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City teachers rap school for adding administration

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The Ogdensburg City School administration will increase from eight to nine members next year as part of the reorganizational plan proposed by Superintendent Timothy M. Vernsey.

Previously Mr. Vernsey said the administration would not be increasing following the retirement of Assistant Superintendent and Committee on Special Education Chair David J. Valois this summer.

But at Monday’s Board of Education meeting, Mr. Vernsey acknowledged the administration will indeed be expanding next year as Athletic Director Anthony Bjork joins as assistant high school principal. Mr. Bjork will continue acting as the district’s athletic director, overseeing upwards of 50 coaches, Mr. Vernsey said.

Questions over the exact nature of the restructuring within the administration arose when Education Association President David G. Price criticized Mr. Vernsey’s assertion that the administration will remain the same size.

Mr. Vernsey said the difference in understanding reflected a schism between the interpretations of what Mr. Bjork’s job is today.

“[Mr. Bjork] is essentially an administrator already,” Mr. Vernsey said. “From my perspective we’ve had nine [administrators] and we will continue to have nine next year.”

Mr. Bjork has been a teacher on special assignment while serving as the district’s athletic director, making him part of the teachers union. With his new position he will join the district’s administrative union.

Mr. Price said the administration is raiding the teacher’s union to beef up their own, adding that, by his count, the district hasn’t lost any administrators to budget cuts in the last five years while 33 teaching positions have been cut.

“Over the last several years we’ve had a lot of discussion in this chamber about tightening the belt,” he said, adding that he would like to see more “equity” between the teachers and administrators as far as who is shouldering the burden of budget cuts.

Defending the proposed changes to the administration, Mr. Vernsey said the plan will save $137,000, largely due to the fact that Mr. Valois, who makes $116,000 a year, won’t have to be paid anymore. Savings will also come from the retirement of an elementary school teacher who will not be replaced, saving $97,000, as well as the elimination of the instructional technology coaching position, saving $51,000, Mr. Vernsey said.

The plan will also see middle school Principal Kevin Kendall becoming the director of curriculum, instruction and assessment and Madill Elementary School Principal Debora Hannan becoming the director of the district’s special education program. Previously Mr. Valois preformed both of these jobs.

“There are many administrative mandates that have to be performed and we need people to do them,” Mr. Vernsey said. In particular he noted the new common core curriculum and teacher and principal evaluations are time consuming and warrant the extra hands on deck. “I think we’re being good; we’re trying to be efficient.”

“If I thought that we could cut another position in the administration, I’d do it in a heartbeat,” Mr. Vernsey said.

But Mr. Price said he doesn’t see where the savings will come from. As Mr. Kendall and Mrs. Hannan move up in the administration they will also become full year employees of the district, requiring an increase in their salary, Mr. Price said.

“You can’t save money by paying someone more,” Mr. Price said.

Instead Mr. Price believes the savings are largely coming from the retirement of the elementary school teacher instructional technology coaching position, while the savings from Mr. Valois’ retirement will be consumed with the new salaries.

The restructuring will see Cynthia Tuttle remain as high school principal with Mr. Bjork replacing Pamela Luckie as assistant principal. Mrs. Luckie will replace Mr. Kendall as middle school principal and Paula Scott, the principal at Lincoln and Sherman Elementary Schools, will become the principal at Madill as Mrs. Hannan moves to supervise special education.

Susan Jacobs will remain as principal of Kennedy Elementary School and the district will hire an assistant principle based at Kennedy.

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