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REGISTER-STAR ARTICLE RE: SCHOOL BOARD VOTE 7/17-2012

School board restores seven reduced positions

By John Mason
Hudson-Catskill Newspapers
Wednesday, July 18, 2012 2:07 AM EDT
The Germantown Central School District Board of Education voted Tuesday against abolishing seven partial positions. The seven cuts had been part of the budget that was passed by voters June 19.The budget had included the following cuts:

  •  A half-time music position.
  •  A .3 full-time-equivalent art position.
  •  Four .2 FTE positions, in home economics, secondary social studies, secondary English and secondary mathematics.
  •  A .1 FTE secondary science position.

The board restored all of them, a total of 1.7 full-time-equivalent positions.

Amelia Gallagher, the head of guidance for the district, went through all the positions, suggesting what would be done with the restored positions.

For instance, electives might be added in English, music and science; Social Studies 7 might be split into two classes to reduce the current 31-student section; a college algebra section could be added; and with the art position, a yearbook class could be restored.

Board member Lyn Clum asked where the money for the restored positions would come from.

Superintendent Patrick Gabriel said there was enough money in salaries and fringe benefits to cover it.

Board President Eric Mortenson told the Register-Star the board was given an estimate of $120,000.

Board member Brittany DuFresne said in her opinion, “We’re all on the same page — we would bring them all back if we could. But I don’t feel enough stress is put on the fact that we present this all for months, and everyone came to the same conclusion, that this was best.”

“I feel as strongly as Brittany does,” said Clum. “We put the budget out, it was voted on, it passed and that’s what we should go with.”

Board member Theresa Repko directed her comments to Gabriel.

“At no time did you say we can dip from here, dip from there,” she said. “At some point we’re gong to have to say we can’t dip anymore. I think this is the wrong choice.”

Board member Ralph DelPozzo disagreed.

“Faydra (board member Geraghty) knocked on 200 doors,” he said. “The vast majority didn’t like the tax increase, but many didn’t like the (staff) cuts, either. You’re not going to have any school left.”

“But do we have the money?” asked DuFresne. “If Mr. Gabriel felt it was something we could use, we would have known months ago.”

“Why are we putting money in the budget for things (we’re not going to need)?” Mortenson said. “We all want the same things, but believe there are different ways of getting there.”

Voting against the cuts were Mortenson, Vice President Ron Moore, DelPozzo and Geraghty.

Board members Theresa Repko and Lyn Clum voted in favor of making the cuts. Brittany DuFresne abstained; it was objected that she had seconded the motion.

Board Attorney Julie Shaw said she didn’t know if it was OK for DuFresne to do this, and DuFresne offered to change her vote to a yes.

DelPozzo’s son Michael is a Germantown art teacher and one of the teachers who was facing a reduction in hours that was restored by the vote.

Ralph DelPozzo, who is also the town assessor, told the Register-Star he didn’t have to recuse himself because it was a blanket vote, for several positions, not just one.

“There’s no duty for a board member to recuse themselves to act upon abolition,” said Shaw. Board members, she said, are not supposed to think about people, but positions.

“What positions can you afford to have less of and still be supportive of the education you want to have for your children,” she said. “A board member has a duty to vote on things that come before them.”

Mortenson told the Register-Star the district would still be protected even though money would be coming out of a backup fund.

“I believe we are protected because the budget is based on a worst-case scenario,” he said. “There was a disagreement on the board about how much you’d need to be safe.”

Mortenson said Moore was the driving force in restoring the cuts.

“Ron was very firm in not cutting programs from the school,” he said.

The idea was discussed at the reorganizational meeting. Since Faydra Geraghty was a new member and needed time to study the issue, a special meeting was scheduled for the vote.

“My stance is we put this to the public, we should stick with it,” DuFresne told the Register-Star. “Restore the positions next year. It’s wrong to turn around now and say this is what we’re going to do.”

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