disagree

The concept sounds promising, but too many factors would prevent it. ALL teachers who face losing their job(s) if a serious plan were ever developed would naturally oppose it. So would most (if not all) admins who’d see their positions eliminated under such a plan. Local BOE’s AND many district residents would also likely oppose it, as exemplified by the BCS/FCS merger vote and other related talks. Add huge construction costs into the mix and I believe such talk is merely wishful thinking w/o any real chance of ever being adopted. A state mandate is the only way it’ll happen.

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Bandit

Jul-06-12 8:15 AM Agree   | Disagree

Look at the millions that could be saved with just one single central administration.

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DarkStar

Jul-06-12 7:38 AM Agree   | Disagree

I would, although I think this time and effort would be better spent organizing and gaining support for a complete regional school district instead of just a regional high school.

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reader77

Jul-06-12 7:04 AM Agree   | Disagree

works well in other states .school taxes there are very low and in some places, senior citizens dont pay school taxes.

Poll shows Ripley residents open to tuitioning students

July 6, 2012

By DAVID PRENATT Special to the OBSERVER , The OBSERVER

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RIPLEY – Although a regional high school is not a possibility right now, members of the Ripley Central School District seem to be open for middle and high school students to attend elsewhere.

School board President Robert Bentley reported a year-end exit poll among the community asked if students in grades seven through 12 should be tuitioned to Chautauqua Lake High School if they chose. Voting yes were 127 respondents while 95 voted no.

“I think we have a direction from the community and I feel good about that,” he said.

Tuitioning students to Chautauqua Lake would be a possible option for the future in the event the Ripley School District would no longer be able to function independently.

Bentley also reported on a recent round table discussion where administrators, parents and students from the four schools were invited to take part in with state legislators Young, New York State Assemblyman Andy Goodell and New York State Senator and Education Committee Chairman John Flanagan (R,C,IP – Suffolk County) regarding education in this area.

Ripley ninth grader Ryliegh Hawkins, eighth grader Kira Mellors and seventh grader Analise Mellors spoke to the legislators at the round table discussion. Bentley said the Ripley students represented the school well.

“I have never been so proud of three Ripley kids in my life,” he said. “I went there with a lot of things to say and these three said them better than I ever could.”

Ripley Principal Lauren Ormsby said the variety of people who took part in the discussion provided the legislators with a clear view of the challenges faced by Ripley and the other schools.

“We brought a group of good people and I think we gave them a really well-rounded perspective,” she said.

In other matters, Allen and Justine Mellors, parents of Ripley student Analise Mellors, spoke to the board about their daughter’s experience of taking classes at Chautauqua Lake Central School this past year. Analise was the first student to take advantage of an inter-municipal agreement between Ripley, Chautauqua, Brocton and Westfield allowing a student to attend classes their own school does not offer.

Justine Mellors stated the program gave her daughter the challenges she would not have been able to receive in Ripley.

“Analise has had a wonderful year,” she said. “With only so many opportunities that our community can offer, we have to combine resources.”

Allen Mellors stated the only downfall to the program was a transportation issue which prevented Analise from taking Spanish classes at Chautauqua because she could not get there in time.

Principal Ormsby said she believes the program will expand in the years to come.

“We tried it with one student. Our next step in the fall – if the regional high school does not work out – could be sending a larger group,” she said.

Superintendent Krause said the superintendents of the school districts would negotiate a tuition rate if the program expands. She expressed hope Ripley could work with Chautauqua Lake school to provide buses to an open house night so parents could go with their children to see what is available.

Jamestown School Board Swears In Members

July 4, 2012

By Nicholena Moon (nmoon@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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Tuesday’s meeting of the Jamestown Public School’s Board of Education saw the swearing in of several different board members and district officials. Two new members, Daniel Johnson and Patrick Slagle, were among the first to pledge.

Slagle admitted being slightly overwhelmed during his first meeting. “It’s a little nerve-wracking being new,” he said. He remains enthusiastic about his future on the board, however. “I was born and raised here, and I’ve always wanted to give back to the community,” said Slagle. “A great way to do that is to be a part of the board.”

Daniel Kathman, superintendent, also swore an oath of office. Joe DiMaio was nominated for board president and Laurel Lucas for vice president, and the two were subsequently sworn into office.

DiMaio expressed his loyalty to Jamestown after accepting the position. “Once a Red Raider, always a Red Raider,” said the president. Speaking about the potential difficulty of leading a school board, DiMaio said, “It’s tough to run a school district. We don’t always have to agree, but we do have to come to an agreement.”

Following the induction of the new officers, the board resolved the SEQRA act, which determined that the repurposing and reuse of the R.R. Roberts Elementary School will not have a significant effect on the environment. The committee then indicated its approval of the new Board Member Academy attendance, which dictates that new board members Johnson and Slagle attend a two-day governance and fiscal oversight training seminar. Additionally, two new textbooks were approved for use within the JPS curriculum.

Following the conclusion of the public meeting, the board retired into executive session to discuss “particular personnel.”

Slagle had a few thoughts about ways the board could improve.

“I’d like to increase communication. Especially with all the technology out there today, I think we can really accomplish that,” he said. Slagle went on to lament the lack of public attendance at board meetings, saying that with lack of public opinion, “It’s just us trying to make the decisions for the city.”

Kathman revealed more details about the approval of the newly negotiated teacher’s contract announced last week. “Some describe ‘no change to the salary schedule’ as a ‘freeze,’ but I think that leads the public astray,” Kathman explained. “What we did in 95 percent of cases was we took the existing salarly schedule and applied it to next year with no additional money applied to that schedule.” Existing steps remained in place, but no additional dollars were added to those steps.

After the meeting, when asked about the current and forthcoming financial situations, Dimaio commented, “We’ve just got to work hard.”

 

JPS Extends Superintendent’s Term; Teachers’ Contract Approved

June 30, 2012

By Nicholena Moon (nmoon@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

Save | Comments (4) | Post a comment | Tuesday’s meeting of the Jamestown Public Schools Board of Education marked the end of one board member’s era and the affirmed continuation of another district official’s.

After Christine Schnars, outgoing board president, banged the gavel bringing her last meeting to a close, she shared a few thoughts on her 25-year career on the board, the future of education in the district and the renewal of Daniel Kathman as superintendent.

“The most wonderful part of being a school board member is standing on that stage and watching those faces and handing them their diplomas. I sat there thinking that those kids walking across the stage toward me weren’t even thought of yet when I came on the board,” Schnars said.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the board voted unanimously to approve the Superintendent Employment Agreement, granting Kathman, who is serving his fourth year as the district’s head, the responsibility of upholding the position. He will serve another three-year term, commencing July 1 and ending on June 30, 2015.

“I take that as a vote of confidence. I’m humbled by it (and) appreciative for it,” Kathman said.

Schnars commented on the way that Kathman has run the district over the last four years.

“Deke has done an excellent job, and his evaluations have been wonderful. We’re very pleased with him and we are thrilled he is going to continue,” Schnars said.

The board also unanimously approved the Jamestown Teachers Association Collective Bargaining Agreement, effective July 1 through June 30, 2014. No new money was added to the salary schedule, which will remain the same for the next two years.

“I am comfortable with that,” Kathman said, “I think it’s a fair agreement and I really do think it’s appropriate for the times we are in.”

When asked about her last acts on the board, Schnars stated that she was pleased to be able to vote on the issue.

“I am extremely proud of the teachers in this district and the way they approached this negotiation, understanding the economic times and the problems in the area,” Schnars said. “They’re a wonderful group of people.”

However, Schnars expressed her regret at being unable to continue her service on the board during the difficult times ahead.

“I am sorry to be leaving at a time when economics have forced us into some problems in this district that we haven’t had in the time that I have been here,” Schnars said. “I will be watching closely as they resolve themselves over the next few years. And I am sure they are going to.”

N.Y. Assembly Will Pass Cuomo’s Teacher Eval Bill

June 19, 2012

By Michael Gormley – Associated Press , The Post-Journal

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ALBANY – Gov. Andrew Cuomo made a last-minute push Tuesday for passage of legislation that would limit disclosure of teacher evaluations only to parents, not the public.

The Assembly’s Democratic majority plans to pass the bill, while the Senate’s Republican majority started discussing it Tuesday morning.

Parents would be able to get the evaluation only for their child’s current teacher under Cuomo’s bill. The legislation would also disclose the evaluations of other teachers in the same grade or subject, but without identifying those teachers, according to the bill Cuomo submitted just before midnight Monday night.

That means parents who are dissatisfied with the current teacher’s performance would have a difficult time trying to switch their children to a different classroom, because they would have no way of knowing how other teachers measured up.

Parents and guardians would get the ratings – highly effective, effective, developing and ineffective – by any manner, including by phone or in person. The legislation would give both parents and the public a general idea of the effectiveness of a school’s teaching staff by disclosing the number of teachers in each rating category. The evaluations and any disclosure of them is still more than a year away.

Without any law limiting disclosure, all public school teachers’ evaluations by name would be available to the public.

A court, education reformers and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg have said all evaluations should be made public to trigger the quickest reform of schools and motivate teachers. Earlier this year, the city released ratings for 18,000 teachers based on student test scores, outraging teachers and their union.

The independent mayor is a key supporter and campaign funder of the Senate Republicans.

Cuomo submitted his bill after failing to reach an agreement with legislative leaders in closed-door negotiations, with the goal of seeing both houses vote on it by the end of the session on Thursday. But any amendments by the Legislature would require Cuomo to speed up the process by issuing a “message of necessity,” which he commonly uses to suspend the constitutional requirement of three days’ public review before a bill is considered.

“I believe the bill strikes the right balance between a teacher’s right to privacy and the parents’ and public’s right to know,” Cuomo said.

The Senate’s Republican majority was examining the bill early Tuesday.

“At this time, there is no agreement to pass the governor’s bill,” said Scott Reif, spokesman for the majority. “Discussions with the governor will continue.”

There was no immediate comment from the Assembly’s Democratic majority.

Cuomo and the state’s powerful teachers’ unions have tried to limit the evaluations’ release to parents of children in a teacher’s class, without further dissemination. The bill also would prevent parents from seeing the evaluations of teachers they might want to avoid in future years.

A landmark law to require standard teacher evaluations for the first time was approved months ago. President Barack Obama’s administration required teacher evaluations as part of its reform effort that won New York more than $700 million in competitive grants to improve school performance nationwide.

PJ 6/19/12 Should teacher evaluations be made available to the public?

  1. 1.    Yes

62%

  1. 2.          No

38%

Highs and lows: Some of the best, worst of the week

June 16, 2012

The OBSERVER

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Here are some of the best and worst – of the week:

BEST

SCTA SETTLES CONTRACT – After two years of negotiations, the Silver Creek Teachers Association and the Silver Creek Central School Board has come to an agreement. According to school officials, this new agreement, which includes increasing insurance premiums from 15 to 25 percent, will save the district $500,000. With the property tax cap in place, it’s important to save money any way possible.

Return on investment decreases in city school

June 10, 2012

The OBSERVER

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By PETER GOKEY

I have never written a letter to the newspaper before but, I have to voice my opinion on this one.

My opinion is on the school budget and yet another increase. First I would like to state that I pay $1,800 a year in school taxes. Second, I am forced to pay school tax and my child does not even attend public school. She attends Northern Chautauqua Catholic School, which I also pay for. (The taxpayer is not responsible, I am)

This is what I see. It takes approximately $15,000 to send a child through public school. The graduating class of Dunkirk is around 70 percent and now they want to raise my taxes although my child does not go to public school.

My daughter’s school costs $3,500 and no child has failed in her class. In high school Catholic education, such as Mount Mercy, tuition is $8,000. Graduates of Catholic school cost less than half the price of public school with a graduating class of 99 percent and 98 percent goes on to college.

I am forced to pay higher taxes for a school system that has a graduating class of 70 percent that costs three times the price of a school system that has a graduating rate of 98 percent and my child does not even attend the failed school system, and there is a debate about throwing more money after bad?

I think our councilwoman would agree.

I suggest the Dunkirk school board get together with some of the Catholic school systems to help them figure out how to budget and educate a student body in a positive way. In closing, I voted no for the budget. Not only does the district need to make cuts, they need to make much deeper cuts!

Maybe students in Dunkirk really don’t need to take a class on rock’n roll. That sounds like a cut to me.

It pains me that I have to pay private tuition for my child to get an education. But the city school system that costs three times the price, with a graduation rate at 70 percent and my child does not even attend! I promise this: when NRG slows down and Dunkirk wants to tax the homeowners in this town out of existence, myself and any other sober minded individual will be moving.

Peter Gokey is a Dunkirk resident.

Steiner

Jun-10-12 9:27 AM Agree   | Disagree

This is charitable giving by the author. He gives so inner city poor can go to school. He gives so his children can get what the family desires, against the wishes of the govt. Libs, am I not correct? Parochial schools have been a thorn in public education for years now.Notice how the libs cannot take what works and put it into a public school. Just comments about ears. And after all this giving the libs want more giving . Tell us how libs and we might oblige.You know because as some of you have said, that is what Jesus would do !

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PhilJulian

Jun-10-12 8:47 AM Agree   | Disagree

The writer is correct about excessive spending but his numbers may be a bit off. The school budget for 2013 is $20.4 million and enrollment stands at about 2100 students. That translates into $19,144.00 spending per student and that’s about double the national average. Why is spending so high? Dunkirk has a heavy population of special education students that require special attention. In addition, Dunkirk teachers reach the top of their pay scale well before other local districts. If it were not for the STAR program many more people would be leaving the city. A senior citizen with a home assessed at $50,000 pays no school taxes under the enhanced STAR system. We have alot of seniors and alot of older homes in the city. To their credit school administrators have held the tax rate steady for the past several years but spending has increased dramatically. Administrative costs alone are about $4 million.

State Senate OKs regional high school legislation

June 15, 2012

The OBSERVER

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OBSERVER Staff Report

The possibility of creating a regional high school in Chautauqua County is one step closer.

State Sen. Cathy Young announced regional high school legislation, which she is sponsoring, has sailed through the State Senate.

“Students in rural areas would gain enhanced academic, sports and enrichment opportunities that they don’t have now. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle realize that our kids deserve to have these improvements,” Young said.

Negotiations are progressing between the state Assembly, Governor, and the Senate, she said, adding that “Assemblyman Andrew Goodell has been extraordinarily supportive.”

“We are pushing for a final agreement before the end of session on June 21. Regional high schools would be an innovative option for districts to explore,” she said.

“As student enrollments continue to drop, it is becoming harder to offer the level of education our kids need and deserve. This concept is a creative solution that has been embraced by many groups, including the state Board of Regents,” Young said.

“Schools will be able to offer many more advanced placement courses and extracurricular clubs and activities now. Regional high schools also will increase our students’ abilities to compete and succeed on a higher level,” she added.

Comprehensive plans for finances, staffing, special education, curriculum, building use, enrollment, cost savings, transportation, athletics and other extracurricular activities would be required in the regional high school contract. The contract must indicate that the regional high school is responsible for each student’s academic achievement, as well as awarding diplomas upon graduation, Young said.

Before districts are given the authority to enter into a contract for a regional high school, they must host a public hearing and hold public vote. Contracts would then be subject to final approval by the state education commissioner, she noted.

“Input from our parents and educators has been key to establishing the governance structure of this bill. Our goal has been not to create additional layers of authority or control, but to enhance academic programs within our already-existing school systems,” she said.

Last month, Young joined Senate Education Committee Chairman John Flanagan at Jamestown Community College for a roundtable discussion on regional high schools. Students, parents and school officials from the Ripley, Brocton, Chautauqua Lake, and Westfield districts participated in the event.

“Students were among those individuals making the strongest case for a regional high school. They want expanded courses, sports and other extra-curricular offerings,” she said.

The establishment of a regional high school model was recommended in 2008 through a Local Government Efficiency and Competitiveness Study led by former Lt. Governor Stan Lundine.

Comments

(8)

concerned

Jun-15-12 10:32 PM Agree   | Disagree

Seeing is believing.

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PhilJulian

Jun-15-12 6:39 PM Agree   | Disagree

It is important to recognize what caused the need for this discussion. It is our excessive taxes and related loss of population, industry and tax base that is causing the closing of churches, hospitals and schools. It is the same excessive taxes that are causing our children to leave and a declining standard of living and quality of life for those who stay. So, if you are looking for someone to blame you might start with your local politician.

2 Agrees | 1 Disagrees | Report Abuse »

DarkStar

Jun-15-12 12:52 PM Agree   | Disagree

Marcia,

Hadn’t noticed that, good catch.

I would think only doing the high schools would be easier having older kids traveling further distances to schools would be less an issue then younger children.

On the otherhand it would seem to me that limiting it to High Schools would wipe out most, if not all, of any potential cost savings. For example each of the existing school districts would still have their own superintendents and administrators. Sure some duplication of services could be eliminated at the HS level but would that be enough to warrant the change?

I would think something like this would be extremely difficult, time consuming and expensive, in up front costs, so if we are going to move forward with something like this it shouldn’t be limited to only high schools, otherwise your diluting the benifits that the merge would provide students, area and taxpayers.

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Marcia

Jun-15-12 12:28 PM Agree   | Disagree

Would this be the same as consolidated schools, or merged schools? I think there may be a difference but I am not sure what it is. If they are not the same, will we get the cost savings? Because it only says regional HIGH SCHOOLS not school districts.

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DarkStar

Jun-15-12 11:44 AM Agree   | Disagree

DKexpat,

I agree completely, although I’d also be willing to bet that the only way this would ever happen in this county is for NYS to mandate merging of the school districts.

There are many reasons for this, first is simply that so many people have a financial stake in keeping the status quo, and I’m not even talking about just people working for the school system.

How many other public employees do you think would support such a move knowing that if it’s done successfully that there would be a push to merge other services through the County, possibly even the departments they work for?

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commentor

Jun-15-12 10:23 AM Agree   | Disagree

Won’t happen and if it does you can be sure they will screw it up. Why not just form two districts to begin with. Good Luck with this one.

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DKexpat

Jun-15-12 8:45 AM Agree   | Disagree

This is a BIG step for rural counties like Chautauqua.

I know I keep beatin’ the drum on this, but my county-wide system has 2.5x the number of students as all of Chautauqua Cty – – and we get by with just one superintendent of schools (and two asst. supers) instead of the nearly two dozen you have – – and spend $3 million less PER YEAR than you in doing that.

We have robust AP programs, technology high schools, etc. – all possible because of economy of scale – 1 purchasing department, 1 IT department, 1 curriculum department, 1 guidance department, etc. etc. etc.

Be bold – create two districts, Chau North and Chau South; re-draw boundaries, etc. – – you’d probably save enough on administration, alone, you wouldn’t need to close any schools.

EDUCATION: Tough decision on a school

June 8, 2012

The OBSERVER

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Maybe the Catholic Church can play a role in being a decision maker when it comes to our state educational system.

In an unfortunate event this past week, the diocese made the decision to close the Catholic Academy of the Holy Family School in Jamestown, which had existed since the 1870s. The reason? Low enrollment.

“The Catholic Academy of Holy Family community exhibited resounding energy and commitment to keep the school open, viable and sustainable,” said Dr. Rosemary Henry, superintendent of Catholic schools for the diocese, “but only enrolled 69 students for next year, falling short of the 100 benchmark established by the local leadership. Such low enrollment and financial challenges may affect the educational environment for students, compromise the ability to meet payroll for teachers and impact future viability of the school.”

Every school in Western New York, especially those subsidized through taxpayer dollars, is facing declining enrollment. Many of the residents have been too stubborn over the years to accept it.

How viable are our small schools and what type of educational environment is it really providing? It is in no way sustainable in its current form.

Catholic leaders understand what low enrollment numbers mean. Why can’t our state leaders with the small schools?

Costs for school elections given

June 11, 2012

The OBSERVER

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MAYVILLE – The Chautauqua County Board of Elections has released the charge back costs for the Bemus Point, Cassadaga Valley and Ripley school elections in May.

The Board of Elections provided voting machines, technicians, ballot production and voting machine set up for the three school districts. The charge back prices included the payment to election inspectors at the polls and totaled $485.46, Cassadaga Valley; $495.35, Bemus Point; and $273.85, Ripley.

“We are happy to have been able to provide this service to the schools and we received positive feedback from each district regarding our election services,” said Republican Election Commissioner Brian C. Abram.

Democratic Election Commissioner Norman P. Green added, “The taxpayers are already paying for the Board of Elections’ services in their individual county property tax bills, and the school districts might as well maximize what the Board of Elections offers for ballot production and voting machines.”

Westfield Board Asking More Merger Questions

June 10, 2012

By Jenna Loughlin (editorial@post-journal.com) , Westfield Republican

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WESTFIELD – Westfield Academy and Central School is no stranger to merger and consolidation discussions.

With Brocton and Westfield officials choosing to continue discussing ways the districts can help other, Westfield board members recently began asking questions to help guide them in the future. Board members discussed what they would do differently compared to past merger discussions, if there are ideas how to engage the community, if the district should look for money for a feasibility study and if the district wants to approve a resolution to enter a feasibility study on centralization with Brocton.

Steve Cockram, board vice president, said the state should be involved while there should also be a public relations campaign.

“It’s about the kids and what they’re going to get,” he said.

After spending some time thinking about the issue, board member Jeffrey Greabell said the most important thing is to explain to the public that changes have to be made

“We’re chipping away at our programming already,” Edwards said.

“With a maul,” Greabell added.

Board member Steven Reynolds lamented the lack of community interest. He said a budget meeting used to pack the auditorium in the past, but this year there were only 11 people. Greabell responded he thinks that is where the board needs to step in and pound the pavement. He suggested offering to meet with civic groups at their locations and talk about the facts of what the district is facing in its financial future. Cockram suggested a social media component to the board’s campaign while Al Holbrook, business manager and district clerk, suggested asking civic organizations if they are willing to participate.

Both the Westfield and Brocton boards approved resolutions to start a merger feasibility study.

Comments

(4)

bobbojr

Jun-10-12 5:35 PM Agree   | Disagree

Charles K have you completed a study of the 18 school districts in Chautauqua County? Why don’t you release it publicly so we can see how your statements hold up under facts, thorough evaluation of cost factors, reduction in buidling utliization, reduction in fixed costs, or as is usual a part of your body that does not speak or enuciate is where you are really speaking from. Just talk without ONE SINGLE FACT in the world its called BS. Mr. Inbetween what a wonderful outlook in life you have. Perhaps Boards of Education after VOLUNTEERING many hours per month, being critized for trying are actually examining carefully how to proceed. Imagine that!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Smiley

Jun-10-12 9:25 AM Agree   | Disagree

The apparent lack of interest in Westfield may be nothing more than the citizens conceding that a merger in inevitable. People tend to show up when they oppose the proposition or when they fear that the opposition will get too much of a voice. I agree with Charles, it is not so much about the taxes as the programming that can be offered to the students with the taxes collected.

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CharlesK

Jun-10-12 9:09 AM Agree   | Disagree

Don’t expect any big savings. You could merge all the districts in the county into one, and the reduction in taxes would be so minimal you’d be shaking your head in disbelief. That said, mergers are going to have to happen for other reasons just to stay operational due to declining enrollment.

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mrinbetween

Jun-10-12 8:44 AM Agree   | Disagree

Suppose they held a merger and nobody came? It’s not about the kids, it’s about the taxes.

 

 

 

Southwestern Needs To Improve Based On Report Card

May 23, 2012

By Liz Skoczylas (lskoczylas@ post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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Southwestern Central School District had the opportunity to review its latest grade on the New York state Report Card – and discovered an issue.

Shelly O’Boyle, coordinator of curriculum and instruction for the Southwestern Central School District, reviewed the report card at Tuesday night’s Board of Education meeting.

According to the state, Southwestern is in good standing in ELA, mathematics, science and graduation rate. However, while the district overall is meeting the adequate yearly progress standards that the state has set in the elementary, middle and secondary level across the board, it did not meet the adequate yearly progress standards for students with disabilities.

“Our white students met our adequate yearly progress, we like to see those green checks. Students with disabilities received a red x, which means that they did not meet adequate yearly progress,” Ms. O’Boyle said.

This marks the first time that Southwestern has received a red x on its district report card from the state.

“It’s actually a warning at this point. After two consecutive years of not making adequate yearly progress, the middle school would become a school in need of improvement,” Ms. O’Boyle said.

The district has another year to make the improvements necessary. If the district is unable to show improvement meeting state standards, it would be under review by the state to make changes.

Marcia Jones, district business administrator, also spoke at the Board of Education meeting, and shared that the district had an energy savings of about $30,000 this year, due to a mild winter. Ms. Jones recommended to the board that the district use the savings to seal and stripe most of the parking lot, using numbers obtained in a tentative quote.

“We were able to, with $30,000, address the sealing and striping of the elementary parking lot, the elementary bus loop, the road that goes up past the athletic complex, the main high school back parking lot, the road that leads up to the middle school, and then the loop around the front of the high school. So, quite a significant amount of our parking lot we would be able to address with that $30,000 mark,” Ms. Jones said.

The board decided unanimously to take advantage of the district savings by sealing and striping the suggested areas. By policy, the district will need to obtain three competitive quotes before having the work done. Also, it will need to write out a purchase order by June 30 in order to keep the work done under the 2011-12 budget.

State, School Officials Talk Regional High School Bills

May 18, 2012

By Ryan Atkins (ratkins@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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State Sen. Cathy Young, R-Olean, hopes to make regional high schools a reality by the end of the current session for the state Legislature on June 21, thanks to two new bills being pushed through the Senate.

Sen. Young recently introduced legislation she hopes will help to make a regional high school feasible. She discussed the bills during a discussion Thursday at the Scharmann Theater at Jamestown Community College. Sen. Young was joined by area educators, lawmakers, students and parents to discuss the concept. The state Board of Regents has looked at the idea of school district mergers and regional high schools for several years and recently added the idea to its 2012 legislative priorities.

State Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-Chautauqua County, has been working hand-in-hand with Sen. Young on the bills, attempting to gain support from the state Assembly.

“In so many areas, Western New York is a leader in developing new ways to move the state forward,” Goodell said. “The area still deals with declining enrollment in their schools and financial challenges, though.”

PRESERVING POSSIBILITIES

Many area schools including Brocton, Ripley and Westfield have seen a major decline in student enrollment. Brocton Central School has 46 students in its entire senior class. Ripley Central School has seen its enrollment decrease to 314 students enrolled in the entire school, which includes pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.

One Brocton senior, who was at the discussion Thursday and plans on going to the State University at Fredonia in the fall to study speech pathology, has earned 40 college credits during her high school career. With state funding continuing to decrease, a regional high school could be a way to keep options like college-level courses available. The classes can cost thousands of dollars per student every year.

Many students in these smaller high schools face what could be called “depth of transcript” issues. Despite excellent academic records, a lack of extracurricular activities and classes outside of the mandated lessons can result in them being unable to get into their college of choice.

Several schools have already taken steps toward mergers in the past to combat low enrollment rates and to help keep extracurricular activities alive for their students. Ripley Central School for example, had a very strong wrestling team in years past. With declining enrollment, they didn’t have enough participation to fill all of the weight classes. To ensure that their students were still able to wrestle, they combined with Westfield and are looking to add students from Chautauqua Lake to their roster soon as well.

“The options at Ripley just aren’t there right now,” said a parent from the Ripley school district. “I want to know that these kids won’t miss out on opportunities. From year to year, that’s what the kids have to worry about – will there be enough people to field a team?”

Brocton went through a similar situation when it dropped its football team two years ago. The school has since merged teams with Westfield and have been asked to continue the merger next year, allowing students from both schools the chance to play the sport.

WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN

Representatives from the New York State United Teachers were also on hand for the discussion. While they didn’t see the bills being discussed as a whole solution, they did admit regional high schools could be an important part of the solution for small school districts. The NYSUT representatives said the bills are something they plan to support.

Before the state Board of Regents can approve mergers, they are required to be given a demonstration of an improved academic plan. Declining enrollment is also an enemy that can still come back to haunt regional high schools. Schools must have a long-term plan of how to maintain a program of excellence down the road in order for the regional high schools to succeed. The bill will also increase state aid to kindergarten through eighth grades in order to better prepare children for the transition to a regional high school.

“It’s been a lot of work trying to get the assembly on board. Cathy Young has been working directly with Cathy Nolan, the chair of the education board for the New York State Assembly in order to move this bill forward,” Goodell said. “We’re hopeful that the assembly will be able to move forward with this bill. The regional high school gives us a lot more flexibility and options for communities to maintain their local identity with K-8 schools, but still have the advantage of a large high school.”

“It’s really compelling to hear information from people that are actually affected by this, especially the young people,” Sen. Young said. “We’re working very hard to get everyone on board and making tremendous progress. This is all about opportunities for young people to be successful in college and the rest of their lives.”

“The beauty in the regional high school concept is the collaborative nature of it. It would be a milestone and a great option that we really need,” said Goodell. “The four years of high school that students go through will define how students perform for the next 40 years,” said Goodell. “We want to be able to do the very best job we can for the children.”

CharlesK

May-18-12 6:41 AM Agree   | Disagree

Isn’t it odd that the State pushes consolodation so hard, yet it is the State that stands in the way of doing just that?

Some of the best, worst of the week

May 19, 2012

The OBSERVER

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Here are some of the best – and worst – of the week:

BEST

REGIONAL HIGH SCHOOL PROGRESS – We don’t know if it will happen or not, but we want to applaud state Sen. Cathy Young and Assemblyman Andy Goodell for continuing to push for a bill that would allow for a regional high school. Even though Brocton and Westfield are talking more about merging, that shouldn’t end a discussion for a regional high school. But before a regional high school can be evaluated, the state needs to make it so it’s a possibility.

SCHOOL BOARD CANDIDATES – There are some new and returning faces to our area school boards. Unlike our cities, towns and villages, school board officials do not receive pay for what they do. They also are under the microscope to cut costs where ever possible, yet make sure our schools are giving quality education. We wish all the new candidates good luck in their endeavors and hope they will remember the people who elected them as well as the children they will now help educate.

Approved!

Area School Budgets Given Passing Grades By Voters

May 16, 2012

By Liz Skoczylas (lskoczylas@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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There were few surprises on school board election night, as all budgets in the area passed.

Several schools had propositions in addition to school budgets, which mainly consisted of school bus and equipment purchases. Additionally, many schools will be welcoming new or returning members to various boards of education, for terms beginning in July.

The Jamestown Public School District passed its budget of $76,795,992, with no tax increase in a 414 to 130 vote. Additionally, Laurel Lucas and Daniel Johnson were elected to three-year terms on the Board of Education with 368 and 348 votes, respectively. Patrick Slagle was elected to a one-year term on the board with 327 votes. Current president Christine Schnars was not re-elected.

The Southwestern Central School District passed its $25,739,850 budget and tax increase of 1.7 percent 412 to 119 votes. Additionally, the district passed its proposition for school buses, vans and related equipment 395 to 132. The district chose to reduce the number of Board of Education seats from nine to seven, effective July 1, 2013, in a 404 to 113 vote. James Butler and Michael Mogenhan will be returning to the board, with 396 and 389 votes, respectively. Richard Hartmann has also signed on to the board for his first term, with 364 votes.

In Mayville, the Chautauqua Lake Central School District budget of $19,124,484 and tax increase of 2.27 percent passed in a 234 to 73 vote. Michael Ludwig and Jill Scott received 213 and 194 votes, respectively, to reclaim their seats on the Board of Education.

In a 205 to 61 vote, the Falconer Central School District budget of $21,114,476, along with a tax increase of 1.02 percent, passed. Additionally, Cathy Kimball and Tom Frederes were elected to five-year terms on the Board of Education.

The Randolph Central School District budget of $12,273,831 with no tax increase passed 357 to 91. Janet Huntington and David Adams were elected to the Board of Education with 298 and 255 votes, respectively.

Although it needed a 60 percent majority vote to pass its budget, the Bemus Point Central School District did pass its $12,474,650 budget, including a tax increase of 4.5 percent 455 votes to 237. Additionally, a school bus amendment passed 501 to 188. Randall Oste, John Novotny and Debra Raynor were elected to the Board of Education.

In a 134 to 40 vote, Sherman Central School District passed its budget of $8,939,224 and tax increase of 1.71 percent. It also passed a proposition to purchase two school buses in a 131 to 40 vote. Colleen Meeder was elected to the Board of Education for a five-year term, with 133 votes.

The Cattaraugus-Little Valley Central School District passed its budget of $23,453,485 and tax increase of 1.99 percent. The district also passed a bus proposition and a proposition to increase the amount of funding to libraries. In addition, David Shinners was elected to the board.

The Clymer Central School District budget of $9.422,589 and a tax increase of 1.9 percent passed in a 117 to 14 vote. Additionally, a proposition for a bus purchase passed 107 to 18. Mike Schenck, who ran unopposed, reclaimed his seat on the Board of Education.

In a 136 to 20 vote, the Panama Central School District budget of $11,998,913 and no tax increase passed. Additionally, a proposition for bus and maintenance vehicle purchases passed 128 votes to 28. Julie Turcotte, who ran unopposed, received 137 votes, and was elected to a five-year term on the Board of Education.

The Brocton Central School District budget of $14.714,560 with a 2 percent increase to the tax levy passed 357 to 99. Additionally, Steven Smith was elected to a five-year seat on the Board of Education is a 253 to 219 vote over Camile Belcher, who had served the board for three previous terms.

Voters approved the Cassadaga Valley Central School District budget in the amount of $19,998,000 in a 193 to 59 vote. They also approved, 186 to 60, the purchase of three one-year-old used 66-passenger school buses and related equipment. William Carlson was re-elected to the Board of Education for a five-year term, effective July 1, with 232 votes.

The Silver Creek Central School District budget of $19,832,822 and estimated local tax levy of $5,512,849 was passed 287 to 119. Additionally, a proposition for a vehicle purchase from The Capital Reserve for Vehicles passed 273 to 114. Marjorie Foxton received 331 votes, granting her a five-year term to the Board of Education.

