Frame: 'Don’t bow to pressure from other districts'
ODESSA—The Odessa-Montour school board workshop meeting held Thursday, Oct. 25, included some heated discussion about shared services, merging, consolidation, and budget expenses.
The workshop was scheduled to discuss long-range planning. Superintendent Jim Frame read a prepared statement before the board started open discussion. He said the board will “decide the immediate direction of the district.” Frame added that whatever decisions the board makes they should “focus on the needs of the students and their fiscal responsibility to taxpayers.” He also said, “don’t bow to pressure from other districts.”
“This is a board decision, not a Jim Frame decision,” he said. “Your job is to work for the students and taxpayers.”
Consolidation has come up within the last month and a half at both the Odessa-Montour and Watkins Glen school boards. In October, Watkins Glen Superintendent Tom Phillips said districts will be facing mergers within the next five years due to budget constraints.
The Odessa-Montour board members went on to discuss shared services, consolidations, and mergers as various options the district has. Board member Robert Halpin said he also wanted to see other areas where the district could cut costs by sharing services with another district.
Board member Karen Rock said the district is currently in good financial standing and over the past five years has only raised the tax levy no more than two percent annually.
However, board member Scott Westervelt countered by saying the district has eliminated five teaching positions as part of budget cuts. He added regardless of the amount, Odessa-Montour has still raised the tax levy. Westervelt said that he had concerns.
Board member Chris Scata said he was for sharing more services, but against an actual merger. He added, “we’ve got a lot of good things going on for students.” Scata explained he did not want students to be unable to participate in extracurricular activities because there were too many students.
“I think you’ve got to be fooling yourself if you don’t think the time will come when you face that scenario,” said Halpin. He added he would like to see a more proactive effort in engaging with other districts.
Board member Debra Harrington suggested if they discuss consolidation then the board not immediately think of Watkins Glen. She said, “I think we get stuck on Watkins Glen. Why not another small school district.”
Board member Damita Chamberlain said the board should first look at the Odessa-Montour school district before expanding the discussion to consolidations with other districts. She said they should look inside, then outside the district.
Athletic Manager Skip Strobel reported on sports team numbers. He said that if the district were to consider eliminating a team because there were too few players, he would still want to offer it. Strobel presented numbers for the upcoming winter sports and what he would recommend as a minimum number of players needed to have a team. With the exception of modified boys swimming, all sports had more than enough students signed up at that point. The board asked him to get similar numbers for all sports.
By the end of the meeting, the school board agreed it wanted to have an outside firm review the current and future use of its facilities. Frame said he has a proposal from one contractor, but is expecting two more. He explained it would likely take a contractor until July to finish the study if they started in November.