Mouth That Roars

Bill Liblick has made a name for himself of National TV Talk Shows where he spouted his outspoken views from the front row. Now he offers you his opinion every week in the "MOUTH THAT ROARS" Column in the Sullivan County Post.

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March 19th, 2010

Potential closing of a school is a sad wakeup call

Closing a school without replacing it with a new facility is a tragic statement for any society. When it involves preventing a budget gap it is even more tragic.

The controversial issue of closing public schools to avoid tax increases has hit the Monticello School District, and other districts might not be far behind.

The dilemma is simple while solutions are not.

Only 20 percent of a school budget is controlled by a district, while the State of New York mandates and sets certain requirements and criteria. The state has slashed funding to our schools forcing taxpayers to potentially foot the bill if school districts do not come up with other means to meet their budgets.

The Monticello School District is faced with the possibility of closing a public school. A recent report said the district was not operating near its capacity for schools. The Duggan School in Bethel is operating at 32 percent below capacity, and it has been advised that the school close in order to avoid a potential 15 percent school tax hike.

This issue has enraged many residents and has become a boiling point among elected officials and community leaders. It is also pitting the Town of Thompson against the Town of Bethel.

When someone is planning to move into a community they often look at the learning institutions. Often successful schools lead to a stable flourishing community.

Closing a highly regarded school and merging its students into another one is a bad idea. The negative impact of such actions could be damaging to say the least. The only time a school should close is if there are problems at the facility that are detrimental to the students, and prevents them from receiving a quality education.

The Duggan School has a solid reputation in providing students with a quality education. With Sullivan County facing so many problems, closing a school would be the wrong thing to do. There has to be a better way.

Those who forget, Sullivan West went through a school merger and the effects can still be felt. There are long bus rides for many students while school taxes have still gone up.

The core of the problem is not the Monticello School District, but how we as a County treat our educational system. We have too many school districts that are paying huge salaries to administrators, while ignoring the original premise of education.

Our teachers are over worked and underpaid, while the salaries of countless superintendents and administrators are in the scale of $150,000 per year.

Each School District within Sullivan County has its own method of taxation. And, they are all run by their own elected school boards. These boards are responsible for hiring superintendents, administrators, and budgeting items.

State budget cuts in education are a reality and have to be addressed. All school districts must concentrate on issues that are impacting our students.

The time has come for us to take an honest look at the educational system in Sullivan County. We need to cut administrative costs, and spend more monies on properly educating our students.

Although elected officials can take positions on our public schools, they really have little say. The power lies within each local school board.

School boards throughout Sullivan County must sit down and discuss alternatives to our educational system so it can operate more effectively and efficiently.

Similar to the committee looking into amending our charter to create the possible position of County Executive, our school boards should do the same and put together a committee to look into a centralized Board of Education that would hire a Schools Chancellor.

Merging schools districts can be cost effective, synergize programs, and avoid duplication. Integration of purchasing and contractor services could also save taxpayers huge amounts of monies.

There has to be a better way to operate our educational system in Sullivan County, and closing schools should not be the solution.

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