With 207 votes to 60, the Salamanca City School District passed its budget of $24,697,411 with no tax increase. Barb Sande was elected to serve a five-year term beginning July 1.

The Pine Valley Central School budget passed with a vote of 137 to 36. The public was also voting on two propositions which also passed. Proposition 2 was the cost of a school lunch program to be $10,000. The proposition passed with a vote of 141 yes to 29 no. Proposition 3 was for a vehicle purchase of three buses at the expense of $289,406 which passed with a vote of 135 to 35. Incumbents Michele Lindquist and Adelia Pimm were both running for two open seats on the Board of Education. Both were elected to three-year terms.

The Ripley Central School budget passed with a vote of 158 to 76. A proposition, which included a vehicle purchase, passed with a vote of 170 to 63. The purchase is for a 65-passenger vehicle. Transportation vehicle reserve funds will be used. Voters also elected Michael A. Boll to the board of education with 118 votes.

In Westfield, the budget was approved by over a three to one margin – 254 voting yes and 76 no. Proposition 2 to reduce the number of school board members from nine to seven also easily passed. The number supporting the proposition was 255 while 67 were opposed.

In the election for board members three-year terms went to Roger Jopek who received 275 votes; Jeff Greabell (incumbent) who received 274; and Phyllis Hagen who received 247. The two-year terms went to Brenda Backus who received 238 votes and Marie Edwards (incumbent) who received 213. Edward LeBarron, Jr. received 211 votes, winning the one-year term. Ron Catalano, Jr. received 185 votes and was not elected.

Interim Superintendent Peggy Sauer said, “I am delighted that the budget passed. The community understands our position. This year our budget was less than last and the community understood that the board was prudent and frugal. I am glad that message was out there.

“As far as the board election, I am glad seven people stepped forward and they were all good people who ran for good reasons. I see positive things ahead for the school and community.”

Ginger

May-16-12 8:06 AM Agree   | Disagree

rekap- This is why my house is for sale and that was before this HUGE increase. Although my family history is deeply rooted to the Bemus and Maple Springs area, I am forced to make the decision to leave. I just hope I can sell my house when prospective buyers find out about this increase.

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rekrap

May-16-12 7:21 AM Agree   | Disagree

With the Bemus district having the dubious distinction of raising theirs nearly double the next closest increase. lordie! When will it ever end? Does anyone even know anyone that got a 4.5% income increase last year or expect one this year?

All district plans pass

School budget votes: Residents decide on proposals

May 16, 2012

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Comments(12)

concerned

May-16-12 10:58 PM Agree   | Disagree

The teachers union spent millions on TV ads to push these budgets. Do the voters really believe they did this for the children?

taxpayercitizen

May-16-12 1:10 PM Agree | Disagree

In Brocton, they made it sound like they were doing you a favor, only raising the tax 2%. We are already taxed to death. Nobody will buy our home in this Godforsaken state. We continue to pay more and more and receive less each year. Can’t people see whats happening. All of these districts voted yes for the teachers union. Continue to feed the beast.

killers

May-16-12 2:51 PM Agree | Disagree

Wow, I guess the majority of the people in fredonia realize the area is dieing and want to push it along a little more.

Abomination

May-16-12 10:43 AM Agree   | Disagree

I was on the “community” board to pick a new Superintendent when the position came up. DiFonzo was NOT the most qualified person to do the job, in fact he WASN’T qualified. I realized that some deals were made to get him into the position. It’s obvious that it has been a “you wash my back, I’ll wash yours” mentality between DiFonzo, the corrupt school board and the teachers. What did he do the first couple years as Super in Fredonia? He rose the taxes sky high to pad his pockets. That was the last straw for us and decided to make a long contemplated decision to move out of Fredonia. My family and I now live in Erie County where my school taxes are less on my 300,000 house than the 160,000 ranch house I sold. The schools are 100 times better and the High Schools in particular have the educational opportunities of a community college. HIGHER TAXES DOES NOT MEAN BETTER EDUCATION, ONLY MORE MONEY IN THE POCKETS OF THE ADMIN. AND STAFF. WAKE UP FREDONIA!!!

commentor

May-16-12 10:08 AM Agree   | Disagree

Fredonia voters FAIL again!!! They will never do better. They will continue to hide items in the budget and spend recklessly. Why not?? The voters sent the message…WE LIKE WHAT YOU ARE DOING…PLEASE CONTINUE.

PhilJulian

May-16-12 9:09 AM Agree   | Disagree

Most voters realize that school budget votes are a joke with very little difference between the proposed budget and a contingency budget. I suspect that is the reason for the low voter turnout. In Dunkirk only 619 voters turned out and that probably reflects the stable tax rate and impact of the STAR Program on low valued property in the city. A senior citizen on the enhanced STAR Program and a home assessed at $50,000 or less pays no school tax so why bother voting?. In the final analysis many residents, especially those with newer homes and higher assessments, simply can’t afford more taxes.

Jamestown Reflects On Budget, Board Vote

May 17, 2012

By Liz Skoczylas (lskoczylas@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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The Jamestown Public Schools District is pleased to have passed its 2012-13 school budget.

The Board of Education held a meeting Wednesday to canvass Tuesday’s school board election votes. Between Jefferson and Washington middle schools and Lincoln Elementary School, where voting was held, the district received 414 “yes” votes and 130 “no” votes on the budget.

“We are happy to have a strong majority of the community that voted and supported the budget,” said Deke Kathman, superintendent. “It was 3 to 1, almost 4 to 1, and that is encouraging, because I think that means that the community is endorsing the very conservative management of the local tax levy, the dollars that the community sends us to support the system. So, that’s an endorsement that we all value here at the school.”

However, Kathman said, the number of people that went out to vote was disappointing.

“That said, it is discouraging with the respect to the turnout. I hope that next year we have many more people involved and speaking their mind as it relates to the budget,” Kathman said.

Additionally, Daniel Johnson received 368 votes and Laurel Lucas received 348 votes, granting them three-year seats on the Board of Education, beginning July 1.

Patrick Slagle received 327 votes, and will be fulfilling a one-year term on the board.David Daversa was also a candidate for the Board of Education, and received 319 votes.

Christine Schnars, current board president and 25-year veteran of the Board of Education, received 298 votes.

Kathman called the loss of Schnars devastating.

“That is no comment on the value that the new board members will bring, but Chris Schnars has been on the Jamestown School Board since I punched in here as a principal 25 years ago, and she has been a leader on the board, either as president or as an influential board member, in a very positive and professional manner throughout that whole time,” Kathman said.

“The board and district will miss her service, and I will personally miss her contributions and my close working relationship with her.”

UPK funding restored to Westfield for 2012-13

May 21, 2012

By JENNA LOUGHLIN – Special to the OBSERVER , The OBSERVER

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WESTFIELD – Universal pre-kindergarten funding has been restored.

That was the good word at a recent Westfield Academy and Central School’s Board of Education meeting.

While it is unclear if the district will be reimbursed for the current school year, the funding is guaranteed to be restored starting with the 2012-13 school year.

“We could not have offered the program without it being restored,” Interim Superintendent Margaret Sauer said.

She thanked New York State Senator Catharine Young and New York State Assemblyman Andrew Goodell for their assistance in reestablishing the funding.

In other business, the board approved the 2012-13 school year calendar which will coincide with the BOCES calendar. Board members Tim Smith and Mark Winslow both said they are in favor of being in sync with BOCES. Winslow commented he was upset by the flip flopping back and forth that has gone on with the calendar in recent years. Secondary Principal Ivanna Hite explained it was detrimental to have the a split spring break with the block scheduling Westfield used to have, and Sauer said the decision to mimic the BOCES calendar is the best educational choice now.

Board Vice President Steve Cockram asked if there would be any issues with the shared sports teams and Sauer did say the Brocton district will be on the same calendar as Westfield, but the Ripley and Chautauqua Lake districts have elected to go with two consecutive weeks of spring break.

“The best thing we could do in this county is for all the schools to agree on the same calendar,” Sauer said. “But we’ve been trying for decades and it’s not happening.”

Another “flip-flop” will be CTE students beginning a transition to BOCES. It will be fewer travel miles and Westfield will be splitting that travel cost with Brocton Central Schools. However, some special education students will still be going to Chautauqua Lake Central Schools.

In the business manager’s report, Al Holbrook said the last of the EXCEL building project money was spent and work completed over spring break, just over five years from its approval. There are now digital cameras in all the stairwells, the gymnasium, the cafeteria and the bike rack. He also reported WACS received its eighth consecutive School Safety Award and that the $500 prize will go toward yellow vests for those on the road.

Finally, the board had the difficult job of officially terminating the necessary positions for the 2012-13 budget and school year.

“These were really hard to make,” Smith said.

The cuts to the least senior teachers effective July 1 are as follows: 1.0 position in the elementary tenure area, Kimberly Tiberio; 1.0 position in the music tenure area, Roger Chagnon; 1.0 position in the social studies tenure area, Bryan Olson; 0.5 FTE in the science tenure area, Molly Anderson (will be 0.5 FTE); 0.5 FTE in the art tenure area, Geraldine Beers (will be 0.5 FTE); 0.33 FTE in the foreign language arts, Ann Jaink (will be 0.33 FTE); and 0.5 FTE in the school nurse position, Nancy Walker (will be 0.5 FTE). The votes for each cut were unanimous, except for the music tenure area when Cockram voted against the cut.

In other business:

The board abolished a custodian position which is currently vacant;

Nicole Robbins, David Luder and Alexandra Matos were appointed as an uncertified substitute teachers for the remainder of the 2011-12 school year effective April 17;

The board approved revisions to the 6000 section of the Board Policy Manual; and

BOCES services to be provided during the 2012-13 school year were approved.

Keep Talking

Brocton, Westfield Boards To Continue Discussions

May 21, 2012

By Diane R. Chodan , The OBSERVER

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BROCTON – The Brocton Board of Education wants to keep talking to Westfield Academy Central School about reorganization.

Thomas DeJoe, Brocton board president, asked for comments from board members about their impression of the meeting with Westfield officials, which took place April 25.

“I thought the meeting went well,” said David Hazelton, board member. “Obviously, as we noted, something has to be done.”

Camile Belcher said it makes sense for the boards to work together since both are facing similar problems. Board member Michael Riforgiato said he was glad to see a joint meeting of the boards happen, though he also wants to see broader meetings between the two municipalities.

“If we have a town meeting, we can do it jointly,” he said. “Why not get everyone together at one place? If we want input, why wait all summer to get it?”

Susan Hardy brought up the idea of an exit poll at the budget vote. However, after discussion, this idea was discarded. Doug Walter said he thought the meeting went well.

Board members unanimously approved a resolution to continue discussions with Westfield officials as well as to seek grant funding for a possible feasibility study.

Common voice for a future

May 18, 2012

The OBSERVER

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A sense of optimism came from the Brocton “town hall” meeting at the school in regard to the possible merger with Westfield.

That tone is needed to continue, especially when hearing the dire news of the school’s finances from its Superintendent John Hertlein. During the discussion, Hertlein said the district will be in the red $139,000 in 2013-14 and $751,000 by 2014-15.

In other words, the current school is not sustainable.

“We are not going to solve all the problems here tonight,” district resident Michael Felsman. “The things we have shared with Westfield have gone well. I am open to the idea (of consolidation).”

If you missed the meeting, your voice is welcome. The e-mail address voice@broc.wnyric.org will allow residents to enter questions or comments.

Captain

May-19-12 1:32 PM Agree   | Disagree

I agree with DarkStar. If actions were taken to reduce current AND future expenses, then we’d be solving something. Teachers & admins should NOT be allowed to continue sitting back without offering any meaningful concessions. Quality ED in our schools has steadily declined, and what have employees offered to help stop this trend? I’m not entirely convinced that merges are more cost-effective (just look at CLCS), but I do believe that local schools help build strong communities. The problem is that Public ED has priced itself out of business.

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DarkStar

May-18-12 10:52 AM Agree   | Disagree

commentor,

Closing a building will help some, but assuming Brocton school budget is similar to Dunkirk then just payroll along makes up close to 80% of it so to get any real savings they need to address the number of all types of positions as well as the pay and benifits of those positions.

Teaching used to pay next to nothing, it made up for that with outstanding benifits but now the pay has skyrocketed and yet the benifits have only increased even further.

Further Studies

Brocton, Westfield To Move Forward With Merger Study

May 17, 2012

By Diane R. Chodan (editorial@post-journal.com) , Dunkirk Observer

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BROCTON – The process of centralizing Brocton and Westfield took another step forward Wednesday.

At its regular meeting, the Brocton Board of Education approved going forward with a feasibility study concerning the centralization of Brocton Central School and Westfield Academy and Central School. Recently, the Westfield Board of Education passed a similar resolution.

The six members of the Brocton Board of Education present all voted in favor of the resolution. David Hazelton was absent for the actual vote due to other business, but he had earlier attended most of the town meeting during which residents of the district expressed their opinions.

The resolution authorizes the release of a request for proposal to interested parties. Once the bids are returned, the Brocton and Westfield Boards will review and award the contract to the successful bidder. That date and time was not yet announced.

Board President Thomas DeJoe welcomed about 50 people to the town meeting held in the school auditorium, saying, “This is the time for the board of education to listen to you.”

Superintendent John Hertlein showed some PowerPoint slides to illustrate projections that if all things remain the same, by the school year 2013-2014, the district will be $139,000 in the red. By 2014-2015, the amount will be about $751,000. He explained what has already been cut, and what types of things are non-mandated and could be cut.

Non-mandated items include elementary music, elementary art, pre-kindergarten and kindergarten. Hertlein said, “In my opinion, if you cut some of these you don’t have a school.”

Brocton resident Charles Loveland said he does not see the prospect of developing a tax base (in Brocton and Westfield).

“Why merge two poor districts?” he noted.

Loveland said the two districts had grapes, but these were tax exempt.

Loveland also argued the programs were better in Fredonia. “The music program alone is spectacular,” he said.

Jay Hardenburg, a grape grower, differed with Loveland about the tax exempt status of grapes, saying, “We do receive a partial agricultural exemption which is capped at a 10 percent increase per year.”

He told the audience he does pay taxes on his vineyards and that amount is more than he pays on his home. He stated he favored the merger with Fredonia, but he agreed that talks with Westfield should go forward.

Bob Colgrove spoke very briefly. “I support you going forward,” he said. He then asked for a show of hands of those who wanted to go forward. While no count was taken, a majority of those attending the meeting raised their hands.

Bill Westin, who participated in a finance committee during the study on a Fredonia/Brocton merger, said, “Brocton and Westfield are a lot similar. I’m open to future talks. We can rehash what happened in Fredonia, but we should go forward. I would be glad to participate again, and get answers to the ‘what ifs.'”

Resident Karen Belmondo, who spoke of her love for Brocton, said, “The emotions need to go away. Take the time to study it. Good luck.”

David Davison, who assumes his duties as superintendent of Westfield Academy and Central School on May 21, and WACS board member Steve Cockram, were in the audience Wednesday.

After the board meeting Davison said, “The process is candid and transparent. … People made good statements and we need to listen. I am encouraged by the positive responses. These are difficult decisions to make.”

Resident Michael Felsman noted, “We are not going to solve all the problems here tonight. The things we have shared with Westfield have gone well. I am open to the idea (of consolidation).”

Information about the progress of the effort will appear on Brocton’s website, which Hertlein said, “Is updated daily.” There is also the new email address voice@broc.wnyric.org which will allow residents to enter questions or comments. Hertlein also said parents had received information, posters about the meeting had been widely distributed locally, and notices had appeared in the newspapers.

A district-wide mailing was not done due to cost, but would be considered for the future.

Brocton-Westfield centralization feasibility study going forward

May 17, 2012

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BROCTON — The process toward centralization of Brocton and Westfield took another step forward Wednesday….

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Comments

(6)

rosebud

May-18-12 7:33 AM Agree   | Disagree

Same old, same old. Most are interested only in the Sports Dept. What happened to reading, writing & arithmetic?? Get back to basics. I have property in Mayville & I don’t see any tax relief over there. Everybody keeps saying , you have to pay big bucks to get & keep good Superintendents & teachers. Well as long as every school in western NY is going down hill, I’d say we have paid to much. Pay them less & only give a bonus if they do a good job. Right now they don’t have to do a good job. They just BS their way through. This is why they are called Teachers. They convince us they are worth more than they are..

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killers

May-17-12 4:05 PM Agree   | Disagree

Brocton could of merged with fredonia and said no. Same situation exists with the finances, what has changed. I remember one of the biggest concerns was broctons sport teams, is that issue gone?

1 Agrees | 0 Disagrees | Report Abuse »

Mjones

May-17-12 8:39 AM Agree   | Disagree

I have to I partly agree with baseball. Split Brocton school district and have half go to fredoina and the other go to Westfield. Or, let parent in the bcs disrict choose which they want their child to go to. there is a way to do this with out the all or nothing choices.

2 Agrees | 1 Disagrees | Report Abuse »

proconserv

May-17-12 7:35 AM Agree   | Disagree

The Mayville/Chautauqua merger was a very good decision, and has proven so by having one of the lowest tax rates in the entire state (partly due to have the Chaut Inst in the tax base). With that said, this problem is still much bigger than the merger of two schools. Ripley, Westfield, Brocton and CLCS should be one school with ONE superintendent, one principal at each school, one business mgr, etc. Each superintendent wants to keep their job, but that will not work as an efficient merger and will not have any positive impact on reducing the taxes.

1 Agrees | 2 Disagrees | Report Abuse »

commentor

May-17-12 7:10 AM Agree   | Disagree

They are not looking for solutions. They are looking for how they can do the same things and get someone else to pay for it. The problem is bigger than small mergers. Mayville/Chautauqua proved that. Got the money….spent the money doing business the same old way and now in trouble again.

1 Agrees | 3 Disagrees | Report Abuse »

baseball

May-17-12 3:09 AM Agree   | Disagree

More wasted money! Close Brocton (which will happen with any merger) and divide the district up, into Westfield and Fredonia!

School budgets Cash crunch continues

May 13, 2012

The OBSERVER

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In 1938, 31 school districts from the towns of Arkwright, Charlotte, Cherry Creek, Ellery, Ellington, Gerry, Pomfret and Stockton became the Cassadaga Valley Central School. It was a move with the future in mind, which has led to the district getting ready to celebrate its 75th year in September.

How times have changed.

Even though we have tried – and continue to try – to consolidate just two districts, something, maybe pride, identity or stubbornness, always seems to stand in the way. The results of failed merger attempts have cost residents and students dearly – in terms of high taxes, fewer educational programs and extracurricular activities.

This year, as seems to be the case every May in school budget votes, residents will be asked to approve a “bare bones” budget, which meets the tax cap, but cuts deep into programming.

Rarely do residents reject these plans.

But things have to change moving forward. Already miniscule districts are running out of cash reserves and becoming bankrupt.

Just how dire is the situation? Shrinking districts, such as Westfield and Forestville, have struck deals in the past year with teachers that include pay freezes. This is almost taboo in the education sector, but in doing so, those teachers are part of a solution that preserves some positions and programs.

So go out and vote Tuesday. But the problem of “bare bones” school budgets is not going away.

The bandage box has emptied. The money to run these districts is not far behind.

Captain

May-13-12 7:34 PM Agree   | Disagree

Phil: I’m not necessarily against a merge, be it with schools or other public services, but I certainly want to see REAL savings, not “anticipated estimates”, before agreeing to one. This article pertains to school merges, so any proposal should be clearly defined, and the new BOE’s authority should be limited, not like it is now, where they have the exclusive authority to create or reinstate positions at their discretion w/o approval from voters.

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PhilJulian

May-13-12 2:11 PM Agree   | Disagree

AMAZING – the Observer presents proof of the benefits of consolidation at The Chautauqua District but there are still some folks who refuse to believe it.

2 Agrees | 1 Disagrees | Report Abuse »

Steiner

May-13-12 11:37 AM Agree   | Disagree

School mergers are coming whether you want them or not. Here is why. During the 90’s, financial overtook manufacturing in US. The Wall Street collapse led to serious budget shortfalls in Albany. Yes, the rich really do pay taxes and gobs of them.There is no money. The enviro wackos shut down industry and our govt helped them move overseas. There is no way to recoup the trillions bled out of US unless the activists are stopped. Pure and simple.That is why we see all the $ shenanigans going on between WS and feds.

2 Agrees | 1 Disagrees | Report Abuse »

Captain

May-13-12 11:30 AM Agree   | Disagree

It’s not the public’s “stubbornness” to merge with neighboring schools that’s killing individual districts, it’s the excessive labor & admin costs! I resent this newspaper shifting the blame away from those who’ve directly caused the problems by putting the blame squarely on us taxpayers for refusing to merge. A merge plan that does not include a long-term agreement containing significant cuts in admin positions and CBA modifications will do nothing except encourage more of the same abuse. It’s true that our kids are suffering, but it sure as he!! ain’t the taxpayers’ fault! How many teachers or school admins do you know who are suffering?

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commentor

May-13-12 9:26 AM Agree   | Disagree

Mergers don’t lower taxes because they continue poor management. Bloated administration and outrageous benefits. Chautauqua Lake is in the same boat as the rest. It solved nothing.

1 Agrees | 1 Disagrees | Report Abuse »

Steiner

May-13-12 8:07 AM Agree   | Disagree

The schools have obtained the status of sacred cows, like most anything the gov’t does now. I remember years ago in my district a plea not to build another school. It was met with derison. Now the lower grades are half of what they used to be. Give this a few more years and these Taj Mahals will be ghost towns. The Observer is the only voice for common sense here.

CONSOLIDATION: Lowest tax burdens from latest merger

May 13, 2012

The OBSERVER

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Those who complain that school mergers still lead to higher taxes are not incorrect. However, they are wrong to dismiss the lessened burden of taxes the consolidation brings.

Last week, the Empire Center for New York State Public Policy released its latest findings on the highest tax burdens. Those municipalities with the lowest burdens in the county were in the towns of Chautauqua, Ellery, Ellington and Westfield. Their school district: Chautauqua Lake.

So while taxes may have increased in these townships, the decision to merge the Chautauqua and Mayville schools has eased the burden paid by district residents over the last 17 years.

Paying more for less at schools

May 7, 2012 Save | Comments (2) | Post a comment |

Editor, OBSERVER:

I write regarding the sorry state of education in Silver Creek. It is indeed a sad day when our children are forced to suffer for pensions, insurance and the Board of Education.

The elimination of several invaluable members of the staff is unconscionable. Were the board or the interim superintendent at all concerned about the students and the quality of their education, perhaps they could have started saving taxpayers money by first eliminating redundant positions. Does our district really need three principals and a “dean of students,” whose primary job is to discipline the students?

Is the superintendent going to opt for a salary cut so that our kids can keep high quality teachers? Has the school board president’s wife – a teacher’s aide -lost her position in this round of cuts? And on that vein, should we really spent all that money to revamp the high school cafeteria and give it a glass-block wall?

My kids have been in this system 12 years. It used to be a good school. Now the quality of education is dropping exponentially and my wallet is emptying at the same rate!

CHRISTINE LAWTON,

Silver Creek

Our voice in the schools

May 7, 2012

By DR. ROBERT HEICHBERGER , The OBSERVER

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Schools should be centers for learning par excellence. Most school budget votes and board elections are to be held this year on May 15.

This is a time when the voters can and should take an active role in voting on school budgets and the selection of leadership policy makers for their local school district. Leadership in education requires the highest level of competence guided by compelling professional principles.

Excellence in education begins with sound leadership … from the school board, the administration, and the school classroom. Today, in many of our schools, we find some of the finest students, creative teachers and caring staff, competent administrators, and responsive school board members. And, there are those who are not, they know they are not, but may find it difficult to admit it. However, most will agree that high quality dynamic leadership is required at all levels of the school system.

School boards are an important part of our republic. The corporate body of trustees of a school district has major public responsibility for doing the business of the people as public trustees.

And trustees occupy positions of trust in the performance of their public duties. Clearly, the performance of members of public boards call for the highest level of prudent policy making based upon the highest of ethical values. This same level of excellence in leadership must be exercised among all within the system.

The best schools we have found consist of high-level learning centers comprised of “hopeful” learning spaces for hopeful learning students. Motivated hope-filled learning begins in the classroom, guided by truly skilled teachers with competent administrators in charge, spearheaded by highly dedicated ethically driven policy making on the part of the board of education. Single item agenda, ego centric, vindictively centered personalities on a board are a serious distraction if not deterrent to academic growth and progress

The productivity and ingenuity of Americans everywhere is the envy of the world. Much of this ingenuity began and begins in the classrooms across America. A substantial part of the genius of American education is found in our educational institutions. These institutions should contribute to the success of the American enterprise. American innovation and productivity are leading the way in this information age. Few nations in history have been granted such a singular opportunity to help shape the future of so many people around the world.

Principled leadership is desperately needed in all aspects of American life. And much of it begins right where we are… in the homes and in the classrooms across America.

Today, we see evidence of an American public in a quandary over what in style and substance represents best those underpinnings of authentic leadership. Most Americans cherish an inner desire for competent leaders who display moral authority based upon moral rectitude. This, too, is the hope of most Americans for our schools today. Creative desires and expectations of excellence on the part of skilled educators and principled school board members serve as the essential building blocks for quality schools. For successful learning is accentuated in an atmosphere where there are conscientiously dedicated hopeful learning spaces, guided by inspiring educators.

Sustained excellence from the board room to the classroom requires adherence to ethical values and determined perseverance. These core values are the touchstones for leading and the ethical lodestars for action. It is by firmly holding to one’s principles, and acting on one’s convictions that one earns the right to lead. With this kind of determined “will” within all levels of the school organization, horizontally and vertically, our schools will indeed be hallmarks of excellence. Tuesday, May 15 provides a time and a place toward achieving … if not already achieved … and sustaining this vital realization. The youth of today and tomorrow deserve no less!

Dr. Robert L. Heichberger is professor emeritus at the State University of New York at Fredonia and distinguished professor at Capella University in Minneapolis. All of the past columns can be viewed on www.fromourperspective.net/ Send comments to: Rheich@aol.com

Two sides to budget vote

Fredonia is worthy of support

May 13, 2012

By JAMES H. MINTUN Jr. , The OBSERVER

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Over the years, I have been a frequent critic of the failure of our education system in New York to recognize the realities of upstate – declining school population, small districts not offering a competitive education, subsidization of school construction projects in declining districts, state mandates imposed because of the needs of New York City, lack of focus on cost reduction in the individual districts.

I am writing this letter to urge the residents of the Fredonia School District to support the school budget by voting “yes” on both propositions on Tuesday.

I think that Superintendent Paul DiFonzo and his staff have done about all they can do with the cards that have been dealt to them:

1) They are operating an overbuilt physical plant (remember Vision 2000.

2) State aid has been reduced by over $6 million with no change in state mandates.

3) Their efforts on a school merger passed overwhelmingly in the district only to be rejected by Brocton.

4) New York state Triborough Amendment continues to impede labor negotiations.

With these constraints, what has the administration done?

1) Closed Wheelock school and consolidated all grades in the main campus.

2) Rented out the space in Wheelock to other groups to generate revenue.

3) Established a competitive tuition to attract students from disadvantaged districts – over 60 tuition students are in the system.

4) Reduced administration by two positions (this may change due to new teacher evaluation process).

5) Have done what they can on wages, benefits within New York state rules.

6) Maintained programs to continue a quality education.

7) Did their job in promoting the merger with Brocton within our district (3-to-1 in favor)

8) Stayed within the tax cap (using the typical New York state rule – full of exceptions)

For these reasons, I think the voters should recognize the significant progress that has been made and support the budget. More needs to be done as cost reduction never stops, but the major impediment is a failed state Education Department and Legislature that will not accept the realities of upstate. In spite of this, we must support a quality education.

Vote “yes.”

James H. Mintun Jr. is a resident of the Fredonia Central Schools.

Comments

(3)

PhilJulian

May-13-12 11:58 AM Agree   | Disagree

Somewhere along the line there needs to be respect for the people and industry that are picking up the tab. As I mentioned in past postings I have met people who are forced to sell their homes in Fredonia due to escallating taxes. We have all seen major local industies forced into court proceedings to lower their assessments in order to compete and survive. We have all seen declines in populations, plant closings and closing of schools and churches as a result of our aging population, lack of growth and excessive taxation. Funding education has always been and will continue to be a top priority but it needs to be balanced with the general economic health of the community.

commentor

May-13-12 9:53 AM Agree   | Disagree

Sorry…correction #5- should be top 1/3 of teachers

commentor

May-13-12 9:52 AM Agree   | Disagree

VOTE NO: #3-Has everyone paid or do they still owe the district, as is typical in the past? #4-Two positions…big deal! #5- Only froze the top 2/3 of teachers salaries. #7- DiFonzo is arrogant and nasty and no one wants to deal with him. #8- Arrogantly admits to not even trying to stay within 2% cap.

Proposal is ‘bloated and unrealistic’

May 13, 2012

By Dr. RICHARD D. REDDY , The OBSERVER

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A great deal has been made in recent months about bullying in our schools, but the Board of Education of the Fredonia Central School District is once more itself bullying the children of the district, the parents of students of the district and the voters of the district.

This is an utterly cynical game. What this board is doing (and so often school boards in Fredonia and elsewhere have done) is to do what it is said mob bosses have done – making offers that can’t be refused. “Give us every single penny or we’ll break your legs or cut off your hands” or something else that’s drastic (like cutting out sports or arts or music).

If this board (or any other board) genuinely cared about sports or arts or music, it would have proposed (and will propose) a budget that protects those activities, a budget that deserves the support of the community, not one, such as this one, which doesn’t.

At the same time, should this budget be voted down, they will undoubtedly claim that a “failure” to approve (and the dire consequences they threaten) would be the fault of the electorate, not theirs.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

They’ve chosen to threaten those programs because they want their bloated and unrealistic budget to pass.

This board has been hell bent on spending every possible penny (they admit doing so by proposing a budget which is the maximum allowable without requiring a supermajority vote, ignoring the legislative norm of no more than a 2 percent budget increase) and by not cutting any programs (also something they also admit) whether or not those cuts would make any sense and whether or not those programs in their current form could no longer be justified.

School boards have obligations to the children of a district, but they also have a very significant obligation to the voters/taxpayers of a district. It is only the latter who can reign them in when they are out of touch with the economic realities of a community.

We live in one of the highest property taxed counties in the entire United States and yet there is continued and callous disregard for the ability of taxpayers to pay increase upon increase upon increase.

How many taxpayers who are not employees of the Fredonia Central Schools expect to receive pay increases this coming year? How many employees of the Fredonia Central Schools expect to receive pay increases this coming year?

Vote down the proposed budget. See if this board will have the wisdom and the courage to come up with a budget that merits the support of the community and which does not threaten music or art or sports.

Stand up to the bullies!

Dr. Richard D. Reddy is a professor, department of sociology, anthropology, social work and criminal justice at Fredonia State and a Fredonia resident.

commentor

May-13-12 4:21 PM Agree   | Disagree

If you think we will ever live and pay no taxes you best move to another planet. My gripe is that property owners are the ones bearing the burden.

Christopher

May-13-12 2:58 PM Agree   | Disagree

I agree with that part Captain, but still, tax dollars are tax dolalrs. Many other states don’t have an income tax, and we do, at least partly because of the costs of our colleges, for many of the same reason our high schools cost too much. Tax dollars are tax dollars, as far as I’m concerned, and waste of any of them is equally as bad. Local school taxes are just more visible.

Captain

May-13-12 1:06 PM Agree   | Disagree

commentor’s point was that state aid used to fund projects @ FSU, or any costs associated with operating FSU not covered thru state aid, doesn’t fall entirely upon local property owners, as is the case with local schools. The common complaint expressed by Dr. Reddy is that our area BOEs and school employees have threatened and ignored taxpayers’ concerns for far too long, and I completely agree. Considering Dr Reddy’s occupation, I do agree that this is a case of calling the kettle black. However, it’s refreshing to see an educator come forward and criticize the very system he is an employee of.

localresident

May-13-12 12:22 PM Agree   | Disagree

Excellently put. I can only hope DiFonzo sees this article, but I am highly skeptical of his ability to read and/or comprehend common sense.

Christopher

May-13-12 10:32 AM Agree   | Disagree

Commentor..where do you think all the state aide for tution and buildings at the college comes from, the Tooth Fairy?

commentor

May-13-12 9:39 AM Agree   | Disagree

Bravo!!! Could not have said it better myself. As to the comparison of cost to Fredonia State. I am not assessed taxes for students to attend College unless it’s JCC which receives County money. My other comment is why are two Fredonia board members running unopposed?

Christopher

May-13-12 5:50 AM Agree   | Disagree

Excellent points, all. But then, one could make the exact same points relative to an education at SUNY Fredonia, with ever rising, and more often for many, unaffordable, tution. It’s the reason for the current fight over student loan rates. If I ever saw a clearer case of that infamous pot calling out that kettle, I’m not sure when.

‘Nothing’ to gain with Westfield

May 13, 2012

By CHARLES R. LOVELAND , The OBSERVER

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The OBSERVER suggested in an editorial (May 7) that the Brocton Board of Education needs to hear from people who are opposed to talks with Westfield school district. I, for one, am strongly opposed to any such merger.

Why in heavens name would anyone want to merge two poor districts? Is there any reason to think that there will be any development in Westfield, which would expand the tax base over which the budget could be spread? The answer is “No.” There is no prospect for development in the Westfield school district.

Is there any hope that there will be a home building surge in the Westfield district? The answer again is “no.”

What is to be gained by any such merger nothing but further high taxes.

What is to be lost? The cost of any further discussions and a study. The loss of our school and what that would mean to village taxes when there is no money coming from the school for water, sewer and electric.

On the other hand, what are the pros to go to Fredonia? The study has already been done. The programs they have to offer are far better then anything Westfield has or the combined schools could offer.

Just the music program alone far exceeds anything a Brocton-Westfield district could offer.

There are real chances the tax base in the Fredonia district will grow. Just look at the development along Route 60. Look at the number of new homes built with $200,000 to $500,000 assessments.

Then look at Westfield.

