School district returns sports, eliminates jobs

FONDA – The Fonda-Fultonville school board decided Tuesday to reinstate springs sports programs but eliminate two jobs, close the swimming pool and make other changes that will save $500,000.

One of the jobs is that of school psychologist Dr. Michael J. Fraser. Parents and students spoke out against the elimination of his position at a meeting Tuesday night.

“I’d have no idea where I’d be now if it wasn’t for that man,” said former student Seth Blowers. “The man’s been here for 19 years and for you to just throw him out like that is disrespectful in my eyes.”

The district also decided to refinance long-term debt, change retirees’ health insurance plans and make changes in special-education placement.

The board, acting on recommendations from Interim Superintendent Ray Colucciello, voted to dismiss Fraser and the business education teacher position.

Colucciello said the reinstatement of spring sports – which the district previously decided to eliminate – will be possible because the teams’ coaches and teachers’ bargaining unit agreed to volunteer their services for this spring.

At the meeting, parents and students said the decision to dismiss Fraser is rash and was done without input from teachers or students.

District resident Ron Smith said removing the school psychologist would leave students at risk without vital services.

“I’m appalled you put a price on life,” said Ron Smith, a district resident. “You’re doing a total injustice by getting rid of this man.”

Some parents suggested Fraser may have saved their children’s lives.

Colucciello defended the decision to remove Fraser, saying the school would fill the gap left by Fraser and the other teacher leaving.

Colucciello said the last workday for Fraser and the business education teacher will be Friday.

Dismissing the business teacher, whom the district did not name, and Fraser will save the district $62,000 for the remainder of the school year, according to the district.

Board of Education President Linda Wszolek said the board would not rule out the possibility of revisiting the decision to remove Fraser.

“Everything can be rethought,” said Wszolek. “We do not take your comments and then throw them aside.”

Robert Brown, owner of Brown Transportation, is donating his services for transportation to athletic games and competitions for spring sports.

The donations from Brown, the coaches and teachers would save $60,000, and the other changes would save $440,000, the school district said.

“We have been able to bring financial stability to the district for the remainder of this school year,” Colucciello said. “Now we move to the next challenge of developing a 2013-14 budget. We will be working on providing our students with a program they need and deserve, and trust the community will support.”

Colucciello said the decisions were tough to make. “It is not a personal thing,” he said.

Arthur Cleveland covers Montgomery County. He can be reached at