By CARLA KOLBE/Express Editor
NORTHVILLE – The possibility of another straw vote to further explore the ideas of a combined school district may be closer to a reality amongst the Northville community.
At Tuesday nights regular Northville Central School Board of Education meeting, Northville community member John Sira brought fourth 325 signatures he and a legion of other community members attained over the course of five days.
“We’re not done” said Sira. “I have spoken to people I have never spoken to before, people who staunchly opposed the previous vote, and who voted against it, and by the time I explain what is going on, they are asking me to sign the petition themselves.”
Sire explained to the board the necessity of bringing the information out to the community, rather than expecting the community to come to district board meetings or informational forums. He offered the help of himself and the group to further aid the board to get out accurate information, and assist in any way.
“When I explain that a straw vote is a non-binding vote only allows the school boards to come up with a model for a merged district, people are happy to sign” said Sira.
Sira said the groups goal is to get the straw vote revisited and passed so that the school boards can perform their due diligence to create a plan that is clear and transparent, outlining how a merged school district would work between Mayfield and Northville.
NCS Board President Jim Beirlein agreed with Sira that accurate information is critical to attaining a straw vote, and credited Sira and his legion for the work they have done.
“I’m impressed with the number of signatures” said Beirlein.
NCS Superintendent Debra Lynker added that she conducted an anonymous survey amongst NCS faculty and staff, and discovered 74 percent were also positively in favor of pursuing the options further themselves.
The number of signatures will be relayed to state education showing that Northville residents are ready to revisit the opportunity of a straw vote.
Back in March of 2011, the Mayfield and Northville Central School Districts received a state grant to explore the possibility of merging. The $35,000 Local Government Efficiency Grant allowed for a feasibility study for combine the districts to move forward. The study was conducted by the SES Study Group.
The Northville School Board and community members in attendance Tuesday night attribute much of the confusion with the merger on the presentation of the study by the SES Study Group.
The first option SES put forward was flatly denied and removed from the table according to Beirlein. The SES Group threw together the basis of a second option that theoretically could work, but in haste, did not check the numbers and figures, which board members and the community quickly noted did not add up.
NCS science teacher Warren Hoffman said he was on the committee that spent over a year working on the study. He noted that the first option, which should have never have been presented was literally “like a bomb” when it was dropped on the community. He then added option two popped up out of nowhere, and was thrown together with no input from the community.
“I was anti-merger going into this, but I left knowing we could do this” said Hoffman, saying he saw great opportunity for the students in both districts and felt the deserved the option.
NCS board member Denny Poulin suggested SES should clean up their work and resubmit a revised plan. NCS Superintendent Lynker said she called for a corrected revision, but her call was never returned from SES.
Both Beirlein and Lynker agreed they need to work amending the second option, but will most likely do so without any further input from the SES Group.
Lyker has contacted the New York State Education Department and is awaiting for direction on how to proceed with another straw vote for the community. She noted the grand number of community members signing the petition to have the vote revisited shows Northville is open to seeking out more information.
Beirlein said the board has been active, met with the Mayfield Central School Board of Education and is continuing to work with them. Discussions of shared services such as a superintendent, a CSE chairperson, and curriculum coordinator are amongst the ideas being discussed.
“These shared services are carrying us and bringing us closer together, further making the possibility of a merged district and easier process” said Beirlein.