OSWEGO — A short Oswego City School District Board of Education meeting ushered in the new school year Tuesday with several last-minute staffing items approved and more than $1 million from past projects earmarked for ongoing renovations.
The public portion of the meeting lasted roughly an hour with every agenda item passing unanimously and a rehashing of old allegations by one former board member.
Board members authorized the use of $1.1 million from two previous district projects, providing money to help fund ongoing renovations at Oswego High School.
Particularly, the money will influence the ongoing work to complete the new OHS main office and the network operations center.
Nancy Squairs, executive director of business and finance for OCSD, said the project at the high school needed additional funding because “New York State Education took probably eight months to approve the project and costs escalated.”
Superintendent Dean Goewey agreed with Squairs’ assessment, adding that part of the additional money would be utilized to get new windows for the upcoming main office instead of repurposing windows more than four decades old.
Goewey said the main office would be completed in the coming months, which will increase safety at OHS. The network operations center will be located where the main office currently is and new, state-of-the-art housing for servers and backup systems, Goewey said.
Squairs noted that outstanding voter authorizations from past projects being moved are the critical piece of the process. There is $668,847 being utilized from the 2007-08 Excel Project and $434,845 from a May 2012 referendum that voters previously approved.
“This was proposed by the auditors in order to clean up some of our voter authorizations that were still outstanding,” said Squairs.
OCSD voters previously approved the use of $750,000 for the OHS upgrades from its capital reserve account. The funds would be replaced upon sale of the old education center, according to Goewey, who noted an agreement to offload the property is “very close.”
The Board of Education unanimously approved the repurposing of funds.
During the same finance portion of the meeting, the board unanimously accepted donations worth roughly $500 each — one from Donors Choose for a Lego wall in the Charles E. Riley Elementary School library and another from DonorsChoose.org for flexible seating options at Kingsford Park Elementary School.
The board also welcomed its 2018-19 school year student representative, senior Elyse Maniccia, who will serve in a non-voting capacity.
The board also approved last-minute staff additions, including an administrative intern, three teachers, two substitutes and a number of support staff.
A familiar face was once again present for public comment, as former board member Thomas DeCastro continued to press his allegations against current Board Member James Bell.
DeCastro alleges that Bell is the Oswego city director of code enforcement and holding an office other than that of a police officer or firefighter while serving on the board of education is against OCSD board policy.
City officials and board members have denied any wrongdoing and said legal council is looking into the matter. President Aimee Callen has previously said the board has no reason to remove Bell from his position.
On Tuesday, DeCastro again told board members he isn’t going away until the issue is resolved, noting people in the city have supported his quest.
“I’m getting approached by more and more people as I move about the city,” said DeCastro. “They keep telling me ‘don’t back down, you’re on the right side of the law.’”
DeCastro alleged that Bell is still serving as a director with a different title for the city, and said previously he’s seen official city letterhead calling Bell the director.
“You can change the title of jobs but you continue to do it at the same salary,” said DeCastro. “An apple is an apple, even if you put an orange peel on it.”
Unlike in previous sessions, the board did not address DeCastro in response to his claims.
The board is slated to meet Tuesday, Sept. 11 at 5:30 p.m. for a facility’s workshop as discussions continue for the district’s capital project. The meeting is in Leighton Elementary School’s all-purpose room.