Wednesday, September 17, 2014

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Cortland/Ithaca

Schools attempt merger one more time

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Schools attempt merger one more time
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Two Mohawk Valley districts are making one final push to save money. Since 2008 the Ilion and Mohawk school districts have been working towards the possibility of a merger. Our Cara Thomas shows us the need to move quickly and how leaders got the Commissioner of Education’s approval to do so.

HERKIMER COUNTY, N.Y. -- When the three school merger between Herkimer, Ilion and Mohawk was voted down in October, school administrators immediately began to contemplate their options.

Cosimo Tangorra, Superintendent of the Ilion School District Superintendent, said, “My initial response was, what are we going to do?”

Either the schools were going to continue as independent districts...

“So we’d have to make cuts to programs to make up for that gap because we’re already running a bare bones budget,” said Tangorra.

…Or Ilion and Mohawk could give a merger one last try. And with their dire financial situation looming over the year ahead, administrators say they couldn’t wait the normal time period between community votes.

Tangorra said, “Our boards, the Ilion board and the Mohawk board, felt that we didn’t want to wait a year and a day or could wait a year and a day and decided that we would seek another avenue.”

Monday, the schools received the order from the Commissioner of Education laying out the Ilion-Mohawk School District. Over the next week, they’ll be collecting petitions to send to the state. If they have enough, the commissioner will once again call for a binding referendum.

“I’m confident we’ll have enough signatures to move forward with the vote," said Tangorra. "And then what we’ll do is we’ll schedule a couple public forums, one in Ilion, one in Mohawk, to explain to community members what the Ilion-Mohawk configuration will look like.”

The two communities will vote February 12th to decide whether or not they’ll be moving ahead with the merger. They’ll also start making decisions about what a combined school board could look like.

If Ilion and Mohawk were to merge, administrators say there would be two elementary schools, one in Ilion and another in Mohawk. The fifth through eighth graders would go to the current Mohawk High School and the ninth through 12th grade students would attend the current Ilion High School. A superintendent would be decided on after the community elects a new board.

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