Four school districts in Cheektowaga are reconsidering their futures as separate entities, as they agreed to join together to pursue a state efficiency grant that would examine the possibility of consolidating the school systems.
With each district’s budget growing ever tighter, the topic of consolidation among the town’s four districts – Cheektowaga Central, Cleveland Hill, Maryvale and Cheektowaga-Sloan – has been discussed in recent months. District representatives met with Town of Cheektowaga leaders, as well as state officials such as Assemblyman Dennis H. Gabryszak and State Sen. Timothy M. Kennedy about the issue.
District representatives were even told by their state leaders they would acquire funds to study the structure and efficiency of the four school systems. It was welcome news to the various school boards, whose members were hesitant to earmark money for another study.
“We agreed to do the study as long as it did not involve any expenditures,” said Maryvale Superintendent Deborah Ziolkowski at Monday’s meeting of the district’s Board of Education. Other boards echoed the sentiment, but the funding promised by state leaders failed to materialize.
According to some, unfunded state mandates and decreased funding add more problems to a district’s budget.
“It’s wonderful for the legislators to recommend we do this, then pull out of the funding,” said Margaret Bourdette, president of the Maryvale Board of Education. “That’s part of the problem.”
Cleveland Hill originally pulled out of the Cheektowaga school group after the district’s Board of Education questioned the state financing, but reversed course this week as the board approved a resolution that will seek the efficiency grants along with the other three districts.
Cleveland Hill Superintendent Jon MacSwan said Thursday the board’s goal was always for the schools to operate more effectively.
“That is something that our board has always been for,” he said. “The Cleveland Hill board has never been against being more efficient.”
If the schools are awarded the grant, each district would receive $25,000 for a total of $100,000. Ziolkowski said an efficiency study covering all the districts probably would cost between $50,000 and $100,000. The grant would require each district to contribute 10 percent of funding, or $2,500 each.
The districts also will hold a joint school board meeting at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 28 in Cleveland Hill High School. The meeting will discuss financial and educational insolvency, school reorganization, unfunded mandates and the erosion of aid to schools.