By Kellen M. Quigley

The Ellicottville Central School Board of Education held its reorganizational meeting Tuesday, where Robert Van Wicklin was elected school board president for the 2019-20 school year.

Wicklin successfully secured reelection to his seat on the board for another five-year term during the district’s annual school board and district budget vote in May.

Elected as vice president of the board was William Murphy, who also served as vice president in the 2018-19 year.

New board member Shana Chudy was also sworn in. Chudy was also elected to the board for a five-year term during the May vote.

In keeping with the status quo, the school board approved several dozen resolutions and accordances for the district to begin the 2019-20 school year.

New this year, the board set its meeting schedule for the year with changes the regular meeting times, moving ahead one hour to 6 p.m. Several specific meetings will have differing times, but the board members agreed starting an hour earlier for most meetings would be better.

The school board had a discussion about the desire to have two foreign language options offered to students in grades 7 through 12 and potential changes to the program in order to make both work.

Superintendent Bob Miller said the first Spanish class in seventh grade would have between 30 and 35 kids unless the district can find a way to split that section. Comparatively, seventh grade French would only have 11 students.

“There was a question about phasing one out, and the board was pretty adamant last year about keeping two foreign languages around,” he said.

Miller said although the French classes are smaller than Spanish, French students tend to stay through the program throughout high school while many Spanish students drop the class after 10th grade.

“We talked about a lot of different options, but one we came up with was not offering college-level Spanish and instead combining Spanish 4 and 5,” Miller said, which would be a combined junior and senior class, freeing up a period for two seventh grade Spanish classes. Currently, the district only has one Spanish teacher teaching seven different courses.

Miller noted that many neighboring small school districts have dropped French and only teach Spanish, but one issue with that could be a transfer student who started in one language and needs to fit into one of the high school classes.

The board discussed several other ideas, including methods to even out the class sizes so there are more French students and fewer Spanish students. Miller said he would provide the board with more information to make a decision at a future meeting.

In other business, Elementary Principal Maren Bush said the elementary school had a successful field day celebration in June. During the day, Sandy Tomblin, who retired, had the wing in the basement where her classroom was dedicated as “Mrs. Tomblin’s Way.”

Bush said the school is working on a PEDALS grant to help fund a social-emotional support program for students. 

Bush said the school had a spirit week the final week of school, featuring Dress Like a Teacher Day, which featured many students dressing up as ECS staff.

In the high school, Principal Erich Ploetz said graduation ceremonies went off well, adding that the class of 2019 had a 100 percent graduation rate.

Looking to next year, Ploetz said the campus has a limited amount of parking spots for students, but with a large junior class of about 60 students coming in, he said not all of them will be able to have a spot.

“It could be disappointing for some families, whatever situation we go with,” he said. “We have roughly 40 spots for student parking… but there’s over 100 students vying for those 40 spots.”

Miller said there are several options the school could go with determining which students can have their own spot, but he said it is almost guaranteed all seniors could have spot if needed.

“The last two years I’ve been here, it has been less of an issue with the smaller class sizes,” Ploetz said. “We’re going to have to be more proactive.”