One of the most important pros is that we could have a school in Brocton and save all the money we have put in our building as well as revenue for water, sewer and electric.

Charles R. Loveland is a Brocton resident.

Comments (3)

Fredonia6

May-15-12 6:48 AM Agree   | Disagree

ANY merger of any districes would be helpful. Don’t worry, if the residents keep saying “Not in my backyard” the State will come in and mandate it and there will be NO choice. Personally, I think Brocton, Ripley and Westfield, although from “poor districts” with no opportunity to grow according to someone who lives in another village,it would still benefit if the adminstrators come up with a feasible plan.

0 Agrees | 0 Disagrees | Report Abuse »

PhilJulian

May-13-12 12:07 PM Agree   | Disagree

Brocton really missed the boat when they rejected the merger with Fredonia. Not only would students get a better education as Mr. Loveland suggests, the community would also receive a huge 40% increase in state aid. I would guess that property values in Brocton would increase simply from being associated with Fredonia’s district. Those who question the value of mergers need to consider the reduction is administrative costs that would result from a merger. In Dunkirk alone we spent $4 million per year just for administration. While there are still critics of the Chautauqua/Mayville merger the fact remains that their tax rate is very favorable and they have great facilities.

2 Agrees | 0 Disagrees | Report Abuse »

commentor

May-13-12 10:00 AM Agree   | Disagree

What are the benefits to Fredonia to take on Brocton and keep the school open. The only benefit to Fredonia is to close the Brocton school and have those taxes come to Fredonia. If you really want to think out of the box think about Fredonia and Brocton becoming one. Combine Schools and governments. Has anyone done a study on that? Fredonia taking on Brocton and leaving the school open is like taking in a poor relative. It’s like putting Brocton on welfare.

Include poll on future

May 8, 2012

The OBSERVER Save | Comments (5) | Post a comment |

In Monday’s OBSERVER’s View, we posed a question regarding whether Brocton residents are ready for a school merger with Westfield.

We were not alone.

Last week, Brocton school board member Susan Hardy wondered the same thing, suggesting an exit poll during the budget vote on May 15. But one resident took it a step further.

This Brocton district resident thought it would be a good idea for all districts to ask the question – in an exit poll or straw vote – on whether their school district should consider merging with a neighboring district.

It is an excellent suggestion – and one that would get a good read on what residents’ thoughts are.

Westfield and Brocton are in the early stages of considering a merger. Moving forward will take time and some money.

Both are too precious to keep wasting. Exit polls or straw votes on possible consolidations would give school board members a clearer picture of what their constituents want.

Comments (5)

PhilJulian

May-08-12 9:54 AM Agree   | Disagree

Interesting thought except school elections are notorious for very low voter turnout. The results of the poll would only reflect the opinions of a small minority of taxpayers. Education is a state function and the answer to our financial problems is for the state to finance the entire cost of education removing the burden from local taxpayers. Once they are picking up the tab state officials will be forced to make the necessary adjustments in local structure.

1 Agrees | 0 Disagrees | Report Abuse »

Mountaintop

May-08-12 8:07 AM Agree   | Disagree

Merge or not…..Brocton and most other schools need to find some other way to pad their budgets OTHER than reaching into the taxpayers pocket for more and more every year!!! Anyone else tired of hearing “oh it’s only another 2%” or “we could have raised it more”??Look around folks….this is Chautauqua County with an ever DECREASING industry base and dwindling population!!! It’s time for our school and all the rest to make the hard choices and find a way to educate the youth without crushing the taxpayers under the finacial burden!

1 Agrees | 0 Disagrees | Report Abuse »

rjanswers

May-08-12 6:37 AM Agree   | Disagree

Thanks Bill. Observer assumes that maintaining the status quo(outdated school model) in one larger district is somehow preferable to the status quo in two smaller districts. Show us the real savings and you will have a huge majority in favor.

1 Agrees | 0 Disagrees | Report Abuse »

BillWestfieldNY

May-08-12 6:08 AM Agree   | Disagree

If your not going to save the taxpayer a significant amount of money on their taxes you can forget about a poll or a merger. Its that simple.

2 Agrees | 0 Disagrees | Report Abuse »

Carlaw

May-08-12 5:52 AM Agree   | Disagree

Polls are only useful if you know the number of people who voted. Most newspaper polls now give that number. If 400 people vote yes to a poll question and 35 vote no you have something to consider. If 12 people vote yes and 15 people vote no, what information do you have? Usually not enough people vote in these polls to obtain meaningful information.

Merger: Is Brocton ready for ‘yes?’

May 7, 2012

The OBSERVER

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It is refreshing to hear the Brocton school board’s enthusiasm for moving ahead with a potential merger with Westfield. But is the community ready?

Last time there was a merger vote in Brocton, residents defeated a plan to team with Fredonia.

“I have two children in this school,” said Doug Walter, Brocton school board member. I 100 percent think we should go to Westfield. … People are always pushing me when are we going to go to Westfield.”

But the Brocton district, as well as Westfield, will have to spend money on a study as well as some cash for joint meetings. We applaud this effort in moving ahead, but before members and staff put extra effort into this, community members must come forward and give their views.

School officials especially need to hear from those who are not in favor of this plan or do not want to merge. Finding out when the vote happens is a waste of both time and money.

School merger options

Brocton officials want to keep talking with Westfield

May 5, 2012

By DIANE R. CHODAN – OBSERVER Staff Writer , The OBSERVER

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BROCTON – The Brocton Board of Education wants to keep talking to Westfield Academy Central School about reorganization.

Brocton Board of Education President Thomas DeJoe asked for comments from the board members about their impression of the meeting with Westfield officials, which took place April 25.

David Hazelton said, “I thought the meeting went well. Obviously, as we noted, something has to be done.”

Camile Belcher agreed. “They are looking to work with us because they are facing very, very similar problems,” she said.

Michael Riforgiato said, “I was glad to see it happen. If we have a town meeting, we can do it jointly. Why not get everyone together at one place? If we want input, why wait all summer to get it?”

Susan Hardy brought up the idea of an exit poll at the budget vote. However, after discussion, this idea was discarded.

Doug Walter said, “I thought the meeting went well; I was pleased. … I have two children in this school. … I 100 percent think we should go to Westfield. … People are always pushing me when are we going to go to Westfield.”

The final resolution concerning this topic unanimously accepted by board members present read as follows: “That the Board of Education, upon the recommendation of the Superintendent, approve the continuation of reorganizational discussions with the Westfield Academy and Central School and authorize the Superintendent to seek grant funding for a possible feasibility study.”

In other business:

The board accepted the resignation for retirement purposes of Ruth Karalus effective June 30. The action was taken with sincere thanks for her dedication to the school district. It was noted that Karalus served the district for over 36 years as a secretary and will be missed.

Riforgiato reported on the progress of the capital project, saying that there will be a bidders’ meeting and bids went out on May 4. Bids will be opened at a public meeting on June 6 at 3:30 p.m.

The budget vote will be held on May 15. The polls will be open from noon to 8 p.m.

Comments on this article may be directed to dchodan@observertoday.com

Which school district should merge with Brocton?

  1. 1.    Westfield

56%

  1. 2.          Fredonia

44%

Comments(5)

Veteran

Apr-30-12 5:25 PM Agree   | Disagree

None…….i agree with Carlaw, let the school die. It’s the only way to start reducing these districts that have no more room for big taxes for so few students.

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Santora

Apr-30-12 1:53 PM Agree   | Disagree

Well as I see it Brocton really doesn’t want to be a part of Fredonia. It seems quite evident. I would think Westfield would be the better choice as both would have more to gain and understand each other a little better.In all these discussions I have never heard Cassadaga mentioned…how come??

0 Agrees | 1 Disagrees | Report Abuse »

commentor

Apr-30-12 12:00 PM Agree   | Disagree

Close Brocton send to Fredonia. Close Ripley and send to Westfield. Not a final solution but a start. Hopefully soon the State will force big consolidations for the entire Chautauqua County and stop all of this nonsense!!!

1 Agrees | 1 Disagrees | Report Abuse »

FredoniaFred

Apr-30-12 6:14 AM Agree   | Disagree

None. Brocton should dissolve and the district absorbed into all the ajoining districts.

8 Agrees | 1 Disagrees | Report Abuse »

Carlaw

Apr-30-12 5:49 AM Agree   | Disagree

The option of NONE should have be given in the poll.

Highs and lows: Some of the best, worst of the week

April 28, 2012

By GEORGE SEBOUHIAN , The OBSERVER

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Here are some of the best – and worst – of the week:

WORST

MERGER MEETING – Please understand, at the OBSERVER, we are in favor of school mergers. There’s too many school districts in our county. With that being said, we question Brocton and Westfield discussing merging. That’s because these are the two communities that voted down merging in 2009 – Westfield with Ripley and Brocton with Fredonia. Time has passed. Perhaps Fredonia-Brocton and Westfield-Ripley should vote again before they authorize a new study to merge Brocton and Westfield, which will take a long time and cost thousands of dollars for a study. Plus, if these two districts merge, it won’t help Ripley or Fredonia. Revisit Fredonia-Brocton and Westfield-Ripley first. Their studies are already done.

Area School Districts Prepare Budgets For Public Vote

May 6, 2012

By Liz Skoczylas (lskoczylas@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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Around the area, school districts have adopted budgets for the 2012-13 school year. Now, districts are looking to residents to pass the budgets May 15.

JAMESTOWN

The Jamestown Public Schools District has proposed a budget of $76,795,992. Additionally, it has proposed no increase to the local tax levy.

Christine Schnars, JPS board president, said that the board was adamant that there be no increase to the local taxpayers when it gave direction to Deke Kathman, superintendent, and Dale Weatherlow, assistant superintendent of administration, in creating the budget.

“The direction that we gave them was that there be no tax increase. We just don’t feel that the citizens of this community can take any more, as most of us can’t take any more. So, we gave them the direction to get to where we want to go,” Mrs. Schnars said.

The district worked to fill a gap of $706,970 once several restorations, reductions and adjustments were added into its budget. Several cuts were made from the JPS 2012-13 budget, including16 full-time equivalent positions.

SOUTHWESTERN

Southwestern Central School District has a proposed a budget of $25,739,850. Additionally, it has proposed a tax increase of 1.7 percent.

“The increase over the 2011-12 budget is in the negative. We would currently be at negative .36 percent. That doesn’t happen very often. The reason for that is we’re trying to adopt a budget that is lower than the budget we are currently living under,” George said.

Recently, a $176,826 restoration in state school aid has allowed the board to restore a teacher position to its 2012-13 budget. The board chose to restore a high school social studies teacher position that had been cut in March.

Daniel George, superintendent, said that by restoring the social studies teacher position, all the main core subjects at the high school level each have a total of six full-time teachers.

In the 2012-13 budget, the board chose to eliminate four full-time equivalent elementary school teachers, a science, business and music teacher.

BEMUS POINT

The Bemus Point Central School District proposed a budget of $12,474,650. The proposed tax increase is 4.5 percent, although its limit, according to state formulas, is 1.74 percent. Because it is looking to pass an increase higher than the allowed amount, the district needs supermajority vote of 60 percent for this to pass.

“Do we create a budget that is below the tax levy limit but seriously impacts the education of our students; or do we create a budget that allows our students to be competitive with surrounding districts and states? Parents who attended the last Board of Education meeting answered that question. They told the board that they moved to this district because of the quality of our school district’s programs,” said Jacqueline Latshaw, superintendent, in the district newsletter.

To help with the gap that the district faced, every employee in the district agree to a wage freeze, and the district cut back on some positions and programs.

The budget also includes a bus proposition, in which the district is looking to purchase two buses, in order to replace three buses in the current fleet, which will no longer pass DOT inspection.

SHERMAN

The Sherman Central School District has proposed a budget of $8,939224. The district has opted to take its tax cap to the legal limit with a proposed tax increase of 1.71 percent.

“1.71 is our legal cap. I think that is where we need to go. It is only 29 cents more per $1,000. For a $50,000 home, it is just a little over $15 for a tax increase. I think that is fair, I think that we aren’t going to bust anyone with this tax increase, but we have got to do it to maintain this place,” said Thomas Schmidt, superintendent.

According to Kimberly Oehlbeck, district treasurer, the district used almost $400,000 from its fund balance. It also chose to not replace two teachers that are retiring, as well as a bus driver that will be retiring.

RANDOLPH

The Randolph Central School District has proposed a budget of $12,273,831, which includes no increase to the local tax levy.

The total amount of forecasted revenues is $12,273,831. The tax levy, which is remaining the same as the 2011-12 school year, will bring in $4,833,815 to the district. The remaining gap of $1,373,860 will be transferred from the district’s appropriated fund balance.

“We are just really grateful that the Board of Education and the business official here have a long-standing working relationship and good fiscal management for many years,” said Kimberly Moritz, superintendent.

FALCONER

The Falconer Central School District has proposed a budget of $21,114,476 for the 2012-13 school year. Additionally, it has estimated property taxes at $6,627,677, a 1.02 percent increase over the 2011-12 school year.

In March, superintendent Stephen Penhollow said that the district was not expecting to make any major cuts to this year’s staffing, although it has a retirement position that will not be filled, something that they have done over the past four years. He said that the district intended to reduce staff by 10.5 positions, and is planning on reducing five more positions in the next two years.

CHAUTAUQUA LAKE

The Chautauqua Lake Central School District has proposed a 2012-13 budget of $19,124,484. Additionally, it has proposed a 2.27 percent increase to the tax levy.

“Each year, the budget message gets more challenging to write, essentially because the economic climate in which we operate continues to demand that we “do more with less,” without sacrificing the education of our students and over burdening taxpayers,” the Board of Education wrote in the district’s 2012-13 budget notice.

If the budget of $19,124,484 does not pass with at least 50 percent of the vote, the district would impose a contingency budget totaling $18,871,734.

FREWSBURG

The Frewsburg Central School District has proposed a budget of $15,003,902, and a tax levy increase of 1.80 percent for the 2012-13 school year.

The district is also looking at two special propositions; one for a bus purchase, and another for the RHJ Capital Improvements Project.

According to officials, the district is looking to purchase two diesel-powered buses, which will have a maximum cost of $223,000. Additionally, the district said that it will receive 80 to 85 percent state aid on all transportation-related costs, including interest, in the year following payments.

The Board of Education is also submitting a separate proposition for the RHJ Capital Improvements Project, not to exceed $2,315,000.

CLYMER

The Clymer Central School District has proposed a budget of $9,422,589, which is a .93 percent decrease over the 2011-12 school year. The district has also proposed a 1.9 percent increase to the tax levy.

The Clymer Board of Education voted unanimously for the proposed budget. There will be a presentation of the proposed budget Monday at 7 p.m. in the high school library, followed by the regular board meeting.

School Budgets Up For Vote May 15

May 6, 2012

By Liz Skoczylas (lskoczylas@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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Around the area, school districts have adopted budgets for the 2012-13 school year. Now, districts are looking to residents to pass the budgets May 15.

After months of crunching numbers, districts have finalized their budgets for the upcoming school year. New this year for districts to handle was a property tax cap, which was determined through a formula.

The property tax cap was passed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo last June. The law requires the local governments and school districts to raise taxes no more than 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less.

In many cases, districts are looking for a simple majority vote of at least 50 percent of voters approving the district budget, as they have chosen to adhere to the maximum allowable cap or less.

However, Bemus Point Central School District is looking for at least 60 percent, or the supermajority, of voters to approve its budget, as it has opted to raise district taxes 4.5 percent. Additionally, employees in the Bemus Point District agreed to a wage freeze.

Due to the tax cap and cuts in state funding, many districts were faced with tough decisions. Around the state, districts looked at the possibility of layoffs. Originally, Jamestown Public Schools anticipated losing nearly 30 positions within the district, which has since been lowered to 16 positions.

Several districts, including Jamestown and Southwestern, were able to make changes to their budgets as legislature reinstated additional aid from the state.

Sen. Catharine Young, R-Olean, announced that schools in the 57th Senate District would be boosted with increases totaling nearly $22.2 million in additional aid from the state.

With this addition, the 45 schools in Sen. Young’s district, which includes all of Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Allegany and half of Livingston counties, received $530,802,964 in state assistance.

“There are still tough situations for some of my districts, and we understand that. We are going to continually work to increase aid to schools and make the formula more fair. We took steps forward this year in doing that,” Sen. Young said. “I felt very strongly that we had to get funds out the door to help schools with their budgets this year.”

District votes will take place May 15. For locations and times within each district, contact the district offices.

Ready To Vote

Few Attend JPS Budget Hearing

May 9, 2012

By Dennis Phillips (dphillips@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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Only a few city residents cared to hear more about Jamestown Public School District’s proposed 2012-13 budget.

District officials held a public hearing at Persell Middle School on Tuesday, with only four city residents asking questions to school district officials about the spending plan. Prior to the public session of the meeting, Deke Kathman, district superintendent, and Dale Weatherlow, district assistant superintendent of administration, delivered an informative budget presentation.

Weatherlow said the main questions most voters want to know about is the tax levy, which is the money collected through property taxes. The administrator said for the second year in a row, the tax levy didn’t change. The proposed tax levy is $14,641,567.

”If your assessed property value or equalization has changed, your tax bill might be different, but the tax levy has not changed,” he said.

Kathman said when the budget process started, the school board made it clear they wanted no tax levy increase in the spending plan.

”Our district is one of the few to intentionally manage the tax levy to be unchanged,” Kathman said.

In order to have no tax levy increase, the school’s administration and board members made the decision to cut the equivalent of 16.5 jobs, which included 5.5 teaching positions.

District officials also used $1 million more of its appropriated fund balance this year when compared to last year, to use a total of $2,775,000. One of the questions during the public speaking session concerned the district’s fund balance. Dave Daversa, who is running for school board, asked why the district had 4.6 percent, or 3.5 million, of its budget in fund balance and if that was considered a high amount. Kathman said the state wants the district to be below 4 percent. This is one reason why district officials increased the amount of fund balanced used in the budget.

One question to school administration was from John Ritchie who asked why the school is paying more than $10 million in debt services from building projects. Weatherlow told Ritchie the state is paying the district’s debt services amount through state aid.

Another question from the public had to do with smaller school buses being used to get around the city easier. Kathman said this is a question commonly heard from the public, which is why district officials purchased more the last time it bought school buses for its fleet.

The proposed 2012-13 budget is $76,795,692, which increased $2,341,063, or 3.14 percent, over the 2011-12 fiscal plan.

Five Vying For Three Seats On Jamestown School Board

May 5, 2012

By Liz Skoczylas (lskoczylas@ post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal  Save | Post a comment |

Jamestown voters will have more to vote on than the 2012-13 school year budget on school board election day May 15.

The Jamestown Public Schools District has three Board of Education seats with terms expiring in June that the public will be asked to vote on, in addition to the budget.

Of the three open seats, two carry a three-year term, and one carries a one-year term. The seat carrying the one-year term is one left open by Barbara Piazza’s resignation in December. The seat had been filled by Daniel Johnson, who was appointed by the board in February to finish out the year.

Christine Schnars, board president, Laurel Lucas and Johnson each have terms that are expiring this year, and each are hoping to reclaim their places with the Board of Education. Additionally, Patrick Slagle and Dave Daversa are running for the open seats.

The public will be able to vote for the vacant seats May 15 during the school board elections, which will take place at Lincoln Elementary School and Washington and Jefferson Middle Schools from noon until 9 p.m. For more information on where to vote, contact the Administration Building at 483-4420.

CHRISTINE SCHNARS

Christine Schnars has been a part of the Board of Education for 25 years.

“I have been involved in schools and education for even longer than I’ve been on the board, and I have enjoyed every minute of it,” Mrs. Schnars said.

Right now, she said that she wishes to continue being a part of the Board of Education, because she has been through the good and bad years with the district.

“Lately, with all the struggle with the budget, I think it is really important through the next few years to have people on the board with experience and knowledge with how to get us through these tough times,” Mrs. Schnars said.

The experience and knowledge that Mrs. Schnars has with education is what she said makes her a strong board member. She is also a member of the Erie-2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus County BOCES board, president of the Chautauqua County School Boards Association and on the board of directors for the New York State School Boards Association.

LAUREL LUCAS

Laurel Lucas has also been a part of the Board of Education for many years. Mrs. Lucas has spent ten years as a part of the board.

Because the district has had a tough few years with budgets, Mrs. Lucas said that she would like to see it get better.

“I’m hoping to see that it gets better, and I would like to be on the board when it starts getting better, to hopefully bring back some of the people and curriculum. I would like to help bring some of these things back on,” Mrs. Lucas said.

With the closing of Rogers Elementary School at the end of this year, Mrs. Lucas said that she knows that the district will continue looking at some tough times.

“Because I was one of those that helped make the decision to close (Rogers school), I would like to be there to help see it through,” Mrs. Lucas said.

Mrs. Lucas said that she is looking to ensure that the district continues the quality of education that she and her children had when they graduated.

“I know that it is going to get worse, just because of the cuts that we have made. I would like to see us make as few cuts as possible. I care about keeping the education as best as we possibly can here in town, with the money constraints that we have,” Mrs. Lucas said.

DANIEL JOHNSON

Daniel Johnson was appointed to the Board of Education in February of this year to fill a vacant seat. He went through the Jamestown Public Schools himself, and currently has two children enrolled in the district.

“I have a vested interest in the school district as a parent and taxpayer,” Johnson said.

He said that he would like to continue serving the board because he believes in public education and wants to play an active roll in ensuring that the schools provide children with opportunities for a successful future.

“As a board member my efforts would focus on the academic needs of our children. The district has outstanding athletic and musical programs but I want to make sure our students succeed in the classroom,” Johnson said.

Johnson said that he is looking to provide students with the best possible educational opportunities while still being aware of the taxpayers.

“I will continue to serve the Jamestown residents as their school board representative, continuing to bring my integrity, ability to make and stand by my decisions, willingness to devote time and energy to school board business, willingness to listen, knowledge of the community, labor background and negotiating experience and loyalty of the democratic process,” Johnson said.

PATRICK SLAGLE

Patrick Slagle is looking for his first term on the Jamestown Public Schools District Board of Education. He was one of eleven candidates that the board considered to fill the vacant board seat earlier this year.

“I have always wanted to get more involved in the community, and I see that the Jamestown school system plays an important role in the community with graduating and becoming a part of the community,” Slagle said.

He said that he feels that some changes need to be made to ensure that the district continues to be vibrant and strong for future students.

“I’m relatively young and new to the school system, so I think I bring some fresh ideas to the school board, and hopefully some changes that will really impact the way the schools are run into the future,” Slagle said.

DAVE DAVERSA

Dave Daversa was also one of the eleven candidates looking to fill the empty board seat earlier this year. Additionally, he was a board member for two terms in the 1990’s.

“I was quite involved. I became the vice president and acting president during changing times. I called for a great deal of change in the 90’s, and a lot of it did happen,” Daversa said.

He said that he played a large part in moving to all-day kindergarten, going through the appropriate avenues in order to ensure that changes were made. Additionally, he said that he was “very cost-conscious, expenditure-wise, and a hawk-eye on spending.”

“We are in difficult financial times, and with the threat of Jamestown schools actually laying off teachers and having financial difficulties with their budgets, I thought that with my experience on a day-to-day-basis (as a supervisor for the county department of transportation and previously being on the school board), that I would bring some fresh ideas to the table,” Daversa said.

He is also hoping to bring discussion to the table about many issues, in an effort to find the answers that the district needs to make change.

Daversa said that he has always been interested in the development and education of children, especially because he has three daughters and now grandchildren.

“The future is critical. If we’re not shaping them right, then we’re going to have problems,” Daversa said.

JPS Budget Voter Registration Today

May 1, 2012

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The complete Jamestown Public School District 2012-13 budget is available to the public and can be reviewed at the Jamestown Public Schools Board of Education Administration Building, 197 Martin Road, Jamestown.

The budget document is also available at http://www.jamestownpublicschools.org under the “2012-13 Budget Information” button on the home page.

In order to be entitled to vote, people must present themselves personally for registration before the district clerk, with proper identification and proof of residency at the Administration Building at 197 Martin Road, Jamestown, between noon and 6 p.m. today.

To be eligible to vote in the Jamestown Public School District Budget/Board of Education Election, an individual must be: at least 18 years of age, a United States citizen, a resident of the Jamestown Public School District for at least 30 days prior to May 15, and a registered voter. All qualified voters residing within the city of Jamestown, and who were registered for the preceding general election, and still live in the same school election district, or all qualified voters residing outside the city of Jamestown but within the confines of school districts formerly known as Kiantone Number Three and Busti Number Seven, who voted or were qualified to vote in the preceding general election, and still reside in the same school election district are entitled to vote in the annual school board election and budget vote on May 15.

Registered voters who are not able to vote in person on Election Day may be eligible to vote by absentee ballot. Applications can be obtained through the District Clerk, in person, by mail or by phone. The district office address is 197 Martin Road, Jamestown, New York. For more information, call 483-4420. Those who want to receive the ballot by mail must apply at least seven days before the vote. Ballots must be received by the District Clerk by 5 p.m. on May 15.

The budget and board of education vote will be held Tuesday, May 15, from noon to 9 p.m. Polling Places will be located at Jefferson Middle School, Lincoln Elementary School and Washington Middle School. For more information about voter registration, polling locations or where to vote, call the district clerk at 483-4420.

The public hearing on the 2012-13 budget will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 8, in the Persell Middle School auditorium. The public is welcome to attend.

Seeking a seat

League of Women Voters holds debate for Dunkirk school board candidates

May 11, 2012 Save | Post a comment |

By NICOLE GUGINO OBSERVER Assistant News Editor , The OBSERVER

Before it is time to vote Tuesday, the League of Women Voters held a debate for the candidates running for the Dunkirk School Board Thursday at city hall.

New candidates James White, Amy Ahlstrom and Claudia Szczerbacki (absent) are running for the two available seats on the board.

Both White and Ahlstrom said they are ready to step up to the position on the school board.

“I feel that being a parent and a citizen and part of the community in the city of Dunkirk is my major qualification. It’s time for people like myself to step up and take action,” Ahlstrom said.

White explained his education, experience and enthusiasm qualify him for the position.

“I believe there is a lot of potential in the city, in the schools and in our students and I am very enthusiastic about helping our school and helping our students reach the potential that they have,” he said.

The candidates were asked what is the most urgent problem facing the district, on which the candidates did not agree.

Ahlstrom said it is a lack of parental responsibility to get students to school.

“I personally feel one of the most important problems in Dunkirk schools is the lack of parent/guardian responsibility and accountability for their children getting to school and getting there on time. As a member of the board, I will diligently work with the board … to investigate,” she said.

White argued it is the potential closing of NRG, which would cost the district millions of dollars in revenues each year.

“I think the most important problem facing the district is the mothballing of NRG. If NRG closes down that’s an approximate loss of $5 million per year from the school district … We already have issues keeping the taxes down. We have already gone through a lot of the funds we have put away over the years … but additionally now we are facing that $5 million per year shortfall … I want to be involved in looking at where we are financially, seeing what options we have, start coming up with some contingency plans,” he explained.

They were asked what they thought of the 11 teaching positions cut in this year’s proposed budget and where they thought the cuts should be made.

Both said they were concerned with cutting reading teachers, but said they were not prepared to identify alternative cuts.

“Reading, writing and arithmetic are the original starts of schooling and reading is very important. There are many students in our school district that speak other languages that have difficulty reading the English language to begin with and I think that these 11 teachers are essential. I’m not going to sit here and tell you what departments I think should have been cut because I haven’t looked into it. I personally wouldn’t want to have to be sitting here and choosing one department or one teacher,” Ahlstrom said.

Fourth Ward Councilwoman Stacy Szukala asked if the candidates would support consolidation in the future.

Ahlstrom said she likes the “neighborhood schools” and that these are good for students but she is in favor of sharing services within and with other districts.

White said it depends on what is cost effective.

“In terms of consolidation it is a matter of resource utilization and whether NRG mothballs or whether we deal with our current structure … Costs are going up … and at the same time we are not in a big building spree here in the city so tax dollars are not going to be growing by leaps and bounds … So you have to be in favor of it in terms of the reality of there is not enough dollars to do what we need to do,” he said.

The debate was broadcast on Access Channel 12.

The vote for the budget and the two board of education seats will be held in the four regular polling places in the city Tuesday from noon to 9 p.m.

Meet the Dunkirk School Board Candidates

May 6, 2012 Save | Post a comment |  The OBSERVER

The League of Women Voters of Chautauqua County invites the public to attend a forum for candidates for the Dunkirk School Board on May 10 at 7 p.m. in the courtroom at City Hall. The candidates in question are Amy Ahlstrom, Claudia Szczerbacki and James White, and they are contending for two seats on the Dunkirk City School Board. The forum is free and open to all. After brief opening statements from the candidates, the meeting will turn to questions from the audience in the courtroom and from those watching the proceedings on local cable access TV.

Note that this forum is not taking place in its usual location at Dunkirk High School, but rather in a location from which it can be broadcast. In past years, voter participation has not been extensive. The League of Women Voters hopes that holding the meeting in City Hall will make it more readily accessible.

Given the serious budget problems facing local schools and the many associated issues, who serves on the Board matters more than ever. Citizens need to understand the views of the candidates in order to make rational choices on May 15, election day.

Brocton registration

Kindergarten and Pre-K registration will take place Wednesday at Brocton Elementary School. If your child will be 5 years old by Dec. 1, they are ready for kindergarten. If your child will be 4 years old by Dec. 1, they are ready for pre-kindergarten. Packets are available in the Elementary Office. If you have any questions, call Ruth Karalus at 792-2100.

Eye Wellness Focus of Free HealthQuest Program

HealthQuest is an initiative of Lake Erie Regional Health System of New York (LERHSNY) designed to provide health and wellness information, resources and support to the community. In May, HealthQuest is hosting a program focusing on eye diseases and other ophthalmology issues at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 9 at the Dunkirk’s Elk’s Club. The hall is located at 428 Central Ave. As always, this program is free and open to the public. The program is sponsored by Brooks Memorial Hospital in Dunkirk.

The presentation, “Common Diseases of the Eye” will feature information on common eye diseases related to aging and an informative discussion regarding cataract surgery. In addition, attendees are invited to participate in an open forum for any general ophthalmology questions they may have.

The featured speaker will be Dr. Ellen Fitzgerald-Farkas, Northern Chautauqua Eye Clinic, Dunkirk.

To register for the presentation, contact LERHSNY’s Community Relations Department at 363-7233. Reservations are encouraged but not required.

Habitat donation day May 12

Habitat for Humanity will hold a Donation Day for ReStore, a retail outlet that resells all donations in order to raise money for Habitat’s homebuilding efforts for working families in need of decent, affordable housing. This donation drive will take place at Christ Chapel Wesleyan Church, 64 Buffalo St., Silver Creek on Saturday, May 12 from 9 a.m to 3 p.m. Items that will be accepted include large and small appliances (must be in good working order and less than 10-years-old – but no TVs), furniture, building materials, hardware, electrical materials and fixtures, housewares, plumbing fixtures and supplies, windows and doors, landscaping materials and equipment.

Dunkirk School budget cuts 11 teachers

May 4, 2012 Save | Comments (16) | Post a comment |

By NICOLE GUGINO OBSERVER Assistant News Editor , The OBSERVER 

Balancing this year’s budget will cut teachers deep as 11 positions are on the chopping block.

Dunkirk’s Board of Education preview meeting Thursday shed light on how the district will balance the budget.

The preview meeting outlined the nine resolutions in which faculty and staff will be cut.

These positions include six full-time reading teachers, one full-time German teacher, one full-time elementary break teacher, one full-time middle school break teacher position, one full-time special education teacher and one teacher removal room teacher. One full-time math position was also reduced from full time to .6 FTE position.

One full-time guidance counselor and one .5 FTE middle school intervention coordinator positions are also slated for abolition.

Business Administrator William Thiel explained during the presentation of the budget, the district must “control what is controllable.”

“It’s unfortunate but as you heard a lot of the resolutions are personnel changes. The largest components of our controllable expenses is staffing and benefits. … Contractual increases are the primary driver to our regular operating cost increases and that’s what precipitated the staff reductions you heard in the memoranda and resolutions prior,” he said.

Thiel explained the total proposed budget of $40,204,152 increased $2.1 million or 5.56 percent from last year, mostly due to salary increases and debt service. He said the state is funding the debt service, which if not counted only leaves a 1.96 percent increase in the budget.

He said 53 percent of the budget is for instruction, while the other pieces of the pie are divided into undistributed (34 percent), general support (10 percent) and other (3 percent).

The district maintained the same tax levy as the last five years at $9,614,516 and stayed under the 2 percent tax levy cap with an increase of 1.16 percent due to the NRG pilot agreement.

Thiel explained Dunkirk’s 1.16 percent increase in the tax levy puts it at the fourth lowest in the county, with the highest at 4.5 percent.

The tax levy makes up 24 percent of this year’s proposed budget, with state aid making up 57 percent, fund balance another 6.4 percent and the rest payment in lieu of taxes and other.

Thiel did not give a tax rate in his presentation due to assessment values not coming in until August. However he did explained the equalization rate as determined by the state has changed from last year.

The town of Sheridan’s equalization rate stayed the same at 70 percent, but the city’s rate decrease .25 percent to 82 percent and the town of Dunkirk saw the steepest change plummeting from 81.5 percent last year to 73.5 percent this year.

Voters will have the chance to vote on the budget on May 15.

To view Thursday’s presentation or the budget book visit the district’s website at http://www.dunkirkcsd.org and follow the departments tab to the business office’s page where these and other documents can be found in the link ‘district 2013 budget documents’ at the left.

The board will meet to vote on the resolutions listed on May 8.

Supermajority Vote Will Be Required For Bemus Point Budget

May 4, 2012

By Liz Skoczylas (lskoczylas@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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Bemus Point Central School District is the only district in The Post-Journal circulation area that is looking for a supermajority vote to override the imposed tax levy cap May 15.

