Wakonda citizens hear of plan; Patrons urged to remember reorganization means dissolving Wakonda Sch

Wakonda citizens hear of plan; Patrons urged to remember reorganization means dissolving Wakonda School District by M. Jill Karolevitz Patrons of the Wakonda School District took the latest news the school board had to share in stride Tuesday night, Nov. 13, as they were told of the board's decision to attach to the Vermillion School District in its reorganization plan.

Superintendent Ron Flynn explained several reasons for the decision: it is a larger school; there are more course offerings; the staff is highly trained; students do well academically; many Wakonda people work in Vermillion; people who choose to open enroll their children most often choose Vermillion; and it's the closest school district that could most easily absorb Wakonda students without a major building project.

Ron Peterson, a past school board member, reminded his fellow audience that the plan is being written by the present school board not by choice, but because of the petitions for dissolution that were filed last summer.

"I want to remind you what this board has been through," he said. "They have to do this. They have been asked to do this by petition and are forced to do what the law says. They don't have to be in favor of it, but they have to put it to a vote."

And although the laws are written using the word "reorganization," Peterson stressed to the audience that the true meaning of the plan is dissolution.

"This is not reorganization," he said. "It's dissolving the Wakonda School District. If this is passed, there will no longer be a Wakonda School District."

Peterson also noted that the board has had to hope for the best, but plan for the worst. Flynn responded in kind.

"If this passes, we have to believe that this plan was the best we could come up with for our students," Flynn said. "If it fails, we can go on with business as usual and continue to provide the best education for our kids as we have in the past. And the record we've established here speaks for itself. Our kids can match up with anyone else."

Judi Sharples commended the school board for its tenacity.

"They are doing a good job under very trying circumstances," she said. "Attaching to Vermillion is the only logical choice because we have been criticized for being too small. But I will not support this effort because it is a negative, self-defeating vision of the future. Wakonda is a viable town and we have a future. I urge you all to keep this in mind, and when we vote this down, we can then work toward making a positive future for Wakonda."

As he has said in past meetings, Flynn said that if dissolution of the Wakonda School District is voted down, the school board will still be interested in talking consolidation with other schools in the area.

"We have never said we are against consolidation," he said. "But we cannot do anything until the reorganization vote takes place.

"I don't want to leave you under the impression that we're so bullheaded that no matter what happens down the road we would never consider any type of consolidation," Flynn continued. "But I have hesitated to bring it up because I don't want people to think that consolidation is what they will be voting for. We will be voting for dissolving the school district, not consolidating with another."

Wakonda's children are the focus of Sue Morrison's thoughts, and she reminded the audience to keep that in mind as they consider what has happened in the Wakonda School District throughout the past several months.

"My son says 'Mom, this is an adult thing, but why don't they see what this school means to us kids?'" Morrison said. "With all that is happening in the world today, one thing we need to do is make sure our children feel safe. They feel secure here. This is where they want to be. We have to put our adult feelings aside and think about what's best for the kids' future, and that's in Wakonda, South Dakota. It's not about us adults. It's about the kids."

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