District merger not on radar for Apollo-Ridge school board candidates
Apollo-Ridge School District has only about 1,400 students, but none of the district's candidates for school board see a need to merge with any other districts.
“To take two districts that are small and combine them, it won't solve many of the issues,” said incumbent Dominick Duso. “You still have to have buy books, you still have to have teachers.
“It was once in fad and once made sense. I'm not sure it does anymore.”
Duso, an eight-year member of the board, is one of five candidates for four director's positions. All five candidates are on both the Republican and Democratic ballots.
While Duso doesn't think it makes sense to combine two small districts, he does believe that the districts in Armstrong County should re-examine where students are going to school.
“We have kids that live close to our high school and our facilities that are being bused to much farther districts,” he said. “I think it makes much more sense to redistrict students to go to school that is closer to where they live.”
Daniel Obriot, who's been on the school board for seven years, said he wouldd never consider allowing Apollo-Ridge to join with another district.
“Not on my watch,” he said. “I love Apollo-Ridge. I grew up here.
“I want to make sure our district and our area stay united and stay strong.”
Obriot said he thinks the district has advantages, such as smaller class sizes, that students in other districts don't get.
Paul King, who was appointed to the board in March, agreed that Apollo-Ridge should stay as is.
“We're small in numbers, not small in area,” he said. “You're talking about some kids on 45-minute to hour-long bus rides if you combine with another district.
“We need to manage the resources we have,” he said. “We need to keep the district viable.”
Duso said he hopes Apollo-Ridge will regain some of its state funding.
“A district like Apollo-Ridge is a lot more dependent on the state than other districts,” he said. “In the last couple of years, we've had 14 percent of our budget cut.
“We've made a lot of cuts,” he added. “The idea that you're just cutting ‘fat' works for a while, but we've definitely cut ‘need.'
“We've done a lot of good things with a small budget.”
Incumbent Jim Ferguson and challenger Aaron Broman did not return multiple calls for comment on this story.
R.A. Monti is a freelance writer.
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