RIPLEY - Sometimes the public has the chance to vote on school-based issues. Other times, the tough decisions are left up to those elected to the school board.
Ripley Central School Board of Education President Robert Bentley responded Thursday night, Feb. 16 to two recent letters to the editor in the Westfield Republican that referred to the deliberations of local school boards, including Ripley, regarding the possibility of forming a regional high school.
Bentley commended on a letter by Mary Lee Talbot in the Feb. 16 issue, which noted that citizens cast their votes on these issues "through elected representatives, not through direct democracy." She urges citizens who are concerned about the issue to go to the school board meetings and make their concerns known to their elected officials, who have been empowered by the voters to make these decisions.
Photo by David Prenatt
The Ripley Central School Board of Education voted to allow emergency medical personnel employed by the district to respond to emergency calls without loss of pay. Picture in the front row, from left to right: Frederick R. Krause; President Robert J. Bentley; and R. Theodore Rickenbrode. Back row, from left to right: Vice President Nancy J. Rowe; and Melinda A. Gervasio.
Bentley expressed dismay, however, at a letter in the Feb. 9 issue by Wanda Bentley, no relation, which expressed concern that the public was not going to have the right to vote on this issue and that the real issue was "not a regional high school, the issue is the right of Americans to vote."
Robert Bentley responded that the board has been elected to make decisions regarding the education of the students. For example, 50 percent of Ripley students leave the school to attend Career and Technical Education - commonly called Vo-Tech - and nearly 20 percent leave the school for some form of special services. No one votes to have them leave, he said.
"The board approves the budget that allows kids to use BOCES services," Robert Bentley said. "The public does not vote on children leaving school."
Bentley said the letter was "misleading and misinformed" regarding the actions of school boards and said he resented the implication that board members were trying to circumvent the law.
"We are working within the state, with the state, to change the law," he said. "That's a constitutional right. This is how our system works. We are here elected by the people to represent the community and that's what we will do. In all of our decisions, the students come first, followed by the taxpayers."
In another matter, the board voted to allow emergency medical personnel employed by the district to respond to emergency calls without loss of pay.
The board received a request from Ripley Hose Company asking that three EMT's employed by the district be allowed to respond during daytime hours in the town because it no longer has the staff to cover these calls without them. The board agreed this has become a necessity.
"It's a sign of the times as the community gets smaller, it cannot provide the same services with ease," said District Superintendent Karen Krause.
Only one EMT would be needed per call and the average call lasts about an hour, according to the letter from the Ripley Hose Company. The board was unanimous that the fear of losing salary should not prevent EMT's from responding.
"We're talking about the possibility of saving a life," said board member Fred Krause. "That's more important than any money."
In other business, the board approved a recommendation by superintendent Krause to take part in a BOCES-sponsored energy conservation program that would provide power management software for the district's computers. The software would not cost the district, and would monitor and turn off the computers when not in use, resulting in a projected savings of $4,480 a year to the school.
The board nominated Anne Ehrlich, Nancy Renckens and Nancy Stock to seek re-election, as well as Gary DeLellis, who is seeking first-time election to the BOCES district for Erie, Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties.
The March meeting for the board has been re-scheduled to 6:30 p.m., on March 29.