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Merger committee would like to see cuts restored

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POTSDAM - As they spoke about what classes could potentially be offered with a merged district, members of the joint advisory committee said one of the things they would like to see made a priority is the restoration of cuts should the Canton and Potsdam central school districts join forces.

Canton Central School Superintendent William P. Gregory noted that 31 teachers have been cut from the district since the 2007-2008 academic year. That’s a number that Western New York Educational Services Council (WNYSEC) Consultant Douglas Hamlin said represents 23 to 25 percent of its teaching staff.

At Potsdam, Superintendent Patrick Brady said 21 teachers have been eliminated during that same time frame. Mr. Hamlin said that number represents between 17 and 21 percent of the district’s teaching staff.

Mr. Gregory said the loss of 31 teachers translated to a loss of 37 “non-mandated programs.”

“The next thing that is not mandated is class sizes,” Mr. Gregory said. “We could go to three or two teachers at a grade level.”

That’s one thing that WNYSEC Consultant Roger Gorham said is another advantage of being a merged district.

Should the two districts merge and keep all of their teachers, they would have between eight and 10 teachers per grade level.

“If you did merge and had eight sections versus four sections, if you lost one section it wouldn’t have as significant of am impact as it would at Canton or Potsdam alone,” he said.

Mr. Brady said high schools have felt the brunt of the cuts, because that is where the most unmandated programs are, including business classes, which the district can no longer offer.

“It’s a shame we don’t teach business in this community,” he said. “We have Clarkson, which is a business school, and to me that’s a black eye.”

Following small group discussions, where the committee was broken into three groups before reporting back to the whole group, the restoration of lost programs was identified as one of the group’s main concerns.

Programs lost at Banford Elementary School in Canton include fourth-grade computer skills and pre-k through fourth-grade library orientation and reading groups. In Potsdam, Lawrence Avenue Elementary School the district lost its Title I reading program.

At the middle school level, cuts in Potsdam at AA Kingston included summer school, the learn to swim program, Choices program and Family & Consumer science. In Canton, losses at J.M. McKenney Middle School included grade seven and eight jazz band, sixth-grade computer instruction, eighth-grade Family & Consumer Science, as well as seventh-grade library skills.

The list of cuts at Canton’s Hugh C. Williams High School include: Advanced Painting, Current Events, Computer Programming, Food Science, Aquascience, Acting, the alternative education program, Aquaculture, Children’s Literature, College Accounting, Digital Video Proofreading, Principles of Engineering and Psychology.

Other cuts include Weight Training, Algebra II, Business Administration, Creative Writing, Elementary Education, European Cultures, Fashion Design, Housing/Interior Design, Spanish V, Child Psychology, Computer Applications, French V, General Physics, Jazz Combo, Music Theory, Participation in Government, Personal Finance Math, and Sports Marketing.

Cuts at Potsdam include Business Law, AP Environmental Science, Introduction to Marketing & Sales, Child Development, Food & Nutrition, Calculus IIII/AP Calculus, Veterinary Science, Electricity/Electronics, Energy Systems, Driver Education, Advanced Photo, Sculpture, and College Marketing.

Cuts also included Keyboarding, Housing & Environment, Textiles & Clothing, Accounting, Entrepreneurship, Sports Management, Sports Marketing, Independent Living, Nutritional Science, Parenting, and Latin. A wind ensemble was also cut due to declining enrollment.

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