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The Times
  • Oppenheim-Ephratah, St. Johnsville vote ‘yes’ for school merger

  • Voters in the Oppenheim-Ephratah and St. Johnsville school districts turned out Tuesday to make their voices heard on the prospect of merging into one school district. By tallies of 391 to 326 in Oppenheim-Ephratah and 493 to 85 in St. Johnsville, the public decided to proceed with the merger that would bring the...
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  • Voters in the Oppenheim-Ephratah and St. Johnsville school districts turned out Tuesday to make their voices heard on the prospect of merging into one school district.
    By tallies of 391 to 326 in Oppenheim-Ephratah and 493 to 85 in St. Johnsville, the public decided to proceed with the merger that would bring the districts together through centralization.
    Tuesday’s vote results will be submitted to the New York State Department of Education, where the commissioner will establish the framework for a final referendum to take place on Wednesday, Dec. 7.
    “We’re elated and gratified that the public in both school districts endorsed the merger proposal and that it will be going to a formal vote on Dec. 7,” interim St. Johnsville Superintendent Ralph Acquaro said during a telephone interview on Wednesday afternoon. “On a more personal level, I was pleased to see that the public here in St. Johnsville has a great deal of confidence in their board of education and understand this merger is about ensuring a quality curriculum for students.”
    “I was impressed by the turnout and feel it shows voters in both communities care about the education of their children,” Oppenheim-Ephratah Superintendent Dan Russom said during a telephone interview Wednesday afternoon. “It was a very close vote, a very emotional vote. Residents now have time to really look into the merger and decide how they want to vote on the final referendum.”
    If voters in both school districts approve the merger in the final referendum on Dec. 7, a new board of education will be elected and the districts will merge as of July 1, 2012.
    “If anyone has concerns about the merger I advise them to talk to their school administrators, board of education members or merger study advisory committee members to have those concerns addressed,” said Russom, adding the district will consider a number of options to provide information to voters, including panel discussions with educators and meetings with state leaders.
    “We need people to stay engaged in the process and come out and vote on Dec. 7,” said Acquaro. “That is what the districts are tasked with as we move forward to the final referendum.”
    Tuesday’s advisory vote almost did not take place, as the Oppenheim-Ephratah Board of Education voted 4-3 on Oct. 11 against going forward and allowing the public to vote. After hearing residents from both communities express their desire to participate in the process during an Oct. 21 meeting, the board voted again and decided 4-3 in favor of conducting the non-binding referendum.
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