It was almost as though an episode of "Fear Factor" had appeared in the mailbox. One day before the vote to decide on a proposal to tuition Ripley school students in grades seven to 12, letters attempting to spook district residents arrived from groups opposed to the proposal: the "Concerned Ripley Taxpayers and Advocates for Ripley Central" and the Ripley Education Association.
The propaganda, filled with the big "what if?" questions and lacking facts, was almost enough to derail a vote of progress.
While the "Concerned Group" advocated for a "no" vote, the teachers group did as well though they did not say it outright in the letter.
This letter arrived in Ripley mailboxes one day before the vote.
"Ask yourself what effects (tuitioning) will have on: those in the water and sewer district, present and future businesses, property values, families who want to move here, etc.," stated the letter from Concerned Ripley Taxpayers. "Are you willing to sacrifice the school, when we do not know this information?"
Here are the obvious responses to those Ripley issues. Nobody is moving to the town because of its school. It is the smallest in the county with the least amount of educational programming. Keeping the status quo with the school only continues to lessen those educational opportunities for future graduates who receive a "bare bones" curriculum due to low enrollment
In the Ripley Education Association's letter, it touched on six topics: taxes, sports, transportation, state aid, finance and the vote. After outlining what some residents may consider negative aspects, the letter concludes: "Why take such drastic measures when five other local school districts have been identified as being in worse fiscal shape than (Ripley Central School)?
Nowhere - in either of the letters to Ripley residents - does it talk about the positives awaiting students at likely partner Chautauqua Lake Central School.
Chautauqua Lake, one of the most modern educational facilities in this county, is a gem. By being part of the school, Ripley students will have access to electives, can take part in extracurricular activities, part of one team - not split between Sherman and Westfield - and share in the school spirit with another 400 students at the school, rather than only 150.
You would think the Ripley Education Association would have considered increased programming and learning opportunities for the students that exist in the tuitioning plan in their letter - at least to acknowledge and be honest about it.
But the teachers did not. Their thinking, as is usually the case, was about what was best for the association, not the students or the community who actually foots the bill.
By the way, it should be noted the association was not about to offer concessions to help save on costs in the district or help offer additional programming. Before the end of 2012, the association reached a contract that included what some officials termed a "fair" pay raise of 7 percent over two years.
That is "fair" to one group alone - and those "fair" pay hikes do not benefit district students and residents if the quality of education keeps deteriorating while taxes are rising.
Teachers are supposed to be some of the biggest advocates for students and increased learning avenues. The information mailed to residents last week by the association was just the opposite.
They should be ashamed.
John D'Agostino is the OBSERVER publisher. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 366-3000, ext. 401.