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Sun., Dec. 21
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Massena Central School Board splits on contract, personnel votes

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MASSENA - Massena Central School Board of Education members were split Thursday night when they were asked to approve 146 personnel actions and approve a new contract with the Massena Confederated School Employees’ Association.

Board members William Sommerfield, Michael LeBire, Cristen Halladay and Ronald Faucher opposed the MCSEA contract, which would run from 2012 to 2017. Voting yes were Kevin Perretta, Gregory Fregoe and Patrick Bronchetti. Leonard Matthews was absent, and John Boyce was not present for the vote.

Mr. Sommerfield also opposed three of the 146 personnel actions presented by Superintendent Roger B. Clough II. Mr. Bronchetti and Ms. Halladay abstained from voting on one of the actions, but joined Mr. Sommerfield in voting against two others.

In a letter sent to board members, Assistant Superintendent for Business Cynthia M. Yager had asked board members not to approve the MCSEA contract, which she called “financially irresponsible.”

“Our support staff deserves a good contract, in fact they probably deserve much more than the proposal on the agenda tonight,” she wrote. “However, the proposed contract, in my opinion, is financially irresponsible. When the last long-range plan and the ‘12-13 budget were developed, the directive from the board finance committee was lower than the cost of this proposal contract. To pay for this contract, the school district will have to cut educational programs, reduce staff, outsource jobs and/or live with financial turmoil.”

Ms. Yager said the recent cut of an account clerk and transfer of the position to the St. Lawrence-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services “is the harbinger of what the future could be for this union. The salary cost savings was over $10,000. This support staff, as presented, would widen the cost differential of using BOCES’ services and would further support outsourcing these job functions in the future to the detriment of our community.

“I urge the board to reflect on these facts, and am confident the board will want to go back to the bargaining table and present a fair financial package that would be a ‘win, win’ for everyone,” she wrote.

Ms. Yager said she was addressing the matter to ensure the district’s financial stability in the future. She will be retiring in July.

“My final goal in Massena was to ensure that the school district is in a stable financial condition. I am proud to say, to the best of my knowledge, that goal has been met. The current long-range plan with fund balance management sustains this district for a minimum of four years. Prudent oversight will maintain the programs and finance for many years beyond that,” she wrote.

When board members were asked by Mr. Clough to approve 146 personnel actions, questions arose from some board members about stipends for certain individuals the list. Personnel are referred in board meetings only by a number and not a specific name.

Mr. Clough said the specific individuals board members were concerned about were under contract and authorized a stipend. However, board members asked to discuss the matter in executive session.

When they returned, they voted on actions 1 through 17, 18, 19 to 72, 73, 74, 75 to 81 and 82 to 146 to allow board members to object to specific individuals rather than voting against the entire list.

Whether the measures passed, however, may be a subject of contention because a quorum, according to state education law, consists of a simple majority of the entire board of nine and not just those present.

For example, if a board has five members and three are present at a meeting, all three would need to vote in favor of the resolution for it to pass. A two to one vote would not be sufficient, according to the law.

If that’s the case, the votes will need to be revisited during the board’s July session. They are scheduled to meet on July 2.

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