An attorney representing two of the school districts named on a petition to stop the three school district merger vote scheduled for Thursday said no decision has been made by state Education Commissioner John J. King.
“All the papers (in opposition to the petition) have to be filed today,” said Benjamin J. Ferrara, of the Ferrara and Fiorenza law firm in Syracuse, on Monday morning. “We expect the commissioner to issue a decision. If there is no decision, we assume the vote will continue to go forward.”
Ferrara, who represents the Herkimer and Ilion school districts, said Douglas Gerhardt, who represents the Mohawk Central School District with the Harris Beach Law Firm in Albany, was also expected to have the paperwork filed Monday.
The notice of petition was filed with the state Education Department last week to halt the vote on the merger between the Herkimer, Ilion and Mohawk school districts. The three petitioners listed are Daniel C. Monohan, of Mohawk; Grace Osborne, of Ilion; and Ronald Edwards, of Herkimer.
Six respondents were listed in the petition. They are interim Mohawk Central School Superintendent Gene Beirne; Ilion Central School Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra, Jr., Ilion and Mohawk School District Business Manager Kenneth Long, former Mohawk Superintendent Joyce Caputo, Mohawk school board member Vicki Coffin Judd and Herkimer school board member Diann Fischer.
The respondents listed are alleged to being biased as school officials or board members in regard to the proposed merger. Exhibits included with the petition are newsletters from the Mohawk and Ilion school districts, which include notes from both superintendents entitled, “A simple message — out of options” when it comes to the merger.
It also included a newsletter from interim Herkimer Central School Superintendent Gary Tutty, who did not “employ the use of hyperbole, frightening language and terminology” in his note to residents, which was entitled, “Choosing our Children’s Future.”
Ferrara said during a telephone interview last week “we don’t believe the petition has any merit, it’s groundless and it’s defective.”
Meanwhile, people on both sides of the issue continued with their efforts to get out their own message on the merger over the weekend.
Jason Richard, of Herkimer, said he was among a “grassroots effort” that talked with town and village residents in Herkimer on Sunday. He said there were about 40 people who canvassed the area over four hours to talk about their view on the issue.
“These were high school students, parents and grandparents ... People came from all walks of life that have a common goal in mind. Everyone has their own reason for it, but the thing that bonds us together is to vote the merger down,” said Richard on Monday during a telephone interview.
Richard said some of the younger volunteers doing the canvassing were paired, and were supervised by an adult.
Page 2 of 2 - Dale Miller, a member of the Friends of the Three District Merge, said on Monday they were continuing with radio interviews, writing letters and holding meetings.
“The bottom line is that we’re trying to get the information into people’s hands. The correct information, not misinformation,” he said during a telephone interview on Monday. He said some of the misinformation has included how taxes will be affected, the state aid incentive money and who will be hired.
The merger vote is slated for Oct. 18.
Each school district will have a polling sites available for its voters.