By Jann Wiswall

Residents of the Ellicottville Central School District voted to approve the proposed school budget of $11,070,000 for the 2014-15 school year on Tuesday, May 20. The vote tally was 185 Yes to 59 No, or 76 percent in favor.

In addition, voters approved the district’s lease of a new school bus (180 for and 60 against) and to increase the school’s annual support to the Ellicottville Memorial Library by $416, to a total of $28,916 (149 for and 90 against).

Two new board members were elected to fill the seats of departing board members Steve Crowley and James Wiley, and for the first time in Ellicottville memory, the community elected a write-in candidate to fill one of the seats.

Nicole (Niki) Klein, who officially was on the ballot, won one seat with 192 votes. Write-in candidate Michelle Golley Cortez won the second seat with 51 votes. Both will join the board for five-year terms beginning July 1, 2014.

After receiving the election results, ECS Superintendent Mark Ward thanked the board for its hard work in preparing a difficult budget that both meets the needs of students and teachers and that formally allows the school to begin construction of the capital improvement project approved by voters last year.

During Tuesday’s board meeting, Ward reported that some 65 people representing 25-30 companies attended a briefing on Monday, May 19, with representatives from Campus Construction Management (CCM) regarding the bid packages for the capital improvement project. Potential bidders for various parts of the project were able to walk through the facility and ask detailed questions in order to prepare their bids.

Ward said the extent of interest in the project is very encouraging and should keep the bids competitive. Bids are due on June 10.

The board reviewed some proposed updates to the school’s business office manual that were recommended by auditors from the New York State Comptroller’s office. The changes relate to some internal purchasing procedures when competitive bidding is not required by law. The board will act on the proposed changes at its next meeting on June 3.

Ward also reported that he had met with representatives from BOCES to discuss next year’s library upgrades. Both the high school and elementary school libraries will be getting some new software and hardware that includes remote scanning devices that digitally records material and computer check outs.

School Activities

As the school year comes to a close, student activities are increasing. Ward said he attended the senior prom, which was a great success, noting that the class especially outdid itself decorating the West Valley fire hall.

The senior class trip to Chicago also was a grand success.

“Student behavior was outstanding,” he said.

Elementary School Principal Connie Poulin reported that the annual tree planting event for Arbor Day benefited from great weather, allowing students to help plant a black locust tree and learn about the species.

She also noted that field trip season is coming up after testing season ends and that the last Eagle Time assembly is scheduled for May 29 with a presentation from the kindergarten classes.

Both Ward and Poulin had positive stories to share.

Ward read the board a letter he received from a father whose daughter was home from school with a sports injury on the morning that ECS coach and teacher Matt Finn brought in long-promised doughnuts for his class — something the daughter had been encouraging Finn to do for some time. Later that morning, there was a knock on the family’s front door. It was Finn, hand delivering the student her treat.

The father was so impressed with the gesture, and his daughter’s reaction to it, that it prompted him to write to Ward and bring this, perhaps small but very meaningful, act to his attention.

School Board Chair Roger Spell commented, “It’s neat that he did that, but, knowing Matt, it doesn’t surprise me either.”

Ward and the rest of the board agreed that “that is the kind of teacher he is.”

Poulin relayed a story about a severely dyslexic fourth grader who will be demonstrating to BOCES’ technology staff how he is using certain technological tools to improve his reading skills and, not surprisingly, his confidence. The student, with his teacher’s help, plans to do a similar demonstration for his classmates to help them understand why he needs to take a different approach to reach the same reading goals.

The next meeting of the ECS board will be held on Tuesday, June 3 at 7:30 p.m. in the high school library.