Something does not set well with me about this.....
Article From DAVID L. SHAW of Finger Lakes Times
OVID — There were once three school districts in southern Seneca County: Ovid, Interlaken and Romulus.
In 1968, there were two. Ovid and Interlaken merged to form South Seneca.
By July 1, 2013, there may only be one.
The Romulus and South Seneca school districts agreed earlier this year to explore a merger and hired Castallo & Silkey Education Consultants of Syracuse to do a study.
The consultants will present their final report to the two school boards — and the public — Monday night.
“It is not within our province or the purpose of this study to recommend whether Romulus and South Seneca should merge their two districts into one,’’ the consultants state in their report.
But they list 44 “key findings’’ and 21 recommendations for consideration, including:
FINDINGS 1-2: Both districts have experienced declining enrollments over the past six years. A merged district should see a stabilization of enrollment over the next seven years.
It is unlikely that home-schooled students, those in private schools and/or Mennonite or Amish students in the two districts will enter the public schools.
RECOMMENDATION 1: A merged district should annually update enrollment projections to accurately monitor its student population.
FINDING 3: The two districts have a somewhat different grade level pattern. Romulus has a configuration of pre-K-4, 5-8 and 9-12. South Seneca has pre-K-5, 6-8 and 9-12.
FINDING 4: At the elementary level, the teacher and students days are different. South Seneca students have a day that is 20 minutes longer than Romulus students. Also, Romulus faculty has longer days Monday through Thursday and a shorter day on Fridays and the day before a holiday.
FINDING 5: Both districts have two or three sections of each elementary grade. South Seneca has more grade levels with three sections. Average section sizes tend to be somewhat smaller in Romulus.
FINDING 6: There are significant curriculum differences at the elementary level.
RECOMMENDATION 2: If the districts merge, a committee of elementary teachers and an administrator should be convened as soon as possible to review the existing curriculum and make recommendations for a common core curriculum for grades pre-K to 6.
FINDING 7: The amount of art, music, library, physical education and computer time that elementary students receive per week varies within and across the two districts.
RECOMMENDATION 3: If there is a merger, the elementary curriculum committee should also address a master schedule that ensures a consistent amount of times and delivery approach for all special subject areas in grades pre-K to 5.
FINDING 8: There is little difference between the two districts on grades 3-6 performance on the state English and math tests from 2007 to 2011. But it is difficult to make any valid comparisons because the small number of students cause wide percentage swings from year to year.
RECOMMENDATION 4: If there is a merger, there should be close review annually to ensure that there is no difference in elementary school achievement, no matter what school the students attend in the new district.
FINDING 9: At the middle and high school level, the student day differs by only five minutes. The Romulus staff have a longer day Monday through Thursday and a shorter day on Friday and the days before a holiday.
FINDINGS 10-12: Both high schools offer a solid academic program. South Seneca, being larger, has more sections of some courses than Romulus.
Each high school offers different courses for college credit that could benefit those in a merged high school.
A merged district would make it possible to offer all high school courses currently available in both districts and reduce some staff positions, while maintaining class sizes of no more than 22.
In addition to offering all courses currently available in both schools and keeping class size at a maximum of 22, a merged high school could offer even more elective courses.
FINDING 13: Performance on state Regents exams is similar for both high schools. Romulus tends to have more students passing at the mastery level, more graduating with a Regents diploma and more with an advanced designation on their diploma.
RECOMMENDATIONS 5-7: In a merged district, the new school board and administration should attempt to provide all courses now offered in both schools, if enrollment is sufficient.
They should also attempt to develop more elective courses and there should be close review for at least three years after merger to ensure there is no difference in high school achievement regardless of which elementary school students come from.
FINDING 14: Both secondary schools have a “solid array’’ of inter-scholastic and extracurricular activities. There is a varsity coed bowling team in Romulus and wrestling in South Seneca that could be available to all students.
RECOMMENDATIONS 8-9: If there is a merger, school officials should attempt to provide all current interscholastic and extracurricular activities to all, assuming sufficient participation, and look to develop new offerings.
FINDING 15: South Seneca has a slightly higher percentage of students identified as in need of special education services.
RECOMMENDATION 10: If they merge, a new Committee on Special Education and Pre-School Committee on Special Education should be appointed, with roughly equal representation from each district’s prior committees.
FINDINGS 16-18: Both districts have done a good job of maintaining their facilities. Neither has much work that needs to be done in the immediate future.
Both districts have adequate space to house existing programs if they merge. No school could be closed and still comfortably handle the current and projected student enrollments.
