Missed opportunity

WESTFIELD – The proposed merger between Brocton Central School and Westfield Academy and Central School has officially been defeated by voters in Westfield’s district.

Over 1,200 votes were cast in Westfield during the statutory merger vote on Wednesday, with 718 people (58.6 percent) against the merger and 507 in favor. Brocton overwhelmingly supported the merger, with 643 people (89.7 percent) in favor of it and 74 people against.

Several audible sighs of disbelief could be heard in the Westfield auditorium, where the results were announced at around 9:30 p.m. About 30 people, including administrative officials from both school districts, waited for an hour and a half for the results to be tallied by the vote’s board of canvass.

“I wanted to thank everybody for the time they put into this and I believe in a democracy and a democracy was at work tonight,” Brocton Superintendent John Hertlein said after hearing the results.

The OBSERVER asked Hertlein whether or not he saw the vote as a defeat for Brocton.

“It means that we will have economic challenges in the foreseeable future,” he said. “We’ll have to meet and we’ll entertain questions from the (Brocton) board to figure out what is next and I will work very closely with them and we’ll try to guide them in an intelligent, fiscal and curriculum-minded manner.”

“This process has involved hundreds of people and thousands of hours and I would like to thank everyone who participated over the last fourteen months, including the advisory committee, the focus groups and everyone who attended the community meetings or read information, for their time and efforts on behalf of our children,” Westfield Superintendent David Davison said in a prepared statement.

“New York state has designed the centralization process to hinge on the will of the communities,” he added. “Tonight’s defeat of the binding referendum reflects the will of the Westfield community. In the days ahead, we must work together to provide the best educational opportunities possible for our children.”

The Brocton Board of Education will be meeting today at 7 p.m. in the Brocton School board room to discuss the next steps for their district.

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