Dunkirk schools running deficit

OBSERVER Photo by M.J. Stafford Fourth-grade students demonstrate the use of STEM Boxes to the Dunkirk Board of Education during its Thursday meeting at School No. 4.

The Dunkirk school district is about $200,000 in the red for this school year, Business Manager Cindy Mackowiak told the board of education during Thursday’s meeting at School No. 4.

Mackowiak said that with around $3 million in reserve, the district could cover the difference — but it would be better to keep that money in the bank and cut costs. “One of the steps we’ve taken to preserve that (reserve) is to stop purchasing,” she said. “Of course, we’ll purchase what we need to provide quality education for the kids.”

Regarding the 2019-20 budget, Mackowiak said she has met with building principals and most department heads to work on their spending requests. She said she would have more details about the upcoming spending plan at the board’s upcoming budget workshop, set for 5:30 p.m. Jan. 29 in the high school large group instruction room.

In other business Thursday:

¯ Amy Adams and Mary Ivory, fourth-grade teachers in School No. 4, gave a presentation on a program they have started before school. They have procured 15 so-called “STEM Boxes” for kids to play with before class so they can develop STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills.

Each of the boxes contains different gadgets that can be erected creatively. “It’s play to them but they’re doing way more than play,” Adams said. “They’re building, they’re constructing — they’re engineers.”

“The kids literally run to our classroom,” Ivory said. “Kids are working cooperatively with everyone in the room. They’re not picking their friends to go with, they’re picking their favorite boxes.”

Some fourth-grade students then showed district officials the sorts of things they could build with the materials in the boxes.

¯ Superintendent Jim Tracy said a district-wide tip hotline should be set up by the end of January. He said that from his previous experience in implementing similar hotlines in other school districts, a lot of prank calls should be expected at first, but those will subside. “You get some things that you know aren’t right, but you get some things that help you,” he said. “I’ve seen situations where it’s allowed kids to get help.”

¯ Board President David Damico noted a request and offer from the office of Dunkirk Mayor Wilfred Rosas to begin televising the Board of Education meetings again. Board members agreed that they don’t want their meetings on television, and Damico said he would relay their lack of interest to the mayor’s office today.

¯ Board Member Claudia Szcerbacki floated the idea of naming a district school after former Board President Roosevelt Haynes, who recently passed away. Tracy promised he would look into what needed to be done legally in order to make such a move.

¯ The board hired Virgen Torres as a cleaner and Jami Carlson as an account clerk.

¯ The following Students of the Month were recognized with plaques: Adrianna Tenamore (School No. 3), Celeste Gonzalez (School No. 4), Marigenys Morales (School No. 5), Anthony Dolce (School No. 7), Henry Leone (middle school), and Victoria DiPieni and Zoey Loeb (high school).