RUTHVEN - After coming to a consensus to discontinue academic sharing talks with neighboring Graettinger-Terril back on Dec. 12, members of the Ruthven-Ayrshire Community School Board of Directors met in a special session Friday morning to turn their attention to the east - and a new possibility the Emmetsburg Community School District.
To open the meeting, however, RA Superintendent Andrew Woiwood read the school board a letter from Terry Hemann, Superintendent of the Spencer Community Schools, which offered to discuss academic sharing opportunities with Ruthven-Ayrshire.
Giving the board a few minutes to think about the unsolicited letter, Barry Fischer, Board President, addressed the topic at hand. "We need to give our administration some direction on what we as a board, would like for goals for a partial-day sharing agreement."
Fischer continued, "Again, our choices are whole-grade sharing, partial day sharing or to stay on our own, and I think we're all in agreement that we cannot continue on our own without some type of sharing agreement for the next school year."
"I think we need to provide our administration with some direction in this," agreed Board member Katie Meyer. "Do we want to look a Spencer as well, after getting this letter?"
"We won't get a better offer than we've already gotten, financially," Board member Larry Conlon replied.
"Spencer wasn't what our survey results told us," Board member Susan Sikora said.
"Spencer was way down on the list of choices," agreed Fischer.
"I was asked why we as a board hadn't looked at Spencer," Meyer noted.
"We probably could have, but its further distance to travel," Conlon replied.
"The size of their school was a concern, too," added Board member Ray Grandstaff.
Fischer then offered a suggestion that Superintendent Woiwood send a thank-you letter to Spencer, but decline any discussions at this time. The board agreed with the suggestion and turned its attention back to talks about sharing.
"Is that what the board wants to pursue, partial day sharing?" Woiwood asked the board. "I just haven't heard the definitive direction yet."
It was quickly agreed to have Woiwood, along with Principal Jon Josephson, meet with Emmetsburg Superintendent John Joynt and Principal Fred Matlage for some preliminary talks for a partial-day sharing arrangement. Once those preliminaries were discussed, the information would be shared with the respective school boards.
"I see scheduling as the big issue," Fischer noted, "But we definitely want to take advantage of the college course offerings at Emmetsburg, and those would make mornings ideal for our students."
Noting there are differences in the start times of the school day for each district, Woiwood noted there might have to be some adjustment of those times, as RA starts their school day later than Emmetsburg. An outgrowth of that would be hours of duty for faculty, which might require some contract re-negotiation.
But, like Fischer, Woiwood agreed scheduling is the number one priority of the preliminary talks. "The first thing will be to get schedules so we can show our kids what the course offerings are. It will be difficult for Emmetsburg to make sure they have course offerings available at times for when we need them, as well as at times that work for their district. It will be tough, but I feel it can be done."
Grandstaff suggested that juniors and seniors attend classes in Emmetsburg in the morning and then return to Ruthven in the afternoon while freshmen and sophomores go to Emmetsburg for classes. By doing so, Grandstaff thought a full-time faculty could be maintained at R-A. "Not many teachers can afford to work part-time."
"I'm guessing we will see several different scenarios on how much Emmetsburg is going to bend to accommodate us," Board member Tracy Enderson observed.
Looking ahead, Woiwood indicated that he and Josephson would meet with Emmetsburg's administrators during the week of Jan. 7 and then report back to the R-A board at its' January meeting. The possibility of a joint meeting between R-A and Emmetsburg school board was kept open with a tentative date of Jane. 23.
"I like the idea of having an idea of what's going to happen by the end of January," Fischer said. "We need to give teachers ample time to plan. By the end of January, we'll have a good idea as to what the agreement will look like and we'll know more about what positions we'll need to keep, and which ones we'll need to let go."
The discussion then turned to the current athletic sharing agreement between R-A and Graettinger-Terril, which is in its first full year, with five more years remaining in the contract. That contract contains language requiring yearly reviews by both boards.
"I've been hearing a lot of people saying we should continue that agreement," Fischer noted.
"It's worked wonderfully," Enderson added. "It's built some bonds between us. We don't need to cut one if the other didn't work out."
"I think we need to focus on the academic agreement before the athletic agreement," Grandstaff said. "We should explore our options. Do we know, would Emmetsburg be willing to include Ruthven-Ayrshire in their name if we were to share athletics?"
"That could be thrown out to them," Fischer agreed.
A question was raised about the team mascot if athletic sharing were to be instituted.
"I would doubt that," Fischer said. "The E-Hawk is a long-standing, very well-known mascot. If you even go out of state and say 'The E-Hawks', people in other states know, 'Oh, that's Emmetsburg.' Everyone knows the E-Hawks."
After a few more minutes, Katie Meyer introduced a motion to have the R-A administration pursue partial day sharing with the Emmetsburg Community School District. A second to the motion was offered by Tracy Enderson and the motion wass approved on a 7-0 unanimous vote of the board members to bring the meeting to a close.