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WACS debates policy, hears audit report

December 21, 2011
WESTFIELD — Updating a policy manual can be a long and laborious process.

It is a process the Westfield Academy and Central School Board of Education is tackling.

At its meeting on Monday, Nov. 28, the board held the first reading of the third draft of section 2, 3 and 4 in the Board Policy Manual.

While most of the issues discussed dealt with minor wording issues, board member Mark Winslow had a larger issue for policy 3210 which refers to visitors having to sign in when entering the building, but offers an exception because, in reality, parents to drop students off without always having to do so.

“We used to be able to (use only one door),” Winslow said. “We don’t have more children.”

Board vice president Tony Pisicoli said, in this case, the practical side of the issue needs to be looked at, not just the letter of the law.

“It’s just simply not practical to ask all of those parents to walk all the way around and sign in at the reception desk,” Pisicoli said. “It’s just not gonna happen.”

Interim Superintendent Margaret Sauer said she shared Winslow’s concern, that while it makes life easier for some, it does not necessarily make the school as secure. She noted that after the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado, the police advised WACS to only have one entrance, but it was inconvenient and parents complained.

Although the policy changes were not up for a vote as it was only the first reading, Winslow stated if the exception remains in the policy he would vote against it when the time came. Pisicoli said he felt the opposite, that if the exception were not a part of the policy, he would vote nay.

Board member Joy Bodenmiller offered a few ideas or suggestions to compromise such as having a sign in at the second entrance. Steven Reynolds brainstormed the possibility ID cards students could swipe to get in or out of the building, but Sauer brought up not wanting to give students access to the building at any time.

When the general question was asked, no one on the board or any of the administrators could think of any issues arising specifically from having a second entrance available for dropping off and picking up students.

Also, the board heard a presentation on an independent audit report for the year which ended June 30, 2011 by Michael A. Corey, a certified public accountant out of Jamestown. According to Corey, Westfield’s books are in good shape and well maintained.

“Pretty much, things were steady year to year,” from 2009-10 to 2010-11, he said.

The purpose of his audit was to, “determine the nature, timing and extent of the auditing procedures necessary for expressing an opinion on the District’s financial statements,” Corey said in his management letter to the board. The letter went on to say, “My study and evaluation was more limited than would be necessary to express an opinion of the system on internal accounting control taken as a hole.”

The biggest change, Corey noted, was a decrease of $500,000 in state aid from the 2009-10 school year during 2010-11, resulting in less revenue and thus a budget gap even though there was approximately $60,000 less in expenses.

Though Corey found nothing of serious concern during his audit, he did have two recommendations for the district. One regarded the undesignated fund balance, which had a balance of $579,248, or 4.1 percent, at June 30, 2011. State law permits 4 percent of the subsequent year’s budget be retained and Westfield’s balance was just below the 4 percent limit, but ended up increasing due to an auditor adjustment. This was also the case the previous year when Westfield had $672,560 in its undesignated fund balance on June 30, 2010, a 4.5 percent value. Corey’s recommendation was to give more of a cushion in trying to stay under the 4 percent.

His other recommendation regarded the school lunch fund which as run a deficit in both 2009-10 and 2010-11. The deficit in 2009-10 was $74,421 and in 2010-11 was $17,576. Even though Corey noted the improvement, he said if the costs of goods sold could be reduced by 10 percent, it would almost eliminate that deficit.

“You’re going in the right direction,” Corey said.

Earlier on in the meeting, Edwards read a statement in reference to an editorial that ran in both the OBSERVER and Westfield Republican regarding former Westfield superintendent Mark Sissel’s new position as interim superintendent for a district in Watertown, N.Y.

“The recent (editorial) printed in the Evening Observer and Thursday’s Westfield Republican entitled ‘Former WACS Super Moving on in Carthage’ was the paper’s opinion about an article from another newspaper, The Watertown Daily,” Edwards statement read. “However, neither newspaper contacted me personally and now I feel it is important to set the record straight.

“I spoke briefly to Carthage’s School Board President, Michael Chevier, he in turn, talked to the paper about his district’s hiring of Mark Sissel. The local Watertown paper then printed an article titled ‘Carthage’s New Hire.’

“The Watertown Daily News article did not clarify the source of the information gained by Mr. Chevier, but it implied that the information was attained from my conversation with him, when in fact, it was not. In order to clarify the facts, I addressed a letter to the Carthage Board of Education in which I requested a retraction of the inaccurate information.”

In response to Westfield’s query about sharing superintendents, the Boards of Education for Ripley, Chautauqua Lake and Brocton all responded to Westfield’s request, but all three were consistent in that now is not the right time to share that position between districts.

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