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Dueling over taking the ‘Ken’ out of Ken-Ton

Closing two schools in Kenmore would take the “Ken” out of the Ken-Ton School District, Mayor Patrick Mang says.

“We understand that the School Board is facing some difficult decisions and that some schools may have to close,” Mang said of the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School District’s plans for consolidation in a news release distributed Wednesday morning. “We all face the same structural problems, whether it’s government or a school district.”

But Ken-Ton’s school superintendent countered that the district worked hard to make sure that it would maintain a presence within the village and that alternative uses for the schools are being considered.

“The school district is not an adversary of the Village, and although the outcome may not have been exactly what the Village wanted, we did work hard to maintain a presence in the Village of Kenmore itself,” Mark P. Mondanaro also pointed out in a statement issued Wednesday afternoon in response to Mang’s.

The dueling news releases came as Ken-Ton prepared for a series of public forums to discuss four scenarios for reorganizing its district that begin today. All four plans would close Kenmore Middle School, one of the oldest buildings in the district. Three of the plans would close Roose-velt Elementary, which also is in the village.

The four consolidation plans are to be discussed at district meetings at 4 and 7 p.m. today in the auditorium of Hoover Middle School, 249 Thorncliff Road. Meetings also will be conducted at 4 and 7 p.m. Monday in the auditorium of Kenmore East High School, Brighton and Fries roads.

Emotions are sure to run high at the meetings, judging by Wednesday’s exchange between village and school officials.

“To close two schools in the same community – which has already seen the closure of St. Paul’s School – would take the Kenmore out of the Ken-Ton School District,” Mang wrote in his statement. St. Paul’s Catholic Elementary School on Victoria Boulevard closed in 2010 because of declining enrollment. “We strongly believe that the closure of the only two schools located in the Village would hurt our village community.”

Mondanaro told The Buffalo News on Wednesday that the school district intends to continue to use the Kenmore Middle School building.

“We made a point of maintaining a presence in the Village of Kenmore,” he said. “We could even increase it, but we’ve got to start working together.”

All the consolidation scenarios recommend retaining a school district presence in Kenmore by moving administrative offices, including the superintendent, curriculum, student services, human resources, business and finance, as well as community education, ECC Pathways program, Big Picture program, central registration and the structured suspension program to Kenmore Middle.

There will be some alternative education students at Kenmore Middle, and there will be district employees in the building throughout the year, Mondanaro said.

“The Village comprises 1.2 square miles and the district is not responsible for the vast enrollment and demographic changes that have happened over the past 40 years,” he wrote in a statement emailed later Wednesday in response to Mang’s news release.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the population for the Town of Tonawanda, including the Village of Kenmore, plummeted by 31 percent from 1970 to 2010, from 107,000 to 73,500.

Mang acknowledged in his statement that village leaders, although sad that the middle school would close, were “happy to see that this historic building will continue to be utilized by the district.”

But Mang said he and the Village Board believe that closing a second school in Kenmore would hurt the village.

“Kenmore has marketed itself as a walkable community,” he said, “and if both schools closed, it would have a detrimental impact on the village.”

He said the board is asking the School Board to consider the “huge impact” that the double closure would have on Ken-Ton and the district as a whole. Mang said he also wants to meet with district officials to discuss the impact on the community if both schools close.

Mondanaro responded that the district’s responsibility is, “first and foremost, to maintain and enhance the best education possible for all students in both the Village and the Town. It is clear that the reorganization project does just that.”

The superintendent said the district would continue to collaborate with the village in finding new uses for school buildings. “We can achieve much more together than separately for this very noble goal,” he said.

“Perhaps the Kenmore Village Improvement Society wants to create a Village Players musical group or perhaps the youth and Village residents want to work with the district to use the Kenmore Middle pool as a recreational family swimming site,” Mondanaro suggested. “The possibilities are endless and we look forward to having true collaborative conversations with the Village of Kenmore.”

News Staff Reporter Jay Rey contributed to this report. email: