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'Core beliefs' to guide Orchard Park redistricting plan But some question School Board's definitions of what would minimize pupil disruptions

Now that the Orchard Park School Board has decided to consider three plans for redrawing attendance area boundaries for the district's elementary schools, residents might wonder how members intend to make a final decision.

Tuesday night, the board adopted a set of "core beliefs" for analyzing the remaining plans. But as with other pronouncements on the redistricting, the beliefs drew cynicism from some parents.

Superintendent Joan Thomas pressed the board to clarify its principles so it can vote on a plan Dec. 11.

"The core beliefs should help us choose the plan," she said.

Board members adopted the principles used by the district's Re-alignment Task Force, whose proposals include keeping neighborhoods together, minimizing transitions, producing equitable class sizes and services in a viable, long-range plan, which the board indicated is at least six years.

Some parents have questioned the board's definition of "minimal transitions." The Re-alignment Task Force defined transitions as the number of school changes a child must make in moving from kindergarten through 12th grade. That led to rejecting suggestions for a building solely for fifth-graders or a building for kindergarten through second grade and another for third through fifth grade.

Board members decided Tuesday that "minimizing transitions" means not only school changes moving from kindergarten through 12 grade, but also any required under redistricting.

Board member Steven Korn, for example, questioned whether too many pupil reassignments to and from South Davis Elementary School could change its culture.

"Windom [Elementary School] is the sole building that will be impacted the most, and interestingly, we've heard from those parents the least," said Carla Marrazzo, another board member.

The board also decided to attempt to keep neighborhoods together. But members acknowledged the areas might not match the neighborhoods defined by the task force. They also noted the difficulty in satisfying all the core beliefs in one plan.

"I think meeting all of those is impossible," board member Maria Lehman said, drawing no disagreement from colleagues.

"Realignment is not an exact science," Marrazzo said.

Some parents criticized the board for amending the core beliefs.
"You changed the core beliefs so so you could move the fewest amount of students," said Robert Barone of Green Lake. "I think you want to move the fewest number of students. I hope I'm wrong, but you laid the foundation to do that."

The plan calling for the fewest number of pupils to change school would shift youngsters living in the Green Lake neighborhood to Windom from South Davis.

Residents from West Seneca also criticized the board for rejecting the only plan that did not move their children.

"Every time some someone comes in and complains about their neighborhood, their neighborhood is removed, except West Seneca," said Ann Chojnacki of Camelot.

And Jill Emerling of Ashwood said the delays in making a decision are hurting the district, with neighborhoods pitted against one another.

"You guys are taking forever to do this," she said.


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