Article and photo by Janet Schultz
The Niagara-Wheatfield Board of Education recognized outstanding student athletes from the fall sports program at its Dec. 19 meeting.
Named All Western New York Scholars were Payton Klidonas, swimming; Allison Rung, soccer; Kirsten Scherrer, swimming and Francesca Viola, tennis. These students performed well on the field, as well as in the classroom.
Honorable mentions went to Elizabeth Barrett, Kelli Burkholder, Rebecca Campbell, Cory Evans, Jared Franciosa, Christopher Galvano, Mohit Gogna, Joseph Hansen, Alexis Johnson, Karyn Kalita, Kaleigh McMonagle, Daniel Miera, Marissa Watroba and Joseph Yanulevich.
Athletic Director Mark DeFlippo announced that Watroba had just signed a letter of intent with Canisius College (see related story) and set six school records in swimming.
Niagara-Wheatfield also claimed Western New York Scholar Team status in boys and girls cross country, football, golf, boys and girls soccer, boys and girls volleyball, girls swimming and diving and girls tennis.
In other matters:
Board President Steve Sabo read a statement regarding the tragedy at Sandy Hook School in Connecticut.
He told the district that these incidents, while rare, certainly raise the level of concern.
"I want everyone to know that your children are safe while here in our school," he said. "The Niagara-Wheatfield Central School District has been proactive in providing the schools with security systems and dedicated administrators that serve us on a daily basis."
He asked that students and staff help in the safety efforts by making sure that doors close behind them and lock, that they don't prop doors open and immediately report abnormal situations. He said that emergency response drills are held at the schools and taken seriously.
Sabo also said that in every community there are individuals that need support, acknowledgement and compassion. He went on to say that while the incidents such as these are rare, acts of unkindness and insensitivity are often in surplus.
"During this holiday season and everyday, I ask and the members of the board ask that you generously give the gift of compassion to each other," said Sabo. "Rather than stepping on a person that is already down, I challenge each of you to extend the hand of compassion that can serve to bring someone to his or her feet."
A moment of silence was then held.
One parent thanked the board for the phone call received that explained how the school was handling the situation. He also said he understood that no one can guarantee 100 percent safety and that drills should probably be held more than annually.
Board Member Kathy Fleming, also a teacher, remarked that the tragedy had her thinking about going back and reviewing her own emergency plan.
"I hope it made us all think about the kid's safety and the plan," said Fleming. "We should know it (the plan) like we know the we know the back of our hand and the student's names."
Interim Superintendent James Knowles said the district wants to make sure to return classrooms to as normal as possible and urged parents to do the same by talking to their children, but turning off the media.
"The way the staff handled this was commendable," said Sabo. "It was the bus drivers who were the first to face this with children who needed to be reassured that they didn't have to be afraid to go to school on Monday."
•The board heard the first drafts of budgets for the administration, operations and maintenance and transportation.
In the administrative budget there were cuts made in the amount of $100,000, or 28 percent. A substantial amount of money will be saved due to union concessions N-W will not provide for tuition reimbursements next year. One of the major increases is in retirement costs.
In the preliminary stages of a transportation budget, there are no planned reductions, but no foreseeable increases. Fuel costs appear to be staying high and a funding increase may be requested. There also may be a request to purchase eight new buses in order to maintain an updated fleet; none were purchased last year.
The news from the buildings and grounds department was much different. Director of Facilities Delbert Ambrosia explained that his goal is to maintain a safe, clean and efficient environment for the students and public. However, he has lost 20 percent of his staff over the past two years. With that said, he told the board that his department is doing reduced preventative maintenance, and he sees an increase in utilities, supplies and contractual services. He is asking for a $3,942,178 budget, increase from $3,902,172 this year.
The meeting adjourned at 8:10 p.m.