Communities take first look at merger study
Nearly 60 members of the Community Advisory
Committee (CAC) learned about the merger study process and got a look
at the first of the study data during a meeting Wednesday evening,
Jan. 19 at Herkimer BOCES. (View the complete
meeting agenda (PDF))
The study conducted by SES Study Team, will help
the communities decide if a four-school merger would meet three basic
goals: 1) expand student opportunities, 2) improve efficiencies, and
3) reduce costs. At the completion of the eight-month study, the
boards of education and the communities will vote to decide whether to
go ahead with a merger.
No preconceived notions
SES member Paul Seversky explained that over the
next six months, his group will present the data—and only the data—for
the committee to review. The committee will analyze that data and use
it to draw their own conclusions regarding the feasibility of a school
“We won’t work with districts that have a
preconceived notion (whether a merger is feasible or not),” Seversky
told the committee. From time to time school board members and
superintendents will attend meetings of the community advisory
committees to listen. They are not members of the committees. Until
the study is completed, it would not be fair to ask them to share
judgments about the data or the work of the committees.
Seversky’s comments reinforced the understanding
that the districts and their leaders do not have a particular
agenda—for or against a merger. The goal is to collect and present the
data, analyze it, and to create a picture of what a merged district
look like. Then, it will be up to the communities to decide what is
best for their children.
SES attempted to answer some questions up front and
allowed committee members to ask some questions of their own. Among
Is this merger an
annexation? No. This is a centralization; the communities
would create a new school district as opposed to a district
dissolving and being absorbed by another.
Could the state
force a merger? At this time, no. There is discussion,
however, that the state might review schools and recommend that
some districts merge. For those who refuse to merge, the state
might withhold a portion of state aid.
How long is the data
from the study valid? The data is relevant for one to two years
meaning that any decision based on the data would have to be made in
that time. Any longer and the district’s would have to conduct a new
What if only two or
three district want to pursue a merger? The State Education
Department has agreed that the data collected would be valid and could
be used to explore a merger of two, three, or four districts.
Could the merger
change district boundaries? No.
Is data from prior
merger studies useful? No, the data from previous studies is
too old to be valid.
What prompted the
merger study? Each of the districts recognized three important
How would a merger
impact taxes? At this point, no one can know the tax impact
until the communities develop an idea of what they would want in a
Breaking it down
Changes will impact different parts of the school
district in different ways. To better understand those impacts, the
committee members were randomly assigned to one of three groups:
Personnel & Finance—staffing, budget, salaries,
Program—academics, sports and extracurricular
activities, BOCES, etc.
Functional Services—buildings & grounds,
bussing, food service, etc.
“We will ask your (each group’s) observations about
the data,” said Seversky. “What opportunities will exist if the
districts reorganize? What challenges will we face if the districts
To begin the process, he asked members to write
down two questions that felt their groups should answer. Then each
member wrote down a third question that he or she felt needed to be
answered by someone during the study.
The study team posted the questions on wall,
placing them in the group that would be best able to answer them.
Questions ranged from bus rides to sports and buildings to staffing
Over the course of the study, each group will
address those questions.
Looking at the data – how many students will
we have in the future?
“Schools are not businesses, but we should be
business-like,” Seversky said regarding the way schools make
decisions. “We need to know who our future clients are.”
With that, he introduced the first of the data—the
projected enrollment for each of the districts over the next 10 years.
The calculations follow a set of factors such as
live births within the district, the number of children entering
kindergarten, families with children moving in and out of the
district, changes in job opportunities, new home construction, etc.
The final projections represent the low to high
range for each district. In general terms, the enrollment trends are
Frankfort-Schuyler—slight to moderate growth
District—slight to moderate decline
the complete data (PDF))
At the next meeting, the groups will begin to
analyze these enrollment projections to imagine how a consolidated
school might look.
The next meeting is slated for Thursday, Feb. 3.