Debut ELCS, WCS merger meeting set

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WESTPORT | The first public meeting of the Westport Central and Elizabethtown-Lewis Central schools Merger Committee is Aug. 23.

It is open to the public as review of current data and discussion unfolds. This meeting is being held in Westport from 6 to 8 p.m. at the school.

The Merger Committee is group of 20 community members, teachers, school staff and students, each of whom volunteered to participate.

The topic next Wednesday — the first of seven Wednesday evening meetings planned over the coming school year — looks to enrollment data from each school.

Next week’s meeting will launch a process that is expected to take nearly two years.

The Merger Committee is tasked with developing final plan of action or no action, depending on their findings.

If both school boards, individually adopt the committee’s recommendations, then a “straw poll” public referendum vote would take place in all three towns: Westport, Lewis and Elizabethtown in November 2018.

If any town votes down the plan, the merger discussion ends.

If voters reach majority approval in all three towns, then in Jan. 2019  the plan would be submitted to the state Department of Education, which has to grant formal approval.

And if okayed by the state, the merger would go to second, formal community referendum vote — again in all three towns — in January 2019.

Changes would be put in place with the school budget vote in May 2019.

OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

The decision to pursue potential merger options was made at a joint meeting of both School Boards last May.

The Merger Committee was set in July. The meetings are being coordinated by Castallo & Silky Associates, of Syracuse, hired by both School Boards. Castallo and Silky completed a Pre-Merger Preliminary Report last year that looked at possible merger options with Willsboro Central School.

Last May, consultant Alan Pole described the process used to guide communities through centralization merger review.

“We work very, very closely with this (Merger) Committee. We take a lot of thinking and advice from this committee,” he said, placing great emphasis on open meetings.

“Everything will be done in the light of day. And we will produce meeting notes after each advisory meeting,” Pole said.

At ELCS, Superintendent Scott Osborne said Merger Committee meetings are open to everyone.

“This meeting and all meetings are open to the public. Soon after each meeting, information presented will be posted to each school’s website.”

Meeting reports and notes will remain online throughout the process.

The Pre-Merger Final Report from June 2016 is online: http://bit.ly/2uu0DpD

Meeting dates, times and topics over the next nine months are:

1.) Aug. 23 at WCS. Topic: Overview & Enrollment.

2.) Sept. 27 at ELCS. Topic: Staffing.

3.) Oct. 25 at WCS. Topic: Programs.

4.) Dec. 6 at ELCS. Topic: Transportation.

5.) Jan. 24 at WCS. Topic: Facilities.

6.) Feb. 28, 2018 at ELCS. Topic: Finances.

7.) April 25 at WCS with both School Boards. Topic: Presentation of Plan.

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