More calculations are in store for the Ellicottville School Board as the public outcry continues against a recent tuition decision affecting 137 out-of-district students.
The board voted Feb. 6 to increase annual tuition fees from $105 to $250, based on the district administration's estimates that it costs $487 to educate an out-of-district student.
More than 125 parents, teachers and residents attended a meeting last week, with many expressing continued dissatisfaction with the increase. Some parents have asked the board to use different calculations, and some accused administrators of using the issue to leverage a merger with a yet-to-be-determined neighboring district.
Superintendent Michael C. LaFever said Monday he promised to seek a new analysis from the Board of Cooperative Educational Services on the cost of a student's education.
"I've asked them to do it because I'm looking for an unbiased approach to the issue. (BOCES uses) the same figures that we use. I want it to be a situation where the district will be unquestionable as to how the figures were prepared in terms of our school district," he said.
When asked if the tuition decision could be changed, LaFever said there have been no proposals to do that but added that board members are listening to the community and want to communicate their reasons for the tuition increase.
Linda McAndrew, a mother of two students and two Ellicottville graduates, said board members have not analyzed figures presented by another resident, along with her own, which show the 137 students add about $12.04 to each tax bill. McAndrew also said many are alarmed at LaFever's statements suggesting elimination of five elementary school teachers, concluding that reduced enrollment and a merger are on the horizon.
In addition, some adult volunteers and coaches, who are out-of-district parents, have resigned from the after-school programs and community activities they instituted and led for many years. Another family, active in the Sports Boosters, went so far as to rent property in the district to avoid moving the children to another school.
"A lot of little kids went home crying to parents that classmates won't be coming to school again," said McAndrew.
LaFever said Monday that the district recruited out-of-district students in the past to increase enrollment and strengthen the district, with the first tuition charges levied in 1996. The out-of-district enrollment now represents 28 percent of the student body.