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From the Ithaca Journal 12-31-2013

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The S-VE Candor merger vote results:
S-VE      NO 547
              YES 307  

Candor   NO 574
              YES 240

Despite  the election propaganda, scaretactics, distortions, using school money for electioneering and so on.. and on.. only 36% of S-VE voters voted for the merger.
There were even less low-information voters that believed  the propganda in Candor. They got only 29% of the vote there.
The next step is to replace the superintendents and the boardmembers who went against the will, and best interests of their communities. Without majorities of merger opponents on the school boards they will bring it back year after year.  Perhaps you know somebody who would be a good BOE member.  Once the candidates for independent districts are in majority, improvements in superintendents should be on top of the list, bacause both S-VE and Candor are listed toward the bottom of New York's school districts. Click  here  for the listings.  We would be better off with  superintendents who would spend their time  on education and not mergers.  Do you think it is a bit rich when a transient superintendent   works here for a few years and has the gall to try to deprive the Spencer community of the only school in town!                                   

THE PANTHER IS ROARING "STOP THE MERGER"
If you want to join the panther, write to noschoolmerger@gmail.com

REPORT ON THE SUPERINTENDEN'S CAMPAIGN RALLIES FOR THE MERGER OF CANDOR AND SPENCER

The superintendents for S-VE and Candor are on a crusade to push through a merger of the S-VE and Candor school districts. Rallies for that purpose were held at the S-VE High School auditorium on 10-16-2013 and Candor 11-13-2013. My report on the campaign event follows:


THE SUPERINTENDENTS ARE PURER THAN WINDBLOWN SNOW
    S-VE Superintendent Morgan started his presentation by strongly denouncing rumors that the superintendents were pushing the merger for their own personal gain.
     What he forgot to mention was that both he and the Candor superintendent have contracts that go two years past the projected merger date. The merger study on page 77 states that they both have contracts to 2015. Apparently they have talked their school boards to extend the contracts as both superintendents said in Candor that they had contracts to 2016.  They will therefore be paid until the 2016 school year ends with or without a merger. The salary is presently with perks for Morgan $177,000. (Click here for original document on that) That gives us the following possibilities:

  1. Both superintendents refuse the job in the merged district. They get two years pay without working and the taxpayers have to pay for a new superintendent.
  2. Same scenario if both of the superintendents are fired.
  3. If one superintendent continues then he is likely to ask for higher pay because bigger districts pay their school bureacracy more. The other superintendent gets two year’s pay without working.
         I don’s see how the superintendents could lose! No wonder they are on on a crusade for the merger because pocketing $350,000 each  for no work is  a possibility.

SPREADING THE BULL
The superintendents became a laughingstock in their Candor presentation.  The   superintendents gave  high pressure sales pitch where they promised heaven and earth if the merger would go through. One observant man had the entire audience laughing at the pitchmen when he noted that they had already spent the same money THREE TIMES!

THE PROPAGANDA BROCHURE                                        
     A mailing with a two-page brochure glorifying the imagined benefits of the merger came in the mail. There was no return address or other indication from where the brochure came. When you get a mailing without any identification by whom it was sent, you know that the sender does want to avoid responsibility for what is alleged. To my surprise, the same brochure was distributed in the High School auditorium. Seems that taxpayer money was illegally used for campaign propaganda. More about the risks of that later.

