Student numbers are up slightly after long decline

Student Numbers

Photo illustration by Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — School enrollment numbers dropped consistently at area schools from 1995 to 2005, but now enrollment appears to be on the upswing, or at least leveling off.
Six area districts have seen their enrollment increase this year after years of enrollment drops. The three other schools continue to see enrollment decreases, yet at a lower rate than previous years.
Statistics show that the area’s population and building development are growing, helping to explain the new trend. Superintendents of schools say they’re thrilled about a possible change, because more students mean more government aid and more employees.
Enrollments decrease across the board
From 1995 to 2005, total school enrollment at nine area schools dropped from 13,481 to 11,823, a decrease of 12 percent.
Mark Crawford, superintendent in the Dryden school district, offered a partial explanation: “Families are having fewer children,” he said.
But that’s not the whole reason: Since 1994, Tompkins and Cortland counties have only seen their birthrates drop by 1 percent.
Maria Fragnoli-Ryan, superintendent of McGraw schools, said people leaving the area is the main reason for the lower enrollment rates.
“I think the main factor is people are leaving the area all together,” she said. “It’s tied to the idea that people are leaving the state, which is unfortunate.”
McGraw’s population dropped by about 10 percent over the last 15 years, however, Cortland County as a whole just lost a handful of people during that same time.
Lower enrollment affects funding, staffing
Regardless of the true cause of enrollment decreases, superintendents said they have not embraced them. That’s because fewer students means less federal and state aid and the need for fewer employees.
Doug Larison, superintendent in the Homer School District, said schools receive less federal funding for things like library books and computer software and hardware when student enrollment goes down.
Even though the district has fewer students to use those things, it doesn’t mean it needs less of all of those things, he said.
“I’m not sure I need fewer volumes in the library because I have 800 students and not 900,” he said.
Tim Turecek, superintendent of Marathon schools, said districts also receive less state aid for school programs when their enrollment drops.
Marathon has not had to cut any of its programs yet, but that could happen in the future, he said.
“It’s harder in a small school like this,” he said. “We have to meet all the same mandates as the large schools. We’re close to the bone.”
Dryden’s Crawford said the district cut 12 positions from its budget last year as a result of its 12 percent decrease in enrollment over 11 years.
“We finally did cross some thresholds where pupil-teacher ratios warranted doing what we did,” he said.
Development means more people, students
Over the last five years, towns such as Virgil and Dryden have seen their population increase significantly, likely contributing to the higher enrollment rates in the Cortland and Dryden school districts.
Virgil’s population has increased by 10 percent while Dryden’s has increased by 3 percent.
Jessica Crawford, superintendent for the Onondaga-Cortland-Madison BOCES district, said population and school enrollment numbers are often tied to the availability of housing and development of new houses.
Districts in Onondaga County, such as Jamesville-DeWitt and Fayetteville-Manlius, have seen their enrollment increase by hundreds of students over the last 10 years, largely for that reason, she said.
“They’ve been adding a lot of housing that would appeal to families with children,” she said.
Virgil and Dryden have seen significant building growth over the years, with dozens of building permits and numerous housing starts each year. Cortlandville has also seen much building growth, said Dan Dineen, chairman of the county Planning Board.
Superintendents: Consider the future
Superintendents say that with population and building growth in certain parts of the region, they need to plan for the changes in student enrollment numbers it will bring.
Larry Spring, superintendent in the Cortland city schools, said it is “critical” for districts to know whether student enrollment is going up and down and by how much so they can plan for their budget.
“If you know you’re going to decline each year by 5 percent or stay stable, it changes how you do that planning and you can be prepared for things and do it with some ease,” he said.
Projecting changes in student enrollment can help districts know such thing as whether they should add another section of kindergarten, or hire extra staff, he said.
Spring said he keeps tabs with Linda Hartsock, executive director of the Cortland County Business Development Corp./Industrial Development Agency, and other business leaders to know what’s in store for his district.
“I try to be in touch with some Realtors to have a sense of what’s going on — how much land is being sold, and how big the lots are — and to keep aware,” he said.


