O-E, St. Johnsville merger plans in works

ST. JOHNSVILLE – Oppenheim-Ephratah and St. Johnsville school district will have everything in place for their merger by July 1, when the two districts will begin their first year together, officials said Thursday.

School board members and superintendents from both districts have been looking at bus routes, open houses and curriculums, but both realize it is still early in the process.

“We have been very busy meeting at St. Johnsville or meeting here with various people,” Oppenheim-Ephratah Superintendent Dan Russom said. “This is not going to happen overnight.”

Oppenheim-Ephratah voters approved the merger of the two districts in December. St. Johnsville voters previously had approved the merger.

The next step for the public will come Jan. 29, when people will vote on the number of board members for the merged district and the terms of those members. Voters will have the option to choose between five, seven or nine members to serve terms of three, four or five years.

Some district residents expressed concerns about this vote Thursday during a meeting of both school boards at Oppenheim-Ephratah School.

The residents said they are worried about the number of years for each term.

“I think it’s going to be hard if we vote on new members every three years,” resident Nan Denino said.

A second vote will take place March 19, when voters will choose board members.

Russom said that after the board members are voted in, the board members can stagger the terms, so all the board members’ terms don’t end at the same time.

Resident Phoebe Sitterly questioned whether the Jan. 29 vote is legally binding.

Oppenheim-Ephratah Board President Ben Conte said local officials have been talking to state officials about this issue, but haven’t gotten a definitive answer yet.

Sitterly stressed the importance of the Jan. 29 vote.

“We are making a very crucial decision in two weeks,” she said.

The districts’ officials have been receiving guidance from Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Board of Cooperative Educational Services Superintendent Patrick Michel.

After the March vote, the new school board will choose a superintendent for the merged district.

Russom and St. Johnsville Superintendent Laura Campione said the two districts will continue to meet regularly to get everything set for the new district. Staff and students will be involved in the process.

There will also be opportunities for the districts’ parents and students to attend open houses.

“The transition committee will plan activities to bring the staff and students together, so when the doors open in September, we will have had some opportunities to have talked and met each other,” Russom said.

The merged district will launch Facebook and Twitter pages so they can better answer residents’ questions and keep them informed. BOCES spokesman Craig Clark said the Facebook page will launch either today or Monday.

By -