Decisions, Decisions

SINCLAIRVILLE – Cassadaga Valley Central School District could save nearly $450,000 by closing the Cassadaga Elementary School.

Recently, a committee that includes school board members, village officials, village residents, school administrators and teachers met to discuss the possible closure. The meeting was spent reviewing a draft committee report. Scott Smith, district superintendent, said the proposal is a draft and projections for district enrollment and savings from closing the school are only estimates.

If the building is closed, the projection is that two full-time equivalent teaching positions would be eliminated as well as a little over eight FTE support staff positions. This would result in a savings of $387,463.

A committee member questioned whether the administrator in the building would be eliminated. Smith said he had not made that projection. The principal is also the elementary special education director, which is how the position was restructured in 2010. Smith said the decision to close the building does not eliminate the obligation to have the position.

“There are a number of factors and legal ramifications. … I am not comfortable making a projection. We have to be mindful of the needs of special education students and teachers,” Smith said.

Smith also cautioned that he can’t predict retirements of teachers, noting there is an incentive on the table.

“Or someone might win the lottery and not come back,” he joked.

Building-related savings including maintenance and energy cost reductions total an estimated $55,148. The items in this projection included heating fuel, electric, insurance, telephone, plowing, mileage for staff traveling between buildings and bus mileage savings. The total personnel and other cost savings therefore would total $442,611.

John Kwietniewski, Sinclairville Elementary School principal, reviewed the reconfiguration of the Sinclairville building to accommodate the students housed in the Cassadaga building. He said the building could accommodate the students with two rooms to spare. Kwietniewski reviewed the educational impact of closing Cassadaga Elementary School. He pointed out a number of positives, including eliminating transportation runs between buildings, better communication between grade levels, increased instructional and extracurricular activities for all students, having all students from one family housed in one building, improved communication and better professional development by having teachers in one building.

The two negatives he pointed out were the effect on the Cassadaga community and a decrease in space for additional opportunities in the future.

Ronald DeChard, Cassadaga village trustee, was missing a Village Board meeting to attend the committee meeting. He said the village’s water project would be impacted by no longer having the school in Cassadaga. He also said at least some of the 10 people who would lose their jobs are likely Cassadaga residents.

The committee will meet at 7 p.m. Feb. 27 to finalize the report. A special board meeting for the report’s presentation to the school board will be held March 4. The board plans to make a decision at its March 11 meeting.