Montgomery County

Fort Plain, Canajoharie school districts won’t merge

The Fort Plain Central School District backed out of merger talks last week with the Canajoharie Cen

The Fort Plain Central School District backed out of merger talks last week with the Canajoharie Central School District.

The two districts met earlier this month to weigh the benefits of merging but last week the Fort Plain Board of Education decided against it, according to Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery BOCES Superintendent Pat Michel.

“It was really more of a decision by the Fort Plain district,” he said. “They went out and spoke with people in the community and decided that there weren’t enough people behind the idea.”

Fort Plain Superintendent of Schools Douglas Burton’s decision to retire at the end of this school year prompted the board to consider a merger. Now after discontinuing merger talks, the district must conduct a search for a new superintendent.

“I will help them with that search and actually that is what I have been spending a lot of time on today,” Michel said on Monday, adding he was unsure how long it would take to hire a new superintendent. “We are starting to put out advertisements to attract potential candidates.”

Michel said Fort Plain is “very lucky” that Burton led the district for the last 16 years.

“They really have been spoiled because Doug is a great superintendent,” he said. “It is a rarity that a superintendent would remain in a position for that long. Typically they move on after three or four years.”

In the late 1990s, the Fort Plain district made multiple attempts at merging with neighboring districts, including St. Johnsville and Canajoharie. This time around, Burton, who is in favor of the “theory of merging districts,” is not involved in the discussions.

According to Michel, both districts are in good financial shape but that could change in the future due to the state-mandated tax cap. A merger would have net the new district roughly $33 million in additional one-time state aid and potentially create annual budget savings, as well.

Canajoharie Board of Education Vice President Mark Brody said the district is still open to sharing services and saving money for its taxpayers.

“This was really a decision by the Fort Plain board,” he said. “We were open to discussing the merger even further but they kind of shut it down last week.”

Several calls to Fort Plain board President Jami Stevens were not returned.

Reach Gazette reporter Matthew McKibben at [email protected] or on Twitter @mattmckibben.

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