Thursday, the district held its public hearing to allow voters an opportunity to see the budget and ask questions. Jacqueline Latshaw, district superintendent, presented the budget. Additionally, Charity Mucha, district clerk, helped to answer questions from the public.

The district is looking for a 4.5 percent tax levy increase in the budget, although its maximum allowable increase is 1.74 percent under the tax cap. Because it is looking for a 4.5 percent increase, the district must have a supermajority vote of 60 percent in order to pass its budget.

The 2012-13 budget reflects a $114,950 increase over the 2011-12 budget. All employees agreed to a true pay freeze in order to build a workable budget. In addition to this, there were several budget cuts.

Included in the cuts are a cheerleading coach, one assistant football coach and a school photographer. Additionally, driver’s education, the school newspaper and four clubs were cut. Field trips were cut from the budget, but the Parent-Teacher Association is picking up the cost. And, an elementary library clerk and foreign language teacher are being reduced to part time.

The budget also includes a bus proposition, in which the district is looking to purchase two buses, in order to replace three buses in the current fleet, which will no longer pass DOT inspection.

Ms. Latshaw acknowledged that the district does not have as much money in its fund balance as some other districts might, so it does not have the money on which to fall back.

“If you look at some of the other fund balances locally, they are in the millions, they are way up. So, they could take off of that fund balance and use that for this year’s budget, so they didn’t have to go over that cap. They have that cushion, and we don’t have that cushion,” Ms. Latshaw said.

One resident at the meeting expressed that she wasn’t upset at the increase to the tax levy, but upset that programs, such as driver’s education, were being cut from the budget.

Ms. Mucha responded that the district chose to cut this program, because there are alternatives within the community. Additionally, the district is looking at compiling a list of other options for driver’s education for parents. Ms. Latshaw said that the programs that were cut are ones for which the district is hoping to find other options.

“We are doing some things to try to proactively save more money,” Ms. Latshaw said.

Voting on the proposed 2012-13 budget will take place May 15 from 2 to 8:30 p.m. in the Maple Grove Junior-Senior High School.

Budget approved by Chautauqua Lake school board

April 30, 2012

By DAVE O’CONNOR – OBSERVER Correspondent , The OBSERVER

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MAYVILLE – A proposed 2012-2013 budget, largely unchanged from the current plan, was approved by the Chautauqua Lake Central School District Board of Education April 17 and now awaits voter approval at the May 15 election.

The $19,124,484 proposal, while slightly reduced from the present budget of $19,248,241, would raise more money from the property tax levy than this school year – $10,418,502 compared with $10,187,733 at present. The $10,418,502 levy is the maximum allowed by the tax cap imposed by New York.

The 2.27 percent increase meets the requirements of the state’s cap because districts are allowed certain exemptions which are not calculated when determining the cap limit.

Much of the discussion at the meeting centered on the pressures imposed by New York State on small rural school districts. Chautauqua Lake Superintendent Benjamin Spitzer noted that the state aid total of $508,756 looks impressive, but only $7,962 is not for the building fund.

The district’s Business Official David Thomas told the board members that Chautauqua Lake’s reserve for workman’s compensation was “vulnerable to running out” and may start impacting the district’s general budget. Thomas lamented the fiscal pressures placed by the state on the district constitute an “insane system.”

Should the budget for the next school year fail to gain voter approval, a contingency budget totaling $18,871,734 would be imposed.

In other business, the board approved the candidacy of three candidates for the two board seats available. They are incumbents Michael Ludwig and Jill Scott along with Mary Lee Talbot.

With the exception of the category of students with disabilities, Chautauqua Lake received “good” ratings from the state, the board learned. The various ratings can be accessed at the district’s website.

Resignations by teacher’s assistant Suzanne Harper and Special Education teacher Linda Young were accepted. Mike Rohlin was approved as assistant coach for junior varsity softball, an unpaid position.

Silver Creek teacher cuts are ‘absurd’

April 29, 2012

The OBSERVER

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By KAREN EDWARDS

I was both appalled and indignant when I read the headline of the OBSERVER (April 18) “Silver Creek to cut nine teachers to stay under cap.”

These teaching and support staff positions being eliminated is absurd. These teacher and support staff positions that were cut are the educators of our children. These are the people who are with our children throughout the entire school day, providing with not only an education but a happy and healthy learning environment.

Some children need more academic support than others, and it is my opinion that there can never be enough teachers or staff available to give all our children the opportunity to learn. I worked as a teacher aide for many years, and I know the invaluable service these teachers and support staff provide our children. It is such a disservice to our children to eliminate these positions to keep the budget “under the cap.”

The expectations you have of having your students excel in the New York state tests is unrealistic, especially when you take away the very staff that is needed to be in the classrooms supporting and teaching the students.

I am also very curious why there is never any mention of clerical positions being cut? Couldn’t those jobs be consolidated? Is there such a dire need for so many administrators, each needing their own personal secretary.

Are trips abroad really essential to see how well other countries are doing educating their children? Stay home and work on making our educational system more cost-effective and successful.

There is so much waste within the walls of the school that could be eliminated without having to jeopardize our teaching positions. Cutting back on paper use, and outside services are but a few suggestions. We really need to step back, and decide what the real priorities are within our schools. I always believed the students were the main priority, but I’m not so sure anymore.

Two of my children recently graduated from high school. One was a member of the National Honor Society, the other a honor and merit roll achiever. They are now both enrolled in college, and I can’t believe the academic difficulty they are experiencing.

Instead of giving the seniors “free-rein” as most schools do, the schools should provide the students mandatory classes to prepare them for college academically and socially. Senior year in high school should be treated more like college than kindergarten.

Many schools boast of the percentage of their graduating seniors who are pursuing college degrees. However, in actuality how many of these students actually return for their second year of college? Sadly, very few return because they were not properly prepared for this transition.

We, as taxpayers, need to decide what is important and to voice our concerns to our school districts. When we allow our teacher and support staff positions to be eliminated we are jeopardizing our children’s education and future.

Karen Edwards is a Silver Creek resident.

CassadagaHiker

May-01-12 7:50 AM Agree   | Disagree

Maybe if these teachers in all the districts would stop demanding raises they wouldn’t have to cut. Before you respond go to seethrunewyork**** and check what I’m referring. Our District is the same way.

Steiner

Apr-30-12 8:12 AM Agree   | Disagree

You have to consolidate districts now, not positions. The area is declining rapidly under dems and unions. You never hear this. How did the public unions gain such prominence? Is there life without them? They think not.

WishyWashy

Apr-29-12 12:46 PM Agree   | Disagree

Also, did the adminstration ever go to the teachers union to ask for furloughs to help save a position or two? New York State did, cant Silver Creek do the same?

WishyWashy

Apr-29-12 12:44 PM Agree   | Disagree

It is my understanding that SCCS has 3 principals, one elementary, one middle and one high along with an director of pupil services and not forgetting a dean of students. Each of these administrators have their own personalized secretary. 10 years ago, when enrollment was higher, there was only 2 principals, and 2 secretaries. Why so much administration? Is a middle school principal warranted along with a dean of students? Isnt discipline part of the duties of a principal? Now SCCS needs 4 people and 4 secretaries to do the duties of 2 people and 2 secretaries with less enrollment? Something is definitely wrong with this picture. We need teachers not more administration.

Gowanda restores teaching position

May 3, 2012

By SAMANTHA MCDONNELL – OBSERVER Staff Writer , The OBSERVER

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GOWANDA – Students in Gowanda Central School will not be deprived of music offerings next year. The music position that had been reduced in the 2012-2013 budget has been restored to full-time.

The Gowanda Board of Education voted to restore the position of a K-12 music teacher Wednesday night at its regular meeting.

During the public participation portion of the meeting eight individuals, including students and community members, spoke out about restoring the position to full-time. Many expressed their love of the music program while others expressed how music helps students excel in other areas of academics and their lives.

“The involvement (in music) builds a bond so that it’s not limited to the academic level but the total well-being of an individual,” resident Sue Smith said. “Kudos to the teachers that provide that. They should not be overlooked as well as the board members and what you give.”

Others were envious of the programs offered at Gowanda. Resident Peter Delpriore did not have a music department while he attended school.

“I went to high school, parochial school, we did not have music. Every day I’m jealous of my children … because of what Gowanda is giving them,” he said. “You got something fantastic, I would hate to see you lose it.”

Once the decision was on the table for voting, the board was given how the reduction of the position will affect the music department. Superintendent Charles Rinaldi presented the board with a listing of classes which could be affected.

With the reduction, it is “probable and possible,” according to the staff of the music department, the elimination of grade 3 and 4 chorus as well as grade 7 and 8 chorus and high school chamber choir could be seen. The band program could also be capped as well as seeing increased numbers in student lesson sizes. Board members questioned why this information was just presented to them at this time.

“I think this board should be ashamed, and the principals and the superintendent, that we don’t have this information … to let the Superintendent go out in the community and speak about these cuts we’re going to make …,” member Ann Martindale said.

Martindale said this information should have been provided during budget time to ensure the positions were not cut. President Mark Nephew was “more than disappointed” about the information being delayed.

“We should have known this going in to this (budget) process what the impact would be. We were told it was just lessons (impacted),” Nephew said.

Rinaldi said that while information was given to the board throughout the budget process, this information regarding specific classes could not be provided. Students recently registered for classes for the upcoming year last month so this information was now available.

“It will change over time. The impact statement I get from the principals in January when we’re first talking about it is going to be different than the impact statement the week before you vote on the budget,” Rinaldi said.

Rinaldi said staff will be required to supply impact statements for all positions that are slated for cuts or reductions in the future.

The board approved unanimously to restore the position. The position will be restored but it will not increase the budget amount. The money within the budget will be moved around to cover the cost of the restoration which is $24,677. At the next board meeting on May 16, the board will address the reduction of a social studies teacher which is in the budget.

In other business:

The National Honor Society’s request for transportation to Lancaster for the Kids Escaping Drugs walk-a-thon was approved.

Robert Fetterick and Cassandra Partridge were appointed as substitutes.

The following appointments were made: Jacqueline Snyder as a full-time probationary position in Seneca Language; Katie Stang as lifeguard; and Katie Hoca as substitute teaching assistant and substitute teacher.

Stability for the rates

April 29, 2012

The OBSERVER

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It is official: the tax cap enacted by New York state last year has been a success.

Look no further than the local school districts. Obviously, it was a challenge for local districts to hit a tax cap that fluctuated between 2 and 3.5 percent.

One of the districts taking the hardest hit to make the cap was Silver Creek, which cut nine teaching positions. Other districts, including the Fredonia and Dunkirk schools, also had to make cuts.

“If you look around the region at other districts, very few of them are going to say (the tax cap is) 2 percent,” said Fredonia schools Superintendent Paul DiFonzo. “Some are going to be above that, some are going to be below that,”

But while hitting the tax cap was not easy, it did prevent districts from doing the alternative that has used in the past: raising taxes by 5 or 10 percent to make budget.

Towns, villages, the city of Dunkirk and the county have also adhered to the cap, which came under fire from local officials who wanted more mandate relief when it was enacted last year.

But the cap, while not reducing taxes, has kept costs a bit more stable for local taxpayers.

Carlaw

Apr-29-12 12:54 PM Agree   | Disagree

GeorgeB67 you are right! The downstate Democrats who control the State Assembly overwhelmingly defeated a bill sponsored by all the Republicans in the Assembly to cap State spending to 2%. Fortunately, with the help of the State Senate, overall State spending was kept under 2%. Then the downstate Democrats voted to increase welfare benefits by 10%, again over the unanimous objections of all the Republican Assemblyman.

Is is too bad that Sheldon Silver and the Assembly Democrats are so out of touch with realty.

GeorgeB67

Apr-29-12 8:45 AM Agree   | Disagree

Well said Christopher. Also, it’s a little known fact that there was legislation in the Assembly to get State Government to adhere to a similar tax cap situation by not allowing the state legislature to pass down increases through mandates. That measure was quickly and soundly defeated.

Last year, many municipalities and school districts stayed under the 2012 cap by using up one-time revenue sources and with “creative accounting.” The county did that as well.

We will see where the money will come from in the various 2013 budgets since the state has continued its spending spree, including a 10% increase for welfare recipients.

Christopher

Apr-29-12 7:45 AM Agree   | Disagree

Yes, it has, and without cutting one single mandate, perhaps adding more with teacher evaluations, the state took the cheap and politically expedient route at our students expense. The cap was a good idea, don’t get me wrong, but when huge local costs are due to state mandated programs, and not one of those was cut, it’s not fair nor reasonable.

Don’t let state dictate to schools

April 28, 2012

The OBSERVER Save | Comments (4) | Post a comment |

Editor, OBSERVER:

The merging of school districts should be left up to the school boards before the state of New York gets involved.

Locals need to smarten up.

LAROY BURGESS, Dunkirk

hadenough

May-01-12 4:33 PM Agree   | Disagree

Leaving anything to any board is a waste of time. They all think they are ploiticians.

HaveANiceDay

Apr-30-12 9:20 AM Agree   | Disagree

You’re right Leroy, and the state can withhold their money and let the schools with 30 kids in a graduating class fund it themselves. How about that Leroy. Is it a deal???

commentor

Apr-28-12 10:10 AM Agree   | Disagree

School Boards will never make the necessary changes. The State is going in the direction of mandatory mergers and it can’t come too soon. Local schools are in deep financial trouble and still can’t make the right decisions.

Christopher

Apr-28-12 6:04 AM Agree   | Disagree

By leaving mergers to the local school boards, nothing happens.

Report: N.Y. Eighth-Graders Below Average In Science

May 10, 2012 Save | Comments (2) | Post a comment |

By The Associated Press , The Post-Journal

BUFFALO – The federal government says there’s less of a gap between black and white eighth-graders in New York when it comes to science scores. Overall, though, the whole class performs below the national average.

The findings are part of the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the Nation’s Report Card, released Thursday.

They’re based on an exam given to more than 120,000 eighth-graders from 7,300 schools in 47 states.

The report found that the national average score was 151 in 2011, up from 150 in 2009.

In New York, the average score held steady at 149.

Black students in New York had an average score that was 33 points lower than white students in 2011. That’s less than the 41-point spread reported two years earlier.

State proposing changes in graduation requirements

May 7, 2012

By LIZ STOCZYLAS – Special to the OBSERVER , The OBSERVER

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Attractive Options

State Board Of Regents Discusses Creating New Set Of Graduation Requirements

May 7, 2012

By Liz Skoczylas (lskoczylas@ post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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The state Board of Regents is looking at new ways for high school students to satisfy graduation requirements.

Recently, the state Education Department proposed several ways for students to meet graduation requirements and achieve college and career readiness. It is considering creating two new pathways to graduation; one in career and technical education, and the other in science, technology, engineering and math. Additionally, Education Department staff members presented a proposal that would add these two options for graduates, as well as make the Regents global history and geography exam optional. Also discussed was the option to split the exam into two separate courses.

“I think both of those would be attractive options. I think that the global studies exam has always been a tough one for certain students to master, because it is a lot of material. I am glad that they are considering some options to either waive that exam or to split it,” said Dr. Mike McElrath, principal of Jamestown High School.

Currently, in order for students to achieve a Regents high school diploma in New York, they must pass five required Regents exams with a score of 65 or better in English language arts, mathematics, science, global history and geography, and United States history and government.

However, under federal law, high school students are only required to take a minimum of three state assessments, one in English language arts, on in mathematics and one in science.

“I think the option to waive one of the exams would certainly have a positive impact on some of our students. The majority of kids get through all five exams without any problems, but there are certainly a number of students who we have to provide extra support for to get through all of those exams,” McElrath said.

The Regents staff are considering splitting the world history and geography exam into two exams. This exam has the lowest pass rate of all regents exams.

“Splitting it up would be beneficial for us in a matter of, a kid could take global 1 for a semester and take their test, and then they could take global 2 maybe the spring of the following year and take the test then. It would flow a little bit better. It would also reduce the amount of material on that one exam,” McElrath said.

Currently, at Jamestown High School, students typically take the global history 1 course when they are freshmen, and the global history 2 course as sophomores, taking the world history and geography exam following the completion of global history 2.

The Department of Education also explored the option of creating a Career and Technical Education path for high school students, where they would be assessed on their skills instead of a required regents exam.

“I think there are teachers in the business and technology departments that would welcome something like this,” McElrath said.

At Jamestown High School, there are several technology and business classes for students to take. Additionally, students interested in technology may attend the Technology Academy, located on East Fourth Street.

“The concept behind the Tech Academy was to create a separate place that students can go to get some specific coursework in some of those areas,” McElrath said.

At the Tech Academy, students may study robotics engineering, manufacturing technology, information technology, electricity and electronics. At the high school, there is a welding lab, a woodshop and CAD drawing and drafting labs already in place.

“One of the things we are working on is better defining the pathways for kids when they get to high school, so that they have a little clearer picture of the courses they can take in a particular sequence to get to this end game. Lining up the courses makes it more relevant for the kids, and it helps the parents understand what the different pathways are,” McElrath said.

The state Board of Regents is now looking for feedback from educators, parents, students and businesses as it considers the changes that it has proposed. It is considering the changes as a means of better preparing students to work in the global economy.

“A kid going from one random class to another because it’s a graduation requirement is one thing, but helping them understand what helps them move forward toward graduation, and that they can also focus on a particular area to see if that is their true interest, is important,” McElrath said.

Pineapple Distress

Bizarre Questions On State Exam Confuses Teachers, Students

April 26, 2012

By Liz Skoczylas (lskoczylas@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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When a story has a moral, it serves to teach children a lesson, typically between right and wrong.

When the moral of a story is “Pineapples don’t have sleeves,” the lesson seems questionable, especially when it is on a New York state assessment for eighth-graders.

Last week, students in third through eighth grades took state assessments in English Language Arts. This week, they are completing state testing in mathematics.

A reading comprehension story entitled “The Hare and the Pineapple,” came across the desks of eighth-grade students during their evaluations April 19. The story, written by Daniel Pinkwater, is a take on the classic “The Tortoise and the Hare.” In it, a talking pineapple challenges a talking hare to a race.

The other animals in the forest know that a pineapple could not win a 26-mile race. They decide that the pineapple must have a trick up its sleeve and root for it to win. Two hours later, the pineapple has not moved, the hare wins the race, the animals eat the pineapple and the moral is that pineapples do not have sleeves.

Following
the passage are six questions for students to answer about the reading. Four of the questions are straight-forward questions from the story. However, two questions ask students to make inferences, when there is not enough information in the text to answer correctly. For the complete story and questions, visit http://www.post-journal.com.

Although teachers are not allowed to discuss the tests with their students at all, or even allowed to see the test questions before or after students complete them, by Thursday evening the story and its following questions had leaked and was picked up by the national media.

Assessments are used to measure student achievement and provide services, evaluate teacher and principal effectiveness and hold schools and districts accountable for their performance, according to a March 19 report, “Ensuring the Integrity of the New York State Testing Program,” by the State Education Department.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the state Education Department and New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) announced an agreement in February on a statewide teacher evaluation system. Under the guidelines, state and local testing account for up to 40 percent of the teacher evaluation.

“This question is a great example how tests can fail to measure student learning. And, there are plenty of other reasons why we should be suspicious of tests, even if the questions are well-written,” said David Eggert, regional staff director of the southwestern New York regional NYSUT offices.

Eggert said that NYSUT agreed with the governor and the state legislature to include tests in the new teacher evaluation program, but it worked hard to ensure that the program includes multiple measures of evaluation.

“This is obviously an example of why reliance on tests is something that we are suspicious of. If tests are going to be an important part of the evaluation program, we need multiple tests and we also have insisted on various other criteria for evaluating those teachers. Obviously, too much reliance on any one test could be disastrous,” Eggert said.

John B. King Jr., state education commissioner, released a statement regarding “The Hare and the Pineapple.”

“Although the questions make more sense in the context of the full passage, due to the ambiguous nature of the test questions the department has decided it will not be counted against students in their scores,” King said.

The test this year, King said, only has a small number of questions that incorporate the Common Core standards. Next year’s test, though, will fully incorporate the standards.

“This particular passage, like all test questions, was reviewed by a committee comprised of teachers from across the state, but it was not crafted for New York state. It’s a passage that has been used in other states and was included by Pearson Inc., the test vendor, to provide a comparison between New York students and students from other states. The passage and related questions are not reflective of the precision of the entire exam,” King said.

Because tests are being graded this week, representatives from the Jamestown Public Schools District declined to comment on the story and student reactions to it, citing the state test integrity guidelines that are in place.

In addition to tossing the unanswerable questions from the ELA portion of the tests, New York state education officials have announced that two questions on this week’s standardized math tests do not add up.

The State Education Department told principals Monday that one question on the fourth-grade math test has two correct answers. Additionally, one question on the eighth-grade test has no correct answer.

Tom Dunn, department spokesperson, said that the errors are typos, and the questions will not count against students.

Small city lawsuit proceeds

April 27, 2012

By LIZ SKOCZYLAS Special to the OBSERVER , The OBSERVER

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New York state made its third attempt to dismiss a Small Cities Schools court case Thursday.

The New York State Court of Appeals heard the state’s argument to dismiss the case, which asks the state to provide every student with a “sound basic education.”

The lawsuit, known as Hussein v. The State of New York or “The Small Cities Schools court case,” was originated by parents and children representing small cities school districts in 2008, and calls for fair funding for all students. Included in the suit are Albany, Beacon, Jamestown, Kingston, Middletown, Mount Vernon, Newburgh, Niagara Falls, North Tonawanda, Port Jervis and Tonawanda.

“When good people do nothing, nothing good gets done. We must take a stand. As a parent and plaintiff in this case I am very insulted that the state would seek to deny me the opportunity to speak up for my children. New York State owes school children so much more in order for them to be prepared for life beyond high school,” said Kathy Brewington of Mt. Vernon, a plaintiff in the case.

The state’s motion to dismiss the case has been lost two times, first at the Supreme Court level and then unanimously by the decision of the Appellate Division 3rd Department.

This lawsuit is similar to a 2006 case, The Campaign for Fiscal Equity v. The State of New York, which resulted in the forming of the foundation aid formula. The formula is supposed to help to distribute state aid equitably among districts.

“The problem when foundation aid formula was instituted, is that it had a minimum of .65 combined wealth ratio. Most districts in this room are below a .65. So, you’re poorer than the state allows you to be poor, so you’re losing in that gap,” Ray Fashano, executive director of the Chautauqua County School Board Association, said following a January legislative breakfast for CCSBA.

The Jamestown Public Schools District is four times poorer than a .6 school, which is as poor as the current formula allows. Schools that are at a one are considered average. Out of 17 Chautauqua County school districts, only one is considered above average.

“Without a substantial re-do of the foundation formula, without a major change, we cannot sustain this. We cannot continue to solve the problem on the backs of cutting. That leads us, inevitably to a place where we are not providing the mandated programming that we are obliged to provide,” said Deke Kathman, superintendent of Jamestown Public Schools.

Recently, the New York State Board of Regents put out a memo, authored by the deputy commissioner of education for pre-k through grade 12. The memo states, “Many of our school districts may have difficulty meeting financial obligations and will risk cutting programs and personnel to the point of not being able to provide a sound, basic education to our students.”

This is part of the Regents’ staff rationale for regional secondary schools. The Regents had asked its staff to develop a legislative proposal for Regional High Schools in an effort to increase educational opportunities for students across New York state.

“It is hardly surprising that the Regents are raising the warning bells about how the classroom cuts caused by New York state are now undermining the most basic level of educational quality guaranteed by the state constitution. New York state is headed in the wrong direction educationally due to the fact that our elected leaders in Albany do not seem to understand how their policies are truly hurting students,” said Billy Easton, executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education.

Most school districts in Chautauqua County will receive more school aid

3/30/2012 1:24:57 PM

By Dave Rowley, News Director

Most school districts in Chautauqua County school districts will see increases in total state aid under the new State budget. Here are the latest figures from State Senator Cathy Young’s office.

Young told WDOE News in a recent interview that total education aid has been increased by $805 million.

pdf chart here

Regional School Aid Increases More Than $22 Million

March 30, 2012

By The Post-Journal (editorial@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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ALBANY – Schools in the 57th Senate District will be boosted with increases totaling nearly $22.2 million, or an average 4.37 percent, in additional aid from the state, state Sen. Catharine Young, (R,C,I-Olean), said late Thursday night.

Statewide, total education aid is increased by $805 million over last year in the state budget. The 45 schools in the 57th Senate District, which includes all of Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Allegany and half of Livingston counties, will receive more than half a billion dollars, totaling $530,802,964 in state assistance.

Operating aid was raised by about $14.5 million, or almost 4 percent. When operating aid is combined with expense-driven aids such as transportation and BOCES costs, the number exceeds more than $22 million in extra funding.

For a complete story, see Saturday’s edition of The Post-Journal.

Teacher Concessions

Westfield Educators Restructure Contract, Save District More Than $100K

March 29, 2012

By The Post-Journal (editorial@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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WESTFIELD – Westfield Academy and Central School teachers are taking a salary freeze to help the district close a $631,000 budget gap.

Peggy Sauer, Westfield Academy and Central School interim superintendent, and Karen Belcher, Westfield Teachers’ Association president, recently announced the agreement to amend the current Westfield Teachers Association contract and save the district more than $100,000.

When a budget gap of $631,000 was projected for the upcoming school year, both the district and union sat down together to see what could be done to help close the gap. The association was able to provide some relief to the district by taking a salary schedule freeze.

“Every teacher within our school cares for the students and community they serve. We love our jobs and are willing to make sacrifices to keep the program within Westfield strong,” Mrs. Belcher said.

During a recent board meeting, school board members detailed a list of cuts to help the district save money. With the new tax cap law in place, Al Holbrook, district clerk and business manager, has calculated the most the district could increase property taxes by this year without needing a supermajority vote is 2.58 percent, or $136,708.

Previously the district proposed the following cuts at the elementary school which included: reducing a teacher to a teaching assistant in the elementary computer lab, saving $34,006; increasing class size for an elementary teacher, saving $60,839; cutting two universal pre-kindergarten classes, saving $72,000; reducing a certified art teacher by a .5 full-time equivalent, saving $35,750; and reducing a certified physical education teacher by a .5 full-time equivalent, saving $34,970.

In the middle and high school, proposed cuts included: reducing a French teacher to a third-time position, saving $12,477; reducing a certified physical education teacher in the middle and high school by a .25 full-time equivalent, saving $14,255; changing social studies elective classes and cutting a .5 full-time equivalent position, saving $25,498; changing science elective classes, reducing a .5 full-time equivalent position, saving $23,826; changing career and technology elective classes, reducing a .5 full-time equivalent position, saving $24,820; cutting one music teacher, saving $54,401; and cutting the interscholastic athletics budget by 22 percent, saving $40,177.

The cuts also included a school nurse, saving $52,658; reduced clerical staff summer hours, saving $7,000; and cutting custodians, saving $84,472.

What will be done with the money saved from the contract concessions hasn’t been decided yet. In addition to the teachers’ association’s concessions, the district could see additional money in state aid from the recently passed New York state budget.

“On behalf of WACS Board of Education, students, parents and staff, we thank the Teachers’ Association for generously providing the opportunity for us to restore some of our classes and teachers for the next school year. This is a win-win for everyone; but particularly for our students,” Mrs. Sauer said.

Consolidation?

Brocton, Westfield schools plan meeting

March 30, 2012

By DIANE R. CHODAN OBSERVER Staff Writer , The OBSERVER

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BROCTON – The Westfield Board of Education extended an invitation to the Brocton Board of Education and Brocton accepted.

At the last Brocton Board of Education meeting, Thomas DeJoe, Brocton’s board president reported that he had received a letter from Marie Edwards, president of Westfield’s board, asking to set up a joint meeting of the boards. He said, after consultation with the board members and the superintendent, he accepted.

In part DeJoe’s reply said, “Our board and superintendent of schools are 100 percent in favor of such a joint meeting. … It is our understanding that Dr. Robert Olczak (interim Superintendent of Erie 2 BOCES and Superintendent of Cattaraugus-Allegany-Erie-Wyoming BOCES) has agreed to facilitate such a meeting. …I speak for the entire board of education in thanking the Westfield Board of Education for initiating such a meeting on the very important issue.”

While it is expected that the two boards will meet in April, at the present time there is no firm date. Olczak is away from the area at this time.

Margaret Sauer, interim superintendent of schools at Westfield Academy and Central School, explained that the district had sent letters to four districts: Chautauqua Lake, Ripley, Sherman, and Brocton. Those districts all border Westfield. Bordering districts are the ones with which a district can explore consolidation.

Chautauqua Lake was still pursuing the regional high school and was not interested at this time. Ripley is also hoping for a regional high school. Sherman did call and was interested in exploring shared services but not consolidation. Sherman is not a member of the Asset group (Westfield, Brocton, Chautauqua Lake, and Ripley) that has been meeting to explore cost savings and a regional high school.

Brocton and Westfield already have some programs in common. This fall, Brocton and Westfield athletes played football at Westfield. Next fall, this will continue. In addition, the two schools will cooperate to run soccer teams at Westfield. Soccer teams that will be fielded are boys’ junior varsity, girls’ junior varsity, boys’ varsity and girls’ varsity.

Westfield also cooperates with other districts in sports. Westfield swimmers go to Chautauqua Lake. Wrestlers go to Ripley. For tennis and golf Westfield and Chautauqua Lake have joint teams.

Sauer said, “As a result of the Asset effort, opportunities for conversations and a better understanding of each other occurred. I am looking forward to getting together with the board from Brocton. The sooner we can start combining, the better it will be. This year and the following year the budget is difficult. Students will be left with only the basic items. Add the incentive monies from consolidation, and the schools will be in a better place.”

John Hertlein, the superintendent from Brocton, said, “We owe it to the taxpayers and students to look all the possibilities – regional high school, consolidation, or sharing programs.”

Brocton doesn’t share sports with other districts, but does share other items. The cafeteria manager is shared with Fredonia and some transportation is shared with Fredonia and Dunkirk.

Hertlein said, “We’ll share anything we possibly can if it makes sense.”

Comments on this article may be directed to dchodan@observertoday.com

‘Unfunded mandates’ key topic at Fredonia school board meeting

March 29, 2012

By SHIRLEY PULAWSKI , The OBSERVER

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Although a state budget agreement has been made, Fredonia School Superin-tendent Paul DiFonzo isn’t ready to comment on it.

At the Fredonia School Board meeting Wednesday, DiFonzo said, “By Thursday, I should have more information. We haven’t been provided with any details, but one thing I will say is that I’m pleased that it will be on time, in fact, ahead of time, because it will be easier for us to know what to do,” in preparing the next revision of the current draft budget for the 2012-2013 calendar year.

The third draft of the 2012-2013 budget was presented by Business Administrator John Forbes and showed a 3.56 percent in reductions from the previous draft.

Forbes said a large portion of the budget remains unchangeable. Totaling roughly 82 percent of expenditures, these fixed expenses primarily consist of employee salaries and benefits and special education requirements.

Forbes also detailed several “unknowns” relative to future costs because final balances aren’t available until the operating year closes. Among these variables are employee benefits costs, tax cap calculations, and final assessments and other balances.

Many board members expressed greater concerns over items characterized as unfunded mandates.

Middle School Principal Andrew Ludwig expressed frustration.

“Three years ago, I asked how long it would be before these cuts started to affect programs,” he said. “Well, now it’s affecting programs.”

“Mr. Forbes, can you just refresh our memory on how much the district spent on Race to the Top funds? Isn’t it something like $58,000 over the few years?”

“From the beginning, that we would end up having to put pieces into our professional development and into our curriculum that would end up costing us,” DiFonzo replied.

“Let’s just be clear – it’s costing us much more to implement Race to the Top than we are getting funds from the state,” Ludwig added.

Several members discussed need for textbooks and other materials required for some courses for which funds were not established.

“That’s the point,” Ludwig said. “We were supposed to do away with all of these unfunded mandates but instead they’re giving us more unfunded mandates and taking away our money.”

Other questions arose regarding costs to improve the existing track, including a $15,000 allotment for improvements, as well as $12,200 designated for architectural fees. Parts of the track surface have separated from the subsurface and the money was allocated to make spot repairs.

DiFonzo said $15,000 will not cover the cost to resurface the entire track, and the architect fees would include core samples and soil integrity tests. He said because the findings of the core samples are unknown at this point, it is possible the track will need upgrades that will exceed amounts currently budgeted.

“It’s possible to drill and the cores show that it has to be completely redone and has to be yanked up out of the ground,” he said.

The next meeting open to the public will be on April 17 in the conference room at 6:30 p.m. to continue budget discussions and regular business.

 

JPS Holds On Final Budget

March 28, 2012

By Liz Skoczylas (lskoczylas@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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Although predicting the restoration of teaching positions, the Jamestown Public Schools District is still in a holding pattern when it comes to producing a final budget.

While the state agreed on its 2012-13 budget, Deke Kathman, superintendent, said that the Board of Education members would be unable to move forward in their budget process until it knows the actual state revenues.

“While we learned today that Albany has come to an agreement on a budget for the state, they have not shared yet with us what those revenues will be for our district,” Kathman said during the Board of Education meeting Tuesday. “We are obliged to wait and receive that information, and then come back to the board with the final version.”

Even if the district does not receive its state aid runs, Kathman said that he is sure that the board will be making its final budget decisions at its next meeting, which is scheduled for April 17. He was also optimistic that there will be some restoration when those numbers are announced.

“The governor’s executive budget had in it $250 million dedicated to competitive performance grants. That amount has been reduced to $50 million, so there’s $200 million being redistributed through the aid formula. So, that means there will be a substantial restoration,” Kathman said.

Also at Tuesday night’s meeting, the Board of Education passed its 2012-13 district calendar unanimously. According to Kathman, the primary difference to this year’s calendar is internal.

“We will be starting with the staff two days in August, which is very, very rare for us. So, the first day for students will be the day immediately after Labor Day, so that is a little different,” Kathman said.

The staff change is due to a teacher contract, which requires staff to have 186 work days.

