School district consolidation discussed

Consolidation is back on the table, thanks to a push from an unlikely source: Southold Board of Education member Judi Fouchet.
“It’s very hard for me to do this because I was born and raised here,” at a time when Greenport, Southold and Mattituck were very separate and “never the twain shall meet,” Ms. Fouchet said at the board’s Oct. 27 meeting. But since the board polled its own taxpayers last year, the issue has never been put to rest, she said. Parents generally opposed studying the concept, while other taxpayers expressed some support for considering the idea, she said.
“Things are not getting better economically and enrollment is declining,” Ms. Fouchet said. She doesn’t think consolidation of all five districts would work, but suggested it might for Southold, Greenport and Oysterponds.
Nonetheless, the board asked Superintendent David Gamberg to approach superintendents from all districts to see if their boards might have interest in launching a study.
The superintendent said that, in “looking at the things that bother me educationally,” some are problems that follow from a small district’s limited resources.
“I’m not saying there aren’t obstacles,” Ms. Fouchet said about consolidation. She also said she wasn’t suggesting it as an option for purely economic reasons.
“From a pure educational perspective,” there could be advantages, Ms. Fouchet said.
“All of our administrators are so stretched” trying to do so many things, she said. And student athletic teams and clubs and even academic offerings are sometimes limited because of the small numbers of students in any one district, she said.
Board member Scott DeSimone suggested that a shared regional high school might be worth looking into, while keeping the elementary and junior high school students in local neighborhoods.
Southold got a clean bill of health from its external auditors at Cullen & Danowski, LLP, Ms. Fouchet reported. But their call for a complicated change in the district’s financial statements to comply with state rules wouldn’t add to the district’s knowledge of its fiscal status, she said. Like Southold, 70 percent of the state’s school districts don’t comply with the requirement, she said.
Also, the auditors suggested that the district hire an independent purchasing agent, rather than delegating that responsibility to business manager Steve Harrison. It’s something the board wants to explore by looking to other districts to determine what they do, Ms. Fouchet said.
GRANT application ok
The board is supporting an application for a $25,000 grant by the Peconic Land Trust that would underwrite a program involving students with Southold Senior Services and the town Youth Bureau to create an agricultural program at Charnews Farm on Youngs Avenue. The program would give students an opportunity to learn about nutrition and wellness while interacting with town seniors, Mr. Gamberg said.
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