Volunteers are being sought to serve on a advisory committee investigating a possible consolidation of the Crown Point and Ticonderoga school districts.
“This is an opportunity for interested people to be involved in the process,” John McDonald, Ticonderoga school superintendent said. “The committee will investigate the pros and cons of a merger, prepare a report and advise the two school boards.”
The committee will include five community members, two teachers, a member of the support staff and an administrator from each district.
Interested community members are asked to contact their school superintendent before Dec. 21. McDonald can be reached at 585-7400 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Crown Point Superintendent Shari Brannock can be reached at 597-4200 or email@example.com.
The committee will be appointed by the respective school boards in January.
The initial committee meeting will take place at Crown Point school Jan. 30 and review enrollment. Other meetings will be March 6 at Ti High to study transportation, April 17 at Crown Point to discuss facilities, May 29 at Ti Elementary-Middle School to review finances, June 19 at Crown Point to discuss programs, July 24 at Ti High to consider staffing and Aug. 21 at Crown Point to adopt a draft report.
Each meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. preceded by a tour of the school at 5:45 p.m.
“Committee members should be available for all metings,” McDonald said, “and realize there may be work involved between meetings.”
The draft report will be submitted to the state Department of Education in September and presented to a joint meeting of the Ticonderoga and Crown Point school boards in October.
The districts have been awarded a $45,000 state grant to hire a outside consultant to help study the two schools. Once the study is complete, a series of votes will be required before any possible consolidation can take place. The earliest any consolidation can take place is July 2014.
The two schools boards met in joint session Dec. 4 to begin the process.
“I thought it went very well,” McDonald said. “There’s a lot to be done, a long way to go. I thought it was very positive.”
If the advisory and school boards decide to proceed following the study, they must then decide whether to seek a merger or an annexation. A merger combines two school districts into a new district. An annexation simply closes one school and sends its students to the other.
As examples, McDonald pointed to the merger of the Port Henry and Mineville schools in 1967 to make the Moriah Central School and the annexation of the Hague school in 1979 into the Ticonderoga Central School District.
For either a merger or annexation to take place, there must be affirmative votes by the advisory board in each district, each school board and the residents of each school district. Any negative vote kills a possible consolidation.
“There will be six votes,” McDonald said. “If any one of them is negative that’s the end of it.”
Brannock and McDonald agreed a possible consolidation is far from a sure thing.
“As the study progresses, there is a requirement that taxpayers in both communities have opportunities to vote and they will make the final decision about how we operate in the future,” Brannock said. “We are fortunate, in these tough fiscal times, to have the grant to help us secure our future.”
Enrollments at both schools are falling. In the 2005-06 academic year Ti had 1,007 students and Crown Point 281. This school year Ti has 850 and Crown Point 265. The projected 2016-17 enrollments are 779 for Ti and 257 for Crown Point.
Poverty rates are increasing in both schools. The percentage of students receiving free or reduced-price lunches in the 2005-06 academic year was 43 percent in Ti and 54 percent in Crown Point. Those rates rose to 49 percent in Ti and 57 in Crown Point in 2011-12.
McDonald said even if there is no consolidation, the study may prove helpful in finding ways the two districts can share services and save money. Crown Point and Ticonderoga now share transportation to the Mineville Champlain Valley Tech campus. Last year Crown Point students came to Ti High for a physics class.
“The study may show a consolidation is not warranted, but it may show us ways to share more services,” McDonald said.
School consolidations in New York are not uncommon. When the statewide public school system formed in 1795 there were 11,372 school districts in New York. That number had fallen to 6,397 by 1940. Today there are 697 school districts in New York.