Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

June 20, 2013

Popular teacher may lose position

BY JOE OLENICK joe.olenick@lockportjournal.com
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — NEWFANE — A drop in prekindergarten funding could lead to the loss of a popular third-grade teacher and soccer coach in Newfane.

But nothing has been determined yet, said Superintendent Christine J. Tibbetts on Tuesday.

But if Linea Fetzer were to lose her teaching job, she could possibly remain head coach of the girls varsity soccer team, the superintendent said.

The talk of cutting the position is tied to the district’s prekindergarten enrollment. Tibbetts said Newfane found out this week registration was well below normal, with only 50 kids signed up for the fall.

Typically, the district sees a summer increase in prekindergarten registration of about 10 kids. That means Newfane is planning for 60 kids to attend in the fall, much lower than the annual average of 90 to 100 kids. And with that comes a $100,000 cut in universal prekindergarten funding from the state.

Newfane has its own universal prekindergarten classes, which are covered by the UPK grant funding, but also offers Head Start of Niagara County and a county program at the Early Childhood Center in Burt. It’s expected that of those 60 kids, 20 will go to Head Start and 10 will join the county program, meaning 30 kids will be in the Newfane program.

In the past there have been four half-day sections of UPK in Newfane with two teachers. The district can’t support that now, Tibbetts said, so two sections and a teacher would have to be cut. Fetzer has the least seniority of the elementary teachers.

“We’re between a rock and a hard place,” Tibbetts said.

Tibbetts said an elementary teaching position would have to be added to the budget. But another section cannot be added to any grade level.

A group of parents and students spoke at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting in favor of keeping Fetzer’s position. Parent Vicki Taylor said Fetzer was an amazing educator.

“I’ve never seen a teacher like her,” Taylor said.

Newfane soccer players Savannah Jonathan and Sophie Connor also spoke, talking about the impact Fetzer’s coaching has had on them and their teammates. The Newfane soccer team has had success over the past few years, as the girls won a few sectional titles under Feltzer.

“She has been there for me, never gave up on me or the team,” Jonathan said.

Board of Education Trustee Frank Westgate, whose term ends June 30, said in his three years on the board he has never received as many emails from residents as he did this week concerning Fetzer. Westgate said the district should find a way to keep Fetzer on board.

“She touches so many,” Westgate said.

The matter is expected to be discussed next month when the new board is seated. Newfane’s reorganizational meeting is July 2.

Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241 or follow him on Twitter @joeolenick.