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The Times
  • Ilion, Mohawk school boards ask education commissioner to rescind order

  • The Ilion and Mohawk school districts are continuing with their proposed merger.

    The boards of education of the two districts Monday evening passed separate resolutions calling on state Education Commissioner John King, Jr. to rescind the order that laid out a central school district designated as the Herkimer-Ilion-Mohawk Central School District.

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  • The Ilion and Mohawk school districts are continuing with their proposed merger.
    The boards of education of the two districts Monday evening passed separate resolutions calling on state Education Commissioner John King, Jr. to rescind the order that laid out a central school district designated as the Herkimer-Ilion-Mohawk Central School District.
    If King rescinds the order, Ilion Superintendent of Schools Cosimo Tangorra, Jr. said the districts will be able to offer voters another referendum without special legislation from the state Legislature.
    “If the commissioner agrees to rescind the order that was created prior to the binding vote for the Herkimer, Ilion and Mohawk merger, then the special legislation would not be needed,” he said.
    The original plan in August 2009 involved Ilion and Mohawk, but soon after Frankfort-Schuyler and Herkimer were added. However, voters in Frankfort-Schuyler and Herkimer rejected the merger, leaving the plan at square one. Frankfort-Schuyler voters rejected a four-school merger in an advisory vote on Jan. 19 and Herkimer voters rejected a three-school merger in an Oct. 18 binding vote.
    King ordered the laying out of a Herkimer-Ilion-Mohawk Central School District after an advisory referendum passed in the Herkimer, Ilion and Mohawk school districts on Sept. 12.
    “Had Ilion and Mohawk said to Frankfort-Schuyler and Herkimer, ‘We’re just going to move forward with our study,’ it’s very likely we would be in our second year right now as a reorganized district,” said Tangorra. “Working with the other districts was the right thing to do, but now Ilion and Mohawk have to move forward. Herkimer has agreed with our position, and the district’s board of education passed a resolution of their own calling on the education commissioner to rescind the order.”
    As it currently stands, after a binding referendum fails, school districts are obligated by law to do nothing in terms of reorganizing for a year and a day. There cannot be studies with other districts, and another vote cannot happen. But, the districts on Oct. 24 passed resolutions to ask for special legislation that would allow another vote to take place sooner than permitted under current law.
    “Everything we have done has been done under the guidance of the state Education Department,” said Tangorra. “This is a four-year-old conversation. This is not something we sprung on everybody.”
    Tangorra said if King rescinds the order a referendum could be offered as early as February 2013.
    If the vote proves successful, he said the merged district would begin operation on July 1, 2013.
    “Ilion and Mohawk made cuts to their budgets this year that they wouldn’t have had to make otherwise,” said Tangorra. “Both districts have had to dip into their reserves to dangerous levels. The setbacks have proved costly. The residents have clearly shown their support for a merged district. We need to get it done before our students suffer even deeper cuts to their education.”
    Page 2 of 2 - He added the delay has been difficult on school officials in Ilion and Mohawk, as they have had to continually plan for two scenarios — one that includes a merger and one that does not.
    “We have to respond to the best and worst case scenarios,” said Tangorra. “While the boards of education have taken steps toward speeding an Ilion and Mohawk merger, they also have to take steps now to save money and lessen the projected budget gap for 2013 - 2014. It’s not ideal.”
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