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Two board members, one administrator planning to retire

A changing of the guard is coming at Frontier Central Schools, with two veteran board members not seeking re-election and the district's assistant superintendent for business retiring.

Board Vice President Stanley Figiel, who has served on the board for 39 years in various capacities, including 18 years as board president and 12 as its vice president, will leave the School Board when his term expires at the end of this school year.

In addition, board President Michael Comerford, who is finishing his 15th year on the board, also announced he will not run for re-election.

Their decisions left an open field for new candidates Patrick T. Boyle, general manager of information services for National Fuel Gas Distribution Corp. and a member of the school district's audit committee, and Thomas M. Best Jr. to automatically win election to the two open seats for five-year terms.

On the administrative front, Richard A. Binner, assistant superintendent for business, is retiring Sept. 4 after 16 years in the post.

The board Tuesday accepted Binner's retirement and praised his performance and commitment to the district. Binner currently earns $138,455 a year. "Mr. Binner is second to none in his knowledge of school budgets," Superintendent James Bodziak said, praising Binner's work ethic and eye for detail.

The board changes come at a pivotal time in the district, since voters on May 15 will not only vote on the new budget proposal, but also on a proposition to downsize the nine-member board to seven members.

Several board members expressed their opinions on the upcoming downsizing vote. Board member Martin Lalka, who recently questioned why two current board members had signed the petition for downsizing, defended his continued questioning of why the board should be downsized at a time when there also is a proposition on the ballot to add a student representative to the board, who would be a nonvoting member.

Board member Lynn Burke noted that many of the motions now get approved unanimously but that there's also merit to having split votes on a smaller board, which would reflect differing opinions and debate.

"Many times our differences are often our strengths," said board member Janet MacGregor-Plarr.

In announcing his plan to retire, Figiel read a nearly three-page statement, laced with emotion, and noted that his decision came down to focusing on his family, especially his wife, Pat, of 55 years, who is battling cancer and is in treatment.

"Frontier has the best of everything -- dedicated teachers and support staff, a supportive Board of Education and administration, motivated students and parents as our partners," Figiel said.

Figiel, a Frontier alumni and whose two children went through the district, said it has been an honor to serve for 39 years on the board. He said he initially ran to help children receive "the best education possible."

"I still have the passion and truly appreciate having the good luck to be associated with so many fine people and consider myself privileged to have so many outstanding working relationships throughout the years."

Comerford, who has served a total of four years as board president, said he also is seeking more family time, since his four children and seven grandchildren live out of state.

The board also awarded a $3.26 million contract to Window Specialist for the first phase of the district's $29.75 million capital project. The board additionally awarded a $977,501 contract to S&L Roofing and Sheetmetal for the first phase of the project for roofing construction. Also awarded was a $1.02 million contract to Highland Masonry and Restoration for masonry construction.