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Smith takes Pittman's seat on school board

by Olivia
Thu, Mar 10th 2011 05:00 pm

Wheatfield resident Kevin M. Smith is only appointed to the Niagara-Wheatfield Board of Education for a few months, but they are the most important months in the board year as a budget for tough economic times is prepared.

Smith was sworn in last week as Lori Pittman's replacement on the board. Pittman resigned last month saying she was unhappy with the direction the board was taking recently.

Smith currently is taking a wait-and-see attitude on whether he will run for election on May 17, the same day the board's completed budget goes to public vote. In addition to the final year of Pittman's term, the three-year terms of current board President William Conrad, Vice President Michele Hoerner and board member Samuel Monin will be on the ballot. Their terms expire June 30.

For those interested in running for seats on the board, nominating petitions, which must contain 25 signatures of supporters, can be picked up at the school district's administration office at 6700 Shultz St., in Bergholz from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. They are due back by Monday, April 18.

Smith was one of nine people interviewed by the board for Pittman's seat.

"It's service to the community. I consider that an honor," said Smith when asked why he volunteered to fill her position until the vote. Also, he said, "Having a 5-year-old in the district, it's really knowing I'm doing something to help him and all his friends ... I'm contributing to his future."

Smith and his wife, Deanna, have been residents of Wheatfield since July 2008. Their son attends West Street Elementary. Smith is a captain in the Air National Guard's 107th Airlift Wing, where he has served for 19 years. He also has been employed by the Niagara County Sheriff's Office for the past 13 years and is currently a sergeant. He serves as the co-director of the Niagara County Law Enforcement Academy.

Conrad commented after last week's board meeting that he was surprised at the number and quality of those who indicated interest in filling the vacant board seat. The final decision was "very, very close," he said. "We had to choose only one, that was the hard part."

The next step in the development of the 2011-12 school budget will come at 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 16, when the board  holds a budget meeting in the adult learning center at the high school. The meeting will be held in executive session and closed to the public. The next regular meeting, open to the public, will be at 7 p.m. April 6 in the adult learning center.

The board last week scheduled the annual public hearing on the proposed budget for 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 4, in the adult learning center.

The Niagara-Wheatfield School District, like others is anticipating a large cut in state aid. The governor's budget includes a 17 percent, or $4.5 million, cut in state aid to Niagara-Wheatfield, the largest cut in Niagara County.

In other matters:

At last week's meeting, the board heard presentations on three "character education" programs Superintendent Carl Militello would like to see used district wide.

Kathy Brockman from the West Seneca School District detailed how the "Leader in Me" program, with its seven proactive "habits," made an amazing turnaround in attitude of both students and staff at West Seneca's Winchester Elementary.

A team of Edward Town Middle School teachers reported on Falcon Fundamentals (E-everybody matters, T-thoughtful learning, M-mature attitudes, S-safe environment). The program clearly sets forth expected behavior both inside and outside the classroom and was adapted from the Grand Island School District's Viking Values program.

The final program would be a 10-session "Love and Logic" parenting course offered as part of the district's adult education program.

On Thursday, March 24, Militello plans to conduct a character education meeting in the adult learning center, starting at 6 p.m. All community members are welcome. Militello formed a character education group, made up of parents, administrators and staff, to study available programs earlier this year after a parent complained her child was bullied and physically injured on a school bus.

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