Frontier Central School has abolished 130 positions and eliminated 56 student clubs and six athletic teams in recent years after losing state financial aid.
“It’s not OK,” Superintendent Bret Apthorpe said. “It’s just not OK.”
The district is slated to have $800,000 in state aid known as the Gap Elimination Adjustment withheld this year, bringing the grand total to $28 million, he said.
“Why is it there are school districts across the state getting fully funded, and not Frontier?” he asked.
And that’s why the district will hold a rally at 4 p.m. March 3 in the high school auditorium.
He said the total of aid that has been withheld from the district is $79.4 million in foundation aid in addition to the $28 million in gap elimination.
“Our property taxpayers have already paid the bill,” he said.
Because more than 80 teaching positions have been eliminated, students are suffering, from the cleanliness of the buildings to the attention they get in the classroom, said high school teacher Wendy Rayburg, who also is president of the Frontier Central Teachers Association.
“We are in a desperate place in our schools,” she said. “We are also in a place that can turn around with budget decisions.”
She said current staffing allows teachers to spend only one minute, 20 seconds individually with each student on a given day.
“I, like every other FCTA member, will do whatever it takes for my students to succeed,” she said.
And Heidi Dvornski, president of the Blasdell Elementary PTA, chided the board for what she felt were negative comments made toward teachers at the last board meeting.
Board President Janet MacGregor Plarr said board members are passionate about education, but also are stewards of taxpayer money and must represent the entire district.
“On Feb. 2, we got a presentation we had not seen before and, quite frankly, we were shocked by its contents,” she said.
She was referring to the superintendent’s proposal to hire 25 teachers, at a cost of $2.1 million. He said those teachers would be needed to address areas of concern and academic weaknesses found in the schools.
“Because we are the stewards of the district’s finances, we have many questions,” Plarr said. “If we had a bottomless pit of money, we would love it.”
Board members said they would look at class sizes for next year. The superintendent is to present a second version of expenses and a first look at revenues next week.