First Step in Chenango Forks-Valley Merger

By Callan Gray

January 9, 2013 Updated Jan 9, 2013 at 12:28 AM EDT

Town of Fenton (WBNG Binghamton) Two local districts take the next step in a plan to study whether they should become one.

It's been nearly two years since the idea of consolidation first came about between rivals Chenango Forks and Chenango Valley.

Now the two school systems are moving forward with the next step in the process.

Consultants met with community members Tuesday night to talk about merging the districts.

The meeting is the start of a six month study of the two school districts.

There will be five or six additional meetings before the study is completed.

Consultants and a 24 member community advisory board will work together on the analysis.

Members are split evenly between the districts.

The community board is made up of students, staff and community members.

One student board member says the merge could help both schools academically.

"It would definitely give us opportunities academically,' said Andrew Ziegnfus, a junior at Chenango Forks High School. "I know at Forks at least, we've had a lot of cuts made and teacher cuts so I think it would give us the opportunity to take part in more classes."

Small class sizes mean the students and teachers get to know each other on a personal level, said Ziegnfus.

Ziegnfus plays basketball, football and baseball at CFHS.

He said a merge between the schools would help both school districts' athletic programs, possibly boosting them up to a Class A status.

"The Forks-Valley rivalry, that's definitely a big issue," said Ziegnfus "Being an athlete too that's another side of the story but I think it would give athletes a better chance at higher competition"

Dr. Dennis Sweeney, a consultant for Organizational Leadership Services, said the report will study cultural differences.

"There are community cultures, long term associations with school districts and attachments everybody has and so we work through those issues and try to create a plan that is intelligible enough for people to say here's what I understand about a merged school district," said Sweeney.

Sweeney said the report will also look at enrollment history, demographics, facilities and transportation.

Other factors analyzed include programming, voting history, birthrate projections and athletics.

The report is submitted to the State Department of Education on July 1 for approval.

If the proposal passes, the districts will decide whether or not to go through with the merger.

The community will then have the opportunity to vote on the proposal.

It will be an all or nothing merge.