WELLSVILLE - Extra chairs had to be brought into the office of Wellsville Local Schools Superintendent Richard Bereschik in order to accommodate the crowd assembled for the monthly board of education meeting.
Students from Wellsville High School comprised much of the robust turnout on Monday evening, due mainly to a selection of teacher departures on the agenda.
In addition to Connie Bradshaw, an intervention specialist at Daw Elementary School, and Kristie Crews, a science teacher at the high school, band and choir teacher Emily Barlow-Onufrak were among those whose resignations were to be voted upon by the school board.
Board member Mike Cook requested an executive session before the votes were to be cast, and his request was granted. After returning to regular session, board President Ed Bauer took the unusual step of allowing a last-minute address to the board before the vote.
The "unwritten rule," as Bauer explained it, is to make one's request to a board member at least five days in advance of the meeting. Given the outpouring of support for Onufrak, however, he said making an exception was in order.
Bauer instructed the assembled students to select a spokesperson, and freshman Jenason Smith - a percussionist with the high school band - accepted the role.
Smith says that Onufrak is an excellent instructor and has taught her most everything she knows about drumming. She admitted an initial reluctance to join the band, but says that since then, band periods have become something like a refuge. "Band's like a safe haven for everyone," Smith said. "If you're mad or having a bad day at school, you just come to ninth period and everything is just wonderful."
Smith added that without Onufrak at the helm, she might be reluctant to be involved with band next year.
Bauer replied that the board is also reluctant to see Onufrak go, as well as Bradshaw and Crews, but emphasized that all three had submitted letters of resignation, meaning that they had asked to leave their respective positions. "[Onufrak] has requested to resign her duties as band director," Bauer said. He offered thanks to Onufrak for the "fine job" she's done as band director and expressed regret at her departure.
Smith interjected that the reason for Onufrak's request may stem from a heavier workload due to staff cuts. "I do know that she has requested help, and I feel if she got help, everything would be a lot easier for her and [choir director] Mr. [Aaron] Bunfill as well." According to Smith, Onufrak teaches fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-grade music classes, and leads fifth-, sixth-, seventh-grade band, in addition to the high school band.
Bauer replied that he appreciates the scale of the workload since recent reductions in force (RIFs) took effect, but that they were an unfortunate necessity in keeping the district's budget from slipping into the red. Finances have reached a point where decisions must be undertaken to maintain the finances, he said, despite the costs elsewhere.
"Unless something drastic changes in the very near future, we're not able to add any new personnel. It's strictly about money," Bauer said.
Board member Karen Dash said she regrets Onufrak's leaving, and lamented the present lack of an elementary school counselor and art teacher. "Everyone here has to understand that the school is run by dollars and cents," she said. "Either you have enough money for something, or you don't."
The board voted to approve the resignations, with regrets.