Sunday, October 26, 2014

Merger for PCS and CCS? Why we should approve it

Bill Gregory and Pat Brady, the superintendents from Canton and Potsdam Central Schools, were recently interviewed for North Country Matters (NCM) at WCKN (Clarkson University). You can see them at:

(It will show on WCKN on Mon. & Tues. at 7:30 pm and Wed. at 7 pm.)

The facts are simple - the economic crisis of 2008 resulted in severe cuts in state aid to schools. This had little impact in wealthy school districts but it had a devastating impact in poor, rural schools like Potsdam and Canton. They've had to cut 50 positions in each district. This, of course, has led to cuts in educational programs and increases in class sizes. 

Officials in Albany know that rural schools depend heavily on state aid and have made cuts that are harming students. The only option Albany is leaving open to our schools is to merge. 

Anyone who thinks we should sit back and continue to cut employee positions and student programs needs to realize that trying to call Albany's bluff will backfire - they "ain't" budging and they hold all the cards. We simply do not have the political clout in our sparsely populated region to change the Albany mindset that money must be saved via mergers. 

CCS and PCS now enjoy reputations as good schools. However, they have been degraded over the last five years. Metaphorically speaking, don't we all deal with a cancer when it is small? What happens when we sit back and let it spread? In April of 2013 David Acker, Canton-Potsdam President and CEO, said: "If the schools begin to slide, the hospitals will begin to follow that same slope and the colleges will be right behind." 

A merger may not be perfect but it appears to be the only way to rescue our schools. Yes, Canton high-schoolers will have to travel to Potsdam and Potsdam's middle schoolers (6th, 7th, 8th) will have to travel to Canton and that is a sore point. 

However, the merger buys us seven years to pursue getting the funding formula changed so that it takes into account the fact that both Canton and Potsdam have too much untaxed property (the colleges/universities, Canton-Potsdam Hospital - which are also the top employers in the region along with CCS and PCS). CPH President Acker, has also stated: "Stable employment is critical and large stable employers are the most critical because without them there is no tax base, no decent services, no infrastructure that is supportable...there is simply a wasteland of poverty."

It is time to protect our faltering public schools because in doing so we are also protecting the vitality of our North Country.

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