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The Lockport School Board Monday agreed to convert one of the district's elementary schools into an early childhood center and implement full-day kindergarten at its remaining seven elementary schools in September.

Superintendent Christine A. Neal's controversial cost-cutting plan, which called for the conversion of Charlotte Cross Elementary School, was approved in a 7-2 vote, the same vote by which the board Monday adopted Neal's proposed $60.3 million budget for the 2001-2002 school year.

The budget will go before district voters in June.

In the face of declining enrollment and a mandate by district voters to trim costs, Neal's so-called Plan A is estimated to save the district about $1.7 million. But those savings don't go far enough, according to two board members who voted against the plan.

Board members David E. Blackley and Renee A. Knight advanced an alternative plan for implementing full-day kindergarten that they said would have cut costs by nearly $2 million and kept Charlotte Cross open as a traditional elementary school for kindergartners through fifth-graders.

"This plan does not address community needs because it cuts out Charlotte Cross as a neighborhood school. People want neighborhood schools," said Blackley.

In addition, he said, Neal's Plan A is fiscally irresponsible because it increases costs beyond his and Knight's alternative plan.

"It doesn't address the 40 percent increase in staff, nor the 10 percent decrease in enrollment since 1993. There's no long-term planning in this proposal at all," Blackley said.

Beyond the job cuts called for in Neal's plan, both Blackley and Knight called for additional administrative job cuts in their proposal. Other board members, however, insisted those jobs are essential because they relate directly to the support of student services.

"Administrative positions are leadership positions, and leadership is not superfluous to an organization; it's critical," said board member John E. VanBenshoten.

A subsequent motion by Blackley to table the proposal for further discussion was seconded by Knight but then voted down by the other seven members.

Board Vice President W. Keith McNall said that after weeks of discussion it was time for the board to come to a decision.

"Plan A had been done with both financial and professional scrutiny and provides the Lockport City School District an opportunity to survive a little longer without actually closing a building in a period when declining enrollment tells us to change," McNall said.

In addition to voting against Plan A, Blackley and Knight voted against Neal's budget proposal.

"I think it's far too high," said Knight.

Neal said the $60.3 million represents a 2.92 percent increase over the district's current $56.5 million contingency budget. Voters twice rejected budget proposals on the ballot last year.

Board member Robert J. Pohl appealed to disgruntled residents not to vote down the budget as a reaction to the board's approval of Plan A and the conversion of Charlotte Cross to early childhood center.

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