SPRINGVILLE — Springville-Griffith School Board President Mel Williams said that he was hoping 50 people would show up for the school’s first community conversation on Jan. 8, but the event ended up attracting more than 100 attendees.
“It’s been painfully obvious, over the years, that we weren’t getting enough input [about what residents want from their district],” he said. “Now we’ve reached out, to get as much input as possible.”
The community conversation, which was held at the Springville Middle School, was designed after a similar model previously used in Albany, in which participants are placed in groups, to speak about issues they feel are important.
Each of the six groups was presided over by a Springville-GI School Board member, who facilitated the conversation. Topics included instructional programs, extracurricular activities, facilities, operations, management and miscellaneous issues in the district.
Springville resident Claudia Wolniewicz said she had come as a concerned taxpayer who felt that the board has cut school programs to its maximum level. “We don’t have anything left to cut anymore,” she said. Her statement was echoed by others at her table, two of whom, Mike Rokitka and Chris Cerrone, are current Erie County teachers.
Cerrone, who teaches public school in Hamburg, but has children at Springville, said Springville is essentially shooting itself in the foot, with continued cuts. He added that, with a growing arts community and a civic base, Springville is on the verge of growing by leaps and bounds. “People are going to come here,” he said, “[but] if you slash the school, you’re left cutting your own throats.”
Some highlights from the event are as follows:
– All groups agreed that class sizes, throughout the district, raise a problem, which could compromise students’ education. In one example, 31 students are enrolled in a single government class; some kids skip lunch to attend classes that are not regularly offered at S-GI.
– The attendees said they believed that more elective classes need to be offered, not only to provide students with a variety, but also to serve as a means for college preparation.
– More internship programs for high school students are needed, as well, one group reported.
– Another group said that more distance and virtual learning programs are needed.
– Attendees said they thought the Springville District should “put the word out, to the community, that more volunteers are needed to help with in- and after-school programs,” which would free up time for teachers who are often pressed for time and therefore, supplement with district funds.
– One group said that students could be surveyed and questioned about what programs they want and what offerings, such as sports, they do not want.
– It was agreed that parent volunteers could be used as coaches for sports teams, eliminating the financial burden to the district. One group also suggested that football games be played in the afternoon, to eliminate the cost of lighting the stadium, which was estimated to cost $1,600, per game.
– Two groups said that some students were willing to pay a fee to play certain sports, though another group said that would “unfairly” affect students who could not afford the additional costs.
– More fundraisers are necessary, to help with clubs and sports.
– One group reported that administrative positions could be combined. Participants said that, for example, principals could take collected data and record it themselves, rather than pay for a director of data position.
– There needs to be more bidding for services more regularly, one group said.
– Another group said that bus routes need to be re-examined and combined.
– Students could handle the bulk of the district’s public relations work, which is currently handled by paid staff.
– Maintenance staff, including summer staff, needs to be brought back to effective levels, one group said, adding that facility conditions have consequently suffered. One student in attendance said that cleanliness has been an ongoing issue, in locker rooms.
– Several attendees said they believed the school administration needs to do a better, more effective job at researching and securing state and federal grants. One group said the district’s treasurer could help with the grant efforts.
– It was recommended that the school reduce the number of law firms that represent the district, which puts “a large financial strain” on the budget.
– The school could re-examine and improve upon its lunch menus. Board members reported that the cafeteria posted a revenue loss for the first time, last year.
School Superintendent Paul Connelly said information culled from the event will be condensed and be part of upcoming budget discussions.