By JOHN BORGOLINI
NORTHVILLE - The superintendents of the Mayfield and Northville school districts, Paul Williamsen and Katherine Dougherty, respectively, hosted the second public forum regarding the proposed merger of the two districts Wednesday at Northville Central School.
Mayfield held the first public forum for a crowd of 30 people Monday, and 45 concerned residents showed up at the second forum expressing common themes of maintaining a district and having the local community decide on the merger.
Fulton County Clerk William Eschler was one of the Northville residents pushing for action from the voters in the district. He said if the merger fails, the state likely will force the merger anyway.
"If they mandate the consolidation, we have less control," Eschler said. "The state's in as much trouble as we are fiscally. I'm still not completely sold on the idea, but we have to beat them to it or it's going to be chaotic."
A common concern among the three groups that broke up for small-group discussions was the fear of uninformed voters. Dougherty told the crowd it was up to them to inform the majority of the community that didn't attend.
"I think people tend to wait until it gets too close to make a decision," she said. "I'm happy you are all here, but there are thousands of people in your community that aren't. We don't know where they're getting their information from. We need to get the word out there."
The districts will decide Aug. 21 whether to put the merger up for a "straw vote" on Sept. 18. If this opinion vote passes, then the districts will put up the merger vote, along with how many school board members there would be and members' term lengths, on Oct. 25.
Williamsen said he wasn't disappointed with the turnouts of the forums, but the merger still concerns those who didn't attend.
"I respect their position, but this discussion does include them," he said. "Everyone has a [say], because we are educating the citizens of the future. We want an educated work force and people who have an appreciation of art and music."
Before the forum began, Mayfield citizens had a chance to take a tour of Northville Central School, which would serve as the elementary school for Northville residents and the middle school for both districts.
Northville sophomore Veronica Arceri led Mayfield student Amy Laubenstein and her mother, Jennifer, on a tour of the facility.
Laubenstein and her mother said they thought it would be important for the Mayfield student to see the building. They said it was big, which is good as that means more opportunities for students.
Arceri said she likes the idea of the merger, just not for the 2013-14 school year when Mayfield would be serving as the high school.
"I don't think it would be beneficial for me personally, because I would be in the first class to graduate," she said. "I would rather stay here. I feel it would be beneficial for kids below me, but I would rather stay at Northville."