5 school districts should become one in Orleans County

Posted 13 May 2023 at 4:34 pm


In light of the fact that consolidation is front and center as of late, it is past time for Orleans County to establish a single, unified school district.

Let me be clear: nothing herein should be construed to denigrate or withhold support from the dedicated and talented teaching faculties and administrators employed by the county’s five school districts. The average annual salary of a Master’s Degree professional in the U.S. is in excess of $75,000, regardless of years of experience. It takes more than a decade for most public school teachers to attain that level of income. Teachers should be paid as the professionals they are.

Facts first: Albion, Medina, Holley, Kendall, and Lyndonville combined enroll approximately 5,220 students. Their budgets total $148,183,958 for the next fiscal year. Per pupil spending is approximately $28,500. Two of the five districts are raising taxes by 1.5% and 1% per $1,000 of assessed property. Noted, re: the majority of school budgets are paid for by the State. The overall population of Orleans County has declined from a high in 2000 of 44,171 to 39,318 today (-11% in 22 years) per census estimates as of 2022.

There should be one, unified district with five elementary schools (Lyndonville, Kendall, Holley, Medina and Albion), three middle schools (Albion, Medina and Holley), and one high school in Albion.

Think of the savings. Nine buildings instead of twelve. One district office in lieu of five. The five Superintendents earned $796,000-plus in salaries in 2022 alone. The Districts each employ dozens of administrators and run their own bus garages. When isn’t there a ballot measure to authorize the purchase of a bus or two? The longest ride from the corners of the county to AHS is 30 minutes. It defies logic to try to justify all of that infrastructure for districts that graduate fewer than 60 students in a class. The duplicative nature of the status quo is unsustainable.

On the other hand, it will be argued: (1) that there is something unique about rural education; (2) consolidation will ruin sports rivalries; and/or (3) a relative or a friend will lose a job.

Let me respond in turn. (1) The district is still a rural district and it would be able to marshal more resources for special needs programs and extracurriculars than it can when it must employ nearly five of everything. (2) Numerous districts have already combined athletics programs and a single district would be better positioned to compete with larger districts in Sections V and VI. (3) Be intellectually consistent. You cannot have your cake and eat it too.

Either you’re for consolidation and easing tax burdens or you’re for redundancy. It cannot be both.

Consolidation often fails because of nostalgia, nepotism and whataboutism. Demographic and economic realities dictate new and innovative modes of thinking.

Andrew “Drew” Remley

Boston, Mass. and former Albion resident