Saturday, February 02, 2008

NYM at the Cross Roads . . .

This week, the Observer-Dispatch's editors raised the possibility of merging the N.Y. Mills school district with nearby larger districts. The time to think about this is ripe.

NY Mills is at a cross roads. The voters have said that they are financially tapped out and cannot afford to "keep up with the Joneses." Does NYM want to merge or remain separate? What is best for the children? There are advantages and drawbacks to either alternative.

Merger with a larger district would permit NYM children to have access to programs and services beyond the capability of the village school district to support. With merger, it will be more likely that parents find programs that suit their children's personal aptitudes, needs and/or interests.

Remaining separate will mean that what is available to children will be limited. The children would have to do without some things.

Remaining separate, however, will also mean that busing times will never be overwhelming, leaving time for other pursuits. The school will retain its identification with the community, encouraging parental and community involvement. School employees will be more likely to know the children, because their numbers will be limited. Since the students will have more time in the community, the community will know its students better as well.

Small does not necessarily mean low quality. Notre Dame High School back in the 60s offered maybe 2 electives -- that was it. UFA, meanwhile, seemed to have every course imaginable. In spite of the limited offerings, Notre Dame turned out to be fantastic preparation for college. The school focused on what was most important, and did it well. More than 90% of its graduates went on to college.

I do not know what is more important to NYM residents: retaining its own identity and remaining small, or merging with another district to offer more to its children. But staying separate with a limited budget does not have to be a "bad" thing, and merger is not necessarily "good."

It all depends upon how either is done.

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