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Sophomores at West Seneca East and West High schools can breath a little easier since the School Board gave them a 10-point cushion on Regents exams.

The board this week joined 19 other school districts in Erie County in lowering the passing grade for a Regents exam from 65 to 55 for a two-year phase-in period.

"This really is a safety net," said Deputy Superintendent John F. Schleifer.

The state gave school districts the option of the lower passing grade for local diplomas while the tougher new standards, which will require all students to pass five Regents exams to graduate, are being phased in.

"I think we lose a lot if we don't change the standards at this time," Trustee James R. Lawson said. "We changed the rules in the middle of the game."

But Trustee Howard S. Avnet argued that West Seneca should not lower its standards, and that employers expect high school graduates to have higher standards. Avnet joined Trustee Janice E. Dalbo in voting against lowering the passing grade.

"Albany has struck out on this one," Avnet said.

The 4-2 vote lowered the passing grade for sophomore Regents exams, but did not lower the grade for this year's freshmen.

Also Monday, the board appointed former trustee George E. Molnar to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Trustee James P. Sheehan. Sheehan's term was to end in May, but he resigned last month because he moved to Cleveland.

"We feel Mr. Molnar could join us in October and hit the ground running," said Board President Nancy L. Lesakowski.

Molnar, who is to be sworn in at the board's meeting next month, will serve until the end of May. Board members said Molnar would not seek election in May.

The board also discussed the possibility of a commercial outdoor sign being placed at the intersection of the access road to the educational center and Orchard Park Road. Superintendent Richard J. Sagar said Lamar Outdoor Advertising has asked to erect a 20-foot high sign for a fee of $1,000 per year.

"We know it will not be for cigarettes, it will not be for alcoholic beverages," Sagar said.

"I would prefer we didn't do this," Mrs. Dalbo said.

The board made no decision on the proposal Monday.

The superintendent said the opening enrollment was 7,832, which is up three students over last year.

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