by Janet Schultz
Dr. Lynn Marie Fusco will assume the duties of superintendent of the Niagara-Wheatfield Central School District on July 1.
Fusco is currently serving the Alden Central School District in the same capacity. She has been with Alden since 2006 and prior to that served for 10 years as the director of curriculum, instruction and personnel for the East Aurora Union Free School District.
She has also been employed as a principal at Pembroke Intermediate School and taught special education at Pembroke and at Royalton-Hartland Central School.
Following last week's N-W Board of Education meeting, Fusco commented on being appointed to her new position, saying that she will have a lot of work moving forward.
"In Alden we've made a lot of reductions. It's not easy, it's ugly and it takes a whole community to make these decisions," said Fusco. "I am very proud to be here and can't wait to work with the board and the community."
Fusco commented that she really liked the reputation Niagara-Wheatfield has for a good education and hiring quality teachers.
With the motion to appoint Fusco, Board President Steven Sabo explained the district held a national search for the position and candidates from across the U.S. applied. They narrowed the field down from 27 candidates to Fusco.
Fusco received her doctoral degree in learning and instruction, special education, from the University of Buffalo. Her master's degree is in special education from the State University College at Buffalo, as is her bachelor's degree in elementary and special education.
She is a member of numerous educational organizations, including the Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development, American Educational Research Association, is past-president of the Western New York Education Service Council and serves as president of the Erie-Niagara School Superintendents Association.
Active in her community, Fusco serves on the board of the Alden Chamber of Commerce, is a member of the Alden Lions Club and the Alden Economic Development Committee. She is also a member of the WNY Regional Information Center Advisory Committee.
Fusco received the Adele Land Scholarship in 1990 for leadership and excellence in the field of education; and served as a leader/facilitator of the P-16 Consortium of Public Educators and Higher Education.
•Also at the board meeting, in response to public questions about the expense/revenue gap, Dr. Richard Hitzges, interim business manager, explained that the difference between the state aid, now $28,950,136, and the school district's expenses, $63,759,714 is a new gap of $1,006,614 that needs to be addressed in order to present a balanced budget.
With that presented, board member Christopher Peters asked that the administration look at cutting kindergarten, or making it half-day; eliminating a middle school athletic team, cutting three high school positions and looking at reducing the support staff. This would be in addition to cuts they have already made to the 2013-14 budget. Board members Rich Halleen and Kathy Fleming agreed with Peters.
The board also expressed concern over the number of persons attending board meetings and is asking the community's assistance in coming out to cast their ballot in the May election.
"If the tax levy is not increased, the challenge to this district will be tremendous," said Hitzges.
The possible elimination of kindergarten brought out numerous speakers asking that the board not consider eliminating the non-mandated program. They pointed out that what is learned at that grade impacts the students throughout their academic lives.
"Cutting kindergarten will set us back years," said Maureen Geibel. "I wouldn't move to a district that didn't have kindergarten."
"I have three children in this district," said Vince Capolupo. "One coming to kindergarten, one in second and one in middle school. I have a great athlete and my daughter loves art and music; but I choose my younger one because he deserves the same chance as his brother and sister.
"If you put them behind (by cutting kindergarten), I will send him somewhere that has full-day because these kids deserve the same chance as the 12th-graders."
Capolupo, a teacher in another district, continued: "I will pay for sports, I will do fundraisers, I will do whatever I have to. That's what you have to consider. They won't become multi-millionaires (through art and music), but they might be by the education they get. Education is No. 1!"
"My child learned to read in kindergarten," said Michele Piccione. "How do you teach them in first grade? You will have 100 first-graders that won't know how to read."
"We have a 500-pound gorilla," said Michael Murawski. "That is pay and benefits in the district, about 70 percent of your budget.
"Cutting pay, it's what's left. You keep hurting children. It's time for adults to say 'You can hurt me a little'," concluded Murawski.
Niagara-Wheatfield voters face a 5.91 percent tax levy increase when they go to the polls to vote on a $63.7 million spending plan. Much of the increase in the budget is due to mandates by the state, according to school officials.
•The board also issued a resolution asking the New York state lawmakers and the federal government to take another look at the mandates on standardized tests, recalibrating the number, duration and appropriate use of the tests, so school districts can refocus efforts on student learning.
"Students are under stress with the pressure of these tests, and it's not doing the job," said Sabo. "Put something out there that is meaningful."
"All we are doing is asking Congress to take another look at it," said Sabo.
•The board met Wednesday evening after the Tribune went to press to consider a vote on taking the budget to the public. However, another meeting could be scheduled this week if necessary, because the board has until Friday to meet the state deadline to adopt its proposed budget.