The school bureaucracy and school board wasted almost a year on the merger with Candor.
So what did it cost us? As the emphasis was not on education, our district ranking
fell to 485 from the top out of 694 districts in New York. Then in May of 2014 we
fell to 506. Check for yourself at Schooldigger here . We are in the bottom
quarter and sinking. Is this the start our children deserve to begin their life in a
WHAT CAN BE DONE TO FOCUS ON EDUCATION FOR A CHANGE?
We know how fervently the school
bureaucracy pushed the merger in 2013 and it could be a yearly campaign as long as
there are a majority on the board who support the merger.
At the 2014 "Meet the Candidates night four candidates came
out against the merger. They are Elizabeth Hays, Don Johnson, Brian Cornell and TJ
If the four candidates who are against
the merger are all elected, they will be the majority on the school board and the merger
will be stopped for as long as they remain the majority. This is a chance to put the
divisive merger frenzy behind us and concentrate once again providing futures for our
students. The vote is on Tuesday May 20, in the High School. 12:00 to 9:00 PM. Please vote
if you care for our community.
Closing the Van Etten School
In 2013 the Spencer community was to lose its school as a part of
a merger. Now it is Van Ettens turn. That school is on the cutting block. Closing
the Van Etten school fits in so well with the next round to push for a merger with Candor.
Once the Van Etten School is closed the campaign pitch will be:" The Erin and Van
Etten kids are already bussed to Spencer, so the INCREASE in bussing time is the same for
all. This makes it even more important to elect the above-mentioned candidates who would
oppose the merger.
Below a snippet of an article about the proposed closing from
"Newsfromtown.com" and a hyperlink to the full article.
Morgan presented options for the boards consideration. "The Elementary
School has 405 students enrolled and is 70,354 square feet. The Middle School has 295
students enrolled within 107,802 square feet." Morgan said operating the elementary
school requires $475,186 for utilities, supplies, custodial staff, the principal, nurses,
and secretaries. The middle school needs $473,381 to fund the same.
If the elementary school is closed, the current middle
school could serve 517 pre-kindergarten through sixth grade students and the Dartts Cross
Road campus would become the school for 434 seventh through twelfth graders. The high
school has room for up to 550 students.
Click below for the full article.
One strong voice against the merger is 2014 School Board candidate Elizabeth Hays.
Below her profile in the Random harvest newspaper.
How long have you lived in Spencer?
I moved to Spencer in 1990, so I have lived in Spencer for 24 years. I also grew
up in the area and attended Ithaca and Lansing schools.
Why are you running for school board?
I would like to be a member of the school board because I care deeply about the
education my children and other children receive, and would like them to have the best
opportunities possible. I also have also seen our property taxes rise every
year and I think we can use our money more efficiently. I believe this combination
of interests provides a good balance for a board member and that I would contribute in a
What special skills or experience do you have that make you the best candidate for the
I have a very strong interest in quality preK-12 education and have experience and
knowledge from many different perspectives through my previous positions. I was the
Coordinator for the Agriculture in the Classroom National Resource Director and
Coordinator for the Danby Agricultural and Environmental School initiative, positions
where I worked with the NY State Dept. of Education, the NY State Senate, United States
Department of Agriculture, TST BOCES, and Tompkins County Board of Representatives.
I have strong marketing skills, and I think I could do a great deal to attract people to
our area and create a more positive image as I did when I was Vice President of the Ithaca
Farmers Market and the chair of the publicity committee. I currently work at
Cornell University in the Department of Human Development where I support the faculty in
this department. I am accustomed to working successfully with people with diverse
styles and opinions and achieving great results.
Is there a particular issue youre especially focused on?
Im focused on increasing, promoting, and protecting the many positives we have at
SVE, and helping to create pride for the amazing things this school and our students have
to offer including exceptional teachers, excellent facilities, a safe environment,
individual attention, outstanding athletic and music programs, and a lot of really
talented, involved, and smart students! I was very much opposed to the
proposed SVE-Candor school merger for many reasons including the long transportation
rides, what would have been a 230 square mile school district, the great distance between
the schools, larger classroom size, the loss of community from closing the Spencer Middle
School, the debt that would still be owed on the 2002 addition to that building, and the
financial unsustainability and enormous unexplored expenses of the proposal.
Im very concerned about the recent proposal to close the Van Etten Elementary School
and I would examine that proposition in detail with careful attention.
What do you hope to see the school board do in the coming years?
I believe that a small school can provide the best educational opportunities,
individualized attention, and opportunities for excellence, and that we have a lot to
offer that can be strengthened. I would like to see us build on our strengths and to
see a continuous stream of positive publicity, and attract more people to this district.
I would also like us to evaluate our expenditures in detail, provide better
transparency, accountability, and communication between the board and the community, and
The History of a Failed Merger Attempt
The S-VE Candor merger vote results Dec, 3, 2013:
S-VE NO 547
Candor NO 574
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
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 email@example.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
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
- 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.
- Same scenario if both of the superintendents are fired.
- 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 years
pay without working.
I dons 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
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
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 boards
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. Cant 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!
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 teachers 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.
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
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
dont 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 dont 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 TAXPAYERS 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.
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.
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
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
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
schools 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.
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
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
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.