By LIZ BUTTON
The Rye City School District hired several new teachers this year, but most were merely replacements due to the financial confines of a tax cap environment.
Robert Villanova comes to Rye Middle School to replace a retiring guidance counselor and Joanna Brooks joins Osborn Elementary School as a leave-replacement teacher, while Robert Zegarelli joins the district as Rye High School assistant principal after Julia Chung moved to assistant director of pupil personnel and special education.
According to Board of Education President Laura Slack, the district would usually hire more teachers in a given year, but, this year, with 21 individual layoffs along with reduced time for other staff members, there was just no room or reason to add staffing.
To realize efficiencies in the reality of the state’s 2 percent cap on tax levy increases for school districts and municipalities passed in 2011, the $76.7 million budget for the 2013-2014 school year voters passed in May reduced the district’s salary allotment by $2.3 million.
While 27.5 full-time equivalent positions were eliminated from the budget, 21 individual staffers lost their jobs completely, and four staff members will work under reduced time during the 2013-2014 academic year.
Keeping budgets tax cap-compliant has a number of barriers, including the rise in unfunded mandates such as the Annual Professional Performance Review for teachers, new requirements for standardized testing and the costs of implementing the state’s Dignity For All Students Act on bullying, according to district officials.
The 2013-2014 budget cut a kindergarten position at Osborn Elementary School and a fifth grade teacher position at Midland Elementary School.
There were some unexpected adjustments in staffing that also took place over the summer. For example, the district accepted Middle School/High School librarian Joseph Mannozzi’s resignation. Mannozzi will be going to work as an administrator at BOCES, New York’s Boards of Cooperative Educational Services.
The district is well along in the search for someone to fill Mannozzi’s position and will appoint someone as soon as a suitable replacement is found, Slack said.
There is also a special education teacher who retired over the summer, who has not yet been replaced.
Villanova has worked in the Rye City School District in this position before as a leave-replacement guidance counselor in 2009. Most recently, Villanova worked in the Mahopac Central School District, where he worked with students in all grades and also coached baseball.
He holds a bachelor of arts degree from Iona College and a master of science degree from Fordham University. Villanova has also previously worked at Scarsdale High School, Briarcliff High School, and Arlington High School.
Brooks has taught fourth grade at Wampus Elementary School in Armonk since 2007. Before that, she taught first grade at Harrison Avenue Elementary School in Harrison.
Brooks earned a bachelor of science degree from SUNY Geneseo and a masters degree from Fordham University.
The district has also appointed Zegarelli as Rye High School assistant principal. He comes to Rye from North Carolina, where he most recently served as assistant principal at South Point High School in Belmont. Prior to that, he was a math facilitator at Oakhurst Elementary School in Charlotte.
Voted one of Charlotte’s Top 30 Under 30 Future Leaders, Zegarelli earned his bachelor’s degree from East Carolina University and his master’s degree from the University of North Carolina. Zegarelli said he is “ecstatic” to be working for the Rye City School District, which he calls phenomenal.
“My goal is to continue the values and traditions of excellence and challenge the students to perform to their highest potential,” he said.