Niagara Gazette

Local News

March 19, 2013

Niagara-Wheatfield holding rally tonight to show dissatisfaction with Albany

Niagara Gazette — After three years of systematic losses of state-financed revenue, the Niagara-Wheatfield community is on the precipice of action.

Facing a total loss of $17 million since the 2010-11 school year – as long as projected figures hold true in the yet-unadopted 2013-14 state budget – staff, students and parents in the district will rally to throw their dissatisfaction with Albany's education policies in the open.

"This rally is about giving the facts to people," Niagara-Wheatfield Teachers President Kevin Rustowicz said. "This isn't about last year. What's done is done. We lost a ton of teachers and programming. But what we're looking to do is have parents and other community members say enough is enough to Albany and that they can't do these cuts like they have over the last three years."

The rally, which will be run from 4 to 6 p.m. tonight outside Niagara-Wheatfield High School, 2292 Saunders Settlement Road, Lewiston, will precede the district's next school board meeting, expected to begin at 7 p.m.

It will feature several individuals picketing the street outside the building with signs, while speakers, including students in the district's five schools, explaining how state aid cuts hurt them directly.

With the picketing, it'll mark the second consecutive year financial trouble will have caused employees to stand in front of the high school with signs prior to a school board meeting. In January 2012, members of the district's teachers and service unions both picketed then-Superintendent Carl Militello, who retired the next month after negotiatating a buyout with the school board.

The situation with Militello was part of an overall tough lesson for the district, as they attempted to override New York state's property tax levy threshold. The measure ultimately failed and officials were forced to make a second attempt with a levy increase of almost 5 percent.

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