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The Sun letter to the editor: Consider consolidating the Hamburg and Frontier school districts

Editor:
The cover story of the Jan. 3 – 9, 2014 issue of Buffalo Business First, titled “Suburban squeeze,” addresses the plight of area school districts as enrollments shrink and demographics change.

“District leaders [in Erie and Niagara counties] say their mentality has shifted from promoting growth to managing decline.”

Futurists predict changing housing patterns to multi-generational homes, where young adults stay until jobs or independence pull them away and where elderly parents come, when they are no longer able to live alone.

Overall population trends point to an enlarging elderly section and a smaller younger group.

Soon, it will take two workers to support one Social Security recipient, far from the wide support base available at the onset of the program. Japan is struggling with this “new normal” now, and developing robots to handle routine health care jobs.

Looking at the future enlightens the idea of consolidating Hamburg and Frontier school districts. Both districts are searching for a superintendent; their educational philosophies are similar; enrollment is declining in each, and both will, therefore, receive fewer state dollars; and both are in the same town.

The dismaying discord on the Hamburg School Board would discourage any suitor, but the advantages of pursuing a consolidation should be obvious.

Each district has its distinct strengths, but together they could enhance these assets. Maybe a small elementary school could become a math and science center, an expanded AP program could be offered, or differentiated special needs issues could be addressed.

The imagination and creativity of the faculty should be mined for inventive approaches to evolving challenges.

Of course, the possibilities could also be stopped in their track by traditionalists – “we never did it that way before” – or naysayers: “Who could run a district that big?” Negativity breeds inaction that ossifies any forward movement.

Don Ogilvie, former Hamburg superintendent and current Erie I BOCES superintendent, says, “Now we are taking a look at flat, if not diminished, enrollments; and the discussion is, how do you maintain quality in light of that?”

Are the people of Frontier and Hamburg districts willing to look at the possibility of meeting the future with creativity and determination, or will they stay in the past and let other districts drain off their inhabitants who move to the best school districts?

Carolyn Montgomery
Lake View
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