The Exeter-Milligan and Fillmore Central School Boards held a joint meeting in the Exeter site gym on Tuesday, March 30.
Close to 60 guests attended the meeting that was intended for the boards to discuss the recent feasibility study conducted by First National Capital Markets.
After the respective board presidents opened the meeting (Adam Erdkamp –EM and Sean Farmer – FC) Exeter-Milligan Superintendent Paul Sheffield stated that the “intent of tonight’s meeting was informational in nature” and “there would be not public comment.”
Matt Fisher with First National was introduced and briefly outlined the findings of the feasibility of the study. He reviewed the options their report gave the two boards which included:
Option 1 – Do nothing, remain as two separate districts
Option 2 – Merge districts and maintain four buildings (Exeter, Fairmont and two in Geneva)(estimated savings in staff, operation and repairs- $17 Million)
Option 3 – Merge districts and build a new elementary/middle school (cost $25 Million Bond with estimated savings in staff, operation, and repairs- $25 Million)
After discussing the financial impacts of each option, Fisher talked about the educational impact. He noted that both secondary schools are “well rounded in the curriculum you are offering” but noted Exeter-Milligan students might have more schedule flexibility if the districts combined.
According to Fisher, another educational benefit in merging districts would be having multiple teachers at each grade in the elementary which would allow for more professional growth in the faculty.
After Fisher spoke Farmer asked Erdkamp “What’s the pulse of your board and your district?”
Adam responded, “I don’t know if we know what the pulse of our board is because we need to know how your board feels about the contents of the study.”
Exeter-Milligan board member Eric Milton asked about the decreased need in teachers the study showed, “where do you see the split on employees?”
Farmer answered, “Obviously both districts. We’re not coming to the table saying we need to have a RIF plan in place before we decide. . .through natural attrition we could get our staffing level down.”
Fillmore Central board member Christin Lovegrove added, “I don’t think any district comes to the table saying that we will keep all of our teachers. It’s a great opportunity to keep the best of the best. . . It’s important to say I have a lot of faith in our administrators to identify who will work together the best.”
Farmer added, “We’re not looking at this as a 10 year solution, we’re looking at a long term situation. We’re willing to take some time. We’re not looking to save all that money right away. We’re looking at retaining all of our staff that first year.”
Farmer also noted they were open to maintain a K-4 site in Exeter with the possibility of current FC districts moved to the Exeter site.
The FC board stated that they had no plans to build a new K-8 building.
Before closing Erdkamp stated that the Exeter-Milligan board and administration “will need to take a look at the study again. As a board and a district we will have to decide if this is something we will want to go forward with.”
Farmer responded that the understood, “Our door is always open. Whatever decision we do make needs to be a long term decision for our kids and our taxpayers.”