WESTFIELD - The verdict is not yet in whether the merger between Brocton and Westfield school districts will go forward.
After focus groups, meetings and gathering data, the consultants now have to write the report. All four consultants from Western New York Educational Service Council, the team of consultants hired to conduct the feasibility study, say they have not drawn a conclusion yet.
"It's like being on a jury," said Bob Christman, team leader. "You listen to all the evidence before deciding on guilt or innocence. We have to stay objective; we trained ourselves to be."
The consultant group met Wednesday to begin discussing the data and the recommendations that will follow. The report is expected to be about 100 pages long and will not only recommend "yes" or "no" but also give suggestions for configuration of the district, staffing patterns, transportation and other items. The group will have to finish its report by Feb. 15, when it is due at the state Education Department.
"We have to be able to support our conclusions," Christman said.
Brocton and Westfield boards of education met jointly recently to hear the interim report on the feasibility study. To date the consultants had interviewed administrators and staff members, conducted focus groups and had conducted four meetings with the district advisory committee, which had 24 members, 12 from each district. Immediately after the presentation to the board, the last advisory committee meeting was held.
The consultants also gathered data from administrators in each district. Data included staffing patterns, contracts, course offerings in each district, budgetary information and busing patterns.
Marilyn Kurzawa, one of the consultants, called the effort to date, "a great experience for all of us." She complimented the boards for their selection of committee members.
"It was unique (for the committee members) to have so much focus," she said.
She said members were looking out for the students. She also called "the maturity, attitude and contributions of the students in both districts very impressive."
She thanked the superintendents for making "a yeoman's effort" to communicate with their district residents and the business officials in both districts who provided the data needed quickly and efficiently.
Consultant David Kurzawa said, "The report has to use hard data, not just a gut feeling."
Christman reviewed the calendar for the study's progress and the next steps if a merger is recommended.
John Hertlein, Brocton superintendent, asked if there was something formal the boards had to do after the report was received by the boards of education.
"It is up to residents to let you know (what they think about the report). ... What the state (Education Department) is looking is for the boards to reach out to the community," Christman said.
He suggested that residents may call, speak up at board of education meetings or write letters to the editor of the newspaper.
The boards will not see the report before it is sent to the state Education Department.
"The process depends on the Commissioner's (of Education) order," said David O'Rourke, BOCES superintendent.
O'Rourke said the commissioner can ask for more information and/or revisions to the report. The commissioner decides whether to accept the report's conclusions.
"Whether we like it or not, this is the process," O'Rourke said.
After the meeting, Susan Hardy, Brocton Central School board member, said, "We had a chance to look over everything (given to the committee). The best summary is through our hard drive."