Worcester-Schenevus merger vote September 22


By Jim Poole

Worcester and Schenevus school districts will become one if voters approve.
The first step is a straw vote set for Wednesday, September 22, at both schools. If that passes, there will be a binding public vote December 1.
Merger has been discussed several times in the past for the two districts, whose schools are barely five miles apart. But increasingly difficult conditions––declining enrollment and financial constraints––made merger a serious consideration this time.
This would be an annexation merger, not a centralization merger in which a new district is formed, as Cobleskill and Richmondville did in the early 1990s. Under annexation, Worcester would absorb the Schenevus district.
“The writing’s on the wall,” Schenevus Superintendent Theresa Carlin said of her district’s financial troubles.
Schenevus has depended on savings for its budgets, and there’s not much left, she said.
If the district doesn’t merge with Worcester, Ms. Carlin added, it must either send students to another district on tuition or dissolve and students would go to several districts.
With a Worcester-Schenevus merger, many see benefits for students in both districts because stronger finances––and additional state aid––will generate more classes and electives for kids.
“A lot of people see opportunities for kids to get a better education,” Ms. Carlin said.
Worcester Superintendent Tim Gonzales agreed.
“I feel positive about it,” he said. “A lot of people said this should have been done years ago.”
Another benefit would be for property owners because a combined district would stabilize taxes.
Finally, the two districts are about equal in size, staff and student population.
“They’re almost mirror images of one another,” Mr. Gonzales said. “There are a lot of similarities.”
Ms. Carlin said some people in the Schenevus district see the merger as a ‘takeover’ and fear a loss of identity. She’s emphasized, however, that getting students better education is most important.
The plan, Mr. Gonzalez said, is that the Schenevus building would become the elementary school and Worcester, the high school.
The Worcester school board would remain in place, as would the administration unless the board decided to choose a new superintendent.
That means if the merger goes through, that Ms. Carlin would be out of a job.
“My responsibility is to kids, making sure they get a good education,” she said. “If it means I don’t have a job, okay. There’s a shortage of superintendents across the state. I can find a job.”
No other jobs in either district would be lost, Ms. Carlin said.
If voters approve the straw vote and then the binding vote December 1, technically the merged district would start December 2. However, Worcester and Schenevus would finish the school year as they are as officials begin planning.
The May budget vote would be for the merged district, Ms. Carlin said, and the year for the single district would start July 1, 2022.