Marty Mack a player on Spitzer’s new team

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — Now that Eliot Spitzer can officially start measuring drapes for the executive office, a Cortland native seems to be in line for an important role in the new administration.
Former Cortland Mayor Marty Mack, 53, has served as deputy attorney general in charge of regional offices since Spitzer was first elected as attorney general in 1998, and Spitzer spokesperson Christine Anderson said Mack should play a key role as the newly elected governor begins his new job.
“Marty is one of Eliot’s closest advisors and also one of his close personal friends,” Anderson said. “It’s only natural that Marty would have an official role and remain one of his closest advisors.”
Spitzer announced a transition team to handle his entrance into office Thursday, but Anderson said that announcements of Spitzer’s full-time staff would not come for another week or two.
Mack declined to speculate as to what sort of role he would play for the new governor, saying it was premature. He did say, however, that he has established a strong relationship with Spitzer in the eight years they have worked together.
“Working with him has just been terrific. I’ve had the opportunity to travel all over the state. He’s become friendly with my wife, Lee, as well — he’s been extremely generous to me,” Mack said. “It’s been a great job to be able to affect public policy and do important work, it’s just been a privilege and an honor.”
As one of four deputy attorney generals, Mack oversees 13 regional offices across the state, which, he pointed out, handle a little more than half of the total caseload of the attorney general.
“Because Marty’s helped Eliot manage all of the regional offices, his experience is really pretty broad,” Anderson said. “The cases the attorney general handles regionally touch on all the major local issues — housing, justice, law enforcement — and Marty’s quite an expert, he knows these communities, so he’ll bring a lot to the table.”
Mack, who served as Cortland mayor from 1988 through 1991, also brings to the discussion an important voice for Central and upstate New York, Anderson said.
“Clearly having someone from Cortland is a great thing, and I know Eliot will make sure there are a lot of upstaters included in his administration,” she said.
Spitzer has always shown an interest in upstate New York, Mack said, dating back to his original campaign for attorney general.
“Eliot has a special concern for the issues upstate, the special economic problems,” Mack said. “If I do have a roll to play now that he’s been elected governor, I think that’s an expression of his interest in upstate problems.”
As the Spitzer for Governor campaign wound down Nov. 3, Mack said he and Spitzer went on a plane ride over much of New York, including Cortland.
“It was a beautiful day, you could see forever, so I was able to point out the hotspots from about 15,000 feet,” Mack said. “It was a great way to finish up the campaign.”



Marietta said to lay off 70

From Staff Reports
An insider at Cortland-based Marietta Corp. said the company was laying off 70 people Thursday at its headquarters and factories in the city, but company officials will not confirm that jobs were cut.
The source, who requested anonymity, said that the company is cutting jobs of all disciplines in all departments. The source said the company is cutting 150 jobs total, including some at its factories in Illinois, Mississippi and California.
Anthony O’Hehir, a spokesman for the company, would neither confirm nor deny the layoffs this morning.
Lisa Reynolds, of Truxton, said her husband, Scott, who works as an equipment mechanic for Marietta, told her 20 percent of employees in each department had been laid off.
Linda Hartsock, executive director of the Cortland County Business Development Corp. and Industrial Development Agency, said Thursday that she had not been informed of any layoffs at Marietta.
Several employees outside the factory at a shift change Thursday night declined to comment or said they had not yet heard of layoffs.
The company last month said it employed about 500 people at its offices and a factory at 35 Huntington St. and a factory at 106 Central Ave.
The layoffs come a month after Marietta announced the installation of a new management team.
Stephen M. Bergande, of Skaneateles, was named chief operating officer; Perry Morgan, who relocated to Cortland from Warwick, Orange County, was named chief financial officer; David Hempson, former senior vice president of manufacturing became the senior vice president of business development for contract manufacturing; and Jim Berklas, of Los Angeles, was appointed to senior vice president of business development for the guest amenities division.
The layoffs also follow an announcement in June that the company would be hiring 70 new employees — mostly in production — in Cortland as part of a $3 million to $6 million expansion.
Marietta was looking to expand its operations to include retail health and beauty products for consumers.
Officials could not be reached today to say if the 70 employees had been hired or if Marietta expanded.
The company is in an Empire Zone and it does not receive any tax breaks through the IDA, Hartsock said.
She said the company “honored all its obligations in terms of job growth.  “They have done a very good job here.”
Marietta is the world’s largest supplier of guess amenities to the hotel and leisure markets. It produces sample-size and full size packaged products for the personal care, cosmetics and health care industries.
Staff reporters Sasha Austrie and Christine Laubenstein contributed to this article.