Several people in attendance at a recent Fredonia Board of Education meeting expressed concerns over the cutting of a computer teaching assistant position in the elementary school, which the board ultimately approved.
"It is one item that is probably the most important, after reading to children, now," resident Jeffrey Murphy said. "Basically, any step up in life is going to be based on technology and teaching children early is the best way."
"I've been to the computer lab ... and they were Apple computers and I couldn't even get the computer to 'enter' and I use computers all the time," resident Kris Puglisi said. "I just hope that we can pull together and work on another solution for this, but maybe there's some way we can work together to make a new position. I do think we need to have someone."
OBSERVER Photo by Greg Fox
There was a bit of controversy at a recent Fredonia Board of Education meeting after parents in attendance at the meeting questioned the elimination of a computer teaching assistant position in the elementary school. From left: Board Vice President Rosie Joy, Superintendent Paul DiFonzo and Board President Michael Bobseine.
Superintendent Paul DiFonzo read a prepared statement to the audience that said the elimination of three-and-a-half teaching positions in the current budget was necessary due to the decrease of state aid over the past few years, as well as the fact that the budget approved by voters last May called for such eliminations.
"Our district has lost over $7 million of state aid over the last four years and our high school population has dropped from 680 students ten years ago to approximately 480 students in grades 9-12 today," DiFonzo stated.
"Elementary technology classes, although helpful, are not mandatory. In fact, the state model encourages elementary teachers to infuse their instruction with technology."
DiFonzo went on to say that Fredonia's elementary teachers are capable of infusing technology into their instruction. He also said middle school students have scheduled technology classes that go above and beyond state minimum standards.
Fredonia Teachers Association President Roger Pacos disagreed with DiFonzo's comments.
"That person is trained in this, they're trained in the way of keyboarding and the last thing you want is kids to pick up bad habits," he said. "To infer that the teachers in the elementary school are getting computer instruction on how to teach computers is wrong. They're getting instruction on what they need. This is not what's best for our kids. By eliminating that position, you took away that from every student in this district and I think that's wrong."
"The point is, we have been in survival mode for the past three or four years now," DiFonzo said. "I've talked to the legislators and it doesn't look like the gap elimination is going to go away anytime within the next few years. When 75 percent of your costs are staffing and benefits and salary and you've cut your materials and supplies to the bone ... it gets very difficult not to look at staff and programming when you're trying to put out a final budget."
Elementary School Principal Amy Piper clarified for board members and the public that all students will continue to have weekly exposure to computers, as well as keyboarding through the Type to Learn Program.
"The students all still have a computer lab on with their schedules," she said. "All teachers have a time allotted to use the computer lab, as well as extra times to be able to go. The lab has been full all week with teachers bringing their classes down."
A complete copy of DiFonzo's remarks regarding the abolishment of the computer teaching assistant position is available on the school's website at www.fredonia.wnyric.org.
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