By Jann Wiswall

ECS Superintendent Mark Ward informed the board at its meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 11, that CA-BOCES District Superintendent Lynda Quick has asked ECS to host a rally advocating the end of the state’s Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA). Representatives of schools and districts in Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Southern Erie and Allegany counties will be invited to attend, as will other interested parties and the media.

According to the NYS School Boards Association (NYSSBA), “since the 2009-10 school year, the state has deducted from each school district’s state aid allocation … to help the state fill its revenue shortfall. … Districts have been coping with the cumulative impact of four consecutive years of state aid losses resulting from the GEA. The net impact has been detrimental to students in the form of cuts in personnel, programs and services and the depletion of district reserves. … NYSSBA strongly supports the elimination or additional reduction of the GEA.”

NYSSBA goes on to say that the GEA has cost the state’s schools more than $1.5 billion.

Ward said he has agreed to host the rally at ECS, which will be held on the evening of March 10. More details will be forthcoming.

Elementary Guidance
Elementary School Guidance Counselor Dan LaCroix spent some time with the ECS School Board describing some of the tools and strategies the school uses to teach essential social skills such as empathy, emotion management and problem solving. With a new learning program called Second Step, LaCroix and other counselors make the process fun and interactive for students in grades K-8, and are able to align the lessons with academic goals.

In sixth and eighth grades, counselors are using Second Step, as well as “Guidance Direct Career Exploration,” “If You Really Knew Me” videos and other tools, to teach work skills (e.g. Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint), bullying prevention, career realities and other life lessons to help students prepare for adulthood.

Following this presentation, Ward reported that the school had received a thank you letter from Representative Tom Reed expressing gratitude for the students’ Christmas Cards for Troops efforts in December. He also said that ECS hosted the All-County Music Festival at Cattaraugus/Little Valley School last week.

“ECS has some of the best bands in the county,” Ward said.

Ward and capital project committee member Carl Calarco briefed the board on their latest meeting with SEI Architects and Campus Construction, during which the team continued to look at the minutiae of the project with an eye toward trimming costs. Calarco said they have been looking at adjusting finishes, materials and for chunks of the project that could be classified as “budget protection alternates” — items that might be set aside to be done at a later time if bids come in higher than estimated.

On March 10, SEI, Campus Construction and committee members will be inviting teachers and administrators whose departments are most impacted by the project (e.g. music, technology, physical education) to review relevant portions of the project and make sure they have everything they need and nothing they don’t need.

“We want them to make the decisions about what, if anything, can be eliminated,” Calarco stressed. “We must use every dollar the best way we can.”

Superintendent’s Report
In addition to announcing the rally on the GEA issue, Ward reported that he and District Treasurer Aimee Kilby have been looking closely at the 2013-14 budget and that, so far, things are looking good with the exception of the electricity bills, which are sky high due to this winter’s cold weather. They also are tracking BOCES expenditures.

Meanwhile, the board’s building and grounds committee has identified a number of necessary repairs or equipment replacements that will have to be addressed this year, including a roof leak, broken steps and a non-functioning hot water heater and scrubber.

Ward said that the basketball teams’ 1,000-point scorers will be announced with fanfare this week.

Principal’s Report

Elementary School Principal Connie Poulin noted that the second marking period of the year is complete and report cards will be out by the end of the week. This is a busy time of year, she said, particularly as teachers are working to ensure that students with academic issues get the additional support, tutoring or other interventions they need to make it through the year.

Middle/High School Principal Bob Miller will be out of school for the rest of this week due to an injury. Ward is covering for Miller until he returns.

The next meeting of the ECS School Board will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 25, at 7:30 p.m. in the high school library.