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Niagara Wheatfield scraps department heads
School Board eliminates positions, uses money to pay for part-time science teacher

All school department head positions were eliminated Wednesday by the Niagara Wheatfield School Board in order to pay for a part-time science teacher.

The board voted, 6-1, to rescind all such positions appointed Aug. 3 that were effective Sept. 1. Board Vice President Michael Brock dissented.

All department head positions previously in place at the senior high and middle school also were scrapped. In addition, the resolution dictated that the board would not appoint standards and assessment specialists beginning with the 2011-12 school year.

No specific details on the number of such positions or the length of service were made available. When asked about the action, Superintendent Carl Militello referred all questions to the wording of the resolution and would make no additional comments.

According to the state Education Department website, school department head positions are generally leadership posts that set goals for a particular program area and conduct performance reviews, among other duties.

Board President Steven Sabo said the positions, which are customarily filled by teachers, were not contractual and were "corrected to be content specialists." He said the content specialist positions would now be handled by administrators.

Although no specific savings amount was available, Sabo said the money would be used to bring back a part-time science teacher, which the board approved in a separate vote.

According to the personnel report listed on the meeting agenda, the position costs $30,058 plus salary step increments.

During budget deliberations, the position was one of about a dozen teaching jobs that were eliminated.

In another matter, the board was reprimanded by Rosemary Warren, a former board member and frequent critic of the district, for its use of executive sessions.

The board had begun its meeting a half-hour early at 6:30 p.m. and then immediately went behind closed doors to discuss "the employment history of a specific individual and possible litigation," according to Sabo. The public was not allowed into the meeting room for approximately one hour.

Warren said the four new board members elected this year "ran on open government and transparency," and she did not expect them to go into executive session so much.

She said the board also went into executive session for more than an hour following the Sept. 7 meeting.

She added that the board failed to formally come out of the executive sessions to adjourn in public.