“To fit 186 work days in from September to June 21, I think is the last day, and maintain a full two-week break and our other traditional vacations, we were obliged to start them early. And, we appreciate the cooperation of the Jamestown Teachers’ Association in that regard,” Kathman said.

Additionally, John Panebianco, director of pupil services and middle level education, spoke about the district’s comprehensive educational plan. The plan is regarding three middle schools that were identified as needing improvement by New York state.

“In one of the middle schools, we have one area that is deficient, in a second middle school we have a couple areas that are deficient, and in a third middle school, we have three areas that are deficient,” Panebianco said.

The district has put together a two-year comprehensive education plan, as well as an 18-month quality improvement process.

“During this time, we are going to be looking at our seventh- and eighth-grade English/language arts, we are going to be looking at transitioning our students from fourth to fifth grade,” Panebianco said.

Several programs are being put in place as early as July, so that the district is able to train teachers as soon as possible.

 

 

 

Aid Change Delays School Budget Talks

March 28, 2012

By Dennis Phillips (dphillips@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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LAKEWOOD – Southwestern Central School District officials will wait on passing their budget in hopes of receiving more money from the state.

On Tuesday, the school district’s Board of Education tabled its budget discussion and the possible passing of its budget until it is known how much state aid it will receive. With a state budget agreement reached between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Legislature on Tuesday, an on-time budget will be passed again this year prior to the April 1 deadline. Once the budget is passed, state aid will be finalized, which means more money could be coming back to the district.

Dan George, Southwestern superintendent, said last year the school district received more than $200,000 in state aid restoration after the budget was passed in Albany. Even though that much money isn’t expected to be returned to the district this year, any additional money could affect the school district’s 2012-13 budget. One school administrator said it is estimated the district will receive between $29,509 to $78,690 in state aid restoration this year.

George explained the board is scheduled to meet Tuesday, April 17. He said it would be close to the state’s deadline of April 20 for passing a school budget, but administrators could finalize the budget in time if it was passed during a meeting on April 17.

”We would have a clear picture of where we are and where we are going,” he said.

Any money that is returned to the district will be used to close a $54,156 gap to get the school district’s budget under the state’s 2 percent tax levy cap. If the gap is filled, any additional money could be used to go toward teaching positions that have either been cut or reduced. Also, extra funds could go into the school district’s fund balance or savings.

The school board passed a motion to continue budget discussions and pass its spending plan at 7:30 p.m. on April 17.

SWCS Board Cuts Two In Latest Budget Discussion

March 21, 2012

By Liz Skoczylas (lskoczylas@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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LAKEWOOD – Two teaching positions have been cut in the latest round of budget reductions in the Southwestern Central School District.

Tuesday night, the district held a special Board of Education meeting to review the 2012-13 budget. By the end of the meeting, the board had voted to eliminate a full-time high school science teacher and a full-time elementary school music teacher.

The board chose to table a vote on reducing an occupational therapist position from a full-time equivalent position down to a 60 percent full-time equivalent.

According to Daniel George, superintendent, the district began the meeting at a budget of $25,838,397, which is a .38 percent increase over the 2011-12 budget. The starting difference was $244,053.

“We’re trying to come up with a budget that is going to have fewer dollars than the current year’s budget, because our overall aid is down, and our property taxes are picked by the state of New York,” George said.

Before the vote, George informed the board that by cutting the two teaching positions and reducing the occupational therapist position, the difference would still be $54,156. The board still has no decision regarding the occupational therapist position.

“The increase over the 2011-12 budget is in the negative. We would currently be at negative .36 percent. That doesn’t happen very often. The reason for that is we’re trying to adopt a budget that is lower than the budget we are currently living under,” George said.

This is because of the property tax cap and federal aid being down, according to George.

The board is currently working under the assumption that the tax levy will be taken to its maximum allowable limit. It will contribute retirement contribution money, take money out of the unemployment reserve, and contribute money from the Southwestern Education Foundation funds, as well as use money from the district’s surplus for the budget.

After discussion, the board voted to eliminate the high school science teacher in a 7-2 vote. Additionally, the elementary school music teacher position was eliminated in a 7-2 vote.

George said that the district is getting much closer to adopting a budget for the 2012-13 school year.

“The big thing for the board right now is going to be, will the state adopt a timely budget? And, if they do adopt a timely budget, what’s the level of restoration that we will receive? We’re hoping that at the regular meeting next week, there will be a state budget in place, and the board will be able to adopt a budget,” George said.

The next Board of Education meeting for Southwestern Central School District will be held on March 27.

Comments

(10)

fedup2

Mar-21-12 12:52 PM Agree   | Disagree

“eliminate FIFO os a good first start to reforming this very broken system…” So taxpayer, if FIFO was eliminated, how would you propose to stop a school system from laying off EXCELLENT teachers, with 15, 20, 25 years in the system to save money? Please tell us – you seem to be an expert on education. And, without the Taylor Law, what would you do with your kiddies when every teacher went on strike????

5 Agrees | 2 Disagrees | Report Abuse »

Taxpayer58

Mar-21-12 12:34 PM Agree   | Disagree

That mantra is one of the reasons that SWCS along with other school districts, cities, counties etc are in the financilal mess that they are in now…you can only take for so long before the system goes bankrupt…dear friends, we are rapidly reaching that point…Repeal the Taylor Law and eliminate FIFO os a good first start to reforming this very broken system…

1 Agrees | 4 Disagrees | Report Abuse »

Jocko1

Mar-21-12 10:14 AM Agree   | Disagree

Taxpayer58… am a retired member of the countrys most powerful union, a unions mantra is… NEVER give up what you already fought for!

3 Agrees | 2 Disagrees | Report Abuse »

Taxpayer58

Mar-21-12 9:30 AM Agree   | Disagree

Clarkie6..so too have I…an across the board salary cut could have saved many of the positions that were cut…but once again administration and union only look out for thier best interest…not sure what the total payroll of the district is but it would be interesting to know what a 5% across the board pay cut would be in terms of dollars…but then that would have required both sides to give back in an effort to continue high quality education…how silly of me; trying to think of the kids!

1 Agrees | 3 Disagrees | Report Abuse »

clarkie6

Mar-21-12 8:38 AM Agree   | Disagree

I don’t understand why people who are paid through taxing don’t get that there is a limit to what they can tax. You can’t just keep raising taxes, there is a time to cut back. If the county tax base is shrinking, the county needs to shrink with it. You are not entitled to a job! I have had my wages and hours cut when our company didn’t perform. It wasn’t fun, but the financials don’t lie! Why don’t government sectors live in the same reality everyone else does? Don’t get me wrong, I am sorry people have to lose jobs but that is what happens here in the real world.

2 Agrees | 1 Disagrees | Report Abuse »

Taxpayer58

Mar-21-12 8:16 AM Agree   | Disagree

Last night is a prime example of why our education system is broken. Administration that shifts blame to the union and a union that desires to protect mediocrity. There needs to be a public outcry to those in power (local & state)…repeal the Taylor Law and eliminate a Last in First Out law that judges a teacher soley on the number of years the union has protected them without regard for performance…

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Jocko1

Mar-21-12 8:15 AM Agree   | Disagree

Teachers always present themselves as “special” and untouchable, and they enter the profession with the idea that they have a position for life. I do not agree with that, however isn’t there other areas that the budget could be trimmed? Come on… were talking less than 250K here. Areas such as turning down the thermostats, letting the buses idle less often, mow the lawn less often, water flow restrictors on showers, close the pool, eliminate night football games, LED security lighting ect. You get the idea. What can you add to the list to save money? Get back to the basics for saving money, little things really do add up. Creative thinking!

2 Agrees | 1 Disagrees | Report Abuse »

patriot012

Mar-21-12 8:03 AM Agree   | Disagree

Just who is looking out for tax payers in this district? George isn’t. Cut administrations and watch taxes drop.

3 Agrees | 2 Disagrees | Report Abuse »

askwhy

Mar-21-12 7:10 AM Agree   | Disagree

Maybe some of the teachers that have the fat pensions and benefits could come back to work and actually EARN them!

1 Agrees | 7 Disagrees | Report Abuse »

Dark77

Mar-21-12 6:44 AM Agree   | Disagree

No admin cuts….not from that good old boys union…maybe the principals are picking up a class to teach…oh that is right they got out of the classroom because they could not teach….better luck for the kids next year

 

 

Budget Crunch

Southwestern Proposes Teacher Reductions

March 7, 2012

By Liz Skoczylas (lskoczylas@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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Southwestern superintendent Daniel George is proposing cutting six teachers from the district’s 2012-13 budget.

During Tuesday’s special meeting of the district Board of Education, George brought forward proposed cuts to 6.4 full-time equivalent positions to the district’s teaching staff, as well as more than $85,000 in cuts to other areas of the budget. George’s proposed changes could save as much as $544,678.

At the beginning of the meeting, the board had a starting budget gap of $929,148. If board members approve all of George’s proposed reductions, they would still have $384,470 to cut from the budget to stay within the state’s tax cap.

George said he was working under the assumption that the board would ask for a 1.74 percent tax increase, use $350,000 from its Retirement Contribution Reserve, $85,000 from its Unemployment Reserve, transfer $44,983 from Southwestern Schools Education Foundation funds for local share of the athletic conference and use $1,252,974 from the district’s surplus.

George proposed cutting four elementary school teachers at the second, third, fifth and sixth grade levels, a high school science teacher, a business teacher and suggested cutting a quarter-time position that is the school’s only occupational therapist.

Additionally, George proposed eliminating a 2013 Ford F350 pick-up truck and plow, a floor scrubber and instructional media that teachers use in their classrooms from the budget.

“We feel that there’s no easy cut that we can make, but these are going to be the least disruptive to our educational program,” George said.

If passed, the cuts would result in larger class sizes at the elementary school level. Additionally, eliminating a high school science teacher would result in larger class sizes for science students.

In eliminating a business teacher, electives will be effected as well.

“It will eliminate, totally, our computer offering at the elementary school. And, since we will have to move a teacher to pick up computer courses at the middle school, it is going to have the effect of reducing some electives from the high school in business education,” George said.

Bringing the occupational therapist position down to a 60 percent full-time equivalent position would eliminate two handwriting groups, as well as improvement services for up to 10 children.

“There are certain services that we have provided over the years for children, because it’s a good thing to do. We call them improvement services; the state doesn’t mandate that we do it, but we do it because we think it’s important for kids. We still think it’s important, but we don’t have the money to do it anymore,” George said.

State-mandated services and individualized education programs will continue to be followed, George said.

Several members of the Southwestern School District staff spoke at the board meeting and voiced their concerns regarding the proposed reductions. Additionally, Mary Jane Price, middle school Spanish teacher, proposed a retirement initiative to the board.

The board chose to table the suggested reductions in order to consider the proposal and weigh the comments from the meeting.

“They may take some action at next Tuesday’s meeting, but I try not to speak for them. They know what I’m recommending. The community elects nine people. They hire a superintendent to make recommendations, and then they agree or disagree with the recommendations,” George said.

The Southwestern Central School Board of Education will meet again at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 13.

 

 

Possible Tax Increase

SWCS Officials May Hike Rate In Lieu Of More Cuts

February 29, 2012

By Liz Skoczylas (lskoczylas@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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The Southwestern Central School District may be looking at a property tax increase in addition to cuts throughout the district, based on the latest developments to the 2012-13 budget.

Daniel George, district superintendent, and Marcia Jones, district business administrator, presented the developments during Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting.

“We really have two main sources of revenue: the property tax and state aid. With state aid going down, if we didn’t raise the property tax, the cuts would be even more drastic,” George said.

For the 2012-13 budget, the board is facing a gap of $1,209,242 between projected revenues and expenditures. George and Ms. Jones requested budget reductions from each building and department within the district, and found that it was able to cut $280,094 in expenditures. If the board accepts the projected reductions, it will put the gap at $929,148.

Additionally, Ms. Jones presented updated information about the state’s property tax cap, based on more information that was released by the state Department of Education.

“In our case, the additional guidance benefited us. What they are saying is that any equipment purchases and leasing agreements are no longer factored into the formula. So, by doing that, it helped our district, because it changed our maximum allowable tax levy by about $32,000,” Ms. Jones said.

According to Ms. Jones, if the district were to go up the maximum allowable limit, it would result in $206,209 in additional revenue, or a 1.74 percent increase from the 2011-12 tax levy. Increasing taxes by 1.74 percent, however, still leaves a $722,939 deficit.

The tax cap doesn’t mean the district can’t ask voters for a bigger tax increase. If the board proposes an increase of 1.74 percent or less, 51 percent of district voters have to approve the budget. If the district proposes a tax increase of more than 1.74 percent, a 60 percent supermajority of district voters have to approve the budget.

“It’s a budget that is going to affect programs in the school district, and we’ve been performing so well, academically. We’ve been performing, I think, better than ever before, but it’s a matter of economics. If it’s not balancing, we have to force it to balance. So, we’re going to have to be as judicious as possible with the cuts that we make, and try to not have a devastating impact on a program for kids,” George said.

The next step in the budget process will be a list of proposed cuts, both in programs and personnel.

“We’ve tried to find as much as we could, because, if we can avoid it as much as possible, we don’t want to get into staff cuts. We want to be able to tell you that we’ve pretty much removed all that we can, but now it’s time to go to personnel,” George said.

This weekend, George will be meeting with representatives of the teachers union to discuss the cuts that will be proposed to the board.

“I always let the union know about the cuts, so that at a public meeting people aren’t hearing for the first time that their job is lost,” George said.

 

 

 

 

SWCS Officials To Evaluate Budget Gap At Upcoming Meetings

February 18, 2012

By Liz Skoczylas (lskoczylas@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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Budget presentations for Southwestern Central School District have wrapped up, but the budget process is just getting started.

During a recent meeting, members of the Southwestern Board of Education heard a presentation by Nancy Philbrick regarding bus purchases for the district. Board members also listened to Marica Jones, who spoke about employee benefits and BOCES services for the schools.

According to Daniel George, Southwestern Central School District superintendent, the increase for employee health insurance is less than it has been in years past.

“We at Southwestern are part of a Chautauqua County Health Insurance consortium, and our health insurance increase this year is only 2.6 percent. It’s lower than we’ve seen in quite some time,” George said.

He also said that there are other, higher costs for the district to look examine.

“We’re very happy with (the slight health insurance increase), but there are some other costs, such as retirement system costs, that are higher,” George said.

George said the board is still working toward building the final numbers for the school’s budget.

“We’re still working. The information that we covered (tonight) were the last pieces. We’ll be talking about the extent of the budget gap beginning with the meeting on Feb. 28. We’re hoping that we’ll have a budget adopted at a meeting on March 27, but we’ll have to wait and see what happens with the state budget,” George said.

Southwestern Central School District is moving closer to developing their budget plan for the 2012-13 school year.

“At this point in time, we’ve wrapped up the budget presentations. Now, it’s going to be a matter of balancing the budget gap. As a school district, we need to balance the budget. We’re going to be spending the rest of our meetings up until the budget adoption, trimming the budget,” George said.

The next meeting for the Southwestern Central School District Board of Education will be Feb. 28.

Budget Talks Begin

SWCS May Change JV Soccer Program, Add Advanced Science Class

January 29, 2012

By Liz Skoczylas (lskoczylas@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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The Southwestern Central School District may be cutting out their junior varsity soccer program for the upcoming 2012-13 school year while adding advanced classes at the middle school level.

During a recent board meeting, the principals from the elementary, middle and high school at Southwestern, as well as the athletic director, were able to present a list of their projected expenditures for the upcoming school year to the board members.

“Tonight is just an opportunity for the principals of the three buildings to talk to the board members, tell them what their expenditures are for, and give the board members an opportunity to ask questions. When we get into the actual deliberations, they’ll be saying, ‘Hey, Rich, can you get rid of that?'” said Daniel George, superintendent of schools.

George said that the board will get more in depth with the budget process in February once members know what all of the revenues and expenditures will be.

In their presentations, the three principals and Kevin Salisbury, athletic director, were able to show the board the breakdown of projected expenses. Salisbury is proposing the elimination of junior varsity soccer for the upcoming year.

“What we’re looking at is the elimination of JV boys and girls soccer and the addition of modified boys and girls soccer. Modified boys and girls soccer will go grades seven, eight, nine. Our varsity will be 10, 11, 12,” Salisbury said.

According to Salisbury, the school has run out of teams to play, as many schools in Divisions 2 and 3 have already opted to drop their junior varsity teams.

“If and when we make this change, our modified teams will still play 16 games, just like our varsity teams,” Salisbury said.

The cost of becoming a modified team is less than remaining a junior varsity team. Additionally, students will no longer be required to take the selection classification test to play soccer, which, according to Salisbury will help more students be able to play.

Aside from this change, Richard Rybicki, middle school principal, has proposed adding an advanced science class to the school’s curriculum.

“We are trying to implement an advanced science, which will be eighth grade, and living environment, which is a Regents course. A couple of years ago, we implemented advanced math for our eighth-graders, and we’re trying to enhance again,” Rybicki said.

As a result, his proposed science budget increased this year, to allow the school to purchase new science kits, textbooks, and materials that would be needed for this addition to be made.

“We’re at the point where we have almost all of the expenditures, but there’s some that we’re going to be bringing to the board in February, like BOCES expenditures. We haven’t solidified that yet. We haven’t brought the wages and salaries and some fringe benefits. I think it’s the second meeting in February, they will have all of the expenditures and we should have a really good idea about revenue, and then we’ll be able to see where to go from there,” George said.

Publisher’s notebook: ‘Save’ a school, destroy a future

March 9, 2012

By JOHN D’AGOSTINO , The OBSERVER

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There was a bumper sticker I saw in a parking lot recently that left me chuckling and shaking my head in disbelief. Simply put, it stated: “Why merge. Save our school.”

A lot of good that did.

Voting “no” on merger proposals in recent years in Brocton and Westfield, ironically, has done exactly the opposite of what the bumper sticker’s message implies. Instead of saving, the “no” vote has destroyed small, rural districts from Ripley to Westfield to Brocton and Forestville.

What residents countywide are starting to finally realize – and what members of the Chautauqua County School Boards Association and Far West Council of School Superintendents have been discussing in recent commentaries – is fewer programs, teachers and opportunities exist for students today with the tight constraints of today’s annual school budgets than in the past.

Look no further than schools that were “saved” by residents nixing a merger. Both Brocton and Westfield have shed programs as well as teachers. Taxes have increased greatly in the Brocton district and students have lost extracurricular events as well as sporting programs. By voting “no,” residents in the district are now paying much more in taxes for a lot less of a product.

At Westfield Academy, a representative from outside the district lobbied the board to not cut its music program. “I hope that you will do everything you can to consider the preservation of this absolute gem, this absolute treasure of a program,” he said.

But that “absolute gem” would be in a lot less trouble – as well as the rest of the district – if it had approved merging with Ripley three years ago.

Unfortunately through all this mess, districts have been spinning their wheels hoping the state would approve plans for a regional high school so four districts could come together and feel good about themselves. It did not.

A lot of area districts are near insolvency – a word much easier to stomach than bankruptcy – though there are exceptions. Hard decisions have to be made and with the 2 percent tax cap, school boards are scrambling to come up with plans and more staff reductions for the next year.

“I’m concerned we’ll get painted into a corner,” said one resident at a recent Westfield school board meeting. “When you look at consolidation, I think there’s advantages to it. I think it’s an option.”

Which leads us back to the bumper sticker that misinformation and dreams are made of: “Why merge. Save our school.”

With all the damage that belief has already done, are others willing to now join the sentiments of the Westfield resident and face reality while considering a real “option?”

John D’Agostino is publisher of the OBSERVER. Send comments to jdagostino@observertoday.com or call 366-3000, ext. 401.

No regional high school for 2012-13

February 25, 2012

By JENNA LOUGHLIN Special to the OBSERVER , The OBSERVER

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WESTFIELD – There will be no regional high school for the 2012-13 school year.

All four districts which had been discussing the possibility for months – Westfield, Chautauqua Lake, Brocton and Ripley – had mutually agreed that a bill making the regional high school idea legal would have to pass the New York State legislature by Feb. 15, 2012. At the recent Westfield Academy and Central School Board of Education meeting, Interim Superintendent Margaret Sauer reported to the board that, while the bill had passed the state Senate, it still had not passed the state Assembly let alone reconciling the two versions.

“Although we certainly appreciate their efforts, it is time for us to move on and look at other options in terms of trying to help our financial situation, our budget gap as we know it,” Sauer said.

Based on an email from New York State Senator Cathy Young’s office, Sauer reported the senator is ready to amend the regional high school bill, though it is not yet clear what those amendments will be. The email also stated that the hope is to coordinate the amendments with the assembly’s version of the bill.

“The conclusion to the email is it will not be done in the next two weeks,” Sauer said. “If you recall, we kind of had an informal agreement among the school districts that if it wasn’t signed and completed by Feb. 15, that we agreed it could not happen for next fall.”

As part of the preparations for a possible regional high school, Business Manager Al Holbrook was asked to create a five-year financial projection for WACS both with and with out the regional option, which he presented to the board. Using the same information and educated assumptions from a study done by Chautauqua Lake Central School and presented to the public a few weeks ago, Holbrook’s projection showed a regional high school giving WACS two more years until it is bankrupt. In addition, any projected deficits in that scenario would have to be cut from a kindergarten through eighth grade district as opposed to a kindergarten through 12th grade district.

“As the numbers dwindle, the options that are remaining still aren’t much more palatable than our original five year plan,” Holbrook said.

As a comparison, Holbrook also showed the board an annual incentive aid comparison if Westfield were to re-organize with any or all of the other three districts included in the regional high school discussions. In that case, Westfield would receive $1,283,334 in incentive aid as compared to the $451,226 it is estimated to receive in the regional high school scenario, though the aid is one of the components to the bill, which has not yet been determined. In the re-organization scenario, Ripley would receive $845,342 in incentive aid if it was involved, Brocton $1,328,806 and Chautauqua Lake $412,716. Depending on how many of the schools were involved in the re-organization would determine the total aid ranging from $2,128,676 to $3,870,198 for the first five years and decreasing over the next 14 years.

“It’s very eye-opening as far as I’m concerned,” Sauer said.

During public comment, Don Wood implored the board to consider consolidation with the Brocton and Ripley school districts, starting immediately. He heard the board discuss the possibility at the last meeting, but noted that two weeks have passed and two more weeks will pass by the time the next meeting is held on Monday, Feb. 27.

“I’m concerned we’ll get painted into a corner,” he said. “When you look at consolidation I think there’s advantages to it. I think it’s an option.”

One of his largest concerns about a regional high school is that, as a parent, he would not be able to elect board members who would make decisions for the school. He also commented that even with the regional high school, there would still be a deficit with a smaller pie to make cuts from.

Board member Francine Brown said during board member commentary that she agreed with Wood and was interested in immediately discussing consolidation with other districts. However, Edwards said the Strategic Planning Committee, which has been meeting for a few months and working on the best options for Westfield going forward, will be presenting at the next board meeting and that it would be a disservice if the board did not hear what it has to say before starting the discussion.

Sauer was appreciative of the work done by Chautauqua Lake to include Westfield in the regional high school discussions and in spending the money for the initial study.

“I do think that we need to thank Chautauqua Lake for taking on the responsibility to do the study, for paying for it, for inviting us to be part of this because it is generous on their part,” Sauer said. “At least (a regional high school) might be an option (in the future).”

Board member Jeff Greabell suggested the board contact Chautauqua Lake to let it know WACS appreciated its efforts and Board President Marie Edwards said she thought that would be a nice gesture.

No JPS Tax Hike

City School Board Proposes Cutting 29 Positions, Using From Surplus

February 22, 2012

By Liz Skoczylas (lskoczylas@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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Rather than increase property taxes a projected 8.68 percent, the Jamestown Public Schools district is proposing the elimination of as many as 29 positions.

Deke Kathman, superintendent, and Dale Weatherlow, assistant superintendent for administration, presented the first draft of the Jamestown Public Schools District budget for 2012-13 Tuesday night. The budget includes no increase in the district’s tax levy by using $2,775,000 from the district’s fund balance, an increase of $1 million from the 2011-12 budget.

“The direction that we gave them was that there be no tax increase. We just don’t feel that the citizens of this community can take any more, as most of us can’t take any more. So, we gave them the direction to get to where we want to go,” said Christine Schnars, board president.

The budget’s first draft has expenditures of $77,742,505, an increase of $3,287,876 from last year. After increases in state aid and the end of short-term federal aid, the district found itself with a projected gap of $1,270,671.

“The good news, as Dale mentioned, is that it is a smaller number than we’ve been wrestling with the last couple budget seasons. The bad news is, that’s not a small number,” Kathman said.

MAKING CUTS

Kathman presented the board with potential several budget cuts that included 29 full-time equivalent positions within the district, as well as adjustments to programs. He proposed reducing maintenance in school fitness centers, particularly at the middle school level, as well as consolidating the three middle school modified softball teams into one district softball team.

Additionally, there are projected staffing cuts. Last year, the district made the decision to close Rogers Elementary School, which impacts the number of cuts that are projected for this year.

“About, not exactly, but about half of our reductions are directly related to the previous decision to close one of our elementary schools,” Kathman said.

Among the projected cuts to teacher positions are four elementary classroom teachers, three middle school teachers – which would include one English, math and science teacher- and a social studies teacher. Additionally, several teachers that are retiring are projected to not be replaced. The estimated total savings would be $1,280,000.

“This is not easy. As I’ve said several times before, this $1,280,00 worth of reductions come on the heels of 90 position cuts in the last two years. So, to suggest that we’re not clipping close to the bone, well, we are,” Kathman said.

About half of the position cuts that are proposed are classroom positions, which Kathman said is something the district has been attempting to avoid over the last few years. If all of the projected cuts were to go through, it would create what Kathman said would be a very slight increase to class sizes.

“While we have, for example, four elementary school teacher positions at risk here, that’s four positions over seven grade levels, and, currently, nine different schools. So, we have a large elementary-certified staff teaching K through eighth grade, and this is a four position reduction to that. All of those reductions, elementary anyway, are directly related to our closing of a school decision. So, we’re able to be more efficient on how we deploy the staff as a result,” Kathman said.

NEXT STEPS

Mrs. Schnars said the board wants get a more clear picture of what revenues from the state will be over the next several weeks. Once more is known about state aid revenues, the district can make its final decisions.

“We made major cuts over the last three years. So, we’re now to the point where cuts are going to be personnel, and they’re going to be teachers, because the other stuff is gone. We can’t go back and re-cut it. We’ve got to have a very careful eye on which programs are being affected and which aren’t, what classroom sizes are being affected,” Mrs. Schnars said.

She said that the board is looking to ensure that the district still has very solid programs in English, science, math and social studies. She said that it is also focusing on music programs, which she said is very important to the schools.

“We’re going to be taking a look at all of it, and I’m sure that there are going to be some tweaks and changes to the cut list you see now. Hopefully it will be a lot less cuts by the time we get to the end of this,” Mrs. Schnars said.

The next Board of Education regular meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 27. A work session will be held Tuesday, March 13.

 

 

 

Article Doesn’t Tell Both Sides Of The Story

February 19, 2012

The Post-Journal

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To the Readers’ Forum:

It seems the article about a couple of students allegedly – yes, allegedly – attending a local school illegally has sparked some creative comments.

I wonder why. Let’s put this in perspective: This is an allegation, not a truth. I did not see anywhere in the article where the family (or families) in question were even asked to comment on the situation. So for now, this is a one sided story. Perhaps it would behoove us all to wait “for the rest of the story.”

Now, as for the comments being posted about this story, I have a question for all who responded and those who did not: Why are we so upset over this?

I ask this because we close our eyes to the students who come to any school in America who are from foreign countries and whose families are here illegally. Are those children sparking such an outcry as these two children ?

Answer: no.

Well, how about the families who come from foreign countries that apply for and get welfare benefits. Does this situation get as much attention as these two children.

Answer: no.

I am answering ‘no’ because if all of you who are so vocal about two students who are actually citizens of the US, were this vocal about the “cheating” of non- US students and families, there would be no more welfare fraud, no more social security fraud, no more tax cheating (yes, people who are in the US illegally do file tax returns, using their false Social Security numbers, and yes, they get money back that they did not earn or are entitled to ).

So, since I have to make sure this letter fits into the confines of what is acceptable, I ask you, why are you not so vocal about the non-US students who are using our education system, welfare system, Social Security system? If you put forth such passion for just these two, imagine what would happen if such passion were put forth to fix the real problems of the school system, the welfare system, the Congress, the Senate . . . the world.

Just think about it – and choose your fights wisely. And please make sure you have both sides – it is easy to spout off in ignorance – yet, not so easy to face the truth and admit you may have been wrong.

Judy Wroda

Ashville

 

 

 

Albany Is To Blame For Evaluations

February 13, 2012

The Post-Journal

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To the Readers’ Forum:

I do not think that most people have heard the whole story about the new required teacher evaluations. I am sharing what I know about the controversy and hope to show that Gov. Cuomo is blaming teachers for his own mistakes.

The teachers were very helpful in creating the legislation needed and the federal government praised NYS for making “groundbreaking legislation to change the status quo.”

The teachers and Albany agreed on the stipulations in the teacher evaluations. But then, the state Education Department (SED) made regulations on the evaluations that did not follow the law. The teachers’ association sued – not to block the law but to stop parts of the regulations that were outside the law.

A state Supreme Court agreed with the teachers, but the SED is appealing the decision. The teachers and SED began talking to settle the dispute, with teachers encouraging the state to get the regulations back in line with the law.

I find it unbelievable that Cuomo’s response is to financially penalize schools not using his evaluation process. The teachers are very much in favor of a new performance review system; however, it must be done correctly, and it must follow the law.

The blame for being uncooperative in completing the teacher evaluation process does not belong to the teachers; it rests squarely on Albany.

Linda Howard

Bemus Point

 

 

WACS continues Regional High School debate

February 13, 2012

By JENNA LOUGHLIN – Special to the OBSERVER , The OBSERVER

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WESTFIELD – There are still more questions than answers regarding the regional high school option.

That was the opinion of multiple members of the Westfield Academy and Central School Board of Education members after they attended a Chautauqua Lake Central School Board workshop meeting where Roy McMaster, municipal financial adviser and vice president of Capital Markets Advisors LLC, presented enrollment, staffing, financial factors and incentive possibilities in creating a regional high school.

At the Westfield board’s meeting in January, board President Marie Edwards clarified that McMaster has only studied a very small portion of the overall project so far, just instructional and basic information.

“We haven’t gone really in depth in it yet,” Edwards said.

As a discussion item, Edwards asked the board what it sees as advantages or disadvantages based on the information it now has.

Board member Francine Brown said she came away with more questions, but that she is not sure what they are.

“Everything is up in the air,” she said. “We can’t really do anything until we know what the state’s gonna do and when they’re gonna do it.”

Brown said she also came away with a feeling of distrust in what she was hearing from the people who presented the information at the workshop meeting.

“Were they telling us what we want to hear?” Brown said.

Edwards said there is no way around the ability of a regional high school to offer more programming for students, and Brown agreed.

The board’s newest member, Jeffrey Greabell, also said he came away with a lot more questions than he went in with.

“There are a lot of questions that have not been answered yet that I think need to be answered before any intelligent even discussion can take place, let alone decision,” he said. “I’m just not comfortable yet with taking a position one way or another.”

Edwards said she does not think there is enough information currently for anyone on the board to take a position yet because a lot depends on what decisions the state makes versus what decisions are left up to those creating the regional high school. She asked that board members at least remain open minded to the option as the facts come in.

Board member Steve Cockram said the ASSET team originally started off with “what ifs,” but ultimately the state law is going to dictate what the real scenario is.

“I think the bigger question is, this is one option, but we need to look at what our other options are should this not be what we choose to do or if this isn’t what we’re able to do,” Board Vice President Tony Pisicoli said. “I think it’s better to start to look at those things now than wait until after the fact.”

Cockram said, for example, if consolidation with a neighboring district is a direction Westfield chooses to take, it would not be a reality until three years in the future and by that time, Westfield’s budget projection is grim.

Interim Superintendent Margaret Sauer brought up the fact that the legislation, which was hoped to have been passed by Feb. 15, is still waiting for New York Assembly approval and most likely will not be in place in time for a regional high school to be up and running this September as initially anticipated. This means Westfield will need to come up with a short-term plan for the 2012-13 school year as well as a long-term plan, she said.

“If this is not going to come to pass for another year, I think we need to look at some other things while we’re playing this game,” Greabell said. “There may be some other things that are going to be more beneficial to Westfield I don’t know what those are, but they may be there and I think we need to investigate them at the same time that this is going on.”

Board member Mark Winslow had quite a few issues with the presentation, both with the numbers that were given and with the logistics of the plan. One example he gave was the student to teacher ratio, which the WACS board would have no control over or input in, was not as low as it currently is in Westfield. Additionally, how teachers will be transferred looks like a “nightmare” to him. He also did not like hearing that the incentive aid would be used to pay for staff.

“That’s not being efficient with tax dollars,” Winslow said.

He also questioned if 111 electives, with maybe only six students in them, was best and if there is an advantage to creating a regional high school with four schools as opposed to just two or three or 15.

“As far as I know, the scenario has never been looked at as to what is the best group of schools to initiate this,” Winslow said. “Just because four schools got together does not mean it’s the best for us.”

Edwards pointed out one thing mentioned at the workshop meeting was to stand behind the legislation in general in order to allow for a regional high school to even be an option.

“It’s not about a decision,” Edwards said. “Should we be able to do this is really where we are and what is it gonna look like.”

Winslow also pointed out the legislation is only for a high school and suggested pushing the legislation for kindergarten through 12th grade if districts want to combine without putting it to a public vote.

“It’s not close to a solve-all by any means whatsoever,” he said. “I’m not bashing it by any means, but I am a little disappointed that we sat on it this long without trying to look at other options.”

Sauer said the situation is similar to the chicken and the egg scenario because the legislature asked for a study to show a regional high school would save money and the schools said the legislation needs to be passed so the schools can do a study to see how much money can be saved.

