By Tom Davidson
Herald Staff Writer
Eight Farrell teachers, including four nearing 40 years of experience each, were approved for retirement Monday by the district’s school board.
But only three of them will be replaced as the district works to make cuts in yet another tight budget year, Superintendent Lora Adams-King said.
The district will hire a band director to replace James Scanga and his 22 years of experience and a choral director to replace Charlene De La Cruz, who is retiring after two decades with the district.
The district will also hire one art teacher who will replace both elementary art teacher Lorraine Guerino and her 40 years of experience and secondary art teacher Annette Manilla and her 20 years of experience.
“This is like the close of an era,” Adams-King said of the retirements.
Elementary teachers JoAnn Clay (39 years), Frances Foust (14 years) and Nick Cannone (39 years) and secondary social studies/alternative education teacher Walter Moody (40 years) are also retiring.
They won’t be replaced because of budgetary constraints, Adams-King said.
She was a student of some of these teachers, she said.
Also retiring is superintendent’s secretary Judith A. Pendel, who is retiring after 28 years of service under four superintendents.
Adams-King jokingly asked her not to write a tell-all book that could be turned into a television miniseries.
Pendel is the “epitome of a consummate confidential professional,” Adams-King said.
She will be replaced by Amy Pezzuolo of Bessemer, who was hired last week at $16 per hour.
Pezzuolo’s been working with Pendel to learn the ropes this week.
“Judy, they finally get you a helper and they let you go,” long-time board member Lester Robinson Jr. said.
The retirements and the subsequent staffing cuts through attrition will go a little ways to help the district balance a $16 million budget the school board officially introduced Monday.
It’s essentially the same spending plan initially released in March that contained a $1.2 million deficit.
“We’re still a little ways off,” Adams-King said. “There will be additional cuts in programs and personnel.
A $330,000 spike in the district’s contribution to the state teacher’s retirement system is one of the biggest factors affecting the budget, Adams-King said.
It’s the latest spending plan to be floated in tough times. The last two fiscal years staff have foregone raises – something that’s not being proposed this year, Adams-King said.
But the district has little wiggle room financially.
To balance the books last year, the district dipped into its fund balance to plug a $650,000 deficit – a move that was made to avoid layoffs that were initially approved but rescinded before classes started in August.
School board members reversed layoffs because teachers in turn accepted a wage freeze.
The 77 members of the Farrell Teachers Association are due a 2 percent wage hike next year, according to their labor contract.
The district can raise its 60.34 mill property tax rate by 2.7 percent – about 1.8 mills. One mill brings in about $52,000 for the district.
Property taxes were hiked by 1.58 mills last year.