by Kathleen Duff
In a surprise addition to Monday evening's agenda, the Grand Island Board of Education voted to terminate the contract of Interim Superintendent of Schools Robert Christmann.
Christmann officially resigned as superintendent of schools on Oct. 1 after six years of service to the district. He has been functioning as interim superintendent since then and has a full-time position as executive director of the Western New York Education Services Council. His last day of service to Grand Island should be in mid-January.
Trustee Donna Tomkins introduced a resolution to exercise the board's prerogative to end Christmann's contract. The resolution was seconded by board member Emily Ciraolo and was put to a vote. The result was 4 to 3 in favor of ending the contract, which stipulated that Christmann serve the district on a part-time basis until a new superintendent would be in place. Tomkins, Ciraolo, Paul Krull and Tak Nobumoto (participating in the meeting via Skype from Japan) voted yes with Joan Droit, Glenn Bobeck and Board President David Goris voting no.
Goris and Ciraolo both thanked Christmann for his years of service to the district. The district must hire another interim superintendent to serve until the permanent choice is put into place July 1. Interviews for the permanent superintendent will begin in January. The change comes at a strenuous time for the board and administrators as the budget development process for 2012-13 will begin after the first of the year and the construction phase of the district's $51 million capital project will break ground in the spring.
In other business, Molly Marren, director of instructional technology, and Theresa LeClerc, senior messaging and graphics liaison, Erie 1 BOCES, reported on their work to update the district website. Marren said that they have spent extensive time meeting with webpage administrators and end-users and "cleaning webpages." Ultimately, there will be no webmaster, but, rather, each department will be responsible for its content. The website in its current format is about seven years old, Marren said, and in need of a new look, better features and the ability to work well with mobile devices such as iPads. The new website will debut after the first of the year.
In a special report to the board, Christmann said he anticipates a 3.5 percent cut in state aid to education next budget year, a change from $712 million to possibly $610 million. Hurricane Sandy has a significant impact on what monies are available to schools. Gov. Andrew Cuomo will present his executive budget Jan. 22, and the state budget will be voted on in April.
Christmann also talked about the federal budget and the effect "across the board" cuts may have on education budgets nationwide in January. These cuts, termed as "sequestration," will happen automatically if the U.S. Congress does not act to identify $1.2 trillion in savings to the budget.
Christmann said all programs in education except for Pell will be impacted as of July 1. The total impact could be between $3.5 to $4.1 billion. For Grand Island schools, Christmann is most concerned about the Academic Intervention Services programs (for students at risk of not meeting learning standards in reading and math) and special education.
Christmann also talked about the decision-making process for school closings due to weather, specifically regarding wind chill. Christmann said the superintendent makes the final decision to close school. He uses information from the National Weather Service. School will close if the temperature is low enough to induce frostbite if skin is exposed for 30 minutes. Temperature plus wind producing a "feel" on the skin of -22 degrees Fahrenheit is cold enough to close school. Temperature, wind speed and wind chill are checked here on the Island.
Miscellaneous items of interest at Monday's meeting included:
•Moody's bond rating for Grand Island Schools is AA2.
•There will be no winter cheerleading 2012 through 2014.
•The number of all athletic contests for 2013-14 will be reduced.
•The board approved the School Related Personnel contract for July 1, 2012, to June 30, 2015.
The district will hold a public referendum Tuesday, Dec. 18, on the proposed transportation center, in the Grand Island High School gymnasium, 1100 Ransom Road, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
The next meeting of the Grand Island Board of Education is Monday, Jan. 7, 2013, at 7:30 p.m. at Grand Island High School.
Board of Education Trustees
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