The Oppenheim-Ephratah Central School has another merger vote set for Dec. 11.
Mergers might not be the best solution to all problems. We live in small districts because we like the ambiance of small towns, of small schools. Many people have moved here for this reason. They don't want their children to be a "number," but a "someone."
All the unfunded state and federal mandates are breaking us.
The merger supposedly would generate $14 million in incentives. The problem is the state has no money. I believe it was WRGB-TV Channel 6 that investigated this and said the state would have to borrow the money. Our children would be responsible for paying this debt (for around 50 years).
In Oppenheim-Ephratah, each teacher would stand to gain about $10,000 (on average) to equal the salaries paid to the teachers in the St. Johnsville school district. This salary raise never goes away. Over the course of 15 years, the increase would eat up a little over half of the proposed incentive money. How does this benefit the children in OECS?
Proponents of the merger have often stated that Oppenheim-Ephratah cannot financially survive in a status-quo situation. If this is true, why did the district end last year with a million-dollar surplus and have to hold a special board meeting to transfer money into the capital-reserve fund in order to meet state regulations?
There might be another option. Some of our students could be tuitioned to other districts. This is done with Wheelerville students (to Johnstown) and Edinburg students (to Northville). In this way, we can still keep our small district together. Our great elementary program could be left intact.
There are 66 children from our district currently attending school in Dolgeville, and more than 40 of them transferred after the merger vote last year. Some proponents of the merger now have their children attending school in Dolgeville, not St. Johnsville. That is a commentary on how much they may value the education in St. Johnsville. I have heard others state that they will vote for the merger, but will leave their children in Dolgeville.
Let's all remember that "bigger is better" is not true in all cases. Also, remember to vote on Dec. 11. Please vote on the facts and what is in your heart, not on the vocal opinions of friends or neighbors.