When I came to Westfield as a new school superintendent in 1995, there were nearly 1,200 students at Westfield Academy and Central School. I was happy to be part of such a caring community that took great pride in supporting its school, hospital, library, grape industry and other great resources.
When I visited Westfield for the first time, I noticed signs at the intersection of Main and Portage pointing to Brocton, Mayville and Ripley; each about 8 miles. It was astounding to realize that each nearby community had their own school district.
Since that time, all of the districts in our area have faced declining student enrollments, with WACS having less than 800 and Brocton having less than 600 today. Mayville has merged with Chautauqua and Ripley is paying tuition for their seventh- to 12th-grade students to attend Chautauqua Lake.
In each of these four communities, parents and residents would prefer to have kept things as they were and for their children to go to school as close to home as possible. Decisions to merge districts are very painful because everyone has to give up something that is important to them. However, what matters most is how, and not where, our students can receive the best possible education.
As a parent and educator, my favorite saying is: "The most important gift that we can give our children is roots and wings."
For the upcoming Westfield-Brocton consolidation vote, please consider that the Brocton and Westfield communities provide great "ROOTS" for their children. Combining the resources of both school districts and receiving significant additional state aid over the next 14 years would provide our students with enhanced educational programs and the "WINGS" for successful future careers.
On Wednesday, there is an important choice to be made. Residents can vote "yes" for consolidation and have the opportunity to create and share a more vital school district, OR they can vote "no," try to continue going it alone and watch each district's student programs and finances dwindle away over the next five years.
There is no question that this is a tough and emotional decision, but these are tough economic times. It is clear to me that supporting consolidation is in the best interest of the children in both districts.
Peggy Sauer is a retired Westfield school superintendent.