Fredonia continues with Rural Schools after mixed vote

A bit of controversy brewed over continuing participation in the Rural Schools Association of New York State during the Fredonia Board of Education’s recent meeting.

The board ended up approving the forwarding of $600 to Rural Schools for Fredonia’s participation in the organization for the 2014-15 school year. Board member Karen Mosier cast the sole “nay” vote on the measure and voiced concern that the association may not have Fredonia’s true interests and needs at heart.

“They’re very specifically looking at high-needs rural schools in almost all their documentation; I never found an instance where they separated out an average-needs school, such as Fredonia,” Mosier stated. “… Our district is kind of being left out in a lot of things. When things are beneficial to our surrounding districts, we don’t get the same thing.”

Mosier added Rural Schools’ mission statement opposes decisions regarding reorganization and mergers being imposed on smaller districts instead of each participating district voting in favor of it.

“I would love to see our neighboring communities come together (with us) and address the need to do something, but that’s not going to happen and we’ll be in big trouble long-term if something doesn’t change,” she stressed. “Smaller districts are more concerned with the community aspect, but I’m more worried about the education of our students and the other students.”

Board President Michael Bobseine said instead of pulling out entirely from Rural Schools, Fredonia should lobby to change the association’s policies. He pointed out Fredonia is still a rural district and needs to continue to be in an organization that supports rural districts, especially when it comes to the removal of the gap elimination adjustment.

“I don’t want to shut the door to positive conversations where we can maybe be the educators and the change agents,” Superintendent Paul DiFonzo added. “I’m not sure that they understand this pocket of (average-needs) schools exists. I think that for the amount of money we’re paying, it might be worthwhile to pursue this. We will do a better job of making sure our needs are expressed.”

“Change is slow when it comes to issues like this,” board member Thomas Hawk noted.

Rural Schools, according to its website, aims to be a leader in solving systemic problems and improving opportunities, practice and policy for rural schools and the communities they serve. The website also says the association, formed in 2008, works with partners to assist rural communities in recreating themselves as socially and economically vibrant communities across the state.

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