RIPLEY - Tuitioning of Ripley Central School students to Chautauqua Lake Central School can proceed for 2013-14 while the state Education Department reviews a filing seeking to void the tuitioning agreement.
On Tuesday, Ripley Central School officials said the state education commissioner's office has denied a request the state block all steps to implement the tuitioning of Ripley's seventh through 12th grade students until he issues a final decision on an appeal seeking to void the February 5, 2013, vote approving the tuitioning. The determination was contained in a letter dated today and faxed to the attorneys of the parties to the appeal.
Wanda Bentley, Jason Bentley and a number of unidentified persons said to be Ripley residents served the appeal papers on July 5. In those papers they asked the commissioner to stop all actions with respect to the tuitioning until the commissioner issues a final decision in the case. With the commissioner's decision not to issue a stay, the Ripley and Chautauqua Lake school districts can proceed with steps to have Ripley's 7-12 students attend school in Chautauqua Lake beginning in September. A final decision on the appeal is not expected for at least six months, and it could be considerably longer before it is issued.
A similar lawsuit had been filed in state Supreme Court in Chautauqua County, but it was withdrawn. The court has marked the case as disposed.
"The board has been confident all along that there is no valid basis to set aside the results of the district vote that approved the tuitioning of our seventh through 12th (grade) students," said Robert Bentley, Ripley Central School board president. "We see the denial of the stay as a clear indication that the vote was in all respects valid and proper. We remain fully confident that the commissioner's final decision will support the actions of the board 100 percent."
As to the withdrawal of the court proceeding, Bentley said, "We never understood why that matter was filed with the court, since the law clearly states that these issues are to be decided by the commissioner of education. It is unfortunate that the district has to spend tax dollars to defend itself against these baseless claims, but at least now we do not have to defend our actions in two different proceedings. "