Crown Point and Ticonderoga schools will not merge.
The Crown Point Central School board of education rejected a possible merger by a unanimous vote Dec. 17, prompting cheers from those at the meeting. The decision came after the board received petitions from both community residents and students asking it to end merger talks. The resident petition had more than 450 signatures. More than 100 students signed their petition.
Bette Pertak presented the community petition to the school board. It read: “We, the undersigned, request that the Crown Point school board hear our voices now and say no to a merger with Ticonderoga school. We want our children in our community to continue their education, play sports and graduate as a Crown Point Panther.”
No one spoke in favor of a merger.
“The school, superintendent, school board and teachers are doing a fine job, there is no reason to merge,” Pertak said. “If we merge, Crown Point loses.”
Several community members spoke, praising the education at Crown Point school and noting the importance of the school to the community’s identity.
“I am totally against a merger,” Ken LaDeau said. “I have served on the board for two terms. CPCS is not a bad place. The taxpayers are very lucky to have a great building that is the anchor of our community. Hope is here. If the school goes, the town goes.”
Anita Johnson, a parent and a member of the merger study committee, praised the school and opposed the merger.
“The Crown Point school board has made serious considerations, sacrifices and hard decisions in the past,” Johnson said. “The benefit (of a merger) does not outweigh the risk or loss and there is no need to vote for a merger.”
Catherine Muller Harmon said her family lives in Crown Point because of the school.
“Children are getting a great education and want to be here,” she said. “Crown Point does have a story to tell using numbers and facts and we should be weary of suppositions and suggestions.”
Michaela Comes, salutatorian of Crown Point’s Class of 2012, supported her alma mater.
“I am proud to be a graduate of Crown Point Central School,” she said. “I left high school with 41 college credits. Many of my class did, too. I go to college with kids from Rochester, Oswego and other big places that did not have any college credit opportunities. We have the college connections we need right here at CPCS.”
After hearing the public comment, Mitch St. Pierre, school board president, spoke.
“We (the school board) want to do the right thing,” he said. “We are here to listen.”
The board then voted to reject a possible merger with Ticonderoga Central School.
Shari Brannock, Crown Point superintendent, said she is pleased with the outcome.
“I am very grateful to our school community, staff, students and school board for the outpouring of support of the Crown Point Central School,” she said.
The vote ends a process that started nearly three years ago and included an independent study by a consultant in Syracuse. That study showed a merger would save taxpayers in both districts and offer greater opportunities for students. The report was funded by the New York State Department of State.
“The whole purpose of the process was to explore the feasibility of a merger and how that would impact each community,” John McDonald, Ticonderoga school superintendent said. “Each community had to make a decision that they felt was in their best interest for their students and community as a whole.
“The Crown Point board entered the process with an open mind, received feedback from their constituents, and made a decision based on the information they received,” he said. “I respect their position and appreciate their participation over the past year. Even though there is not a merger, the process has given us some ideas on how to work together to share services and reduce costs for both schools.”
Ticonderoga’s school board had taken no action on the merger.
Helping the consultants draft the report were two committees representing the schools. Crown Point’s committee included Johnson, Seth Celotti, Tom Fish, Brian Kiely, Agatha Mace, Shana Macey, Peggy Patnode, Tara Spaulding and Tom Wranosky. Ti’s committee included Mike Cherubini, Joyce Cooper, John Donohue, Dave Iuliano, James Major, Seanna Porter, Lynn Reale, Nancy Rich and Michelle Young.
The 125-page report looked at enrollments, programs, athletics, facilities, transportation, staffing and finances.
If both school boards had agreed to pursue a merger, the issue would have gone to voters in each district as a straw vote. If voters OKed the merger plan it would have gone to the state education department, where the commissioner of education would have asked for a second vote of both districts.
A single no vote at any point kills a possible merger.
A merger would save the new, combined district almost $1 million a year, according to the report.
“Considering incentive operating aid, additional building aid, savings from staff reductions and budget efficiencies, loss of BOCES aid, and the cost of leveling up staff salaries, it is estimated that a merged district would realize savings and additional revenues of $12,225,241 for the first 14 years after a merger,” the report states.
A merger would also lower tax rates, the study said.
Students, particularly in high school, would benefit in a merger from increased course offerings, the report found.
That’s all moot now. The Crown Point board of education vote ends all discussion of a possible merger.