Committee ponders closing Cassadaga Elementary School

SINCLAIRVILLE – Thir-teen people sat around a table to consider whether Cassa-daga Elementary School should be closed by the start of the 2013-2014 school year.

At its Jan. 14, meeting Cassadaga Valley Central School decided to form the committee to recommend whether the school should be closed. Wednesday was the second meeting of this committee. The committee consists of: Superintendent Scott Smith, Business Ad-ministrator Debra McAvoy, Sinclairville Elementary Principal John Kwietniew-ski, Cassadaga Elementary Principal Joshua Glievski, middle/high school teacher Diane Blizzard, high school teacher Nancy Main, Sin-clairville Elementary teacher Cheryl Beichner (alternate), Cassadaga Elementary teacher Melissa Kelly, board of education vice-president S. Carl Perry, PTA president TammieAnn Wichlacz, parent Rebecca Ruiz and Cassadaga Village Trustee Ronald DeChard. Cheryl Rowley, a teacher at Sinclairville Elementary and Moria Sherlock, a teacher at Cassadaga Elementary are alternates.

The meeting was spent reviewing a draft committee report. Smith emphasized that this is a draft proposal and projections for enrollment in the district as well as savings from the closing of the school are exactly that – projections.

If the building is closed, the projection is that two full time equivalent teaching positions would be eliminated as well as a little over eight FTE support staff positions. This would result in a savings of $387,463.

A committee member questioned whether the administrator in the building would be eliminated. Smith replied that he had not made that projection. The principal is also the Elementary Special Education Director which is how the position was restructured in 2010.

He noted that the decision does not eliminate the obligation to provide that service.

“There are a number of factors and legal ramifications. … I am not comfortable making a projection. We have to be mindful of the needs of special education students and teachers,” he said.

Smith also cautioned that he can’t predict retirements of teachers, noting there is an incentive on the table.

“Or someone might win the lottery and not come back,” he joked.

Building related estimated savings including maintenance and energy cost savings totaled $55,148. The items in this projection included heating fuel, electric, insurance, telephone, plowing, mileage for staff traveling between buildings, bus mileage savings and reduced. The total personnel and other cost savings therefore would total $442,611.

Kwietniewski reviewed the reconfiguration of the Sinclairville Building to accommodate the students currently housed in the Cassadaga building. He said that the building could accommodate the students. He said the preliminary configuration leaves two open rooms.

Kwietniewski reviewed the educational impact of closing Cassadaga Elementary School. He pointed out a number of positives including elimination of transportation runs between buildings, better communication between grade levels, increased instructional and extracurricular activities for all students, students from one family would be housed in one building, improved communication, and professional development for teachers in one building.

The two negatives he pointed out were the effect on the Cassadaga community and the space for additional opportunities would be lessened with a combined building.

Cassadaga Village Trustee Ronald DeChard was missing a village board meeting to attend the committee. He pointed out the water project would be impacted by no longer having the school there. He also said that ten more people’s jobs would be eliminated and at least some of those people are village residents.

The committee will meet again on Feb. 27 at 7 p.m. to finalize the report. Committee members were asked to email any more comments they had. A special board meeting for the report’s presentation to the Board of Education will be held on March 4. The board plans to act on the closure at its March 11 meeting.