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The Telegram
  • Herkimer BOE OKs resolution to set aside merger order

  • The Herkimer school board took action Monday that may help the Ilion and Mohawk school districts to move ahead with a two-school merger.



    During a special meeting, the board voted 5-0 to approve a resolution asking the state education commissioner to set aside the order to establish a Herkimer-Ilion-Mohawk Central School District.

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  • The Herkimer school board took action Monday that may help the Ilion and Mohawk school districts to move ahead with a two-school merger.
    During a special meeting, the board voted 5-0 to approve a resolution asking the state education commissioner to set aside the order to establish a Herkimer-Ilion-Mohawk Central School District. Two board members, Anthony Brindisi and Mark Conley, were absent.
    Board members Harry Reeder and Diann Fischer both commented that after Herkimer voters rejected the three-way merger proposal last month, the merger plan is null and void.
    Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES District Superintendent Mark Vivacqua explained, however, that once the districts held a straw vote, the participants are bound to that study for one year.
    “None of the three can do anything else,” he said, adding that in order for Ilion and Mohawk to attempt to do anything outside the normal process, the order to establish the new district would have to be set aside.
    “If Herkimer wanted, it could wait a year and a day and hold another vote,” he said. He pointed out that this is what is happening in the Oppenheim-Ephratah School District, where a vote will be conducted Dec. 11, a year and a day after residents of that district rejected a plan to merge with St. Johnsville Central School. “This is asking the commissioner to set that aside,” he said.
    Board President John Cipriano said that by approving the resolution, Herkimer would be giving up the opportunity to hold another vote a year and day from the first vote.
    “Let me be clear,” said board member Nick Netti. “I don’t think the community would support a three-district merger.”
    “You never know what six months or a year from now might bring,” said board member Harry Reeder. He said there could be a change, but added, “We have no way of measuring that.”
    Netti said the district had seen the loss of 21 positions in three years and did not think attitudes would change if another 10 positions were lost. “We can’t hold the other communities hostage to our lack of vision,” he said.
    Cipriano agreed. “As much as personally I believe that a merger would have been the best choice for the students, the school and the community and as disappointed as I am, I can’t let our friends in these other two communities down by dragging this out.”
    The merger study process began formally when the Herkimer Board of Education passed a resolution to participate in a New York State Department of State Local Government Efficiency Grant program with representatives from the Mohawk, Frankfort-Schuyler, and Ilion school districts.
    A Community Advisory Committee with members from all four districts convened in January 2011 to study the four districts and look at the feasibility of a merger. The committee then presented a plan to merge the four districts into one. Frankfort-Schuyler voters rejected the plan in the first straw vote in January of this year, but voters in Herkimer, Ilion and Mohawk approved the plan and the committee members for the three districts moved ahead with a three-district merger plan. Voters in all three districts approved the plan in a straw vote earlier this fall, but in the final, binding vote, Herkimer voters rejected the plan by a vote of 1,174 to 1,346. After the vote, which showed strong support from both Mohawk and Ilion residents, Ilion Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra said he planned to ask the state legislature for a special legislation that would allow Ilion and Mohawk to move ahead with a two-district merger rather than waiting a year before any further action could take place.
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