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CHEEKTOWAGA TEACHERS PROTEST LACK OF NEW PACT

About 30 members of the Cheektowaga Central Teachers Association, now in their third year without a new contract, picketed outside school district offices prior to Monday night's Board of Education meeting.

The teachers, whose contract expired June 30, 1995, carried signs and handed out fliers to people entering the junior-senior high school on Union Road. Many of the teachers remained for the board meeting.

Steven Wright, president of the 163-member union, said the organization has just recently made the Cheektowaga community aware of teachers' contract concerns. He said the union also picketed during open houses at the district's three school buildings.

Wright said the contract talks involve several non-economic issues, but he refused to be more specific. He said negotiations will continue tonight. Union representatives also met with Superintendent Leslie B. Lewis and school attorney Frank McGarry in a five-hour session last week.

During the School Board meeting, trustees heard a complaint about the decision to hold Union East Elementary School's fifth- and sixth-grade band and chorus practices after regular school hours instead of during the school day.

The change, effective this school year, was intended to provide more instructional time for all fifth- and sixth-graders. However, one parent said that her sixth-grade son now has a 45-minute recess after lunch "but can't have music during the day."

She said many parents are angry about the change because children who cannot stay after school are cheated out of participation in the music program.

Lewis said 80 percent of the Union East teachers wanted the music program out of the regular school day, although he admitted that parents were split on the issue. He said that the chorus enrollment is down slightly since the change but that band membership is as high as ever.

Lewis said it was too soon to determine how students are adjusting to the new music program, but Trustee Leon S. Regent, citing pupils' numerous after-school conflicts, said, "If we really feel we want to do this, we should incorporate it into the schedule."

In other business, the board:

Directed the superintendent to take the necessary steps to resolve a matter of missing documentation. Monday night's 1996-97 audit report noted the absence of some payroll forms and other documents showing that employees are legally entitled to work in the United States.

Denied a proposal that the district pay an annual fee to join a Cheektowaga Chamber of Commerce Association corporate rate plan that would make discounted cellular phones available to all district employees.

Approved the design concept for wood signs with each school's name. The signs, to be donated by the Parent-Teacher-Student Association, will be placed outside Pine Hill Primary School but inside the other buildings.

Voted 6-1 to allow the Cheektowaga Action Partnership to use the high school facilities May 16-17 for the "24-hour Relay Challenge," provided the group's representatives obtain a bond that will cover any damage to school property. Regent voted against the proposal.

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