The Pioneer Board of Education met on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022, for a regular meeting. Board members present for the meeting were: Vice-President Ed McCarthy, Linda Rule, Darla Schwab, Wendy Warner Burch, Angela Wiseman, Mark Kless, and Shawn Hannon. Absent were President Melissa Nocera-Collins and Denise Urbino.
Following the roll call, the Pledge of Allegiance, and the approval of the agenda, the BOE entered into an executive session (at 5:57 p.m.) for the purpose of meeting with a potential candidate for high school principal. At 6:20 p.m., the BOE exited the executive session. Upon reaching agenda item No. 8 (personnel – instructional), the Board took action on the recommendation of the Superintendent to appoint Katelyn Welker to the position of High School Principal for a probationary period of 4 years, to commence Nov. 16, 2022, and to end Nov. 15, 2026. The salary during the first year will be $115,000 in accordance with the Pioneer Administrators’ Association Collective Bargaining Agreement. Wendy Warner Burch made a motion to accept the motion, seconded by Angela Wiseman. The motion was carried with six “aye” votes and one “nay” vote (Mark Kless).
Welker has been the acting principal at Pioneer High School since March of 2022. In addition, she has been an Assistant Principal at Pioneer High School since April of 2018. Prior to that, Welker was a French teacher at Pioneer Middle School (August 2014 – April 2017) and at East Aurora High School (August 2012 – August 2014). She received her education at SUNY Cortland, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in French Education, and at SUNY Buffalo, earning a Master of Science in Education with a minor in 5-6 Extension French Language. Additionally, she earned a Master of Science in Educational Leadership at Canisius College with a minor in educational technology.
Also during this regular Board meeting, Assistant Superintendent Nick Silvaroli discussed the budget calendar for the 2023-24 school year. The budget process will kick off with an informational public budget session on Jan. 17, 2023. On Feb. 7, 2023, Gov. Hochul will release her NYS budget proposal, which includes the “school package.” This will be Pioneer’s first look at the State revenue numbers. On March 7, 2023, a preliminary draft will be presented to Pioneer’s BOE. After that, it is a “holding pattern” until the State adopts a budget. On April 18, 2023, a final budget is due to be presented to Pioneer’s BOE. May 16, 2023, is the state-wide budget vote and BOE elections. The deadline for BOE candidates and for propositions for the school ballot is April 17, 2023.
Silvaroli reported that there is “still a lot of federal money at the state level.” He said that once this money “works its way through” (2024-25 school year) – combined with the “mild recession” we are in now that could become more severe – local school budgets could get pinched as money tightens. He mentioned that Pioneer is very dependent on state aid and that this leads to vulnerability in which the district is at the mercy of both specific state budget decisions and the general overall economic well-being of the state.
Interim Superintendent Dennis Ford also provided a report. He started by tipping his hat to the support staff of Pioneer. He acknowledged that Nov. 15 was “School-Related Professionals” Day and that “Pioneer doesn’t tick without the support staff … Their commitment is immense, and we really appreciate your efforts.”
Ford updated the BOE on the “aggressive steps” being taken in evaluating the special education program and pinpointing why an above-average percentage of Pioneer students are identified as students with a disability requiring an IEP. There is an internal review underway in which the District is looking at what currently exists and what changes could be considered. Recommended changes will shortly be reported to the BOE. Also, there will be “pulling out of curriculum maps to talk about vertical articulation in the district, making sure that the maps have life.” This will include putting together a standing committee with teachers and aides to assess “where we are at” and “how we are going to communicate” across the buildings of the District.
Important upcoming dates were discussed and finalized. On Dec. 19 at 5 p.m., there will be a public hearing on BOE member videoconferencing in which BOE members would be allowed to participate in a meeting from a remote location when experiencing an “extraordinary circumstance.” Following the 5 p.m. public hearing, a special meeting of the BOE will also be held on Dec. 19 in which limited “critical” items will be on the agenda. These “critical” items will include a follow-up to the public hearings on the draft Code of Conduct and draft District-wide School Safety Plan. This follow-up will likely involve a vote to consider the adoption of the draft documents. Following this, the BOE will enter into an executive session on Dec. 19 to meet with the consultants, School Leadership, LLC, to discuss the ongoing superintendent search. All meetings on Dec. 19 will be held at Pioneer High School. As the meeting approaches, the agenda will be posted at www.pioneerschool.org Click on “menu” on the main school page, then “Board of Education” – “Board Docs” – and “meetings.”