THE SPENCER SCHOOL
   The campaign brochure does not even mention that the Spencer school would be abandoned! Why bother put that in the campaign brochure? Perhaps people will not notice before they vote? Abandoning the Spencer school will leave the Spencer community without a school.
     The Spencer school had a costly addition built to it in 2002-3003. We still have to pay back our building loans on it for another 11 years. The total we owe on that project is $16 million, but there is some Van Etten money in the pool. My guess is that the Spencer part is about 10 million dollars. The addition to the Spencer school was a boneheaded mistake to begin with because the student population was already in a free fall. There is also no mention in the campaign litterature that they want build a 3 million-dollar addition to the High School! So the wizards of smart want to close a school that is not half paid for and build an addition to a school a mile away!!!
     The excess capacity was apparent in the district before they built the additions. But they went ahead anyway. (Click here for a list of the geniuses that did it and will still cost you money for another 11 years) When I opposed the waste, I was told that the unused space would be rented out. We were told that the profitable rentals would bring in income and taxes would go down. Right. Not an inch was rented. At the merger campaign rally, I heard for the first time why the taxpayers are stuck with more confiscatory taxation to pay for the past board’s ineptness. There is not much they can do with the building until it is paid for in 2024. The state pitches in on the loan with building aid, and if the building is not used as a school they will not cough up the dough. Can’t sell it or rent it. It could not even be sold for what we still owe for it. The superintendents thought that we should take the 10 million (or whatever the sum is) loss, thus piling one mistake on the other. Seems, that we own a mausoleum.

The abandoning of the Spencer school is so insignificant to the merger pushers that it was not even mentioned as a disadvantage in the campaign material. Thus the loss of the only school in the Spencer community is nothing, but they did mention as a disadvantage losing the school colors and mascot!

SCARE TACTICS?
     What would a high-pressure campaign rally be without scare tactics? Pretty lame, so we were told very scary tales. According to these tales, the merger has to happen right now (before the superintendents contracts run out), otherwise, according to them, the state could force us into the merger and not give out any incentive aid to either district. I tried to listen for valid sources for the claims but it was just stuff that they had heard from some bureaucrat, or what they imagined to be a trend. Nothing in print. I thought that this sounded like a mixture of BS rumor, old-wives-tales and gossip. So I asked if they could back their claims. They said they could. I therefore submitted a Freedom of Information request on all the material they have for forced mergers without state incentive money. It sounded that it happened every morning before breakfast, the way they talked, even S-VE Board Presidnet Jim Loomis chimed in. When the response came to my Freedom of Information request, they had no such record. So we have the same bull, but different matadors. Superintendent Morgan has told tall stories before to manipulate voters. Click here for an example of that. A hyperlink to the Governors' education policy is in an article written by a S-VE parent. Again no support for the superintendents' claims. To read it click the hyperlink under the panther head on top.

PUBLIC HEARING WITHOUT HEARING THE PUBLIC
     The public hearing in S-VE started after the one hour long high pressure sales pitch, People who agreed with the superintendent were in the majority. It seemed that the teacher’s union had given marching orders to their members to be there. The love fest ended when I expressed my doubts about the accuracy of facts in the superintendents’ infomercial. Superintendent Morgan left his place in front of the auditorium and stormed up the isle until he approached the row where I was and started to shout me down. I felt safe, despite my advanced age, because there were a couple of people between the isle and me. I thought I had come to a public hearing where the people can be heard. I did not know that this was a taxpayer financed propaganda session with no balancing opinions allowed.

THE RECKLESS GAMBLE
     The superintendents could not give any guarantee that the state aid they are promising would actually be paid. We therefore only have speculations and promises, no commitments for a penny of money. In Candor one person asked what would happen if the merger went ahead and the promised short term state aid increase would not happen. The superintendents had not even looked into it! They are prepared to commit to enormous new costs, dragging the districts into what could be a financial catastrophe! Every competent manager should look at the worst case risks. There seems to be no standards for school bureaucrats. I was on the S-VE school board in 2005 when state building aid that superintendent Bailey had promised did not get paid. The local taxpayers had to pay it all. Taxes went up 29.9% and that increase is still in the yearly levy.

