Editor’s note: This is the second of a five-part series on the top local stories of 2012.
By Mark Boshnack
Tight budgets and tough choices were issues many area schools faced in 2012. That situation was something school officials said they did not expect to change in the upcoming year. Legal issues were apparently decided in a case against some Cooperstown high school football players, while a former Walton teacher accused of having sex with two underage students is still waiting her day in court.
In January, the proposal by Gov. Andrew Cuomo set the tone for the 2012-2013 budget season.
Cuomo’s proposal appeared to call for increases in school aid, but as the plan was analyzed, educators became aware that the state’s gap elimination adjustment cut aid in many districts in an effort to close the state shortfall.
While many districts had to make difficult choices, the problem at two districts were in the news often during the year.
Closing Center Street School
Oneonta City School District found itself facing a deficit of more than $1 million during the budget process. This led to the closing of Center Street Elementary School. It began at a Feb. 17 meeting attended by about 400 people.
Superintendent Michael Shea, who had announced his retirement in January, ending a 32-year career in education, said, “doing nothing doesn’t appear to be an option,” faced with a sizable deficit. If legislators don’t significantly increase state aid he had to look at such options as staff reductions, cutting student access to occupational education and consolidating the four elementary schools. He asked people to write letters and sign petitions.
A community group, Support Oneonta Schools, was formed and met several weeks later to help the board of education find ways to close the deficit. About 150 people attended that first meeting. The following day, Shea announced that he was developing a plan to close the school, if funds were not forthcoming.