BROCTON - BOCES superintendent Dr. David O'Rourke had good news for the Brocton and Westfield boards of education at their joint meeting on Thursday.
He reported Suzanne Spear from the State Education Department had called him "at three o'clock today. She met some of our requests."
The districts want the study expedited, and Spear agreed to a tentative timetable calling for an advisory referendum (straw vote) on June 18 or 19 in 2013. If that is successful, an order could be issued on Sept. 16, 2013 for a referendum on Oct. 9, 2013.
OBSERVER Photo by Diane R. Chodan
The Brocton and Westfield boards of education held a joint meeting in the Brocton Central School auditorium on Thursday.
Marilyn Kurzawa, David Kurzawa, Robert Christmann and Thomas Schmidt, the team of consultants from the Western New York Educational Service Council that will facilitate the centralization study, were present. Vincent Coppola from the same agency served as a spokesman for the team. About 20 members of the public attended the joint meeting during which the tentative timetable for the study was outlined.
The study by the consultant group is to take place between now and February 15, 2013. An advisory committee in each district consisting of 10 people will meet in October, November, and December, and one time after that. They will be meeting separately. All meetings will be open to the public. Board of Education members can also attend, but only as a member of the public to listen. Minutes of the meetings should be available to the public.
Vincent Coppola, a spokesperson for the consultants, reviewed with the boards the characteristics needed to serve on the advisory committee. "(The person) should be involved, not just listen. It is necessary to be neutral and open minded, and listen to all the facts."
Beside the advisory committee, the consultants will be doing interviews beginning in September. The consultants had a long list of suggested groups and individuals to interview including parents, teachers, students, support staff, senior citizens, community leaders, boosters, and community members. Coppola asked the boards to consider whether any additional groups are needed.
"We want to be more inclusive rather than exclusive," he said.
The same questions will be asked of all groups, so a person would not have to attend multiple sessions. Questions would include: What are the points of pride in your school district? What areas would you like to see improved? Do you think the district provides a sound education for its students?
Marilyn Kurzawa, one of the consultants, talked about the focus groups. She said, "All focus groups will be open to the category named. We present information and ask questions. The sessions are structured. We know that sometimes we go into the cornfield, but we bring them back."
The consultant group has already gathered some data from both districts. Coppola explained that at this point the group is neutral about consolidation. Once the study is finished, there will be a recommendation.
He said, "I want to be very clear about this. Our recommendation will be crystal clear, not weasel around. Once we go through the data, our recommendation will be made. You do not have to accept our recommendation."
David Hazelton, a member of the Brocton Board of Education, called on Thomas Schmidt, one member of the consulting team to give his response to an editorial in the OBSERVER. (Aug. 20, 2012). The editorial asserted that Schmidt, the former superintendent of Sherman Central School, was the wrong person for the job because he "was adamantly against the merger of his district with any neighboring school."
Hazelton called the writer of the editorial "as usual, counterproductive."
Schmidt thanked Hazelton for asking. He said at the time in 2008 he was expressing the opinion of the Board of Education and the people who lived in the district.
"I'm here to do what's best for Westfield and Brocton and that's the bottom line," he concluded.
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