IMPROPER ADVOCASY
     It is not legal to spend taxpayer money on a high-pressure sales pitch and campaign to pass a merger vote.  When you print a biased propaganda sheet where you, in order to mislead the voters, do not even mention that a school will be abandoned, and promise unlikely benefits, while shouting down skeptics at your campaign rally, you are over the line. So what can happen to people and school districts that engage in such acts of propaganda? The answers are in "School Law."
     The punishment for school bureaucrats who engage in campaigning on school property is that the Commissioner of Education may remove them from office. The campaign material such as the mailing we received is also prohibited if taxpayer money has been used in the production or mailing of it.
     If the Commissioner of Education, John King, finds out about the recent campaign activities of the superintendents he "can withhold state funding from any district that willfully advocates on behalf of the proposed budget or other proposition." If the state aid is pulled for S-VE and Candor we are looking at enormous tax hikes and likely bankruptcies. If the superintendents are fired, that is self-inflicted, and they would be easily replaced, but bankrupting two districts would be a disaster. Regardless of what gain the school bureaucracy hopes to get from the merger, it is beyond the pale to put the district in danger of bankruptcy. The school board has responsibility here also. If they had not unanimously voted to forward the merger, the violations would not have happened. Click here to read the pertinent laws.

THE IMAGINED TAX CUT
     The facilitators from Syracuse who consulted the merger came back to imagined, piddly tax cut eight times in their presentation in September. It was also one of the most stressed issues in the superintendents commercial. Both of them pretended that it is real. They have to have some bone to throw to the taxpayers so they can fool them to support the mess. They know that there will not be any meaningful tax cuts. I asked,  if any of the school board members of either the Candor or Spencer, who were present would guarantee a tax cut. They did not. So if THEY do not believe there will be a tax cut, WHY SHOULD WE? The promises in the propaganda brochure are just promises, not law or policy. A former teacher in the S-VE district asked if the superintendent had contacted any of the districts that had merged to find out what the outcomes had been there. The superintendents said NO. They apparently don’t give a damn what the outcome is, as long as they can force through the merger before their contracts run out. The other possibility is that they know the outcome too well, but don’t want us to find out.

My wife and I have nine years experience on the school board and believe you me: IF THE SCHOOL DISTRICT GETS STATE AID, EVERY PENNY WILL BE SPENT! If there is extra money, the School Board and administrations will return to the happy days when they took a vacation to a ski resort in Colorado!

THE NEW 200-300 MILLION DOLLAR CAMPUS
    Also not mentioned in the campaign brochure is the new campus between Spencer and Candor. We know there will be a push for it, because the consultants said so! They said that in five years or so when the people get tired of the long bus rides and the huge transportation cost, a new campus project will be put forward. Could be something between 200 and 300 million dollars. In any building project, the state gives NO state aid at all to spaces such as hallways, restrooms, conference rooms, parking lots, and office space and maintenance facilities. All of the before mentioned facilities would be needed, and EVERY PENNY IS DIRECTLY FROM THE LOCAL TAXPAYER’S POCKET. There would also have to be gym space and other sport facilities, which are not highly state-aided so the local taxpayer is on the hook for that also. Whatever piddly state aid increase there would be for the merger will not come close to cover that cost.

End of report.
YOUR CHANCE TO STOP THE MERGER IS ON DECEMBER 3. 2013. VOTE IN HIGH SCHOOL.

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Click here for report on the merger infomercial in the High School on Sept 17, 2013
As expected, the hand picked S-VE School Board, voted  to go ahead with the merger with Candor. Click here for details.
The Candor School Board voted to go ahead with merger on Sept 19. Click here for what should happen next.

Disregard For Democracy.
     Did you know that 43% of S-VE school board members, who are deciding about the merger, have not been elected to the Board of Education?
     Three School Board members have resigned since the Board vote in May (Parker, Van Skiver and Eastwood) In adherence to democracy, the practice, in the past has been to fill the vacated position by the person who was the runner-up in the last election. So, for example, when Carol Maltese resigned from the School Board in 2002, Donna Mitsler who was the runner-up in the past election, was plugged in. The runner up in the May election was Rainer Langstedt, who was the only candidate who opposed the merger. He received 349 votes, which is much more than most of the sitting board members had been elected with. He is a long time Board member so he would have hit the ground running.

