Keeler Column: New Ilion-Mohawk School Board Must Be Diligent
by Bill Keeler
Seven community members have been elected to the new Ilion-Mohawk school board and I suspect, one of the most important challenges in their lives is before them now. They have the uncommon modern day opportunity to create a new school district.
How these seven people react over the next several months could lay the groundwork for a desperately needed resurrection of the Valley. Not only Ilion and Mohawk could reap the benefits of this new school district, but the entire Mohawk valley could be dramatically altered for the better. Or it could just continue to decline. I choose to be optimistic.
I'm not expert, but I feel there are three very important accomplishments this new board has to make, right off the bat.
1. While it is important to consider the feelings of those who remain territorial, it's time for everybody to come to the realization that the Golden Bombers and Mohicans no longer exist. Your loyalty is to the new district and the students who will be attending. While it will be important to make sure people from both (soon to be former) school districts feel comfortable in the transition, nothing will bog down progress more than overcompensating to appease the few who are finding it difficult to move on from the past.
2. Appoint a Superintendent who can hit the ground running immediately. There's no time for training or learning; the time frame on this merger is so tight, it requires someone who knows the schools and the process from day one. I feel Cosimo Tangorra is the obvious choice as he knows this merger well and he was fiscally responsible for the Ilion District, before it was the popular thing to do. He was one of the few supers in the region who anticipated the Governor's massive cuts and he acted accordingly. This is a crucial time in this process and there's no time to waste on dabbling in the unknown. The worst case scenario here should be a short term contract with Tangora that can be reviewed in three years.
3. There's a lot of money being handed over to this new district and every penny should be spent wisely. Even one dollar spent foolishly should be frowned upon. A pretty simple litmus test should be, does this investment build on a sound, competitive and safe education and is it fiscally smart.
The foundation built by these board members will set the course for success or failure on so many different levels. Student success and opportunity, as well as long term fiscal stability should be the obvious goals of this board. If accomplished, the community will see so many more long term benefits that could change the way we live. Communities with exceptional school districts prosper. Real estate becomes more valuable, business invests in the region and employment opportunities expand.
It's been a long time since there was real progress in the Mohawk Valley. It seems that in the last 30 years, every big story has wreaked of eroding industry and withering opportunities; but, now there is this glimmer of hope. This new Ilion Mohawk school district is a life line and these board members will be the first to grab the rope.
It seems the public has elected a good group of qualified people to launch this new school district. Now, we have to get behind them and hope for the best, or even better.