(Editor’s Note: Lynn Gavlock and Tracy Embick, two long-time staff members from The Record, attended last Friday’s community meeting at the Renovo Fire Hall, called to address fears that Keystone Central School District could close the Bucktail High School/Renovo Elementary School complex as the district grapples with concerns about future school district budgets. The closing of the western Clinton County schools is one of a number of scenarios developed by the district administration for school board consideration. District officials will make a public presentation relative to cost-cutting options, the presentation expected at the next district school board meeting Thursday, March 2 at Central Mountain High School. Lynn is a 1990 graduate of Bucktail High School and Tracy has two daughters in the middle school at the Farwell complex. They filed this report and pictures taken from the Friday meeting which saw a turnout of some 120 people):
“Dr. Frank Conly opened the meeting. He started off with announcing the reason for the meeting, KCSD is talking about the possibility of closing Bucktail High. It’s a real concern and not a rumor.
He was a member of the group in 1995 “no consolidation” when the idea was brought up before; they were successful then and feel they can be again.
Members of PRR have the performance scores of the students at Bucktail and Renovo Elementary, the numbers showing educated, intelligent students.
The talk focused on the upcoming meeting of the school board to discuss options to save the district money. It was stressed that the committee plans on attending the upcoming board meeting and presenting a calm, intelligent and logical speech to the board.
Jeff Clary spoke about making phone calls and gathering facts and information. A lot of the information is available on the KCSD website, but also a lot of information that he tried to get regarding taxes, etc. he said he couldn’t get answers to, even though the tax office has four secretaries in the office. Meeting participants said it looks like KCSD has a spending problem. Closing the school isn’t going to help the spending problem. They are looking to save about$3.5 million by closing the high school. Information at the meeting said the district needs to find a way to come up with $7 to 9 million for the operating budget; they have had to borrow from the reserve account in the past and can’t keep doing that.
At the last school board meeting the administration was told to come up with options to save the district money. Dr. Conly stated that they (closure opponents) are a pretty strong force and want the option taken off the table. The board is worried about the possibility of school taxes being taken away and losing funding. Although it’s not finalized, that is the reason they are giving for the budget issues.
Frank Sutliff, former school board member gave some insight into the problems the board faces and what the community should do. He stated that members of the meeting need to contact politicians, local and statewide.
He also believes that by closing the school, the district will not be making as much money as they think because parents are not willing to send their kids to Central Mountain. He believes 2/3 of the population will want to form a charter school or cyber school their kids at home. He urged everyone to make phone calls, write letters and make the school board and administration aware that “we are going to fight this.”
Bob Shank father and community member spoke about the problem with sending kids to Lock Haven and issues with the busing and the younger kids.
Pastor Rich Colvin spoke from the crowd regarding the amount of students already going to Central Mountain and what happens when the size increases with the students from Bucktail. There is a concern about the class sizes and the quality of education declining. He encouraged the crowd to do everything they can to contact everybody and anybody that can help and flood them with information for the sake of the children, stating “Our children deserve better than this.”
Dr. Conly responded that that was the purpose of this meeting, to gather support, inform the public and brainstorm on ideas and to share the plan. Step 1 is to attend the school board meeting on March 2 and speak at the meeting. He then stressed the importance of forming an education committee/task force to keep the momentum going,”even after we win this.” To discuss the possibility of a charter school, importance of teachers need to be on board with the idea and how to take care of the teachers if it came to that.
Dave Flack of Cross Fork spoke from the audience about years ago when they closed the Cross Fork school Potter County made a deal that the tax money from Potter County would go to KCSD. There is currently one student from Stewardson Township (Potter County) and maybe five or six from Leidy Township (Clinton County). However the district receives tax money from over 800 camps and property owners. If they were to close the Bucktail school, they would be losing that money because it would be a better option to bus the kids to Galeton and keep their tax money in the county.
People were encouraged to send factual, polite letters to school board members, superintendent, politicians reminding them of the importance of keeping the school open and the importance of the school, hospital and town.
The community was invited to attend the meeting next week, but to let the committee members speak on their behalf.”