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The Telegram
  • Committee members seek to clarify merger misconceptions

  • Several members of the Community Action Committee met at the Ilion Municipal Building Friday afternoon to clarify misconceptions relating to the proposed merger of the Mohawk and Ilion school districts.

    According to the committee members, within the past few weeks letters to the editor in The Telegram and fliers in Ilion and Mohawk have expressed opinion rather than fact.

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  • Several members of the Community Action Committee met at the Ilion Municipal Building Friday afternoon to clarify misconceptions relating to the proposed merger of the Mohawk and Ilion school districts.
    According to the committee members, within the past few weeks letters to the editor in The Telegram and fliers in Ilion and Mohawk have expressed opinion rather than fact.
    Rather than reading into opinions, the committee members stressed people should read the Mohawk-Ilion merger study to get information about the proposed merger.
    The committee members said one common misconception is when the schools merge it will be an “Ilion” based school due to its population being three times the size of Mohawk, allowing residents of Ilion a greater opportunity to become members of the merged school board.
    Committee members explained this is not a true statement, as according to state law a merged district cannot require a proportional amount of representatives from both villages.
    “People should be more concerned about choosing representatives from both communities who could best represent the new district. In the end it’s the voters’ responsibility to elect a board who will represent the unified school,” said member Joan Prymas.
    “I truly believe there will be representatives on the new school board from both villages who will be committed to the new combined school district and look out for the best interest of the students,” said member Joanne Moore.
    “If the districts do merge the stigma of where people are from should start to fade away. As a member of the Community Action Committee working to find the best solution for students I find it to be a blur when thinking about where other members are from. At this point were all same and we want the same things for our students said,” said member Molly Bonnell.
    Members of the public have also expressed concern that Mohawk schools are some how lesser than Ilion’s schools. “This is an opinion and it is not true. Both districts’ buildings are all up to state regulations,” said Bonnell. To prove her point Bonnell said a previous building condition survey completed in 2012 - 2011 found all buildings in both districts are in excellent condition.
    If the merger passes Remington Elementary School will be closed.
    Many have said they feel this will be a waste of a building.
    “What people don’t understand is we have the room to house the students within the two districts’ facilities and the building will not be wasted, it will be for administrative purpose,” said Moore.
    “Many other districts have closed elementary schools to save on funding and if the merger doesn’t pass there still could be a chance that we would have to close the school,” she added.
    Page 2 of 3 - In recent meetings the public has expressed feelings of being lied to regarding the types of courses and student activities that will be offered through the merged district.
    “Through the new district students will be offered the same things they were offered in both Ilion and Mohawk, therefore if Ilion has a course or student activity that Mohawk lacks the new district will offer it for everyone. No one is loosing anything, either school can only gain,” said Bonnell.
    The merger study does offer new courses and student activities, but those are only suggestions of what could also be offered and implemented as time goes on, she added.
    “The current academic programs offered at these two schools are bare minimum. They do not prepare our kids for the future. With a merger we can offer so many more programs academically, artistically, athletically and musically,” said CAC member Matt Obreza.
    If Ilion and Mohawk merge the new district could receive $42,244,266 in incentive aid over a course of 14 years. Obreza said, “With this amount of incentive we can save a whole generation of kids.”
    “At this point we know what were doing. It’s been two and a half years working toward a merger to help benefit students,” said CAC member Steven Crane. “The original merger plan has not changed rather than a few details that better fit the two-district merger.”
    “There is a much greater chance the teachers will be eliminated in both districts within two years without a merger than with one. Mohawk has lost 30 percent of its workforce due to budget constraints in the last 10 years,” said Obreza.
    “If the merger does not pass and a district becomes bankrupt for any reason the state could come in and make a state mandated decision,” said Prymas. “Both districts will do much better in future if they merge and follow the merger study plan rather than being forced by the state to do something that either district would have control over.”
    The committee members said another misconception is Ilion’s debt is higher than that of Mohawk’s which will negatively impact the merged school district.
    “Although Mohawk and Ilion’s amount of debt is significantly different, the debt to debt ratio is similar. Through the merger the combined districts debt will be aidable at a higher percentage since Ilion has a higher need for aid, which will help the combined district get out of debt at a faster pace,” said Bonnell.
    In a recent letter to the editor a question asked “What did the state offer the teachers union?”
    “There is no basis for such question. The teachers’ union has no contact with state and the union is only interested in reasonable education for kids and financially stable districts,” said Ilion Teachers’ Association President Andrew Goldman. “There could be reasonable concerns with the merger, but I believe the two districts have worked as hard as they can to address those concerns. I have a feeling many of the concerns being raised not being raised in good faith by opponents.
    Page 3 of 3 - The public vote on the merger of the Ilion and Mohawk school districts will take place Tuesday.
    If the vote passes, the election of the board of education would take place on March 27.
    The merged district would begin operation July 1.
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