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School Board may fire 9 employees who live outside district boundaries

It's been a mostly smooth start for the new school year in Niagara Falls, but the district may face a lapse in staff over residency violations, and unresolved issues are lingering from summer construction.

With about 18 vacancies remaining to be filled as classes begin, the district may create nine more in two weeks by firing employees accused of living outside the city. More firings could come after that as residency investigations continue.

The board will vote Sept. 24 on whether to fire the nine employees, but Human Resources Director Philip Mohr said the very likely firings should not disrupt district operations. Vacancies will be posted for 10 days after a termination, but temporary employees will be ready to take over.

"We could not attempt to fill a position, prejudging what will happen before the board's decision," Mohr said. "But we certainly have enough candidates in the district to fill those positions. We may even take the opportunity to reallocate some responsibilities."

The nine employees facing termination include four teachers.

Seventeen other teachers are under review for possibly violating the district's strict residency policy, said union President Joseph Catalano. The policy, implemented in 1994, requires employees at all levels to live within the boundaries of the school district.

The nine employees have been under review since early last year and were given a 30-day warning of planned action on Aug. 20. Catalano said court action is imminent if firings happen, and the New York State United Teachers would represent the teachers.

The district has stood by its policy without citing specifics of the cases against the staff members.

"It's a difficult position for everyone." Mohr said. "These aren't people we want to cast away. These are people who have added value to the district, many of them for several years. In that sense, it's problematic. But in terms the positions, we're prepared."

All nine are currently working in the district.

One week into the new year, the district has an enrollment of 7,000, a drop of 181 students from last year, and 1,245 employees, two less than last year. Deputy Superintendent Mark Laurrie said enrollment is expected to reach 7,100 by midyear.

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