A letter to the editor this week, "BOCES expansion deserves support" by Mr. Bottini, was an attention-getter with the line:
" If the project was not justified on its own merit, and it is, the support of Mettleman, Danella and Markley warrants our vote of confidence. "
To be sure, Supt. Mettleman, Ms. Danella, Ms. Markley, and Mr. Bottini himself, are passionate, compassionate, determined and capable administrators and educators. There appears to be no reason to doubt their interest or sincerity.
However, the vote on a $39 million dollar project should never be turned into a popularity contest or a "vote of confidence." Instead, it should be based on reason and facts.
This blog has already pointed out that institutionalization of "Alternative Education" at BOCES may harm students and taxpayers alike by allowing local school districts to escape solving a problem largely of their own creation. If the public demands that their local schools solve the problem represented by Alternative Education, the need for Alternative Education would go away. From that perspective, keeping Alternative Education in their rented facilities makes sense; -- if the paint is peeling, go out and buy a bucket of it!
This blog has also already explained how the expansion plan could harm the prospects for Special Education students (and possibly even run counter to the "mainstreaming" or "education in the least restrictive environment" federal rules); further contribute to a "gulag" or "concentration camp" image of the BOCES facility; while doing nothing to alleviate existing disincentives for students to take up vocational/career education subjects.
While consolidation under one roof is believed to be more cost-effective, where are the numbers to support the conclusion? Some costs may be avoided, but others will be incurred. If classrooms are created, others may be left behind -- where are they and who will pick up those costs? This blogger understands that BOCES may be currently renting space with local school districts such as Westmoreland. Consolidation may not only increase those districts' costs, it would make services less convenient to students located therein. As Ross Perot used to say, "the devil is in the details." The details need to be provided to the public. One detail we can be sure of: when debt-service and associated costs are added in, the taxpayers will be paying out a lot more than $39 million.
How about alternatives? The Utica City School District seems hell-bent to blow $300 million of our state tax dollars supposedly at little to no cost to local property taxpayers . . . How about doing something that many have said is needed? Why not team up with BOCES and build a vocational education facility for BOCES in Utica, integrated into Proctor? It would relieve BOCES' space problem and its need to tax for the expansion, bring career education to where the greatest demand exists, allow for voc-ed to be integrated with academic courses (because the cross-town bus ride would be eliminated), and effectively remove the "stigma" currently associated with BOCES.
For the sake of the students and the communities who will pay the bill, these are concerns that must be addressed squarely, and not avoided by letters to the editor focusing on personalities, generalities, and appeals to emotion.