A group of about 12 Mohawk residents gathered in a classroom at Jarvis Junior-Senior High School Monday night to discuss their concerns regarding the merger study.
It might just look good on paper. There are no guarantees. Combining four poor school districts into one may just turn it into a large, poor school district. Can a merger really take place by the start of the next school year?
These were just some of the issues brought up by the group. The discussion was one of several going on inside the high school as part of the community discussion in the school district about the four-way merger study between the Mohawk, Frankfort-Schuyler, Herkimer and Ilion school districts.
The evening started with a PowerPoint presentation by Superintendent of Schools Joyce Caputo, where she presented the projected numbers for the upcoming budget year without a merger along with district Business Manager Joseph Barretta. Caputo showed the district is facing nearly a $700,000 gap based on projections going into the 2012-13 budget year, which includes the use of $320,000 of fund balance.
To make up that gap, the district would look at possible cuts to all athletics, extracurricular activities, reducing the superintendent position to half time, cutting non-mandated art and music, non-mandated kindergarten and other staff reductions and cuts.
Caputo noted since 2008, the school district has lost nearly $1 million in state aid, “which could have been used for programming.”
“Yes, our identity is strong. Our pride is strong. Many of us bleed black and orange,” said Caputo. “Why would the board of education ask us to consider a merger of four or three merger school districts? Drastic times call for drastic measures.”
After the presentation, those attending were split into smaller groups to discuss four questions posed by the community advisory committee.
The committee — 16 members from each participating school district — reviewed the data sets compiled by the SES Study Team throughout the year and discussed the findings as part of the merger study process. The committee’s questions included what opportunities would come from a merger, the challenges it would present and what the board of education should do if they choose not to merge.
The groups then reconvened in the auditorium where a question and answer session was held using questions brought up in the small discussion groups.
During her presentation, Caputo urged residents to get all the information that has been provided about the merger. “None of us can be an uninformed voter,” said Caputo. “We cannot believe all the rumor and innuendo. Our duty is to be informed. Change will happen whether through the merger or the reality of a budget process this year that the board of education will be facing.”
A straw vote is scheduled for Jan. 19, 2012, and the referendum to merge is scheduled for Feb. 29, 2012. Caputo said these voting days have been set by the state Education Department and will not change in the event of inclement weather.
Page 2 of 2 - Caputo also noted upcoming school board meetings are scheduled for Dec. 19 and Jan. 10, 2012, at the Jarvis Media Center.