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After 10 months of debate, the Lockport School Board on Wednesday hired an 11th school psychologist to help assist students, especially special-education students. It also hired a Special Education Committee chairman.

The board voted, 6-2, to hire Lynn M. Witt as a new school psychologist at a $40,629 annual salary. Board members Renee A. Knight and Beverly P. McDonough voted no.

It voted, 5-3, to hire Robert LiPuma as the Special Education Committee chairman at a $40,629 salary. Knight, McDonough and Kevin Duffy voted no.

Action came after board President W. Keith McNall said the board had been debating the need for 11 school psychologists since February and should make a decision.

"This has gone on way too long. It started 10 months ago and we've talked about it at length 16 times," not including Wednesday.

McDonough said she opposed the hiring because the district has shrunk by 1,000 students since the early 1990s, when the district employed six psychologists.

Now it has fewer students and almost twice as many psychologists. She said she felt the cost to district taxpayers was not justified in a struggling economy.

Knight asked the district to explore the possibility of contracting the work out, using Niagara County Social Services Department to provide the service or obtaining services through the Orleans-Niagara Board of Cooperative Educational Services on an as-needed basis.

Knight said that was a less expensive approach compared with hiring a full-time person.

She also suggested reorganizing the district workload so the psychologists have more time to get their work done by taking away some of their non-essential responsibilities.

In response to Knight's suggestions of contracting the work out, McKnall said the district obtained a legal opinion that stated the board could run into legal problems with the state Education Department and the Lockport Teachers Association if it tried to contract out work that belongs to the union.


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