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TEACHER TO GET $85,000 IN SETTLEMENT

The Ellicottville Central School District will pay $85,000 to a suspended teacher who agreed this week to give up her tenured position as part of a settlement.

High School English teacher Marcia Lindquist decided to take a job in another state and will not contest the district's efforts to oust her from the position she has held for about 15 years, said School Board President Dennis Hintz.

During the 1996-1997 school year, Mrs. Lindquist instituted a lawsuit against the district and the superintendent alleging harassment. Although she never formally pursued the lawsuit, Hintz recalled a sit-in Mrs. Lindquist and her students staged in November 1997 to protest the perceived harassment.

Mrs. Lindquist was suspended with pay while the district launched an independent investigation of the sit-in, but around the same time some parents complained to the board that Mrs. Lindquist had related tales of her own sexual experiences to her class.

The independent investigation yielded insufficient evidence to support any further action by the board, but school officials decided to seek her dismissal under a section of the state education law.

Most of the $85,000 settlement consists of salary and fringe benefits Mrs. Lindquist would have collected during the next school year while she remained under suspension until the proceedings concluded, Hintz said.

"It's a closure," Hintz said about the settlement proposed by Mrs. Lindquist.

Interim Superintendent James M. Merrins said moving ahead with the dismissal procedure would have cost the district and Mrs. Lindquist more than $85,000.

Michael LaFever attended the School Board meeting Tuesday as an observer but will begin his new job Tuesday, replacing Merrins, who stepped in after the retirement of former Superintendent Ed Ahrens. A welcome reception for LaFever will be held Sept. 27 from 2 to 4 p.m. at the school.

In other matters, the board:

Added $68,446 in contingency funds to the 1998-1999 budget to cover unplanned salaries and benefits for two probationary instructors, French language teacher Kellene Kennedy and social studies teacher Matthew Lexner.

A full-time position, to be split between English and social studies instruction, was added to the staff in July, but was then abolished and replaced by the full-time social studies slot. Merrins said existing staff will cover the English instruction. The additional social studies instruction will assist students in attaining new state Education Department learning standards, he added.

The board decided against hiring an entry-level French teacher, necessitating a larger salary to pay an experienced candidate, said Merrins in explaining the additional expense.

Abolished the position of superintendent of buildings and grounds beginning in September 1999, immediately after the recently-announced retirement of Jim Gerwitz. Duties of overseeing the department will then be carried out by a hands-on director.

Authorized a $3,729,977 tax levy for the 1998-1999 school year, with the following tax rates per $1,000 assessed property valuation for these communities within the district: East Otto, $11.75; Ellicottville, $10.85; Franklinville, $10.85; Great Valley, $267.27; Humphrey, $11.02; and Mansfield, $10.88.

Established a passing grade of 55 as a local diploma standard for Regents exams during the transition years in meeting state Education Department guidelines.

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