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BOARD RANKS PRIORITIES FOR SCHOOL YEAR

The Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School Board Wednesday set priorities for the year, agreeing to tackle such issues as full-day kindergarten, expanding bus service and giving the public more say in putting the budget together.

In a 2 1/2 -hour session, trustees winnowed down a list of about 25 possible priorities to five, although they said others might be considered in the course of other business or later in the year.

Items that didn't make the cut included some that have most angered taxpayer groups, such as the extra $2,000 a year, or $100 an hour, that teachers earn for in-service training, the cost of entering contests, the cost of using substitute teachers and the hiring process.

Eleanor Kapsiak of the Ken-Ton Concerned Taxpayers Association said the fact that the board even considered, and may still review, such issues as the cost of staff development and conference travel, is good news.

"I'm hopeful that we're being heard," Ms. Kapsiak said after the meeting.

The chosen priorities are:

Studying whether to institute full-day kindergarten. Ken-Ton is one of few local districts that has a half-day program. Trustee Dan Wiles, the board newcomer who first championed the idea, will head up work on the matter. The first step will be setting up a committee of district officials, parents and community members to delve into the topic, with an eye toward costs and educational benefit.

Studying whether bus transportation should be increased. Some parents have complained that their children are forced to cross busy intersections and brave dangerous weather conditions because they live too close to school to be eligible for busing. Transportation and public services officials will likely conduct the study, with Trustee Paul Weiss as board liaison.

Reviewing the current use of technology, with a focus on shifting into programs that are most common in the work-a-day world. Board President Ray Kaminsky, who suggested the priority, will be in charge.

The review will look at what the district pays for technology, whether it needs to be updated and whether the most appropriate software is being used.

"We should use the software that you use in the real world," he said.

Reviewing the district's reading program. Trustee Susan Rizzo, who will lead, will look at the possibility of starting a reading program during the summer. Her committee also will study the existing program for flaws and look at remedial and other intervention programs.

Redesigning the way the yearly budget is put together. A series of controversies about spending on conference travel, parties and dining out focused new attention on district spending. With taxpayer groups demanding more accountability, the board has agreed that the public needs to be more involved in the budget process. Trustee Anne Evans will head up the review.

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