Joint school meeting prompts more questions
PENN YAN--The school boards of Penn Yan and Dundee held a combined meeting Wednesday, Sept. 20 at the Penn Yan Elementary School to discuss the results of their recent community survey.
The survey* was distributed in the past six weeks to parents, students, teachers and community members to gain feedback for the school's administration regarding school offerings for students and to look at the possibility of merging the two school districts.
Penn Yan Superintendent Howard Dennis began the presentation by giving some of the main responses from the survey. 87 percent in Penn Yan believe they have enough academic opportunities at the present time while in Dundee 56 percent feel they also have enough.
With regard to a potential merger of the two districts, the students in Penn Yan opposed the idea with 53 percent against, 26 percent for it and 21 percent would like more information. In Dundee, 42 percent opposed, 39 percent supported and 17 percent would like more information.
Among the faculty at the schools, in Penn Yan, 58 percent oppose the merger idea and only 14 percent approve. In Dundee the results from the teachers was just the opposite. Fifty-four percent of the teachers are in favor, while 18 percent are against the concept.
The overall community survey was much closer. In Penn Yan, 40 percent opposed the merger, while 39 percent support and 21 percent want more information. In Dundee, 42 percent oppose the merger, 31 percent support it and 16 percent want more information.
Community member Mike Clancy said, "Honestly, Penn Yan offers more classes, more opportunities for the students than Dundee. There is more enrichment, there's an [agricultural] program which they don't have in Dundee. In the long term, combining those two districts would ultimately create greater opportunity for the students in Dundee currently because those programs don't exist over there and with the declining student population there's no ability to add more staff and justify it."
He continued, "The writing on the wall is that we have to look past mascots, team colors and some of those other issues and focus specifically on opportunities to educate the students."
Clancy brought attention to technology classes, business classes and the effort from both school districts to staff these types of classes sufficiently and how future students would benefit from these types of opportunities should the merger gain approval. He suggested further communication between the two school districts with a larger, more aggressive survey to collect the data needed to bring this decision to completion. "It's at least four years before we even merge if we started tonight," Clancy explained. He added the school boards of both communities spend the time blanketing the communities with more surveys, more data and give more presentations to increase interest on both sides in this potential merger.
Superintendent of Dundee Central School, Kelly Houck, explained it would take six successful votes before any merger would ever take place. Houck explained, "Both communities would have separate votes and if both communities then vote in favor of a merger, then it goes to a final referendum. The final referendum is a vote that the commissioner of education sets and that's your binding vote." Houck added, "It's quite a process and nothing that will happen overnight as you can imagine."
She explained a lot of the public concerns were regarding taxes, transportation, athletics and overall logistics of a merger. Houck said all of these things and more would need to be decided before a final merge decision is ever made.
The two school boards agreed to gather more information and will be scheduling a future meeting to review more details about the merger concept.
*The completed survey responses for Penn Yan include the following numbers: Penn Yan staff 226, students 805 and 147 community members filled out the questionnaires.
The returned surveys for Dundee staff members were 54, students 225 and 260 community members recorded responses.