‘What’s Best For Our Kids’

Falconer School Board Discuss Funding New Positions

The Falconer Central School Board of Education toured the Temple Elementary School prior to Tuesday’s meeting. The board later heard presentations from different departments in the school. The board later discussed finding the balance to addressing student need and being fiscally responsible. P-J Photo by Jordan W. Patterson

KENNEDY — After touring the Temple Elementary School, the Falconer School Board of Education members were given presentations by various school departments. A conversation about AIS services in Kindergarten prompted a verbal exchange between two board members about funding staff positions.

Presentations were given by various departments including school psychologists, keyboarding instructors, teachers from all grade levels and AIS teachers.

During conversations about reading and speech issues among students board member Jamie Zaranek asked the teachers at the meeting if more could be done to help students in Kindergarten who need extra help. Several of the teachers answered yes.

Zaranek said the Temple educators told the board last year 18 kindergarten, 23 first grade and 27 second grade students who didn’t meet grade-level expectations by the end of the year.

Zaranek asked if any additional support was given to Temple to address the concern. The majority of the teachers remained silent, to which Zaranek said, “I’m going to take that as a no.”

He then asked if adding an AIS reading teacher to address kindergarten students specifically would help. Several teachers agreed that adding additional support to help student’s speech and reading would benefit Temple.

Several teachers discussed instances where students at Temple are almost unintelligible and that the speech issues impact all other facets of their education.

Many of the teachers agreed that the problem was begins in the household and noted that some students aren’t being engaged enough at home.

Temple currently shares a reading teacher for the kindergarten level, but there isn’t a specifically assigned reading teacher to that grade level.

“So we can still do more for our kids down here?” Zaranek added.

Tom Frederes, board vice president, asked Zaranek to clarify his statement. He then asked his fellow board member where funding for new staff positions originates from. After a brief back and forth, Frederes said the funding comes from raising taxes.

“If the kids need help, they need help,” Zaranek said.

Frederes agreed that he, as a board member, would like to help all the students in Temple, but wanted to emphasize the district’s current budget restraints, specifically when it comes to adding new staff.

Superintendent Stephen Penhollow added to the conversation about funding new staff positions by describing the Temple employees jobs as being difficult, but he noted he would choose Falconer over any other school district in the county to send his children if they were school-age again.

“I think the conscientious effort of not only the board but the entire staff is to do what’s best for our kids,” Penhollow said.

Penhollow went on to add that the district has addressed social and emotional concerns in the district by adding an additional school counselor.

Penhollow admitted that enrollment changes and budget scenarios in the district will impact decisions made by the board.

Penhollow, a former elementary teacher, said he observed the struggles of students having issues reading and speaking firsthand.

He said the goal of the district is to find a balance.

“It is our job to kind of balance being fiscally responsible as well as meeting the needs for our kids,” he said. “I don’t disagree with what anyone said. It’s finding a way to accommodate that.”