Berkshire Begins Consolidation With Newbury
“Let’s count our blessings.” - Val Timmons
Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin School seniors Natalie Giarelli and Meghan Weigard are on the precipice of a life-changing event in the future — graduation from high school next spring.
On Monday night, the longtime Burton Township residents, along with Natalie’s mother, Teresa, watched the start of a potentially life-changing event for Berkshire Schools — possible consolidation with Newbury.
The students attended the Berkshire Schools Board of Education meeting as part of a government class project.
But they watched the school board unanimously pass a resolution that asked the Ohio Department of Education to conduct a study about the viability of consolidation with their neighbors to the west.
After the meeting, Superintendent Doug DeLong said the resolution passed is “just a first step” and added no definite timeframe has been established. Rather, the district will look into the option because the two districts are contiguous.
The school board will utilize a Columbus consulting firm, Public Finance Resources, Inc., to perform financial analysis to determine the savings and financial impact of a proposed consolidation.
Berkshire and Newbury officials have both discussed the option for several years, aided by community input, he added.
Due to various factors, the study must proceed in order to determine the viability of consolidation for either the May 2014 or November 2014 ballot.
Those factors include the financial status of Berkshire and Newbury, expiration dates of the districts’ collective bargaining agreements and the 2014 election schedule, according to a resolution DeLong read at the meeting.
Treasurer Beth McCaffrey also must certify a copy of the board’s resolution with the Ohio Department of Education.
“We just want to provide an excellent education for the students,” Board President John Manfredi said. “We want to join together and offer students the best. Even getting to this point took a long time and it could not have been done without teamwork between the ODE, the Geauga (County) Educational Service Center and personnel from both districts.”
Berkshire Schools is composed of students from Burton Village and Burton, Troy and parts of Claridon townships.
“Newbury is the only district in the township that is not consolidated already,” board member Jim Koster said.
Koster acknowledged both students and asked them what they thought about the issue.
“It’s interesting to us, too,” Natalie told Koster, adding they understood the implications of the consolidation as Burton Township residents.
In other news, the board thanked longtime board member Val Timmons for her eight years of service. New board member Kimberly Brown will replace Timmons in January. Timmons chose not to run for re-election in November.
“She has been integral to our board,” Manfredi said.
Timmons said it “has been a great eight years” and there have been many changes since she took office in January 2006.
“We are blessed with what we have,” she said. “I see what we’ve done and it’s a lot. Let’s count our blessings. Our efforts are not just for the kids, but also for the community.”
The board also recognized the Geauga County Maple Leaf and presented the newspaper with a 2013 Ohio School Boards Association Media Honor Roll award.
After the meeting, Natalie, Meghan and Teresa put the event into context. Teresa said the Giarellis have lived in the township since 1993.
“I’ve been here so long, but I am seeing changes where I live,” Natalie said, reflecting.
“It’s a homey town,” Meghan chimed in. “I love where we are because the people are so caring. It was definitely an interesting meeting.”
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