RANDOLPH Board members of the Randolph Academy voted unanimously and without debate to abolish three teacher's aide positions at their Wednesday board meeting.
With the resignation of one part-time teacher's aide, their position was abolished as well as two other positions. Jeff Keppel, labor relation specialist for NYSUT, the union representative for the academy staff, and Janet Huntington, president of the Academy Support Staff, were present to appeal to board members for the positions of the employees being laid off.
The positions were abolished prior to the public participation portion of the meeting which was held off until the end of the meeting; after a lengthy report from their accountant with the annual external audit report, in which she suggested the board consider whether they should keep the cosmetology department open, a presentation from students, and other routine board actions.
Keppel showed his frustration when finally permitted to speak by asking why the board had moved the public participation to the end of the meeting when it had always been at the beginning.
''I could have come at 5:30 (p.m.) instead of 4 (p.m.) if I'd known you were going to make me sit through all this other board business I don't care about,'' Keppel stated. ''How can you make an action without public participation?
''It helps further labor relations. This is disheartening,'' he added.
Keppel also stated that there was a large layoff in September and now they would be laying off two more in October and eliminating another position.
''Hard for me to comprehend," he told unresponsive board members. "When are you going to get a grasp?"
Huntington asked board members why she was having trouble getting Ms. DeCarlo's and Mr. Weikel's evaluations. She stated that she'd been asking since August and according to Department of Education law, she is entitled to it by Sept. 10. She stated that she had to file through the Freedom of Information Law for the evaluations. Huntington added that labor relations don't seem to be getting better, but have gotten worse.
"The board shares Mr. Keppel's concern over declining enrollment at Randolph Academy,'' Brad Sande, board president, stated. ''As recently as last week, Gov. Paterson announced even further cuts in state aid to school districts. The fact is that no one knows the direction the economy will take our educational system. A truly conservative approach to this scenario would have the Board of Education implement even deeper staff cuts. Instead, we have chosen to monitor our budget and expenditures constantly. If future staff cuts are necessary, they will be effected only when it becomes evident that our revenues won't support existing staffing levels."
Lori DeCarlo, school superintendent, stated "The district's response to the FOIL request for my evaluation and the principal's evaluation was prepared in full compliance with the Freedom of Information Law. When a disagreement over released documents occurs, an appeal is sent to the Executive Director for the Committee on Open Government in Albany, who will review the matter. The district has properly responded in forwarding the appeal to Albany"
In regards to Keppel's comment, DeCarlo said: "Jeff Keppel's comment of exasperation that asked when the BOE will 'get a handle on this' ignores the fact that our ongoing enrollment decline requires vigilant monitoring and immediate response. As a Special Act District, the law does not allow us a 'rainy day' reserve account to cushion loss of revenue. When enrollment declines, we must immediately cut expenditures. The BOE constantly monitors enrollment. At its September meeting, the Board was aware that enrollment was 102 instead of the anticipated 108, but we don't do layoffs until they are absolutely nece ssary. The budget still isn't balanced, but the Board will wait and monitor enrollment before further cuts are considered."
As for improving relations, DeCarlo stated that events have been held to increase communication. She stated a 'welcome back' reception for all staff was held and comments were very positive.
"The board of education strives to celebrate and publicize staff talents and program accomplishments," she said.
As for the issue of public participation being held at the end of the hour and half meeting, Mr. Sande stated, "I have no comment on the order of the Board's meeting agenda."