Zagrobelny won’t support budget if it includes full-day kindergarten as is
Despite a passionate plea from board member Stephen Zagrobelny, the East Aurora School Board decided at its Feb. 9 meeting to go ahead with full-day kindergarten in the district for the next school year.
Zagrobelny had asked the board to consider postponing the implementation of full-day kindergarten until the 2013-14 school year. The board voted 4-3 to approve full-day kindergarten for the 2012-13 school year in September. Zagrobelny voted against the proposal at that time.
On Feb. 3, Business Manager Paul Blowers sent a letter to Superintendent Brian Russ updating the financial impact of full-day kindergarten after Gov. Andrew Cuomo released his state aid proposal.
The letter concluded that “the facts and assumptions used in making the decision to convert to a full-day program in September have not changed. What has changed is the enrollment numbers and the corresponding number of classroom teachers needed to support full-day kindergarten.”
The letter stated that the district’s 2012-13 original projections used an enrollment of 86 and an increased full-time equivalent of 1.5. It said the revised projections include an increased enrollment of 113 and an increase in teaching FTEs of 2.5.
“Finally, implementing a new program during a time of frozen foundation aid and the continuance of the Gap Elimination Adjustment may seem risky at this point in time,” the letter stated “However, one thing we are sure of is that conversion aid will be available to the school district in 2012-2013 and now may be the right time to take advantage of this opportunity.”
Zagrobelny said the district would be better off using the approximately $355,000 in conversion aid to implement full-day kindergarten as a “windfall.”
“Paul [Blowers] has been very judicious with his use of the reserve fund balance during the last several years,” he said. “He’s gotten us out of some very tight financial situations.”
Zagrobelny said it does not make sense for the district to propose cutting 15.7 staff positions to balance the budget, only to add three more to implement full-day kindergarten. Parkdale Elementary Principal Colleen Klimchuck confirmed that full-day kindergarten would mean negating 3 FTE cuts in the teaching staff at Parkdale.
Board Vice President Kathyann Lorka agreed with Zagrobelny.
While she said she believes in the educational value of full-day kindergarten, she also thinks the district should wait for a more solid financial picture before implementing it.
Board member Eric Sweet asked Zagrobelny if he believed in the educational value of full-day kindergarten. Zagrobelny admitted that he wasn’t sold on it. Sweet then said Zagrobelny was“outoforder” because the board had already voted on the matter in September. That’s when things began to become heated.
“You squeezed out a 4-3 vote in September,” Zagrobelny told Sweet. “Just ram it [full-day kindergarten] down our throats. Just ram it down.”
Sweet said Zagrobelny was letting his emotions get the better of him.
Board President Daniel Brunson then brought the debate to a close for the time being, saying that no board member seems willing to change his or her position on the issue at this time.
Zagrobelny told the board that he could not and would not support a budget with the implementation as is for the 2012-13 school year due to the current instability of state aid.