Schools’ plan makes grade

Leave it to northern Chautauqua County’s largest schools to come up with a solution to a problem affecting both districts.

Simply put, the two entities did it by working together.

Last week, the Dunkirk and Fredonia schools announced the collaborative effort for the prekindergarten program, which will be housed at the Wheelock School building on Chestnut Street in Fredonia starting in September. The initiative was made possible by a state Local Government Efficiency Grant that rewards progressive ways of thinking for the future.

“The combined universal pre-k program is an example of what can be accomplished through collaboration and discussion,” said Dunkirk schools Superintendent Gary Cerne. “The award of this grant would provide us with recommendations to move forward to save money and provide quality educational programming.”

Imagine that. Dunkirk and Fredonia putting aside whatever petty differences there are between the communities for something that brings a positive outcome to the area’s young children. It would not have happened without the leadership of Cerne and Fredonia schools Superintendent Paul DiFonzo, who both understand the benefits of the joint program.

Too bad we cannot get that same cooperation from the city of Dunkirk and village of Fredonia leaders when it comes to projects that benefit the community. Usually one of the two – most often Fredonia – does not want to be part of a regional solution. Instead, it would rather arrogantly believe it is doing just fine on its own.

In today’s landscape, that is obviously not true. Both municipalities are staring at struggling economies and declining populations. At least the city is working on a regional water district. The village, on the other hand, just tries to keep its head above water from increasing costs.

Dunkirk and Fredonia schools are willing to change and work together. That is a monumental step that deserves applause.

But it does not change the big age-old question: If we can bring the young children in the schools together through solid leadership, why can’t the adults who oversee the municipal governments do the same?