Merger talks continue

BROCTON – The Brocton and Westfield districts held another public hearing concerning the consolidation of the districts. There will be one final opportunity for the public to attend a public hearing on the issue. It will take place in the Brocton auditorium at 7 p.m. on May 16.

At the second public hearing, more people asked questions or offered opinions than at the first hearing. About 50 people attended, most of whom were administrators, board members or members of the advisory committee.

Brocton Board of Education President Thomas DeJoe welcomed the audience. He said, “We want to make sure we are on the same page, and make sure there is no misinformation out there.”

Superintendents David Davison of Westfield and John Hertlein of Brocton reviewed the recommendations of the consultant group and the questions asked at the first hearing. One item that Hertlein emphasized was if the centralization took place 40 percent of the Operating Incentive Aid is recommended to be put toward lowering taxes. The aid, paid over 14 years, would be about $25 million.

“Both districts will see a reduction in taxes,” Hertlein said.

The configuration of the school district was a matter of concern to both school boards. The boards of education of each district asked for and received approval for a change to the consultants’ recommendation. The beginning configuration for the district is for both districts to keep their elementary students in the current district. The middle school (grades 6-8) will be housed in Westfield and the high school (9-12) will be housed at Brocton. Brocton would have about 670 students and Westfield would have about 587.

Because the recommendation was changed, the consultants went back over the study to see how it would impact other items in the report. They recommended adding a Dean of Students at a cost of $83,000. They found that 15 faculty could be reduced providing a savings of $278,000.

They predicted that an additional $126,000 for maintaining extra building would be needed. They calculated a net savings of $68,000 could be realized.

While the consultants have made recommendations, the new board is not bound by these recommendations.

Hertlein said, “We would hope the new board would be astute and consider them. They can view them as a road map. … If they went astray, the community would hold them responsible.”

Brocton school board member Susan Hardy said in her position she hears lots of rumors. One she heard was that Hertlein was going to leave the district. She asked him to comment.

“Look at this gray hair. I am not going anywhere,” he said.

Hardy also asked the Brocton Board president to explain if he favored the merger, and why.

DeJoe spoke about the similarities between the two districts. “It is just common sense to merge,” he said.

Resident Henry Link asked about the concept of a regional high school. Hertlein answered that the legislature has not passed the bill authorizing regional high schools, but he expected the new board would keep an open mind if the situation changed.

Jack Bills, a resident of Westfield commented that monetary issues are important but “give them (people) a reason to put their kids in the district.”

Larry McFadden, who served on the advisory committee, commented the elementary students should be housed together since it was “one district” and there were “so many reasons for consolidating the grade school.”

Questions and answers from this hearing will be placed on the website of each district and also reviewed at the next hearing.

Comments on this article may be directed to dchodan@observertoday.com