By LARRY McFADDEN
I'm writing in regard to the negative vote on the Westfield-Brocton merger vote. Our merger committee (comprised of 10 people from each school and two students from each school), along with both school boards, the administration, clerical teams from each school, and the four hired consultants worked on the merger project tirelessly for 14 months. All of the facts, of all the facets of both schools were presented.
There were NO facts hidden. There were more than 20 open public hearings presented and there were NO negative problems or comments that needed to be addressed. All of the public hearings seemed to be totally positive.
Members of the Brocton school board and administration were stunned by the defeat of the merger with Westfield.
Any minor problems were corrected, but the main focus was threefold. Number one: to lower taxes for everyone and businesses in Brocton and Westfield (that was achieved). Number two: present the best possible educational system for our students in both districts (that was achieved). Number three: to keep both schools solvent as one system for many, many years (that was achieved). Note: Both schools will be bankrupt in a few short years!
The consultants had 23 recommendations. But, remember, they are only recommendations. Your new Board of Education (elected by a combined majority vote of both school districts) decides on contracts, transportation, teachers, school sites, etc.
Why then were there all of a sudden 700 negative votes? At the numerous open public meetings, numerous board meetings, and other discussions there was no indication of negative feelings (thus the negative votes).
Now that I'm almost entirely retired, my main focus is to help the schools and communities of Westfield, Brocton and Portland in any way I can. I feel my family has many, many friends in Westfield. We have always looked fondly toward Westfield and I admire their excellent school system and the community in general. I was even considering running for school board if the merger vote was positive. Can anyone tell me why anyone or any group of people would undermine this merger vote with a negative letter addressed to all the Westfield residents with totally untrue negative facts telling them to vote NO? Whoever wrote that letter did not sign his or her name or give an identity. This was a cowardly act toward the Westfield district students.
If you voted "no" because of this letter or some hearsay mentioned to you, shame on you. I give you credit for making the effort to vote. It's your duty and privilege to do such. But where was your vote on the straw vote? Why were your negative intentions not brought up at any of the public hearings or board meetings? I know that you people in Westfield are better than that! Don't hold your Westfield students' education hostage because someone tried to drive down your throat to vote NO.
Approximately 1,200 students from Westfield and Brocton want you to give them the best educational opportunities possible. Be aware that within five years, the Westfield school will be bankrupt, yes, I said bankrupt. The facts are all in the findings. Please go online or see a merger committee person and get a copy of the real facts. Don't give up the $25 million offered from the state to merge for the good of your students. Don't let New York state step in and tell you where your students will go. Believe me, they have a system in place to do just that and without any mandatory incentive (thus no money).
There is still time to right this ship. It can be revisited and voted on after one year and one day from this past vote. I'm begging with you people not to let this once-in-a-lifetime offer pass you by.
I suggest some strong leaders of the Westfield community form a committee to get petitions and committee members to run an entirely positive campaign to revisit this merger. You can contact me for help. Don't let this opportunity escape the good people of Westfield. Your students are depending on you. Westfield proved what a great village and school system you have with the last month's football tragedy and how well you handled it.
Please, someone, step forward in Westfield quickly and form a "Revisit the vote" committee. When anyone sees the entire report there is NO reason against this merger.
Do the right thing for the Westfield school district children. Don't let the students of your district suffer because of a few negative-thinking individuals.
The Westfield and Brocton boards, teachers and students are presently working extremely well together. Please don't let this great opportunity go by and give up $25 million dollars to enhance our most important product. That product is by far our students' education. Everyone's taxes will go down, the schools will stay open for years to come, and again, our students get the best education in our entire country.
Larry McFadden is a Portland resident.