After two hours of heartfelt and impassioned pleas tonight to the Oppenheim-Ephratah Central School Board of Education, district residents will now be able to vote on whether to move forward with a merger with the St. Johnsville Central School District.
With an emotional “yes” vote by Jay Countryman, the O-E board carried a motion to allow residents an option they had taken off the table just last week.
“I originally at the past meeting said no because I didn’t think we had the community support for this,” said Countryman. “And I didn’t think the information was out there…I’m going to vote yes.”
A lively crowd of 213 — including parents, taxpayers, teachers, retired teachers, students, even two sheriff’s deputies — filled the school cafeteria to voice their opinions. They ranged from support for the merger, support for the board’s prior decision and confusion over school funding, tax rates and building conditions. But the public overwhelmingly turned out to ask why the board had stripped its right to vote.
By the end of the contentious meeting, the board voted 4-3 in support of a Nov. 1 straw vote, which will gauge community support for merging.
The advisory referendum is only the second step of the process. If residents of both the St. Johnsville and Oppenheim-Ephratah districts approve a merger, officials would then submit a merger request for approval by the state Department of Education. Upon state approval, an official referendum would be held Dec. 7 to formally approve the merger.
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Categories: Schenectady County