The Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School Board on Tuesday set a timeline for incorporating a focus group of community stakeholders into the school consolidation study under way in the district.
Applicants to the 80-person group will be notified of their acceptance “on or about” Monday by a phone call or letter from the district, School Board President Bob Dana told about 100 people in Kenmore East High School. The group will review and prioritize eight scenarios in a consolidation report by SES Study Team during an all-day session June 8 and meet with the board July 23 and 25. In addition, at least one work session and workshop over the summer will be open to public input.
“We want to get together with them and do a dialogue with them,” School Board Vice President Stephen Brooks said of the focus group.
But board members during the meeting also set out to assure concerned district parents of involvement. “The public will have every opportunity to be involved in the process. Guaranteed,” said Dana.
Five district parents – most of them from Lindbergh Elementary School – spoke during the public comment part of the meeting to express concern over possibly losing neighborhood schools and to question the savings that would be realized.
“Please think carefully before making any rash decisions,” said Julie Miska of Kenmore.
Stephen Hart and Todd Potter, candidates in next Tuesday’s School Board election, also expressed concern over the board’s timeline for studying consolidation.
“They act like they’re not in a rush, but they are,” Potter told The Buffalo News. “They’re trying to get this focus group to make a quick decision before the entire study is done.”
Brooks said he was “disheartened” by some of the reaction and resistance to the study, which has led to an online petition and a “Save Our Schools” movement popping up in response. More review will take place in the fall, with final decisions made in early 2014 and implementation taking two years, he said.
“It’s not going to happen right away,” said Brooks, adding, “We appreciate your input but the world’s not going to blow up.”
Earlier, the 2013-14 school budget of slightly more than $149 million was presented with no public comment. District residents will vote on the budget next Tuesday at only one polling place this year – Hoover Middle School, 249 Thorncliff Road.
Also at Tuesday’s meeting:
• The board signaled its approval of an offer from the Town of Tonawanda to pay for half of a second full-time police officer in the School Resource Officer program. A grant from Assemblyman Robin Schimminger, D-Kenmore, will help pay for the rest. The new officer could start as early as September.
• The board received a request from Hoover Elementary School asking it to name the school’s community room for retiring Principal Fran Paskowitz.
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