By JAMES CUMMINGS • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
SCHENEVUS — With time and money running out, Schenevus Central School Superintendent Theresa Carlin gave parents three options for their district: Dissolve, tuition-out or merge.
“We cannot sustain ourselves as a K-12 district much longer,” she said at a presentation in the school gymnasium tonight. “Our number one solution is to merge with another district.”
But families who came out to the meeting were divided on which of those three choices to make.
Doug Gulotty, a Schenevus resident and former Wilber Bank president who spent 17 years as a board member and whose wife teaches at the school, favors tuitioning-out. “The identity of the school matters,” Gulotty said. “I want everyone to keep an open mind.”
“To merge these districts and keep our kids in them would be the best for our community,” said Kathi Fredette, a former teacher and six-year board member.
Hugh Gallagher, a parent of three students and husband of Kelly Gallagher, Schenevus school board president, insisted that merging is the best option.
“It’s hard to see it go, but it’s been a 10-year inequity,” he said, “Surrounding school districts get $6,000 more per kid annually…that’s a stunning amount.
Carlin has indicated that Schenevus and Worcester school could apply for funds that would pay for half of each district’s costs towards a study on the merger.
“Can our school afford the $15,000 for the study?” asked Joan Nisan.
“It’s a cost we’re willing to spend,” said Carlin.
Others expressed concerns about the months leading up to the merger. “Are there any resources to help us get through this?” asked school board member Stacie Haynes, a parent and Susquehanna SPCA executive director.
“We’re doing everything we can legislatively,” said Duncan Davie, state Sen. Jim Seward’s chief of staff “But the new constituted senate has no interest in helping out.” Seward himself could not attend the meeting, due to health issues.
The school must now wait until January, when it might be awarded a $25,000 grant from the New York Department of State to consider beginning the merger study. If approved, the merger study would begin in February and last nine months. Merger itself could take as long as two years, as both school boards and both communities would have to vote on the idea.
“We are running out of time,” said Carlin.