Cockram said Westfield appears to be more financially efficient in educating its students than the other three schools when looking at the amount of money spent per student. This means there is not as much savings for Westfield as there is for the other districts involved.

Board member Tim Smith asked Sauer if the Strategic Planning Committee has talked about the possibility of creating a regional high school with just one other school. Sauer said it has talked about other options.

“Whatever we do, we have got to see taxpayer money saved,” Smith said. “I don’t see how we can consolidate and not save money I can’t go any other way.”

Sauer said her major concern is getting students to meet mandates, graduate and be able to get jobs.

“That’s really what I’m concerned about is the kids,” Sauer said.

Brown said, in a perfect world, she would like to see Westfield as the host school with Brocton and Ripley.

“This is our school,” Brown said.

“I think emotion is a really tough part of it,” Edwards said. “They have a wonderful facility over there (at Chautauqua Lake).”

“And have one here,” Brown said.

“And we still would,” Edwards said.

“No matter how you slice it, there would still be four districts,” Smith said.

 

 

Poll finds school board members support pension options

February 14, 2012

The OBSERVER

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Providing future employees with the option of a 401 (k)-type retirement package was overwhelmingly supported by school board members in a recent poll from the New York State School Boards Association.

Of the 550 respondents to the online poll, 85 percent of board members said new school employees should be given the choice of a 401 (k)-type defined-contribution pension plan.

“The creation of a new pension tier, which provides a defined contribution and the option to enroll in a 401 (k) plan, is the best way to ensure future employees receive the benefits they deserve while also ensuring our students receive the education they deserve,” said NYSSBA Executive Director Timothy G. Kremer.

In fact, 60 percent of respondents to the poll believe 401 (k) plans would provide a basis for adequate retirement benefits. Only 27 percent said the plan would not provide adequate benefits, while 13 percent said they weren’t sure.

According to the State Education Department, 20 percent of classroom teachers leave the profession each year within their first five years. Under the current pension system in New York, these teachers would not be vested and would receive no pension benefits. Under a 401 (k)-style plan, they would be able to retain their plans and any accumulated retirement benefits when they leave public employment.

“Stabilizing pension costs is imperative for schools and local governments across New York,” said Kremer. “If we don’t act now, the amount of taxpayer money needed to cover the costs of employee pensions will soon be well above the state’s 2 percent property tax cap.”

 

Healthier Options

Jamestown Schools Stay Ahead Of The Curve With Meal Choices

February 20, 2012

By Liz Skoczylas (lskoczylas@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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With national changes being made to improve school meals, Jamestown Public Schools are working to ensure that their meal options are up to par.

According to the Jamestown Public Schools website, around 1,200 students per day, or 22 percent of the district, participate in their school’s breakfast program. Additionally, around 3,800 lunches are served daily, accounting for 71 percent of the school district.

First lady Michelle Obama and Tom Vilsack, agriculture secretary, recently unveiled new nutrition standards in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. They say that this will result in healthier meals for kids across the United States.

“Improving the quality of the school meals is a critical step in building a healthy future for our kids,” Vilsack said.

This is the first time in more than 15 years that standards for meal requirements will be raised.

The new meal standards look to improve the health and nutrition of children. The standards ensure that students are offered both fruits and vegetables every day of the week. They are also substantially increasing offerings of whole grain-rich foods, limiting calories based on the age of children being served, offering only fat-free or low-fat milk varieties, and focusing on reducing the amounts of saturated fat, trans fat and sodium.

“When we send our kids to school, we expect that they won’t be eating the kind of fatty, salty, sugary foods that we try to keep them from eating at home. We want the food they get at school to be the same kind of food we would serve at our own kitchen tables,” said First lady Michelle Obama.

Jamestown Public Schools are complying right along with this. School lunches are a part of the National School Lunch Program, and meet all dietary guidelines of the program.

“We’ve been trying to stay a step ahead,” said Walter Gaczewski, food service director for Jamestown Public Schools.

Gaczewski said that the Jamestown Public Schools took steps at the beginning of the school year to ensure that students would be eating healthier.

Several changes have been made within the cafeteria walls of the schools. Notably, deep fried foods are no longer available to students, nor can hot dogs be found on the menu. Breaded chicken nuggets and patties are still on the menu, but they now feature whole grain breading.

In fact, all breads in the Jamestown Public Schools are now at a minimum of 51 percent whole grain.

Additionally, prices of fruits and vegetables have been lowered in the schools by 25 cents, while the price of chips has risen 10 cents. And, only chips that are baked may be offered to students.

“The school cafeteria serves as a learning laboratory to allow students to learn about making healthier choices,” according to the Jamestown Public School Wellness Policy.

Vending machines in the Jamestown Public Schools have also been phasing out carbonated drinks. According to the Wellness Policy, soda machines and soda sales cannot be operational between 6 a.m. and 3 p.m. on school days.

“Students are less likely to gain weight during the school year than during the summer when school is out,” according to the Jamestown Public School District website.

The USDA has released a timeline for the standards to be implemented by schools. Many of the standards, such as offering fruit daily and offering weekly grain ranges, must be implemented by the end of the 2012-13 school year. Others are spread out over a 10-year timeline, the latest requiring schools to reach a sodium target by the 2022-23 school year.

 

 

 

Westfield Looking For Ways To Save

January 29, 2012

By Jenna Loughlin (editorial@post-journal.com) , Westfield Republican

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WESTFIELD – Westfield Academy and Central School board members and district officials are reviewing non-mandated programs that can be cut to help the district cut $630,000 from its 2012-13 budget.

Board members saw two presentations at a recent board meeting which focused on where the school’s finances are headed and what possible cuts can be made.

First, Al Holbrook, district business manager, showed slides similar to his presentation from the board’s December meeting. However the updated slides reflected adjustments made by the finance committee to the five-year budget plan. With those adjustments, the district is able to remain solvent for nine more months until the end of 2015. All of Holbrook’s presentations can be found on the district’s website, www.wacs.wnyric.org.

Holbrook also reminded board members of the three budget building objectives for Westfield as approved in the December meeting: the tax levy will be at or below the tax levy limit, or voter approved threshold; the budget will be developed by all stakeholders; and fund balance reserves will be done in a fiscally prudent manner.

The finance committee also presented two recommendations that were approved unanimously by the board with no discussion. They are to maximize revenue through the levy limit, but not to exceed an amount that would require a supermajority vote of 60 percent and to appropriate $575,000 from the fund balance.

Margaret Sauer, interim district superintendent, followed with a presentation listing all of the non-mandated programs at Westfield and the cost of each in order to start determining how $630,000 is going to be cut for the 2012-13 school year. Sauer listed any programs not required by either the state or federal governments in the elementary, middle and high school as well as BOCES services and districtwide programs.

Sauer said the district is open to additional suggestions from the board and the community.

“This is our school and I guess what it comes down to is what are we going to look like,” Sauer said.

In a report by the personnel committee, board member Steve Cockram said the search for a new superintendent is still on schedule and a brochure announcing the vacancy and what the board is looking for in a candidate has been created. The deadline for applicants is Friday, Feb. 17, and the brochure is available on the district’s website under “Employment.”

 

 

JPS Fills Vacant Board Seat

February 10, 2012

By Liz Skoczylas lskoczylas@post-journal.com , The Post-Journal

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The Jamestown Public Schools Board of Education has filled the vacant seat on its board.

Daniel Johnson has been appointed to the Jamestown Board of Education. His term is scheduled to end on June 30.

“I think he brings a lot of experience, he’s been on both sides of the table. He’s been a union member; he’s been in administration. So, I think that he brings that to the table. We had a lot of great candidates; it was a difficult decision,” said Joseph DiMaio, board vice president.

Eleven people filled out and returned the questionnaire sent out by the board. Doug Brown, Dave Daversa, Paul Frantangelo, Dave Haaksma, Michael Haddad, Dan Hickman, Dan Johnson, Nancy Knee, Branden Maggio, Patrick Slagle and Dave Wilfong all wished to be considered for the open position.

DiMaio said that it was nice to see that so many people applied for the open seat. In the past, he said that many times, people have run unopposed.

“It was kind of nice to see that maybe there’s a little bit of renewed interest,” DiMaio said.

In the questionnaire, the board asked candidates whether they’d be interested in running for the seat in the next election. DiMaio said that Johnson did express interest in running.

“That was his intention to us, that he was interested in running again in May, which I think is important,” DiMaio said.

In other news, the Board of Education also went over budget developments for the upcoming year.

During the budget presentation, which was given by Deke Kathman, superintendent of schools, and Dale Weatherlow, assistant superintendent for administration, the men said that past budgets have resulted in the elimination of 90 positions over the last two years.

“We have tried to protect the positions that work directly with the kids, but after three years, we are getting down to the bone,” Kathman said during the presentation.

According to the presentation, Jamestown Public Schools central administration has been cut down from 23 positions to 15 over the last three years. With the upcoming budget, it appears that there are more cuts to come.

The board also expressed very vocally that it would like no tax increase for the budget.

“I think that’s important, because the community has spoken. We went a number of years with none, and then one year we felt we had to. And, they spoke very clearly that they didn’t want to hear that,” DiMaio said.

DiMaio is disappointed in the state, which continues to do nothing to help the high-needs school districts, he said.

“We’re not asking for them to give us a windfall, we’re asking them to give us what we deserve so that we can run the school district the way we need to run it. We’re not asking them to give everybody 20 percent raises and do all that kind of stuff. We’re looking to run our school district so that we can provide the best education that we can do,” DiMaio said.

JPS Picks Board Member Behind Closed Door

January 27, 2012

By Liz Skoczylas (lskoczylas@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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The Jamestown Public School District intends to announce its appointment of a new Board of Education member Feb. 13.

The Board of Education called a special meeting Thursday evening to discuss the nine survey responses they received from people interested in a seat left open by Barbara Piazza.

Mrs. Piazza resigned after being charged with third-degree grand larceny, allegedly stealing more than $19,000 in cash between 2007 and 2011 while she was employed by Jamestown Area Medical Associates.

Upon calling the meeting to order, the board went directly into executive session to discuss the nine candidates for the open seat.

According to the Department of State Committee on Open Government, a public body may go into executive session after receiving a majority vote to do so in open session. Executive session is able to be conducted only for eight reasons, according to Open Meetings Law:

Matters which will imperil the public safety if disclosed;

Any matter which may disclose the identity of a law enforcement agent or informer;

Information relating to current or future investigation or prosecution of a criminal offense which will imperil effective law enforcement if disclosed;

Discussions regarding proposed, pending or current litigation;

Collective negotiations pursuant to article fourteen of the civil service law;

The medical, financial, credit or employment history of a particular person or corporation, or matters leading to the appointment, employment, promotion, demotion, discipline, suspension, dismissal or removal of a particular person or corporation;

The preparation, grading or administration of examinations; and

The proposed acquisition, sale or lease of real property or the proposed acquisition of securities, or sale or exchange of securities held by such public body, but only when publicly would substantially affect the value thereof.

Christine Schnars, president of the Board of Education, cited each of these as reason for the board’s decision to meet in executive session Thursday.

“It would appear that a discussion focusing on the individual candidates could validly be considered in an executive session, for it would involve a matter leading to the appointment of a particular person. Nevertheless, in the only decision of which I am aware that dealt directly with the propriety of holding an executive to discuss filling a vacancy in an elective office, the court found that there was no basis for entry into executive session,” said Robert Freeman, executive director for the state’s Committee on Open Government.

Freeman cited a court case from 1994, Gordon V. Village of Monticello, which found that replacing elected officials should be open to public input and scrutiny, rather than closing the doors in an executive session.

The Jamestown Public Schools Board of Education anticipated coming to a decision at the end of their executive session. Mrs. Schnars said that they intended to inform each of the respondents of the board’s decision before publicly announcing their decision Feb. 13.

The next Board of Education meeting was scheduled for 7 p.m. Feb. 7, however Mrs. Schnars will be out of town on that date, fulfilling duties under the New York State School Boards Association.

Due to this, The Jamestown Public Schools Board of Education chose to move the date of their meeting and announcement of new board member to 7 p.m. Feb. 13.

 

 

 

Should two N.Y. students have been suspended for organizing “Tebowing” in the halls of their school?

  1. 1.    Yes

26%

  1. 2.          No

74%

12/17/11 Comments (16)

 

 

 

In School Spirit

Superintendents, Board Members Hear From Legislators

January 22, 2012

By Liz Skoczylas (lskoczylas@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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Chautauqua County schools are asking legislators for equity when it comes to funding.

The Chautauqua County School Board Association hosted a legislative breakfast for Chautauqua County school superintendents and board members Saturday morning. Over the course of the morning, they were able to raise financial and academic issues to Sen. Catharine Young, R-Olean, Assemblyman Andrew Goodell and Assemblyman Joe Giglio, as well as ask direct questions to the legislators.

Working closely with school superintendents, CCSBA put together a list of questions for the legislators, and called upon the boards of education to revise and add questions to the list.

“There were real concerns that we wanted to share with our legislators,” said Ray Fashano, executive director of CCSBA.

The 15 questions that were put together for the legislative breakfast addressed concerns about regional high schools, the property tax cap, the funding gap between wealthy and poor districts, and the foundation aid formula.

Fashano said that the foundation aid formula is a complicated one that consists of personal income and property of people living within a district.

“The problem when foundation aid formula was instituted, is that it had a minimum of .65 combined wealth ratio. Most districts in this room are below a .65. So, you’re poorer than the state allows you to be poor, so you’re losing in that gap,” Fashano said.

The Jamestown Public School District is four times poorer than a .6 school, which is as poor as the current formula allows. Schools that are at a one are considered average. Out of 17 Chautauqua County school districts, only one is considered above average.

According to Fashano, CCSBA is not asking for more state aid, but asking that the existing money is redistributed properly to give all kids a fair basic education.

The property tax cap was passed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo last June. The law requires the local governments and school districts to raise taxes no more than two percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less.

“The two percent number is problematic, because that’s not what it is. It’s an attempt to limit the amount of taxes on property owners, which is not a bad idea,” said John O’Connor, superintendent of Forestville Central School District. “The tax cap is an attempt to limit the amount of property taxes in New York, which is great, but it hurts our communities more.”

Deke Kathman, superintendent of Jamestown Public Schools, agreed with O’Connor.

“Nobody wants to raise local property taxes. Nobody wants to. The essential dilemma is that putting a hard limit on how much property tax you can raise without accommodating with an equitable operating aid formula and without the key mandate relief things in place, again, the poorest districts get stuck,” Kathman said.

According to Kathman, over the last two years, Jamestown Public Schools have had to cut ten percent of their workforce, and 20 percent of their administrative staff.

“Without a substantial re-do of the foundation formula, without a major change, we cannot sustain this. We can not continue to solve the problem on the backs of cutting. That leads us, inevitably to a place where we are not providing the mandated programming that we are obliged to provide,” Kathman said.

If the tax levies are kept at two percent or less, O’Connor said, it would mean fewer revenues in poorer schools. Also, making the Gap Elimination Adjustment part of state aid formulas would mean less money for poorer districts.

“You have a series of formulas. The big one is the foundation aid. The rest of them might be expense driven, and then there are a couple others that are enhancement type stuff. But, they way those formulas run, they generate x dollars to a district. Then, the state, because they ran into economic issues, now runs a formula to subtract from that total number an amount of money to give them a new total. So, gap elimination is a fancy way of saying cut,” Fashano said.

In all, Fashano said that the meeting and dialog proved that there is a spirited group of legislators working to help schools in Chautauqua County.

At a time where schools are looking ahead to their budgets, O’Connor enforced that, in the end, everything that was discussed is at the best interest of the students that the superintendents and boards of education represent.

“Although it is about money and funding, it really is about opportunities for our kids. And, I think everyone in this room, including me, our elected officials, would agree on that,” O’Connor said.

Savings Of Regional Schools Never Materialize

January 22, 2012

The Post-Journal

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To the Readers’ Forum:

For our northern neighbors who are optimistically pursuing the chimera of regional high schools, I offer insight gained through 67 years of experience as a student in a small district and in large colleges, a teacher in huge centralized schools and a school board member.

The promised savings to taxpayers never materialize because new costs not previously imagined arise and any savings initially accrued are usually usurped by zealots tempted and empowered to employ the savings in frivolous expenditures rather than in pragmatic education. I’ve never seen this idiosyncracy in human nature falter.

The most tragic disadvantage to reckless centralization of course, is the utter loss of parent involvement in their children’s education and the loss of personal recognition sensed in the majority of children. As districts grow, the advantage or personal responsibility in a school decreases proportionally less attention.

The conglomerates ultimately will be forced through wasteful extravagance to cut costs further, especially through staff reductions. For five years I struggled to be equally considerate to every child in six eighth grade classes of 40 plus each. The very brightest and the miscreants monopolize attention and those who need the most encouragement to realize latent talents, find themselves left alone, feeling insignificant.

One teacher leading one student is the perfect educational equation. That’s why tutoring and home schooling are so successful. As the teacher/student ratio inflates – 1/10/ 1/20/ 1/30 and more – the child feels lost and unimportant and the blind but omnipotent ”state” so resolutely becomes that child’s parent.

We are so dangerously close to losing our identity as the ”land of the free” to dominating central governments. Please friends, let wisdom prevail.

Griff Smith

Frewsburg

 

 

 

JPS President Named To State School Board Associations’s Board Of Directors

January 20, 2012

By Liz Skoczylas (lskoczylas@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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The New York State School Boards Association has announced that there is a new face within the board of directors.

Christine Schnars, president of the Jamestown City School District Board of Education, has been elected into the board of directors for NYSSBA.

Mrs. Schnars will be the director for area three school boards in Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua and Steuben counties. She said that she was nominated for this position by boards of education within the area three districts. She will be on the board for a three-year term.

NYSSBA provides advocacy, training and information to school boards in support of their mission to govern the state’s public schools. The NYSSBA board establishes policies to supervise, control and direct the business of the Association.

As a part of the NYSSBA Board of Directors, Mrs. Schnars will be one of 12 area directors that represent different districts throughout the state.

“I think that it’s very important that every area has representation,” Mrs. Schnars said.

In February, Mrs. Schnars will be traveling to Washington with the other members of the state board and area members, in order to meet with legislature to discuss national initiatives of the school board. Additionally, in March, the group will be traveling to Albany to discuss initiatives with state representatives.

Mrs. Schnars has been a member of the Jamestown board since 1987 and was re-elected to a three year term in 2009. In 2011, she began a second four-year term on the Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES Board. She also is president of the Chautauqua County School Boards Association.

Aside from this, Mrs. Schnars is the former administrator of Emeritus at Lakewood, and is a state Senate appointee on the Citizen Review Panel for Child Protective Services of Western New York.

“I, like everyone else, got involved in education when my kids started school. In my case, I was able to see the broader picture in education than just my own child. Education needs a lot of advocacy,” Mrs. Schnars said.

 

Governor Asks Schools To Implement Teacher Evaluation Process

January 18, 2012

By Liz Skoczylas (lskoczylas@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo is calling for education reform that he calls reality-based rather than Albany-based. However, for Jamestown Public Schools, the reality may be more complicated than the governor suggests.

The budget and reform plan, which was unveiled Tuesday, includes a total increase of $805 million in school aid, including $250 million for performance grants linked to improved academic performance and management efficiency.

High-need school districts will receive 76 percent of the allocated increase, and 69 percent of total school aid under the budget. The additional aid is linked to implementation of an enhanced teacher evaluation process. This restores an effort suspended last year to try to close the achievement gap between wealthier and poor school districts.

“Within this budget we were able to increase funding for education by about 4 percent. That funding will be split into competitive grants for school efficiency, additional aid for poor and high-need schools and a modest restoration of additional funding for everyone else,” said state Assemblyman Andrew Goodell.

“The governor tied the additional funding to the schools implementing performance evaluation programs for both teachers and administrators, which is essential for New York state to do in order to qualify for $700 million in federal education funding.”

However, Deke Kathman, superintendent of Jamestown Public Schools, warns that this is not a 4 percent increase to the operating aid of the schools, because there are a number of aids that come out before foundation aid.

He said that the public impression is that schools are getting a 4 percent bump to school aid, which is not the case. There are a number of different aids that come out first, such as BOCES aid, transportation aid, and other kinds of expense-driven aids, which does not equate to a 4 percent increase to operating aid.

“We are happy that there will be some kind of modest increase to our operating aid. We know that it won’t be 4 percent, and we continue with our serious objection to the continuing inequitable distribution of the aid,” Kathman said,

One of the key elements of Gov. Cuomo’s plan is the teacher evaluation system. The state Education Department and school employee unions will have 30 days to agree on a new teacher evaluation system, or the governor will propose an evaluation system in the 30-day budget amendments.

Schools will be given one year to implement the system, or risk losing an increase in education aid in the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school budgets.

“Gov. Cuomo is rightly using his budget proposal to insist that districts earn state aid increase by adopting meaningful teacher evaluation processes. Measuring whether students are learning from individual teachers will bring about a new – and long-needed – era of accountability in public education,” said B. Jason Brookes, director of research at the Foundation of Education Reform and Accountability.

This push for an evaluation system gives districts until Jan. 17, 2013, to fully implement a working system, before they risk losing their funding.

“A high-quality performance-evaluation system enables schools to reward the best teachers and weed out the teachers who shouldn’t be there. If your primary focus is on maximizing the quality of education for our children, this type of approach makes sense. It makes sense from a high quality of education point of view as well as from a financial prospective,” Goodell said.

According to Kathman, it’s not as simple as the governor predicts to come to an agreement and implementation of a plan within a year.

“He drew a line in the sand around Jan. 17. If we don’t have an agreement, he said that we lose all of our state aid increases. That’s big money. If that comes to fruition, we’ll be forced to lay off even more people,” Kathman said.

According to Kathman, if the state Education Department and NYSUT are able to resolve all of their differences within the next 30 days, there are still several areas of an evaluation system that need to be clarified and negotiated before the district is able to receive aid.

Aside from these issues, the governor made a request to the state Education Department for overhauls in discipline hearings, and made suggestions for innovation grants for school districts, stating that a total of $150 million in performance grants will be awarded in the 2011-12 school year, to be paid over a three-year period beginning with $50 million in 2012-13.

 

Young urges Cuomo to increase school aid for rural districts

1/12/2012 8:39:41 AM

State Senator Cathy Young is joining other State Senators who represent upstate school districts is asking Governor Andrew Cuomo to give rural districts extra consideration in his upcoming budget. Y…read more

 

 

City School Budget Talks Continue

1/11/2012 7:16:49 AM

Officials in the Dunkirk City School District continue to work on the district’s proposed 2012-13 school budget. More from WDOE’s Tina Zboch, who caught up with School Superintendent Gary Cerne during…read more

Preliminary Talks

Districts Meet To Discuss Regional High School

January 12, 2012

By Liz Skoczylas (lskoczylas@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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MAYVILLE – Creating a regional high school could potentially save Brocton, Chautauqua, Ripley and Westfield school districts’ taxpayers $3,700,100 a year while increasing course offerings for students.

During a Chautauqua Lake Central School Board workshop meeting Wednesday, Roy McMaster, municipal financial adviser and vice president of Capital Markets Advisors LLC, presented enrollment, staffing, financial factors and incentive possibilities in creating a regional high school. The information is based on several broad assumptions, and officials were quick to point out that many steps still have to be taken.

“It is important to point out that none of the four school districts have decided to initiate or participate in any kind of regional high school. A precursor to that is that there is no legislation that has been voted into law. So, it is very difficult to answer any of the questions that might come from a meeting like this regarding the specifics about what it would be like in the community,” said Benjamin Spitzer, superintendent for Chautauqua Lake Central School.

Sen. Catharine Young, R-Olean, proposed legislation for a regional high school which was unanimously passed in the state Senate. A similar bill has not yet been voted on by the state Assembly. Locally, representatives from the four districts formed the A Shared Services Education Team, or ASSET, in 2006, in order to discuss consolidation and shared services. In 2011, ASSET became interested in the proposed legislation and began to communicate with the four school boards to gain support for an option of a merger.

McMaster presented the regional high school concept, working under the assumptions that all four school districts would eventually merge.

Many other assumptions were made in order to put together the analysis. Chautauqua Lake is assumed to be the host district, with class sizes set at 20 per class. It was assumed that actual staffing costs associated with a regional high school would be adjusted based on the choices made by senior staff members whether to remain in their district, which increases the cost. Additionally, the analysis assumed that participating school districts would have local costs calculated using the state tuition formula. The analysis also does not include transportation costs and personnel costs including remedial teachers, school psychologists, guidance counselors, teacher assistants, administration, coaching, cafeteria, and buildings and grounds staff.

Using current enrollment data from October 2011, McMaster presented projected enrollment, which showed student enrollment declining throughout each school. He showed a list of elective courses that each school currently offers, and presented the board with examples of a teacher’s schedule in a regional high school.

According to McMaster’s presentation, the proposed regional high school, under all assumptions, would require 62 full-time equivalent positions, and 63 actual teachers, which would reduce the total number of faculty for all the schools by 39 positions. The decrease in staffing alone would result in a savings of $2,446,928 for the regional high school.

The report listed several factors regarding financial impacts, including tuition, operating aid, real property tax and state aid, stating that there appears to be a financial savings in consolidating the four high school programs into one.

“I think right now, we’re in a holding pattern. Until we see that legislation may be passed, I think we’ve done about as much as we can as a school board until we see what comes out of the sausage-making of politics. Then we’ll have something much more concrete to talk about. You have to start somewhere,” said Jay Baker, Chautauqua Lake Central School board vice president.

Spitzer said the main priority in discussing a regional high school is offering a wider range of classes to all students in the area, despite changes in tax caps.

“Recognizing the property taxes are changing, I think boards of education are going to be reluctant to go over the threshold of what the cap will allow. Consequently, you can’t keep pace with the rising costs of mandates. And so, what happens is, fundamentally, expenses increase, and revenue stays flat. You start cutting programs. And, schools are not about cutting programs, they’re about providing and building programs,” Spitzer said.

According to Spitzer, the study was done primarily to inform the state Senate and Assembly about the possibilities a regional school would offer to students. He emphasized that the study is based on assumptions and predictions, with none of the information in the analysis set in stone for any of the mentioned districts.

The Race Is On

JPS Using Race To The Top Funds In Multiple Ways

January 13, 2012

By Liz Skoczylas (lskoczylas@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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For Deke Kathman, Jamestown Public Schools superintendent, the federal Race to the Top program is a good thing.

New York state is supposed to receive $696 million in federal Race to the Top funds, though that money could be in jeopardy if something is not done to implement a teacher evaluation system. New York was placed on a watch list for failure early this week by the U.S. Department of Education, prompting Gov. Andrew Cuomo to reinforce statements which he made during his State of the State address that a new teacher evaluation system is on its way.

Kathman said the Jamestown Public Schools district is one that is receiving funds from Race to the Top.

“Race to the Top funds have been provided across the nation to qualifying states, New York included. The fundamental purpose of Race to the Top is to improve student achievement, and improve instructional capacity. So, we welcome those things, absolutely. We are participating in Race to the Top, we are receiving funds,” Kathman said.

According to Kathman, the money Jamestown is receiving is being used to support professional development, as well as improving the curriculum and instructional techniques.

In his State of the State address, and again Tuesday, Cuomo said the state has failed in its responsibility to implement a teacher evaluation system that holds teachers accountable for their performance. A system was to be implemented by the state Education Department, but the New York State United Teachers union has sued over the systems that include using student test performance for as much as 40 percent of a teacher’s evaluation. That case is still in court.

“Secretary (Arne) Duncan’s report saying New York is on the watch list for failure is yet another warning that the inability of school districts across the state and their unions to come together has jeopardized the quality of our kids’ education. New York state’s students are now in danger of losing hundreds of millions of dollars because of the failure to devise a teacher evaluation system that works,” Cuomo said.

Kathman said a number of the elements in the new evaluation system are dependent on local evaluation, which makes implementing one statewide system difficult.

“That makes a coordinated and consistent change very difficult to realize. I mean, there’s 700 different school districts in the state with 700 different units. It’s complicated,” Kathman said.

Timothy Kremer, executive director for the New York State School Boards Association, said students in New York need an evaluation system that will not only be meaningful and keep quality teachers in the classroom, but one that will ultimately result in higher levels of student achievement. At the same point, he said it is important to make sure New York continues to receive the Race to the Top funding.

“We should not put Race to the Top funding in jeopardy. New York does not belong on any federal watch list. Let’s get this done for the sake of students,” Kremer said.

In order to see improvement, Kathman said that schools need to see everybody come together for a change.

“We need teachers to improve their techniques. We have to improve our curriculum. We have to improve our supervision of students. We have to engage many more parents and families. It only works when all of the pistons are working together, and there’s lots to do,” Kathman said.

Grim Outlook

Kathman Tells JPS Board School Is ‘Running Out Of Options’

January 11, 2012

By Liz Skoczylas (lskoczylas@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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Jamestown Public School officials are preparing for more budget cuts for the upcoming 2012-13 school year.

Deke Kathman, district superintendent, and Dale Weatherlow, assistant superintendent for administration, presented the Board of Education with budget information for 2012-13 at Tuesday’s board meeting. According to Kathman and Weatherlow, Jamestown Public Schools are beginning their budget process without $973,000 federal stimulus that was included in the 2011-12 budget. The federal grant money has been exhausted.

“The education jobs fund goes away, so that creates a bit of a cliff for all of us to fall off. Then, our usual expense increases, many of which are out of our control, run up an approximately $3 million bill. That’s the way this works. Add the million from the jobs fund, and we’ve got a substantial problem,” Kathman said.

According to the presentation, the stimulus money pays for 14 full-time equivalent positions within the Jamestown Public Schools system.

“We are hopeful that we get a modest increase in our foundation aid. Deke’s crystal ball says that’s in the vicinity of half a million bucks, maybe. It’s way too early to tell. The problem is in our having to use that half a million to correct a $3 or $4 million gap, that’s the problem. That’s what forces us into a tight review of our fund balances and a reduction in expenditures,” Kathman said.

Over the past two years, there have been around 90 positions eliminated within the schools. According to Kathman, the district has worked to minimize the impact on students, which has caused the district to reduce administrative, custodial, para-professional and secretarial positions.

“We have reduced teacher positions as well, but after two years of this, we’re running out of options, so it’s not encouraging,” Kathman said.

Additionally, there is a 2 percent property tax cap in effect this year.

“The property tax cap, nobody wants to talk about this, but the property tax cap across the state is accelerating the inequities in school support. It’s not improving it, it’s making it much, much worse. The longer it goes, the worse it’s going to be for the less-wealthy districts,” Kathman said.

The school board will be looking at the governor’s executive budget when putting together the first draft of the proposed budget, which includes school aid support for districts statewide. From there, they look at the cost to run programs in the district, and begin to work out a budget based on those numbers.

“We’re going into our third year in a row of substantial cuts,” Kathman said.

Schools May Suffer In Upcoming Year

December 20, 2011

By Samantha McDonnell (editorial@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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MAYVILLE – Schools in Chautauqua County may be facing a hard time budgeting for upcoming years if New York State aid does not pull through.

The Chautauqua County Schools Board Association hosted Dr. Rick Timbs, executive director of the statewide school finance consortium, Monday at the Chautauqua Suites in Mayville. Timbs’ presentation was entitled “State Aid to Schools: There is no excuse for continued inequity.” Timbs discussed state aid.

New York state agreed to give money to schools in the 2007-08 school year. New York state promised $5 million in order to raise standards in the school. The money, though, was not secure, as Timbs explained.

“Within two years, the amount of aid was frozen for the next three years and simultaneously over the last two years you’ve actually had a defunding of education. What actually happens is they (New York state) gives money to you with one hand and (the money) is taken away with the other,” Timbs said.

Besides having frozen funds, there’s the problem of New York state aid being distributed unequally among school districts. Timbs said many schools in the New York City and Long Island areas tend to get more money due to State Senate leaders.

Timbs used an example of four people each given a dollar. From at first, it looks fair, but once revealed, the individual’s background – one individual may be homeless, one lost his job, one was thrown out of his house due to family problems and one is a celebrity – the money does not seem to be too fair. All school districts are not the same.

“Does it sound like the (celebrity) needs more money? This is not a difficult concept to master,” Timbs said.

While area schools may get more money per student, it is not enough for area schools. Other schools, which get less aid, have more in the school as far as programs go because their districts are more wealthy.

“The truth of it is, we get more per student, but it’s still insufficient because we have less,” Timbs said.

Timbs gave information on Combined Wealth Ratio (CWR), which is a measurement used by the state to determine the impact of funding. The formula used to calculate CWR is the average income per resident and the average value of real estate per resident. Schools which have a CWR of 1.0 are seen as wealthy and those with less than 1.0 are seen as less wealthy. Timbs presented data and graphs on the CWR, and how state aid cuts have impacted schools, and how they have to make up for those cuts, which includes cutting programs and staff.

In order to make those cuts, schools will dip into fund balances to try to make up the difference and eventually raise taxes to make up the difference. Timbs gave an example of how a high needs district and a high wealth district are affected when state aid is frozen.

If both schools had an initial budget of $20 million and had a proposed budget increase of $400,000, two percent of the proposed new budget would be $20.4 million. With state and local funding, the high-wealth district would have a 2.22 percent tax increase while the high-needs district would have a tax increase of 8 percent. Due to this increase, many community members believe that schools which are not as wealthy are “dumb” and they do not care about the students and cutting programs.

“Don’t you think the public has a right to know these things and find out what you’re struggling with?” Timbs asked.

The Chautauqua County School Board Association will meet with county legislators in January. Timbs urged the school boards in the county address this issue at this meeting.

Timbs also left the school board members with suggestions regarding the upcoming budget. He suggested schools start working on their budget now and getting the community involved.

“You better get everybody to understand this (process) because you will not be able to sell this in two weeks in May,” Timbs said.

He also suggested schools budget for three to five years and not just one year at a time. He suggested the graduating class of 2012 will be in the best shape if current state conditions continue.

“The kids walking across the stage in June 2012 will be the best educated you have for a long time under current conditions. Everybody else is going to get something substandard,” he said.

