Mergers and acquisitions at Canton, Potsdam schools

Hugh C. Williams Senior High School, Canton Central School District. Photo: Lizette Haenel

Hugh C. Williams Senior High School, Canton Central School District. Photo: Lizette Haenel

As we’ve reported in the past, the Canton and Potsdam Central school districts have been exploring the idea of a merger. This week, North Country Now is reporting that “with $50,000 already in the bank, the…districts are seeking another $50,000 to pay for a study of a possible merger.”

That first $50,000 is the result of efforts by New York Sens. Patty Ritchie and Joe Griffo, whose districts cover Canton and Potsdam, respectively. The second $50,000, the districts hope, will be from the New York Department of State — they’re asking the state to match the first $50,000 as part of its local government grant program.

Potsdam Central School Superintendent Pat Brady told NCN that it’s in part due to cuts in aid that the districts are considering a merger in the first place:

“[A] major reason Canton and Potsdam find themselves in a position to have to consider such a course is due to the reduction in state aid – a million dollars less than at the level that existed in 2008-09,” Brady said.

“And the costs of doing business, including labor costs, have been increasing, but the aid has not been enough. So our issues are in part the result of the state funding decisions, and our legislators recognize that fact.

“We heard loud and clear the message to explore consolidation” – a message Gov. Andrew Cuomo repeated during his visit Feb. 5 to Clarkson University – “so we’ve been looking at lots of options,” said Brady.

The districts are seeking bids now for consultants to conduct a feasibility study; and then the next step would be public forums and, ultimately, a vote. “The feasibility study is the easy part,” Brady told the paper.

Meanwhile, either or both school districts may see something of financial bump from the America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education program (sponsored by the Monsanto Fund), which according to its web site works to “strengthen math and science education in rural communities”. According to a press release, Canton and Potsdam are in the running with several other schools in the state for grants of up to $25,000.

Here’s the full text of the press release (including a full list of New York state schools also in the running, some of which are also in our vicinity):

America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education Announces 2013 Finalists

The Monsanto Fund is excited to announce this year’s America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education finalists. Nominated school districts from across the country submitted completed grant applications by April 30. For the past month, a panel of educators reviewed applications and sent the strongest submissions for consideration by the America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education Advisory Council. The Advisory Council, comprised of farmer-leaders with a vested interest in both agriculture and education, will select the winning grant applications from this pool of finalists.

These New York school districts are in the running for grants of up to $25,000:

    • Elba Central School
    • Wheatland-Chili Central Schools

America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education is part of Monsanto Fund’s overall effort to strengthen America’s farming communities. To learn more about Grow Rural Education, please visit

About the Monsanto Fund

The Monsanto Fund, the philanthropic arm of the Monsanto Company, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening the farm communities where farmers and Monsanto Company employees live and work. Visit the Monsanto Fund at

11 Comments on “Mergers and acquisitions at Canton, Potsdam schools”

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  1. david ariens says:

    And this is why we are in the dire straights we are in 100.000 dollars to study the obvious and of course we will hire a firm from out of the area to do this study im sure. my word when did common sense leave the planet . Mars is looking better all the time .Were do i sign up (chuckle)

  2. Mervel says:

    I think its great they are going for these little grants, everything helps. However, we need 2.5 million not 25k. I wonder how long this merger process would take?

  3. St. Lawrence Escapee says:

    If these schools merge it will be a major nail in the coffin of the Canton/Potsdam region. Excellent local schools are one of the few reasons to stay in the area, merging these schools means that some kids are going to spend an hour on the bus each way. That is simply cruel.

    I spent 40 minutes on the bus (each way) as a kid, meaning I spent over 24 hours per month on a bus. The constant starts and stops made me carsick, and school buses are a fertile ground for bullying and undesirable behavior.

    Potsdam and Canton are extremely remote, extremely cold, have a terrible economy, have very limited shopping options, and are visually full of blight. When I think of good things about the area, the local schools are top of the list. If they want to merge administrative services, fine, but asking kids to go from one town to another for school is a horrible idea on many levels.

  4. Peter Klein says:

    First $100,000 is spent.
    Next step the voters reject the merger.
    Studies are the new growth industry.

  5. stillin says:

    In response to the above post about spending an hour on the bus as “simply cruel”…what do you think commuters do? I heard of a district yesterday in another state, getting rid of buses entirely. As far as the cost of studying it , with 4 colleges in the area, can’t they study it as a course and skip the money paid out in fees.

  6. Mervel says:

    I don’t think merging necessarily means going to the other village for school. Possibly you would have one high school, but the elementary and middle schools would stay put.

    Most school districts in this country have multiple schools, the North County is uniquely odd in having one K-12 school in one or two buildings and calling that an school district. You could technically not build any new buildings and maintain two high schools. Many districts have multiple high schools.

    The key would be what kind of savings are you looking at and what kind of improvements in quality are you looking at? I guess that is what the studies would show or not.

    My feeling though is that Pete has it correct as far as what will happen.

  7. marcusaurelius says:

    The state requires schools to do a year long study before a vote can be held to merge. The study is not only an analysis of the viability of merging and the effects on school taxes for each district, but is also a master plan of the actual process of merging – from bus routes to contracts.
    This state education department website explains this process.
    The state and our state representatives have demonstrated that they are unwilling to undertake any kind of major reform of the school finance system. Without substantial reforms, local schools will have no choice but to merge. For all that everyone agrees that the system is fatally flawed, no one is doing anything to fix it. Maybe Canton and Potsdam are trying to have some control over their own destiny.

  8. Mervel says:

    Thanks for the link.

    I think so; it is probably good to try to take control of the situation.

    I wonder what happens if there is no solution? What I mean is lets say the study is done, the voters turn it down. So then what?

    We have talked about it before I just wonder what happens when a district simply cannot pay its obligations?

  9. Peter Klein says:

    Things should get really fun this coming budget season with the tax levy cap set to drop from 2% to 1.6%.
    To bad the state isn’t imposing a 1.6% cap on the cost of health insurance, fuel oil and payments to the pension funds.

  10. If Clapton is God, Warren Haynes is Jesus says:

    Marcus hit the nail on the head. Without serious reform of the school aide formula, nothing else matters as consolidation for most rural districts simply will not lead to the cost savings needed to overcome the loss in state aid.

    The reform I mention needs to include simplification as well as changes to the percentages districts actually receive. The school aid formula, like nearly everything else about education in NYS, is so overly complicated and archaic that we need a small army of bureaucrats in Albany and at the local level to even understand it much less administer it. Add to that the amount of time and money wasted on collecting and reporting data for various reasons and we have created a system that requires more time and energy from staff (including teachers themselves) than is spent in actually educating our youngsters.

    To be frank, the entire system of aid, delivery, assessment, reporting, etc. needs a complete overhaul and no amount of consolidation with change this reality.

  11. Marlo Stanfield says:

    I agree with Mervel — merging school districts doesn’t and should not mean that you cut the number of schools in half and make everyone’s bus rides twice as long. Even if you leave all the schools open, you’d still save hundreds of thousands, maybe more than a million, in administrative salaries, plus you’d drive down purchasing costs.

    The number of independent government agencies in New York is simply ridiculous. There are plenty of communities with neighborhoods a lot more different and further apart than Canton and Potsdam, where the kids are in the same school district and go to the same high school. This kind of thing needs to happen.

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