Going the extra mile — CSEA members from Cheektowaga Central School District volunteer at a POP-IN event July 28 during a budget vote. L to R: Alice Pellegrine, Ruby Balistrieri, Ann Marie Heide and Nancy Ura.

Cheektowaga– On Tuesday, July 28, voters in the Cheektowaga Central and the Eden Central school districts voted by wide margins to approve budgets for the 2020-2021 school year. The school budgets failed to pass muster in a vote last May. CSEA represents employees at both districts, many who were waiting for the results with bated breath.

A $47.2 million budget was approved by Cheektowaga Central School District voters by a vote of 610-234. The new budget will increase the tax rate by 45 cents per $1,000, to $18.53 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

Voters in the Eden Central School District approved a $31.2 million budget by a vote of 782-594.

On the campus of Cheektowaga Central School District, CSEA members along with the Cheektowaga Central Teachers Association, the Parents Teachers Association and school administrators, sponsored a POP-IN event in the main parking lot during the vote. The socially distant walkthrough affair was held simultaneously complete with vendors, free learning giveaways, food and raffle prizes.

Amy Lombardo, CSEA Unit President and Copy Machine Operator for the school district said the event was a great opportunity for CSEA team building, to increase voter participation and at the same time, give back to the local community.

“Our members came out in full force today to support the cause,” said Lombardo. “We raised hundreds of dollars by selling hot dogs and asking for donations to benefit the essential workers at St. Joseph’s Hospital– who are doing such amazing work. And tomorrow, we are offering a free lunch to our local police and fire departments. We think it’s extremely important our essential workers are recognized and thanked for what they do.”

Ruby Balistrieri

Ruby Balistrieri, a Teacher’s Aide at the district with 20 years of experience, says everyone in the school community rose to the occasion when the COVID-19 pandemic took hold earlier this year.

“Coworkers and families were scared, and rightly so,” said Balistrieri. She added, “I tried to keep as positive as possible, and that kind of perspective helped me get through the uncertainty of what was to come.”

“Now that our budget is passed, we can get down to the specifics of our reopening plan,” said Lombardo. She said getting past this budget vote was necessary to focus on what is really important.

“We want to make sure we provide the safest and most welcoming school environment possible so students can learn, achieve and thrive in today’s world,” said Lombardo.

School districts have until Friday July 30 to submit their reopening plans to the state Education Department, but several local districts are already sharing their plans with parents and concerned citizens.

The districts are looking at three scenarios: in-person, hybrid which includes in-person and remote learning, and all remote learning.

-Ove Overmyer



About Author

Ove Overmyer is an award winning photojournalist and writer who has promoted the virtue of working people and the value of public service throughout his career. His work has been published by many well-respected international media outlets, including PBS Moyers & Co., Steward Update UCS Worker Institute Cornell ILR, CBS News, The Weather Channel, SCI-FY Channel, Associated Press and LOGO-TV. Before joining the CSEA Communications Department staff in 2015, Overmyer was a CSEA member employed by the City of Rochester and an officer of the union for more than 18 years. He covers a 14 county area of Western New York and lives in Rochester, NY.

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