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Teachers union and board at odds

Budget pressures opened a rift between the Orchard Park Central School Board and the teachers union Tuesday night.

Four board members said the district needs concessions from the Orchard Park Teachers Association in order to bridge a $6 million budget gap.

The union said it would file sanctions against the district for talking to individual teachers about items that should go through the bargaining unit.

As the district's largest union, "You need to lead on this one," board Vice President Maria Lehman told teachers.

But the entreaties from the board did not have the desired effect.

During Tuesday's board meeting, OPTA President Adam Ziccardi offered to work with the district. But when board members asked for "help" from the union in the form of furloughs and wage freezes, some teachers were angered.

"It's further discouraging you don't have the moxie to go to the public and ask for a budget that would fund schools," Ziccardi told the board at the end of the meeting. "To say you want to be at or near contingent doesn't give the public a choice."

He submitted a letter to the board clerk and said he would file sanctions today. He said it was inappropriate for board members to discuss concessions with individual members.

Board President Alfred McClymonds said a number of teachers had approached him, saying they would be willing to give back some items.

"I did not approach your members," McClymonds said. "Your members approached me."

Much of the board meeting was filled with pleas from teachers, students and parents to save various items that have been proposed to be cut, such as varsity hockey, cheerleading, which could be reduced by 50 percent, and a gifted and talented program.

Board members said they did not want to single out a particular sport and would prefer to maintain class sizes at the primary levels.

The budget proposal being considered by the board would cut the equivalent of 46.2 full-time positions, some through attrition.

Board members will meet again at 5 p.m. April 5.

e-mail: bobrien@buffnews.com

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