RUTHVEN After agreeing to discuss educational sharing with the neighboring Graettinger-Terril School District, the school board of the Ruthven-Ayrshire Community School district talked about timetables in a meeting Monday night. With an impending deadline of February 1, 2013, to submit a sharing agreement to the Iowa Department of Education, discussion and considerable research will have to be accomplished in just under 90 days time.
In their meeting Nov. 12, the Ruthven-Ayrshire Board reviewed a proposed community survey developed by Superintendent Andrew Woiwood, and then reviewed a similar survey being circulated by the Graettinger-Terril School Board. Through their review of the two documents, a revised survey was developed that will be available for RA district patrons to begin answering this week. The board's intent is for the survey to be completed by Nov. 21.
"Since we started these discussions, we have always wanted to make sure all of the community members have a chance to include their input," R-A Board President Barry Fischer said. "We want to get as many people as possible to take the survey."
The idea of sharing classes and students between the two districts began a couple of months ago, and both boards have indicated their intent to pursue some form of sharing, whether whole-grade, partial day sharing or one-way or two-way sharing, or even a possible reorganization. Administrators of each school met earlier this month to discuss what a whole-grade sharing agreement would entail, regarding enrollment, schedule planning, board perspectives, timelines and transcripts. Should a whole-grade sharing agreement be decided on by the two districts, students in grades 6-8 would attend middle school in one district location, while high school students would attend classes at the other community, with each community operating their own K-5 elementary classes.
The two boards have asked Prairie Lakes Area Education Agency Chief Administrator Jeff Herzberg to serve as a facilitator for their talks. But, with the Feb. 1 deadline looming, much must be done in a short period of time.
"The GT board will be meeting on the 19th," noted Supt. Woiwood, "and then a sub-committee of a couple of board members from each district and the superintendents will possibly meet on the 26th. Then we're looking at a joint board meeting on Dec. 3, a meeting of our board on Dec. 10, another joint meeting on Dec. 12, and the GT board will meet on Dec. 17. At that point, we would set a public hearing for Dec. 20, which would be not less than 10 and not more than 20 days before our January meetings. But, anytime after that public hearing, if either board decides that things won't work, they can vote to stop the process. February 1 is still the date."
Woiwood continued, "The two boards will have to meet face-to-face and work things out, but you've already done a lot of this through the sports sharing agreement you have. But, if this doesn't work for both schools financially, it's dead in the water. So, there is a lot of work and a lot of things to get done in a very short period of time."
The public hearing is crucial in the process. "The hearing is intended for the public to have their say before the board makes their decision," Woiwood said.
Fischer asked board members for items they would like to emphasize in the upcoming talks with the G-T district. Among the topics were expanded curriculum choices, assurances that appropriate class sizes would be maintained and development of plans for best possible utilization of facilities in each district. Other items of emphasis from the board included development of more staff members certified for dual-credit classes, data from the 2011-2012 Iowa Assessment tests for comparisons between districts, and additional financial information for both districts.
"One important thing in talks about staffing is to talk about positions, not about individuals,"
Woiwood cautioned the board. "You must follow the provisions of each district's master contracts."
As the discussion wound down, Woiwood noted that he is obtaining information from other area schools, which have or are involved in sharing arrangements to see how similar concerns were addressed and to see how the sharing agreements have worked in the communities involved.
"This board has always been one to seek out community input. But when all the information is presented ultimately, however, it is still you folks on this board who will make the final decision," Woiwood said.