B-P eyeing merger, official says

The Broadalbin-Perth Central School District is investigating merging with another school district, Board of Education President Edward Szumowski said.

Broadalbin-Perth recently contacted the Galway Central School District about a possible merger, but Galway rejected the idea.

However, Szumowski said the board will continue to explore which school districts may be interested in consolidating with Broadalbin-Perth, “providing it is beneficial to both districts.”

“We have had conversations for years now, talking about consolidation and which of our neighboring districts might be interested in having a conversation,” Szumowski said last week. “We have not yet decided to approach Mayfield, but it certainly isn’t out of the realm of possibility.”

Mayfield sought to merge with the Northville Central School District, but residents rejected the proposal in a September vote.

Mayfield Central School District Board of Education President Ernest Clapper said, “The Mayfield board is disappointed [with] the merger vote results with Northville because we felt it was logical and a good move for the kids in both districts. We have to decide where to head next and we really don’t know right now.”

Clapper said the board would have to explore the possibilities before commenting about whether Mayfield would be interested in a possible merger with Broadalbin-Perth.

“We are very limited in our options and we recognize that Galway and Mayfield may be the only feasible options for us,” Broadalbin-Perth Superintendent Stephen Tomlinson said.

“We have not sent a formal letter to Mayfield [about a possible merger] at this time,” Tomlinson said.

The letter from the Broadalbin-Perth Board of Education to Galway said the state may choose to join districts in ways not beneficial to the schools. The letter said the incentive of additional state aid presents a viable option to consider joining with another district.

“We don’t want to have the state push us into consolidation of their own devising that may not be in the best interest of our students and taxpayers, so we are attempting to get ahead of that curve,” Szumowski said. “We want to try to get financial stability and academic rigor.”

The communications specialist for Broadalbin-Perth, Michele Kelly, said the letter to Galway would have been the first step out of hundreds that would have to happen before any kind of merger.

The letter said both districts share many of the same concerns, being rural schools that face continuous cuts to staff, unreliable funding from the state, and unfunded mandates that increase in number and expense.

“Changes are coming to our public schools, whether we like it or not, and those changes are likely to include regionalization,” the letter from Broadalbin-Perth said. “…It’s the considered opinion of our superintendent and board that we are best served by acting to consolidate on our own terms before the state compels such actions.”

Broadalbin-Perth was looking to examine where the two districts’ interests overlap and what challenges would be faced in the process. After measuring the options together, the districts then would have been able to decide whether to proceed to the next steps of engaging the respective communities, forming an exploratory committee, and conducting the necessary studies.

In December, Cheryl Smith, president of Galway’s Board of Education, sent a letter to parents, school faculty and staff, and community members explaining the board’s reasons against merging with Broadalbin-Perth.

“At this time, the Galway board believes that our attention can best be used to advocate for real solutions, which would allow districts such as Galway to maintain our identity, while ensuring that we have the necessary resources to provide a cost-effective high-quality education to the students we serve,” Smith wrote in the letter.

In her letter, Smith gave the following reasons for declining discussion of a merger with Broadalbin-Perth:

  • Mergers have not proven to provide long-term fiscal savings. While a newly formed district may be eligible to receive additional state aid for a period of time, the letter said, when the merger aid is eliminated, merged districts often find they end up in the same or worse fiscal situations as they encountered prior to the merger.
  • Galway’s Board of Education is recruiting a new superintendent of schools. Smith said the board wants a leader who will help move the district toward accomplishing goals for academic performance and long-term fiscal stability and the board is committed to that effort.
  • The Galway board is working with the administration to conduct a multiyear analysis of the district’s finances.

Smith did not return phone calls seeking comment for this story.

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