Three-school merger study progresses
Following the defeat of the proposed four-school
merger on Jan. 19, the boards of education of the Herkimer, Ilion and
Mohawk central school districts agreed to move forward with a
three-school proposal. Using the data collected in the previous study,
merger consultants SES Study Team expect to submit a revised study to
the NYS Education Department by early May. If all goes as expected,
the final report will be approved and ready to present to the
communities early this summer in time for a straw vote this September.
Same process as before
SES began by looking at the data from the original
“The majority of the work completed in the last
study is still valid. We still have the same buildings, same
procedures, etc.,” said Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra, Jr.
“The consultants went back over the old study
looking for anything that may have changed such as enrollment, class
offerings and each district’s finances. They then handed that new
information to the Community Advisory Committee (CAC) to review and to
use in helping the districts develop a new proposal.”
The CAC is made up of the 48 original Ilion,
Herkimer and Mohawk committee members, 16 from each school district.
The group includes residents from all segments of the
community—parents, grandparents, people without children, retirees,
business owners, etc.
It had been suggested that new members be included
in the new study, but the boards of education opted to stay with the
“These volunteers spent nine months on the last
study and were familiar with the information and the format. It made
more sense to build on their experience than to take additional time
to train a new group of people,” said Mr. Tangorra.
Time was especially important to the boards. One of
the concerns expressed in the last study was the short time between
the possible merger approval in February and the start of operations
as a merged district in July, just four months. Under the current
proposed schedule, residents would vote on the statutory or binding
referendum in mid-October giving the new district eight months to work
out details such as schedules, bus runs and curriculum.
Imagining a new district
Compared with the original plan, merging three
schools will mean 22 percent fewer students, 33 percent smaller
geography and fewer buildings. In addition, each district has used
most or all of its fund balance to close the funding gap created by
rising costs and the continued loss of state aid. The final proposal
will reflect these changes.
Another major change in this proposal is the
detailed academic curriculum. The high school guidance departments of
each district listed the subjects each district currently offers as
well as those that were lost to budget cuts. That combined list of
courses greatly expands those offered separately in the schools.
Also new is the addition of two on-site school
resource officers to improve the security in the middle and high
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