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SCHOOL BOARD BOGS DOWN, FAILS TO COMPLETE AGENDA

The Orchard Park School Board meeting Tuesday night stalled during an extended session of public comment where parents and residents voiced concerns on a variety of emotional issues, from Odyssey of the Mind, to the bus garage and the "forced" resignation of a special education teacher.

Eventually, the board adjourned the public meeting for an executive session to discuss the resignation of the teacher, Linda Long, without completing the remainder of their agenda.

Debbie Lathrop, president of the Odyssey of the Mind Booster Club, asked the board to fund expenses for transporting props and travel expenses for coaches whose teams would attend the World level of the competition in Iowa.

Last year, the board set a policy stating it no longer would fund extracurricular activities not included in the budget.

"I'm not asking you to open a closed issue," Mrs. Lathrop said. "The issue came up in the spring of 1995, and at that time it was tabled for discussion in the fall, and never brought up again."

"I would be more than willing to pay for the transport of the props, I think that is our responsibility," said Marlene Gonzalez, board president. "However, my son is in OM, and my husband is a coach, and we understood that if the team went to Worlds, we would have to undertake the costs.

"Being a board member and understanding the costs, I don't feel that's an expense that can be taken on by the district."

A resolution to budget about $5,000, the cost of sending seven coaches and the props to the competition this year, passed, 5-2, with Mrs. Gonzalez and Patrick Byrne voting no. The board also said it would consider adding a line to the upcoming budget for Odyssey of the Mind expenses.

John Patterson, the parent of a special education child at Eggert Elementary School and candidate for the school board, opposed accepting what he called the "forced" resignation of Mrs. Long, his child's teacher.

"In Linda's class, my daughter excelled academically and emotionally," he said. "She (Mrs. Long) has a tremendous amount of support in the community -- and has teachers who support her."

His plea was followed by those of a half dozen parents whose children are in Mrs. Long's seven-member classroom. Patterson did not say why he believed Mrs. Long was being "forced" to resign.

Several residents of Thorn and South Lincoln avenues spoke against a proposal to build a larger parking lot at the bus garage, using a strip of school land now part of a park behind the Middle School.

"I don't believe the school buses should be kept there -- but that's a whole other issue," said Michael Stebick of South Lincoln Avenue, who noted that Little League teams use the park.

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