Administrators Learn the Pros and Cons of School Mergers

By Michelle Costanza

November 9, 2012 Updated Nov 9, 2012 at 12:03 AM EST

Ithaca, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Several school districts across New York State have considered a merger with another district, many due to financial worries. Although consolidation is a good idea for some, administrators are being sure weigh the pros and cons of reorganizing before making a decision.

As state aid continues to dwindle for some public educational institutions, these districts are intrigued by the financial incentives offered to merging schools.

The state has promised millions of dollars in aid to school districts that make the decision to merge together into one district.

The money can amount up to several million dollars, and is paid over a pre-defined number of years, decreasing by a percentage each year.

The promise of this money would allow schools to increase opportunities for students, stabilize taxes, enhance building aid, and eliminate duplicate programs.

Two seasoned education professionals discussed both the pros and cons in a formal presentation on Thursday evening. Dr. Rick Timbs and Mr. Sam Shevat have over 72 years of experience in public education, holding positions such as superintendent, teacher, coach, athletic director, and many more. Alongside the central New York School Boards Association, the message sent to the audience was a humbling one, which left many attendees surprised by the intricacies of school district mergers.

Dr. Rick Timbs highlighted some of the positives of merging, noting that many schools have been forced to cut programs, leaving students with few opportunities.

"Even if schools can graduate kids, the kids can't compete for college or post-secondary education, or are not really in a competitive nature for career readiness. They have a high school diploma, but their high school diploma or their transcripts are so thin, they really can't compete in the outside world compared to students who graduate with the same high school diploma, but have a plethora of courses that they were able to take- offerings that they were able to take- that enhances their ability to get into that college, get that job, or whatever it might be," he said.

For students, there are countless advantages of a merger. However, the presentation also highlighted several negatives.

In many cases, just the thought of a merger puts worry into people's minds- especially in the community. Sentimental value of the school, protecting a community's identity, job security of staff members- and even athletic rivalries- have stopped numerous districts from merging.

Probably the most substantial worry in administrators' minds, though, is what will happen when the state aid stops rolling in. How will they finance their programs?

The presentation provided in-depth information concerning all aspects of consolidation. For some districts, merging may be the best option for their schools, while for others, it may not be. Districts were encouraged to decide for themselves what the most effective route would be in order to provide quality education.