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June 1, 2020 - 2:06pm

Batavia board of education meeting agenda specifies positions targeted for termination, abolishment

The agenda for Tuesday night’s Batavia City School District Board of Education meeting sheds more light on the jobs earmarked for termination or abolishment under the 2020-21 budget,

According to the agenda of the meeting, which can be viewed on the BOE website’s YouTube channel, the following positions are being terminated, effective July 1:

-- Five elementary teachers (who worked at either Jackson Primary School or Batavia Middle School);
-- A special education teacher (middle school);
-- A reading teacher (middle school).

Additionally, numerous positions will be abolished. They are:

-- Coordinator of assessment and instruction (administration);
-- Instructional technology coordinator (administration);
-- Deputy school district treasurer (district-wide);
-- Math teacher, science teacher and social studies teacher (high school);
-- Half-time music teacher (high school);
-- Library media specialist (middle school);
-- Reading teacher (middle school);
-- Special education teacher (middle school) and special education teacher (high school);
-- Nine elementary teachers (six at Jackson, two at John Kennedy Elementary and one at middle school);
-- Clerk-typist (middle school);
-- Building maintenance worker (middle school).

Personnel cuts were approved by the board of education at its April 28th meeting in order to close a significant gap in a $51.4 million budget. Staff reductions and other cost-saving measures enabled the board to present a budget with no property tax rate increase.

Previously, Business Administrator Scott Rozanski reported that 12.5 positions were reduced through retirements and resignations, with 10 more full-time-equivalents cut via long-term substitute assignments ending June 30.

Board of Education President Patrick Burk today said he thinks this action will have minimal impact upon students.

“We’ve done this with the cooperation of our building leaders and principals and we are working very hard to make sure that the impact on students is minimal. I believe that it will be,” he said. “All we can do now is plan and see what is going to be happening for the upcoming year – and all that’s up in the air still. We’ll find out what the actual impact is as time goes on.”

Burk said that the process has been very difficult as well as “sad and nerve-wracking.”

“I’m a big supporter of our staff as people will tell you,” he said. “I think we have an excellent staff. We do a great job of hiring. We do a fantastic job with making sure students are cared for. Anytime that things are interrupted for any reason it’s a very sad situation.”

Voting on the budget is taking place by absentee paper balloting.

Absentee ballots must be returned by mail no later than 5 p.m. on June 9 to the Office of the District Clerk at Batavia High School Administrative Offices, 260 State St., Batavia, NY 14020. Any absentee ballot received after 5 p.m. on June 9 will not be considered.

When asked if he was concerned about the reduction of so many elementary teaching positions, Burk explained that decreased enrollment in the younger grades played some part of that decision.

 “I do know that two or three of those were because of enrollment. If we don’t have the enrollment, we can’t maintain the number of sections we have in a specific grade,” he said. “All people in all positions who work for this district are very important to me, and I think that that message could be lost. My hope is that eventually we will have some sort of rebound and not all the negative that seems to be out there – with what could be coming down the road.”

Burk responded to a question about the cost per pupil by stating that it’s not a true assessment of a district’s effectiveness. He said the district’s total enrollment (Universal Pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade) is around 2,400 students.

“I know that we’re much lower than many other small city schools, and obviously, in some cases we might be a little bit higher, but it’s not a good practice to really compare from that level because a lot of it is dependent on what has to be made available in the district,” he said.

He said a particular small city school has less students than Batavia, but a larger budget because it services a “tremendous number of students with special needs – especially English language learners.”

“So, right there you’re bringing in a tremendous amount of people to work and develop language skills, plus special ed and more. Plus, when you’re in a situation like that, it’s over every grade – not just one grade that you have to add someone to,” he said.

Burk said Batavia supports a wide variety of educational programs at all grade levels, including elementary music and art.

“Kindergarten isn’t even mandated in New York State; we offer full-day kindergarten,” he said. “There are a lot of things that are really comparing apples to oranges unless you’re looking at the services that are provided.”

Burk also commented on last week’s vote by the Batavia Teachers’ Association to reject a proposal by administration to change the school day starting and ending times. If it had passed, the district would have realized an additional $200,000 in savings that were not part of the 2020-21 budget.

“If the staff and the families are not in favor of the proposal …that’s certainly understandable," he said. "It was done in a way to make sure that we can keep everything going properly for our kids – and everything’s going to same this year anyway. I’m fine with the vote, and I thank them for putting it to a vote. It’s pretty much what I expected.”

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