Task force to look at school changes

GLOVERSVILLE – Gloversville Enlarged School District residents heard details Monday about a new task force the district is setting up to look at possible changes in how the district’s elementary schools are used.

Dozens of residents attended a community forum to talk about the district’s plan to review building use and get more information about upcoming task force meetings they can be involved in.

Superintendent Michael Vanyo said the task force would review a variety of possibilities, including moving fifth grade to the middle school. The task force will look at the pros and cons of each building reconfiguration option.

“It is very difficult to find 100 percent consensus,” Vanyo said.

On Jan. 25, the district presented four options. Three of the four choices involved changing school structure and use, while the fourth option was to make no changes. All of the changes included discontinuing elementary school classes McNab and Meco Elementary Schools, bringing the Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Board of Cooperative Educational Services’ Adirondack Academy to McNab and creating an early childhood education center at Meco with partner agencies Whispering Pines and Head Start. The changes were considered for the 2016-17 school year.

On Feb. 12, the district announced it would delay any changes until the 2017-18 school year and create a task force that includes members of the public to discuss ideas for possible changes.

The district said it would still consider the four options, but without the Adirondack Academy, which is a school for students who face challenges in a traditional school. Vanyo said the district will still consider creating an early childhood education center in the district.

School board member Vincent Salvione said he and a few other board members would like to see the task force start from scratch and use the district’s building reconfiguration study as a guide.

“There is no guarantee that what we do here at the end of the day is going to be right,” Salvione said.

District resident Mike Harrington said he applauded the board for slowing down the process and involving the public. He said big changes to the structure of the district require input from stakeholders such as parents, taxpayers and teachers.

“We all have a vested interest. These are the folks that live here, work here and send their kids here. I think it’s really important we have a say in what we’re doing and how we watch our school district change and grow,” Harrington said.

District resident Steve Wood said he hopes people on the task force and in the public keep an open mind about the process and any potential changes that could occur and not focus only on the buildings. He said the focus should be on making sure the district has the right programs to ensure children succeed.

“Don’t get sentimental about buildings; it’s the kids’ futures,” Wood said.

Several members of the public expressed trepidation in bringing in an outside facilitator to conduct and transcribe the meetings. Some in attendance stated the district should not spend more money on outside hires.

School board member Paula Brown-Weinstock said the facilitator would be brought in to ensure the person conducting the meeting has no preconceived notions or preferences.

School board President Richard Carlson said the district is trying to ensure it makes the best decision.

“All of us want to do what’s best for this district and what’s best for the children in this district,” Carlson said.

During the meeting, members of the public were given the opportunity to sign up for the task force. The district will put information about task force meetings on its website in the coming weeks.

Kerry can be reached at [email protected].

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