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School mergers: The merger process

April 24, 2013
Steve Cockram , Westfield Republican / Mayville Sentinel News

New York State says it is all for school mergers. As one who has been in private industry for 25 plus years, the process mystifies me. I imagine two businesses exploring if they could be more efficient joining forces rather than as separate entities. They would identify their shared assets and liabilities, determine the management structure, and physical location(s) to maximize their chance of success. Then the two companies would sign an agreement locking these in place and create the combined business. Time would only tell if it actually works as well as anticipated.

The world of school consolidation is much different, and dictated by NYS. Consultants look at all aspects of the two district's operations and make a recommendation. If NYS allows it, then the management - school boards - vote, then stockholders -the taxpayers - vote, NYS weighs in, and then the stockholders have to vote again. If all this is successful, then NYS gives the new combined district its blessing. Then the management - the two old boards and administration - are let go, new management is elected. This new board is not collectively bound by the merger study or any prior board's resolutions. If a voter is looking for some assurances of what the future will hold - like "where will the high school be?" - they will get them from asking the community members who volunteer to run for the merged board what they feel about the merger.

The fundamental question that voters will be asked is if they feel a combined district has a better chance of giving students the best education possible. The other question is if there are enough dedicated community members to be on the new board - you? - to make the tough decisions that are in the best interests of the students. If your gut says "yes" or even "yes, but," then you should vote for the merger.

The views expressed here are my own, not of the Westfield Academy and Central School Board of Education.

Steve Cockram,


Westfield school board member



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