Local school districts plan reorganization vote

Votes to decide whether to merge several local school districts will be held Tuesday. The districts include a number of area schools that are asking voters to support their reorganization plans.

Rockwell City Lytton and Southern Calhoun

After years of sharing grades, the Southern Calhoun School District is asking voters to approve a plan to combine its school with the Rockwell City Lytton Schools.

Southern Calhoun Superintendent Jeff Kruse said the reason the district is asking for the vote now is because of timing.

“There are sharing incentives available now,” he said. “If the vote passes, then we’ll be able to capitalize on those incentives that are offered by the state.”

“In the end, we feel it’s the right thing for our students and communities to become unified in one district,” he added.

Kruse said the reorganization will allow the schools to operate as one district, which would be beneficial in multiple ways.

“There’s unity in the planning core with goals and long-range planning,” he said. “We can also get one contract for our teaching staff instead of two, like we’re under currently. It will also allow simplification of many reports that are done multiple times now.”

Under the reorganization, reports would be completed as one district.

Kruse said if the measure passes, work would begin immediately on the transition process.

“During the next year there would be work with bringing up contracts for the teachers,” he said. “We’d also have to figure out how to make a central business location between the districts.”

Other plans to work out would include combining the policies of the two districts.

“In the end, separate boards would have to give up their assets and their properties to the new district,” Kruse said. “There’s also a legal process that takes place. Eventually the boards will give more and more authority over to the combined school.”

If passed, the new district would be called South Central Calhoun.

Kruse said in the event the vote doesn’t pass, the school would likely continue with the same model they have now.

At the same time, he added it would be better to pass the vote now.

“Unfortunately, in all likelihood we would lose those sharing incentives if the vote didn’t pass,” Kruse said. “But our sharing would continue. We would also work with the community to find out the issues they have with us being shared.”

Algona and Titonka schools

Declining enrollment has two northwestern Iowa school districts seeking to combine.

The reorganization vote for Algona Community Schools and the Titonka Schools will be held Tuesday.

Algona Superintendent Marty Fonley said the vote came up because of low enrollment.

“At Titonka, we don’t have enough kids to make a budget work anymore,” he said. “We’re looking at a negative with unspent balance, and the board at Titonka has been clear that they don’t want to go negative. They want to be proactive in educating kids.”

Fonley said after several years, the school decided to go ahead with the vote.

He added state money meant now would be the best time to ask for a vote.

“If the reorganization takes place by a certain date, there are tax incentive dollars for smaller communities,” he said. “The tax levy rate is reduced by a dollar for the first year, and 25 cents the year after. It also helps make the transition smoother for schools.”

Planning for the reorganization process would begin immediately if the plan passed.

“A new board will come together to begin planning for the district,” he said. “The new district would come together on July 1, 2014.”

But if the plan failed, Titonka would then have to decide how to move on.

“The board at Titonka would determine if they wanted to begin the process for reorganization again,” he said. “They could choose to continue on until there’s a point of being unable to survive financially.”

If that happened, Fonley said the state would likely dissolve the school.

“That’s not imminent, but it’s something that could happen,” he said. “The reality of reorganization is that we have some control as to where our property goes and where the kids go, as well as their quality of education.”

He added these votes are not something the district likes to do.

“Nobody wants to see this happen,” Fonley said. “The unfortunate part is that, financially, it’s getting to the point where we can’t operate the school.”