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Heat on superintendent

Residents, in meeting and petition, seek resignation

OBSERVER Photo by Anthony Dolce A group of concerned parents and residents gathered at Forestville’s American Legion to discuss matters going on at the school. Lindsey Ellis, far middle, has been leading the group in gathering information and organizing their cause.

FORESTVILLE — There is heavy unrest brewing in the Forestville Central School District, centered around the job of Forestville Superintendent Renee Garrett.

A group of parents and residents of the district, which is headed by parent Lindsey Ellis, has a petition going around calling for Garrett’s resignation. As it sits, the petition sits at a total of 428 signatures, with the initiative gaining steam among the residents of Forestville.

Ellis said the frustration with Garrett’s job as superintendent began with her salary, which has gone up every year since she started at Forestville in 2015. Any raise Garrett has received in that time has been approved by the Forestville school board. Their concern with her salary coincides with what this group says is a very low wage for other school employees, including cafeteria staff and maintenance crews.

“Her pay has gone up every year, while the cafeteria workers make less than people who work at McDonald’s,” Ellis said. “Which is why they keep leaving, and kind of what started this. Multiple employees, teaching staff and kitchen staff have been fleeing in droves from the district.”

Garrett herself admits the school has been understaffed to å the year. Currently, one of their cleaners is out on maternity leave, while the cafeteria staff is missing a cook manager and two cooks, and the building maintenance manager left for a promotion at another district. All of these departures have caused a lot of problems in regards to having everything operate smoothly, but Garrett said that most of these positions are on their way to being filled.

“Staffing definitely has been an issue, but that’s been the case across the board at all schools,” Garrett said. “We’ve been actively posting for all the positions and we have a new cook manager that will be starting soon as well as two cooks starting in the next couple weeks and we’ve filled the building maintenance mechanic position. We’re also going to keep the extra cleaner we hired to fill in for the person on maternity leave. We don’t want to compromise our standards and hire everyone that applies. These things take time.”

The other main talking points the group had earlier this week centered around Forestville’s mask policy and some asymmetry in how Forestville is currently handling events.

One large point of frustration is that, while people are allowed to attend sporting events at Forestville’s gym and events like the upcoming Fall Festival are happening at the school, the parents who gathered Tuesday night said that they haven’t had the opportunity to meet their child’s teachers.

“I have no problem with people going to sports,” Ellis said. “But I don’t understand the logic behind this.”

Responding to that, Garrett said the school’s main focus is to avoid sickness and quarantine for all involved parties, but especially staff members. As the school is currently understaffed, losing any further staff could be detrimental to school functions. On top of that, regulations in regards to masking at various events are not controlled by the Forestville School District, rather sporting events and outside entities all have different regulations.

“Sporting events are regulated differently than parent-teacher conferences,” Garrett said. “Anything happening in the building has specific regulations, which also relates to the Fall Festival. They’re a local community group that is on their own insurance and providing everything and following protocols. That’s different from having parents, students, and teachers all in the building at the same time. There’s not enough room to make sure everyone is safe.”

Overall, the group calling for Garrett’s resignation has a list of talking points for why they feel the way they do. They are questioning the staffing, mask regulations, Garrett’s contract with the school, as well as raising concerns that she resigned from her last superintendent in the Wayne School District. This group wants anyone concerned, whether it be parents or students, to be able to speak their mind on anything they are unhappy with. Being able to speak their mind is something that the Forestville School Board of Education has encouraged people to do at the next meeting.

“The Forestville Board of Education is aware that concerns about our school have been raised on social media,” said Forestville School Board President Carol Woodward. “Individuals who have concerns are welcome to attend the next school board meeting.”

And the group plans on doing just that. Ellis said that she plans on attending the next meeting, as do many of the unhappy residents of the district. The group plans on taking the allotted time given to the public to ask questions in hopes of having their concerns alleviated, one way or another.

For Garrett, concerns of this nature, especially with how adamantly people are calling for her resignation, are attacks on the school, which is something that she doesn’t like to see.

“I think people need to realize that when they attack the superintendent, they attack our school,” Garrett said. “I don’t want that to happen. What’s happening is unfair and it’s hurtful and affects everyone in school.”

The group calling for her resignation, however, believe they are acting in the best interest of the school district in wanting her resignation, adding that any comments are not an affront to any staff members at the Forestville Central School District.

The next meeting of the Forestville School Board of Education will take place on Oct. 7, at 5:30 p.m. In anticipation of a larger turnout than normal, the meeting will be held in the school auditorium. Those wishing to attend the meeting have to sign-up beforehand, by contacting Forestville’s District Clerk Kristin Irwin, at kirwin@forestville.com.

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