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STATE REGENT HONORS AN OUTSTANDING TEACHER AND HEAPS PRAISE ON HER SCHOOL DISTRICT

School districts around the state can learn from the programs in the Orchard Park School District, New York State Regent Robert M. Bennett said Tuesday night.

"What you all do here is a great lesson for the rest of the state," Bennett told the Orchard Park School Board, teachers, parents, students and community members.

He attended Tuesday's regular board meeting to make a presentation to Vivian Demers, an Orchard Park teacher who was one of five finalists in the 1997 state Teacher of the Year competition.

Before he spoke, he saw a video of the anti-drug public service commercial produced by the Middle School students and their anti-drug efforts of previous years which included designing and buying a billboard advertisement.

"What you did there is extraordinary," Bennett said. "What you do with your life and how you live your life is just as important as passing a regents exam."

Bennett, who was appointed to the Board of Regents in April 1995, said Orchard Park is about the 35th district in Western New York he has visited. When he finishes his term he hopes to have visited them all, he said.

Bennett, who also is president of the United Way of Buffalo and Erie County, said Education Commissioner Richard P. Mills is a "very active commissioner who believes very much in student's ability to excel."

Bennett presented a certificate to Mrs. Demers, a home and careers teacher at the Middle School, calling teaching "the noblest of all professions."

"Not bad for a little 'home ecie' from Orchard Park," quipped Mrs. Demers after a standing ovation for her achievement.

Teaching is a lifestyle, not a job, she said.

"We didn't go into it to get awards," she said.

Mrs. Demers is a nationally sought speaker on teaching and recently was appointed to the Regents Task Force on Teaching.

Also Tuesday, the board discussed a proposal for a five-year plan for the district.

"It's been a long time since we developed a five-year plan," Superintendent Charles Stoddart said.

He suggested the board consider implementing several five-year plans, in technology, construction and renovation, staff development and meeting regents standards.

"In New York State it's almost impossible to put together a five-year plan," he said, noting that funding and curriculum mandates frequently change.

Board President Richard McKenica commented on several items that have been discussed in the community, including a proposal to buy laptop computers for board members.

That suggestion came about as a way to cut down on the paper generated by the board, he said, noting he is filling a third filing cabinet since he joined the board, he said. He said investigation might determine that the money saved on paper could be used to purchase the computers, but any firm proposal would be reviewed by the finance committee.

McKenica also said a study of the number of administrators and students does not show an increase in administrators as some in the community believe.

In 1977 there were 5,456 students enrolled in the district and 33 administrators employed. Those numbers today are 5,353 students and 20 administrators, he said.

The board also adopted a policy establishing a liaison program, with each trustee functioning as a liaison to a particular school.

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