A public information meeting regarding the proposed merger of the Herkimer, Ilion and Mohawk school districts took place Wednesday night at Jarvis Junior-Senior High School in Mohawk.
Prior to the start of the meeting, which included a breakdown of the study by the three school superintendents, a question and answer session and final comments from the members of the community advisory committee, a tour of the building took place.
“The basic premise of the meeting is to lay out the possibilities of the merger and provide a chance for the public to ask questions,” said community advisory committee member Dale Miller.
“The meeting gives the public an opportunity to better understand the community advisory committee, which is a group of 45 local citizens who have been familiarized with the merger and are an available resource to anyone with questions or concerns regarding the merger,” Miller added.
During the meeting the superintendents discussed enrollment, facilities, staffing, curriculum, transportation and finances.
Ilion Superintendent of Schools Cosimo Tangorra, Jr. addressed concerns regarding enrollment and said due to the Frankfort-Schuyler Central School District no longer participating in the study, the projected enrollment has decreased by 25 percent. This, he said, means the merged district will have about 3,500 students in grades K-12. He also said each district will keep a pre-kindergarten to fourth grade elementary school building, with students in grades five and six attending the current Jarvis High School, students in grades seven and eight attending the current Herkimer High School and students in grades nine to 12 attending the current Ilion High school.
Mohawk Superintendent of Schools Joyce Caputo discussed future possibilities on the topic of curriculum and said, “Through the merger there will a possibility of 51 new classes from grades seven to 12, as well as additional extracurricular activities, including sports and music.”
Transportation was also discussed. Interim Herkimer Superintendent Gary Tutty said, “In the merged school district no child will be on a bus for more than 45 minutes.” He said currently some bus routes already reach this amount of time, which would make no difference in a merged school system. He also noted the school will use a combined district-operated bus system as well as contracted buses.
During the discussion of the merged district’s finances Caputo said, “If the merger is successful and passes the community vote there is a possibility the combined district could receive $59,935,009 in additional incentive aid.” Through property taxes will be reduced in the Herkimer and Mohawk school districts, she said the Ilion school district’s property taxes will remain the same.
“We need to stop worrying about what the name of the school will be or what the school colors are. We have to look at what we are going to do for our kids, and you, the community, are the only ones who truly care about their education,” said Caputo as she asked for more community members to attend the next information meeting on July 25 at Herkimer High School. “If there’s not a full house we assume people are not interested or have already made up their minds.”
Page 2 of 2 - Community advisory committee member Father Mark Cunningham said, “We’ve hit a point were it’s time to grow, and for our growing community merging is the best thing to do in this situation.”
Cunningham reminded community members in attendance that originally there used to be one-room school houses that grew in size and then merged into schools that further merged after time to the current Herkimer, Ilion and Mohawk school districts. “Times have changed and when they change you have to do what is best for the community,” he said.
The July 25 session will begin with a tour of Herkimer High School at 4:30 p.m. The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. in the school’s auditorium.