TRR photo by Susan Wade

Dr. John Morgano, left, acknowledges applause from the audience after taking the oath of office as district superintendent. School board members Carol Bliefernich, Amador Laput, Allyson Wagner and Brian Siegal look on.  

Eldred School Board appoints superintendent

ELDRED, NY — The Eldred School Board enthusiastically and unanimously approved the appointment of Dr. John Morgano as district superintendent at its February meeting. Morgano has served as Interim Superintendent since October 2017. In accepting the appointment, Morgano stated that there is a lot of work to be done, and he did not want to be seen as “interim” or “temporary” because he was here to stay. The contract is for a four-and-a-half year period.

Thanking the board for the confidence they have placed in him, Morgano stated that his recommendations to the board will always be based on what is best for the children and the community. He also acknowledged the challenges faced by the district, including the recent news reports of the district being in “significant” financial stress, and he said more than once that the district cannot spend money it doesn’t have.

He has already taken steps to control spending. Part of this effort was his proposal for his own employment contract, which results in at least $30,000 in savings from the contract under which former superintendent Robert Dufour was compensated. Further, upon the sudden resignation of business manager Ruth Luiz, Morgano recommended that the board hire Caleb Russell to the position of district treasurer. This change results in an annual cost savings of $27,000. As part of this restructuring, the custodial/maintenance, transportation and food service functions will report directly to Morgano, while Russell’s attention will be focused on financial issues.

To get a grasp of the depth of the financial situation, the board approved Morgano’s recommendation to hire R.G. Timbs Inc. to conduct a management services audit at a cost not to exceed $7,000. This work will encompass budgeting and financial matters and possibly uncover areas that would be worthy of a more in-depth review. Morgano stated that his goal is to establish a plan to achieve fiscal stability within two to four years. He warned the board that if the district doesn’t take meaningful action now, the New York State Comptroller’s office will.

Morgano stated that the budgets of the past few years have been sustained by the drawing down of reserve funds, and that option is not available for the future. He stressed repeatedly that the district has to live within its means. Further, Morgano emphasized that he is committed to Eldred and was extremely complimentary of the students, teachers and support staff. He stated confidently and matter-of-factly that he has never failed at anything during his 40 years in education, and he’s not going to fail now.

Carol Bliefernich said that she was proud to be the president of a board that works together even when the members disagree. She also thanked the many participants involved in the anti-bullying task force working committee.

Allyson Wagner asked several questions about specific expenditures that were approved for payment. The answers were not readily available, but Morgano promised a prompt resolution to the questions. From the audience, treasurer Russell, who is not yet on the payroll, nodded his agreement.

As a result of this discussion, Brian Siegel suggested that given the changes that have occurred in service arrangements, including the bus-leasing agreement, a review of existing contractual agreements be undertaken to assure that unnecessary agreements are not carried forward, and funded as a matter of routine.

During the public comment period, Joanna Dutcher praised her daughter’s bus driver’s involvement in helping her daughter to overcome reading difficulties by reviewing spelling words with her while en route. Morgano and the board enthusiastically acknowledged the dedication of the support staff throughout the district who act as de facto teachers and contribute so much daily to the education and nurture of the students at both schools.

The next regular meeting of the board will be March 8 at the elementary school.

 

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