Parents, teachers and staff appealed to the Hamburg Central School Board on Tuesday night in a sometimes raucous meeting that saw the board abolish 35 jobs and approve two union contracts and a new superintendent's contract.
None of the board members wanted to make the motions to abolish the jobs, but board President Joan Calkins noted that the cuts had been part of the budget that was approved by voters May 15. "They all knew this in advance of voting on the budget," she said after the meeting.
Only board member Holly Balaya voted against abolishing 21 teaching positions and the jobs of 14 clerks and aides. "How can we vote to abolish these positions if we don't have a plan?" she asked.
Balaya said she expected the administration to address concerns expressed at the meeting by residents who said some special-education students are taking gym class in a hall and a teacher who asked how all the students who want to take technology classes would be accommodated.
"Right now the financial conditions are terrible," board member Diane Reynolds said.
Superintendent Steven A. Achramovitch said some cuts were made in areas where there is an enrollment decline and others might require an increase in class sizes. "Reductions had to be made in areas we did not want to make," he said.
He said it was known during budget discussions that there was the possibility of fewer electives and more study halls.
Balaya said that some class sizes exceeded guidelines this year and that some students are not getting the required amount of gym.
Computer aide Cheryl Schalk spoke about cuts in technology, but her comments echoed the sentiments of employees from others departments at the meeting. "These cuts affect every single student in the district," Schalk said. "These cuts affect every single school."
The board approved contracts with the Hamburg Teacher Aide Association and Local 200, Service Employees International Union. Achramovitch said both unions agreed to a salary freeze with a regular step increase the first year and a half-step increase the second year. Local 200 employees will receive a 2 percent increase in the third year.
The aides' contract runs from Sept. 1, 2011, to Aug. 31, 2013, and the SEIU contract is from July 1, 2011, to June 30, 2014.
Balaya voted against the new superintendent contract, saying she was dissatisfied that there were no plans offered Tuesday night on how to deal with the job cuts.
Calkins said Achramovitch's salary will be frozen at his current $170,000. The contract has some minor changes that will save the district money, including the suspension of a $2,000 annual payment into his health maintenance account.
Board member-elect Sally Stephenson said Achramovitch is overpaid. "If they extend your contract, there's going to be a revolution in this community, because guess what? You're not liked here," she told him.