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Keep the public in the loop

Thursday, January 10, 2013 - Updated: 5:51 PM

While it's not surprising that the Broadalbin-Perth Central School District sent out feelers to a neighboring school district about the possibility of merging the two, we're disappointed that the public wasn't a bigger part of the process.

On Dec. 11, B-P board of education President Ed Szumowski and Vice President Paul Chizek sent a letter to the Galway Central School District about exploring a possible merger. The board leaders cited growing fiscal concerns and a potential push from the state to regionalize schools.

Galway declined the offer, but that doesn't mean B-P should give up. School districts all over are being forced to overhaul their operations because costs continue to increase while revenue streams continue to decline.

The problem with Broadalbin-Perth's overture is the general public was not involved before the letter was sent. According to a review of board meeting minutes from the start of the 2012-13 school year, which are posted on the district's website, there's no record of public discussion of this move, nor is there record of formal board action authorizing the letter to be sent.

There is also no mention of exploring potential mergers in the board of education's goals for the 2012-13 school year, which is also posted on the website.

Yet on Monday, Szumowski said school officials have been discussing the exploration of mergers with other districts for some time. The thing is, if there's no public record of any such discussion, when have officials been talking about this?

Public business should be discussed in public, and the Broadalbin-Perth board of education is subject to state laws that govern open meetings. In addition, the district should have opened the matter up for public input before sending the letter. After all, parents and taxpayers have every right to voice their opinions about the future of their school district.

In fact, that's what Galway board President Cheryl Smith stated would happen before that school district even started exploring merger possibilities. We agree with her position that changes to the school district should begin in the community.

We applaud the Broadalbin-Perth Central School District for its willingness to think outside the box when it comes to keeping its schools solvent. While other schools are looking at widespread cuts and the elimination of programs and services, B-P has been able to preserve, and even add, educational opportunities for its students.

We also believe the district should continue to explore merger possibilities with other districts. However, the public should be a central part of the process before any future overtures are made.

     

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