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Morristown gears up for public hearing on regional high school

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MORRISTOWN – Although there is currently no state law guiding the establishment of a regional high school, Morristown Central School is gearing up for a public hearing that would help guide future discussions on the subject.

After meetings with the administration at Heuvelton and Hermon-DeKalb Central Schools, Morristown Superintendent David J. Glover said, “We’re holding onto this regional approach because it’s the only thing that’s being offered to us.”

Talks of a regional high school have been bolstered recently as school budgets across the region have gutted fund balances and been squeezed between state mandates and tax caps.

Speaking at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting, board member Jane Kring said, “We’re spending money we don’t have this year, we’re going to be spending money we don’t have next year, and then we’re done.”

Currently Morristown has a fund balance of $1.5 million. Mr. Glover said the fund balance is not being refilled, however, as money is increasingly being withdrawn to close budgetary needs.

“We are at the point where we need teacher and parent conversations [about regional high schools],” said Mr. Glover, adding that the public hearing should be scheduled sometime before Thanksgiving.

The pressure on the school is evident as the board attempts to balance fiscal realities with educational obligations.

Last year’s budget deliberations, that cost the school five full-time teaching positions, teachers aids, and bus drivers, have come back to haunt the board this year as students who passed Spanish Three attempt to proceed to higher course levels.

Currently five students have expressed interest in Spanish Four, but because instructor Liz Congleton was moved to a 3/4-time position last year, the class has not been available yet this year.

Board member Mark Tayler proposed increasing Ms. Congleton back to a full-time position so that Spanish Four could be reinstated.

The measure was voted down with Mr. Taylor, President Cyril Aldrich and board member Mary Anne Bailey voting in favor of reinstating Ms. Congleton as a full time instructor.

Ms. Bailey said the board needs to ensure students are getting adequately prepared for college while Vice President Darrell Merkel said he was “offended” at the idea of the board going back and revising last year’s efforts to close the budget.

“There are an awful lot of factors that went into last year’s budget,” he said.

The board finally decided to place a signup sheet in the district office that students can use to signify their interest in Spanish Four and Five. If more than seven students signup, the Board will reconsider their decision regarding Ms. Congleton’s position.

That decision will be made at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 2 at a special meeting of the Board.

Mr. Glover said state legislators and local school administrators are gearing up for regional high schools as situations like Morristown’s Spanish program become increasingly common.

“The conversation is there and it’s real,” he said, adding, “There aren’t any easy decisions left.”

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