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School board increases budget, prevents teacher layoff

Strong public support for high school social studies teacher saves job

— “I feel very flattered and valued,” said Lonergan, who has been a teacher in the Cazenovia district for five years. “I feel validated because I want to be here, and I want to stay here and now I think I can.”

The possibility of Lonergan being laid off had been in the air for months, but it was publicly announced just before the school board’s March 18 meeting. More than 60 residents attended that meeting, including numerous high school students, and many speakers suggested or demanded cuts from other budget areas to save Lonergan’s job. Lonergan was characterized by multiple people then – and at all subsequent school board meetings – as one of the best teachers in the district and a life-changing mentor and role-model for her students.

These arguments clearly had an effect on members of the school board, some of whom began talking at the board’s April 15 budget work session about ways to increase the budget specifically to save the social studies teacher’s position. That conversation continued at the April 22 meeting when board Vice President Karin Marris declared that the board should not cut the social studies position. She said the district administration’s justification for the layoff was enrollment-based rather than funding-based, and that was not a good enough reason to lose a great teacher whom the school needs. “I don’t think it would be fiscally irresponsible to maintain her,” Marris said.

Vogl and Baldwin argued against the addition of Lonergan’s salary into the proposed budget as a move that was bad fiscal policy and also set a poor precedent. Baldwin said that if the board was going to increase the budget for one position, why not add more for the JV volleyball team that many people want. “Where does it stop?” he asked.

Marris, Jan Woodworth and Cindy Bell Tobey all responded that a teacher is more than a number, and is a school asset that affects kids beyond the classroom as well as in it.

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