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Superintendent memo describes demise of OFA, Heuvelton band merger talks

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A communication breakdown between Ogdensburg Free Academy and Heuvelton Central School officials may have been the reason a summer marching band merger possibility between the two districts fell through.

“I got a letter in the mail yesterday,” from Superintendent Timothy M. Vernsey, said Ogdensburg Board of Education member Lawrence G. “Larry” Mitchell Friday. “It says he and (High School Principal) Mrs. (Cynthia L.) Tuttle met with band students and their parents Tuesday evening and were presented with many ideas and suggestions. The conclusion is to maintain the Ogdensburg-only marching band this summer.”

Richard Patten will again be appointed OFA summer marching band director at the board’s June 18 meeting, Mr. Mitchell said. Mr. Vernsey and Assistant Superintendent David J. Valois, were unavailable for comment Friday.

Heuvelton Superintendent Susan A. Todd announced at her district’s board meeting Wednesday that a “communication breakdown on my part” may have led to the final result.

“I think some folks in Ogdensburg may have been upset to read about the merger possibility in a recent newspaper article about the Heuvelton school board,” Mrs. Todd. “I take some of the responsibility.”

The Heuvelton board at its May 2 meeting discussed the merger and approved allowing Ogdensburg band members to join the Heuvelton marching band.

During the May 7 Ogdensburg Board of Education meeting, board members and several members of the public expressed their disappointment with learning about the possible merger in the newspaper.

“Jon Cole (Ogdensburg’s senior high band director) knew our numbers were low,” Mr. Mitchell said. “He ran into the Heuvelton band director (Megan Wattie) and talked about looking into a merger. All of a sudden it was passed and approved (by Heuvelton) to merge with us. Nobody on our end knew about it and when discussed in open session, more detail made it sound feasible. I thought it would be left up to the kids,” he said.

Mr. Vernsey had reported May 7 that an informal survey and vote involving OFA band members had resulted in a 24-14 approval of a merger.

“Then the parents got involved, and I don’t know what happened,” Mr. Mitchell said.

According to Mr. Vernsey’s memo, Mr. Mitchell said, OFA will closely monitor numbers and participation in marching band this summer, keeping in mind a potential merger in the future.

“Everybody in town wants to know what is going on,” he said. “I don’t want to wait until June 18 to announce it. My view is there is no problem in getting the kids (from both districts) together. It would make for a bigger, better band. Times are tough and the commitment is not there. I’m not saying the kids are lazy or have a problem with the band director or anything like that. There’s just so much going on.”

Mr. Mitchell said he supports “what the kids want to do.”

“If they want to continue having an OFA marching band, I support them, but they just better do it,” he said.

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