WESTPORT — Based on their comments, most members of the Merger Advisory Committee appear to see wisdom in combining Elizabethtown-Lewis and Westport central schools.
After a recent presentation of findings, each committee member was asked to comment on the process or feelings on whether the merger should take place.
Here are the essences of each response:
Josh Meyer (WCS Principal): "I see this as a reasonable way to increase progress. The state may require this. What the future would look like we don’t know, but we are taking our best guess."
Kathleen White (ELCS community): "I came into this process for the good of the schools and then realized how much we could gain. I’m impressed."
Jason Fiegl (WCS teacher and parent): "The people need to look at what is the school like and the opportunities. It’s the responsibility of the boards and towns to see what will happen if we don’t merge. I encourage you to show the information so people are voting with information. Passions come into this, so we need to look at the data."
Pam Nicolas (WCS community): "Our No. 1 priority is to get the information out to the community."
James Monty (community, parent, Lewis supervisor): "We deal with taxes every day. State aid is going down. We need to look at 20 years down the road. What is essential in the community is its school. We need to stabilize taxes and increase programming."
Michelle Feely (ELCS teacher and parent): "I wear multiple hats as I have two children entering school. We need to look at the sustainability of the programs and make sure decisions are made for the long run."
Rob Witkiewicz (ELCS principal): "I came in with an open mind. I lived through a merger of three communities. If you take emotion and mudslinging out of the picture and just look at data, it’s a no brainer. The positives greatly outweigh the negatives. We need to embrace the future and see what we can give our kids. We would be remiss not to do the best for our students while being responsible to the taxpayers. To me, it’s clear cut."
Judy French (WCS support staff): "This is such a serious topic. It’s tough living in the Adirondacks. I learned a lot by being on this committee. This is a good thing for the taxpayers."
Alexis Doherty (WCS student): "I came in skeptical, but now I realize how necessary it is to merge."
Dana Garvey (ELCS parent, community): "I came in open minded. I am pro-merger. A fact is a fact. We can’t sustain the way we are now. We need to get the correct information out now and look at it."
Tonya Lackey (WCS teacher): "We need to think of the best interests of our students."
Paul Buehler (ELCS teacher, parent): "I’ve got to give my kids more. I am ready to embrace the future. In 20 years, we would have to screw up badly to be back to where we are now. I have faith in the future."
Keegan Sewell (ELCS student): "I used to think two things were important. One was sports, but that is no longer a reason, as we have already merged. The second is academics. A merged district would give us greater potential with additional classes that I can’t take at present. The opportunities of a merger outweigh tradition and school spirit."
Sarah Kullman (ELCS community, parent): "The possibilities of a new district are amazing. We can also affect what we have lost. There are many residents who don’t have kids. We need to tell them how it will benefit them, such as new people coming into the community."
Cena Abramo (WCS community, parent): "It would be hard to see two districts more able to merge. We are lacking resources. I was looking for a solution. We need help, and there it is. This is a true pioneering effort. This is a big risk, but it is something we have to do."
Scott Gibbs (WCS community): "This has been an eye opener. It is an emotional issue. To these communities, there is a lot to identity. I have a lot of optimism about smaller communities. I see good signs in Westport. Slowly, but it happens. You can’t tell people it’s a no-brainer. I can see the positive. I am more concerned with the non-financial aspects. It’s my job to give factual information. I have confidence and support it either way."
Deb Spaulding (ELCS staff, director of transportation): "I graduated from Westport and have a lot of great memories. It’s time to think of my grandkids and what both high schools have lost. I still have Eagles pride, but it’s time to think of the future."
Ryan Hathaway (ELCS community): "I feel the state will impart its will one way or another. My family has a lot to lose if this goes south. The hardest part is we don’t have a set plan, and I have a hard time with the trust factor."
Sam Sherman (WCS community): "They talk about if we build a new school. If there is one new school, we have two white elephants. Perhaps we can include Moriah. This merger will just create another small school in the eyes of New York state. There is more to it than what you put in here (the study)."