|
|
|
The Telegram
  • Concerns about merger discussed during public forum

  • Concerns about funds, staff, transportation and the timing of the Feb. 12 vote were raised Tuesday during the first of two forums on a proposed merger of the Mohawk and Ilion school districts.

    A second forum is scheduled for Thursday at 6 p.m. at Ilion High School.

    • email print
  • Concerns about funds, staff, transportation and the timing of the Feb. 12 vote were raised Tuesday during the first of two forums on a proposed merger of the Mohawk and Ilion school districts.
    A second forum is scheduled for Thursday at 6 p.m. at Ilion High School.
    Mohawk Interim Superintendent Gene Beirne and Ilion School Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra, Jr. shared a PowerPoint presentation about the proposal before opening the floor to questions.
    When asked about course offerings, Tangorra and Beirne said there have been reductions in teachers and programs and there could be more if the districts continue as they are.
    “This is not scare mongering,” said Beirne. “We had two teachers submit their letters of retirement and we wish them well. If the merger doesn’t pass, my recommendation to our board will be that we don’t replace both of them; we replace only one.”
    These kinds of reductions have been made all along, he said.
    “Ilion will become academically insolvent before it becomes financially insolvent,” said Tangorra. “Going forward we can offer less and less.”
    When it was pointed out that the budget Gov. Andrew Cuomo presented called for more aid to schools than was initially projected, Beirne said the real figures probably won’t be known until late April or early May and they aren’t likely to be as high as Cuomo’s proposal.
    “There’s got to be a fundamental change in how education is funded,” he said. “It’s not fair to have our kids suffer because of a lousy system.”
    Daniel Monohan pointed out that the study said teachers would not be laid off, yet Remington Elementary School would be closed. “Millions of dollars have been spent and yet we have a net loss. We have no swimming pool, a retaining wall was put up so there’s no sledding anymore,” he said.
    Monohan added while there is a new athletic field, there is less access.
    Beirne noted the decision to close the swimming pool was made because “it was cheaper to cover it by double than it would have been to repair it.”
    Tangorra said during the presentation the merger plan calls for no cuts in staff for the first year of the merger. After that, the new board of education and administrators would have to make decisions going forward, he said.
    Monohan said with no cuts, the combined districts would be spending more money, not less, on salaries, benefits and transportation. “Without the incentive aid, you would not merge,” he said.
    A merged district would receive state incentive aid totaling $42,244,266 over a 14-year period. The district would receive $4,446,765 each year for the first five years, according to the study. After that, the amount would be reduced each year until, in 2027, there would be no more incentive aid.
    Page 2 of 2 - “The new board will have to start planning savings,” said Beirne. “The board will have to discipline itself.”
    Tangorra said the public must stay involved and make sure the board follows this plan. If too many new programs are added, he said, at the end of the 14 years, there would have to be a large increase in taxes to maintain those programs.
    Hannah Phillips, a senior at Mohawk, said she sees the staff stretched thinner and thinner. “I have three study halls a day because there are no classes I can take,” she said. She also commented, “It would be cheaper and a big benefit if we had Advanced Placement courses in school.”
    Vicki Cusworth said her daughter had chosen to take a BOCES course and, as a result, was unable to fit chemistry into her schedule because it was only offered in the afternoon when she was at BOCES.
    The superintendents were also asked when teachers could expect to know their assignments for the fall. Tangorra and Beirne said in accordance with contracts, teachers must be notified by May 15.
    Beirne outlined the use of the school buildings. Children in pre-kindergarten through fourth grade would be housed in Fisher Elementary School in Mohawk and Barringer Road Elementary School in Ilion. The current Jarvis High School would serve as a middle school for grades 5-8 while students in grades 9-12 would attend Ilion High School. Remington Elementary School in Ilion would not be used, but he said Herkimer BOCES has expressed interest in the building.
    As for which school elementary children attend, Beirne said an attendance line would have to be drawn determining whether children attend Barringer Road or Fisher school, but he said the community advisory committee agreed children in the same family should attend the same school.
    When asked why Remington school had been selected for closure, Tangorra replied it had slightly lower capacity than Barringer Road School.
    Some residents asked about transportation, which is expected to involve the buses the Mohawk school district owns and operates and Birnie Bus Service, which Ilion contracts with. The longest bus rides still stand at 45 minutes, Beirne said. He added the CAC has debated whether a single or double run would be used.
    “There are strong feelings both ways,” said Beirne.
    As for athletics, Tangorra said the merged district would be competing as a Class A school in all sports except football, where it would be in Class B.
    If voters in both districts approve the merger, transition teams would be put in place to make preparations and there would be a March 27 vote to elect a new board of education.
        • »  EVENTS CALENDAR