MAYVILLE - Albany's constant new demands and failure to offer constructive relief were the focus of very frank criticism during the Chautauqua Lake Central School District's Board of Education session Wednesday, July 11.
"What is your level of dealing with the idiots at the state level?" Jay Baker, who was re-elected board vice-president at the reorganization meeting which preceded the regular business session, asked.
Baker posed the question after the district's business officer Dave Thomas said, "There's nothing I'm seeing that will change the general trend about the situation of Chautauqua Lake. That trend is gradual decline."
Photo by Dave O’Connor
Jay Baker, newly re-elected vice president of the Chautauqua Lake Central School Board of Education, takes the oath of office during the board’s reorganization meeting Wednesday, July 11.
Thomas made those comments in the midst of a general discussion about the plight of the Chautauqua Lake school district in particular and smaller upstate school districts in general. These districts are forced to institute new programs without receiving state funding to pay for them.
In addition, Principal Beth Olson noted teachers and administrators alike are forced to spend ever-increasing amounts of time dealing with state mandates which often have little to do with a better education for students.
Baker pointed out 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 to even consider legislation which would allow so-called regional schools so smaller districts could fully consolidate to enjoy the advantages of larger student enrollment.
Earlier board meetings have revealed many 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 and newly re-elected board president Jill Scott noted CLCS's monthly enrollment summary counted 799 students at the end of the past school year, the first time it has dropped below 800.
Following the board meeting, a prepared release issued by Superintendent Benjamin Spitzer revealed the school board had approved "an extension to the employment agreement" with district teachers in executive session Wednesday, June 27. Both sides agreed to no pay raises for one year, the statement said.
Teachers will receive so-called "step increases," however, and will make the same contribution to their medical plan as at present.
Spitzer's statement noted 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.
In other business, the board heard what is termed "a first reading" of the district's proposed policy to deal with mild traumatic brain injury, or MTBI, commonly called concussions.
Among other things the policy, "shall require the immediate removal from all athletic activities of any student who has sustained or is believed to have sustained a MTBI."
Some board members asked for more information about the various medical exams and protocols which will be required before a student can resume athletic or other school activities.