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Massena school board reinstates several positions; name Putman interim acting super

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MASSENA - It was a night of personnel actions Thursday for the Massena Central School Board of Education.

After reviewing their projected end of year expenses, they reinstated several positions that had been cut as part of the 2013-14 budget.

They also accepted the resignation of their current superintendent, appointed an acting superintendent for July and appointed an interim superintendent who will take over on Aug. 1.

The board acted on a letter President John R. Boyce said he had received from Superintendent Roger B. Clough II, accepting his resignation effective June 30. Mr. Clough took over for former Superintendent Douglas W. Huntley on an interim basis in August 2008. He was named permanent superintendent in June 2009.

He had notified board of education members in June 2012 that he did not wish to have his contract renewed when it expired at the end of this month.

Board of education members also approved the appointment of William W. Crist as the interim superintendent for the 2013-14 school year. Mr. Crist, who is currently the superintendent of the Oswego City School District, will begin his duties Aug. 1 at an annual salary of $143,000. Mr. Boyce said he will not be provided health care insurance during his tenure.

Board members had opted to go with an interim superintendent appointment after their search for a full-time superintendent drew only four applications. They intend to restart the search process during the 2013-14 school year.

Because there will be a one-month period between the time Mr. Clough departs and Mr. Crist reports, board members appointed an acting superintendent - Stephen M. Putman, who will be retiring June 30 from the St. Lawrence Central School District. He will be paid a per diem rate of $600 a day, according to Mr. Boyce, who said Mr. Putman will have approximately eight days in July that he will not be available.

Mr. Putman’s appointment as acting superintendent was done mutually through Thomas R. Burns, superintendent of the St. Lawrence-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services, Mr. Boyce said.

Board members also approved bringing back some positions that had been cut as part of the 2013-14 budget. Finance Committee Chairman Michael J. LeBire said that, after re viewing their projected year-end expenses for 2012-13, he was recommending that seven positions that had previously been abolished during the April 22 meeting be reinstated.

They included one alternative education liaison position, three reading teaching assistant positions, one psychologist position that was scheduled to become a BOCES position, a one-half business teacher position, a one-half mathematics teacher position and one English teacher position.

Effective July 10, alternative education liaison Kristopher Covell, reading teaching assistants Darcy LaBarge, Amanda Pierce and Karen LeCuyer, psychologist Clare Mackenzie-Mauch, mathematics teacher Eliza Pierce, business teacher Jan Normile and English teacher Trista Girard will be returning to the district with their salary and benefits reinstated without any penalty, Mr. LeBire said.

However, it may not be in the role they were in before the cuts, according to Mr. Boyce. Among the returning teachers are some who were associated with the Delta School of Choice, which was cut as part of the 2013-14 budget.

“Those names don’t necessarily fill that position,” Mr. Boyce said.

“Mike Chartrand will be returning to his position as alternative education liaison. Kristopher Covell will then be reinstated to fill the social studies teacher vacancy,” Mr. LeBire said.

Facing a $5.6 million gap in their 2013-14 spending plan, district officials had eliminated 29.25 full-time equivalent positions, which meant the end for the Delta School of Choice. The budget also eliminated or reduced to part-time the jobs of 42 people at all levels, from administration to instruction to support.

That was a concern to two teachers who spoke Thursday night.

Spanish teacher Joseph Boyle, who also serves as that department’s chair, said he was concerned about the elimination of the seventh-grade foreign language classes. Three foreign language teachers had been cut out of the staff of nine, according to Mr. Boyle, who said he had sent an email to each of the board members this week to share his concerns about the impact of cutting the program at that grade level.

Among the “unintended impacts” of the move, he said, was that teachers would be asked to instruct out of their area of familiarity.

“You’re asking a Spanish or French teacher to teach a language they’re not really trained for. We don’t think it’s good for students,” he said.

Mr. Boyle said he was also concerned about class sizes. He pointed out that a study had determined class sizes above 25 in the foreign languages was a “serious detriment” to learning.

“We’re not merely dealing with the seventh grade program. We’re dealing with not having enough people to teach classes,” he said, asking the board to “begin dialogue” and respond to what he felt were inequitable cuts in the department.

Mr. Boyce said they had already discussed the move with building principals before making it.

“We didn’t pull this out of the blue. We talked to people,” he said. “Is it the best system? No, but we do want to make things work.”

He said in the next couple of months board members would continue looking at positions that had been cut in hopes of restoring some of them.

Teacher Joseph Mittiga, who lost his job as part of the cuts, said he was also concerned about having teachers instructing in an unfamiliar area.

“You are currently proposing next year that two social studies courses be taught by an English teacher,” he said, noting the district had “highly qualified social studies teachers who are currently laid off.”

Mr. Mittiga suggested that five social studies teachers were trained for the International Baccalaureate program, but were not being used in that role, and he alleged that one unidentified teacher who remained on the district’s staff was not qualified to be in the classroom.

“There is a certification, tenure and seniority issue relating to a certain individual,” he said.

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