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Sun., Oct. 4
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If only we could have predicted that school districts were heading for financial trouble!


I don't need your war machines. I don't need your ghetto scenes; Coloured lights can hypnotize, sparkle someone else's eyes.

MARCH 18, 2011: If time permitted, I would write down my thoughts about the state of public education in New York in general and the north country in particular.
But why bother? It would only be redundant:

Sunday, March 10, 1996
Board members and parents speak with pride about the distinct educational flavor their minute district offers, as if their students have religions and bloodlines that must be protected from the impurity that would occur if adjacent school administrations were merged.
The jig is up, almost. With state and federal funds drying up, each layer's ability to exist is in jeopardy. The county's school districts are all financial cripples propped up by state aid. But as the state has begun yanking on the crutches, the wobbling is visible. And instead of a countywide solution to the question of how to economically provide quality education throughout Jefferson County, districts are trying to figure out their own answers.
The consolidation of school districts and towns will be opposed by residents who contend that merging won't guarantee improved services. That's not the issue. In time, Jefferson County won't be able to afford the government that is supposed to provide the services.

Sunday, May 12, 1996
The opportunity for growth, stable taxes and more efficient government won't occur until this region begins merging governments, a concept that will take some time before it wins general approval. Too many north country residents, for instance, see no contradiction in wanting their district schools linked to the world via computer while they equally oppose linking adjacent districts through consolidation.

Sunday, January 5, 1997
Public officials all over the north country are wrestling with the cost of government and determining that consolidation is the way to go. But they're having their noses rubbed in the dirt by taxpayers when the word "consolidation" is mentioned.
The problem is semantics. The north country should be thought of as "the South with snow." The visceral reaction to certain issues is about the same in both regions. Now, if you replace the word "consolidation" with "integration," you can get a glimpse of how long it will take the north country to move in the direction it needs to go.

Sunday, October 8, 2000
We are already noticing a real decline in interest in serving on volunteer fire departments and rescue squads. In time, we won't be able to find enough people to run for office. Many people will suggest the problem is that too few Americans care to serve their communities anymore. Maybe that is true. But it might also be just as true that in a world of global markets, Internet stock purchasing and satellite dishes, more and more north country residents are losing interest in governments that are too beholden to artificial boundaries and antiquated notions of what space and distance really mean.

Sunday, February 15, 2004
We like to cite the rugged independence of north county people, all the while holding our hat in our hand. In short, we live in a world of grants and entitlements, which helps ensure that we put off hard choices for another day, fearful that somebody's services will be eliminated.
But this year, next year and the years after that, north country taxpayers should force their elected officials to explain the ways in which they reduced the local tax burden, not through the reduction of services, but by reducing the size and thus the cost of government.

Sunday, December 4, 2005
The increase in local sales tax has left Jefferson County governments awash in cash, giving them a wonderful opportunity to cooperate in ways they couldn't previously afford.
Instead, towns, school districts and fire districts are stepping away from consolidation of services, and retrenching to enhance fiefdoms.
Forget reaching out; we are building down.
We have minuscule school districts launching referendums to ensure each district will live on forever. That way we can continue to pay 11 (Jefferson County) superintendents to make the same decision 11 times, and then pay lawyers to negotiate 11 contracts for teachers and 11 contracts for custodians.

Sunday, May 27, 2007
We like our turf so much that the first $4 million raised in school taxes in the three-county region goes to pay the salaries and benefits of 33 superintendents, whose primary job is to follow the same state and federal mandates 33 times.
To ensure reiteration, we elect around 230 school board members so they can vote on the same state and federal mandates 33 times. The only unique feature our boards bring to the table is wildly divergent student codes of ethics, some preferring one-stike-and-you're-out rules and others embracing three-stikes-and-let's-think-about-it rules.
So relentless is our desire to maintain 400-pupil school districts that our boards are filled with members whose spouses are on district payrolls, usually as teachers. And because school board members serve without pay, they have convinced themselves there is nothing ethically wrong with voting to increase a loved one's salary.

Sunday, February 8, 2009
School boards years ago were offered state money to consolidate all of our 400- to 1,000-student districts so they could reduce administrative costs in the future. They didn't do it. Instead, they all signed off on an explosion of new construction ("The state will pay 95 percent!") to ensure that consolidation will never occur.
Now, everyone is going to say there isn't enough money for education.

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