By JAMES CUMMINGS • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
SCHENEVUS – With its deficit heading toward $750,000, the Schenevus Central School has reopened merger talks with neighboring Worcester Central.
“Please join us for an evening of forward-thinking collaboration and gaining an understanding of what we need to do to maintain an institution that provides all students with a quality education,” the promotional information reads.
State Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, Assemblyman Brian Miller, R-New Hartford, state Education Department representatives, Superintendent Theresa Carlin and District Treasurer Greg Beall will serve on a panel.
There a number of reasons for the financial bind, said Carlin, ranging from rising insurance costs and some poor decision making in the past.
And state aid is lagging. “We’re getting the money we would’ve gotten 10 years ago,” Carlin said.
In June, special legislation sponsored by Seward and Miller allowed Schenevus Central to borrow $500,000 against future state aid.
But it hasn’t been enough.
At least six staff positions have been dissolved, meaning that teachers are being asked to do more, including teaching classes that they hadn’t previously, Carlin said. Additionally, there are fewer electives available for students, fewer field trips, and less new equipment.
The idea of a potential merger was first raised in June, when Schenevus and Worcester school board members attended a presentation by education consultant Alan Pole, in which he explained how the merger process works.
Next, Carlin said, a $50,000 merger study must be completed by both districts to determine if a jointure is viable. Both districts have applied for a New York State Department grant to cover the cost.
If the grant is awarded in January, the two schools districts will share any additional costs.
The districts have undergone a merger study in the past, but in 1996 chose not to follow through with it. Several years ago the two districts also applied for grant funding for another study, but did not receive it.
When asked about the potential merger, Carlin expressed enthusiasm, at the possibility of “more classes, more electives, and the sports teams would be amazing”.
She said there is already camaraderie among the students: “Schenevus kids are already involved with Worcester kids.” Separated by only five miles, the schools already share a track team.
It’s the adults who might have to be convinced.
“There is a natural resistance to change,” says Tim Gonzales, Worcester Central School superintendent, “an emotional piece you can’t control.”
Should a merger take place, some may think “the community is not what it once was.”
Gonzales said he favors the merger, if the study supports the idea. “We want what’s best for the kids; my intent is to share as much as we can,” he said.
If all goes well, 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.