The Frontier School Board continues to face budget pain as it gets pressure from some union representatives and staff to reinstate positions cut as part of its $73.2 million budget.
The board was poised, under its Tuesday night meeting agenda, to restore nine positions: a registered nurse at the Middle School, two teacher aides, five school lunch monitors and one grounds worker. But in the end, the board reinstated just two positions.
In 6-3 votes, the board restored the nurse at the Middle School, giving the school two nurses, and reinstated the grounds worker. Opposed were School Board President Janet MacGregor Plarr and board members Larry Albert and Lynn Szalkowski.
But when it came to reinstating two teacher aides and five lunch monitors, both measures failed in 5-4 votes. The nurse‘s salary is $38,000; the groundskeeper is paid $23,000.
The district has been under intense scrutiny by some of its teachers and support staff for the cuts it made to balance the 2013-14 budget – 24.8 full-time equivalent teachers and staff. The board had been weighing how to spend an additional $500,000 from its reserve fund, with the hope of restoring some positions.
Three top-level administrators and Superintendent James Bodziak were involved in proposed agreements for the upcoming year, but the group could not finalize them. Bodziak pulled them from the agenda at the start of the board meeting.
No mention was made Tuesday of reading specialists whose positions have been cut and who had pleaded that their jobs also be restored.
Plarr said it is premature for the district to just start reinstating numerous positions. “I cannot favor reinstating any positions. All four elementary schools we’re watching the kindergarten enrollment, and a fourth grade and sections of English language arts and social studies at the high school,” she said. “We need the whole pizza in front of us, not just a slice of pizza.”
Albert said he intended to vote “no” on many of the job reinstatement resolutions. “It’s not because I don’t value these positions, but it is an inappropriate time to be piece-mealing positions back. We need a clearer Frontier financial picture,” he said.
Outgoing board member Jeremey Rosen was upset with the staff cuts. “We lost 32 people without retirements last year and cut another 20 this year,” he said, voicing support for more lunch monitors. “This is health and safety. This is the right thing to do, and I’m supporting it.”
Bodziak warned that any jobs that are restored “cost us money” and that the financial forecast for districts isn’t getting better in the next couple of years.
Denise Lawandus, a district resident, was fed up with the district’s expenses and told the board so.
“I’m really tired of the taxes going up every year,” she said. “The administration needs to change. Expenses need to be reduced, including pensions and medical expenses. And nobody’s even talking about it, because you’re all sitting up at that table.”
Lawandus said she expects Frontier to start seriously addressing fiscal issues, instead of cutting student programs and thereby “holding them hostage.”
A Cloverbank Elementary lunch monitor said she was shocked that the monitors were not reinstated, saying there were health and safety risks to having to make do with so few.
The board did make a Middle School French teacher full time and reduced a home economics teacher at the Middle School to part time, Bodziak said.