Two new members begin terms on Fredonia School Board

A returning Fredonia Board of Education member and a newcomer who ran in the most recent school election have officially joined the rest of the current members.

Returning board member Daniel Ihasz, along with the rest of the board, took their oaths of office during Tuesday’s reorganizational meeting. Also, a letter of resignation due to personal reasons given this past week by board member Roberta Coniglio was accepted, paving the way for the person with the third-most number of votes from the election, Cristina Gegenschatz, to be appointed unanimously to the vacancy.

“I’m excited to be back on the board, and one of my main goals, if I can, is to eliminate this idea of the gap elimination adjustment (which is taking state aid away from Fredonia),” Ihasz, who was present at the meeting via the videotelephone software application FaceTime, said after being sworn in. “I feel like the state is cheating us; they give it to us with one hand and take it away with the other hand, so I would like to maybe start some kind of (movement) with our county that would work with our legislators to turn this over.”

Gegenschatz earned 447 votes during the election in May, trailing behind Ihasz by only nine votes and missing out on a board seat. The other board members agreed they could not ignore those 447 people that voted for her, using that as a reason to appoint Gegenschatz immediately.

“I’m very much looking forward to serving, which is why I ran in the election,” Gegenschatz, who attended the meeting, said.

“I’ve been working on the Elementary Parent Teachers Association and just felt like this was kind of the next progression for me to be a part of something a little bit bigger. I think for now, my immediate goals are just to catch up to what’s going on and decide which committees I might best fit in.”

She added she will no longer be an officer for the PTA due to the time commitment, but will continue to be a member.

Gegenschatz’s appointment expires on May 19, at which point she must be elected to finish out the remainder of Coniglio’s term from that point forward.

Superintendent Paul DiFonzo welcomed Gegenschatz and also praised Coniglio for her service on the board for over 10 years.

“She has been an outstanding member and she’s been with me I think for almost as long as I’ve been here,” he said. “She’s been a wonderful mentor … and I respect her work for the children of the district.”

DiFonzo also gave a preview for the upcoming school year, with the focus of efforts still being on shared services.

“Hopefully, my colleagues and fellow school districts will look at where we stand regarding student enrollment and the lack of state aid and see the need for consolidation where appropriate,” he explained. “I also hope that the state understands the gap elimination adjustment does not work, especially for average-wealth districts like Fredonia, so I hope that issue is taken care of. I’m also hopeful we will continue to make Common Core adjustments so we best meet our students’ needs.”

Also during the meeting, Board President Michael Bobseine was unanimously elected to serve in that role again for the 2014-15 school year.

“I think Mr. Bobseine has demonstrated the leadership skills needed to developing a board environment that promotes respect, focus and communication, and I would like to see us continue on in that regard,” board member David Giambrone, who made the motion to appoint Bobseine as president, said.

Board member Rosie Joy is staying on as board vice president, while Wendy Heslink will remain district clerk.

Board member Karen Mosier was appointed the new legislative liaison, while board member Tom Hawk became the new Erie II BOCES liaison.

The compositions of the audit, policy and visitation committees was established, with Giambrone, Mosier and Ihasz on the audit committee; Bobseine and Ihasz on the policy committee; and Giambrone, Joy and Hawk on visitation.

The board continued the regular meeting dates as being the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month.

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