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School merger makes sense

November 29, 2012
The Leader Herald

Oppenheim-Ephratah Central School District voters will go to the polls Dec. 11 to reconsider a merger with the St. Johnsville district. Last year, Oppenheim-Ephratah voters narrowly rejected the plan.

Based on the information we've seen about the proposal, merging the two districts would be in the best interests of residents in both districts.

Before heading to the polls, voters should review the merger study committee's report.

A few points to consider from the report:

A merger would help financially. The report estimates that with state incentive operating aid and incentive building aid, and increased administrative efficiency - minus a "leveling-up" of teacher salaries in Oppenheim-Ephratah - the merged district would see a gain of almost $11 million over 15 school years.

The merged district would gain in efficiency by increasing high school class sizes, within the 25-student limit set by the St. Johnsville teacher contract, and still continue the 23 sections of electives with fewer than 10 students.

By reducing the number of classes by raising class sizes, the district would have a choice of expanding the curriculum or reducing the numbers of teachers, whose average annual compensation is $75,000 - either in the short term or by attrition.

Both districts have experienced a decline in athletic participation, and they already have begun sharing teams. A merged district would offer greater opportunities, though with increased competition for participation.

Oppenheim-Ephratah offers more club and other non-athletic extracurricular opportunities than St. Johnsville, so a new district should have more choices, depending on student interest.

Student performance on state assessment tests in grades three to five and high school regents exams is comparable, but in state assessments in grades six to eight, St. Johnsville is usually higher. A merged district should monitor test results "to ensure a quality education for all students."

Those are just a few key points in the report. We encourage Oppenheim-Ephratah residents to read the entire study on the district's website.

St. Johnsville residents already approved the merger last year, so they don't have to vote again. If approved by Oppenheim-Ephratah, the merger would begin July 1.

Small schools like Oppenheim-Ephratah and St. Johnsville are struggling with higher costs. The state is encouraging schools to consider consolidation for good reason. A merger of these two districts would make sense.



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