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Clymer, Panama school boards choose firm for merger study

February 16, 2017
By Katrina Fuller - , Westfield Republican

CLYMER - Another step has been taken in the possible merger of Clymer and Panama central schools.

The two boards on Wednesday unanimously chose Learning Design Associates to conduct a feasibility study, which is required by the state education commissioner in order for the merger process to continue.

The feasibility study will include information such as current and projected enrollments; current and projected professional staffing plans; current and projected housing/building plans; plans for education programs and curricula; plans for transportation; and fiscal implications of the reorganization like state aid, incentive aid, expenditures and local tax effort.

Article Photos

Photo by Katrina Fuller
Marilyn Kurzawa of Learning Design Associates Inc, presented the proposal for a feasibility study at Clymer Central School on Wednesday.

The state Department of Education requires a study between districts that are considering merging, which will later allow them to get the Commissioner of Education's order to hold a vote on the merger. A "straw vote" that is non-binding will be held in both districts, which both have to garner a "yes" result in order to proceed. A referendum would then be held to determine whether a merger occurs.

Learning Design Associates representatives David Kurzawa, Marilyn Kurzawa and Thomas Schmidt gave an overview of the New York state regulations regarding reorganization studies, the proposed timeline and explained some methods that would be used.

David Kurzawa said he was thrilled the firm was chosen to present their proposal, and thanked the boards for the opportunity. He said the two school districts have previously undergone other mergers or consolidations within each town that have since lasted for 60 years.

Marilyn Kurzawa said the presenters are all Chautauqua County residents.

"We definitely want it to stay a very healthy county for a long time," Kurzawa said.

She added the central issues of the merger study are whether enhancing and improving education for all students can be achieved at a similar or reduced cost to taxpayers, as well as if student post-graduation outcomes will be improved with a wider range of courses and staff with different areas of expertise were available to teach.

Some methods the associates will use include: interviewing all school administrators and support staff department heads; reviewing data and input into the final report by the Feasibility Study Committee, which will have 12 members per district which are selected by the superintendent following submission of a letter of interest; and focus groups which will help gather perception data.

Schmidt said there are several types of focus groups they would suggest, including board members; parents; professional staff; support staff; students; athletic and band booster members; service organizations; business and agricultural leader; as well as any other groups that the communities believe are important.

He said the point is to get everyone involved so the community will be heard from as a whole.

The proposed timeline stated that the firm will meet with Bert Lictus, shared superintendent, and David O'Rourke, Erie-2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES superintendent, later this month to present needs and review expectations, followed by data collection and analysis from this month to July. Within that timeline, focus group meetings, advisory committee meetings and public progress reports to the district's boards of education will be held. Other dates will be confirmed and published on each school's website.

The Western New York Service Education Council was also invited to present to the board, and whose bid for the feasibility study was $40,000.

The maximum cost of the bid from Learning Design Associates was $43,900.

After both presentations were given, the boards held an executive session to discuss the options. Afterward, the boards reconvened into regular session, and appointed Learning Design Associates unanimously. The board presidents commented on the depth of commitment made by the firm to engagement with both communities, as well as on the vision of how to use focus groups effectively to gather the necessary information from the communities.

A date will be set in the future to meet with the firm in a public session to begin planning and forming the committee. Questions about the study process will be taken at that time.



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