WESTFIELD - Thanks to an agreement with the Westfield Teacher's Association, the school district will be able to use the approximately $106,000 savings to restore 1.5 full time equivalent positions slated for the chopping block.
Immediately upon the start of its meeting on Monday, March 26, the Westfield Academy and Central School, the board immediately went into executive session to discuss collective negotiations and the employment history of a particular individual. Upon its return, interim superintendent Margaret Sauer made the announcement the WTA had voted to freeze salaries and co-curricular and athletic stipends for one year. It also extends the WTA's contract with the district for an additional year in order to make this possible.
"The teacher's association and I have been meeting and we have been able to come to an agreement that is going to go before the board tonight," Sauer said. "We're very grateful. ... As a result of this generous offer ... we will be able to restore some of our positions for next year."
Photo by Jenna Loughlin
Westfield Academy and Central School Interim Superintendent Margaret Sauer, left, updates the school board and the audience on Monday, March 26 about the restorations to the budget due to an agreement between the district and the Westfield Teacher’s Association which will save the district over $100,000. Seated from left to right are Elementary Principal Paula Troutman, Secondary Principal Ivana Hite and Business Manager and District Clerk Alan Holbrook.
Sauer acknowledged WTA president Karen Belcher, who was in the audience.
"Every teacher within our school cares for the students and community they serve," Belcher was quoted in a press release about the concessions. "We love our jobs and are willing to make sacrifices to keep the program within Westfield strong."
The three positions - all 0.5 FTE -will be a physical education teacher, a career and technical teacher and a social studies teacher. In addition, though not a part of the WTA generated savings, the administration also recommended restoring the 0.5 FTE school nurse position. However, Sauer pointed out there will be no flexibility in the budget by making these changes unless more reductions are made or WACS chooses to exceed the tap cap limit, or voter approved threshold.
There was more positive budget news as well, this time in athletic offerings. Athletic Director Jake Hitchcock reported to the board that Brocton Central School will be sending its soccer players, both boys and girls, to Westfield, adding around $5,200 to the athletic budget. As a result, Hitchcock said this money would go towards restoring jayvee girls' volleyball. It was identified by coaches as the best option to restore because it is not available other places in the community, Sauer said.
The combining of WACS and BCS soccer bump the Wolverines up from Class C to Class B, which also means the modified teams will become jayvee teams in order to match the programs of other schools in the new class. Hitchcock said he has spoken to the coaches and they are comfortable with the change.
Before it came time to vote on the budget, the board was first given the option of proposing any amendments to the budget as presented, but none were. There was also an opportunity for public comment before the budget vote. Only Roger Jopek, who had been a member of the Ad Hoc Strategic Planning Committee, made a statement. He compared education to a car driving down the highway of life with the power, interior and exterior representing core subjects of education and necessary staff, sports and arts, music and language respectively. His point was the unity of these three aspects is necessary for preparing students for, "the freeway of life."
"The reality is we agreed we needed to scale back because we are facing tough times with this year's budget and for the next year," Jopek said. "We are still making this journey, just at a slower pace and in a condition we do not want or like.
"In fairness we all are to suffer together in these difficult days," he said. "But all is not lost. We need to continue to be proactive and to think outside the box for solutions."
When it came time to vote, the teacher's contract amendment, the combined athletic teams and the budget totaling $13,852,872 were all approved by the board without discussion by 8-0 votes.
In his board commentary, board member Mark Winslow commended and thanked those who worked to create this year's budget. Since he came back to the board, he said he believes this is the first year he has seen extreme collaboration, and added he saw tons of hard work with no bias. Multiple board members agreed. Audience member Nancy Jopek also thanked the board during the second public comment for the budget and for taking into account all the recommendations and concerns of the community when making it.
On a different note, board member Timothy Smith announced his resignation from the board. In a letter to Sauer, Smith wrote, "It is with regret that I submit my resignation from the Westfield Academy and Central School Board of Education effective April 22, 2012. It has been an honor to serve on this four over the last four years."
Smith said he feels 7 and 1/2 years serving on the board is long enough and is interested in pursuing other interests. He said he would have stayed until the end of June, but he wanted his seat to be on the May ballot. He made a plea for people who can be committed to run for the school board. While there is no pay, Smith said it can be rewarding.
Smith's resignation means six of the nine board seats up for election in May.
"Six seats is a lot," Smith said. "I'd like to get more than six (candidates). I'd like to make this competitive."
Board President Marie Edwards thanked Smith for his work on the board, especially for his work on committees.
"We really appreciate you helping us out with the superintendent search and everything," Edwards said. "You will be missed."
The deadline for applications to be a candidate for the Board of Education on the May ballot is Monday, April 16. Nominating petitions may be picked up in Holbrook's office, or one can be mailed out to those who call the district at 326-2151 and request it. Petitions must contain the signatures of 25 qualified Westfield School District voters. They are due back no later than 4 p.m. on April 16.
During the action items portion of the meeting, a new business resolution to return $250,000 from the district's Employee Benefit Accrued Liability Reserve Fund to the General Fund, "on the basis of the district's determination that this amount constitutes an initial overfunding of that serve fund," was passed by a 6-2 vote with board members Winslow and Steven Reynolds dissenting. Winslow said his problem with the resolution was he did not believe the transfer was appropriate - that money from the EBALR Fund cannot go back into the General Fund. Sauer responded the resolution was from the school's attorney.
Board member Joy Bodenmiller asked Business Manager and District Clerk Al Holbrook if he felt this resolution was appropriate and Holbrook responded he has no issues with it. Smith noted this appropriation is critical to the budget and wondered if the district should transfer it to a different reserve and then into the General Fund.
"You probably could, but it's the same thing," Holbrook said.
After the discussion, there were ultimately enough votes to carry the resolution.
As far as hearing back from neighboring school districts regarding the possibility of consolidation or merging, Edwards reported Chautauqua Lake Central School and Sherman Central School have both declined the offer. Edwards said CLCS is still holding out for the regional high school option and while Sherman is not interested in consolidation, it is interested in possible shared services. Brocton remains the only district to accept the invitation by WACS and the boards are working to set up a joint meeting for some time this month.
In other business:
the superintendent evaluation for revisions were discussed, but removed from the action items as the board thought it would be better to approve a template rather than one with years and goals specific to that year;
a contract for internal audit services with Bahgat and Laurito-Bahgat for the 2011-12 through 2013-14 at the same rate as the previous five year contract was approved unanimously;
a village-wide letter writing campaign sponsored by the Key Club for soldiers overseas for Memorial Day was approved unanimously;
a hotcake dinner fundraiser at a local fast-food restaurant on March 28 to benefit the varsity softball team was approved unanimously; and
Robert Bova was approved unanimously as an uncertified substitute teacher for the remainder of the 2011-12 school year, effective March 27.