     The merger mania School board has given democracy a boot, and have plugged in three "yes’ men they expect to support the merger. Now that we can see that merger proponents feel free to disregard the vote, one wonders what will happen in the merger vote.               People should certainly vote down the merger, which would cause enormous damage to our communities. Will the packed School Board pull off the same kind of shenanigans as they did with the building vote, and then pretend that the project had passed? A lot of your money was wasted on illegal campaigning. Click here for a reminder what hooks and crooks were used that time.

Disregard of the Law
     Two grassroots petitions to stop the merger were submitted to the S-VE district clerk. The petitions met all legal requirements. State law requires names to be collected to equal 5% of the voters at the previous district annual meeting. (Budget vote) Eventually there was about twice as many names than legally needed. The petitions were to be voted on together with the budget on May 21. The S-VE school board is now pretending that they can ignore the law. They  refused to put the proposal up for a vote! Click here to read the law that is violated.

In the propaganda that the Superintendent of the Spencer - Van Etten school district distributed to the voters before the 2013 budget vote, he painted a picture that the big tax increase was caused by a $5.1 million cut in state aid since 2011-2012. The claim has no base in fact. Click here to see that the state aid had in fact increased with $300,000.  The superintendent is pushing hard for the merger. After this, how   can we trust him on that? Is that kind of propaganda also part of his push to pass the merger?

A SCHOOL MERGER IS KIND OF SUICIDE, THEREFORE VERY RARE.
     Due to the enormous disadvantages to the districts that merge, mergers are almost unheard of. Only if the school district is so run to the ground that it has no other options than to shut down, does a merger provide short-term life support; but the long-term damage is permanent. Is that the situation in Spencer-Van Etten? If so; we should immediately replace the administration and Board of Education that got us there.

School mergers are very uncommon.
In the past 30 years, we have had only 13 school mergers in New York State.  In 2012 there was an attempt to merge the Herkimer, Ilion and Mohawk districts. Herkimer pulled out. It seems that Ilion and Mohawk were so run to the ground that they did not have other options, they merged in June 2013.  Before that, The last consolidation merger was in 2004 between two Long Island districts.

DOES ANYBODY CARE ABOUT OUR KID'S FUTURES?
The lack of education has put our district in the Schools In Need of Improvement school’s list at least twice in the past 10 years. It was so bad that there was a risk of the state closing down the  S-VE district if things did not improve. Of New York State's 700 school districts, Spencer-Van Etten is ranked toward the bottom at 496, Candor is not much better they rank at 490. Tioga Center is the one to look up to they rank at 273! They of course have an administartion that puts students ahead of mergeres.   Click  here for the stats. Even worse than S-VE are many inner city school districts with tens of thousands of students. Further proof against a merger, because in school districts, bigger is not better. 
      No way can we cut teaching time again, but look at the "points to Consider" from the January merger committee on the S-VE website. " Given the increased distance of Candor students from the merged district high school and the increased of Spencer-Van Etten students from the merged district middle school, the length of the student day probably will (be) less than currently." The school day is presently 5-hours in the Van Etten Elementary.   How much can we cut?

IMPACT ON STUDENTS
    Long bus rides create discipline problems and fatigue, resulting in lower grades.
An increase in transport times will mean a decrease in the hours in school, putting   our students at an academic disadvantage.
     In a bigger school, fewer of our students will be on sports teams due to more students vying for the positions available. This will not only deprive them of the sports experience, but also decrease their chances to be admitted to colleges, as colleges also look for students with varsity sports experience.

LONGER TRANSPORT TIME
     The students most inconvenienced by a merger are the ones that live in Van Etten and towns to the west. The rides will be longer and might include one or more transfers, because running half empty buses from Candor to the Newfield and Erin directions would cost a lot.
    I drove the distance between Candor and Van Etten schools and it took 19 minutes to drive the 12-mile distance. Of the 12 miles 7.7 miles had yellow no passing lines. It would be illegal for a convoy of school busses to pass a bus which is picking up or dropping off students.
      The plan is to shorten the school day to compensate for the longer bus ride. The people of S-VE must decide if we want the kids to sit in a bus, or if the students should spend that time in classroom learning.
     If you are dropping  off and picking up your kids from school, an added 24 mile round trip would be 4320miles per year. At 20 miles per gallon you would burn 216 gallons. If the gas was $3.80 per gallon the added cost would be $820 for the year. The gas price has doubled in the past four years, so the future cost for the transportation could be higher.
    

