Committee Presents Closure Report To CVCS Board

SINCLAIRVILLE – The Cassadaga Valley Central School board is one step closer to voting on the closure of Cassadaga Elementary.

The committee charged with reporting to the board about the closure delivered its report Monday at a special board meeting.

The closure would take effect for the 2013-14 school year, and in all likelihood the board will vote on the matter at its regular meeting next Monday at 7 p.m.

In addition to the board, administrators, some committee members and members of the public attended the meeting.

The mood of those attending was subdued. As David Christy, Board of Education president, said at the meeting’s close, “It’s a difficult decision. … Everyone’s points tonight were well-made. Nobody is yelling.”

The committee’s final report was available to all those who attended and held no surprises for those who have been attending board meetings or following the committee’s deliberations. The emphasis was on the enrollment decline projected and the estimated cost savings that would be realized by closing the building.

As Superintendent Scott Smith has emphasized since the beginning of the school year, the school population has been declining. Since 1992, it has declined by 422 students. This year’s total enrollment is 1,046 students; the projection for next year is 967 students.

Estimated cost savings projected by Debra McAvoy, business administrator, total $442,611. Of that figure $387,463 comes from personnel savings, which includes two full-time equivalent teachers and 8.23 support staff positions. No administrator is in that figure.

One member of the public asked how the capacity of the Sinclairville Elementary Building was determined. After some exchange, John Kwietniewski, Sinclairville principal, said it was figured at 22 students per classroom. He noted that the district tries to keep classes reasonable in size. He said it was not based on a fire code number since the gym itself can hold about 400 people.

Mark Cunningham, introducing himself as John Q. Public, had a number of points.

Cunningham came to the area with his family three years ago, and the Cassadaga Elementary School was a positive in his decision.

“It was the charm of the village that brought us here,” he said. “I also understand (the financial situation). I get it; it is tough. But you can’t put a price on a child’s education. Sometimes even though you save dollars, you are not making sense.”

He cautioned that an unoccupied building is an “attractive nuisance” for criminals and also noted that school buildings can be hard to sell.

Robert Ozma gave his opinion that all the students should be located in the same area as the Cassadaga Middle/High School.

Referring to the effort to reconfigure the building use, he said, “Five years ago, the ping pong match began. To keep the buildings, we have to increase taxes. There is no other magic. … We are rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.”

Trish Pecuch, a teacher at Cassadaga Elementary, said she had not planned to speak, but decided to put forward a couple of points. First she noted that lists of pros and cons can be made, but sometimes a particular factor may have more weight than others. Noting there were positives to closing as well as positives to reevaluating, she asked the board to carefully weigh the lists.

While the report is not online at this point, the district’s website notes that those who would like further information on this should contact the superintendent.