The Lewiston-Porter mentoring program for new teachers remained dead Tuesday after School Board member David Schaubert said his research indicates that the board is not legally obligated to stay with the program in its current form.
For the second time this fall, the School Board failed to approve the teacher-mentoring program by taking no action.
In the Sept. 21 meeting, the board became deadlocked over the issue because it requires the district to pay teachers $65 to $130 a year for acting as advisers to new teachers. Board President Edward M. Lilly and board member Louis Palmeri said at the time that they objected because those mentors receive that payment each year for the rest of their careers, even if they never work as mentors again.
Lewiston-Porter United Teachers President Jean Henesey said: "They have a different opinion. I don't think we're wrong." She said the board is obligated to continue the program.
The union has asked State Education Commissioner Richard P. Mills to find the board in violation of its own professional development plan and state regulations that require the district to provide new teachers with mentors. The legal action calls on the commissioner to order the board to appoint mentors for all new teachers.
Schaubert voted in favor of the program last month because district officials indicated that not doing so would be a violation of state education law and an agreement with the teachers union.
But his research over the last month made him change his mind.
"Under the investigation I undertook, it is not contractual. It's not part of the teachers' contract," Schaubert said.
Having consulted with district staff and the Orleans-Niagara Board of Cooperative Educational Services officials, he said, he learned that "this is a board policy. It was adopted by the board and it can be unadopted by the board."
Schaubert said the board was not legally bound to continue with it and was not out of line in not voting to spend the money.
He said that it will be up to School Superintendent Whitney K. Vantine and the Lewiston-Porter United Teachers to come back with a plan "that is acceptable to the board."
Based on his research, the program, as currently funded, could eventually end up costing the district about $50,000 a year, which is too expensive considering the district's tight fiscal situation, Schaubert said.
As for the teachers lawsuit, he said, "I'm not afraid of the big bad wolf. We can't afford to pay up to $50,000 a year."
Lilly acknowledges that he voted for the program back in 1999 but was not aware that the $65 or $130 stipend was to be paid to teachers every year over their careers even if they chose not to mentor after their first year of doing so.