RIPLEY - A group of nearly 30 parents, students and residents attended the Ripley Central School District Board of Education meeting Thursday night, Aug. 9 to present a petition requesting the board conduct a referendum to the community regarding the possibility of tuitioning Ripley students in grades 7 through 12 to the Chautauqua Lake Central School District.
The petition was signed by 147 member of the Ripley community. Ripley school district has been facing increasing financial difficulties. A recent bill in the New York State legislature to create a regional high school was passed by the State Senate, but discarded when the Assembly did not vote on it before this year's session expired.
The petitioned read as follows:
"We, the undersigned, demand that the Ripley Central School District Board of Education bring a referendum to the Ripley Community on tuitioning of students in grades 7 through 12. We believe that this option will bring more opportunities for the Ripley students. We the undersigned are concerned citizens who urge our leaders to act now to bring this to a vote."
Speaking for the group, Allen Mellors presented the petition to the board. When contacted after the meeting, he stated many parents are greatly concerned the district is no longer able to provide a good enough education for its students.
"Ripley is below expectations of being able to provide the classes its students need," he said. "What the group is hoping for is not what the school is hoping for."
Mellors emphasized the teachers at Ripley do a "fantastic job," but the school cannot offer enough electives and extra-curricular activities to prepare its students for college.
"It's just the size of the school that is the issue," he said. "It cannot give what the students need."
Mellors said he has received calls from many parents who were not at the meeting.
"We encourage all parents to attend future school board meetings," he said. "There's more to come from the concerned parents of Ripley."
Those present supported the petition requesting students be tuitioned in the 2012-2013 school year to Chautauqua Lake Central School District. However, certain restrictions apply under the law, and the earliest a tuition arrangement could be made would be in the 2013-2014 school year.
The board has requested information on the anticipated educational and financial impacts be compiled and verified. This data set will then be reviewed by the board for a final determination on a referendum vote.
Board President Robert Bentley said, because of state procedures regarding a referendum, the board might be able to seek a vote in October or November.
"If we could vote next week, we would. We will be putting this on the fast track," he said. "We are all in favor of putting this up for a vote to the community."
Bentley said it was good to see so many parents and residents becoming involved in this issue.
"The most exciting thing to me was having so many parents coming in and asking for this," he said. "It's great to have people down there demanding education for their children."
Bentley said he was angered by the fact the state assembly would not bring the question of a regional high school to vote.
"I find it extremely frustrating to know that they could not bring this to a vote this year, but the leader of the assembly is sponsoring a vote to provide aid for college education for illegal immigrants living in New York State," he said.
Mellors said parents will continue to meet and discuss options concerning the future of their children's education.