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STUDENT LEARNING AT HOME AFTER SURGERY SHOULD BE VALEDICTORIAN, MOTHER SAYS

The mother of a homebound senior at Lewiston-Porter High School said Tuesday that she is angry with the school district's administration for not allowing the "A" student to become valedictorian of the Class of 2002.

Mary Ann Brannen, mother of 17-year-old Tara Ryan, said at a special board meeting that she was "outraged" over the treatment her daughter has received from members of the administration.

According to Brannen, her daughter is ranked No. 1 in the senior class of 209 with a 4.0 average. But because of "major reconstructive surgery on both ankles," Tara takes her classes at home. Teachers come for eight hours a week to instruct her, said Brannen.

According to district policy, if more than one student has a 4.0 average, the next deciding factor is the number of credits accrued by the students.

The valedictorian is chosen at the end of the students' junior year.

Brannen said that students on homebound instruction are allowed to take only up to 10 hours of instruction per week, or five courses a year. However, she said that students who physically attend the high school are allowed to take eight courses a year.

Brannen complained that high school Principal Roberta J. Love, Superintendent Walter S. Polka and Honor Society adviser Barbara C. Rottaris have not been responsive enough to her needs and were violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

She and her husband, Michael R. Brannen, hinted they might sue the district in order to get Tara named valedictorian.

School Board President Edward M. Lilly asked Polka to set up a meeting with the Brannens. Polka said that Mrs. Brannen could call today to set up an appointment to meet with him.

Polka said, "It would probably be advisable to have Mr. (F. Warren) Kahn there." Kahn is the School Board's attorney.

In another matter, the trustees voted 5-1 to appoint Michael Esposito coach of the boys varsity basketball team, replacing H. James Walker.

Trustees decided last month not to reappoint Walker and advertised the position in local newspapers.

Board Vice President R. Nils Olsen Jr. argued that the board was not considering all of the applicants for the position, but Lilly said the others applied for the job after the deadline.

Lilly said that Walker has sued the district, with the matter before State Supreme Court in Niagara Falls at 11 a.m. today.

The School Board also voted, 5-1, to direct Polka to prepare a 2002-03 budget with a 2 percent or less increase over the current year's plan. The new budget would be $31.2 million.

Only Olsen said no to directing Polka to prepare such a plan, because he said he needed more information on the budget first.

Trustee Franklyn M. Collins was absent from the meeting, which was attended by about 10 people in the Primary Building.

e-mail: pkowalik@buffnews.com

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