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Whitaker Holds First Meeting With School Board

Paul Abbott, pictured lower left corner, swears his oath after a reappointment as Jamestown Board of Education President on Thursday. P-J photo by Jay Young

The Jamestown Board of Education held its first meeting with Dr. Kevin Whitaker officially serving as superintendent on Thursday. Whitaker was announced as the new superintendent on June 8, and formally took over the position after the retirement of Dr. Bret Apthorpe on June 30.

“I’ve gotten the chance to meet a lot of new people and find out some great things about some great people. There is a lot of great work going on here,” Whitaker said. “Thank you for having me as your superintendent, and I am sure I will continue to meet more people and learn more great things.”

Thursday was a reorganizational meeting for the board following the recent election, with members Shelly Leathers, Paul Abbott and Christine Schnars all winning reelection and swearing their oaths for the coming term.

Abbott was unanimously reappointed as president, and Patrick Slagle was unanimously reelected as vice president. The board discussed several matters related to COVID-19 and plans for the 2020-21 school year. Whitaker said that more information from the state should be forthcoming.

“Those dates in mid July are the meeting of the (New York State Board of Regents),” Whitaker said. “That is going to happen July 13-14. So hopefully we will have some general guidance the and specific guidance thereafter.”

In response to lingering questions about the financial impact on education due to COVID-19, the board drafted a resolution asking “that the elected leaders in the state of New York act to preserve education programs and related jobs to ensure that the COVID-19 crisis does not damage the quality of public education in our state.” The resolution notes a reported deficit of $13 billion in the state budget, and includes concerns that “state courts have upheld that the state has the legal responsibility to provide proper funding for public schools,” “the state on average provides less than 40% of the total revenues to school districts,” and “public school districts are owed over $3.8 billion in Foundation Aid for the 2020-21 school year.”

In other business, the board approved a number of appointments and financial matters for the coming year, including a motion awarding Mazza Mechanical Services the contract for the Persell Heating System Reconstruction Project for the amount of $347, 350. The board also approved agreements of cooperation with Hillside Children’s Center, the Jamestown YMCA and YWCA, and Erie 1 BOCES, the latter for a five-year period commencing on June 12, 2020.

Due to COVID-19 concerns, the board modified its meeting schedule for the coming year and will now meet only in the main board room as opposed to at different schools within the district. That scheduling change could be reversed if public health restrictions allow.

The board also approved the proposed merger between the Jamestown and Falconer swimming programs.

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