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Massena Central School Board restores two teaching, one guidance counselor positions

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MASSENA —A foreign language teacher, a half-time social studies teacher and a guidance counselor were among the positions restored Thursday night by the Massena Central School District Board of Education.

The board voted to reinstate Joseph Mittiga as the half-time high school social studies teacher at a salary of $21,962, Van Alexander to the guidance counselor position at a salary of $58,474 and an unnamed foreign language teacher.

Board members also opted not to reinstate Claudeen Watkins from her full-time keyboard specialist position to her previous human resources specialist position. Instead Ms. Watkins will remain as a keyboard specialist and the district will hire one more keyboard specialist, acting Superintendent Stephen M. Putman said.

In addition, board members voted to combine two Massena Building Administrators Association positions, allowing Athletic Director Timothy J. Hayes also to serve as dean of students at J. William Leary Junior High School.

“I recognize this could be a bit of a challenge,” Mr. Putman said, suggesting that the move be monitored “to see how it plays out.”

A resolution to reinstate a management confidential position was scratched from the list of recommended actions after board members returned from an executive session that stretched for nearly an hour.

Board members also voted to reinstate two food service workers for two hours a day. One was a food service motor vehicle operator, and the other was a food service helper.

Mr. Putman said the 2013-14 budget had cut three foreign language teachers out of nine, and when officials decided to reinstate one of those positions, they had to offer it the person with the most seniority who was certified for the job. He said the person who was reinstated Thursday night is certified in French but must be certified to teach Spanish before the start of the school year.

Spanish teacher Joseph Boyle, who chairs that department, had told board members in June that one of his concerns with the cuts was that teachers would be asked to instruct outside of their area of familiarity.

“You’re asking a Spanish or French teacher to teach a language they’re not really trained for. We don’t think it’s good for students,” he had told board members.

Mr. Boyle had said he was also concerned about class sizes, pointing out that a study had determined class sizes above 25 in foreign languages was a “serious detriment” to learning.

The half-time social studies teacher position was restored because of concerns about class sizes. Mr. Mittiga, whose position had been eliminated in the budget, had also shared his concerns with board members in June, noting he was concerned about having teachers instructing in an unfamiliar area.

“You are currently proposing next year that two social studies courses be taught by an English teacher,” he had told them, noting the district had “highly qualified social studies teachers who are currently laid off.”

The guidance counselor position was restored because of concerns about the ratio of high school students to counselors. “There are nearly 900 kids in high school and only three guidance counselors scheduled to be there,” Mr. Putman said.

It was the second consecutive month that positions were reinstated in the district.

During their June meeting, school board members also reinstated several positions after reviewing their projected end-of-year expenses. Former Finance Committee Chairman Michael J. LeBire, who finished his term in June, had recommended that seven positions that had previously been abolished during the board’s April 22 meeting be reinstated.

They included one alternative education liaison position, three reading teaching assistant positions, one psychologist position that was scheduled to become a BOCES position, a one-half business teacher position, a one-half mathematics teacher position and one English teacher position.

Facing a $5.6 million gap in their 2013-14 spending plan, district officials had eliminated 29.25 full-time equivalent positions.

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