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Steelers score day off for schoolmates

No excuses will be needed by fans of the Lackawanna High School Steelers basketball team planning to attend the state Federation Basketball Tournament of Championships semifinals Friday.

Acting on the recommendation of School Superintendent Paul G. Hashem, the School Board agreed Monday to close schools that day. Further, the Board of Education is encouraging all students and staff to make the trip to Glens Falls to cheer on the team.

The varsity Steelers won their first Class B state title since 1979 Saturday night, defeating Westchester County's John F. Kennedy, 67-50.

This weekend is the Federation championships, which bring together the state's public, Catholic and independent champions, along with the winner of New York City's Public Schools Athletic League. The Steelers will play Blessed Sacrament of New Rochelle, the Catholic state champion, in the semifinals at 3:15 p.m. Friday.

In the resolution to close schools Friday, the School Board also agreed to pay up to $9,000 in unreimbursed expenses incurred by the team and the Lackawanna cheerleaders.

In response to questions, Hashem said the closure will not affect the district's state aid picture, which requires that school be in session 180 days. "We're OK with the number of days," he said.

Monday's special board meeting was called to deal with the superintendent's contract, which requires action by March 31 of each year regarding a possible one-year extension.

Failure to act means an automatic extension.

During a 34-minute executive session, raised voices could be heard beyond the closed door.

Afterward, the board voted, 6-1, in favor of a resolution that includes denial of the extension, as well as a potential 6 percent bonus -- the latter because "current economic conditions preclude the award of a merit bonus."

Board member Nancy Parker, whose amended motion to grant the extension failed for lack of a second, cast the sole opposing vote.

Hashem did receive a 4 percent salary increase, as per his original contract, bringing his 2006-07 base pay to $135,119.

His original agreement was effective July 1, 2001, to June 30 of this year. Because of previous extensions, it runs through the 2008-09 school year.

The resolution also continued a rewrite of the compensation section, introduced in 2003, that apparently is intended to keep future potential bonuses from boosting his pension. Merit bonuses shall not exceed 6 percent of his base pay and "shall not be included in nor be considered a part of his base salary in any subsequent period of employment," according to the resolution.

e-mail: jhabuda@buffnews.com

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