Advisory committee asked for more advice

WESTFIELD – Brocton Westfield Advisory Com-mittee members, who thought their meetings were finished, were asked by the Brocton and Westfield boards of education to meet one more time. That meeting took place earlier this week.

At issue was recommendation 23 of the feasibility study prepared by the Western New York Educational Service Corporation, which deals with the merged school district’s use of existing buildings for instructional purposes. The consultants recommended a three phase multi-year plan to use parts of both buildings initially and then move into a single building.

At a joint meeting of the boards on April 11, no member of either board seemed comfortable with that recommendation. In addition to worry about the initial configuration, no board member favored constructing a new building in the third phase. The third phase of the recommendation calls for modifying one of the current buildings to house all district students OR building a new school midway between the two districts.

Board members turned to the advisory committee recognizing that this was the group that studied the issue, and asked for their thoughts on the recommendation.

Although advisory committee members had given the consultants background information and discussed the building configuration at one of the meetings, they did not craft the recommendation.

A phased plan was not one of the options at the meeting when the participants came up with options. The options they discussed were two elementary schools, a middle and a high school; one elementary school and one middle/high school; one building; and a K-8 and high school arrangement.

Sixteen of the 24 members of the advisory committee came together again. Many of them have been attending meetings of their boards and joint meetings.

BOCES Superintendent Dr. David O’Rourke was at the committee meeting to guide the discussion. As he said, “I am acting as a simple facilitator to help you with your conversation.”

He also said, “The boards (of education) understand the committee did not recommend the building configuration.”

He pointed out the boards of education were interested in a middle school model, in more use of the Westfield facility, and in exploring modifications to the recommendation 23.

The options for the initial configuration of a consolidated district presented at this meeting were: accepting the three-step phased in recommendation as presented by the consultants; a model with pre-k through 5 at both schools, a middle school at Westfield and a high school at Brocton; and a model with pre-k through 5 at both schools and grades 6-12 at Brocton.

Members of the committee noted that individually they did not necessarily agree with any of these models. When pressed to vote, four voted for the recommendation of the consultants, three for pre-k through 5 at both schools, and nine for the pre-k through 5 at each building, a middle school at Westfield and a high school at Brocton.

When the original conversations took place, most committee members argued against separating the middle and high schools. The findings of the consultants’ report echoed these arguments, noting that teachers often taught in both middle and high school and it would not be cost efficient to divide the middle level from the high school and that Brocton’s physical and sports complex better met the needs of the 6-12 program. In fact, only committee member Maria Resnick had argued for a split of the 6-12 program between sites.

At the current meeting, Jim Tennies, who taught six years in the middle school, said from his experience separating the two levels can be good from a social perspective.

“Senior boys should not be dating eighth-grade girls,” he said.

Committee members were concerned with what would be acceptable to the communities.

Dawn Betts noted that what she heard from business people was the need to use only one building to achieve real cost savings.

In addition to voting on the options available presented to them, the committee members had an opportunity to present their ideas in writing. This writing, either signed or unsigned, will be given to the subcommittees from each school board.

The boards have an option to modify the recommendation of the consultants. In addition, it should be noted that if the merger goes through, a newly elected board of education for the new district would be in charge of implementing changes, and they could decide something different from the recommendations.

Public meetings on the merger study are tentatively set for April 30 at Westfield School’s Auditorium, May 1 at Brocton School’s Auditorium, May 9 at Westfield School’s Auditorium, May 16 at Brocton School’s Auditorium. All meetings are scheduled for 7 p.m.

The full consultants’ report is available on each school’s website.

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