Livingston Manor and Roscoe talk merger

By LIAM MAYO
Posted 1/12/22

ROCKLAND, NY — Livingston Manor Central School District (Livingston Manor) and Roscoe Central School District (Roscoe) are both fairly small districts.

Livingston Manor served 410 students …

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Livingston Manor and Roscoe talk merger

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ROCKLAND, NY — Livingston Manor Central School District (Livingston Manor) and Roscoe Central School District (Roscoe) are both fairly small districts.

Livingston Manor served 410 students during the 2019-2020 school year, according to data from data.nysed.gov. During that same school year, Roscoe served 220.

Their sizes have led to both schools seeking opportunities to share services, in order to reduce costs and to provide improved educational and extracurricular opportunities for their student bodies.

Livingston Manor started sharing sports programs with Roscoe in the spring of 2011, according to an audit from the NY State comptroller’s office, and with Delaware County’s Downsville Central School District (Downsville) in the spring of 2017. According to district officials mentioned in the audit, the districts might have had to eliminate certain sports programs, since they lacked enough students for full teams. Because they began sharing programs, the districts could keep providing a full suite of sports opportunities to their students.

In addition, Livingston Manor and Roscoe share administrative roles. The two agreed to have a joint business administrator in August of 2015, and agreed to the same with the superintendent position in January of 2017. According to the audit, sharing those positions saved Livingston Manor over $100,000 a year.

Under the leadership of superintendent John Evans, the two districts, along with Downsville, began looking into other areas in which sharing services would be useful. The districts held a series of meetings beginning in fall of 2017, and completed studies on the value of sharing special education programs, maintenance equipment and contracts, and middle management positions.

In 2019, the districts received a grant to implement recommendations from those studies, including the establishment of a shared 8:1:1 special education classroom, the gradual transition to a shared special-ed manager and district data coordinator, and the purchase of shared maintenance equipment.

According to Evans, with districts already sharing staff and services, looking into a merger was a logical next step. Parents in both Livingston Manor and Roscoe gave their boards the impetus to look into funding opportunities for a merger study, he says, and they applied for state funding in July 2021.

The districts were awarded $25,000 in funding to conduct a merger study; this was announced as part of the Regional Economic Development Council initiative on December 14, 2021. The boards of Livingston Manor and Roscoe agreed to conduct the study in a December 21 joint meeting, and retained Castallo and Silky Education Consultants LLC to carry it out.

The point of the study is to take a comprehensive look at what a new district would be like, said Evans. Both districts are facing declining enrollment, and both struggle to offer a full variety of curricular and extracurricular opportunities. AP classes and high-level electives especially struggle to attract more than one or two students per class, making it harder to build out a full program.

“I believe it will provide varied educational opportunities for kids,” Evans said.

“When school districts merge, without question there are more opportunities that result,” said Alan Pole, one of two consultants along with Deb Ayers who will be performing the study, speaking at the December 21 joint board meeting.

But along with opportunity come fears of losing local identity, Pole added. “In small towns like Livingston Manor and Roscoe, the school is usually the center of the community.”

To that end, the study is looking to recruit four community members from each district to serve on an advisory committee, which will advise the boards and consultants and communicate with the public. The first meeting of the committee is tentatively scheduled for March 1.

Community members interested in serving on the committee can contact their respective district for more information.

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