Voters have approved the merger of the Ilion and Mohawk school districts.
Now it’s time for the work to begin.
That was the reaction of Ilion School Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra, Jr. and interim Mohawk Superintendent Gene Beirne after the results of Tuesday’s vote were announced.
Ilion voters approved the plan by a vote of 1,131 in favor to 456 opposed.
In Mohawk, the vote was 961 to 411.
Supporters who gathered in the large group instruction room at Ilion High School to await the results cheered, exchanged hugs and used cell phones to call and send messages to others after board of canvass and community advisory committee member Bill Lennox announced the final figures.
Lennox commented the Mohawk and Ilion school districts initially started considering a merger. Frankfort-Schuyler and Herkimer joined the study with Frankfort-Schuyler dropping out after the straw vote and Herkimer voters rejecting the plan in the binding vote in October 2012.
“It’s taken two years, but we finally got what we wanted,” he said.
Once the board of canvass determined that the merger had passed in both districts, the results of the other two propositions were counted to establish the number of board members — seven — and length of terms — three years — for the new district.
“It’s been a long journey,” said Tangorra. He praised the efforts of the Community advisory committee for their work over the past two years. “Credit has to go to the two boards of education for taking this risk,” he added. “The best thing to come out of this is that it raises the level of conversation about education in the Mohawk Valley. Now we have to get to work.”
“The taxpayers, the residents of both communities have spoken and tomorrow Mr. Tangorra and I will begin our work,” said Beirne. “We have a transition plan and we’ll get it out and start working on it.”
Ilion Business Manager Ken Long, who has also been serving in that capacity for Mohawk, said he has been working on the budgets in both districts. “Now I’ll combine them and eliminate the duplicate services,” he said, adding he hopes to have the budget for the new district ready when the new school board convenes at the end of March. “Hopefully it will be a smooth transition,” he added.
Members of the CAC were on hand in Ilion to hear the results of the vote.
“I’m ecstatic about the turnout,” said Matt Obreza, of Mohawk. “The best part is that there was over a 70 percent majority in favor. These two communities have voted three times in 12 months wanting to move forward and they proved it again tonight with an overwhelming result.”
Joanne Moore, of Ilion, who served on both the CAC and the board of canvass echoed Obreza’s comments saying, “I am delighted with the number of people who overwhelmingly voted to approve opportunities for these kids for the future. It’s absolutely wonderful.”
Page 2 of 2 - The transition plan calls for teams to be appointed to work on various issues that will need to be addressed including programs and curriculum, scholarships, operations and maintenance, clubs and extracurricular activities, school colors and mascot and others
A draft of the plan is available on both districts’ websites.
The vote on a new board of education for the new district is scheduled for March 27 with petitions due March 11. Herkimer-Fulton-Hamilton-Otsego BOCES Superintendent Mark Vivacqua will oversee the election.