By Larry Austin
Island Dispatch Editor
School district employees picketed on the sidewalk of Ransom Road prior to Monday's Board of Education meeting.
School Related Professionals and their supporters picketed in front of the school complex and then attended the board meeting as one at 7:30 p.m. SRPs are the district's bus drivers, bus attendants, hall and cafeteria monitors, mechanics, food service personnel, teacher aides, custodial staff, buildings and grounds staff, nurses, maintenance personnel and clerks, among others.
Cheryl Frieday, treasurer of the SRP union, addressed the board at the end of the meeting and said the SRPs, the first faces students see each day, have been working without a contract for almost one year.
Frieday said the SRP union and the district have met six times for negotiations in nine months.
"We have had more meetings scheduled and cancelled than we have held," Frieday said. "This only confirms to us we are not a priority with this administration. We are a valuable commodity to this school and to this community. We need to be a priority to the administration and to you, the Board of Education."
Frieday said the SRPs are "eager to settle this contract."
Board members during their reports at the end of the meeting expressed support for the SRPs and the work they do.
Trustee Rich D'Agostino thanked the SRPs for the job they do every day "in loco parentis," or in place of a parent.
"I am very grateful to you all, looking you dead in the eye and saying I have not forgotten you," D'Agostino said. "And it is my educated guess, as I will not speak for anyone else, that I believe everyone at the table here has not forgotten you either. Thank you very much for all that you do."
The board split on votes regarding personnel appointments recommended by Grand Island Superintendent of Schools Dr. Teresa Lawrence.
Lawrence said some appointments will fill vacancies caused by retirements and to address a "bubble of students" moving up from elementary school to the middle school level. She said the goal is to have the individuals in front of the board for appointment in ample time for new teacher orientation and training, and so the district has "the opportunity to tap into first dibs in the candidate pool."
The appointments filled such jobs as extracurricular sports activities, annual appointments for sporting events, for clubs, supplemental appointments for grade level chairs, leadership positions, and modifications to the substitute teacher list, she said.
Trustee Donna Tomkins moved to table several of the appointments until the board's July meeting, including one for salary amendments for Cheryl Cardone, director of pupil personnel services; Karen Cuddy-Miller, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction; and Robert McDow, assistant superintendent of finance and support services.
Her motions to table each time passed 4-3, with Board President Lisa Pyc, and trustees D'Agostino and Joy LaMarca voting along with her and trustees Glenn Bobeck and Karen Carroll and board Vice President Sue Marston voting no.
After Tomkins moved to table another appointment, Bobeck said, "Donna, can I ask why?"
Tomkins said, "There are certain things with the hiring that I'm not agreeing with at this point, the whole hiring process."
Pyc agreed concerns were expressed about the hiring process. She pointed out new administration leadership will take over July 1, when Dr. Brian Graham joins the district as superintendent of schools for Lawrence, and that will provide the opportunity to address the matters before the board's July 11 reorganization meeting.
Lawrence said the district followed the hiring process in place "that we have been following for quite some time under my leadership, pulling teams together, posting. So I commit to you that the process that we used for hiring ... this board was aware."
Tomkins later asked for a motion "hold off on round 2" of interviews until the first week of July.
During discussions, Cuddy-Miller said new teacher orientation is the third week of August, and Cardone said there are currently interviews in process. Carroll said prospective hires "are already in queue."
Bobeck said, "I would expect and hope that the district would continue to take efforts to hire the most qualified people and commence the process as quickly as possible and move forward as quickly possible."
"Well, I would like to see it slowed up a little and not do interviews until July 1st," Tomkins responded.
Marston said postponing the hiring process would in effect ask the new leadership to come in, review district processes, make changes and then recommend hiring candidates.
"I just think we're really putting our new leadership behind the 8-ball," Marston said.
Lawrence said, "I would just like to go on record that any recommendation we make to this board and to this community was vetted, and we have presented to the board what we believe as an administrative team, as teachers and SRP people, and through interviews, that we have presented to you the Grand Island community the best possible candidates I could find you."
Neither side budged on the issue. "We have a process that is maybe a little bit faster than I would like to see," Pyc said. Bobeck said, "I think as a board we're micromanaging."
The board voted 4-3 along the same lines as the previous votes to hold off the interviews until July 1.
After the vote, Marston recalled that the board, which voted 6-1 last year to not extend Lawrence's contract, agreed to keep Lawrence in her position until her contract expires June 30.
Marston said the board gave Lawrence that opportunity, and all of a sudden "at the end to go back on our word ... is disturbing."
Other news at the meeting
•Lawrence reported Connor Middle School Principal John Fitzpatrick is re-integrating back to the middle school after five months off on a medical leave. He is working three days a week in the mornings. Teacher and staff were ringing the bells at 7 a.m. when he arrived to school Monday, Lawrence said.
•Lawrence said that, at the last board meeting, she made an agenda item to appoint Dan Quartley as high school principal, but it was removed from the agenda.
"I would like to encourage the board to look at that recommendation again," Lawrence said. "He's a man of incredible integrity. He has increased graduation rates. He has made the building safer, and he's collaborated with students in their health and wellness. I encourage this board to accept that recommendation and to hire him justly that he deserves."
Under the "Good News" portion of the agenda, Pyc noted several district students and staff have received honors.
•The Harkness Career and Technical Center has selected two Grand Island students as its Students of the Month. Samantha Bartolotta and Xavier Vazquez were honored for the month of April.
•Lawrence was selected for the PTA Distinguished Service Award, given to members of the community, school, or PTA who have shown exceptional dedication or who have made an outstanding contribution to the welfare of children and/or youth.
•Three Grand Island High School coaches won the Niagara Frontier League Sportsmanship Award for the 2015-16 school year: Craig Davis in girls bowling, Cheryl O'Connor for softball, and Ron Krysztof for boys basketball.