Staff meets with merger study team
Teachers and school staff from all four districts
met with the SES Study Team on Thursday, June 9 at Herkimer BOCES. The
meeting was held immediately prior to the regularly scheduled
Community Advisory Committee (CAC) meeting.
"We invited all school district employees to this
meeting to bring them up to speed regarding the merger study's
progress," said Ilion Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra, Jr.
"A possible merger raises all sorts of
questions—especially for employees. These people want to know how a
merger might impact their jobs in areas such as staffing levels,
contracts, and curriculum. And like everyone they have questions about
the merger process. This was a chance for them to have those questions
The evening began with the SES Study Team recapping
what had taken place at previous CAC meetings, explaining the state's
incentive aid for merged school districts, and reviewing the timeline
for the remainder of the merger process. Staff then asked a variety of
Is a four-district merger common?
No, this is the first four-district study in
more than 30 years.
How many studies result in successful mergers?
Historically, communities have preferred to
remain independent and have rejected mergers. Changes in school
finances are forcing communities to reconsider the idea of a merger.
Districts face no increases—or possible cuts—in state aid. That,
combined with the recently adopted tax cap suggest school revenue will
be limited in the future. Boards of education and communities are
looking at mergers as a way to save educational programs and even to
save schools themselves.
What is the statistical success of mergers; do
they save money?
A study at the University of Buffalo showed
that mergers generate marginal fiscal savings. The true advantage
comes in preventing the loss of program and in increasing
opportunities for students.
Is the vote all or nothing?
Yes, either schools merge or they do not.
What happens if all four boards or communities
don't approve a vote?
If the boards of education choose not move
ahead, the process ends.They would then be free to pursue another
course. They could explore merging two or three of the districts
instead of all four, consider merging with a different district or
explore a regional high school.
If one or more communities reject the advisory
referendum (straw vote), the process ends. The boards of education
could then pursue other options as listed above.
If one or more communities reject the statutory
(or binding) referendum AND at least one approves it, all
reorganization stops. The districts may not pursue other
The community or communities that reject
the referendum may choose to revote at least one year and one
day in the future (no earlier than March 1, 2013).
If there is no revote, the reorganization
plan remains in effect for two years. None of the districts
may explore other options (merger, tuitioning students, etc.)
until the plan expires on March 1, 2014.
The community or communities that pass the
referendum do not revote. (They may not change their mind.)
Can a board opt not to proceed with a merger
without giving the residents the chance to vote?
Yes. As the elected representatives of the
community, school board members will vote to determine whether to move
on to a community vote. A "no" vote by the school board ends that
district's participation in a merger.
Can the school boards override a "no" vote by
How is merger information going to get back to
A Steering Committee—composed of the
superintendent and one board member from each district—is currently
Will the SES Study Team "sell" the idea of a
merger to the community?
No, SES merely presents the study to each
board of education and to each community in the fall of 2011. Further
merger communications are the responsibility of the Community Advisory
Committee and the individual school districts.
Can the state guarantee incentive aid?
The government is currently promoting
mergers—it increased appropriations for studies from $5 million in
2010-11 to $79 million in 2011-12. There is no way to know, but past
practice suggests incentive aid will continue as promised for the
Will incentive aid be different for a
three-school versus a four-school merger?
Incentive aid is calculate as a percentage of
the combined districts' operating aid. The actual amount would be less
in the three-school merger than in the four-school merger, but aid is
calculated in the same manner.
If a district is annexed (absorbed) as opposed
to merged, is the incentive aid the same?
Yes, the state uses the same formula for
Will a merger result in staff reductions?
Estimates of staffing requirements include a
loss of staff due to retirements or people willingly leaving
employment. Assuming normal attrition and additional education
programs to enhance learning opportunities, staff might be reassigned,
but jobs cuts should not be necessary.
Who determines teachers' job assignments in a
The new board of education in cooperation
with the new superintendent and administrators will be responsible for
each teacher's responsibilities and location. The study team
recommends the assignments be done in a way to minimize any upheaval.
Is support staff handled the same way?
Civil Service law takes priority, but the
process will be similar to taht of assigning teachers.
What happens to the seven-year callback list?
(Staff who are laid off are the first to be called back if positions
Current callback lists would remain in
effect, but would be merged based on seniority.
What happens to existing contracts?
Current contracts remain in effect.
Ultimately, the bargaining units would unite into one and would
negotiate a new district-wide contract.
How do you overcome geographical obstacles
that interfere with parental involvement? (getting parents physically
to schools for meetings, open houses, etc.)
Understanding that it is difficult for some
parents to arrange transportation to their local schools, the problem
becomes more difficult if the school is located in another community.
This will be referred to the Steering Committee for discussion and
then to the new district to be addressed.
How is transportation being addressed?
Transportation is a future topic for the
What are the four building use options?
The CAC brainstormed ideas based on building
capacity, building configurations, location, and grade level
enrollments to imagine how buildings might be used in a merged
district. Initially they came up with nine options that they
eventually reduced to four. Tonight, we hope to get it to one or two.
Is the West Frankfort School part of the
Yes, this school was included because it
existed at the time of the study. The study is based on existing data,
not future circumstances.