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Band participation hurt by hardships in community

Westfield Academy and Central School Board of Education members received two presentations from the music department, as well as a report from Drescher & Malecki LLP on the 2022-23 independent audit, at their regular meeting earlier this month.

Music Director Kent Knappenberger and Band Director Roger Chagnon invited their students to “take the floor” for their performances for the board.

Chagnon spoke to board members about the band and about instruments. The number of students taking part in band has increased throughout the years, he said. However, many families lack the financial means to rent instruments, which can cost about $50 a month from a music store

“It has always been my pledge to students that, “Money will never keep you out of my class. If you want to make music, we will find a way,” Chagnon said. “I pledged to every student that if you wanted to be in the band, I would find an instrument,” he said. “It only costs students about $70 for the entire year to use an instrument.”

About 96% of the band instruments are currently in use by students, Chagnon said. “This means that next year’s incoming band students (we begin in fifth grade) will not have enough instruments to go around. This also takes into account our outgoing senior class,” he said.

In other business, the audit report from Drescher & Malecki, LLP, showed that the district received an unmodified opinion, which means the financial statements were prepared correctly, in all material respects. WACS also received a single audit opinion as a result of the Federal funds received by the district.

The board subsequently accepted the Independent Financial Audit report as presented for the 2022-23 school year.

In other business, board member Phyllis Hagan noted in the BOCES report, it states that their board approved a change to the 2023-2024 WNY Instructional Calendar: to reflect that students will not be in attendance on April 8, 2024. Noting that this is the date of the anticipated total solar eclipse over the area, Hagan asked what WACS intends to do on that day.

District Superintendent Michael Cipolla indicated that a decision has not yet been made.

“By the end of November, we will be communicating our status and if there will be any changes to our calendar,” he said.

Cipolla also told the board that he is very impressed with the music department. “I want to recognize our music department and our students for their incredible work,” he said.

Cipolla went on to present his ideas for improving communication with school families and with the community. “Regarding communication, you always hear the adage ‘ it takes a village,’ and that is true,” he said. “I plan on having a Superintendent’s Night once a month to share district updates.”

Board members also received an update on the district’s capital project, 2024.

Cipolla reviewed several areas of need which may be included in the project. “We’ve heard how our athletic complex needs updating,” he said. “Also, the physical education locker rooms are in disrepair and we are looking at freshening up and modernization of our hallways.”

Cipolla also told the board that the district is looking at security upgrades for the building and certain upgrades in classrooms. “Cabinetry and sink improvements are needed in classrooms,” he said. “Overall, it is a rather large scale scope of work to be done.”

Cipolla gave board members a proposed timeline for the capital project, as well as a projected date for the public vote. “This winter we anticipate sharing the finalized scope of work and the aid that the district is eligible to receive,” he said. “If we stay on schedule with a September 2024 vote and subsequent approval, we could see our current ninth-graders benefitting from this project.”

In his report to the board, secondary Principal Corey Markham commended the students’ performances of The Lion King Jr. on Nov. 10 and 11. “If you missed the Lion King Jr., you missed a really great show,” he said. “They did an excellent job.”

Markham also told board members that several students would be inducted into the National Technical Honor Society on Nov. 17. He offered his congratulations to Rhiannon Seminatore, Drew Ernewein, Dawn Fleck, Cora Bearce and Hailey Dunlap for becoming NTHS members.

Elementary Principal Molly Anderson reported that social workers Stacey Asel and Deann Shelters are currently going into PAWS classes to facilitate the Second Step Bullying Prevention Unit. “Curriculum is grade level specific and includes class discussions, role playing, videos, partner work, group work and more,” she said. “This is an addition to the grade level Second Step lessons that are taught year round.”

Anderson also told board members that, in an effort to increase STEAM programming district wide, the elementary school has rolled out multiple WozEd STEM kits. “We currently have a curriculum in animation, AR/VR, Coding, Cyber Security, Engineering & Design, and Robotics,” she said.

Cipolla commented on what Anderson said about WozEd STEM kits. “Piggybacking on something Mrs. Anderson said, we were honored as being a pathway school in New York State,” he said. “There’s a lot of work going into helping our students to engage. It was nice to have the WozEd Company recognize us for our efforts.”

Hagan said she agrees that Westfield has innovative programming. “I concur that we have an excellent, well-rounded program here at WACS,” she said.

Board member Tom Tarpley said this is a good time to express appreciation for all who make the district what it is. “In this season of thanks, I want to express my appreciation to the administration and staff, our students and our student athletes for their extraordinary work,” he said.

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