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Oppenheim-Ephratah Board of Education discuss proposed St. Johnsville merger at meeting

By HILARY LANE

ST. JOHNSVILLE, N.Y. (WKTV) - Concerned residents voiced their concerns at a board of education meeting Thursday night at Oppenheim-Ephratah Central School.

Last Tuesday, the Oppenheim-Ephratah Board of Education decided against a public vote to approve a possible merger with St. Johnsville Central School District.

"I feel that it is our democratic right to do a straw vote and let the public speak," says Mary Ann Charon, an Oppenheim resident. "They are seven people and it doesn't seem fair to let them make a decision for this school district."

Both Boards of Education need to approve a community vote before the school districts can combine.

The St. Johnsville Board of Education decided unanimously to allow their community to vote on the proposal.

Officials say a merger would provide the combined school district with close to $14 million in state incentive funding over the next 14 years.

"I think both communities are losing out on maintaining their educational program, keeping teachers and staff members employed, stabilizing the tax levy, and offering some enhanced programs for students," says Ralph Acquaro, the St. Johnsville Superintendent.

Both school districts have lost close to half a million dollars in state aid over the past five years.

Jay Countryman, an Oppenheim Board of Education member, tells us he voted against the proposal because 15 minutes before the board was set to vote, members were made aware of a state report deeming St. Johnsville Central School buildings unsatisfactory.

A representative from the St. Johnsville Central School District tells us all necessary repairs are scheduled to be completed by summer 2012, before the merger would occur.

This information was presented to the Oppenheim-Ephratah board Thursday night.

Oppenheim-Ephratah Board Member Countryman says he hopes to have his concerns addressed Thursday evening, and then will re-evaluate his decision.

If the Oppenheim-Ephratah Board of Education does decide to reconsider their decision, the public vote would be set for November 1.

A final referendum could happen December 7, and if this merger becomes a reality, the new district would form in July 2012.

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