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On April 23, the Ellicottville Central School District will launch "Beyond 2000," described as a way to deal with the challenges of the next millennium.

One of the most profound changes is the retirement of Superintendent Ed Ahrens, who will step down from the position he has held for almost a decade.

Ahrens, who announced his impending retirement last week, said the meeting will kick off the Board of Education's search for his replacement.

But he's not leaving right away. Ahrens, 60, said he may be around as long as midway through the 1998-99 school year and plans to leave only when his successor feels secure in the job.

Beyond 2000 will feature half-hour board meetings conducted throughout the day with the school's various employee groups. The public portion of the program will get under way at 7:30 p.m.

The board will ask district residents for help in finding a new superintendent, he said.

"Ellicottville Central School as we've known it has never opened without me in it," Ahrens said. "That's 39 years. When I was hired here, they were building the building."

He began teaching wood shop in Ellicottville two hours a day while working on his master's degree in industrial arts technology at Buffalo State College.

In other matters, School Board members are crafting a 1998-99 budget capping spending increase at 4.9 percent more than the current budget.

A draft budget will be presented to the board April 21. A public hearing is scheduled for May 12.

Despite the challenge of new education standards and Regents requirements, the new budget will not include additional staff, Ahrens said.

"We haven't made our staffing decisions yet, but we hope to do it all in-house," said Ahrens, who indicated that summer programs to help students meet higher expectations may expand, beginning this year.

Ahrens said the staffing cap was embraced during a meeting of trustees last week, when the state report card for elementary, middle and high school programs was discussed.

The school is rated as "average" in comparing needs with resources. Last school year, 20.5 percent of the school's 791 students were eligible for the federal free-lunch program.

Ellicottville's per-student operating expenses were $4,961, compared with $6,095 spent in other public schools.

The report card showed many improvements. For example, 69 percent, or 37 seniors, passed the Regents comprehensive exam in English last June, with 20 percent of those passing with distinction. Only 59 percent, or 31 students, had passed the exam in 1994-1995.

The report card also shows a need for academic improvement in global studies -- a Regents curriculum that proved difficult for many schools, Ahrens said.

The district lagged several points behind other public schools in the number of students receiving Regents diplomas last year.

The board also:

Decided to support a $4,200 WIVB-TV weather station for the school if the budget is approved by voters. The school would purchase a computer and other equipment for an automatic Internet connection to report data to the television station.

Approved the Ecology Club request for a camping and rafting trip June 5-6 on the Allegheny River. The event is a re-enactment of the former Johnny Appleseed Canoe Run, which began in Olean before the construction of Kinzua Dam. Twelve to 15 students will take the trip, which will begin at Kinzua Dam, continue to Buckaloons State Park south of Warren, Pa., and end at Tidioute, Pa.

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