OSWEGO, NY – The Oswego City School District’s central offices will likely relocate into a section of the Leighton Elementary School, pending the sale of the Education Center.
At Tuesday night’s school board meeting, a taxpayer asked the superintendent if the cost of moving offices, the upheaval it will cause at the school (they move into), the changes in the traffic patterns and everything else will be worth it in the long run.
“I’m just wondering if it’s really worth it. Are we going to get our bang for the buck? Is the taxpayer going to see a decrease in their taxes because we sold the Ed Center?” he asked. “Or is it going to turn into something that actually costs us?”
“Certainly we’re not going to take a loss on the sale of the Education Center. If we don’t find a happy balance where we net a significant amount of money, we’ll hold on to it,” Superintendent Dr. Dean Goewey said.
“The next piece is that we don’t get state aid in this building; we do get state aid in schools. That is one of the factors in deciding not to close a school and instead selling a building that we own outright,” he explained. “So, yes, we want to bring revenue into the district by selling the building. And two, we want to put this building on the tax rolls for the city and the district. There is value in putting the Education Center in a more educational setting.”
There are a lot of other variables “that we are just staring to scratch the surface on,” he added.
“It’s moving forward like the place is already sold,” the taxpayer said.
“What it comes down to is the community wants this building sold. The board wants this building sold,” the superintendent said. “We’re not going to give this place away. If there’s not some financial gain for the district, we’re not going to sell it. We’re going to hold tight to the price we’ve put on this building and we’re going to look closely at the costs associated with relocation.”
It would also save money as the district wouldn’t have to pay for maintenance on the Ed Center after it’s sold, he added.
No decisions have been made, the superintendent said. He would make recommendations to the board first, he added.
There are traffic pattern issues in the area of Leighton Elementary and the high school, Pam Dowd, a parent of a Leighton student, pointed out.
“I caution you and ask you to look at that very closely so you don’t complicate that any more,” she said. “Perhaps find a way to ease up on the traffic pattern. I think you’re targeting that building and it certainly would make sense.”
The superintendent said he and transportation have already had discussions regarding that situation.
“I walked into my classroom today to do a little bit of work and upon entering my classroom, I found all these desks and chairs and other teachers’ things that were placed into the classroom that I left in the spring,” Jennifer Cahill, a Leighton teacher said.
A custodian told her he had been instructed to move all the intermediate classrooms down – grades four, five and six and the art room.
“So, I’m wondering if you’re not (moving into Leighton) what’s going on? We asked in June repeatedly, in fact we had Mary Lisk come before the board and ask these questions – should we be boxing things up? Should we take down some of our bulletin boards? And it was a flat out ‘no, we don’t have a plan yet.’ Now it’s August 2 and we’re being told we’re being moved to another part of the building. I think that’s disrespectful. Is it true? Are we being asked to move?”
Dr. Goewey explained that he was going to address that during the Superintendent’s Report portion of the meeting.
If they decide to move into Leighton, the superintendent said, they have a window of sale of 6 to 9 months (9 to 12 months, Cahill corrected).
“We can’t relocate classrooms or relocate central office at any other time than a break. The district’s phones would be down between 3 and 5 weeks. What we’re trying to do is be proactive so there will be the least amount of impact on kids and instruction,” he explained.
“It would have been common courtesy to alert the teachers. We’re working on transparency and we’re working on communication. But teachers are finding out by walking into their classrooms that they are being moved. That’s not appropriate,” Cahill said.
“My first responsibility was to the board. I have to communicate with the board first and that’s what is happening tonight,” Dr. Goewey said. “I understand what you’re saying.”
They are confident the Ed Center will be sold, Dr. Goewey said during the Superintendent’s Report.
“We want to enter a school facility that provides adequate space, certainly not the space we’ve grown accustomed to, public access, ease of retrofit and also provides some supervision and houses all seven grade levels as well as central office, space for professional development and easy access for students,” he said.
He asked the board’s approval to move forward with a plan to move into the northeast section of Leighton for the office of curriculum and instruction, the superintendent, personnel and the office of education and the business suite; and, also for the relocation of the high school’s main office to the three classrooms adjacent the theater.
That would allow the district to relocate its technology department into the former main office.
The board of education office and office of professional development would have a separate entrance. It would have a card key entrance.
Ed Center visitors wouldn’t have access to the school, he said.
The relocation would have to take place during a break, the superintendent said.
“We’d be shutting down our technology for at least three days. We would not have phones,” he said. “So, we are trying to lay out a plan so that we have as little impact on teachers and kids as possible. The conversation has to happen with the board first.”
The board took no action on the request Tuesday night.