Building recommendation causes concern

BROCTON – The devil may be in the detail. The discussions about the merger of Brocton and Westfield school districts are just beginning. Those attending the joint meeting of the school boards seemed to agree that merger is an economic necessity.

The meeting was open to the public and offered an opportunity for public comment.

While the first recommendation of the study is for a merger, which means the process can proceed, the report makes 22 other recommendations. Superintendents John Hertlein from Brocton and David Davison from Westfield took turns outlining the recommendations in the report on consolidation prepared by the Western New York Educational Service Council and released on March 20.

Dr. David O’Rourke, Erie 2 Chautauqua Cattaraugus BOCES District Superintendent, stepped in to facilitate the boards’ discussion of the report. He asked what recommendations gave the members of the two boards of education pause. The members of the boards seemed most uncomfortable with the recommendation concerning housing the students.

According to the study, “The WNYSEC study team strongly promotes a three phase multi-year plan to use parts of both buildings in the beginning, and then eventually phase into a single building.”

In the first phase, for three years, K-3 students would attend at Brocton; Pre-K through 5 in Westfield and 6-12 in Brocton.

In the second phase, for a two year period, all elementary students would be housed in Westfield and 6-12 would remain in Brocton.

In the third phase, there would be one building using either existing facilities which may require renovations, or the construction of a new facility between existing facilities.

Brocton board member Susan Hardy offered the opinion that in an effort to balance programs and meet the educational needs of the middle school students, it might be better to house the middle school separately.

Westfield Board president Jeff Graebell said, “We need to pay attention to middle school.” and then later added, “If we think about it, there may be solutions.”

Board member David Hazelton was troubled by the recommendation to build a new school. He said, “There is sufficient square footage to use the existing buildings. We have two buildings that are serviceable and comfortable.”

O’Rourke told the boards that they do have the option to change the recommendations. He also said it was possible to reconvene the advisory committee. The boards decided to do that. They are asking for the members’ opinions on that building configuration. Brocton board president Thomas DeJoe, recognizing that the committee members might be hearing from members of the public, also wanted them to report on what they had heard about the study.

A meeting of the advisory committee was set for April 16 at 6 p.m. in Westfield’s large group instruction room. In addition, there will be four public meetings scheduled about the proposed consolidation, two in each district. The meetings will occur in April and May. Tentative dates are: April 30 in Westfield, May 7 in Brocton, May 9 in Westfield and May 16 in Brocton.

Both districts will also put question and answers about the consolidation on their websites next week. Members of the public were encouraged to call or email the district superintendents with their input. Currently, the entire report is available on both websites.

DeJoe emphasized that the two boards want public input and they want to answer questions.

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