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Sun., Aug. 30
Serving the communities of Massena and Potsdam, New York
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Shared super: Don’t jump to conclusions on SRF, B-M merger


ST. REGIS FALLS - The shared superintendent of St. Regis Falls and Brushton-Moira central schools has a message for those who are putting their signatures on a petition opposing the possibility of a merger between the two schools – do not jump to conclusions until a study is completed.

“Let’s keep an open mind while we gather information,” Shared Superintendent Beverly Ouderkirk said.

St. Regis Falls district resident Harry Ratcliffe is circulating a petition in both communities and seeking signatures of residents who, like him, oppose a possible merger between the two schools. He has collected more than 130 signatures in the St. Regis Falls area and began distributing copies of the document in the Brushton-Moira area on Tuesday.

The two schools have applied for a Local Government Efficiency Study grant to study reorganization options for the districts that could include solutions from increased shared services to some form of a merger, and Ouderkirk said the application has been turned in and the schools hope to hear a response sometime this summer.

Until the study gets under way and then is completed, Ms. Ouderkirk said she wants residents in both communities to wait for the information to come in before the form firm opinions on the study and its conclusions.

As both schools have struggled financially, they have shared a superintendent, business manager, transportation supervisor, food service manager and some other positions. The districts are now looking at sharing teachers for some subject areas.

But, Ms. Ouderkirk said, the current sharing ventures have not completely solved the economic crisis in either district.

“We haven’t come up with a total answer to our problems,” she said. “I think it [study] is an important step in the process.”

If and when the study does get started and a plan gets developed, Ms. Ouderkirk said it will be guided by a committee of a variety of people from the district. She noted that procedure allows somebody to offer an idea and others on the committee to build on the idea and make it better.

“The collective brain is stronger than any of us alone,” she said. “We need that collective brain.”

Ms. Ouderkirk pointed out that, should a merger be proposed following the study, it may simply be the next step in the evolution of the structure of schools in New York. At one time in the 1800s, she said, the state had 11,000 schoolhouses before going to central schools, which have been in place for the last hundred years or so.

She said the focus all along has been finding ways to best serve children and their education, and in the near future the districts will look how to do that through the study, though she noted not all residents will be happy with the final outcome.

“We have to review many things. ... What do you do that doesn’t hurt kids?” she said. “You can’t come up with a solution that will fit both places.”

As the schools await word of their potential grant award, Ms. Ouderkirk said she wants residents to hear out the process and results of the study if and when it occurs and not form opinions right away.

“I hope they say, ‘Maybe this is something I need to listen to,’” she said.

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