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Phillips wants input on school mergers

    WATKINS GLEN—Watkins Glen Central School Superintendent announced Monday, Nov. 5, that Cornell University will help the district and the county organize community meetings to discuss shared services, consolidations, and “potential restructuring of the delivery of public and educational services in the county.”
    Reading a prepared statement during the regular school board meeting, Phillips explained this collaboration stemmed from discussions with Schuyler County Administrator Tim O’Hearn and Legislative Chairman Dennis Fagan. Phillips was speaking about school consolidations, which has been a recurring topic at both the Watkins Glen and Odessa-Montour school board meetings.
    Board President Brian O’Donnell said no meetings have been scheduled yet and dates will be announced in 2013. He said it will help the community identify appropriate ways to offer needed services within Schuyler. Phillips explained this needs to be a countywide dialogue. He said it can’t just be municipal board members sitting down to talk, it has to be residents as well.
    Phillips said he approached the local Council of Governments (which has representation from the county, village, and towns in Schuyler) about his concerns. He said this led to him meeting with O’Hearn and Fagan.
    “There are two ways to view this issue. The first is to ignore reality and hold on to what we have and risk the ability to control our own destiny. The other view is to use data such as student demographics, shrinking state and national resources, the tax cap, unfunded and underfunded mandates and one quickly sees the fact that we are faced with increasingly difficult financial challenges,” said Phillips in his prepared statement.
    He added, “this cannot be about my school versus your school, my team versus your team. This discussion must be about strengthening the opportunities we provide for the children of the Schuyler County community and how we can best work together to the benefit of all children of Schuyler County now and in the future.”
    In other business:
    • During the superintendent’s report, Phillips also said school mergers came up at a recent New York State School Board’s Association conference. He said one speaker explained the laws related to mergers are “inept, at best.” Board member Tom Richardson said there was legislation coming in 2013 to address some of those concerns.
    • Eighth grade student Shawn Rutledge thanked all the staff who helped him attend the 2012 Oak Ridge National Laboratory Science Summer Academy. It said it was a week long event. From the east coast, 26 students attended. He said the group he was in studied solar power and built solar powered objects. Rutledge added he was invited to attend again when he was 16 years old.
    • Phillips congratulated swimmers Abby Cocca and Victoria Wixson for their sectional wins and cross country runner Matt Gill for qualifying for the state championships.
    The next school board meeting is Monday, Nov. 19. It is expected to begin at 6:30 p.m., following a 5:45 p.m. executive session.



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