To view the data Timbs presented, visit www.statewideonline.org.

 

Frewsburg Capital Project Defeated

December 15, 2011

By The Post-Journal (editorial@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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FREWSBURG – Frewsburg Central School voters defeated the district’s proposed capital project, 453-255, on Wednesday.

The $2,697,000 capital project and land acquisition project included:

$411,000 to remove existing pavement and build a new parent drop-off loop at Jackson Elementary School;

$230,000 to replace exterior doors and replace a roof on a 1994 addition at Jackson Elementary School;

$664,000 to replace cafeteria flooring, remove asbestos in crawlspaces and renovate the commons areas at Jackson Elementary;

$1,001,000 to replace a remaining steam boiler and piping with hot water, remove asbestos from the crawlspace of the 1957 building, replace shelving and flooring near unit ventilators; replace the remaining original rooftop exhaust fans, install a domestic water heater and build air-conditioned computer labs; and

$160,500 for electrical work.

 

Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

December 17, 2011

The Post-Journal

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Thumbs up to our system of self-governing that enabled residents of the Frewsburg Central School district to have the final say on a $2.7 million capital project and land acquisition proposal. With a decisive 453-255 defeat, we hope the school board and administration understand the lesson to be had in that vote about conducting the district’s business and decision-making in a much more open and transparent fashion. Since it seemed to be the land acquisition that didn’t make sense to the voters, we hope the school either eliminates that part of the proposal and puts it up for a vote again, or does a much better job answering the objections.

 

Courses of action

DiFonzo questions regional approach over consolidation

December 14, 2011

By MICHAEL RUKAVINA OBSERVER Assistant News Editor , The OBSERVER

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When State Sen. Catharine Young, R-Olean and state Senate Education Com-mittee Chairman Sen. John Flanagan, R-Suffolk County toured Chautauqua Lake Central School on Dec. 1 area school officials were able to attend and ask questions. About 75 people consisting of board members, administrators and superintendents attended the event, including Fredonia Central School Superintendent Paul DiFonzo.

Flanagan, who hails from Long Island, has 11 school districts in his region with the smallest school district having a population of just over 4,000.

“He is in a room with us with other districts around us that have 800 students or less, and I basically said to him that we currently have districts in Chautauqua County in our Erie 2 BOCES that do not offer AP courses, that do not offer sports, that do not have electives; that’s going on right now in some of our school districts and the word insolvent is being tossed around,” DiFonzo said before the rest of the board during its regular meeting Tuesday. “There are districts now where students are suffering, that don’t have programs, they don’t have the teachers they need and that are basically going to be insolvent within the next two years. What is the education committee going to do about that? His response was the same I think as (NYS Education Department) Commissioner John King’s and that’s is right now they’re not sure what they’re going to do.”

The word that state education is using to describe bankrupt schools is insolvent. DiFonzo said he has heard the term used on more than one occasion and said he worries what the state will do should school boards begin having to use that word to define their own district.

“They never have had a situation, I believe, in New York state where they’ve had more than two or three districts that have such financial woes in one year,” he said. “The tradition has been if a district runs into a tight fiscal situation and becomes insolvent the state has bailed that district out. If they get 100 to 150 which has been projected by Dr. Richard Timbs from the Statewide School Finance Consortium they really don’t know what they’re going to do. Even if they get 10 they’re going to be in a tough situation.”

At some point, DiFonzo said, districts are going to have to consider consolidating or merging unless given another option.

“While I think it’s great that Senator Young is putting forth a regional high school concept and it gives certain districts another option to consider I’m not sure it’s the be-all and end-all for districts around here,” he said. “I’m not sure when a district is already half empty and you ship your high school districts out and send them to one other district and keep that building open and keep a board of education, and an administration, and you have to worry about transportation; I’m not sure that’s the best option. This is only my opinion.”

Several unknowns will remain regarding a regional high school approach until districts begin to study all areas of concern, from transportation to contracts. As the Erie 2 Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES-led Task Force continues to accept comments from area schools on the legislation proposed all items will be subject to change, including the possibility for a district to opt out if it so chooses.

“If a smaller school district gets involved in a regional high school they’re done. They’re not going to pull their students back three or four years later and restart their school with a pre-K through 12 school districts,” DiFonzo said of the legislation as proposed. “If anyone is selling that story I need to see it on paper to believe it. The minute you enter into that situation that’s where you are.”

In some cases, DiFonzo said he felt consolidations or mergers would be better than a regional high school approach based on the remaining unknowns on regional high school legislation and the incentive aid schools would receive for consolidating.

“In some cases I think consolidation or merger might be better than a regional high school approach. If you look at some studies that have been done by districts that have looked at centralization numbers would bare that out. I think in the next two to three months it’s going to become very interesting because Senator Flanagan also mentioned state aid is supposedly going to increase by $810 million but over half of that has already been earmarked to replace what Governor Cuomo cut out of the budget. That takes it down to $410 million and you have to wonder if rural schools are going to get the amount of aid they need to continue the programming they have.”

Noting Fredonia has lost $2.9 million in state aid over the last two years, DiFonzo said there are still districts in the area in worse shape.

“I’m concerned about our area, I’m concerned about the programming that our students don’t have. I think with the amount of money districts have lost, we’ve lost $2.9 million in aid over the last two budget years but bottom line is we’re not the district that is in the worse shape around here,” he said. “There are other districts that are going to go into this budget year facing more than $1 million of deficit and if you look at the budgets in our area, the size of the school districts, that’s a lot of money.”

Comments on this article may be sent to mrukavina@observertoday.com

Closing Time For Schools?

Fredonia Superintendent Says Consolidation May Be Best Option For Cash-Strapped Districts

December 15, 2011

By Michael Rukavina (editorial@post-journal.com) , Dunkirk Observer

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Fredonia superintendent Paul DiFonzo can see a future in which school districts begin going broke.

He can also see a future in which state officials don’t know what to do about it – though DiFonzo has one option.

“While I think it’s great that Sen. (Catharine) Young is putting forth a regional high school concept and it gives certain districts another option to consider, I’m not sure it’s the be-all and end-all for districts around here,” he said. “I’m not sure when a district is already half-empty and you ship your high school districts out and send them to one other district and keep that building open and keep a board of education, and an administration, and you have to worry about transportation; I’m not sure that’s the best option. This is only my opinion.”

During a recent Fredonia Central School board meeting, DiFonzo told board members of a discussion he had with state Sen. John Flanagan, R-Suffolk County and state Senate Education Committee chairman, during a recent visit to Chautauqua Lake Central School. DiFonzo told the senator there are districts in the area that don’t offer AP courses, that don’t offer sports and don’t offer electives. Some of those districts, DiFonzo said, could be bankrupt within two years.

“What is the education committee going to do about that?” DiFonzo asked. “His response was the same I think as (state Education) Commissioner John King’s and that is, right now, they’re not sure what they’re going to do.”

DiFonzo said he has heard the term insolvent used more than once, and said he worries what the state will do if too many districts start running deficits.

“The tradition has been if a district runs into a tight fiscal situation and becomes insolvent the state has bailed that district out. If they get 100 to 150 (districts), which has been projected by Dr. Richard Timbs from the Statewide School Finance Consortium, they really don’t know what they’re going to do,” DiFonzo said. “Even if they get 10 they’re going to be in a tough situation.”

School aid funding will continue to be a concern in the upcoming state budget, DiFonzo said. While Fredonia has lost $2.9 million in state aid over the last two years, DiFonzo said there are still districts in the area in worse shape.

“I’m concerned about our area, I’m concerned about the programming that our students don’t have. I think with the amount of money districts have lost – we’ve lost $2.9 million in aid over the last two budget years but bottom line is we’re not the district that is in the worse shape around here,” he said. “There are other districts that are going to go into this budget year facing more than $1 million of deficit and if you look at the budgets in our area, the size of the school districts, that’s a lot of money.”

Official Visit

Sens. Young, Flanagan Look Into Regional High School Possibilities

December 2, 2011

By Liz Skoczylas (lskoczylas@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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MAYVILLE -New York state officials met with local stakeholders Thursday to gain input on locations for a regional high school in the area.

State Sen. Catharine Young, R-Olean, invited the state Senate Education Committee Chairman to visit Chautauqua Lake Central School, which is a potential location for a regional high school.

State Sen. John Flanagan, R-Suffolk County, whose committee has jurisdiction over Sen. Young’s regional high school legislation, traveled from Suffolk County on Long Island to meet with local teachers, school board members and administrators.

Led by Superintendent Benjamin Spitzer and Joshua E. Lindell, secondary principal, Sen. Young and Sen. Flanagan were able to see many of the highlights of Chautauqua Lake Central School and meet students in a variety of classroom settings.

The tour at Chautauqua Lake Central School brought Sens. Young and Flanagan to many classes within the building, including a distance learning lab, where students were learning how to play the guitar, and a digital photography studio, where students were creating ornaments out of photos that they had taken.

Jay Baker, board of education vice president, also gave insight as to the school’s history to Sens. Young and Flanagan, while Gary Bennett, groundskeeper for the school, provided information about maintaining the building, as well as the capabilities of many of the classrooms.

Earlier this year, Sen. Young passed a bill that would allow districts in her senate district to form regional high schools. Assemblyman Andrew Goodell is supporting the matching assembly bill.

Regional schools are schools that serve a wider geographic area than a typical school district. Often, these schools also provide special services to their students.

Locally, the Chautauqua Lake, Westfield, Brocton and Ripley school districts have been exploring establishing a regional high school at the site.

“Each of these districts works hard to provide quality education, but shrinking enrollments and tax bases make it more difficult every year. The beauty of this building is that it is attractive, up-to-date and large enough to accommodate all of the students with few renovations,” Sen. Young said.

According to Sen. Young, information gathered from listening sessions, such as the one at Chautauqua Lake Central School, will allow her to tweak the legislation into a final product that should pass both houses and be signed by Gov. Cuomo.

“The challenge is coming up with a model that works, and gaining statewide support. That’s why Sen. Flanagan’s participation is so vital,” Sen. Young said.

Under Sen. Young’s legislation, local school boards would be given the authority to enter into regional high school contracts after following an open process that requires public input. Contracts would need to show projected cost savings and would be subject to final approval by the state education commissioner.

Comprehensive plans for curriculum, finances, staffing, special education, building use, enrollment, cost savings, transportation, athletics and extracurricular activities would be required.

12/05/11

Do you support the idea of having regional High Schools in Chautauqua County?

Yes 47.92%

No 14.58%

Depends on the circumstances 22.92%

Don’t know 6.25%

Don’t care 8.33%

Piazza Faces Felony Charges

December 10, 2011 A member of the Jamestown Public Schools Board of Education issued her resignation Friday after being arraigned on felony charges. Barbara M. more »»

PVCS Building Project Approved

November 24, 2011

By Samantha McDonnell (editorial@post-journal.com) , Dunkirk Observer

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SOUTH DAYTON – Students in the Pine Valley School District will soon be seeing some improvements on their school buildings.

Pine Valley district residents approved an $11.4 million Capital Improvements Project by a vote of 149 to 57.

“We’re very glad to see (the vote passed),” said Janie Waag, board president.

The building project will include development of a new water well, build a water well building and develop a gas well districtwide. The junior-senior high and elementary schools will receive reconstructed driveways and parking lots as well as re-pointing and cleaning of their brick masonry.

Some other projects included in the project will be upgrading the lighting in classrooms and gymnasium in the elementary school to energy efficient lights; replacing the heating and ventilation system in the high school gymnasium; replacing outdated electrical systems and panels; replacing the pool pak and pool cover in the high school and converting the pool from chlorine to a salt system.

State building aid will pay 95 percent of this cost with the remainder paid with EXCEL building aid and by using a portion of the money in the district’s capital reserve account.

“Our superintendent, business manager and board members worked very hard putting together a budget that was to maintain our buildings and grounds and to have (the building project) covered by state aid and excel aid to make sure there would be no tax increase,” Waag said. “We wanted to do it (the building project) without a major cost to the tax payers. That was our major concern.”

The project will begin most likely in the 2012-13 school year, Waag said.

“We’re going to do our very best to do it as efficiently and quickly as possibly following state guidelines,” she said.

State officials to schools – ‘be creative’

November 15, 2011

By MICHAEL RUKAVINA OBSERVER Assistant News Editor , The OBSERVER

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‘Be creative’ was the message given by education representatives from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office, who spoke before area school districts during the New York State School Board Association Conference in Buffalo.

During its recent regular meeting, the Fredonia Board of Education listened to reports given by Superinten-dent Paul DiFonzo, Board President Roberta Coniglio and board members Karen Mosier and Tom Hawk on the conference they attended.

Presentations were made by Director of the Statewide School Finance Consortium Rick Timbs, and Genesee District Superintendent Mike Glover among many others during the conference.

“Basically the message was that school districts need to unite and tell our legislators that they cannot continue to fund school districts the way they currently are doing,” DiFonzo said. “With the formula that was put in place, the money being sent, especially to the rural school districts and large city school districts is unfair, it’s not equitable.”

Rick Timbs, DiFonzo said, is challenging school districts, boards and administration to work together to put legislators on the spot by asking what they are going to do to help school districts survive the fiscal crisis in New York state.

“We’re not asking for more money,” DiFonzo said. “We’re asking for the state to look at how the money that is currently allocated for state aid to school districts is distributed. It is inequitable right now. There are districts that are wealthy, in Long Island … that receive inordinate amounts of state aid while rural school districts that are 50/50 districts that are dependent on state aid in order to have programs in place for children are having significant reductions.”

During an Educational Leadership Forum, DiFonzo said discussion on how districts will not go broke but become insolvent took place.

“The Legislative Breakfasts are nice, where we all sit down and hold hands and sing Kumbaya, but the days are over. There are districts that are going to slide away, they’re going to go broke,” he said. “What we heard later on during the Educational Leadership Forum was a district does not go broke it becomes insolvent, but we were not told what would happen to those districts when they do become insolvent.”

The Leadership Session was one in which a few state leaders in education and two of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s aides for education spoke.

“They wanted us to come to the microphones and say why people wanted to become board members, and what were the areas they were concerned with going into the school year …” DiFonzo said of the forum. “The message from them was we have to be creative and we have to do less with more. Well, it didn’t take long for people to go up and really question what are you going to do about the inequity in aid?”

DiFonzo quipped stating the conference ended exactly on time.

“We never heard one response to one question that was posed. As one after another, board members and administrators got up and they may have thrown in a little background on themselves and what their district was facing but one after another board members said we got into this because we care about the children in our district we want them to have appropriate programs but we’re facing this, this, this and this,” DiFonzo said. “At the same time you’re reducing our aid to such levels that we really don’t know what to do. How do we back out of contracts that we put into place three years ago? How do we deal with healthcare costs?

The general response from the educational leaders, DiFonzo said, was districts need to be creative and think out of the box.

“At the same time we’re getting all of these mandates of what we have to do,” he said. “It was another meeting where we found out how we’re so tied in with so many other districts. We’re not alone and there are districts that are going to be insolvent.”

“There is a definite disconnect between state education department and the state government,” DiFonzo added.

“I felt that disconnect more than ever from previous conventions that I’ve attended,” Coniglio said.

On one positive, DiFonzo noted how Silver Creek elementary students from the Sunshine Group performed at the conference and did an outstanding job.

Comments on this article may be sent to mrukavina@observertoday.com

JPS Voters Approve Spending Proposals

Capital Project, Bus Plans Pass Easily

November 15, 2011

By The Post-Journal (editorial@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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Voters in the Jamestown Public Schools district overwhelmingly passed two different propositions Monday night, approving school’s the purchase of 12 buses and a capital project aimed at updating district infrastructure.

Both projects passed with more than 70 percent approval, with the $68 million capital project proposition receiving a 355 to 144 approval and the bus purchase proposal passing 380 to 140.

The capital project, which will come from state aid, was planned by district administrators to take advantage of enhanced capital improvement state aid and EXCEL funding.

JPS officials have said the combined state funding will pay for the capital project with no tax increase for local taxpayers. The project is geared toward infrastructure repairs, which the district already identifies as a concern, and work needed to stay in compliance with state safety code regulations.

District administrators say the project will proactively address the district’s repair and maintenance spending – keeping those eventual costs off of the school’s annual spending plan.

The district also says the energy-efficiency upgrades will save the district $86,000 annually on utility costs.

A fleet of 12 buses were also approved, but district taxpayers are asked to pay for 23 percent of the total, or $229,000, for their purchase. The remainder is state-funded.

The district highlights that the upgrades will provide smaller, more efficient vehicles where needed and others that are wheelchair accessible. The purchase also includes three coaches for 66 passengers for use of athletic teams and bands.

Out of 43 buses currently owned by the district, 11 are not operational. At least 10 buses have not passed recent state inspections or are predicted to fail shortly due to accumulated rust. Administrators say the district has fallen behind in its bus replacement schedule due to budget constraints during the recent recession.

Local Schools Don’t Make The Grade

Three JPS Middle Schools Identified For Improvement

November 11, 2011

By Liz Skoczylas (lskoczylas@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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New York State released its newest list of schools that are identified for improvement, and three Jamestown Public School District schools have made that list.

Jefferson, Persell and Washington Middle Schools have all been identified as needing improvement. Three schools have been identified in the Salamanca and Dunkirk districts as needing improvement as well.

A total of 1,325 elementary, middle and high schools and 123 districts statewide have been identified for improvement under the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act, also known as the No Child Left Behind Act.

The number of schools and districts that were newly identified for improvement is unprecedented. Last year, 102 schools and four school districts were newly identified for improvement. This year the number of newly identified schools increased to 847 and the number of newly identified districts increased to 89.

“This is just further evidence – as if we needed any – that we must move forward to reform our schools and change what is happening in our classrooms,” Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch said. “Our goal is to ensure every student graduates from high school college- and career-ready. These numbers show that too many schools are moving in the opposite direction. The Regents have adopted strong new reforms to improve student performance and increase accountability. If student performance doesn’t improve, schools must be held accountable. We are watching.”

This is the first year that Jefferson, Persell and Washington have made the list. The subjects identified in the list for Jefferson and Washington were elementary-middle level English Language Arts and elementary-middle level mathematics. Persell was only identified as struggling with elementary-middle level English Language Arts.

Schools are placed into three phases and three categories of identification. Each public and charter school that is not in good standing in 2010-11 has been designated to an accountability phase – Improvement, Corrective Action or Restructuring – based on its history of making adequate yearly progress and its 2009-10 adequate yearly progress status for each accountability measure. The schools have also been assigned an accountability “category” – basic, focused or comprehensive – based on the student accountability group or groups whose failure to make adequate yearly progress caused the school to be identified.

All three middle schools have been identified as being in the improvement stage, based on their yearly progress. As for the categories assigned to them, Jefferson is focus, Persell is basic, and Washington is comprehensive.

Schools that are in the comprehensive category are generally demonstrating a systemic inability to make adequate yearly progress. Schools that are in the basic and focused categories generally need to make progress with specific subgroups of students, such as students with disabilities or limited English proficient students.

“These designations that our three middle schools have received represents a confirmation of our need to continue with earnest in our quest to improve student achievement across all of the schools in our district,” said Jamestown Public Schools Superintendent Daniel Kathman.

“Through a professional learning committee model, the district is engaging teacher teams in the very foundation work that that we need to get done to achieve a spike in student achievement results. We are feeling more and more urgency around implementing basic school improvement efforts in the whole district, not just our middle schools,” Kathman said.

According to New York state, 23 schools improved over the last two years and made it off the list for this year. Additionally, 16 schools that were on last year’s list were closed, or are in the process of closing, after failing to show adequate improvement.

Report: Top NY school administrator paid $506K

November 3, 2011

Associated Press

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ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) – A public spending watchdog says the highest public school salary in the state outside of New York City is more than $506,000.

The Empire Center for New York State Policy also says four districts have average teacher salaries more than $95,000.

The center’s report is on its website: www.SeeThroughNY.net .

It includes regional breakdowns that identify schools and employees by name and list salaries. The highest paid school worker is superintendent of the Syosset School District on Long Island.

Salaries paid for by taxes and other government funds are public information under New York state law.

The website has previously included local and state government salaries, pensions, and pork barrel spending by state legislators.

Regional high school task force produces more questions than answers

October 12, 2011

By MICHAEL RUKAVINA OBSERVER Assistant News Editor , The OBSERVER

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Representatives from area school districts were asked by Sen. Cathy Young to join together in a task force to make changes to and provide recommendations for the Regional High School legislation she had proposed.

Facilitated by interim-Business Administrator at BOCES Ray Fashano, the task force met recently and has concluded its discussions for the time being.

During Tuesday’s regular board of education meeting, Fredonia Central School Superintendent Paul DiFonzo and board president Roberta Coniglio brought the rest of the board up to speed. First and foremost, DiFonzo wanted to make it clear what is exactly meant by a regional high school.

He noted that this is not about magnet schools with three or four different districts offering a variety of main course studies and it is not about distance learning.

“It is very specific,” he said. “Depending on the amount of schools that want to participate, and I’ll use four as an example because there are four school districts looking in our area (ASSET Group – Brocton, Westfield, Ripley and Chautauqua Lake). That regional high school would be hosted in one school district.”

All of the grade 9 through 12 students, DiFonzo said, would go to one high school.

It could be run by BOCES or by the host school district. All of the high school activities and all of the high school sports program would run at the school chosen to be the high school.

If BOCES runs the regional high school, then BOCES administrators and supervisors would go into the host district and run the high school as if it was a BOCES high school. If it is operated by a host school district then that host district takes over and runs the entire operation.

One of the motivating factors behind the legislation is to reduce the cost of education to local taxpayers. Given that objective, Sen. Cathy Young has informed the task force that she wanted to see an immediate cost savings in the legislation for the regional high school approach.

“If you think about the size of the schools, you’re not going to need to keep all of those teachers, administrators and coaches so you’re going to reduce staff,” DiFonzo said, using the ASSET group as an example. “That is probably a big part of the savings in a regional high school approach. Sen. Young has also made it quite clear that if schools decide to participate in a regional high school there will be less superintendents.”

Under the regional high school legislation as it is written now, staffing changes would have to come immediately unless other cost savings could be found. In comparison, DiFonzo said, staffing through a centralization could approach staffing reductions through attrition.

“One of the advantages that we talked about in our centralization was that you could work through reduction of staff through attrition. You’re only talking about two school districts. You could literally plan out two to three years where you could eliminate staff through attrition,” DiFonzo said. “In some cases I really believe that centralization might better serve some districts and communities. That’s just my opinion, it’s based on doing a full-blown centralization study, but I guess it’s incumbent on boards if they have this option to look at all the options and say ‘what is best for our students?'”

When asked by Erie 2 Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES Superintendent Robert Guiffreda if Fredonia would consider accepting the role as a regional high school hub DiFonzo said the district was always interested in looking at other options.

“For our students though I don’t know if that would be the best option,” he added. “It certainly is not something we’re opposed to looking at, but I think our neighboring school districts need to be open to the idea of reorganization. It goes back to what is best for our students and how we can best serve them.”

Three other matters were discussed by DiFonzo, including changes to transparency, control and duration.

DiFonzo said he mentioned with the task force that he felt there was a need for transparency, comparing centralization talks between Fredonia and Brocton in which all meetings were open to the public to regional high school talks moving forward.

“I think there has to be open communication with the school district communities that participate regarding the budget and the state aid situation, with the staffing situation, with transportation,” he said.

As far as control is concerned, a decision to join a regional high school would actually lay in the hands of the board of education involved.

“If you’re going to take away local control for the regional high school approach, and under the legislation the boards that participate decide whether their school will be part of the regional high school, I said why not do the same thing for the legislation that is already in place regarding reorganization,” DiFonzo said. “I think we all know that if it had been a board vote for our centralization with Brocton that it probably would have passed because I believe a majority of the board members on each board supported centralization. That is a huge difference between what is on the books now and what this regional high school legislation is calling for. It basically allows the school boards to make that final decision.”

A final change agreed upon by the task force was a change from a two-year commitment to a five-year commitment. Despite the fact there was a ‘contract’ for those involved in a regional high school, DiFonzo felt once a district entered a regional high school it would be for the long-term.

“In my mind this is a commitment that is permanent for most school districts. The final recommendation is going to come as a five-year commitment so they can look through and see the results of one cohort,” he said. “But in my mind, if you’re five years into a regional high school approach you’re not going to have the wherewithal or the money, unless something miraculous happens in your community and district, to pull everyone back.”

The task force will not meet again at this time. Instead, the amendments agreed upon by the districts involved will be distributed to each board for review. The Fredonia Board of Eduction hopes to review the entire list of amendments to the regional high school bill during its next board meeting on Oct. 25 at 6:30 p.m.

Comments on this article may be sent to mrukavina@observertoday.com

Waiting Game

Sen. Young, Goodell To Revisit Regional High School

September 13, 2011

By Nicole Gugino editorial@post-journal.com , The Post-Journal

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Although the progress of the regional high school bill has been stalled by the recess of the state Legislature, the topic is all but still.

The bill designates that the regional high school, or BOCES if it is selected to run it, will be responsible for academic achievement as well as sports and extracurricular programs. All teachers and staff from the participating schools, with the exception of the superintendent(s) whose services will no longer be needed, will then be employed by the regional high school and seniority will be transferred.

If BOCES is chosen to run the school, the teachers and staff would be employed by BOCES but the individual schools would pay for program and administrative costs and any facility occupied by the regional high school would be considered leased at no cost to BOCES.

The bill was sponsored by state Sen. Catharine Young, R-Olean, and co-sponsored by Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, R-Chautauqua County, and is considered by both to be a quality enhancing and cost-saving idea.

“The goal is to offer enhanced education to students while saving taxpayers money. From the feedback I’ve been getting this could be an exciting way to get students motivated and to reach their full potential,” Sen Young. “I hope this model project (Ripley, Westfield, Chautauqua Lake and Brocton) can be used across the state. When I brought up the concept there was a lot of interest generated and not just in my district but also from people outside the district. The Rural School Boards Association has worked on this for years because they believe it makes sense.”

Sen. Young said that during the recess of the legislature, she and Goodell are working to refine the bill by bringing players like the state Education Department, BOCES, school district leaders and others to the table. She added that community input on the issue has been very helpful.

Young said that they will be preparing now and will present any amendments in January when the legislature reconvenes.

Goodell said the bill is his top priority when he returns to Albany.

“I’m pushing as hard as I can for this. My mission in the Assembly is to get something adopted … This is my top priority when we get back into session because this gives the opportunity for high schools to work cooperatively on a contract to put together a regional high school but still maintain their elementary and middle schools and be able to offer more courses, better athletic programs, better music programs, more foreign languages,” he said.

Goodell’s bill made it to the Rules Committee, the last step before the Assembly votes, but time ran out and now has to wait until January to come to the vote.

“At this point I am very optimistic that we will be able to move forward on this,” he said.

Goodell said he hopes the proposed regional high school of Ripley, Brocton, Chautauqua Lake and Westfield will be a model for the rest of the state or county to follow.

“We hope to use this as a model to increase opportunities and save money. Preliminary figures estimate that we could save as much as $3 million just in this case,” he said. “Some rural schools … are too small to field a football team. What high school senior doesn’t want to be able to play football, or be in the band? This will give everybody the opportunity to be in the band, play football, participate in advanced placement courses and also excel in academics while still maintaining the hometown aspect that is important for elementary and middle schools.”

Goodell recently met with the superintendents and representatives of the four schools (ASSET) and briefly with the union representatives and said he would be continuing to do so.

“It’s very important that everybody is involved in the process,” he said.

He said hopes the meetings with these groups will help to fine tune the bill before January.

It isn’t just legislators talking about the bill, at the E2CC BOCES board retreat regional high schools were a topic of discussion.

Sue Benson, Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES assistant superintendent of instruction, said the topic was brought up as a brainstorming exercise.

“We were trying to get them excited about going outside the old model … They were excited about the possibilities of what this could look like. What can we do for kids? What can we do for schools in our region? What would a school look like to attract people here?,” she said.

Mrs. Benson said that this was just a preliminary exercise meant to get the BOCES board thinking about regionalism and to bring it back to their home boards.

“We are still waiting on ‘what if’ because we are still waiting for the state to act … All BOCES is looking for is quality programming and fiscal responsibility,” she said.

Benson, Young and Goodell all said regionalism makes sense in Chautauqua County today and in other places in the state.

“If you are in a rural school district that is decreasing in size it makes sense to coordinate on a cooperative level for academic offerings and extracurriculars. They don’t merge, they do this by contract so if the population of a school increases or changes they have that flexibility to go back to being independent. It’s the best of both worlds,” Goodell added.

To view the bill go to assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?bn=A08224&term=2011.

Assistant principal search upsets teachers union

September 29, 2011

By MICHAEL RUKAVINA – OBSERVER Assistant News Editor , The OBSERVER

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To the dismay of some faculty, the Fredonia Central School District is currently advertising for an assistant principal at the elementary level. The need for the position, which was budgeted according to Superintendent Paul DiFonzo, stems from the Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) and its demands being placed on the district.

While not arguing the need for the positions, Teachers Union President Darrin Paschke questioned the direction the board of education is taking to fill it.

“With the advertisement for the new elementary principal in the paper, some of the teachers were a little concerned, especially after giving a concessions package for two years with the expense of having new administration hired,” he said.

“The difficulty with the .54 position is the administration positions are very demanding, and having to teach part-time and having to do administrative positions part-time, most of the people are not that interested in having that overwhelming of a schedule. However, the option of maybe having a teacher on special assignment fill those positions you could fill them for the cost of a step 1 teacher, instead of $70,000 … but I think it would be a more fiscally responsible choice.”

Paschke was referring to the district recently advertising internally for two .54 administrative positions.

“When the board went to set the levy in August, there were certain positions we needed with the new APPR regulations that were coming forward. We recognize that with the job that our principals already do it’s almost an impossible task to add on what the state is requiring,” DiFonzo explained. “We advertised internally for our teachers to consider, anyone who was a certified administrator, to be a .54 administrator in one of our buildings. We hadn’t yet determined where, but we were leaning toward high school and elementary but we had no internal certified candidates who applied.”

The district instead is now advertising for the full-time assistant elementary principal to help handle the duties that are coming along with APPR, which stems from the Race to the Top federal funding the state had received.

“We were told, as districts, that whether or not we applied for Race to the Top we were going to be mandated to do the APPR. Yes, we applied for Race to the Top because we didn’t see any sense in being mandated to do something and not get the $55,000 we’re going to get over a four-year period of time,” DiFonzo said. “I’ll sit with anyone and explain why it is necessary to have more administrative help. I have to say that publicly because we’re advertising for an assistant principal and people will question, even our own teachers may question that. But right now we’re under the gun to meet these state requirements and our children need that kind of support in our classrooms, and our teachers need that support.”

The APPR is a state mandate as part of the Race to the Top funding the state received from the federal government. The program is intended to help evaluate teachers and administration in the future. It is a comprehensive approach in that districts are required to hold a pre-conference, a post-conference and an actual comprehensive evaluation for each teacher and administrator in the district.

DiFonzo said the reason the assistant principal will be designated at the elementary level deals with the student population and the needs of the children, noting there are over 600 elementary students.

“We have been operating with a very lean administrative team. If you don’t believe that all I need to do is go to another district, our size and in our county, and see how many principals and assistant principals they have,” DiFonzo said. “I would say with the new APPR, that could possibly end up being something that is very demanding.”

Board member David Giambrone said that as a retired person he is not in favor of adding positions and noted how the board has done and excellent job of trying to scale down costs wherever it can.

“But I see two areas, and we’re being forced into this by the state again … the APPR is putting a drain on our administrators,” Giambrone said. “How you are going to evaluate teachers three times and still maintain a school with 500 students-plus, I don’t know. I think we’re kind of light in two areas, one is the elementary and the other is in the high school. If we don’t make some changes in that area I think we may down the road find some major problems.”

Middle School Principal Andrew Ludwig politely disagreed, noting all of the state exams are in grades 4-8.

Thinking from a fiscal standpoint, Paschke said he would hope the district considers making the position for a teacher on a special assignment in which case he or she could go back to their original classroom should the district feel the need did not exist down the road.

“During this time where we’re learning about APPR and trying to discover how much extra administrative need there is going to be, having it as a teacher on special assignment would be I think less of a commitment on behalf of the district,” he said. “We’re not arguing the need for this at all. The teachers also have larger class sizes, more demands placed on them as far as mandates from the state. We know that is the case especially with the APPR, there are huge demands placed on the administrators, we’re just asking to please try to be as fiscally responsible as possible.”

Comments on this article may be sent to mrukavina@observertoday.com

‘Irreconcilable differences’ is reason for resignation

October 10, 2011

By JENNA LOUGHLIN – Special to the OBSERVER , The OBSERVER

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WESTFIELD – West-field Academy and Central School’s Board of Educa-tion member Jeanne Habig has announced her resignation from the school board, leaving the rest of the board to determine how to fill her shoes.

The options available were to hold a special election to fill the seat, which would cost around $3,000 to $4,000, or to appoint someone until elections in May. The unanimous decision was to appoint an interim board member and then, at the same vote as the school budget, an election will be held with the winner serve the one year remaining on Habig’s term.

When asked why she had decided to step down, Habig submitted the following statement:

“I find it necessary to resign my position on the Board of Education of Westfield Academy and Central School due to irreconcilable differences with some board members as to how the district should be governed following board protocol, policy of the district, education law and fiscal responsibility to the taxpayers of Westfield.

“I would like to thank the people of Westfield who placed their trust in me during my 27 years of service to the district. Thanks also goes out to administration, teaching staff and support staff for their dedication to the children of Westfield and their commitment to excellence, in partnership with the community, enabling our students to become capable and responsible members of society.”

One of the main topics of conversation at the meeting was how to proceed in filling the superintendent position. Current interim superintendent Margaret Sauer has agreed to her current position for only one year, thus school board president Marie Edwards suggested making a decision as to whether the board wanted to hire another interim superintendent or start the search for a new, permanent superintendent sooner rather than later was prudent.

