OSWEGO, NY – After a five-year absence from the school board, Fran Hoefer picked up Wednesday night right where he left off.
Hoefer voted no for several extra-compensatory positions, salary adjustments for two administrators and the reappointment of the district’s attorney.
He also proposed money-savings ideas for the district.
Hoefer and newcomer Tom DeCastro took the oath of office during a 30-minute reorganizational meeting.
Sam Tripp was named board president for the coming term and Jim Tschudy was named vice president.
During the regular meeting, the board voted 4-3 to approve the raises for Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Cathy Chamberlain and Assistant Superintendent for Business Pete Colucci.
Tripp and board members John Dunsmoor and Hoefer voted no.
Tschudy and board members Dave White, Sean Madden, and DeCastro voted yes.
The raises bring Chamberlain’s salary to $104,681 (from $101,632) and Colucci’s salary to $101,713 (from $98,750).
“We’re being nice guys by giving 3 percent. It’s a nice thing, it really is. But, we’ve got to stop being quite so nice and quite so generous with other people’s money,” Hoefer said.
“Nothing against Pete or Cathy. They’re both doing a great job, but Pete has told us that next year we’re going to be facing a $7 million deficit in our budget,” Tripp said. “I think now is the time to start working toward that $7 million deficit.”
“We’re giving raises, cutting workloads, making things easier for everybody and our kids are failing. One in three is not making it through the system. We’re paying more and getting less,” Hoefer said. “Our kids are being failed by this district. First off, we need to get our teachers to earn the paychecks we’re paying them.”
They need to have more time on task, he said, adding they don’t spend enough time in the classroom.
“Let’s go to a seven period day. We can extend the class day and get five hours out of them, and we don’t have to negotiate that. It’s an immediate solution to a problem; we’re getting our money’s worth, at least to a larger degree. We don’t have to negotiate with a bunch of junk yard dogs to do it,” Hoefer said.
“Time out, none of that!” White interrupted. “C’mon, none of that.”
“Let me finish,” Hoefer replied.
“I don’t mind you finishing. But, you don’t need to call people junk yard dogs,” White pointed out.
More time on task would go a long way to improve the economic situation of the area, Hoefer said, “So we don’t have a crumbling community under a failing school district.”
If they can cut the tax levy it would bring businesses and homeowners back to the district, according to Hoefer.
Tripp pointed out that the district has been working on that for a long time.
“We’ve talked about it for the last six, seven months,” he said. “Hopefully, we’re moving forward. We’re concerned about the graduation rate, too.
Dunsmoor noted that winning sports teams help instill school spirit, using the past football season as an example. The athletic field, he added, is in need of repair.
“I totally agree with you, Fran,” Dunsmoor said. “I think what Oswego’s lost is our winning edge. We need to respect the things that we have and appreciate the things we have and make them all better and don’t settle for less. And that does take some money in certain things, but you get it back tenfold.”
“You have to feel good about what you do in this world. It just doesn’t come overnight, it doesn’t come easy,” Dunsmoor continued. “These kids need a kick in the butt. And sometimes, other people, too. We need to go back to a little bit of old fashioned tough love.”
There isn’t money for the football field, Hoefer said, because it was spent on “team leaders that we don’t need.”
Superintendent Bill Crist noted that the possibility of more periods during the day has been discussed.
“It’s going to take some time. It’s going to take some time to evolve into that,” he said.
The district’s graduation rate (67 percent) and dropout rate is an embarrassment, Crist admits.
“We’re adding counselors, we’re adding social workers, school psychologists. We’re adding people because we know, we found kids dropping through the cracks,” Crist said. “We are doing something to fix those kids, we are filling in those cracks.”
The students who get their GEDs or take five years to graduate aren’t considered to have graduated, according to state figures, the superintendent pointed out. Yet, many of those kids have gone on to college, he added.
“We are making gains. We’re not making them at the speed that I’m satisfied with and it’s nice to hear that not anyone here is satisfied (with the numbers). This is a district-wide problem. This is not a high school problem,” Crist said.
The district has been showing constant and steady gains on the grades 3 – 8 state test results, Crist noted.
“I appreciate what’s happening here. I appreciate the discussion that is happening here. I have got to be honest with you; it is like moving the Titanic. We’re all pulling the same rope and that ship moves slowly. I’m frustrated by it, just like everybody else,” the superintendent said.