Open process, open minds

Livingston Manor-Roscoe merger study kicks off

By LIAM MAYO
Posted 3/8/22

LIVINGSTON MANOR, NY — When Livingston Manor and Roscoe residents gathered on March 1 to discuss merging their respective school districts, they were joining a conversation that was in one …

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Open process, open minds

Livingston Manor-Roscoe merger study kicks off

Posted

LIVINGSTON MANOR, NY — When Livingston Manor and Roscoe residents gathered on March 1 to discuss merging their respective school districts, they were joining a conversation that was in one sense already underway.

The schools boards for each respective district had applied for grants to fund a study back in July of 2021, looking to explore the possibilities of a merger, and they received that funding in December. Castallo and Silky LLC, the consultant firm selected to conduct a merger study, was chosen at a December 21, 2021 joint board meeting. Castallo & Silky LLC works exclusively in New York State, providing a variety of management services to school districts.

But the community advisory committee that will help the consultants carry out that study met for the first time on March 1, kick-starting the process of carrying out that study.

Eighteen members of the Livingston Manor-Roscoe community serve on the advisory committee, with nine participating from each district. The committee includes four community members, one student and three employees—a teacher, an administrator and a support-staff member—from each district.

“You’re going to help us understand the culture of these two school districts,” said Alan Pole, one of the two consultants who will carry out the study. (The other is Deb Ayers.) The members of the advisory committee will help explain the work of the study to their individual corners of the wider community; “Anything you can do to get good information about this study out into the community would be appreciated,” said Pole.

That committee will meet with the consultants several times in the coming months, each time focusing on a different aspect of school administration.

An April 26 meeting will cover enrollment projections, as well as instructional and extracurricular programs. A May 16 meeting will cover facilities and transportation. The advisory committee will cover staffing on June 6 and finances on June 28, and will review a draft final report from the consultants on July 25.

Following that, the communities of each district will get to vote a number of times on whether to move forward with the merger. Each school board will vote on whether to put the merger question before its district’s voters; each district’s community will vote once in an advisory referendum, and once in a binding referendum.

Only if all those votes are positive will the two districts ultimately merge.

Community sentiment

In introducing the process that the merger study will take, Pole urged the advisory committee and the 30-plus community members in the audience to approach the idea of a merger with an open mind.

It was very possible that some people were there that night with preconceived notions in favor of a merger, said Pole, and other people with preconceived notions against it.

The consultants were there without such preconceived notions, he said. They had no stake in the outcome of the merger process. “We’re about writing a very excellent study. We’re not here to get the districts to merge.” He said they had no preconceived notions about the school districts they were there to study.

The merger study itself would not recommend that the districts merge or stay separate; its role was to present the possibilities that could result from a merger, so that the districts’ school boards and communities could vote with full information on whether they wanted to merge. Pole encouraged members of the community to keep an open mind about those possibilities, and said that the consultants would keep the process open and clear.

Those in attendance at the March 1 meeting appeared engaged with that process, asking questions about details of the potential merger and of the process to get there. They came as well with some preliminary opinions on whether a merger would be a good idea.

“I don’t see what the big deal is,” said community member Alicia Faulkner. The schools had already merged their sports programs, which had given local kids opportunities that they wouldn’t have otherwise had. “Are people here for themselves or are they here for their kids’ education?”  

“I just think the number-one thing that people think is they don’t want the school to close in their town,” said community member Donna Bowers.

“We hear you,” said John Evans, superintendent of both Roscoe and Livingston Manor schools. “But we have to go through the process” before making a decision.

For meeting minutes and documentation about the merger study process, visit https://www.lmcs.k12.ny.us/domain/1136 or https://www.roscoe.k12.ny.us/page/merger-study.

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