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SCHOOL CHIEF REGRETS MISCUE ON PRE-K IN LACKAWANNA

Lackawanna school officials issued an apology Wednesday to parents who were given the mistaken impression the district would start a full-day prekindergarten program this fall.

Although a letter to 18 interested parents said the program was "pending board approval," one parent, who took her daughter out of day care in anticipation of the program and now can't get her back in, said she was told it was "99.9 percent" certain the program would be in operation.

"They all lied to me," Nicole Colello said following a meeting with the Board of Education. "I've been getting the runaround. I don't know what I'm going to do now."

She said she's struggling to find baby sitters for her 4-year-old daughter.

Superintendent Nellie B. King apologized for a letter sent by the prekindergarten director, saying it never should have been mailed out.

Board President Kenneth Motyka said, "I apologize also. But we just can't afford to keep the program (while) on a contingency budget."

Although state funds would have covered all or most of the program, known as Universal Pre-K, for this year, the district would have to pick up the cost in succeeding years.

Patricia McQuillen, prekindergarten director, agreed she had felt the board would approve the program but said later she doesn't feel the parents were misled.

"There is some confusion, but I think it's pretty much straightened out now," she said.

Board member Diane Kozak defended Mrs. McQuillen, saying she is being "unfairly blamed for doing what the board told her to do" by determining how much interest there was in the program.

On another matter, Anne C. Spadone, a business teacher who was denied tenure, is fighting the action on three fronts.

Mrs. Spadone, the wife of City Councilman Ronald Spadone, has filed suit in State Supreme Court and has a petition before the state education commissioner challenging the vote.

On July 22, the board voted 3-3, with one abstention, to deny her tenure. She claims that does not constitute a majority vote, but school attorney Carl Morgan said that under state education law, a teacher needs four votes to be granted tenure.

Mrs. Spadone, 48, also has filed a notice of claim that she might take legal action alleging age discrimination.

She claims she was denied tenure was because she and her husband remained neutral in the last School Board election.

On another subject, Sue Murphy, a high school teacher, said it was "unbelievable" the district hired 40 teachers (actually 38) and has no mentoring to help them.

She said teachers should be paid to serve as mentors, not volunteer as Mrs. King suggested.

Ms. Murphy asked why the the district "has money for seven attorneys" but not for a mentoring program.

Mrs. King said she would like to give the new teachers -- actually 38 -- extra support but they are "dynamite teachers" and she feels the district and teachers union can work on a program.

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