Canton, Potsdam schools tentatively talk merger

Photo: KB35 creative commons, some rights reserved

Photo: KB35 creative commons, some rights reserved

We’ve reported a lot here in the last year or so about the financial problems North Country schools are facing and how they’re dealing with them, and that story continued last night with a meeting between school board members and administrators from the Canton and Potsdam central school districts about the possibility of a merger between the two.

Your News Now reports that the attendees heard a presentation from Bruce Fraser, who works with school districts on merger studies. He said the process of merging two districts takes at least two years — both districts have to dissolve, and a new one formed. Ultimately, whether to merge is the decision of voters, not the school board.

Both districts have been hit very hard by state aid cuts and have been struggling financially, and the Watertown Daily Times reports Potsdam has been forced to cut about 40 staff and faculty members, and Canton 56. Aside from the potential economies that could come from running one district instead of two, the state offers incentives (YNN says more than $35 million over the next 15 years) to school districts that choose to merge.

About one in four merger votes has been successful historically, Fraser said, with two districts in the Mohawk Valley completing a merger now and two others in the Binghamton area getting ready to submit the required feasibility study to the New York State Department of Education. The Times says Fraser thinks more schools may seek to merge, given the decreasing availability of state aid. If this merger were to go forward, the new school could open in fall of 2015.

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16 Comments on “Canton, Potsdam schools tentatively talk merger”

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  1. Pete Klein says:

    I think the plan is to get rid of education so the young will take jobs at wages that will compete with wages in Pakistan.

  2. Peter Hahn says:

    Mergers of tiny school districts is something that may get costs under control. There is no guarantee, but something needs to be done, and this is something that is within the control of the voters. Most of the other things people talk about, like paying teachers less, or eliminating unfunded mandates, are not things that can be accomplished at the local level. (and they are not likely to ever happen)

  3. Guest says:

    Let me get this straight. Canton and Potsdam are in serious talks about consolidation due to state incentives around 35 million spread over 15 years. Lets look at the budgets:

    Potsdam Budget $26,782,798

    Canton Budget $24,303,124

    Lets make two assumptions, (1) the 35 million is spread equally over 15 years and (2) the state keeps its word for 15 years without reducing the schools budget (in real dollars, ie inflation) by the same amount. The state would be adding $2.3 million a year to the budget or approximately an 4.5% increase in the first year. Every year after the increase in budget would be reduced until at year 15 the increase would result in ~2.9% of the budget. This is assuming that the state does not further reduce aid, there are no cost associated with merging, and a modest inflation rate of ~3%. Personally, I see very little to no gain by including the state’s “carrot” in this discussion.

    Ask the people at SUNY Canton and Potsdam about state guidance in merging schools for an example of what could come.

  4. Paul says:

    I think it says “tentatively” not “seriously”? If the air is going out of the life rafts it is best to tie them together. That will buy you some time, nothing more.

  5. Mervel says:

    It seems like they usually do a pretty intense study of exactly what the savings could be from a merger. In some cases depending on how they do it, it may save nothing or cost more, or it could be a very good move.

  6. oa says:

    Great idea. I wish every school district in the region would study this.

  7. dbw says:

    Speakers at the April 15 North Country Symposium asserted that there was very little long term savings with these consolidations and mergers. It sounds good, but generally does not work out.

  8. Zeke says:

    The “study” in St. Lawrence County was recently done to the tune of $250,000 and it answered nothing.

  9. Hossier3 says:

    At least Canton and Potsdam knew that a $33,000 BOCES Study to look at Regional high schools is a waste of taxpayer money. First lets chastise BOCES for leading the sheep to slaughter. Introducing Morristown to a ghost plan for Regional schools BOCES and the state mislead the public attempting to let them believe they had a say. NYS does not have in place a Regional high school plan. This bogus attempt at telling the people it has a chance to pass the state senate and assembly was simply padding the pocket of former state employees that did the “study”. It has NO chance through legislation. Shame on the Morristown BOE for approving the TAXPAYER funds to pay for this sham.

    Now on to the merge. To merge means students will have a better chance for higher education. As it is right now Morristown is failing to offer its students all they need to prepare for college. The Morristown BOE is in the pocket of a Superintendent that always represents the best interests of himself and his union minions not the student or taxpayer. It is time for Glover to go. The Morristown community is so bent on loosing its identity it stops logic in its tracks. In a merge the taxpayer will receive NO tax increases for 10 years and small increments for the next 5 years. A 15 year tax break for property owners. Why wouldn’t anyone want a better education for their children and a tax break for 15 years? Morristown, identity belongs to the individual your identity is the mighty St. Lawrence River utilize it! Morristown BOE must terminate Glover or expect more of the same higher taxes and less education for your children. Get over the “identity” crisis and MERGE!

  10. mervel says:

    What exactly does BOCES do and how much are we paying for that whole scheme? It seems like we have this shadow school system that we are all supporting in addition to supporting our actual schools.

    If we took all of the resources used for BOCES and re-allocated those to the actual school systems in the County would that help offset some of this?

    But anyway, we have to do something. It seems merging makes some amount of sense, but if it does not the status quo will fail regardless. Begging to the state for more resources is not working, we have to figure out a way to provide an education with the resources we currently have, assuming no increases in state aid.


  11. mervel says:

    At the end of the day the basic problem is that we do not have enough school aged children to support the number of school systems we have, and we are in the process of adjusting to that reality and that process hopefully will not be too painful but it will be painful.

  12. Paul says:

    Maybe saving money is just one aspect of why you might want to merge districts. Maybe there are other good reasons. We are too hyper focused on the budget stuff these days.

  13. Paul says:

    One of the big issues for these more rural towns is that the school district is often something that binds the town together. They are not quite as important in more populated areas.

  14. marcusaurelius says:

    I attended Thursday’s meeting and have read the report. It is a very comprehensive effort that examines the financial impact of 6 different scenarios, including mergers, tuitioning, and regional high schools. Any board of education that would make any decisions without this type of analysis would be incompetent. I suggest you read the report Hoosier3 as it contains alot of valuable information.
    Without a doubt, regional high schools would benefit students educationally. The State of NY has turned its back on North Country schools, so it is now up to local communities to find a way to mitigate the impoverishment of our children’s education. I applaud those trying to do this.
    Mervel is correct that there is painful change in our future. One finding of this study was that the regional high school would require less teachers (more than 20% less). Community identity will change. People must face that the current state of these schools is inadequate and will get worse each year. Maintaining the status quo is actually an illusion as the state will continue to cut state aid, schools will cut staff each year to meet tax cap numbers , and an already meager educational program will just get worse.

  15. mervel says:

    Paul one of them might be being able to offer a full range of AP courses for example. Right now we have the experts who are running the schools saying they are educationally insolvent, meaning to me they are not providing a minimum education. OK to me that is unacceptable. If a larger reasonably sized high school was not educationally insolvent this would be one advantage even if the costs were about the same.

    I do think they (school administrators) ought to be very careful about throwing around that term, if you are using that term to garner more state aid in a crying wolf sort of way (which is very common in trying to get public money) to show how bad off you are; when it is not really true, that is a problem. People like me believe you when you say the school is educationally bankrupt, to me that says close the school and start over, why continue if you can’t educate the kids?

  16. john a says:

    The real question how would you merge school colors? I would hate to think of the beautiful Potsdam orange& blue colors mixed with the really ugly Canton colors! What colors do they wear, brown and mustard? Yech….

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