Sortisio Responds To Teachers

FREDONIA — The Fredonia school district’s superintendent responded to a letter summarized in last Sunday’s Observer that criticized curriculum and teacher-administrator relations in the district.

Jeff Sortisio said in an interview that while parts of the letter were surprising to him, he was determined to investigate the allegations and improve his own performance.

The letter, from Fredonia Teacher’s Association President Roger Pacos, was actually the second letter that Pacos sent, Sortisio said. The first letter, dated July 5, was also sent to FTA membership but Pacos asked to rescind it because he wanted to survey the teaching staff about various issues, Sortisio said.

“I don’t have the results of that survey at this time, but it is certainly something I expect Mr. Pacos and I to discuss,” the superintendent said.

Sortisio was asked to respond to this statement in Pacos’ letter: “Overall, much of the problem comes from a great decline in genuine shared decision making regarding curriculum, along with related policies and procedures.”

“That’s a really strong statement from Mr. Pacos, and quite frankly, I was surprised at a lot of the content of that letter,” Sortisio said. “Roger and I, I think, have a really good relationship. … He’s actually a member of the administrative cabinet and we meet weekly. It’s all the administrators in the district and Roger. Currently he’s the only union president who sits on that cabinet. We talk about policies and curriculum and whatnot, so the teacher’s union does have a strong voice. That statement alone, along with a lot of the other parts of the letter, are going to require a lot of investigation on my part.”

Sortisio also questioned a part of the letter where elementary school staff members were said to be unclear why the district brought in a literacy specialist.

“That part really confused me,” he said. “At my request, the elementary principal (Amy Piper) took the better part of a faculty meeting to explain why the specialist was joining us for the year and this year as well, what it’s based on and what we hoped to gain out of it. …. It’s not unusual at all to bring in a specialist in certain areas. Basically, it’s how can we better in the area of literacy, which happens to be a board goal as well.”

The superintendent acknowledged tensions over teaching modules, but said his goal was to get students to not only meet state testing standards, but surpass them. On the issue of switching teaching assignments, he said that while he agrees that teachers should stay on the same grade level for a period of time, sometimes it does become necessary to make changes.

Sortisio said he plans to hold a meeting with Pacos and the rest of the FTA leadership to get evidence on allegations in Pacos’ letter. The date hasn’t been worked out yet, he said.