WTA voices displeasure with recent coaching hire

WESTFIELD — Several members of the Westfield Teachers’ Association attended the regular meeting of the board of education on Aug. 12 to voice their displeasure at the hiring of a non-WTA member as modified girls’ soccer coach.

At the July 10 meeting, board of education members approved the hiring of Andrea Gundlach as the girls’ modified soccer coach.

Heath Forster, President of the WTA, read a prepared statement during the public participation segment of the meeting. He noted that “the WTA strongly believes that this position should have been offered to the WTA member first.”

Forster said that the WTA member interested in the position made her application by May 23; however, the appointment was not made until July 10. The reason given for the choice of a non-WTA member was that she was more qualified than the WTA member, Forster said.

“If the WTA member was appointed at the June 3 meeting, she would have had over two months to become certified in CPR and first aid, as required by New York State, prior to the start of the soccer season,” Forster said.

Forster noted that the negotiated agreement between the school district and the WTA states that the union is the “duly recognized, exclusive bargaining agent of the agreement. If that is the case, then wouldn’t everything that is in the agreement pertain to members of the WTA?” Forster asked.

Forster said that the WTA feels that this appointment will create a precedent in terms of hiring. “It would go without saying, that if the board is to approve a non-WTA member over a WTA member for this coaching position, then every other athletic position is fair game,” Forster said.

Forster compared the appointment to a chip in a car windshield. “At first it is small and not in your line of sight. Then, over time, it spreads across the windshield . . . . is that the fate of our agreement with the board?” he asked.

Other members of the WTA also stood up to express their disappointment in the board’s decision. “It makes me sad,” said Kendra Bills. Richard Morrison said he talked with the WTA member to make sure she was really interest in coaching, and she was willing to do the work to become certified and run the program.

In other business, district Superintendent David Davison updated board members on staff development, with September 3 and 4 set aside for this purpose.

Davison said that some training can be done online, but some must be done during staff development days. He reiterated that all employees must be trained in cyber-security, and that sexual harassment training is required for all new hires, according to NYS law.

Davison also told the board that final interviews were conducted for the position of technology coordinator. Lynn Manzella’s retirement is effective August 30, so recommendations for a new network technician/ tech coordinator will be made at the next board meeting, he said.

Secondary principal Ivana Hite informed the board that her office has closed out the 2018-19 school year, with all reports to the state completed. She said Bethany Schill will begin as the new secondary principal on August 19.

Hite also told board members that Westfield Academy has been awarded a Title V grant of $12,000. She said the grant is intended to assist rural districts in meeting state definitions for the New York State accountability system, but the high school must determine exactly how the money is to be used.