WESTFIELD - Former Westfield Academy and Central School board member Mark Winslow attended a recent school board meeting and spoke up during public comment regarding a resolution on the agenda stating the board supported the creation of a regional high school bill.
Board member Marie Edwards said the goal of the resolution was to see how much support there was across the state, and board President Jeff Greabell said, while the option might be on the back burner for Westfield, it was important to other districts. Both Edwards and board member Phyllis Hagen noted it was important to keep all options open for the future. The resolution did not mean it is mandatory for Westfield to be part of a regional high school if a bill passes.
Westfield and Brocton are in the process of getting a study done regarding the merger of Westfield and Brocton school districts.
Winslow said he knows the board wrote the resolution to be generic, but he reminded newer board members the option of a regional high school was available for years. What the new law attempted to do was allow such a school by board vote only and add in state aid.
"Technically, we have had this available to us forever," Winslow said. "To me, to have (state aid) as the biggest reason that we want a regional high school always gets me because we should be able to be more efficient and not less efficient. So why would we be so hung up on state aid rather than what is best for the students?"
He also suggested the board keep the option of tuitioning students, which he believes the board has not addressed enough, on the back burner along with the regional high school option.
Edwards responded to his statement during board member commentary when she said with the regional high school option teachers would have Pell rights, or first hiring rights, whereas if Westfield tuitioned its students, teachers would have no rights at the new school. Additionally, she said the point for the board versus popular vote was an attempt to take emotion out of the decision, adding the most recent bill had the popular vote as a requirement.
"There are some really deep differences besides the fact that there's state aid tied to that that are better than ... just tuitioning," Edwards said.
In her board commentary on Aug. 13, Edwards talked about how much she has learned about the legislative process while working on the regional high school bill.
"It has been very, very eye-opening," she said. "We think we can just do something, we come up with an idea and ... literally three years, four years later and we still have more of a process to go through. ... We can't start the year we think we need it. We need to start three years before we think we need it."
At the Aug. 27 meeting, Greabell noted the bill introduced in the State Legislature may be completely different from those introduced up to this point.
"It's an on-going process," he said.
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