Spring fever

It’s true what they say, I guess. About April showers bringing May flowers.

Last month came to a close with some pretty intense storms. But now, thanks to this recent string of clear, sunny days, the world is in bloom. I love it. The entire world feels, I don’t know, alive with possibilities and life.

We’ve already established the fact that I’m not a morning person. Yet this morning, I couldn’t help but smile. Dew kissed fields glistened in the early morning sun, and fog swirled in the valley. Birds were chirping, no doubt as happy as I am to finally see full-fledged leaves forming on the trees.

Yep, I thought, as I headed to work, this is going to be another good day. I mean, how can it not be when the sun is shining and the sky is such a gorgeous shade of blue.

It would have been the perfect day to play hooky. But it wasn’t an option for me to day, I’m afraid. I have to admit it was tempting – the thought of spending the day out of doors rather than sitting at this desk. Too much work piled on the work surface in question to justify a play day, what with the weekend just around the corner.

Besides, I have my golf league to look forward to tonight. Surely I can suffer through a measly eight hours of confinement with the knowledge that by 4:15, I’ll be out on the links enjoying one of my favorite pastimes.

Or at least that’s what I keep telling myself as I gaze longingly outside.

As school children the world over can attest – it’s hard to keep focused on a day like today.

It isn’t just today – it’s been like this all week. Trust me, I am definitely not complaining. Any day the sun is shining is a good day, in my opinion. And these last seven days – each one more gorgeous than the last – have given me a much needed pick-me-up.

Because, remember that work I mentioned? Much of it has to do with school budgets and school board candidates. Not exactly uplifting stuff.

I’ll spare you my typical rant about the dire financial situation our schools are in, or the tough decisions school leaders are having to make. You’ve heard it plenty of times already.

So, I’ll rant about something else, shall I? How about the state’s pre-occupation with merging small school districts?

Last week, I attended an educational forum hosted by DCMO BOCES. Alan Pole, who was BOCES superintendent for 19 years before he retired and became a consultant, presented. The focus was on the “new normal” for education, and on sharing services, restructuring high schools and reorganizing districts. “Reorganizing” is the gentle way of talking about the “M” word: school mergers.

I’ll admit, there was a point in the presentation where I became uncomfortable. I took a lot of heat for my April Fools website article, a fictional piece about Governor Andrew Cuomo wiping all nine of Chenango’s school district’s off the map and creating one unified, county-wide district. Many of our readers found the mock article entertaining. Others, not so much. I guess for some of them, it hit too close to home.

I meant the piece to poke fun at the state’s misguided notion – and yes, even after Mr. Pole’s presentation I believe it’s misguided – that districts with enrollment under 1,000 should consolidate.

Mr. Pole confirmed what I have heard previously. While merged districts offer more opportunities for students, they actually cost more to run than the two previous districts combined. And, according to the research Mr. Pole cited, student achievement doesn’t necessarily improve.

It can, however, be financially lucrative for districts to choose this option. Why? Because the state makes it so, by heaping on incentive aid, additional building aid and making it easier (i.e. cheaper) for them to pay down their debt.

According to Pole, the state offers these incentives because they believe, in the long run, it will be cheaper to operate fewer districts.

Millions of dollars more in state aid to encourage districts to reorganize in a way that actually costs more. But that will save money?

Yeah. It doesn’t make sense to me either.

Follow me on Twitter ... @evesunmelissa.

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