Fredonia continues push for more sharing discussions

Fredonia Central School’s top official is continuing to push for a public list of all high school programs currently provided by Erie 2 BOCES’ component districts, as well as enrollment numbers for those programs.

After newly appointed board of education member Cristina Gegenschatz recited her oath of office at Tuesday’s meeting, thus officially filling a vacancy left by Roberta Coniglio, Superintendent Paul DiFonzo explained he recently met with other chief school officers during a BOCES meeting. He reported his colleagues are still on board with compiling the list, which would expose opportunities for all high schools participating in Erie 2 BOCES, especially in Chautauqua County, to merge struggling programs and sustain them.

“We had a fair number of representatives, probably somewhere between 17 and 20 superintendents from our component districts and (BOCES Superintendent) Dr. David O’Rourke, (along with other BOCES administrators),” DiFonzo stated. “I was allowed to start a discussion and I shared my concern that when you look at the different districts, you see that all of them, for the most part, have declining enrollments, and I think it’s pretty well-acknowledged that we’ve all had our financial issues and problems.

“I just think that it’s incumbent on us as superintendents and leaders and boards to start to work together and come to an agreement as to what we can do to make sure students are getting the programs and classes they need.”

He explained that at the BOCES meeting, there was a consensus that there is a “noticeable difference” in programs being offered across districts, possibly indicating some districts do not offer enough to create a “level playing field.”

School districts on Long Island, and even some in Erie County, according to DiFonzo, have programs that are not offered in the local area, such as multiple foreign languages and different technology opportunities. That, in turn, may put local students behind when it comes to post-secondary plans.

“We are looking for partners to do things and are looking for ways to meet the needs of children,” DiFonzo said, pointing out many distance learning programs offered through BOCES address the needs of various districts, but at the same time do not fit Fredonia’s needs.

The Fredonia superintendent is hopeful a committee will be put together by BOCES in the near future to begin compiling the requested data and to look into ways to generate more shared services. The New York State Center for Rural Schools is currently compiling similar data for the entire state, so DiFonzo said he would approach officials there and see what needs to be done from a local perspective.

“I’m hopeful that I get to meet with Dr. O’Rourke again soon (about this),” DiFonzo concluded. “I think in the meantime, we have to keep our doors open and remain positive. We all know most communities want to maintain what they have, but in the process, they might be losing what they have.”

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