In accordance with the recommendations of a Liverpool Central School District Board of Education subcommittee, the district will be going ahead with redistricting.
The question is how that redistricting will proceed.
At its Nov. 19 meeting, the BOE once again raised the discussion, which had last been addressed in September.
“Several meetings ago the board may recall that we talked about redistricting,” said BOE President Patricia DeBona Rosier. “[Board member John] Kennedy and his [building utilization] committee gave us a very nice report. We are indeed going to redistrict.”
Rosier recalled that there were three options that the board had discussed to move forward. The first was to use current employees to help move the process along. The second involved hiring former Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Education Ellen Kuno, who retired last year, as a consultant. Finally, the district could put out an RFQ (request for quotations) from external consulting firms.
“At this point in time I think the board has to decide in which of those three directions they would like to go, because we need to move forward on this,” Rosier said.
Originally, the board had hoped to have the redistricting completed by the fall of 2013. However, district administrators questioned whether that would be possible if the project were to be done with district personnel.
“The first thing you also talked about was the timeline, and the expectation of whether or not next September 2013 for the redistricting process to be done would be realistic,” said Assistant Superintendent for School Improvement Maureen Patterson. “I would have to say to you that even in brief conversations, but multiple conversations, with my team, that probably would not be able to happen based on pretty much a four-page list of all the different elements that have to be considered for redistricting all the buildings… our nine elementary schools and three middle schools within the neighborhoods and boundaries of our school district.”
Patterson said, given the other work her team does on a regular basis, she wasn’t sure they’d be able to complete the redistricting project within the BOE’s given timeline.
“The board had said to us a number of times, ‘Tell us when this might be very difficult for you to do, to take on a full project,’ so we’d like to tell you this would be a very difficult project for us to take on,” she said.
“So if I understand you correctly, your team’s perspective is, there are really two options for us,” Rosier said. “One is to use Mrs. Kuno in conjunction with folks and the other is to use a consulting firm. It sounds like the team is saying to us, please pick option two or option three. It’s not that we are unwilling to do option one, but it would be really difficult to do it and do it well.”
But Superintendent Dr. Richard Johns felt that the district had the ability to handle the project without hiring an external firm.
“My opinion hasn’t changed from day one. I think we have the internal resources to answer the question of redistricting best,” Johns said. “I think we’ll pay an awful lot of money for folks that know what we already know. Secondly, as far as Mrs. Kuno goes, I would use her much the same way as an editor. I would have our internal folks look at drawing up various boundaries and I would have her come in and critique the various scenarios that they come up with.”
Other board members said they would prefer to know the possible costs of using an external firm before making a final decision.
“I think we’re all sitting here talking in an ethereal sense about using a consultant or using Mrs. Kuno with a consultant or using Mrs. Kuno with our own people or whatever, and nobody knows what the price tag on that is,” said board member Donald Cook. “Nobody knows what the numbers are. What would a redistricting company cost us? I don’t know. I think that without that information I don’t know what decision to make.”
Katie Phillips, assistant superintendent for support services, suggested that the district put out an RFQ. Such a move wouldn’t be binding, but would give the district some options.
“We could shop,” Phillips said. “We don’t necessarily have to buy, but at least you have the price.”
The board voted to send out an RFQ. It was expected to be completed by the BOE’s Dec. 17 meeting.
In other business:
The board also discussed the possibility of opening up Wetzel Road Elementary to students while Morgan Road Elementary is under construction next year. Bill Connor of Lend Lease, the property management and construction company heading up the project, said the effort would not only be safer for the kids, but would also generate a cost savings of $800,000 to $900,000 and make after-school activities possible. It would also help speed the completion of construction at MRE.
“We would be moving them within Morgan Road Elementary, hop-scotching around the building and around construction which we did not think was the most ideal situation,” Connor said. We figured this way would be a better environment for learning. There would be less disruption for the students.”
Wetzel Road was closed in 2011. It served as the Liverpool High School FOCUS Academy from 2011-12.
Connor noted that such a move would also enhance bidding process when contractors know they can do construction all at once instead of bit by bit. It could also provide a model for future construction projects.
Rosier was intrigued by the idea.
“It sounds like they’ll be some cost savings,” she said. “It sounds like there will be a better teaching environment. It sounds like there’ll be some safety and health issues that we can avoid by doing this. It presents a really interesting opportunity for us.”
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.