Non-school groups use the facilities in each district.
RECOMMENDATIONS 11-12: With a merger, the new school board should develop a building use policy for non-school organizations that will continue the current practices in both districts.
All pre-K to Grade 5 students should stay in their current schools in Romulus or Interlaken. All students in grades six to eight should attend school in the Romulus school and all in grades nine to 12 should attend the South Seneca High School in Ovid.
FINDINGS 19-22: Both operate their own transportation systems. Romulus contracts for vehicle maintenance with the Seneca County Highway Department.
The bus fleets of each district have been well-maintained and replaced appropriately. The longest bus run in each district is no more than an hour.
Romulus has a single bus run each day. South Seneca has a double trip bus run each day.
RECOMMENDATIONS 13-14: If there is a merger, a study should be done to determine if the new district should maintain its own buses, contract the maintenance to an outside vendor or do a combination of both.
The study should also include examining the best routing pattern to ensure that no student is on the bus during a regular day any longer than 60 minutes, one way.
FINDING 23: Teacher contracts in the two districts are fairly similar, with Romulus teachers paid less. If salaries are made equal, it would cost the merged district an additional $90,464, plus $18,997 in fringe benefits.
RECOMMENDATION 15: If they merge, the new school board should recognize an appropriate teacher bargaining unit and negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement.
FINDINGS 24-28: Two fewer teachers would be needed at the high school under a merger, assuming a maximum class size of 22. This would save about $150,000 in salaries and fringe benefits.
Coaching salaries and stipends for extra-curricular activities would be easy to negotiate and would have little financial impact on district finances.
A merger would result in fewer administrative positions. Those reductions would save about $290,437 in salaries and fringe benefits.
Fewer mid-level managers would also be needed.
RECOMMENDATIONS 16-17: A merged district should have a superintendent, a business manager, a director of pupil personnel services, an elementary principal in Interlaken, an elementary/middle school principal in Romulus and a high school principal and assistant high school principal in Ovid.
To save another $201,570 in salaries and fringe benefits, a merged district should have a transportation supervisor, a superintendent of buildings and grounds, a cafeteria manager, a technology director and a superintendent’s secretary.
The current South Seneca business office staff, with BOCES support, should handle the fiscal affairs of the merged district.
FINDINGS 29-31: Given the staff restructuring proposed for a merged district, there will be fewer shared positions through BOCES, resulting in the loss of some $117,873 in BOCES aid.
Health insurance coverage is fairly comparable between the two districts. Overall staff savings in a merged district would be an estimated $536,654 annually.
RECOMMENDATION 19: The new school board should develop a plan for proper staffing levels to realize the potential savings.
FINDINGS 32-44: These findings deal with financial matters.
Both districts have always had voters consistently approve their annual budgets, with districts in sound financial condition and operating expenses per student are similar.
It is noted that Romulus and South Seneca are in different BOCES districts and both purchase a significant number of services from BOCES.
South Seneca has consistently received more state aid per student than Romulus. The full value property wealth in South Seneca is higher, but the property wealth per student is similar for the two districts.
The local tax levy has been consistently higher in South Seneca, but the local tax levy per student is higher in Romulus. The tax rate on true value in Romulus is $19.02 per $1,000 of assessed value and $15.72 in South Seneca.
Romulus has $9.07 million in capital debt, with a local share of $1.19 million, that will be retired in 2024.
South Seneca has $40.9 million in capital debt, with a local share of $4.5 million, that will be retired in 2027. Should they merge, this debt will be reduced by $71,674.
A merged district would receive $17.2 million in incentive operating aid from the state over a 14-year period or $1.8 million for each of the first five years of the merger.
Considering all factors, it is estimated that a merged district would save $16.8 million for the first 14 years after a merger.
Using 50 percent of the incentive aid and other savings, it is estimated that the true value tax rate would be $14.90 per $1,000, a decline of $4.12 in Romulus and a decline of 82 cents in South Seneca.
RECOMMENDATIONS 20-21: A new school board for a merged district should closely scrutinize its first budget to ensure that projected efficiencies are actually achieved, ensuring local tax relief.
They should also develop a financial plan to ensure long-term fiscal stability for the merged district.
• Both districts will offer public information sessions.
• In a straw vote, the public will vote yes or no on whether to move forward with the study.
• If a straw vote is approved, there will be a final vote.http://www.fltimes.com/news/state/article_396fd84c-3131-11e2-b45b-001a4bcf887a.html