WESTFIELD — Westfield Academy and Central School’s Board of Education 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 tax payers 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.”
Anyone interested in being considered for the board opening should refer to the article on Page 5 of this paper for further information on the subject.
One of the main topics of conversation at the meeting on Monday, Sept. 26 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. Board member Joy 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.
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