WHY WORRY? THE ADMINISTRATORS SAY THAT STATE AID WILL PAY FOR  IT!
    The problem is, that the state has no obligation to live up to wild promises that the S-VE school bureaucracy makes in order to fool the voters to vote for more spending.  I was on the Board of Education when, the then superintendent had made promises to the voters of state aid that were ignored by the state. The state could not care less about what promises school bureaucrats dream up to pass a proposal.  As usual,  local taxpayers got stuck with the bill. That was one contributor to the 29.9% tax increase that year. You have not heard of it, because the whole sad affair was hushed up.
     The spending will again be hiked to whatever it takes to dispose of all of the funds. We'll be back to the grand old times when S-VE school administrators and board members took trips to ski resorts in Colorado. 

SAME BULL, DIFFERENT MATADOR
    The people who experienced the merger of Spencer and Van Etten years ago, tell me that the same promises of lower taxes were made then also. They are STILL waiting for the tax cut.
       It is amusing, that superintendent Morgan wrote in a letter to the Editor, that the New York State has somehow shorted the S-VE district   by millions of dollars in aid that was due to be paid.  But now he is a true believer in the state coming trough with all kinds of aid after the merger. At the campaign rally on 10-16-13 Morgan again repeated the state breaking it's promise of paying aid, but a few minutes later he claimed that will increase!  So let's see if the superintendet will put his money where his mouth is: Mr Morgan, will you make a written comittment to pay the diffrence between the aid you promise and the aid we get? (9-21-2013, No response from Mr. Morgan for two months)

  ABANDONING  THE SPENCER SCHOOL.
The S-VE school board unanimously put forward the merger proposal that would close and abandon the Spencer school, and build more space in the High School. Abandoning one new building and building another new one is an idea that can only make sense to a school bureaucrat!  That will leave Spencer without  a school. People do not want to live in a village without a school. Therefore there will be a drop in real estate values in the village where the school is killed. Spencer was also the school where most of the $16 million dollars that we still owe was spent.
    The proponents of the merger have not mentioned in their capmaign material the huge amounts of money that the S-VE district owes. That is 22 million building loans outstanding.  We are only about halfway paying   for the 2001 building additions. Sixteen million dollars are owed. The payments will continue to 2024. There is also a later project that I do not have an amortization table for, because it took place after I left the School Board.  Click here to read what the school establishment has pulled off in the past.

I'M MAD AS HELL, AND I WON'T TAKE IT ANYMORE!
When I was on the School Board,  the parents complained about the long transports for kids from Erin and   Newfield directions. Do you think that these parents would condemn their kids to add more time on a roundtrip to Candor? I recall a petition from parents from Newfield to break away from the S-VE district because they claimed that their students sat on the bus for 1hr. 45 minutes one way. The people can pull out their kids, send them to other schools, and take the state aid with them!

THE NEW CAMPUS BETWEEN SPENCER AND VAN ETTEN
Ten years ago we had  additions made to the Spencer Middle School  and Van Etten Elementary School which left us with an enormous overcapacity. (Click here to read how the voters were fooled) Using New York State guidelines we could presently house about 2500 students in our present school buildings. We have 960. Yet we hear that a merger would necessitate more construction!
   The facilitators hinted in their original presentation that a new campus usually was built between the towns within 5 years of a merger. That's  when people get tired of the long rides and high transport cost.
     What could the cost for a new campus be?   The addition of 18 classrooms in 2002 is estimated to cost  just under 30 million dollars when it is paid for in 2024.  There would have to be gyms and other sportfacilities, bus facilities etc.  built also so I'm guessing that the cost would be about ten times the addition cost from 2002. That's about 300 million dollars.