by Janet Schultz
The Niagara-Wheatfield Board of Education approved a request from the Girls Soccer Booster Club to move forward with fundraising and develop plans for soccer shelters to be used for boys and girls soccer and lacrosse.
The shelters will be built in memory of Steven Johnson, father of three soccer-playing daughters who was a constant presence at N-W games. Johnson was one of the passengers killed when Flight 3407 went down over Clarence on Feb. 12, 2009. Plans are to kick off the fundraising part of the project on that date this year.
The Soccer Booster Club will bring architectural plans, developed by a N-W BOCES student, to the board for approval in the near future.
"It was determined the Girls Soccer Booster Club's project was in-line with the long-range field usage plan and fully supported by Interim Superintendent James Knowles and Director of Facilities and Operations Delbert Ambrosia," said Gina Terbot, girls soccer booster club president.
"Various memorials have been built to remember the 51 lives lost; however, not one of those monuments has been created to help us remember our father the way we feel he should be remembered," said his daughters in a statement presented to the board.
The board also heard a presentation by principals Charlie Smilinick, Nora O'Bryan and Theron Mong on their budgetary needs for the upcoming academic year. Each feel they can maintain classroom size with the staff they have, with the exception of O'Byran. The Errick Road principal has asked that her staff be increased by one additional teacher in each of three grades (3 through 5) in order to maintain an average classroom size of 20 to 22 students.
The principals explained the impact the New York State Race to the Top Initiative and the Responses to Intervention programs have had on teaching.
"The common core standards are more rigorous and the level of rigor is very high," said O'Byran.
Teachers have been asked to use more on non-fictional readings rather than fictional stories as they have in the past. Students are now screened three times a year in literacy, and grades pre-K through 12 are tasked to demonstrate independence as well as be able to comprehend and critique what they read.
Evaluations on students include not only achievement but individual growth, so that the higher level students can move up to an even higher level.
"To achieve success, we must maintain classroom sizes and provide money for resources, including giving mental health services when necessary," she concluded.
Knowles reassured the school district is exercising its emergency response plans on a regular basis and that after each exercise the plans are evaluated and adjustments made as needed. The district's crisis plan is available on the district website. He also reported that identification badges are being developed for all staff.
Board President Steve Sabo requested that the superintendent form a District Technology Committee, chaired by one of the technology teachers and with a board member sitting on that committee. He also asked for a review of the Booster Club's fundraising policy.
Sabo reported that a study on busing found that it would be better for the district to maintain its own busing at this time. It had been suggested that the school district may want to hire a private busing company rather than maintain their own fleet to reduce costs.