District to conduct “building reorganization” study

MJTFacing an uncertain future, the Granville Central School District will explore how it can deliver educational opportunities in a more cost effective manner.
The Board of Education on Monday authorized the district to hire the SES Study Team to conduct a “building reorganization study.”
“The bottom line is we can’t stay stagnant. We need to determine where the population is shifting and where the costs are,” Superintendent Mark Bessen said. “The premise is how do we best serve our students and how do we do it in a fiduciary responsible way.”
The idea of conducting a study was first broached during a budget workshop in February. Looking for ways to save the district money, board member John McDermott asked about the possibility of consolidating Mary J. Tanner and the Elementary School. Officials wondered if the district could realize a savings on administrative, custodial, energy and maintenance costs by consolidating the two schools.
Those savings, however, aren’t guaranteed and officials were uncertain whether such a change was even feasible and it was suggested the district conduct a study to learn more.
Over the past several weeks, Bessen and members of the district’s Building Committee met with two consulting firms that study the consolidation and reorganization of school districts and agreed to hire the SES Study Team, a Canastota, N.Y.-based firm led by Dr. Paul Seversky, a former superintendent and deputy district superintendent of a BOCES. The study is expected to cost the district between $11,500 and $12,000.
“He’s very well versed in these studies and is more focused on what’s good for Granville and not what other districts have done,” Eric Scribner, Board President, said.
Bessen said Seversky will not necessarily study the consolidation of the schools directly, but will examine the district in a more holistic manner.
“He will look at more efficient ways or patterns our K-12 program can be implemented and delivered in the future. What does that mean? We don’t know.
(Consolidation) may not be the right answer. It may be; it may not be. We have to do our due diligence. By doing the study, it puts more credibility to whatever decisions the board may make in the future,” Bessen said. “You have to go into this without a predetermined end.”
Seversky will look at a number of factors including historical enrollment at each grade level and the projected pattern of tuition students (the district receives money from the state of Vermont for each resident that attends school in Granville).
He will also examine community demographics that might provide evidence as to whether enrollment will continue to decline (at one point the district had 1,300 students but is now between 1,000 and 1,100) or if that trend would reverse.
“It may be that in 6 or 7 years two buildings would work, but then there’s a bubble and you have more kids coming into the district,” Bessen said.
After the study is complete, which could occur as early as the end of the year, Seversky will present his findings to the board and offer courses of action the district can take. Those findings would be shared with the public and the board would determine a plan.
Seversky’s findings will be augmented by a separate building condition survey and five-year capital facilities plan that will be conducted by Tetra Tech Architects and Engineers. Whereas Seversky will take a more holistic approach, Tetra Tech will be focused on the school’s infrastructure and will determine any improvements the district needs to make to its physical structures. That study will cost $7,888.
“They will examine the building and what our facilities need. It will put a dollar and cents figure on how much it actually costs to operate three buildings,” Bessen said.
The “building organization study” is part of an overall strategy to examine ways in which the district can save money.
District officials have not been shy about expressing the financial difficulties the district is facing in three or four years if state aid levels are not increased. Bessen and Cathy Somich, the district’s business manager, have warned the district could use up its fund balance and run out of operating money in three or four years if aid isn’t increased or taxes raised in excess of what’s permitted under the state’s property tax cap. The district has already decided to go ahead with a single-tier bus system beginning with this school year in an attempt to save money.
“In these times it’s critical that we always have an eye on the goal of serving our students in a fiduciary responsible way,” Bessen said.

In other matters, the board approved the appointments of six new teachers.
Lauren Beaulieu was hired as a math teacher, Leslie Allegretto and Nancy Leighton were hired as special education teachers, Julia Rooney was hired as a reading teacher, Grace Scott will teach early childhood education and Andrea Tabor will be a visual arts teacher.
Officials also accepted the resignations of teaching assistant Beverly Gutowski, food service helper Mary Monger and art teacher Sanda Weber.

Letters detailing the specifics of the change to a single-tier bus system were expected to be mailed this week.
A generic letter was mailed to residents last week stating the change. The new letter will include information specific to each student, such as the bus number, approximate pickup and drop off time, and other details.

The next meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Aug. 25.

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