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Ogdensburg ready to discuss tuitioning as Morristown looks to Heuvelton

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Morristown Central School officials have decided to leave the Ogdensburg City School District out as a potential place to send students in the face of educational and financial pressures, focusing instead on pursuing a tuition agreement with Heuvelton Central School.

Ogdensburg is not accepting students on a tuition basis, but city Board of Education President Ronald N. Johnson said district officials are “willing to talk about anything.”

“I believe that if the truth be known, we could take in any high school adjacent to us without a problem,” Mr. Johnson said, noting the size of the Ogdensburg Free Academy campus.

A tuitioning arrangement would see one district pay tuition for its students to attend another.

At the July 30 Morristown Board of Education meeting, the board voted down a proposal to discuss cost-saving measures such as tuitioning with Hammond Central School and Ogdensburg.

Morristown school board Vice President W. Darrell Merkel, who supported the measure along with James Michaels, said he believes “many people [on the board] feel like the community would be against tuitioning with Ogdensburg.”

Morristown Superintendent David J. Glover said the board’s decision was based, in part, on the history that Heuvelton and Morristown share.

“We just spent a year talking about regionalization,” he said. To continue talking with Heuvelton about tuitioning students to that school is “a natural growth out of the conversation of the year before,” he said.

Mr. Merkel said he suspects if the board had voted to discuss cost savings with Hammond on its own, and not Ogdensburg, the measure could have passed.

St. Lawrence-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services Superintendent Thomas R. Burns said, “Our schools are so small to begin with that I think there are a lot of community members who are proponents of small schools.”

“But small is a relative term,” Mr. Burns said. “In other parts of the state, Ogdensburg wouldn’t really be considered a large district.”

Mr. Johnson said he’s heard people complain that if their children are sent to Ogdensburg, they will be corrupted by the city.

“I don’t know if we have this stigma for being the, quote, ‘big city,’” Mr. Johnson said. “Our kids aren’t any different than anyone else. We’re all country folks up here.”

Mr. Johnson said he believes a tuitioning arraignment between Ogdensburg and a smaller district such as Morristown would work out well.

“It’s not like the kids would have any problem with it,” he said. “Put the vote to them.”

The Heuvelton Central School Board of Education is expected to discuss a potential tuition agreement with Morristown when it meets Thursday.

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