The sticking point came back to the regional high school possibility – if Westfield does participate, will the district still need a superintendent? Would the district then be able to share a superintendent with another district? That option is not currently a possibility because the districts combined would have to have a student population of less than 1,000.

Board members Tim Smith and Steven Reynolds were wary about getting into a three-year contract only to go regional. Smith was also adamant he did not want BOCES involved in the process of hiring an interim superintendent. Board member Mark Winslow said he thought a long-term superintendent was the best option since the likelihood of finding another interim who could hit the ground running as Sauer had, due to her familiarity with the district, was highly unlikely.

“How many more Peggy Sauer’s are there,” he asked.

Business manager Al Holbrook pointed out that inconsistency and a high turn-over rate has an impact and asked the board to keep in mind stability and leadership, which he believes are important for the long-term health of a district and the tone of the building.

The decision to come out of the discussion was to have a BOCES representative attend a future board meeting and talk about the superintendent hiring process.

The board also continued its discussion about the regional high school possibility. This time highlights of the bill were provided to the board members in an effort to answer some lingering questions. It was also reported that Chautauqua Lake Central School was going to pay for the study on the regional high school pilot program.

Winslow said he was worried that with how the bill was crafted, the Westfield school board would be giving up its control to another entity. Board member Steve Cockram responded that perhaps it was worth trading some control for more programming, however Winslow said he is not as worried about electives as he is about core subjects.

“I guess I’m lost as to why we wouldn’t want to offer our children more,” Edwards said. “Together we can do more than we can separately. You need to have that diversity.”

“I guess you have to talk to the taxpayers about that,” Winslow said.

Edwards said she would want the issue of board control not to be in the bill, but rather in the contract between schools, though Winslow pointed out he was not even sure that was an option the way the bill was written. Bodenmiller agreed she would like to keep some control.

Board member Francine Brown asked why the board makes cuts to programs over other areas.

“To get the amount of money that we need to cut, it has to be in personnel,” Edwards said. “When you cut personnel, you cut programs.”

“Well, something’s gonna have to give,” Brown said. “I don’t know what it is at this point, but something’s gonna have to give.”

Ultimately, it was unanimous that Westfield be included in the RFP for the regional high school pilot study to be paid for by CLCS, though discussing other options such as tuitioning, a merger, consolidation or annexation was left as a possibility at another or a special meeting in the future, perhaps after grape season.

Comments on this story may be sent to editorial@observertoday.com

Schools Learn To Deal With Cuts

Although Not As Bad As Last Year, Districts Still Must Do More With Less

September 6, 2011

By Chad Gustafson (cgustafson@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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Having to lay off teachers is never good news for a school district, but for the past several years it is something districts locally and statewide have had to do.

“It’s a last resort,” said Stephen Penhollow, superintendent of Falconer Central School District. “And it’s not only teachers – it’s a combination of teachers, teachers aids, administration, secretaries, coaches, everyone.”

The challenge, Penhollow said, is that while 10.5 full-time equivalencies have been lost for this year in Falconer, the workloads and responsibilities have not, and when you consider the fact that student population in Falconer has increased this year by “75 to 80 students,” he said the district has had to get creative to maintain its current programing and course offerings.

“We have two distance-learning classrooms which are relatively new,” Penhollow said, referring to classrooms that allow for students to take courses through neighboring school districts via video conference. “We use them as much as possible to purchase courses that our students can’t otherwise take. We offer some courses that other schools purchase from us and we purchase courses. This is especially handy in Advanced Placement courses and courses that earn students college credit.”

Another big cost savings that districts like Falconer and several others take advantage of is transportation, Penhollow said.

“Our transportation supervisors are constantly in communication with neighboring districts. We share runs whenever it makes sense, and this is common in special-education runs and extra-curricular courses that students have to travel for. We’re looking at every possible way in which to control costs, and doing that while continuing to offer a quality education- that’s the struggle.”

According to Robert Breidenstein, superintendent of the Salamanca City Central School District, when distance learning is not an option to save course offerings, there is a formula to decide which courses to cut which is common among school districts.

“A lot of it is simply enrollment-driven,” Breidenstein said. “If we have to cut courses what we do is consider those with a high amount of vacancies and enrollment concerns, and you prioritize. The courses first to go are the ones not absolutely required.”

The Salamanca district lost all sixth-grade foreign languages last school year as well as some specialized science courses at the high school level, Breidenstein said, along with 26 full-time equivalencies, but this year will not be as painful.

“Letting go of three teachers for this year, it’s not a good thing,” he said. “But through attrition and intelligent scheduling our class sizes are really pretty good.”

High school classes in Salamanca will range anywhere from “the low 20s to high teens,” middle school classes will have 17 to 19 students while kindergarten and elementary school classes will have the lowest enrollement at 15 to 17 students, Breidenstein said.

“That’s good, but really research is sketchy on what class size can do for a student and teacher,” he said. “There are great teachers who have success with large classes, and poor teachers that suffer with small class sizes, so I believe it comes down to the quality of the teacher and the use of technology.”

When districts are financially forced into making layoffs, however, it is not always easy to keep “the best” teachers, and according to Daniel Kathman, superintendent of Jamestown Public Schools, there are rules that districts must follow.

“The way the system is set up, teachers are laid off based on their time with the district,” Kathman said. “The newest ones are the first to go.”

This year, the Jamestown Public Schools District lost 42 full-time equivalencies, Kathman said, and after those positions were eliminated, the district began reorganizing teachers to meet the needs of each school based on student population.

“Once we’re where we have to be, we redeploy our staff to make it work,” Kathman said. “If student enrollment at one elementary school indicates that we could manage with one less section, we make that decision, cut it out of the budget and then look at the least-senior elementary teacher. They may not necessarily be running the section that was cut, but they are let go as required and we’ll move the teacher who taught the cut section of classes to the position held by that least-senior teacher, or there are dozens of other situations that could pan out. It can be an extremely complicated process.”

Just like in the Falconer district, Kathman said that included in that list of 42 FTEs is everyone from administrators, like one middle school assistant principal, one transportation supervisor and one principal “on special assignment,” to more than a dozen teachers and also maintenance staff, nursing staff and others.

“Everyone was affected by these cuts,” Kathman said. “There wasn’t an area we didn’t have to touch upon.”

Classes sizes in JPS, according to Kathman, will average 19 students – “though that’s not entirely true across the district. It varies slightly and it’s too early in the year to know exactly where we stand.”

Despite losing the nearly $5 million in state aid last year which caused the layoffs and program cuts – like the elimination of the lacrosse program, modified football and middle school cheerleading, to name a few athletic programs no longer in JPS – Kathman said he remains confident in his district’s ability to perform well.

“I’m excited about this new year,” he said. “There are new challenges before us but all in all we’ll work to improve. We’re pushing ahead.”

Court strikes down emphasis on a few student scores in NY teacher evaluations; state to appeal

  • MICHAEL GORMLEY Associated Press
  • First Posted: August 24, 2011 – 3:01        pm

ALBANY, N.Y. — A New York court ruled Wednesday that a new teacher evaluation process can’t rely so heavily on how students perform on a few state tests and most of the evaluations’ criteria will have to be approved by local teachers’ unions.

But the mixed judgment also upheld an expedited review process that could speed up the firing of bad teachers.

State Education Commissioner John King Jr. said the state plans to appeal.

The decision in Supreme Court in Albany County addresses a landmark teacher evaluation system worked out this spring by the state Board of Regents with the New York State United Teachers union. That plan, which would be used as a factor in granting tenure and in layoffs, was abruptly changed by the Regents after Gov. Andrew Cuomo interceded to further emphasize student test performance.

Wednesday’s decision addressed a provision that requires 40 percent of a teacher’s evaluation to be based on test scores. Half of that was to be based on state test scores and the other half determined by the local school district.

But the union had argued that a local school district could simply choose to use the same student improvement or decline on those same state exams, effectively doubling the value of the tests chosen by the state.

Under the court decision, a school district could still choose those same state tests but would have to cull the data to form a different evaluation so growth or decline in student performance wouldn’t count twice. For example, a district could choose to count the number of students who reached a “proficient” grade. In addition, the local union would have to agree to the measure.

NYSUT President Richard C. Iannuzzi said the judge decided the criteria for the remaining 60 percent of the evaluation must be subject to negotiations with the unions, rather than set by the state, which placed a strong emphasis on classroom observation.

“This decision upholds the role of practitioners and the value of collective bargaining,” Iannuzzi said. “We are pleased the judge has upheld the statute as NYSUT interprets it.”

The state education commissioner said several of the judge’s changes in the policy “would clearly undermine our ability to have an effective teacher in every classroom.” He noted, however, that the judge’s decision upholds the first use of student test scores to evaluate teachers, which has long been blocked in Albany.

A total score of 64 percent or less would draw a grade of “ineffective,” making the test scores a big part of a teacher’s evaluation. The state had set standards for other measures including classroom observation and efforts to keep up with the latest advances in the field. Those measures would be subject to union negotiations under the judge’s order.

The teacher evaluation system was developed when the state won $700 million in federal aid under the competitive Race to the Top program. To win a share, states had to commit to several reforms sought by President Barack Obama’s administration including a teacher evaluation system that could be used in terminations and tenure decisions rather than relying primarily on seniority.

Under the policy as adopted, a promising teacher could be deemed “ineffective” solely on students’ poor performance on tests, the judge said.

“Multiple measures must be considered,” wrote state Justice Michael Lynch. “The commissioner must allow for the 60-point category to have meaningful impact in the composite score, even in an instance of poor student achievement.”

Lynch, however, also upheld the Board of Regents’ measure to require a swifter process to fire inadequate teachers. That is aimed to avoid the long and costly process in effect for decades that often required school districts to keep a teacher on the payroll during an appeal while paying a substitute teacher to handle his or her class.

Iannuzzi said the decision will require that tenure decisions be based on merit rather than on an arbitrary decision by administrators. He said many teachers facing denial of tenure often resigned, masking the number of teachers refused the job protection.

NYSUT and the state Board of Regents worked out a plan over several months, but Cuomo recommended his own changes in May. Schools Chancellor Merryl Tisch immediately supported them, and the Board of Regents adopted Cuomo’s changes at the next meeting.

The union then sued.

Two-Day Seminar Starts New Teacher Training Initiative In City Schools

August 25, 2011

By Chad Gustafson (cgustafson@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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Gone are the days of teaching behind closed doors.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, teachers and principals from throughout Jamestown Public Schools attended a conference solidifying their role as a Professional Learning Community – a collaborative, “open door” program in which teachers, administrators, parents and students districtwide work together toward the common goal of improving student performance, all while learning from other such programs nationwide.

“One big problem that we have in improving education today is that it’s very isolated right now,” said Jessie Joy, Jamestown Public Schools director of curriculum, instruction and assessment. “Teachers spend all day alone in their classroom with their students and rarely hear from their peers, and what the PLC works to do is completely shift that paradigm of how teachers teach and communicate with one another.”

According to Joy, the district began forming a PLC last year, and one of the biggest benefits about the program is that it gives the district the opportunity to collaborate not only within itself but with PLCs throughout the country.

“This is an opportunity to look at top performing schools from all over the country and say, ‘What are they doing that we are not?” Joy said. “We can then work to emulate the practices that have brought other districts success.”

This week’s conference featured presentations from Solution Tree LLC, a nationwide network of experts in the field of public education that visits districts, explains what it means to be a PLC and presents evidence-based methods of effective teaching that Jamestown Public Schools teachers can implement this year.

“I want to see creativity,” said Clara Sale-Davis of Solution Tree.

Sale-Davis presented to the district’s middle school teachers and principals on “developmentally responsive teaching,” an involved method that emphasizes teaching material that is developmentally appropriate for each student. It requires knowing where a student is developmentally the day that classes begin, and it focuses on direct student observation and assistance throughout an activity or problem and also requires keeping a constant eye on progress.

“I want you to teach developmentally responsive lessons to your young adolescents, and when you mix that with creativity, scores will shoot up,” Sale-Davis said. “What I want you to think of is ‘What outrageous lesson could we do to get kids involved? And how can we get the school on board to help us reach our goals?’ And I’m telling you, if you’re planning on working behind closed doors, it’s not going to happen.”

She also spoke on the importance of being energized in the classroom, and gave direct examples of what districts in her native Texas and elsewhere have found successful.

“When you watch the Super Bowl, how do the players come to the field? Do they simply mosey into the battle of their lives? No, they come in fired up, and that’s how we should be as teachers,” Sale-Davis said. “I know teachers that come into class on the day of final exams dressed up in camo army outfits, faces painted, ready for battle. History teachers that come into their tests dressed as Louise and Clark. And how do you think kids react? They lose stress. They think ‘Yes, there’s my cool teacher. We’re going to do well.”

Ken Williams, who presented to elementary school teachers and principals, stressed that if teachers are going to increase collaboration, schools need to be allowing for time for that to occur, and teachers need to understand one very important aspect to working with other teachers.

“Teachers teach in different ways they often consider their own,” Williams explained. “And in order to collaborate effectively we need to be understanding of that.”

To demonstrate his point Williams forced teachers to divide into one of four groups – north, south, east and west.

“The northerners, they say ‘Let’s act,” Williams said. “Let’s do it and let’s try things, even if we make mistakes.’ The north folks are our action-oriented go-getters.”

He explained the tendencies of each direction, the south being the “caring teachers that work to make sure everyone’s feelings have been taken into consideration,” for example, and told teachers to find their place.

Once grouped, teachers talked amongst themselves to figure out the four best and worst attributes to their teaching style, as well as what they like and dislike about the other styles. Then presentations occurred.

“One sign that lets me know this activity is going well is tepid applause after one groups explains themselves,” Williams said. “You heard one another.”

Joy added that while the district is still early on in forming a PLC, this week’s conference was a big step in reinforcing to teachers and principals that this increased collaboration is not temporary.

“One thing I’ve noticed is that teachers might feel like this is the sort of thing that’s going to blow over,” Joy said. “But it’s not at all. This is going to be the new norm for us and this is happening nationwide, and I believe New York is the first state expecting all of its districts to have PLCs.”

JPS Board Questions Teacher Grading

System Won’t Make It Easier To Fire Teachers

August 24, 2011

By Chad Gustafson (cgustafson@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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Discussion on the state’s new principal and teacher evaluation system brought several questions to the table of the Jamestown Public Schools Board of Education on Tuesday.

Teacher and principal evaluations in New York state are being revamped this year. Evaluations will be based 40 percent on student performance on state and local exams and 60 percent on measures like direct observation and new initiatives like peer and parent evaluations, though the exact makeup has been challenged by the New York State United Teachers because the approved system was too reliant on state tests.

“They will be more comprehensive and involved than ever,” said Daniel Kathman, district superintendent.

Board member Paul Abbot brought his concerns forward.

“What will it mean for teachers and principals to get a rating of (developing) or (ineffective)?” asked Abbot. “And for a teacher or administrator that might not have the motivation to work to achieve something greater, what are we going to do about that? I can evaluate the Buffalo Bills every day, … I can give them an F and they’re still going to collect a paycheck.”

The answer, according to Tina Sandstrom, Jamestown Public Schools director of elementary and remedial education, lies in increased accountability that a teacher will have for their students’ performance, which will be based on state and local exam scores.

“Teachers are now going to be directly accountable for the growth of the students in their classrooms,” Sandstrom said. “And a lack of growth will trigger a process in which the school has to come up with a plan to help that teacher improve.”

Kathman said that while the evaluations are going to be used to foster a teacher’s improvement, “It’s still going to be difficult to dismiss a teacher.”

“There’s also going to be a formal appeal process should you be graded as ‘developing’ or ‘ineffective,” Kathman said. “But as Tina said the primary intention here is to develop and improve teacher and principal improvement.”

The grading system is based on a four point scale, highly effective, effective, developing and ineffective. Ratings of developing or ineffective will indicate a teacher or principal’s need to improve.

Another question was brought up by board member Timothy Thomas.

“If we’re going to be using state tests as a measure of a teacher’s effectiveness,” Thomas asked, “are we talking about incremental improvement or are we talking about the scores?”

“And what if,” he continued, “an ineffective teacher is given a classroom of overachievers, while a highly effective teacher is given a group of students with disabilities and otherwise challenged students? Is there going to be some sort of subjective formula that’s going to allow us to level the playing field?”

Sandstrom responded that improvement will be based on a student’s incremental performance, and there will be several components to the evaluations designed to do just that, and students with disabilities will also continue to receive classroom services designed to give them extra assistance that is not otherwise available.

Kathman added that while measures to “level the playing field” will be part of the full evaluation, they are examples of several measures not yet worked out by the state, and those question marks are creating a “rather awkward” situation for districts statewide.

“It is awkward at best,” Kathman said. “We’re to adopt a plan prior to having all the details of the plan defined.”

Implementation of the evaluations is scheduled for districts statewide based on teacher contract expirations, which varies district to district and will occur in June for JPS.

Comforting to Kathman is the hope that, due to a lack of guidelines from the state thus far, it will be “understanding and recognizing of the situation faced by districts.”

UPDATE ON?FLETCHER ELEMENTARY?SCHOOL?CAPITAL?PROJECT

Also discussed at Tuesday’s meeting was the state of the parking lot expansion currently underway behind M.J. Fletcher Elementary School.

“Within the upcoming weeks, Kathman said, “parents and school faculty should expect to see the parking lot relatively completed and available, however they should expect with construction going on that the parking is going to occur, for the immediate future, more distant from the school.”

According to Kathman, M.J. Fletcher Principal Mike Mansfield will be sending out a letter to all district parents encouraging those driving to school to park in front of the school on the side streets, and use the front doors for entry.

“His idea is that all the construction is located mainly behind the school in the parking lot, so he’s trying to have the vast majority of pedestrians use the Cole Avenue side of the building,” Kathman said. “Bus pickup and dropoff is going to happen on Myrtle, and to the extent he’s able he’s going to try to keep parent and student traffic in and out of the building’s front.”

Also stressed during the meeting was the fact that, with school starting Tuesday, Sept. 6, those driving through school zones should stress extra caution.

“It’s the beginning of a new year,” said Board member Joseph DiMaio. “We need to be watching out for our students.”

Local Control Of School Districts Not The Answer

August 21, 2011

The Post-Journal

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To the Readers’ Forum:

Recent reports of local control of schools through elected school boards develop questions at least equal to the questions often voiced by school officials concerning state interference in school operations.

In Buffalo the superintendent that was once hailed as the savior of the system is now to be dismissed as incompetent, this after an exhaustive search and selection process by the school board. Proof of the impact of local control.

Further we have in our own local district evidence of failure of local control. Our school building is twice the size required for the present population, designed under the control of some of the present board members A design justified by a forecast of increased school population, a forecast that reversed years of historic trends. I suggest it was built because it could be, with no real justification but a monument to all involved in the construction.

Our district has if not the highest cost per pupil close to the highest cost per pupil to educate our children. This same board negotiated an excessive labor contract with the teachers union far beyond any other district, leading to increased costs now and in the future including eventual retirement costs. This settlement is used by neighboring districts unions as a bench mark in negotiations, complicating an already difficult task for other boards. Local control with too much tax money available as a result of the rich lake-property tax rolls district.

Now that we have an opportunity to consolidate and form a regional high school that would vastly improve the education opportunities for the students involved, local control says no. Why would they say no to improved educational opportunities for students? This is supposed to be the goal. There are other benefits as well – the overburdened tax payer could see some relief from local school taxes as cost would be spread over other districts. Instead of several superintendents we would have one, the administrative costs would be reduced substantially. But no is the answer. Is it because those in power would lose some power?

Should we consider that local control is not the answer from this and perhaps local input to a professional management system is the answer.

Michael C. Mitchell, Mayville

ASSET Group meets with Assemblyman Goodell

August 19, 2011

By DIANE R. CHODAN , The OBSERVER

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BROCTON – The fate of regional high schools is not known yet. A bill introduced by State Senator Catharine Young to allow the creation of regional high schools was approved in June. However, the bill has not yet been introduced in the State Assembly. The Assembly has recessed before that could happen.

On Thursday, at the meeting of the Brocton Board of Education, board member Susan Hardy, one of Brocton’s representatives to the ASSET Group, (Chautauqua Lake, Ripley, Westfield and Brocton schools) reported on a meeting with Assemblyman Goodell on Aug. 10 in his Jamestown office and background concerning the bill.

She reported that the bill survived the Education Committee of the Assembly and was sent to the rules committee by mid-June. However, it was not brought to the full Assembly for vote prior to recess.

According to Hardy, Goodell said, “Simply put, the bill ran out of time.

The New York State Legislature does not convene for business again until January 2012. Goodell advised the group that the version of the bill that stalled in the Assembly this year can be reconsidered and reported out of the Education Committee up until June of 2012. Once it passes appropriate committees, it could go to the floor of the Assembly for a vote and then if passed sent to the governor for his signature.

Ripley’s Board of Education’s president commented, “Our current law (allowing centralization) has about a 20% success among our four Western New York districts. This is not working for our students and our taxpayers.”

Hardy stated, “This is why the ASSET advisory committee, Senator Young, and Assemblyman Goodell are lobbying for other options to increase efficiencies, enrich curricular and extra-curricular choices, and stabilize educational costs for school districts.”

Until the legislature reconvenes, Goodell advised the ASSET group to apply for state grants and to try to meet with the Assistant Secretary of Education. Assemblyman Goodell said he would work with Senator Young to reach out to those who could be helpful as the bill navigates the legislative process.

Comments on this article may be directed to dchodan@observertoday.com

Should the Fredonia school board have reinstated 12 positions? (aug 18, 2011)

  1. 1.    YES

32%

  1. 2.          NO

68%

FTA Union president thanks ed board for decision

August 18, 2011

By MICHAEL RUKAVINA OBSERVER Assistant News Editor , The OBSERVER

SWCS To Reduce Board

September 15, 2011

By Chad Gustafson (cgustafson@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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Residents of the Southwestern Central School District will vote in May on the reduction of the district’s board of education from nine members to seven.

According to superintendent Daniel George, the decision to add that ballot item was approved by the board of education this week.

“I believe the primary concern or reason for placing this before voters is the fact that very few community members have filled out petitions to run at the last several elections,” George said, adding that he does not believe such a reduction would harm the board of education or the district.

“In my experience up until Southwestern Central School District, in Eden, Clarence and Hamburg- they all had seven member boards, so I’m comfortable with that possibility here.”

Also announced this week was that district enrollment has increased by 23 students this year, George said, bringing Southwestern’s student body up to 1,512.

“We like to keep a close eye on that number,” he said. “Mainly because of staffing and programing implications, but I believe those 23 students are spread out among all 14 different grade levels. Class sizes won’t be noticeably effected and we’re holding our own.”

The board of education also approved declaring the high school’s broken public address system an emergency, allowing the district to act quickly in fixing the system.

“This year we discovered our high school PA system was not working,” George said. “We considered that a health and safety concern so we had the board declare that an emergency, meaning we can go out very quickly and get it repaired. It allows us to kind of bypass some of our purchasing procedures.”

The broken system is in need of a new circuit board, George said, which will come at a cost of $23,000 to the district.

“It’s pretty expensive,” he added. “We’re talking about getting it fixed within the next two weeks.”

The board of education also set up committees to continue last year’s work on furthering shared services with neighboring districts and also facilities planning, and the district’s four strategic planning committees were announced as well.

“The SPCs consist of faculty, staff, board members and community members,” George said. “They work on enhancing student achievement, improving technology and communications throughout the district and there is also a committee on finances and one on building and grounds. They’re going to be developing goals for this year and reporting to the board on their progress in those areas.”

Also announced was that the Southwestern swim team’s coaching staff will consist of two co-coaches this year- one to focus on swimming and one on diving.

“We had two head coaches resign from the district this year,” George said. “One because he secured employment in another district and the second because he decided to take the position of co-coach on the swimming team as opposed to head coach, which has created a better coaching system for the team.”

SWCS May Reduce School Board

District Discusses Possibility Of Dropping From Nine To Seven Members

August 12, 2011  By Chad Gustafson (cgustafson@post-journal.com) Save | Post a comment |

The Southwestern Central School District Board of Education is discussing the possibility of downsizing the board from nine seats to seven.

“This year especially we had a good number of seats open, and not enough people filed petitions,” said Daniel George, superintendent. “So in this case, we had to rely on several write-in candidates and last month one board member asked for information concerning downsizing. They’re thinking there just wasn’t enough interest at the last election, so maybe we should look at a seven-member board.”

The board’s newest addition, Lynne Gruell, was sworn in this week to finish out the term of Carl Scarpino, who resigned a year before his term was up. Scarpino was the board’s second resignation in one year with Stephen DeJoseph resigning last fall.

The board asked Gruell to fill the vacant ninth seat given that she had a “high number of write-ins this past May,” according to George, and she will serve throughout the 2011-12 school year.

George added that several other districts he has worked for in the past operated with seven-seat boards, and he does not believe the board would suffer from such a reduction.

“This is the first nine-seat board I’ve worked with,” George said. “I don’t see it making a big difference.”

If the board approves its decision to downsize, it will be voted on by the public in May.

George added that the board also voted against the Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency’s payment-in-lieu-of-tax agreement with Widewaters Construction, the company in charge of renovating the Lakewood Village Center Plaza to accommodate retail businesses T.J. Maxx and Michael’s, since Quality Markets closed down in April 2010.

The agreement, which includes a sales-tax exemption on construction materials along with a 10 year freeze on the property’s current assessment of $3.5 million, stands to save Widewaters roughly $560,000 over the next 10 years.

“It’s hard to say just one reason the board voted the PILOT down,” George said. “Different members had different thoughts but they were uncomfortable giving a tax break to the developer, causing the tax payers to bare the burden.”

According to George, the agreement requires approval from the county, the town of Busti, the village of Lakewood and the Southwestern Central School District, though he could not say how the district’s vote will affect the agreement.

“I really don’t know what happens next,” George said. “We took the vote, it came up negative and I don’t know who we’ll be hearing from next.”

Resignations pad pockets

July 31, 2011  The OBSERVER Save | Comments (2) | Post a comment

Two resignations accepted by local school districts this month have put the spotlight on the misuse of public funds.

At Cassadaga Valley schools, right, an audit done by Bahgat & Laurito-Bahgat exposed serious problems in the transportation department. Parts purchased for vehicles not owned by the district as well as shorter than documented bus runs led to the resignation of Jason Farnham, department supervisor.

“I believe that the decision to do an audit of the transportation department came last fall,” said S. Carl Perry of the district’s audit committee. “It was part of the internal audit process. We (the audit committee) look at an aspect of the district to help us ensure that the taxpayers interests are protected.”

While transportation parts and schedules were spotlighted in Cassadaga Valley, it was a settlement that resembled a Cadillac in Westfield.

In a resignation agreement, which had the blessing of the district’s board and former school chief Mark Sissel, a payout of more than $113,000 went to Sissel as well as additional health insurance benefits for the coming two years.

As part of the separation, Sissel’s last day at the district was in early July though he maintains employment through the end of August.

Through all the upheaval, we applaud the return of Peggy Sauer, who brings experience and respectability to the position on an interim basis.

Sissel, however, turned in false mileage reports and receipts for Christmas toys, which the district reimbursed.

We hope he has paid back that money to district taxpayers, which really is only a drop in the bucket when compared to what the former superintendent has walked away with in his separation deal.

An agreement, that even signed, seems dishonest to taxpayers

Westfield Parts Ways With Superintendent

July 19, 2011

By Michael Rukavina (editorial@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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WESTFIELD?- The Westfield Academy and Central School District will be paying outgoing superintendent Mark Sissel an amount of $113,627.

The lump sum of money, according to the agreement and mutual release between the district and Sissel, is to be paid no later than Sept. 30.

During the Westfield Board of Education meeting, the board approved the agreement of mutual release and the resignation of Superintendent Mark Sissel. At that time, board President Marie Edwards refrained from speaking about the details of the agreement.

“The board and Mr. Sissel have arrived at a mutual understanding that it is in the best interests of the district and Mr. Sissel that the aforesaid employment agreement, as amended, and Mr. Sissel’s employment with the district be terminated effective Aug. 31, 2011, subject to certain terms and conditions,” the agreement states.

The agreement continues to say, Sissel shall receive the following to which he would have been entitled by the existing employment agreement, as amended:

“Mr. Sissel shall be paid, no later than Sept. 30, 2011, the sum of $113,667, less required and applicable deductions including for example, payroll taxes and retirement system contributions,” the agreement reads. “Sissel will be liable for any and all federal, state and local tax liability that may result in connection with this payment.”

Sissel submitted his letter of resignation, which simply stated, “Ladies and Gentlemen: I hereby resign from any and all appointments to employment with the Westfield Academy and Central School District effective Aug. 31, 2011,” on July 5, the day the board approved the agreement.

Although his resignation does not take effect until Aug. 31, according to the agreement, Sissel will not occupy the office of the superintendent and will not be obligated or attempt to perform the duties of Superintendent of Schools for the district except for four work days in July and five work days in August. During the work days from July 1 through Aug. 31, Sissel will be using available accrued vacation and/or personal leave, according to the agreement.

One of the stipulations, however, will spill over into 2012 school year and that is an agreement for the district to pay Sissel’s health insurance.

“The health insurance coverage provided to the superintendent pursuant to his employment agreement shall be continued through and including June 30, 2012,” the agreement states. “The district shall be responsible for 95 percent of the premium cost of such coverage and the superintendent shall be responsible for 5 percent of the premium cost of such coverage.”

According to the New York State Department of Education website, the position of superintendent at Westfield received $25,679 in benefits for the 2011-2012 school year.

The board also agreed to provide legal counsel for, and to indemnify the superintendent against uninsured financial loss from, a claim, demand, suit or judgment arising out of the exercise of his powers, the performance of his duties, or actions taken at the direction of the board, during the term of his employment.

SWCS Swears In Board Members

District Still Has One Position Left To Fill

July 14, 2011

By Chad Gustafson (cgustafson@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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The Southwestern Central School District Board of Education is officially two seats closer to having its traditional nine-member board full once again.

New members Kurt Gustafson and David Turnbull were sworn in during Tuesday’s meeting, and according to Timothy Hollern, board president, it is now time to begin work filling the ninth seat, left vacant by Carl Scarpino earlier this school year.

“We need to decide how we’re going to go about this process,” Hollern said, and while a motion has yet to be passed, it is likely that the board will attempt to bring on the fourth-most written in candidate from this year’s ballots. All five new seats aside from Turnbull’s were filled via write-ins.

The board unanimously voted in this year’s president, once again Timothy Hollern, as well as its vice president, James Butler.

It was also announced Tuesday that Jill Muntz has taken the position of director of school health services for the 2011-12 school year, and that the district is still seeking a new registered nurse for the elementary school now that Virginia Swanson has resigned.

“It is not a requirement that we fill this position,” said Daniel George, district superintendent, “but I strongly recommend that we do so,” adding that the benefits of having the position filled far outweighs the district’s other option of stretching the responsibilities of its current medical professionals.

 

 

‘Regional’ plan still a merger

June 26, 2011  The OBSERVER Save | Comments (14) | Post a comment |

Approval by the state Senate for a regional high school is another small step toward improving future educational opportunities for students of area districts.

But there are other huge hurdles facing the plan besides just the state Assembly and the governor. That big hurdle is the proud and longtime residents of rural districts who have shunned mergers in the past.

How in the world do we in Chautauqua County continue to justify 18 school districts in a county with a population of 134,000 people? Some do so by continuously fooling ourselves that we will lose an identity if we merge or consolidate.

If you take away the county’s two cities and school districts – Dunkirk and Jamestown – we have 16 school districts serving 92,000 residents, or one school district for every 5,740 people.

A regional high school, which apparently has plenty of support now from some school boards and rural residents, is still a consolidation. It means an identity will be lost.

Since 1995, however, no one has been willing to lose that identity. And while this newspaper will promote any idea that encourages better educational opportunities that are delivered more efficiently, we are just not certain whether residents will be on board with a regional high school.

Our thanks to state Sen. Catharine Young for her work on the measure. Let’s hope residents continue to clamor for this to happen.

But let’s not forget one other thing in the merger votes we have seen in the past: just because residents get out and vote, it does not mean their “local” decision brings the best result possible for all involved.

Schumer Proposes SUNY?Grant

JCC?Among Schools To?Get Job?Training Money

July 14, 2011

By Chad Gustafson (cgustafson@post-journal.com) , The Post-Journal

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According to U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., New York state needs “job producing community colleges,” and he’s supporting a consortium of 30 SUNY schools that feel the same way.

“Far too many people are out of work, and yet certain industries are starved for specifically trained, high-skilled labor,” Sen. Schumer said in a conference call Wednesday. “We have a variety of companies with problems finding qualified employees, and it’s frustrating.”

To combat those problems, he said he is supporting the SUNY Alliance, a consortium of 30 SUNY schools throughout the state, including Jamestown Community College, that has applied for $50 million dollars in funding under the U.S. Department of Labor’s Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grants Program (TAACCCT) to be shared throughout the consortium.

According to Sen. Schumer, the grant will allow schools to partner directly with industries that are thriving within those schools’ service areas in order to create graduate and certificate programs tailored to those industries.

Doing so will improve the retention rates of graduates, assist those who have been laid off successfully re-enter the workforce and ultimately boost employment rates throughout New York, he said.

“In the Capitol region, for example, six schools will train an initial 1,338 workers in the field of nanotechnology, three institutions in the Hudson Valley will train an initial 100 workers in biosciences that are booming in that region … and in Western New York, three institutions will train an initial 678 workers in advanced manufacturing, health care and hospitality,” he said.

He added that such an approach to creating marketable workers is a proven success and will benefit thousands of students for years after the programs are initiated.

“The Finger Lakes Community College, for example, has invested in a viticulture program,” he said. “Wineries in that area are booming right now, and all students from the program’s first year have now graduated and because of the skills they learned in the program every one of them has a job. … So I’m bringing a major push to get (U.S. Department of Labor) Secretary Hilda Solis to approve SUNY’s labor application to replicate the success we saw in the Finger Lakes.”

He added that while tailoring programs to meet the needs of local industries is not new to SUNY schools, often tim