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Superintendent memo describes end of band merger

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A communication breakdown between Ogdensburg Free Academy and Heuvelton Central School officials may have been the reason a merger of their summer marching bands fell through.

Ogdensburg Board of Education member Lawrence G. Mitchell said he received a letter Thursday from Superintendent Timothy M. Vernsey stating that Ogdensburg will maintain its own marching band this summer. The letter stated that Mr. Vernsey and high school Principal Cynthia L. Tuttle met with band students and their parents Tuesday evening. Richard Patten, who led the band last year, again will be appointed OFA summer marching band director during the board’s June 18 meeting, according to Mr. Mitchell.

While members of Ogdensburg’s administration, including 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 said. “I take some of the responsibility.”

The Heuvelton board discussed the merger May 2 and voted to allow Ogdensburg band members to join the Heuvelton marching band.

During the May 7 Ogdensburg school board meeting, board members and several members of the public expressed their disappointment with learning about the merger in this fashion.

Mr. Mitchell said Ogdensburg senior high band director Jon Cole and Heuvelton band director Megan Wattie first discussed merging the bands, given the low number of students who participate. “All of a sudden it was passed and approved (by Heuvelton) to merge with us,” he said.

“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 trying the merger.

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

According to a memo from Mr. Vernsey last Wednesday, Mr. Mitchell said, OFA will monitor participation in the marching band this summer, with a future merger still possibile.

“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.”

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