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Vote on tuitioning RCS students would be held in January at earliest

October 3, 2012
By DAVID PRENATT - CORRESPONDENT ( , Westfield Republican / Mayville Sentinel News

RIPLEY - A public vote on the possibility of sending Ripley Central School students to other districts will take longer to come about than originally thought, board members learned Thursday night, Sept. 20.

Superintendent Karen Krause reported the district is in the process of collecting data about the impact of "tuitioning" students to other districts, most notably Chautauqua Lake Central School. The school has been communicating with B.O.C.E.S., Ripley's legal council, the Chautauqua Lake district, the state Department of Education and other agencies to explore the full ramifications of such an action.

"We hope to have an auditing firm review all of the data by early November," Krause said.

Article Photos

Photo by David Prenatt
Several parents of Ripley Central School students attended Thursday’s Board of Education meeting, Sept. 20. Freshman Tanner McCutcheon, forefront, spoke to the board about his experience attending Chautauqua Lake Central School district.

She said she hoped a vote could take place around the first of the new year.

"This is going to take longer than the board thought," board president Robert Bentley said.

At the August board meeting, about 30 parents, students and citizens urged the board to seek a public vote on whether or not Ripley students in grades seven through 12 should attend Chautauqua Lake. At that time, Bentley said he hoped a vote could take place in October.

Krause emphasized the board is seeking input from the community as part of the data collection. Questions and comments should be in writing and signed.

"Anonymous letters will not be answered," Bentley said.

About eight parents and one student attended the September meeting. Freshman Tanner McCutcheon, who is a part of a pilot group of six Ripley students attending CLCS this year, said the students are fitting in well, but still feel a part of the Ripley district.

"I've made quite a few friends," he said, noting the teachers have made Ripley students feel welcome. "The teachers help the students. How they teach is different, a different learning center."

Ripley Principal Lauren Ormsby noted the inter-municipal agreement allowing Ripley and Chautauqua to send students to each others schools has been in existence for three years, but has seen very limited activity. This pilot group will help, "bring reality to the experience," she said.

There were a few transportation issues regarding the arrangement, but those are now smoothed over, Ormsby said.

"When I check with the students, they say everything is going well," she said.

In a related matter, Bentley publicly commented on two letters which have circulated among the Ripley community concerning the issue of tuitioning students to CLCS. The first letter came from a group identifying itself as "concerned taxpayers/advocates for Ripley Central School District." The second letter, a rebuttal, came from a group identifying itself as "Parents Advocating Change in Education."

Bentley urged anyone writing a public statement to contact the administrative team to "get your information first hand. ... If you're putting something in writing, call us."

He stated there were inaccuracies in the letters and claims that do not have factual basis.

"We have explained and explained the fund balance, but nobody is here to hear it," he said.

In other business, Krause outlined the board's goals for 2012-2014. Goal one is "to increase academic achievement of students through increased participation and active engagement of parents, faculty and staff in school initiatives."

Goal two aims to "raise expectations for student achievement by nurturing a culture that embraces mutual respect and creates a safe and orderly environment for learning to occur."

These two goals form an "umbrella" for implementation of the 2012-2013 goals for the school, she said. The district goals include: promoting shared leadership by involving students, faculty, parents and community members; creating a safe and welcoming environment for learning; and forming active partnerships with parent and community organizations.

In a related matter, Bentley noted the New York State Education Department has placed Ripley on its list of focus schools. Focus schools are those the department determines have poor performance or lack of progress. These districts must develop comprehensive plans to support improvement efforts.

Ormsby said the district fell just one point below the cutoff for the list and could work to be removed from it. The implementation of the district's goals will help to this end. The staff and administration will address it, she said.



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